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100 Ogden Lane
Oak Ridge, TN 37830
USA

865.483.0320

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Weeky E-News

New Year

CCC Oak Ridge

Hey, everyone!

Hope you had a peaceful News Years' Day and I really hope that you are blessed beyond all you could ask or imagine this coming year! 

And as we look back on 2014, and evaluate the year gone by, I was wondering…

Can we really say in all honesty, that we twa hae run about the braes, and pou'd the gowans fine? Do you feel this year that we've wander'd mony a weary fit?

Have we? 

Really?

Even tho' seas between us braid hae roar'd, we twa hae paidl'd in the burn, frae morning sun till dine…

Did you truly have those in your life that you would say of them, "And surely ye'll be your pint stowp! And surely I'll be mine! And we'll tak a right gude-willie waught!"

Have you seriously taken a right gude-willie waught?

Seriously?

(Actually, I don't know if I have either! Or if I shoulda!)

Let me look it up…one sec…Oh. Apparently that means "to lift a glass of good-will".

Those are all the words to the traditional New Years Eve chorus "Auld Lang Syn". The lyrics are tough (as in, impossible!) to understand because they were written by Robert Burns in 1788 in the Scottish language. But folks sing it (or try to!) around the world as the clock strikes and the ball drops and the fireworks boom at midnight, every January One. Once, when I was in like 3rd grade, we were doing a field trip to McGhee-Tyson airport and just by chance got to meet Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians as they were arriving in K'town. They were some kind of "swing band" from the old Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman days. Apparently he's the one who started the "Auld Lang Syn" thing on New Years Eve at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York in 1929. It went "viral", as we say, and there you go! Singin' it ever since!

It's the only part of "It's a Wonderful Life" that I woulda changed. In the last moments, they were rockin' "Hark the Herald Angels" right when Harry arrived and  lifted his glass to "my brother George! The luckiest man in town!" That movie woulda been PERFECT if the last words woulda been, "Glooory tooo the new-born Kinggg!!!"

Instead, it ended with George winking up to Clarence and crooning, "We'll take a cup o' kindness yet for auld lang syn…"

"What on earth does that mean?!"

Apparently, in ancient Scottish, it means "for the olden days" or "for old times' sake" or something' like that.

Apart from all the incomprehensible Scottish words, even the words in that song you CAN understand don't make sense! 

"Should old acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind? Should old acquaintance be forgot and auld lang syne?"

I remember Billy Crystal saying in one of his movies, as the clock struck twelve, and the singing began...

What does this song mean? My whole life, I don’t know what this song means. I mean, ‘Should old acquaintance be forgot?’ Does that mean that we should forget old acquaintances. Or does it mean that if we happened to forget them, we should remember them, which is not possible because we already forgot them?”

That's why I like to wish y'all something you really can get your mind and heart around! I want to wish you a "Blessed 2015!"

Ever wonder what that means? When we say, "Bless you!" at a sneeze…or "say the blessing" at supper…or when Tiny Tim says, "God bless us, everyone!"…what are we really saying? 

Actually, in the New Testament, "to bless" is made up of two Greek words scrunched together. The words are "to speak" and the word "good". "To bless" you means "to speak good over you" "God bless you!" means "May He speak good things over you!" 

And as it says at the beginning of the world on the Bible's first page, "He spoke and it was so!" If God speaks something good over you, it will be true! 

And as the Apostle tells us in his letter from prison to the Ephesians, God "has blessed us with every spiritual blessing Heaven has to give!" He goes on to say God chose us! He loved us! He adopted us! He is always blessing you! Always speaking good over you! He calls you…

"My beloved!" (Ephesians 1:6)

"My child!" (Ephesians 1:6)

"Mine!" (Ephesians 1:7)

Y'know, our English word, "blessed" comes from an Old English word, "bloedsian", which means "marked or bought with blood" And that's exactly what our Paul tells us! All the blessings are ours because "in Him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins"! And because of His blood, we have every other blessing as well! 

Guaranteed!

So if I "wish" you a blessed New Year, I'm really only reminding you of what you have and always will! God has already said it! He has and will always bless you! In 2015 and forever!

It just makes you wan ta tak a right gude-willie waught!!

Gift Exchange

CCC Oak Ridge

Hey, everyone!

Or better…"Whew! Everyone!"

As in, "Whew! Christmas is over! "

Only thing left to do is go to the mall to exchange gifts that didn’t “fit”, continue the digestion process after yesterday, pack those decorations back up next week, stow 'em all away back in the attic or shed, and in the meantime, enjoy the "after Christmas glow"!

By the way, if you didn't make it to our Christmas Eve service, our Christmas choir rocked the house! And it was packed! We had so many candles lit by the end of “Silent Night”, it was getting kinda warm in there!  I thought the sprinklers might go off! That would have been a Christmas memory!

I didn't really get everything done I needed to this year. I was going to make all these amazing, spectacular Christmas cookies...and I have also decided that I'm going to become a master baker and there were several delicious dough-y intentions I found in the December Southern Living that never made it into or out of our oven.

I hadn't really thought about how disappointed I was for not getting everything done 'til I read about Chet Fitch. He died in October at 88 a few years ago. He knew it was coming. So he wrote notes on thirty-four Christmas cards for special friends and gave them to an accomplice to mail in December. The return address was "Heaven"!

The notes inside said, "…Wish I could tell you about things here but words cannot explain… I'll probably be seeing you (some sooner than you think). Wishing you a very Merry Christmas. Chet Fitch"

A friend for nearly 25 years, Debbie Hansen Bernard said, "All I could think was, 'You little stinker!!' It was amazing," she said. "Just so Chet…always wanting to get the last laugh."

Guess he did!

And he also got his Christmas cards done! Even though he was 88!

And dead!

So, I'm not feeling so good about not getting stuff done!

It's amazing how the holidays…and especially this one…can “get to you” in some of the darker corners of your heart. You feel like you just didn’t do enough. Maybe you didn’t try hard enough, Yuletide-wise. You feel like you’re the Christmas tree light bulb that burned out and made the whole string go out. And if they keep trying ‘em all, somebody’s gonna find out it was you! 

Sometimes it feels like, after the eggnog carton is (thankfully) in the garbage and the multi-colored, torn up wrapping paper is all in the big black plastic bags, that Christmas guilt just keeps hangin' around.  Sometimes Christmas guilt feels like the last package you open!

"Did I do enough?"

"Did I get the wrong thing for that person? Did they really like it?…or did they just say they did?"

"Did I spend enough on this person to really say 'I love you'? How much money says, "'I love you'?"

Yikes! Santa didn't leave that gift of "Season's Guilt-ings"! I think Satan's the one that leaves you that stuff!

"Jesus is the reason for the season"….and giving you and me a clean, forgiven heart is the reason He came. So we could be free of guilt!! At Christmas and all the year through! “Nothing to lose and nothing to prove!” 

Both Now and Forevermore !! 

Amen!!

Jesus came to give gifts. He said…

 "I came to give eternal life…"

"My peace I give you…"

I give a spring of water welling up to eternal life"

If you wound up with a box of Christmas guilt, why not take it back and exchange it? It doesn’t fit you. And it doesn’t look good on you. You don’t need a receipt because it isn’t really yours.

Exchange it for the gifts Jesus came to bring you, like…

Peace. 

A clean heart.  

His whole-hearted acceptance and affirmation of all of you, all the time.

And unlike that electric nose hair trimmer and that Christmas necktie where Rudolph’s nose lights up…

His gifts are gifts you can really and truly love and enjoy everyday!

All day!

All year!!

Merry Post-Christmas, everyone!

Merriest Christmas Ever

CCC Oak Ridge

Hey, everybody!

Ever notice that your Christmastime heart is always filled with names and faces that you maybe haven’t thought about since last year? It’s like you put their memory away in the attic of your mind and bring them out like your old, familiar favorite Christmas tree ornaments, and you think, “There you are! So glad to see you again!”

I’m not talking about Santa or the wisemen. I mean those less-than-protagonist characters who have their moments on stage in the Christmas play that takes place in your heart each year. Folks like…Bing Crosby (don’t you love where he whistles a harmony part near the end?)…George Bailey’s wife, Donna Reed (Have you thought about her ONCE this year? See?)…along with Ernie and Bert, the cop and taxi driver of Bedford Falls (Did you know that they named the Sesame Street Ernie and Bert the same thing and it was a complete coincidence?)…Nat King Cole (“…Altho’ it’s been said many times, many ways…”)…Bob Crachit…Speaking of Bobs, Bob Newhart, Will Ferrill’s adoptive dad in “Elf”…then there’s Bumble, Yukon Cornelius and Hermie, the elf who wants to be a dentist…

Wow! The list is longer than the one I used to give Santa! 

Speaking of minor players in Christmas stories…Did anyone think of Anna, the Christmas prophet? Maybe she’s been closer to your heart than you realize this Christmas…

Remember how in Luke, chapter two, after the Holy Couple found a barn…and after the Holy Babe was wrapped in swaddling clothes…and after the angels’ surprise appearance to the shepherds…and after the shepherds’ surprise appearance to Mary and Joseph and the Baby...in fact, a week after…

…the Holy Family went to the city of Jerusalem, four miles or so down the road, to dedicate our Lord in the temple. It was time for Him to receive His Name. And there were plenty of people there, as always. But there was one person who was always there. Had been for YEARS! It was an old prophet named Anna. Her life had been very sad, but it says she was a prophet and she must have known that her day was about to get…wonderful!

She had been married for seven years. Then her husband died. If she was married at the normal age of thirteen, she was left a widow at twenty. She remained a widow for…eighty four years! So she was 104! The widow’s life was usually very tough in those days. They couldn’t seek a profession or career options back then. They had to trust God for everything, everyday. That’s why she “never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying…” (Luke 2.37) She came around the corner at the very moment the young parents did, and she saw… the Infant King!

