Sunday, December 2, 2018

Christmas Play ~ Filling The Manger

Christmas Play
Filling The Manger
A Christmas play straight from scripture. 
All speaking parts are straight from scripture.
Chronologically choreographed.
Free to use. Just advise. 

(Setting: North is stage right. Audience faces west—toward “The Star”)
Nazareth, approximately 80-90 miles north of Judea, Jerusalem and Bethlehem

Old Prophet: Seated, stage left,
Candle lights…Prophet shuffling scrolls:
“Behold, I send My messenger before Your face,
Who will prepare Your way before You.”
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord;
Make His paths straight.’ ” (Malachi 3:1; Isaiah 40:3; Mark 1:2,3)
Candle goes out
Narrator: (Luke 1)
“There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, His wife’s name was Elizabeth. They were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years.
During narration:
Elizabeth and Zacharias walk together, Zacharias, obviously talking a lot and agitated… They stop outside temple and hug (mostly Elizabeth hugs Zacharias) He shakes his head and turns…she watches him walk inside and then, bows her head, places hands over her belly and closes her eyes…
Lights dim on Elizabeth, come up on Zacharias in temple
Angel appears, Zacharias, stumbles back, obviously afraid.
 “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name, John.  He will be great in the sight of the Lord, and will go before Him, to prepare the way of the Lord.”
Light dims on temple, comes up on Elizabeth.
Zacharias comes out of temple, and smiles, then, rushes to his wife and gives her a big hug (more him than her, this time). They walk away holding each other like newlyweds.

Stage goes dark. Candle lights on Old Prophet table.
Old Prophet:
                He shuffles scrolls until, he finds the one he’s looking for…
“The Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a Son, and He shall be called Immanuel.”  Prophet pauses, leans back, thinking…utters thoughtfully. “Immanuel…God, with us” (Isaiah 7:14)

Christ’s Birth Announced to Mary (Luke 1: 26 – 38)
Mary filling manger with hay to feed donkey…humming away in a manger
Angel appears:
“Rejoice, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!”
 Mary, backs up, afraid.
“Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive
and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David…and of His kingdom there will be no end.”
“How can this be, since I do not know a man?”
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you;
therefore, also, that Holy One whoi is to be born will be called the Son of God. Now, indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.”
Mary stares at the angel, and then into heaven for several seconds, so long in fact that the angel looks up, too. Finally, Mary rests her hand on her stomach and smiles and nods.
“Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.”
Angel disappears and a light appears in her womb and star appears in the sky …heartbeat heard
Stage goes dark, except for star…and the heartbeat .. .. ..

Old Prophet candle lights…Old Prophet reads from a scroll…

“A star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter
shall rise out of Israel” (Numbers 24:17)
Light shines on Wisemen in the east, (center and behind audience), they point at the star and then huddle together as if calculating documents to determine what the star means.

Mary Visits Elizabeth (80 – 100 miles, 4-5 day journey ) (Luke 1: 39-56)
Mary arose in those days and traveled, over 80 miles southward, into the hill country, to a city of Judah; to the home of Zacharias and Elizabeth.

While narrator is speaking Mary is packed and journeys slowly (from the north, right side of audience) around the audience and up to stage, light follows her…) She knocks on door.
Elizabeth answers, grabs her stomach and laughs and then they hug.
“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!...”
Elizabeth, stops, holds Mary by shoulders at arm’s length, looks her up and down and gently touches her own stomach and also Mary’s; then, nods and smiles. 
“But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?—” small laugh and places Mary’s hand on her stomach “—As soon as I heard your voice, he leaped for joy.” Place hand gently on Mary’s cheek. “Blessed are you, because you believed…everything He said, will be fulfilled.”
Oh how I magnify the Lord, my God, my Savior
He’s regarded me…His lowly maidservant
From now on, everyone will call, me, blessed
Oh, how He loves
He has done such great things

Mary & Elizabeth hug, laugh, walk together…lights go down.

Joseph learns of Mary’s pregnancy (Matt. 1: 19-25)

“And Mary remained with Elizabeth about three months, and then, returned to her house.”
Mary walks from south (left side audience) she is starting to show (3 months pregnant)
Stage lights come up. Joseph is working in a shop

Mary is still walking, slowly, stopping momentarily now and then to rest, as she makes her way toward the stage, toward Joseph.

