Tag Archives: happiness

Merry Christmas 2014

Well, here we are again. We are at the point of culmination: the culmination of all the decorating, all  the shopping, all the hustle & bustle, Christmas cards mailed, and yes – all of the waiting. What, waiting? Yes, waiting. You have been waiting, haven’t you?

Our home in Keller, Texas is beautifully decorated, thanks to the vision and creativity of my lovely wife. We have a beautiful Christmas tree beneath which lies a plethora of colorfully wrapped packages waiting to be opened. The sugar count in our kitchen is at an all time high with cookies and other holiday treats. Our staircase is decorated with faux pine garland interwoven with lovely white lights and our fireplace is decked out as well, complete with stockings hung by the chimney with care. The shopping is done – almost. I traditionally shop on Christmas Eve; not as an act of procrastination but because I enjoy it. Indeed, the Strege’s invest heavily in the traditions of the season and we enjoy it.

Some refer to the Christmas festival traditions as “trappings”. I understand why that is. If we’re not careful, Christmas becomes all about the trees, the lights, the goodies, and the presents. And while those things are fun and can bring some degree of happiness into our season, they are not what Christmas is all about for those of us who have put our faith and trust in Jesus.

As a Christian, there is not a doubt in my mind that the true “reason for the season” was born of a virgin and laid in a manger in a town called Bethlehem some 2,000 years ago. He died on a cross to save all who believe in Him from our sins, and was resurrected 3 days later. In Him and Him alone, death was swallowed up in victory! Without Him, my hope for eternity, and yours as well, is quite bleak. But through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, we have the hope of eternal life in His amazing presence. Indeed, we are at the culmination of Advent – that period of anticipation as we wait to joyfully celebrate the birth of our Savior.

This morning, as I prepare to embark on my traditional Christmas Eve shopping excursion, the birth of our Savior is at the forefront of my mind. I hope it is at the forefront of yours, too. I wish you and all for whom you care a very Merry Christmas indeed!

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which well be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, which is Christ the Lord!” ~ Luke 2:10-11

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which well be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, which is Christ the Lord!” ~ Luke 2:10-11

The Joy of Weddings

This summer I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing the nuptials of two nieces, one in Colorado and the other in California. And, thanks to both couples, I have memories that I will treasure for the rest of my life.

Jenny & Evan

My niece Jenny is one of the most genuine people you could ever meet. She is happy, confident, loves nature, and welcomes everybody with arms open wide. Evan is a very talented musician. I admire anybody who can play the guitar and draw you into a song by the way he interprets and presents the lyrics, and Evan is one of those musicians.

Jenny and Evan exchanging their vows.

Jenny and Evan exchanging their vows.

Jenny and Evan enjoy the music scene in Grand Junction, Colorado. They also enjoy rafting, hiking and camping in the many beautiful areas of the western slope in Colorado. They are blessed with a tight group of friends, referred to as their “Friend Family” who are as genuine inside and out as are Jenny and Evan.

Consistent with their love of music and the mountains, Jenny & Evan selected Ridgway State Park in western Colorado as the venue for their lovely wedding. The nuptials themselves were celebrated at the Visitor Center Overlook – a beautiful spot overlooking the Ridgway Reservoir. As we walked down the short trail from the parking area to the overlook it was easy to see why they love this place so much, for the view was simply breathtaking.

The reception was also at Ridgway, in a pavilion in the Pa-Co-Chu-Puk area of the park. Offering a 360 degree panoramic view of the western Rockies, we all relaxed and enjoyed the celebration. Given their involvement in the Grand Junction music scene, many of the Friend Family brought their instruments – we had guitars, a mandolin, a banjo, drums…you name it they brought it. All of us enjoyed some of the best musicians from the Grand Junction music scene taking the stage and jamming together; it was an experience that this music lover enjoyed immensely. It was one of those nights that, for me anyway, ended much too quickly.

Bailey & Brett

My niece Bailey is a lovely woman of faith. Her tastes tend toward simple and sophisticated. She has a heart for those less fortunate and her smile lights up the room. Bailey met Brett as they both worked for the Daily Skiff student newspaper at Texas Christian University. They met some six-plus years ago. Brett impresses me as a genuinely kind and caring man, absolutely perfect for my niece. I liked him immediately upon meeting him a few years ago, even though he beat the snot out of me in Laser Tag! Brett is a native of Pasadena, California and upon graduating from TCU Bailey followed him out there.

Bailey & Brett

Bailey & Brett

Bailey has adopted Pasadena as her home, and as such, having her wedding there was the logical choice. The venue was the beautiful Altadena Country Club, where I understand Brett’s parents are long-time members.

The wedding ceremony took place on a beautiful lawn enclosed by large, perfectly groomed hedges. The bridesmaids and the bride herself entered from a landing above us, then descended the stairs to their waiting guests. The ceremony itself was beautifully Christian. The pastor talked about how the joining of a man and a woman in holy matrimony is akin to Christ offering Himself to his beloved creation – in essence His bride, the church.

The reception featured a DJ – one of the best I’ve heard in a long time – a nice sit-down dinner and an open bar. During dinner the DJ spun classics by such greats as Frank Sinatra. After dinner many of us enjoyed cigars on the veranda as the DJ spun current era dance tunes. Yours truly, along with several others of us older folks, shared the dance floor with Bailey & Brett and their friends and had a marvelous time dancing to the beat. Of course, it didn’t hurt in my mind that I was burning calories at the same time!

The Joy of Weddings

The pastor at Bailey & Brett’s wedding reminded us that Jesus Himself enjoyed weddings. In fact, it was at a wedding that Jesus performed His first miracle as he turned several jugs of water into the finest of wines.