Another older person named Simeon had asked to hold the Child, and he did. 

I’m not sure if Anna asked, “May I have a turn as well?” 

(“Uh…I don’t think so. You’re like, 100…and we don’t really know you.”)

But after all those years of widowhood, she saw in the arms of a young couple, the One Who loved her most!

Luke says that “…she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem…” 

Last month, you heard about widows in India. Just like Anna, many of them become widows at a very young age. With children to care for, and no way to support their families, so many who have heard  the “glad tidings of great joy!” from Victor Nandigam and his faithful, courageous friends, have opened their hearts to Him, turning from harsh, heartless, fearful beliefs, to Jesus and His love!  Victor tries to care for them all he can. He prays that God will allow him to provide one sari, the native dress, for each widow every Christmas. It will be their whole wardrobe for the year. So…

We put dozens of envelopes on a Christmas tree! One tag for $25 bought 2 and 1/2 saris. Enough tags to buy 325 saris for 325 widows ! Along with 60 envelopes for the 60 orphans who live in Victor's home (!), at $20 each tag, this bought a school outfit and a book bag for each of the kids. That tree was covered with envelopes! By this past Sunday, the envelopes were ALL GONE! 

WOW!!! 

Psalm 65.4 says “the streams of God are filled with water!” And the hearts of Triple C are filled with Christmas love!! Along with a greatest Christmas dinner ever for 180 inmates at the Morgan County Prison…and sending $1200 to Jane, Tasha, and Hallie in Chicago, so that ladies from the inner-city can have help preparing themselves for that up-coming job interview …how could we ever thank you enough for caring and loving orphans and widows in India?! And loving  an Indian brother who has so little and cares for so many!! This is the greatest Christmas EVER!!

Because along with children with no parents except a Heavenly Father, 325 widows will have a Christmas when they see the love of Jesus flowing to them from the hearts and gifts of those far away who love Him and them! And in India, they will “give thanks to God and speak about the Child to all who are looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem…”

And India!

Wow! Thanks for making this the Merriest Christmas ever!

Happy "what" days?

CCC Oak Ridge

Hey, everyone!

Hope you're caroling your way thru your day for all the seasonal reasons! It's gonna be awesome! From what I heard, "…Sunshine returns today with high temperatures slowly warming into the upper 40s…Tomorrow, mostly sunny skies will continue with highs continuing to warm into the middle to upper 50s!"

So, I just hope you're having the "merriest of Decembers!" And while I'm at it, "Winter Greetings! 

That doesn't quite do it, does it?

I guess I was just thinking about what they say on TV commercials anymore at Christmastime. We were watching a ballgame the other day and the ads were encouraging us to buy a new car to "make this the best December ever!"…or to shop at their "Winter Event!" One even wished us "Happy Honda Days!" 

"Hey! Let's just put our name where His used to be!" Bam!

It seems crazy that many business and marketing folks hesitate to wish us a cheery "Merry Christmas!" anymore. Even tho' "79% of Americans think Christmas should be about Jesus" and "73% of 'Nones' (those who don't have any religious beliefs or faith) think songs about Jesus should be sung at school Christmas programs",  lots of retailers just don't want to say "Merry Christmas" in their ads. 

But, if you think about it, I guess it makes sense. 

I mean, since Jesus was born into poverty, grew to have "no place to lay His head", and said that we must "be on your guard against all kinds of greed!" because our life "doesn't consist in an abundance of possessions", if I was just trying to get people to buy more stuff, His would be the last name I'd want associated with that!

On the other hand, if it's just about celebrating a "December to remember" or a "Winter event", it seems like you couldn't find a worst time to buy a new car! In December that new auto is a lot more likely to slide on sleety, slippery streets into a fire hydrant or get slush all slopped up on it from the other cars sloshing by! 

Maybe one year, they'll just try to get us to forget what holiday, month or season of the year it is, and simply say, "Buy stuff!"

This is a little random, but the other day, I was listening to a Bing Crosby Christmas record and I heard that warm, sweet voice sing these words about the "faith of our fathers" and how they lived with all their heart for Jesus, not just at Christmastime, but always…

Check these words...

"Our fathers, chained in prisons dark,

Were still in heart and conscience free.

How sweet would be their children's fate

If they, like them, could die for Thee!

Faith of our fathers, holy faith!

We will be true to Thee till death!"

Wow.

That's what I call a Christmas carol! It was recorded for the album, "White Christmas" in 1945. 

Why does it seem like three hundred years ago?

But maybe in some ways, it's healthier this way. Maybe it's better if some just say, "Happy holidays". Maybe it's better for them, spiritually.

"Christmas" is a Latin word. It comes from the word "Christus" (which means Jesus is the coming King of all), together with the word "messa" or "sending", which comes from the word, "mittere", which means "to send" (like in "emit" or "transmit"). "Messa" is where we get the word "mission". Christmas is "the mission of Christ to our world".

Maybe it's best that wishes of true Christmas joy and cheer are spoken only by those who love Him whose mission into poverty and suffering and whose rising from that tomb, alive from the dead has filled their hearts with gladness and merriment!

Maybe if more folks who still haven't come to believe in Him and love Him, made less wishes of merry remembrance of things that really have no place yet in their hearts, they would be more likely to stop and think…

"It's the end of December. They called it a 'December to remember'. I have new perfume and new jewelry, new clubs, and a new car. Yet, I'm not happy… Hmmm…I wonder what's missing in my life and heart?"

"A merry Christmas, uncle! God save you!” cried a cheerful voice. It was the voice of Scrooge’s nephew…

“Bah!” said Scrooge, “Humbug!”…

“Christmas a humbug, uncle!” said Scrooge’s nephew. “You don’t mean that, I am sure?"

“I do,” said Scrooge. “…Merry Christmas! Out upon merry Christmas! What’s Christmas time to you but a time for paying bills without money; a time for finding yourself a year older, but not an hour richer?… Much good it has ever done you!”

“There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare say,” returned the nephew. “Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round—apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that—as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!…I am sorry, with all my heart, to find you so resolute….But I’ll keep my Christmas humour to the last. So A Merry Christmas, uncle!”

And a Merry Christmas to you!

From Units 4, 5 and 11

CCC Oak Ridge

Hey, everyone!

Hopefully your heart is filling with the peace of that special something called the Christmas season! And hopefully  your heart won't be filled with all the cholesterol and saturated fat that comes with another piece of that special something that calls for loads of Christmas seasonings! 

Don't mean to be all Grinchy about it, but for their health's sake, sometimes some folks might need to be a little careful about all Christmas spritzes, Christmas stollens, and  Christmas panetones that come flying our way during the holidays! 

Not to call anyone out, but starting with a certain "right jolly old elf"! 

I read the other day that if Santa were to actually eat all the cookies left out for him on "the eve"

…figuring that 76% of Americans identify themselves as "Christmas celebrators"

…but 85% of those households have "out grown" believing that St Nick's actually going to stop by

…that leaves 11,400,000 homes with kids who potentially believe in Santa.

Calculating conservatively that if in only 10% of these homes, kids actually leave Santa snacks (my dad always said Kris liked a cold beer at some stops!), that's 1,140,000 plates and glasses of cookies and milk.

"Two regular-size Nabisco Chips Ahoy cookies, according to the manufacturer's analysis, contain 100 calories and about 5g of fat.  An eight-ounce glass of 2% milk contains 130 calories and 5g of fat…"

That's only 230 calories and 10g of fat. Not bad.

Except if he eats that 1,140,000 times in one night, that's 262,200,000 calories! It takes 3,500 extra calories to add an extra pound of weigh to the average bod. That means that if Santa weighed, say, 240 lbs when he started his route, he'd weigh 75,154 lbs by time he returned home in the morning!

Yikes! I don't know if he could even make it back! Rudolph's good but not THAT good!

On the other hand, we almost took that many Christmas cookies and sweets to the Morgan County prison on Tuesday! Each made with the love of Jesus for men serving their sentence and spending their Christmas behind prison walls…

WOW! What a time we had! Those guys were so thankful for all the Christmas deliciousness that you all made! They feasted on an amazing dinner of smoked turkey (300 lbs of it! Thanks, Dicky!), potatoes, stuffing, rolls, green beans, Heidi's homemade cranberry sauce, and TONS of brownies, cakes, pies, fudge and cookies (thanks to all of you!!), served with a Triple C smile, "straight from the heart"!!

After dinner was served,  they sang Lee's own Christmas carols with our praise team, laughed at a hilarious skit of Devon and Travis, listened to beauuuutiful singing about a brave little boy and a girl in the dark and a labor of love, with no mother's heart to hold. Then they heard a message about the Christmas love of Jesus…What God did was simply indescribable! I had prayed so much that men would do three things that night: laugh, cry,and listen. 

Bam!

Andy Morgan told me about a month ago, "This dinner is for a young man we haven't met who is spending his first Christmas in prison. He's far from home, very alone and afraid." 

"Wow!" I thought. "That is SOOO true!"

I think I met that young man a couple of times that night.

A young man came through on his second time around and looked me in the face. His eyes were glassy and watery. "Grazias por la comida," he said. "De nada", I said. "El placer es nuestro."

Y'know, I think guys came thinking a church was providing a room full of convicts with a Christmas dinner. They found that Jesus was throwing them a Christmas party! They went back to their cells knowing that He offers His love and a new life to them.

"When the Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and criminals, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with these sinners?”On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2)

I think 180 guys went to bed Tuesday night with their tummies stuffed, their spirits and cholesterol high, and some with a mind full of questions, and many with a heart full of thanks, maybe a few with a future full of Heaven!

Merry Christmas, Units 4,5,and 11 of the Morgan County Correctional Facility!

And THANKS! everyone!!

Thanksgiving

CCC Oak Ridge

Hey, everyone!