   Mary was engaged to Joseph, but, before they came together, she was found with child of the
Holy Ghost.

Joseph sees Mary, he drops what he’s doing and rushes to Mary. They embrace…but then, Joseph pulls away and looks at her stomach.

Joseph, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public disgrace, was minded to break off the engagement privately.

Joseph looks Mary in the eyes, shakes his head and steps back. Mary looks at Joseph and then down and holds her belly. When, she looks back up at Joseph, she reaches for him, but he steps back a few steps, slowly, shaking his head, and turns away.

Stage right and left split into two scenes. Joseph on left, back in his shop, pacing, angry, until he finally sinks down into a tearful sleep.

Mary stage right, paces slowly, praying, until she kneels in tearful prayer.

Stage goes dark, momentarily. Then an angel appears next to Joseph.

“Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”

Angel disappears, spotlight follows Joseph as he gets up and walks to Mary. She is still praying. He takes her by the hand, she stands, apprehensive, unsure of why he’s come... He smiles, she smiles…they embrace. Lights go down.

The journey to Bethlehem
Narrator: Luke 2:
“And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.
Joseph went from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child.”
During narration:
Lights up on right side of audience…Joseph and Mary are on their 80-90-mile journey south to Bethlehem. Mary is 8-9 months pregnant. They walk in and about the audience…
As they make their way to the stage…being turned away one by one by “inn-keepers” scattered around audience.” When they reach the stage, finally, one inn-keeper points…the stage lights up to the manger scene. Joseph shakes his head, appears to confront the “inn keeper” but Mary, takes Joseph’s hand and leads him toward the manger…
Mary fills the manger. (Just like before)
Light go down.

Old Prophet: candle lights…
‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
Are not the least among the rulers of Judah;
For out of you shall come a Ruler
Who will shepherd My people...” (Matt. 2:6 & Micah 5:2)
Lights go down…star get brighter…heart beat is heard louder, faster…wisemen make their way closer to the stage, pointing in awe at the star.
Spot light shines off stage on Shepherds. 

Shepherds and angels (Luke 2: 8-20)
Shepherd’s huddled around a fire, sheep scattered about…
Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, (fire goes outangel appears) and the glory of the Lord shone around them, (spot light gets brighter) and they were greatly afraid. (shepherds cower).

“Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”
Brightest lights on shepherds, more angels appear…
Suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
“Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
 “Let’s go to Bethlehem, now!... To see what the Lord has made known to us.”
Shepherds run throughout the audience. Lights come up on stage with Joseph and Mary holding baby Jesus…Shepherds hurry to the scene. But, stop, remove head head-coverings. Mary places Baby Jesus in the manger, and she and Joseph nod toward the Shepherds. They inch their way to the manger, kneel and bow their heads. 
Old Prophet reads:
“The people who walked in darkness
Have seen a great light;
Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death,
Upon them a light has shined.
For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
(Isaiah 9:2, 6-7)

One by one, shepherds back out and scatter about, whispering to the audience “The King is born, you should meet Him…”
On stage, the inn keeper that pointed Mary & Joseph to the stable, appears and kneels, then, he extends a hand to Joseph and Mary, bows his head, in remorse. Then, he motions for them to follow
Stage light down
Meanwhile shepherds are still in audience spreading the Good news, when they all at once run into the wisemen, they point to the stage…the star gets brightest.
The wisemen hurry to the stage.
Lights come up.
Mary and Joseph and Jesus are in a house, rather than a stable.
One by one, Wisemen kneel and present their gifts. ( ) Shepherds enter and kneel. Inn keepers enter and kneel. Elizabeth and Zacharias and toddler (John the Baptist) enter and kneel, Old Prophet enters and kneels, angels enter and kneel…whosoever will enters and bows… Oh Holy Night plays…
All rise, turn and bow

The end, well, really, in many ways… just the beginning.