I enjoy weddings, too. Weddings are an object lesson in love. Every time I attend a wedding I remember the day I married my lovely wife. I remember my sisters’ weddings and how I was one of the young people breaking a sweat as I broke moves on the dance floor. This summer, at Jenny and Bailey’s weddings, I enjoyed being one of the adults. I enjoyed watching my nieces, their new husbands and their friends celebrating love and friendship. I enjoyed meeting Evan’s and Brett’s friends and family who are now part of my family – what a gift!

My lovely bride and me. 12.28.1991

My lovely bride and me. 12.28.1991

I not only enjoy my memories and the day at hand, but I look ahead to the weddings of my daughter and my son. Yes, someday it will be DeLisa’s and my turn. At Bailey & Brett’s rehearsal dinner, Brett’s mom Cathy told us that she had been praying for Bailey since the day Brett was born. I, too, lift up the young man and young woman who will one day join with my daughter and my son as life partners though holy matrimony. Of course, no rush!

1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. 4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part.10 But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. 11When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. 13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love. ~ 1 Corinthians 13:1-13

Photo credits: All taken by yours truly on my iPhone 5s

Bloom Where You’re Planted

 

‘Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare.’ ~ Jeremiah 29:7

English: Roanoke City as seen from at dusk in ...

English: Roanoke City as seen from at dusk in Virginia, USA. Italiano: Roanoke City vista dalla . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My favorite place I have lived is Roanoke, Virginia. I confess that I sometimes lament that I don’t live there now.

This passage comes from a letter written by Jeremiah, as directed by God, to the Israelites living in exile in Babylon. In the letter, God tells the exiles to “seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper,” (verse 7, NIV). Bloom where you’re planted, perhaps? These people are in exile; they don’t want to be in Babylon. They want to go home. False teachers are telling them it won’t be long before they return to their homeland, but that is not God’s plan. In verse 10 God says through Jeremiah, “…when 70 years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place.”

Israel is exiled as punishment for disobeying God. But even through the course of punishment, God loves His people and promises to restore them when the time is right. Even through the course of punishment, God gives them the hope and reassurance that He has not abandoned them. I can’t help but think that God also wants the people of Babylon to see Him through the exiles. God’s Word is ultimately for the world, not just for Israel. Jesus came to save us all.

God’s letter to the exiles offers one of the most oft-quoted promises conveyed by God in the Old Testament:

‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the LORD, ‘and I will restore your fortunes and will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you,’ declares the LORD, ‘and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile.’ (Jeremiah 29:11-14)

The Keller water tower bathed in blue lights after a Keller High School victory!

The Keller water tower bathed in blue lights after a Keller High School victory!

In reading Jeremiah’s letter to the Israeli exiles in Babylon, I am convicted. No, I haven’t been exiled to Dallas/Fort Worth, but God has me here for a reason. He wants me to fully embrace this community, to pray for it, and contribute to its well-being. As I consider this passage, I am reminded of the times I have lamented having left Roanoke. I am reminded of the groaning and complaining I’ve offered concerning our search for a church home, the traffic, the pollution, the crowds and I realize I have missed the point. God wants me to be a part of this community; that’s why I’m here.

What about you? Are you dissatisfied with your lot in life? Are you grumbling about your employer, your neighborhood, or your school? Does the grass look greener someplace else? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, I encourage you to read this passage and then go to God in prayer. Ask Him what He wants you to do to contribute to the well-being of the community to which He has led you; the place in which you find yourself right now. Then go out and serve the Lord where He has planted you.

My prayer for today: Dear Heavenly Father, as I look out my window I see my community differently after having read this passage. Thank You for Your Word, and thank You for calling me here. Show me, Lord, each and every day how I may serve You here. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.

Have You Ever Asked Yourself…

…Is this all there is?

We all wonder sometimes how we impact our world. Is my impact helpful? Are people better off for having known me? Are my daily life, my priorities, my hopes, my dreams pleasing to God? Should I be doing something different, or should I be doing what I do in a different way?

We tend to forget that we are where we are for a reason. We touch people in some way each and every day. As we ponder our future with it’s possibility for life changes, let us not forget about the people we impact today. Let’s celebrate those opportunities! God has a plan, and that plan is coming to fruition, even as I write this post and you read it.

Take me for example: I work in corporate America. I also enjoy writing my blog, even though I don’t write as regularly as I’d like. I enjoy public speaking. I think it would be cool to publish a book – a book that people would find helpful and inspirational in some way. Could I make a living doing these things? Should I even try, or is this the proverbial mid-life crisis finally knocking at my door?

One of my favorite promises from God is recorded in the book of Isaiah:

People of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you. Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them.Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Then you will desecrate your idols overlaid with silver and your images covered with gold; you will throw them away like a menstrual cloth and say to them, “Away with you!” (Isaiah 30:19-22, bold added for emphasis)

I stand firmly on that promise. At 51 I see lots of road in my rearview mirror and, God willing, I have much road yet to travel. No matter where we are in life, we all see that road, don’t we?

Be open to change, but remember also that, right now, you are exactly where God wants you to be. Honor Him by making the most of today as you continue to explore the possibilities for future change. I see today’s opportunities with a fresh set of eyes. With that clear vision I will explore the pursuit of my dreams. God will show me which road to take. Where is He guiding you?

Be Thou My Vision – Alison Krauss

Be Thou My Vision – Alison Krauss

I was working from home this afternoon, quite frustrated at having to redo work I’d already done through no fault of my own. While I brooded over my computer, grumbling with each entry in my spreadsheet, this hymn came to mind. As I sung the lyrics to myself, I completed my work wearing a smile. I sometimes need to be reminded that, even when working my job in corporate America, I must work as for the Lord. He lovingly delivered this much-needed reminder in the words of this beautiful hymn. May it be as much a blessing to you as it was to me this afternoon!

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