As your kitchen's warming up, I hope your heart is, too…filled with thanks for the million reasons we have to be so! Being thankful is such an awesome idea! And just to give you a beautiful Scripture to support the cause of the "Thanks-filled Heart", why don't you turn in the Bible to verse…

By the way…

Here's something to be thankful for! Did you know that for years and years, you couldn't really say, "Turn in the Bible to verse so-and-so…"? 

Bibles were written on scrolls like a roll of paper towels. In order to find a verse, you had to unroll… and unroll… and unroll it until you found your verse! It'd take forever! When you said, "Turn in the Bible to verse…", what you meant was, "Turn and turn and turn and turn in the Bible to verse…"! 

Then someone got an idea! 

"Why not cut the roll into evenly measured out pieces, tie and bind the ends together on one side, and then you can just flip from one place to another?! You could go from Isaiah to First Corinthians in one flip! It'll save hours and reading the Bible won't be so hard on our arm muscles!" 

And that's where books (instead of scrolls) came from!

It was a totally awesome idea! All amazing ideas are like that! It might seem kinda obvious to us later, but until someone thought of it, no one had thunk it!

Like having a day once a year to stop…breathe deeply…and thank God for all He has given to us and done for us!

It seems like an obvious idea to us! But someone had to think of it!

Thanksgiving was her idea…

Sarah Josepha  Hale, editor (she liked to be called “editress”) of Godey’s Ladies Book (as well as the author of the epic poem, “Mary Had a Little Lamb”) thought that we reallllly needed a day to thank God for how much He has blessed us all. And she thought the idea needed to come from the top! So she wrote to President Zachary Taylor, saying, “Y’know, we really need a day to give thanks to God in America!” 

No answer.

She wait ‘til he was gone and wrote the next Chief Exec, Millard Fillmore. “We really should have a national thanksgiving day!”

He didn’t write back either.

So, she waited ‘til there was someone else in the White House. 

Franklin Pierce didn’t answer either.

Her next letter was to…

 “President James Buchanan

1600 Pennsylvania Ave, Washington, DC ”

Nada.

It wasn’t until the 6’5” Kentuckian from Illinois was sitting in the Oval Office, that she got an answer back! As he leaned back in his chair at the desk and propped those huge boots on the desk (as he usually did) he sliced the envelope open, puffed into it, pulled the letter out and read…

“Philadelphia, Sept. 28th 1863.

Sir,

Permit me, as Editress of the 'Lady's Book', to request a few minutes of your precious time, while laying before you a subject of deep interest to myself and -- as I trust -- even to the President of our Republic, of some importance. This subject is to have the day of our annual Thanksgiving made a National and fixed Union Festival.

 For the last fifteen years I have set forth this idea before the Governors of all the States and Territories. Also I have sent these to our Ministers abroad, and our Missionaries to the heathen, and commanders in the Navy. It has occurred to me that a proclamation from the President of the United States would be the best, surest and most fitting method of National appointment.Thus the great Union Festival of America would be forever secured.

 Excuse the liberty I have taken.

With profound respect,

Yrs truly

Sarah Josepha Hale,”

So he did!

In his 1863 Thanksgiving Proclamation, he wrote..

“…It has seemed to me fit and proper that God’s blessings should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. … In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed. Done at the city of Washington, this 3d day of October, A.D. 1863, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty-eighth.

A. Lincoln

But, it wasn’t really his idea. 

It was hers.

Actually it wasn’t her idea, either.

Turn in your Bible to Ephesians 5:19-20…Ready? Let's read together…

“Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord,  always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Thankfulness...It’s the best idea!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

(By the way, we’re super thankful for you!)

Thanks be to “ye Almighty God for all his blessings!”

CCC Oak Ridge

Hey, everyone!

Can you believe it?

I love it!! 

It's already almost Thanksgiving Day!! What IS it about that day that is so awesomely beautiful?

Is it the smells that take you back to memories that are sweeter than pecan pie?

(If our kids come to our house the Bennett Rd way, for the grandkids in back. it's literally  "over the river…or creek, really…and through the woods to Grandmother's house we go!")

Is it the sentimental feeling inside that feels warmer than the bird in the oven?

Is it the thoughts of the "Thanksgivings of days-gone-by" that swell your heart like a helium balloon drifting down Fifth Ave in front of Macy's?

I don't think so, really.

I think the thing inside my heart that I love on Thanksgiving is that it gives you a whiff of the feeling that should fill every room in your heart every day of the year! 

To deliberately, intentionally, thoughtfully, purposefully, methodically, introspectfully and retrospectfully slooooooow dooooooown long enough to thank God for…

all we have…

all He is…

all He gives…

THAT'S what feels so awesome and "Thanksgiving-y" about Thanksgiving Day!

It's not from remembering what "the Day" used to feel like, but from remembering that this is the way every day should feel!

To be filled with thanks is as beautifully satisfying and satisfyingly filling as two or three plate-loads of turkey and stuffing!

Sometimes I feel like forgetting to be thankful every day is like forgetting to get out of your PJ's.

Ever had that feeling where you're sitting at work or walking down the hall at school or sitting in the stands for the game and realize, "What!? I'm still in my PJ's!! How did THAT happen?"

You haven't?

Well, me neither, but…

It WOULD be crazy, awkward, and a cause for concern! "What's happening to me? I'm losing it! I forgot to get out of my PJ's!"

For us who have been sooooo loved and blessed, to leave our house without a thankful, thanks-filled heart would be just as weird! And crazy and awkward and concerning!

I remember one guy writing that he was having a tough time. His marriage had falling apart and he was in "just making it" mode. He slipped into a diner one Saturday. Folks sitting…eating…reading…sipping coffee. Minding each their own business. A young mom and little daughter sat in a booth and the little girl watched as food was delivered and immediately consumed. 

"Mom, don't people thank the Lord here?" she said.

The waitress stopped. "Sure, honey! We thank the Lord here! Would you like to lead us?"

"Ok", she answered.

Then the waitress added, "HEY! EVERYBODY SHUT UP AND BOW YOUR HEADS! WE'RE THANKING THE LORD TODAY!"

Everyone froze. Then you could hear a sweet voice say…

"God is great.

God is good.

Now we thank Thee for our food.

By Thy hand we are fed.

Thank You, Lord for daily bread.

Amen."

And everyone looked up. And smiled! 

And a couple clapped! 

And there rose in the air a feeling of cheer. In an instant, everything had changed about the place! I remember that fellow who told of the moment wrote something like, "And I felt a change in my heart. I knew I had been going through a tough time, for sure. But I had my Lord! He had forgiven me and made me His own! And at least HE would never leave me! And I knew I was going to walk into the future with Him! How many things I had to be (but had forgotten to be) thankful for! Thanks changes everything!

"Now ain't that better?" said the waitress. "I think from now on, we'll start everyday that a way!"

So, it's good (tho' a little crazy that we even need it!) to have someone tell us, "Remember to thank God! For everything!"

Y’know, at Thanksgiving, I used to love to read (sniff, sniff) an old proclamation from Gov. Bradford to those cold and hungry pilgrims on the first Thanksgiving. I first read it in a book somewhere and had always loved it. It goes like this…

Inasmuch as the great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest of Indian corn, wheat, peas, squashes and garden vegetables, and made the forest to abound with game and the sea with fish and clams, and inasmuch as he has protected us from the ravages of the savages, has spared us from the pestilence and granted us freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience, now I, your magistrate do proclaim that all ye Pilgrims, with your wives and ye little ones, do gather at ye meeting house, on ye hill, between the hours of nine and twelve in the daytime on Thursday, November ye 29th, of the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred and twenty-three, and the third year since ye Pilgrims landed on ye Plymouth Rock, there to listen to ye Pastor and render Thanksgiving to ye Almighty God for all his blessings."

Then I got some bad news…Turns out that “proclamation” is probably not real. Somebody apparently made it up not too many years ago and it’s been in circulation ever sense. 

Crud! I loved those words! 

Seems someone invented ye old paragraph in the 20th century. That’s the opinion of James W. Baker, Senior Historian at Plymouth Plantation. Words like “pilgrims” and “Plymouth Rock” weren’t used ‘til years later. 

I guess I had honestly wondered sometimes if there weren’t a few too many “ye’s” thrown in there for that thing to be real.

Oh well! If they didn’t say those exact words, they said something like it! 

And so do we! 

We thank God for all His goodness!

For all His promises! 

For loving each of us so wonderfully!

For washing us clean and making us His!

For giving us delicious food and a beautiful country to live in!

For filling our hearts with joy!

For giving the faith to trust Him when it gets tough!

For a life full of a growing family and loving friends!

For something good and sweet to do for Him!

For our awesome Triple C family! 

And at the Job house, we thank God for you!!

We love you all and hope this is “blessed-est” Thanksgiving ever!!

Thanks be to “ye Almighty God for all his blessings!”

Friday, ye 21th  of ye November, of the year of our Lord,  two thousand and ye fourteen

New Title, New Name

CCC Oak Ridge

Hey, everyone! (Phil 4.21)

Hey, Brothers and sisters in Jesus (Eph 3.15)

Hey, Brothers and sisters OF Jesus (Heb. 2.11)

Hey, Priests of the royal family (1 Pet. 2.9)

Hey, Heirs and heiresses of God the King of all (Rom. 8. 17)

Hey, Alive from the dead! (Eph 2.1-5)

Hey, Stars shining in the firmament (Dan 12.3; Phil. 2.15)

Hey, Judges of angels and the whole world in the coming Kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6.2-3)

Hey, Bearers of the new name that no one knows but he who receives it (Rev. 2.17)

Hey, Pillars in the temple of the Living God (Rev 3.12)

Hey, Participants of the divine nature (2 Pet 1.4)

That’s right! I’m talkin’ to you!!!

Those are just SOME of the ways the New Testament describes you! 

Those are just SOME of the amazing ways God sees you!

That’s HIS assessment

You might feel like a dufuss today for some bonehead thing you said…

You might feel like you’ll always be that thing someone called you when you were ten…

Maybe someone in traffic, out of his car window, called you something other than one of the above titles today…

But the Almighty One sees you differently! He has different names for you!