Old Prophet
Inn Keepers

Nazareth stable
Zacharias & Elizabeth house
Joseph’s shop
Bethlehem stable

Friday, November 30, 2018

Dear Mom

You’ve spent a life time talking to Jesus.
Here of late, you’ve been doing a lot more of that.
And it seems, He’s been talking back, more than ever before.
Wasn’t it just the other day, I heard you say, “Jesus told me He’s coming here to take me Home.”
Time sure flies, doesn’t it mom?
Seems like yesterday, me and my best friend Dave were skipping school. We’d swing by St. Peter Nursing Home to visit you at work. You’d always have a smile and a few dollars for us to run to Dairy Queen or Hardees.
How’d the Nursing Home change so fast from the place you worked, to the place you lived?
I can hear your answer as you shrug your little shoulders, “Old age a-creepin’ up on me,” and hear your soft, laugh, and see your face light up with a beautiful toothless grin. “I won’t be here long. I’m just passing through.”
I wonder, where’d you lose your teeth, this time?
I think, old age doesn’t creep, so much, as it roars in like a hurricane. We know it’s coming, but it seems to be so far out to sea. So, we just go on about our business until all too soon, the rain begins, then the wind and then it’s raging all around, until it consumes us.
The last time we saw each other, I’m so glad you remembered me. You yodeled for us and even though you couldn’t remember you’d just ate supper, you sang every word of “You Are My Sunshine” without missing a word or a beat. We laughed so hard. You were like a child Christmas morn when you patted your hands together and said what’d become your favorite phrase, “Oh happy day.”
When you sang, “Take it to the Lord in prayer” it was really more like you were breathing, than you were singing.
Like that was your breath of life. I believe it is.
I remember the time, when I was a boy, my side hurt so bad I couldn’t walk, could hardly breath. You whispered a prayer, and just like that, I was healed. I’ll never know ‘til we walk those streets of gold, how many times you prayed for me.
I do know, when I was just venturing out on my own, thinking I could conquer the world, but realizing I couldn’t. When the world ran me over, I could feel your prayers, they gave me strength. Helped carry on, brought me back home to the straight and narrow.
Thank you, Mom.  I love you. I never showed you or told you enough.  
I’ll never forget how your glowing smiling giddy face went from happy to sad in the beat of a heart, when I said we had to go. It broke my heart when your little chin quivered and the words fell from your precious lips, “You mean your not going to spend the night with me?”
I could only shake my head and hold you close, the words got stuck in my throat.
You whispered, “What am I going to do? I’ll be all alone.”
You probably couldn't hear me, but I whispered something you already know, "You're never alone." Then, I kissed your forehead and said, “We’ll see each other again. We all just need to get some rest.”
You shrugged and said, “I guess that’s true. Old age a-creepin’ up…on us all.”
You settled back into your bed, humming the tune, “Take It To The Lord In Prayer.”
Mom, you may not remember the way back to your room, but you possess the wisdom to lead anyone from the darkest pit or the deepest sea, straight to the shining streets of heaven.
I know.
I’ve been there.
Thanks for showing me the way.
I love you and will see you soon.