I was reading yesterday about the beginning of Paul’s new life with Jesus (they called him “Saul” at the time…along with other things!) He had been sooooo much against the followers of Jesus, hating on them at every opportunity while looking for new chances to hate them…

Until he didn’t!

Jesus blazed out of Heaven and Paul was on his knees (or maybe his face!) in the middle of the road, giving his heart to our Lord! 

He gained some things and lost some things that day. He gained a new life, new names, new titles, a new purpose, and a new home. He lost his guilt…and, temporarily, his sight!

So…Jesus appeared (somewhat more quietly and gently!) to one of His followers in the town named Ananias. He told him to go and put his hands on Paul’s eyes to heal them. Previous Ananias had wanted to punch those same eyes to blacken them. Ananias protested that Paul had been so hostile to them. But Jesus said, “True! But now he’s a chosen instrument to Me!”

“Wow! I would have called him plenty of things but not THAT! ‘A choice idiot!’…’a major chump!’…but not a 'choice instrument'!”

But that’s how God saw Saul…er, Paul…now! 

New titles! 

New names!

When Ananias knocked on the door and walked in, he might have wanted to call Paul all kinds of things. “You jerk!”…”You creep!”…”You #@$%#!”…But he didn’t.

He said, “B…b…b…b…brother Saul!” (Acts 9.17)

Wow!

“God says that you’re His child, so you’re my family! No matter what others call you, from now on, you’re my brother!”

Y’know, every Sunday morning at 9:30 we get together to talk, share, and encourage each other before we worship our Lord together. We call 'em “Community groups”. It’s just about being together with important people.

What if you could spend an hour on Sunday hanging out with…

Peyton Manning?

…or Coach Butch Jones?

…or Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood?

…or if you could spend an hour with Prince  William and Kate?

…or Benjamin Franklin? …Or Babe Ruth?

(Reminds me of the guy who asked his class, “If you could spend an hour with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?”, and a girl said, “The living one!”)

Well…

What if you could spend an hour with an heir of the world to come? 

Or with someone Jesus calls His sister or brother? 

Or with a royal priest of the Living God? 

Or with someone who has come alive from the dead?

You can!

C’mon!

Today

CCC Oak Ridge

Hey, everyone!

It’s here, everybody! November 7! What an awesome day today is! 

Today! 

Did you know that, counting from Today, there are only 48 days and it’ll be Christmas!?

And after Today, there are only 55 days left in the year!

Thanksgiving is just two weeks and six days from Today! 

If you count from Today, there’ll be a new moon in 15 days…

Spring will be here in 134 days from Today!

It’s 49 days from Today 'til Boxing Day, 

And it's 165 days 'til the Queen’s Birthday and…let’s see…

Chelsea plays Liverpool tomorrow…(Wait. I think I must be on some British website…)

But Today is the day we think about today! Jesus said give no thought for tomorrow because Today has enough for you to think about! 

Today is a super important day! It’s the only November 7, 2014 we’ll ever get! It’s the day we could make choices that we would be glad that we made for a long time to come!

Today’s the day we could praise God by faith in something difficult and tough, without seeing the future and all the good that will come from it one day, when we will have wished that we would have praised Him (if we didn’t) when we should have…Today!

It’s the day we could say something that someone might remember with warm feeling for years to come!

Or NOT say something that they would possibly have never forgotten, but wish they could!

There’s an old song I love by Steven Curtis Chapman that goes…

"While it is still called Today, oh we've got to say the words
That are longing to be heard 'cause tomorrow may be too late
Go on and say what you need to say…While it’s still called Today!"

Today is our only day to trust God because yesterday’s past and tomorrow ain’t here yet! 

So…Today, November 7 is the most important day of the year!  Just like November 6 was yesterday when it was Today!

And, best of all, there are 0 days left 'til November 7! 

Did you know that on this date in history, the same thing happened on November 7, 1940 and on November 7, 1944? 

FDR was elected President…twice! Well, I mean, he was elected President once on November 7. 1940 and a second time on November 7, 1944…

Well, actually he was elected for the third time on 11/7/40 and for the fourth time on 11/7/44! He had been elected President twice before! 

Just not on November 7! 

Here's something else that happened on this date... On November 7, 2013…and November 7, 2011…and November 7, 1998…and November 7, 1873…and November 7, 1384…and November 7, 318 BC…

God loved you!

"Hold on thar just a minute! I remember what was going on in my world last November, in 2013 and it wasn't pretty! How could you say God loved me then? I thought He was just disappointed in me!"

Nope! He's never disappointed in you! To be disappointed, you'd have to have expected something different than what happened! He knew you were going to have a rough patch and a season of mess ups! He knew it before you did! He paid for it loooooong ago! You might have been disappointed in yourself because you expected better than what was, but He knew it was coming and had already washed it clean! Theologically, you might even say He saw it long ago, paid for it long ago, and when it happened, He didn't see it anymore! It was gone before it was done! Because He loves you always! Always has!

Someone wrote these words…

"Turn around and believe that the Good News that we are loved is gooder than we ever dared hope, and that to believe in that Good News…to be in love with that Good News, is of all glad tidings in this world, the gladdest thing of all!" (Fredrick Buechner)

"Well, how on earth can you say He loved me on November 7, 1873? I wasn't even born yet! And I sure wasn't on anyone's radar in 1384! Or 318 BC!!"

Yup! Believe it or not, He has always known you were on the way! And He has always, always loved you! He loved you, set His heart on you, picked you to be His, before the world was ever spinning! And the moment you were born, angels heard Him say, "There you are!" 

And He has loved you every November 7 since! All day long! All night long! And every other day of the year! 

The past is gone; the future's not yet! But Today is your chance to say to Him and to show Him, "I soooo love You, too!"

That's why Today, November 7, is the most important day of all!

Until tomorrow!

Happy Reformation Day

CCC Oak Ridge

Hey, everyone!

Hope you’re ready for the big holiday today!! I thought the “Day” would never get here! Gonna be awesome!!

"Huh?! Halloween?!"

No way! I’m not talking about THAT awful holiday!! I’m talkin’ ‘bout Reformation Day! Every year! October thirty one! 

I don’t mean to be all “opinion-y” but I think that a holiday when folks put freaky, creepy stuff in their yards and freaky, creepy stuff hanging out of their trees so that sweet little kids see all that freakiness and creepiness and wake up crying from freaky, creepy dreams, well, I think the whole thing is freaky! 

And creepy!

Why would you have a holiday where the whole point is to be scared?

Wanna know where Halloween comes from? Ready? Sure? Well, a long time ago…

Oh, forget it. It’s not worth talkin’ about. 

Speaking of a long time ago…

A long time ago, the normal lives of normal folks were scarier than ours is today.  They thought there were goblins and spirits, ghosts and devils behind trees and rocks. They believed God was impossibly angry. Their best hope, after escaping this dangerous world in death, was to spend years and years in a dark and painful somewhere, waiting to make it to heaven when they were purified and qualified enough of all their lingering yuckiness. 

They were scared every day of the year. Not just on one day.

Some took advantage of this and of them, promising less dark years between death and Heaven, if they’d donate money to this church or that cathedral. 

But a young German Augustinian monk was reading…

reading…

reading the Bible…

reading the New Testament…

reading Paul’s letter to the Romans...

And he discovered something that few knew! When you believe in Jesus, you’re forgiven for good and forever! When you die, you don’t stop over for centuries in any dark place! You go home!! You don’t even really die! That’s when you really start to LIVE! The moment you believe, the God Who loved you every second all along the way, becomes your Dad! He cares for you all the time! You never have to be afraid again! You don’t have to fear today or tomorrow!

"At last, meditating day and night, by the mercy of God, I ... began to understand that the righteousness of God is that through which the righteous live by a gift of God, namely by faith… Here I felt as if I were entirely born again and had entered paradise itself through the gates that had been flung open."

-Martin Luther

On October 31, 1517 “All Hollows Eve”, the day before “All Saints Day”, he nailed 95 thoughts to the big wooden door of the Wittenburg Church. “God’s righteousness is free! You can’t buy it! You just take it! And it’s yours! And it isn’t right, true, or good that someone would make money by telling you that you could try to pay for it!” (More or less that’s what he wrote)

Those thoughts “went viral” and hearts were freed of their fears, knowing Jesus was all they needed!

When he was put on trial for writing these things, he could have been afraid, but with Jesus in his heart, he wasn’t! In front of the court and the Emperor, he said…

"Unless I can be instructed and convinced with evidence from the Holy Scriptures or with open, clear, and distinct grounds of reasoning ... then I cannot and will not recant, because it is neither safe nor wise to act against conscience. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me! Amen." 

Paul says that when you accept Jesus, you don’t have ”a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear” (Romans 8 15)

Why celebrate a holiday where the whole point is being scared?

So Happy Reformation Day, everybody! It’s the holiday for those who (praise Jesus!) aren’t scared of anything!

And if you get a chance, tell your neighbors it’s time to get that freaky, creepy stuff back in the attic! 

Or in the garbage!

Have a joy filled day

CCC Oak Ridge

Hey, everyone!

Isn’t it an amazing fall? The colors are everywhere! Reds! Greens! Yellows! Blues!…

"Blue!? Blue leaves?"

Opps! Sorry! I’m not talking about the trees! I was thinking of all those colorful political signs stickin’ outta the ground everywhere! It’s that time again! It doesn't happen every year. 

But it seems like it.

Did you know that on this date, October 24, in 1648, the Thirty Years Year and the Holy Roman Empire both officially ended? Shew! I'm just glad they're over! They were cruddy ideas to start with! And also on this date in 1861 the first transcontinental telegraph was sent across the US, from San Francisco to President Lincoln ("dear mr president stop sorry the giants beat the washington nationals for the NL pennant stop we cheer for you so cheer for us in the world series stop") 

I couldn’t wait to get to this email ‘cause I have a hilarious story to tell y’all! But before I do, I just want to wish you a day full of joy! Just a joy-filled day! 

Really! 

I really mean it! 

I realized the other day that I almost always start these emails out with those words…”Hope your day is filled with joy and praise!...”

But there’s NOTHING more important than that! I learned this from an unlikely teacher…especially if you’ve ever seen a picture of him! Remember Jonathan Edwards? Y’know…the ”Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” dude from high school Western Civ…If your text book had his picture, you wouldn’t forget it! Talk about grim! 

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but nobody smiled for pictures back then! Maybe it’s because it’s too tiring to keep the corners of your face turned up for the fourteen hours it takes to paint it. Maybe dentists didn’t have it together yet. But pretty much everyone was sour-looking back in the day.

Problem is…we grew up thinking Mr. Edwards’ heart was as dour as his face!

Not true!

Sure, he could preach a heated sermon on occasion, but most of his talks were about the beauty of the grace of our God…and about love (ever read his sermon, “Heaven is a World of Love”? Wow!)…and about joy!

You’d never know it, but that ol’ Puritan looooved chocolate! Once he wrote to a friend to remind him to not forget some on his trip to the Edwards home…” If you will bring what chocolate remains, you will much oblige your humble servant."

And he loved joy even more! It’s why he loved Jesus!

He said over and over that joy is the most essential heart ingredient for a healthy vital faith! 

"It would be worth the while to be a Christian, if it were only for the pleasantness of it…it begets love and peace, good will one towards another, brotherly kindness, mutual benevolence, bounty and a feeling of each other's welfare…it sweetens" the fellowship of those who believe!”

He first felt this “sweetness” the day he opened his heart to Jesus. "My soul," he reminisced, "was led away in pleasant views and contemplations of them. And my mind was greatly engaged, to spend my time in reading and meditating on Christ; and the beauty and excellency of his person, and the lovely way of salvation, by free grace in him."

He believed that knowing and loving Jesus was the most pleasurable thing the heart can do, and our number one duty before God is to “seek our highest pleasure”

 “The enjoyment of God is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied. To go to heaven, fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here…”

Wow! How could a guy with a heart like that look so grumpy? Maybe the painter was the grumpy one! Maybe he just didn’t believe a person should be as happy as Jonathan!

Our very own Apostle Paul felt the same joyous way! He told the Corinthians that he was a “worker for their joy” Not the “lead pastor”, “youth pastor” or the “small groups pastor”, but the “joy pastor” was his job title!

He told the Philippians that he felt his only reason for not going to Heaven immediately was so he could stay around a while longer and help them have more joy in Jesus! (Phil. 1.25)

His prayer was for joy (Rom 15.13)

The Kingdom is about joy (Rom 14.17)

The fruit of the Spirit is joy (Gal 5.22)

Joy! 

Apparently there’s nothing more important! 

So, as I was saying… I hope you have a joy-filled day! 

Oops! With all that, I don’t have time for my hilarious story…Oh, well. Probably wasn’t that funny. And these verses will give you more joy than a joke would, anyway!

He loves me because I am me

CCC Oak Ridge

Hey, everyone!

Isn’t fall awesome? Beeeaaauuutiful blue skies! Amazingly rich oranges and reds in the leaves! That nostalgic odor of everyone burning their leaf piles in their yard…

Oh yeah. I forgot. We don’t get to do that any more. I miss that smell! 

Y’know, fall doesn’t really have any smells. Spring has hyacinths and crab apple blossoms…Summer’s all about chlorine and watermelon…Christmas…you pick! Pine…roast turkey…Christmas cookies fresh from the oven…As the song says, “It’s the most smelliest time of the year!” 

Fall doesn’t really have any smells that go with it (any more!). Bend down and smell a pumpkin in the store. 

I get nothing.

Smells are the quickest and strongest ways to return to the days of your past. You know the feeling of smelling something you didn’t expect to and immediately you’re transported to some moment of years gone by, with accompanying emotional flood.  It’s actually because in your brain…

“...the olfactory bulb has intimate access to the amygdala, which processes emotion, and the hippocampus, which is responsible for associative learning…”

I didn’t know I had a hippocampus in my brain! Sounds like something smart and heavy.

The other day, I rode a smell to a “long time ago in a galaxy far, far away”.

 I was jogging down the country road in front of my house. It was still dark. You couldn’t see much but you knew the cows and skunks were out there! The smells were totally Oliver Spring-y! Suddenly…

I was in a slummy, broken down old dormitory on a foggy night in the outskirts of Milan, Italy. I was in a room with a bunch of Arabic guys from Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon, watching them grow in their new faith in Jesus. One of the most sincere and humble people I’ve ever known was there. Antoine Stefan grew in war-torn Lebanon and had come to Milan to study. He accepted Jesus, eventually finished his masters in engineering, and together we started an Arabic language church in the city. He went from being a learner and beginner with a lot of problems to one of my dearest and closest friends and brothers. 

In the beginning, my collegues and I just kinda felt sorry for those lonely guys. We wanted to help them because they had so little and were so far from home. They became kind of a “mission of mercy” for us. Once we gave Antoine a coffee can full of change for his birthday so he could call home to Beriut on the pay phone. You NEVER give money to an Arab as a gift in front of his friends! It’s is a total humiliation! But, hey! we didn’t know and we felt so sorry for him! 

But in a couple of years, Antoine was truly a precious, faithful brother and friend. Besides Tina, he was about my best friend over there. He lives on Milan with his wife and three kids and I know he's doing well. But I had a moment early on an Oliver Springs morning, when I really missed him. 

Then I thought of an amazing verse I had read that morning. In the Gospel of John 15:9, Jesus said something astounding. “As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you…” 

Jesus loves me like the Father loves Him! I am daily deeeeeeply thankful that Jesus has pity on me! He loves me with an infinite mercy for a helpless weakling! Compassion, pity, mercy…”I Need These Ev’ry Hour!” 

But He has more! 

The Father loves the Son just because He is Who He is! I would never associate pity or mercy with the love the Father had for Jesus. He just loved Jesus! For being Jesus! 

And Jesus loves me like that! With pity? Yes! With mercy for the weak and helpless? Hallelujah! But also…He just loves me! Because… I’m me!

At first, I cared about Antoine with a kind of sympathy. Or somethin’ like pity. But after a while...

After a while, I just had a huge place in my heart for Antoine Stefan, because…he was Antoine!

The Father loves the Son because…He’s Jesus! And Jesus loves me because…among other things…I’m me!

You’re you!

Yea!!

“Wow!! Where did all that come from on a country road in OS?”, I wondered.

Then I knew.

An Oliver Springs school bus had just passed me…I’m smelling diesel fumes… Smelling diesel in my hippocampus…all the hippos are smelling it…In an instant, in my memories...I’m on the bus…a diesel bus……in Milano…talkin’ and laughin’ with my homeboy, Antoine!

John 15.9…”Come il Padre ha amato me, cosí io ho amato voi…”

I love that diesel smell!

Heaven

CCC Oak Ridge

Hey, everyone!

Here's your Triple C Friday news and announcements about all that's happenin' up here "on top of ol' Ogden"! 

"Movie Night On the Barn"! 

Sunday we're showing a movie on the side of our barn! I remember the first time we did. Our yard was filled with cars and folding chairs. A lady slowed down as she drove by. Rolling down her window, she asked someone, "Could I ask what is going on?" 

"Sure. Our pastor is showing the movie 'Elf' on the side of his barn."

"Well….That's the coolest thing I've ever heard of!"

Breaking news…

We will NOT be showing "ET"! We were trying to think of a movie kids would really like that they may not have seen before. That's how we thought of that one. Then someone reminded us this week, "Did you know that in "ET" they say the word, '&*%$#' about twenty times?! They even say, '*^#@%&*^'!"

Oops.

We switched to an  even better movie! And they don't even say "*%@$*" in this one!

I love what God has given me to do! All of it! I love getting to be a pastor!

Even tho' sometimes it's not always fun like "Movie Night On the Barn".

Last week, I was walking down the hall of the hospital to go to the consultation room near the Critical Care Unit. "Can I help you find where you're going?" a volunteer asked. 

"No, thanks. I know the way."

I've been there so many times before.

Yesterday, I was driving out to a graveside service at the cemetery. "Can I help you find where you're going?",  a worker asked.

"No, thanks. I know how to find it."

I've been there so many times before.

Actually, yesterday, my heart was overwhelmed for a moment as I parked. I thought as I opened the car door, about how many times I've been out to that cemetery  to be with families. 

"Almost twenty years of this place. Wow." I thought. "It's gone by so fast. Almost twenty years of sorrow and hurt and tears shed within the sound of cars whizzing by on Edgemore Road. Someday, we won't have to come here anymore!  One day soon! At the last trump…"

And I also thought, "Wow! So many from our extended Triple C family have been in Heaven, praising, dancing, singing for almost twenty years!" 

But in ways we can't comprehend, it must be like something more than "twenty years"!  I think that with Him…that is, in His presence…  what we call "Time" must be like no other time we've ever known! 

And with Him, there's an awesomeness like no other awesome thought you've ever thought and a beauty like no beauty you've ever seen and a joy like no other joy you've ever felt! 

When the Apostle describes Heaven, he says that it's never entered into your heart or imagination the unimaginable amazements of the Father's house! 

And Paul should know! He got to go to Heaven for a short visit once! In his second letter to the folks who loved Jesus and lived in Corinth, he said he was suddenly "caught up to the third heaven"! And he reported back that he had seen and heard things "that cannot be told…that no one can utter!" 

I wonder why he couldn't talk about this? 

(Besides the fact that it's all indescribably beyond words!)

Maybe he wasn't allowed to talk about it because, as the British brother, G. K. Chesterton said, if we could have a thirty second visit to Heaven ourselves, we'd just be silly with laughter the rest of the time on earth and wouldn't get anything done!