Friday, November 9, 2018

The Snake & The Guillotine

When I walked around the house to turn on the watering system, I saw them. There must’ve been a dozen or more. Zipping across the plants, up the walls, across the windows. Little geckos everywhere; like a gecko day care…or, Gecko Café ...for snakes, I thought.
Usually, I treat our winter home, against every creeping crawling slithering thing from fire ant to snake. But this year, whether too busy or too lazy. I didn’t get it done. Well, actually, I went through the motions. I made one quick loop around, but not thorough, not under our double wide home like I usually do and not with all of the ingredients I usually use.
I turned on the water and watched the little lizards zip around avoiding the mist. I really need to get some snake repellent.  
A day or two later, I was in the bedroom/office on the phone, when I heard my wife storm into the house, talking loud and fast.
“A snake!”
She was putting the bikes under the carport for the night, when she saw it. Right there. Almost three feet long, as round as her wrist. Right there next to the steps. Venom and fangs, lay right there next to our door.
Poison and pain coiled, right where the grand kids play. Where their innocent laughter echoes in and out of the house after school.  
 From out of the blue death slithered up to our door.
You know what I mean? Like that doctor’s report; the divorce papers; the pink slip; that bank note; the phone call you never wanted; the pain; the words you can’t unsay; the deed you can’t undo, the evil you never asked for.
And then, regret pierces like fangs through skin. I should’ve taken care of this. Blame. It’s all my fault. Shame. It could’ve been avoided, if only I’d taken the time. Guilt.
Earlier in the week a friend had loaned us a large scraper for removing some crumbling Chattahoochee stone off our driveway. I grabbed the straight bladed tool, and formulated in my mind how it would make a perfect guillotine.
Easing the door open, it was pitch black. I could barely see his form poised in the dark. I waved my hand in front of the motion light mounted above the door. The carport lit up like noon.
The intruder didn’t move.
There wasn’t much room between the step and a long-handled brush my wife had been using to scrub the siding. Slowly, ever so slowly, I positioned the guillotine to drop about four inches behind the venomous head.
Every muscle in my body tensed. I focused on the target. What if I miss? What if the fanged-foe strikes back? Will I be able to get out of the way?  If my buddy Phil were back from up North, he’d be the one doing this. He carries a snake catcher. He’s good at it. He knows how they move. He catches them and takes them out to a safe place far from folks and lets them go. I’m not that knowledgeable, or that brave, or that kind.
I pulled in a long breath, and held…BAM.
The guillotine slammed hard and on target. I felt a rush of relief. Knowing that I should’ve done more to prevent an intrusion like this, I felt I’d dodged a bullet.   
The motion sensor light timed out and all went black.
The speed and power of the writhing that took place didn’t surprise me, but the length of time it continued, did. I figured it would settle down, dead, without a head. But the writhing continued, with no signs of stopping.
I pressed down hard on the blade, in the dark.
 Why is it that some things refuse to die? The chemo kills everything but the cancer. The nasty habit just won’t shake. The toxic relationships never change. The bills only seem to grow.
The writhing continued. I decided to try something new, and shifted the weight of the blade back and forth. That was a mistake. I leaned too far. The slippery serpent slid out from under the blade and skittered across the carport floor and under the house in a blur.
I waved my hand in front of the motion sensor. There was light. There was no head. Surely, the guillotine hit its mark and did its deed. But there was no evidence on the floor, no blood or as much as a smudge on the blade.
Wait. Back up. Rewind that last scene. The bad guys aren’t supposed to get away. The good guys are supposed to win. What went wrong with this story?
Such is the divided world in which we live. Such is life. A battle. A war. Not red vs blue. Or black vs white. It’s right vs wrong. Good vs evil.
Some won’t even agree, who’s bad and who’s good. Some will say, the bad guy was the one holding the guillotine.
Make no mistake. There is evil. It is real, and its desire is to take you out.
But it’s not the snake. Nor is it the folks behind the knife, or the gun, or the screen. Folks who do evil, are not the enemy. They’ve been infected with the venom of evil, and are more of a victim than those upon whom they prey.
It’s recorded that the first person ever born killed the second. God’s plan to “make man in Our image” wasn’t off to a real good start.
What was God’s reply?  Did He take a guillotine to Cain? Did a lightning bolt shoot from the sky? No. He addressed the real culprit “…sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.” (Gen. 4:7).
The problem and the answer in one short sentence. (I love that about God. He keeps it short and simple for guys like me.)
Evil is the problem.
Overcome it.
It is written, after the very first sin, judgement was pronounced on evil, who happened to be hiding behind the disguise of a serpent: “He will crush your head, and you will strike His heel.” (Gen. 3:15)
I wasn’t the first to fail at trying to lop off the serpent’s head. From that day to this thousands of years and multitudes of people have tried, and failed…
All, but One.
Just before the guillotine dropped once and for all on the serpent’s head, it was said…
Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe? Indeed the hour is coming, yes, has now come, that you will be scattered, each to his own, and will leave Me alone. And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” ~ Jesus, the snake crusher (John 16:31-33).

 iluvu, but more importantly,
Jesus loves you.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Finding Peace in Politics

I didn’t mean for it to start a minor firestorm. It was just a simple Facebook comment that went like this:
Thought before stepping into the voting booth:

"A wise man’s heart directs him toward the right, but the foolish man’s heart directs him toward the left." (Ecclesiastes 10: 2 NASB)

It may not seem like it, because of the topic, but, I'm not really into politics.

I rarely watch the news. As a matter of fact, for the entire summer, the only news I wanted to hear, was what the bass were biting.

Actually, to be honest, there is one news source I go to, a lot. Every day as a matter of fact.

I know you can’t believe everything (or most of) what you hear on the news; but, this place is different. It’s the only place I can tune in and believe every word. It’s the only real truth, I can hang my hat on. Tuning in is refreshing, peace-giving.

Not like other news sources, where it’s one sad story after another, all filtered to blame one party or the other…and I’m left feeling agitated and anything but peace.

This news source is well known, it’s heard by more people than any other, it’s in every language.  
I really love it, but, at times, I don’t necessarily like it.

It discloses dirt that makes me squirm. It unveils evil that makes me shiver. Yet, it provides a plan that gives me hope and leaves me with peace.

It is the purest compass pointing to Truth.

It’s time tested and proven.

Our Constitution is built around it.

This Good News Source, is alive and powerful and is more up to date than this morning’s paper or the President’s latest tweet.

It contains the very words of God.

It provides guidance in every aspect and element of life…even how to vote.

What is it?

By now, I’m sure you know, I’m talking about the B.I.B.L.E.

For those who believe it, how to vote is clear.

The political parties make it easy to see. They lay out their beliefs, they call it their platform, I call it their bible.

By reviewing their bibles in relationship to, The Bible, it becomes perfectly clear which side of the isle a Christian should stand.

But, none of it matters, if we miss the most important point of it all.  

The whole point of the Bible is summed up in Jesus words:

“‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”

Jesus is our example. He stood His ground, spoke the Truth, never compromised, yet, loved completely.

I pray, all of us, will receive His love, and act it out toward one another, no matter the color or side of the isle.

Then, we might see what the angels meant by, Peace on earth, good will toward men.

Remember, i love you, more importantly, 
Jesus loves you.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Born on 9-11

My granddaughter, Kylie was born on 9-11.
This year, she turns eleven on the eleventh. They call that, her golden birthday.
Her dad wants to make it special, so he planned a big celebration.
The nurses and aids that help with her care, Team Kylie, will all be there. And of course, family and friends from far and wide wouldn’t miss it for the world.
I suppose, lots of parents plan big parties for golden birthdays…only with Kylie, the party isn’t so much a celebration for her, but more a celebration of her.
She won’t enjoy the festivities like the other kids.
She won’t hop in the sack race, sword fight like a pirate, create a treasure chest or play laser-tag. She’ll sit in her wheelchair without a word. She’ll watch. Only God knows what she’ll think.
Nevertheless, she’ll be the center of attention; the reason for it all.
With someone guiding her little hands, she’ll be the first to take a crack at the mermaid piñata
Her treasure chest will be the biggest of them all.  
Even though she won’t be able to take one single bite, she’ll have a birthday cake of her own. Her hands will be placed on top of the cake, she’ll feel the frosting between her fingers. Her daddy will stand near and Cheyanne from Team Kylie will help the birthday girl wipe her cake filled hands across her daddy’s face…and Kylie will smile.
 In that moment, if you’re not watching, you’ll miss it, but that moment, is what makes it all worthwhile.
Kylie will smile.
Everyone watching will laugh and then gasp, and then all at once they’ll say, “Did you see her smile?” and in that moment, if you listen real close, I’m pretty sure, you’ll be able to hear the angels sing.
All the long hours, setting up tents and hanging decorations, all the planning and buying of gifts and games for other kids; eleven years of sleepless nights, ambulance rides and hospital visits, all will fade when compared to that one moment, when Kylie smiles.
For Daddy it’s worth it all, to see that glow; to know in that instant, she’s not in pain, she’s not struggling to breath and the seizures are at bay.
 In that eternal moment, when she smiles, Daddy will imagine, that his little girl, if she could, would giggle, hug his neck and say, “Thank you Daddy, I love you.”
He can only imagine, because, she’s never done it before, and as far as we know, this side of heaven, she never will.
So, in that moment, Daddy will smile, let out a small little laugh, that sounds all at once, happy and sad, and…exhausted. He’ll swipe at the cake smeared across his face, turn his head so no one can see, and wipe at the shine in his eyes.