And he must be right because Paul said Heaven's awesomeness is so truly awesome that, compared to There, it made all his many years of pain and suffering down here "light and momentary"! (2 Cor 4:17)

"Light"…Just a light, slight bother! 

And "momentary"! Just for a moment!

One of my favs, John Newton, a sweet pastor and writer of songs that God's people still sing after 250 years (including "Amazing Grace"), had a tender, beautiful marriage. Since he and Polly had no kids, they adopted two girls. The second, thirteen year old Eliza, was the daughter of Polly's sister. Eliza's father and two siblings had all died of dreaded "consumption" or TB. Her mother's life was slipping away as well. Eliza was infected too. All knew the Newtons were taking her into their family for her last months. 

John wrote to Eliza's mother, Elizabeth, as mom, convalescing by the sea, was growing weaker each day…

"I told you that Eliza would be ours. That is a settled thing…but she has made herself ours and…has taken possession of a large room in our hearts. Her affectionate, obliging, and gentle behavior have endeared her very much to me. As to her health…I hope she does not suffer much pain, but she is so very patient that I cannot be certain. My chief desire is that the Lord may speak to her heart and draw her to Himself…And then whether she goes to Heaven at the age of twelve or at the age of one hundred and twenty, is no great matter…"

Wow. Whether 12 years or 120, compared to "There", is all "just for a moment!"

Her adoptive Dad Newton kept a record of her last days.

"Despite her great pain, she repeatedly thanked her nurses and the servants for all their kindnesses to her. She listened with smiles and nods to all the prayers and scriptures read to her. When the doctor, on his last visit, asked her how she was feeling, she replied, 'Truly happy. And if this be dying, it is a pleasant thing to do it.' "

Her dad, John wrote that during her last moments…

"About five in the afternoon, she desired for me to pray with her once more. Surely I then prayed from  my heart. When I had finished, I said, 'My dear child, have I expressed your meaning?' She answered, 'Oh yes!' and added, 'I am ready to say, Why are His chariot wheels so long in coming? But I hope He will enable me to wait His hour with patience.' These were the last words I heard her speak."

On October 6, 1785, Eliza died. 

John Newton wrote in his diary, "The Lord sent a chariot of love for dear Eliza. We almost saw her mount…"

Just a moment! Imagine that!

The One Who Loves Me is Cheering Me On

CCC Oak Ridge

Hey, everyone!

Hope your Friday is beginning as a praise-filled, thanks-filled day! (Now that I think about it, I can hope for that all I want, but whether or not your day has praise and thanks in it, is kinda up to you!) A little needed rain today and then…weather-wise, FALL'S HERE!! October brings so much awesomeness! Beeeautiful foliage, crisp, blue skies and…baseball play-offs! 

It's started, folks! 

I'm not sure how it happened, but I don't really have a favorite team this year…

Wait! Oh, yeah...

I know how it happened. 

Next, years, Bravos!

Sigh. 

Anyhooo…

Actually, I like lots of the teams in the play-offs! I'm glad the Angels are in it! I like the Cardinals! The Dodgers are awesome and Kershaw is awesome to the 10th power! Kansas City hasn't been in it since before Vin Scully's voice changed in junior high! I like the Giants. I'd like 'em more if Pablo Sandoval didn't dip so much! (He spit on his own jersey during an "at bat" the other night! Gross!) 

If the Giants get discouraged today against the Washington Nationals, they have a secret weapon of

encouragement…

Hunter Pence! 

He's their right fielder and his main contribution is just bein' pumped! It's  100 mph, all the time! His eyes are wide, his socks are outside his pants and pulled up over his knees almost to his belt buckle,  and if he goes down, it's swinging'! He runs kinda funny, but fast! One reporter wrote, "When he runs to first base, he looks like a three-legged deer fleeing a forest fire. Then, on defense, he’s in right field, loose and limber, composed, and then the ball get hit out his way and, oh #%$@!, the forest is on fire again!!"

So if a guy's infusing enthusiasm into his team, what are you going to do to stop it? 

Discourage him, of course!

That's kind of what's happening across the country. There's a national campaign to discourage Hunter Pence.

It started in New York against the Mets back on the first of August. A couple of fans from Queens were spotted on camera with hand-painted signs, insulting Hunter Pence. One said, "Hunter Pence eats piazza with a fork!" The other bore a slanderous accusation apparently all New Yorkers would recognize. 

"Hunter Pence puts ketchup on his hot dogs!" 

In the Big Apple, nobody does that!  If you are thinking of squeezing that particular condiment on your dog, fahgetaboutit!

Then someone retweeted pictures of those signs. And the rest is history! 860 re-tweets in the first week! Then, everywhere the Giants played all August and September (except at home in AT&T Park) the fans held up disparaging signs, insulting Hunter! Mostly they imply that he is a health nut (he follows the Paleo-diet) and a dork…

Stuff like (and these are real, folks!)...

"Hunter Pence wears sandals with socks"

"Hunter Pence has sharknado insurance"

"Hunter Pence likes Godfather 3"

"Hunter Pence returns his library books on time"

"Hunter Pence takes 13 items to the express lane"

"Hunter Pence still has a Blockbuster card"

"Hunter Pence makes his girl friend watch the Weather Channel for fun"

Hunter Pence hates bacon" 

"Hunter Pence DVDs reruns of Full House"

"Hunter Pence remembered your birthday without Facebook"

"Hunter Pence wishes all Hunter Pence signs were in comic sans" (I don't get that one.)

"Hunter Pence knows where Waldo is"

"Hunter Pence never skips commercials on recorded shows"

I'm not sure how he's making it. I'd be striking out every time if I was being slandered and insulted everyday. 

Thankfully…

You have Someone Who is cheering you on all the time! Your Lord is your "#1 Fan"! He thinks infinitely more of you than you think of yourself! I remember the time when John the Baptist had been arrested and was waiting for the trial he never got. He must have been so down and disheartened! He was probably thinking to himself...

"So, it all ends like this? I must have messed this up royally! I guess I shoulda kept my opinion about Herod's dating choices to myself! Now look where I am! Can't preach anymore! Can't help anyone! I wonder what my Lord thinks of this! …of me!"

And just at that same time, Jesus was talking to others about His friend, John! Know what He really thought? (In the end it's not your opinion of yourself that matters, but His of you!)

Check it…

"Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist…" (Matt:11:11)

Not a sign that said, "John the Baptist eats bugs" or "John the Baptist can't tie my shoes" but simple this: "No one greater!"

Wow!

If I could just see myself the way Jesus sees me, I still might strike out every single time, but I wouldn't even care! The One Who loves me most is cheering me on!

What's in a name

CCC Oak Ridge

Mornin’, everyone!!

It’s 6:13 in the am…

Wow! 

Sun’s coming up…The birds are chirping…Down here in Oliver Springs, I’m looking out over fields and cows with coffee in my hands…Ahhhh! My favorite morning smell!

Not cows! Coffee!

I always like coffee better at my house on my porch than at Starbuck’s or wherever…

Mostly because if I haven’t had my coffee yet, I can’t face all those questions they ask you at Starbuck’s! 

Like when you order your double caffe mocha frappucino or your iced espresso misto Americano (it’s too early for all those choices!), they ask, “What name should we put on this order?”

Not only do some people have trouble remembering their name before they’re sufficiently caffeinated, but some folks, especially from other countries, have complicated names that can create traffic jams in the line. 

One girl in New York City named Shefali Kulkarni, was saying that when they ask her what name they should put on her order, and she answers, “Shefali”, they go, “What?! How do you say it?”

So she says it. Slowly. "Ssshheefaallii."

“How do you spell it?”

“S-h-e-f-a-l-i”.

“Could you do that again?”

“Could you people hurry up?”, the folks in line begin to mumble (we’re in New York remember)…

So she came up with a simpler name just for Starbucks. 

“What name on the order, Ma’am?”

“Sheila.”

No questions.

No waiting.

No complaining down the line.

Shefali calls “Sheila” her “coffee name”.

She said that she noticed that a lot of people from other countries have coffee names.

When they ask, “What name for the order?”, instead of “Gulliermo”…or “Bohuslava”…or “Evdokia”…she heard names like  “Sue” or “Tom” or “Jill”.

I just wondered what it was like the first time Shefali was in Starbucks with their friends…or her mom…and she got up when they called “Sheila?”

“Sheila?!”

“It’s my ‘coffee name’. Don’t ask.”

Did you know Jesus has a special name just for you? Listen to this…“I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it…”(Rev 2.17)

He has a special name that He calls only you. It’s not because your real name is hard to say or spell. He called someone “Hephzabah” in the Old Testament. That’s harder to spell than “Shefali”. 

It’s just a name that says something special that He sees in you. Something special that you mean to Him. One of the weirdly hardest but sweetest things you could ever do for yourself is to learn to see yourself in the special way He sees you. 

Learning His name for you. 

And when we’re all together in Heaven and He calls that name…

and you answer Him…

and your friends say, “What?! Why’d He call you that?!”

…just tell ‘em, “It’s the name He used to call me to wake up my heart in the morning…

It’s kinda my coffee name”

Listeners

CCC Oak Ridge

Hey, everyone

Hope you're having the day you hoped you'd be having when you started! But if you're not, just try to keep on the sunny side, always on the sunny side! Keep on the sunny side of life! It will help you every day; it will brighten all the way, if you keep on the sunny side of life! 

Wait. 

That's a song. I just quoted a song! Wow. Where did that come from? 

Oh. I know. That was an old song from the Carter family, the "First Family of Country Music"! Tons of what they sang helped bluegrass music gets that awesome "sound".  And in the fall, for some reason, my heart just turns to bluegrass!

I don't really know why. It's hard to explain. (Kind of like the other day…I saw an ol' possum in the road and later I was wondering why I kept humming George Jones songs to myself all morning…)I'm not sure why autumn is bluegrass music season in my heart, but 'bout the time other folks' grass starts to turn brown, mine turns blue! 

Maybe it's the soaring harmonies of, say, Bobby and Sonny Osborne singing' "Just A Few Old Memories" that I love so much. And who could forget that syrup-y sweet, unmistakable voice of Lester Flatt? (…"For the finest biscuits ever was, get Martha White self-risin' flour! The one all-purpose flour! It's got hot rise!") And how I wish I could do that Bill Monroe yodel when he sang "the Muleskinner Blues"! (And believe you me, I've tried!)

But when you hear that drivin' Earl Scruggs banjo, isn't there a place in your soul that says, "How could people not believe in a Creator when the world is filled with amazements like this?" One person, John Hartford (a famous banjo player himself) said, "The first time I heard Earl on the radio, I didn't know what to think! I couldn't tell if it was a banjo or if it was lightning bolts from heaven!…And they were coming out of that radio like pile drivers, something like—like, I was going to have to dodge them or something!"

Do remember where you were the first time you heard Earl Scruggs play the banjo? 

Bet you do!

Sometimes folks struggle with bluegrass music because they think it borders on the corny. In fact, some believe it's crossed the border and is somewhere out there in the middle of the corn field itself! Sometimes, you'd almost have to admit that some of the lyrics, rolled up together, would make a nice cheese ball. Ol' Bill Monroe wrote a song about a cowboy who lost his horse out in Texas, called "Good Bye, Ol' Pal"

"Along 'bout round-up time In Texas, way out West 

I lost a friend and a pal, boys. I laid him down to rest. 

I weeped and moaned over his grave and to me boys it was sad 

'Cause I knew down beneath that mound lay the best pal I ever had 

My best pal was my old paint horse and now he's gone to rest 

I laid him down beneath that mound in Texas away out West 

But my love for you old pal it shall linger on 

I will always think of you although you're dead and gone!"

Corny? OK. Sure. (But Bill yodels on that one, too and it just makes it strangely…believeable!)

Some say that they can't listen to bluegrass or tune into WDVX in the morning because of all those sappy songs about "mother and dad up in heaven" and "my little cabin on the hill" that are just too sentimental, just too emotional, just too much. Bill Monroe, who was the person who "invented' bluegrass music, wrote one of the ones about "mother and dad"...

"Mother left this world of sorrow

Our home was silent and so sad

Dad took sick and had to leave us

I have no home. No mother nor dad

Their souls have gone up to heaven

Where they'll dwell with God above

Where they'll meet there friends and loved ones

And share with all his precious love

There's a little lonesome grave yard

On these tombstones it did say

On mother's 'gone but not forgotten' 

On dad's 'we'll meet again someday' "

Bill was the last of eight children and grew up on a poor farm in rural Kentucky. He was severely visually impaired and one eye was directed inward. He was bullied because of it. His mother died when he was ten. His dad died when he was still a teen. 

After Bill had become successful leader of his band, "Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys",  he had a young singer named Del McCoury, who was struggling to sing the words quite right on that song. They were traveling through Kentucky at the time, so they stopped  in the tiny town of Rosine, where Bill was born. He took Del out to the little graveyard and said, "I want you to read what's on those gravestones there" Del said, "So I read them. It said on mother's, 'Gone But Not Forgotten' and on dad's, 'We'll Meet Again Someday' That's what they said."

When Bill wrote…

"I have no home No mother nor dad…"

…he meant it. 

Sometimes, if you listen closely to someone's words, you might just hear a hurt that no one else can hear but someone who listens with love. You might just see a tear that no one else sees but one who cares to see it.

When he wrote his second letter to Timothy. Paul was old, lonely, and about to face his death in prison. And at the end of it, he said…

"Do your best to come to me quickly, … When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments… Do your best to get here before winter." (2 Tim 4:9, 12,21)

Listen. I think I hear him say…

"Please. I need my parchments. I need to read them. Because I'm working hard to stay encouraged. I need my coat. I'm cold. I need you. I'm lonely. Hurry. Please, Tim…"

Did you hear it?

Do you listen?

Are you a listener?

In a world filled with bloggers, instagrammers, FB'ers, and tweeters, who will be the listeners?

Almost everyone has a hurt or a sorrow or a burden to share with someone who will listen.

Every heart needs someone who will listen. 

Will you be one?

(And if it gets to be too much, you can go home and play the "Foggy Mountain Breakdown! That'll cheer anyone back up!)

 

Don't be Afraid

CCC Oak Ridge

Hey, everyone!

Hang on…just a sec…

"BEEEEEEEEEEEPPPPPPPP!!!!!!!!!! 

BEEEEEEEEEEEPPPPPPPP!!!!!!!!!!

The National Weather Service in Morristown has detected that this Sunday is our monthly fellowship meal at Triple C after the Worship Service!!  Everyone head to the kitchen of your home to fix 2 extra-large dishes of something yummy to share with others, and we all stay to eat together.

Remember that these events can produce meatballs the size of golf balls.

Remember, if you hear praise music, you're close enough to stay for the fellowship meal.

Please remember when making your dishes that we invite any visitors to stay and eat, as well as we have a large, growing community of college folks who drive in from schools to attend church at Triple C (how awesome is that?!).  They come on their own, and we want to make them feel welcome by sharing our food with them.  SO MAKE EXTRA FOOD FOR ALL THESE FRIENDS!

The oven in the kitchen is always set on low to keep dishes warm while you attend Community Groups and Worship.  We also have several fridges to keep food cold. So come on up Sunday and stay for lunch! We now return you to your regularly scheduled email…

BEEEEEEEEEEEPPPPPPPP!!!!!!!!!! 

BEEEEEEEEEEEPPPPPPPP!!!!!!!!!!"

Wow! 

The National Weather Service needs to work on that beep thing!

And that computer voice is a little creepy!

Speaking of weather…and creepiness...

I heard that, with night-time temps in the 50's and highs in the 70's, it's gonna be totally fall-like next week! You can feel it in the air…Ready, folks? It's that time of year when it's gonna be getting crisp! 

And creepy! 

Have you started to see some of that mess people put out in their yards for all to see? Like the song says, "It's the most creepiest time of the year!" Today's the 12th of September so that means there are seven weeks 'til that holiday at the end of next month that they love so much, but you can already see the plastic gravestones and bones some fill their yards and trees with! I mean, C'mon, folks! Sometimes I'm driving by those yards with little kids in my car! And they didn't think I could handle "How To Train Your Dragon 2"! They went with their grandmother but thought there were moments that were a little too intense for "Pop" ("See what we mean, Mimi?"). What if they know I have to drive by and see that stuff hanging from people's trees?! 

I don't mean to be all "Scrooge-y" about folks getting in the holiday spirit but…Wait! Maybe I DO mean to be Scrooge-y about it!! One night of fright was all it took for Ol' Ebenezer to have a new, kinder heart but he was totally over scary stuff for the rest of his days! Me, too! One look into one of those yards, and I've had all I want of that!

While I'm just lettin' my opinions fly today, I'll go ahead and say it- I'm not a big fan of the corn maze craze either! It's not the tiny bug bites, the admission prices, or the respiratory problems that are tough on me. My problems are "where, which, and when"…as in, not knowing where you are, which turn to take, and when (if ever!) you're getting out of there! In your heart, you know it's a field of rickety, old corn stalks and not the jungles of the Amazon, but still…

I remember reading about this family in Massachusetts who  got turned around, confused and scared in the corn maze on a farm in Danvers, Mass. In fact, they totally freaked!! Thankfully, they had…TA DAAA! Cell phones! They called 911 from within the maze! The recording was released to the public…

Pretty dramatic stuff!

Police dispatch...6:39 pm:

Woman: "Please, help us! We're stuck in the corn maze at Connors Farms. I don't see anybody!!. I am really scared!! It's really dark and we've got a 3-week-old baby with us!!!"

Dispatcher: "Just relax. Calm down. Your husband is with you, right?"

Woman: "Yes, but my baby!?"

Dispatcher: "OK. I understand and the police officer is on the way."

Ol' Farmer Connors said it was a busy day and he left the farm about 6:20 p.m. Monday, only to return a short time later. when he received a phone call from a friend who told him about police squad cars at the family farm at 30 Valley Road…

The cops rushed into the end of the maze with their humans-stuck-in-the-corn-maze-sniffing dogs and found the terrified family just twenty five feet from the exit. Almost made it out and didn't know it!

Once they were rescued, the wife told the police, “"We thought this would be fun. Instead it's a nightmare!"

Reminds me of a night I read about recently. Some guys didn't know where they were, which way to turn, and when it'd be over…

Jesus told His friends to get in a boat late…in the dark!… to cross the lake. Without Him. They watched Him walk up a mountain trail as they drifted from shore. They thought the sea at night was, well, creepy! And it got scary! Storms come at night out there! And one done did! In the middle of the night, as lightning flashed and waves crashed, they were having a tough time just keeping it afloat! Mark 6 says they were "straining at the oars". But Mark lets us in on stuff they didn't know! 

"Jesus went on the mountain to pray" for them…'

"Jesus saw them" out there on the sea…

"Jesus came to them, shortly before dawn, walking on the waves…" 

"They thought He was a ghost!" (Probably that time of year when people put that kind of junk from the trees in their yards!)

"He said, 'Take courage! It is I! Don't be afraid!!!' "

Once they let Him in the boat, "The waves died down…" and John tells us, "immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading."

Wherever you are...whether in the middle of a corn maze or the middle of tough days…

He prays for you!

He sees you!

He'll come to you at just the right moment!

And that fright…that night…that seemed like it would never end, will suddenly be over!

You're safe! 

Always were!

I guess some folks like to be afraid.

Our Lord said, "Don't be!"

I think I'll listen to Him!

Listen and Understand

CCC Oak Ridge

Hey, everyone!

Hope you're having a praise-filled, peace-filled, joy-filled week! In fact, if your week is filled with those, there isn't much room left for anything else!

It's been an eventful week around here! Well, actually, it's been uneventful.

What I mean is, something happened that I don't remember.

I mean, I remember that something didn't happen.

I mean…

Yikes! I'm confusing myself! Lemme explain…

I was in this conversation on Tuesday, and I thought of something smart-alecky to say. Actually, it was dumb-alecky. It would have been probably hurtful and stupid in other ways. Normally, that doesn't stop me for a second. I'll just say whatever and than feel cruddy for a while and wish I hadn't. Y'know how you're deciding, "Should I eat this? It will be awesome for a few minutes, but will probably make me feel gross for most of the afternoon…What the heck! Let's go for it!" 

And I do. And it does.

But our Lord said what's even worse for feeling polluted and cruddy, isn't what goes in that mouth but what comes out of it! Check this! 

"Listen and understand. What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them…Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them…" (Matthew 15.11)

Wow. I know that feeling!

Anyhooo, for whatever reason, on this day I stopped just for a second and prayed in my heart, "Lord Jesus, should I say this? What do You say?" Immediately I knew.  

"Nope! Don't!"

And I didn't.

"Hmmm…How does that feel, buddy? ...Good!"

I don't even remember what we were talking about or what I was fixin' to say. But if I'd have said it, I guarantee I'd remember what it was! And why I still feel cruddy about saying it!

This morning I was reading in Luke, chapter 22 when our Lord was arrested. And, with the soldiers gathered, Peter pulled a sword out and whacked a dude's ear off! 

Yow! I hate when that happens! 

Jesus said, "He who has an ear, let him hear!" That soldier (John tells us his name was Malchus) still had his ear…but in his hand! He would have struggled to hear about Jesus for more than one reason! 

Billy Graham's wife, Ruth once wrote a poem about him.

"I knew a Malchus once.

Severly wounded by Peter's sword;

Crazed by anger, dazed by pain,

he thrust aside with awful pride

that Gentle Hand whose touch alone

could make him whole again."

One thing, tho'…

This morning I was reading over there in Luke 22 and I noticed something. Just before the blade flashed and his ear splashed, the guys yelled, "Lord, should we strike with our swords?” 

What?! They asked?!

"Wait for the answer, Pete!!"

"But one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear."

Way t' go.

If he'd waited and listened, he would have heard, "None of this!"

Instead he heard, "No more of this!" (Luke 22.51)

Instead of, "Don't do it!", he heard, "Don't do it anymore!"

The difference? A couple of seconds and an ear, bloody-side down in the dirt.

Y'know how many of the Gospels in the New Testament tell the tale of the bloody ear? All four of 'em! And if Peter had waited just a few seconds more, it would have been told in…none of them!

I guess, when it's all said and done (or, all NOT said, and NOT done!), my favorite quote of the week was the one I didn't say!

And some of my best memories of the week are the things that I don't remember because they didn't happen!

I'm gonna try to make that happen more!

Hump Day

CCC Oak Ridge

Hey, everyone!

Wow! What an awesome, beautiful Hump Day! I'm writing this on Wednesday afternoon out on my porch and I think "Hump Day" is a new way people say "Wednesday". I guess the idea is that if you were sliding down the back of a camel, and it took a week to do it, Wednesday would be the day you go "over the hump". So they're starting to call it "Hump Day". But for Tina and me, since we generally take Thursday as our day-off, Wednesday is the end of the week. We started the week (at the nose of the camel) on Friday, the first day of our week. I guess that makes Monday our "Hump Day" and Wednesday is the day we get to the end of the week and slide off camel…or "Rump Day"! 

Lately, I've been loving how we close out Mondays! A bunch of us have been getting together to just "pray it up!" We've been trying to focus our prayers on our town and Triple C, interceding and asking God to do the things only He could do. But when we start in on our missionaries all over the map, sometimes our hearts just burst for folks all over the world! 

I read the weirdest thing the other day…

Seems this pastor in Jersey City, NJ had folks in his church write out their prayers to God in letter form and stick them in envelopes. Then, they were supposed to give them to him, for some reason. Some of the prayers were pretty goofy. One guy asked to win the lottery…twice! First, he wanted to win the $50,000 and then the $1,000,000 one. 

Whatever.

One asked God to make a certain someone "leave me alone and stay off my back."

But lots of the prayers were really…real. From the heart.

Many were from people asking God to help them with folks in their lives and families who were struggling with addictions. One needed prayers from someone they loved who couldn't stop gambling. Some were from broken hearts who needed God to change someone who was being untrue to them...One unwed mother wrote that her baby was due in four weeks, and would God "make the father fall in love with me and give our baby a dad"…A teenage girl poured out her heart on yellow lined paper in curlicue pencil handwriting, begging God to forgive her and give her a second chance…"There is not a day that goes by that I don't think about the mistake I made…"

Then the pastor of the Mount Calvary Baptist Church died. And no one knew what had happened to all those written prayers. 

Until hundreds of them washed up on the beach of Atlantic City many months later in a plastic bag. 

Unopened. 

Unread.

But the Father knew all about their soggy words. And the tears behind them. And the pain in each heart. And the answers He would bring. There is an awesome place in the Book of Revelation where the prayers of God's people are gathered by angel and put in a golden ball, specially used for incense before the altar of God in Heaven. Then John tells us that the angel took the censer containing all those prayers "and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth, and there were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake!" (Rev 8.2-6)

Awesome! Literally!

The prayers of God's people…even the dripping wet forgotten ones…become an explosion that makes the earth tremble! To gather with the people of God to intercede for others and for the advancement of the Kingdom of God in our town and in the world, is the most powerful way you could spend your time! Prayer, as they say… "It's the bomb"!

Join us on Mondays at 6:30 if you want!

And if you're reading this on Friday, Happy Rump Day!

Encouragement

CCC Oak Ridge

Hey, everyone…

Hope you’re having an awesome week! Hope your heart is filled with singin’, praisin’…"kicking down the cobble stones, feelin' groovy…”

I guess I haven't had a week completely like that.

I liked Robin Williams a lot.

Sometimes his movies encouraged me in ways I hadn't expected when I went. 

Remember…

 “Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary.” I mean, that's totally true, right? Make every day count. You only have a limited number of them. As Moses says in Psalm 90, "Teach us to count 'em!" So we make 'em count!

Then in "Mrs Doubtfire", when his false teeth fell in the glass, he muttered, "Carpe dentem. Seize the teeth…" Genius!

And at the end of that one, when he's doing his kids' show on TV with all the puppets, he closes by telling all his children viewers, “If there’s love, dear… those are the ties that bind…You’re going to be all right.”

I'll never forget how sweet that was. Who doesn't need to hear someone say, "You're going to be alright."

I know how awful depression is, but I wondered this week about so many things…

Was it that a person so famous and well-liked could really feel so alone with no one to call?

Does a person at that age still feel like there is something yet to prove? Or that it's never enough?

I thought a lot about another struggling person much like this…

As a child, he lost his mother and four siblings. Before age 6. His father was the cold-grumpy-type who you could never really please. William, the kid, was sent away to one of those British boarding schools like in David Copperfield where people were unkind and some abusive of him. He fell in love but his dad broke up the engagement. He lost all confidence and when his dad made him take an exam to be a clerk in the House of Lords, on the night before the test, he tried to end his own life by hanging himself with a belt…three times. He couldn’t get it to work. He failed at failing!

But then things began to…change! And get better! (That would be about the only change possible ‘cause it couldn’t get much worse!)

What made the difference?

Encouraging people! “Courage” + “in” = “encourage”! He found people who put “courage en” him! “Courage” comes from the word “cuore”…Latin for “heart”! People who help you “take heart”!

While spending time in a hospital for the mentally distressed, William met a doctor who encouraged him…and helped him find some Scriptures he needed…mostly in Romans ‘cause guilt was really getting our friend. One day, he fell into a chair, opened up the New Testament and his eyes fell on Romans, chapter 3 where it says “God gave Jesus to be a propitiation through faith in His blood, so we can know the sins of the past are gone…” 

Here’s what happened…

“Immediately I received the strength to believe it, and the full beams of the Sun of Righteousness shone upon me. I saw the sufficiency of the atonement He had made, my pardon sealed in His blood, and all the fullness and completeness of His justification. In a moment I believed, and received the gospel. Unless the Almighty arm had been under me, I think I should have died with gratitude and joy. My eyes filled with tears, and my voice choked with transport; I could only look up to heaven in silent fear, overwhelmed with love and wonder.”

Now you’re talkin’, Bill!

After Dr. Nathaniel Cotton finished his work, our sad-but-improving friend met a couple who invited William to rent a room in their home. Mary and Morey Unwin listened, prayed, and encouraged their new boarder. And then they introduced him to a pastor in their little town, John Newton who was an encouragement genius! He came up with the encouraging idea of writing songs about Jesus together.  His new friend, William Cowper would eventually be known as the greatest poet in the English language.

Together they wrote 384 hymns! The most famous is number 41…

”Amazing Grace! How Sweet the Sound…”

Encouragement.

Everybody needs it! That’s why we do so much of the stuff we do at Triple C.  It's why we have community groups on Sundays. It’s why guys get together on Saturday mornings and folks get together loads of other times. It's not just doing stuff to do it. These are times to learn, times to pray, times to laugh, and times to get some encouragement! 

William Cowper wrote…

 "For solitude, however some may rave, 

seeming a sanctuary, proves a grave. 

A sepulcher in which the living lie, 

where all good qualities come to die."

In other words…

Encouragement rocks!

William Cowper struggled to feel encouraged for the rest of his life.

Some people don't seem to need as much encouragement as others do.

But EVERYBODY needs encouragement sometimes…

Some people  like William Cowper (and me!) need encouragement maybe a lot of the time…

You may be at a place where you don’t really need encouragement right now…

But somebody needs some from you!

…someone like me.