Before it all takes place, I’ll stand in the birthday card isle.
I’ll search long and hard for a granddaughter card that celebrates who they are, not just what they do.
I’ll have to explain to the lady next to me, my sniffling nose and watery eyes, when I read a card that says:
“There are certain people we thank, in our prayers, for things we appreciate so,
but try as we may, we just can’t say, the words we want them to know”

 Suddenly, I see sweet Kylie; in this world, but not of it. Precious Kylie, who the world views as disabled, but healthier than us all, in the realm of heaven. Unable to communicate with her earthly daddy, but perfectly, with her Heavenly Father. Kylie, of whom, this world is not worthy. I see Kylie, pen through her Father, this note to her Daddy.
I know I’m not like most kids.
There are words, to you, I cannot say.
I can’t run, or jump, or play.
But Daddy, there’s one thing I can do
Actually, I do it better than most.
I can pray.
Right now, I can’t talk to you so well, but I can talk to God real good.
I wish you could hear, my words are so clear.
 God understands every single word I say.
We talk about lots of things, but, most of all, Daddy…my favorite subject is you.
I ask Him to take care of you, and to bless you for being such a good daddy.
He always smiles and says, “Okay.”
I always smile too, right then, and giggle, because, I know God always keeps His promises.
And I know He loves me, a lot, because He takes good care of me…
by giving me, you.

Thank you, Daddy, I love you.
Forever & ever,

p.s.   I can't wait to give you a big the ones you give me.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

We call him Mick

I didn’t know who they were playing.

I hadn’t watched a game all year.

But, for this particular game, I purchased tickets, months in advance.

I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

Our family even rented a bus, to haul us all.

The sky had turned black.

It had rained most of the day.

But before the first pitch, the sun broke through.

Before the first pitch, I could’ve gone home…and it would’ve been worth it.

We called him Mick.

But the name that echoed through Target Stadium and flashed off the jumbotron was Henry.

I’m sure Tim McGraw would’ve loved the chance to stand next to this United States Marine, who’s a living breathing example of Tim’s song, “Live like you were dying”

Just before our National Anthem, these words echoed through hundreds of speakers and thousands of ears. This was the reason we bought tickets months in advance, piled in a bus and rode for three hours…this was why we were here.

“Tonight’s honorary flag raiser is Henry DeVlaeminck, veteran of the United States Marine Corp. Henry served in the Philippines, Japan and Viet Nam”

Mick stood in front of a wheel chair, seven from his family, shoulder to shoulder beside him. Their arms out, palms up, the red, white a blue draped across fourteen arms.  

Armstrong elementary school of Cottage Grove began “Oh say can you see…”

Mick turned the handle that raised the Stars and Stripes.

The flag rose, the choir sang, and off in the west the sun slid out from behind the clouds.

Around and around Mick turned the handle, cleaning one of his last wishes out of his bucket list.

Family and friends gathered around, hands on hearts, praying him well.

The choir sang, “And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,”

Seventy-six years of swinging rifles, hammers and fishing poles…and now this, chemo. His arm started to quiver. He’d asked two of his boys to stand by, just in case.

Just when his strength had reached its end, he felt the clasp at the top of the pole, lock Old Glory in place.

I swear he grew a half a foot taller, he stood up straight and strong and although his arm was quivering he raised it into the finest salute I ever saw.

Sons and daughters, friends and relatives and thousands of fans watched as the wind picked up and the flag snapped to attention.

Some had hands on hearts, those who’d served saluted the flag…all but one; a son.

He stood at attention and saluted...
his dad.

Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

Yes, indeed. It does.

God bless Mick, God bless you & God bless the United States of America.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Consider the birds

I rose while the morning was still asleep 
The birds broke the silence first, 
singing while still in the dark. 

The sun must’ve liked their song, 
Because, it eased from the far side of the lake,
and started dancing on the waves.

Lord, help me to be like those birds. 
To sing, while still in the dark.
To praise You before the provision.
To trust You, through the night.

Not, like Thomas, needing to see
But like the birds, who just know
Not believing because I see,
But seeing, because I believe.

"Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? ~ Jesus in Matthew 6:26"

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Today, the time between the cross and the empty tomb

I'm in awe, today. 

One year ago today (3/31/17) I walked onto the beautiful campus of my new deployment. A place I’d never even heard of. I was in awe, not because of the large campus with cascading fountains, and winding walkways and state of the art exercise equipment…I was in awe of the timing. God’s perfect timing.

It all started when I followed a prompting to lead our Whispering Pines RV Village Wednesday Bible Study. For the whole winter I (unqualified and scared) led a weekly Bible Study in our clubhouse. Most of the attendees were snowbirds, who’d been studying the Bible longer than I’d been alive, yet, they came, and were attentive and gracious. I spent everyday of the week preparing for that one hour.

Soon the time had come when snowbirds flock back to their northern homes. As I prepared for our last Bible Study of the season, I mentioned to God that I should get back to gainful employment. I think I whispered that prayer on Monday, 3/27/17. One Tuesday 3/28/17 I received an email from a place I’d never heard of. I replied. Wednesday we had Bible study. Friday morning, one year ago today, (last year the 31st was on a Friday), I walked into the beautiful campus of my new deployment.

By about the time the snowbirds flocked back and our Bible study resumed, this place had deposited six figures into my account. I was in awe, not because of the large sums they paid me…I was in awe of the timing. God’s perfect timing.

A few days ago, Wednesday, 3/28/18, we finished our last Bible study together. I didn’t lead it this year; our pastor from Calvary Church taught from the book of Daniel.

For our last study, we finished chapter nine. It’s the one where the angel Gabriel shows up and tells Daniel that as soon as he started praying he was heard. Gabriel explains things that are to come. He talks about seventy weeks; about rebuilding and restoration and then, destroying and desecration of Jerusalem. He tells the exact day of the triumphant coming (Palm Sunday) and the cutting-off (crucifixion) of Messiah the Prince. He prophesies of things that are still to come, like the rebuilding of the temple and starting and stopping of the sacrificial worship. He foretells of the coming of another prince, the anti-christ and abominations and a seven-year covenant, which is broke in the middle, and the coming battle and victory of Jesus Christ the King of kings and Lord of lords, forever and ever, amen.

…it’s a chapter that’ll blow your mind.   

The next day, Thursday morning, I opened my Bible to where I-just-happened-to-be in my regular Bible reading and it just-happened-to-be at the place where, Jesus told two of His disciples: “Go into the village opposite you; and as soon as you have entered it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has sat. Loose it and bring it.”

Jesus rode that colt into Jerusalem and a multitude of people spread their coats and palm branches in the road and cried out, “Hosanna! Blessed is He wo comes in the name of the LORD!”

At that moment I sat back in awe. Not that He rode on an unbroke colt through a parade of screaming people, stepping over branches and coats, and the colt never bucked…I was in awe of the timing. God’s perfect timing.

I remembered something the pastor said about Gabriel telling Daniel the exact day when Jesus would ride into Jerusalem. I had to go back and look at my notes.

Remember, Gabriel said, “Know therefore and understand, from the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince, there shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks”

Seven weeks plus sixty-two weeks equals sixty-nine weeks, or sixty-nine sevens or four hundred and eighty-three years. So, in simple words, that even I can understand, Gabriel told Daniel, ‘When the command is given to rebuild Jerusalem, it’ll be four hundred and eighty-three years, and the Messiah will come.’

It is a historical fact that on 1st Nisan, 445 B. C., Artaxerxes gave the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem. It is a historical fact that 483 years to the day Jesus rode into Jerusalem with the crowds proclaiming Him as Messiah and King.

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, your king coming unto you; he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon a donkey, even upon a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zech 9:9)

And today, I stand between Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday. Between the cross and the empty tomb. Commemorating the time Jesus body lay in the grave; The Light of the world, lying in a cold dark tomb. I’m awe struck again, at the timing of it all, as I stand here in line, about to enter the movie, God’s Not Dead: A Light In The Darkness.  

One year to the day of when I walked awe-struck into that impressive complex, I’m still in awe of God’s amazing, perfect timing.

You know, there’s still one week unfulfilled in Daniel’s prophecy. He who made time, has stopped time, because He waits, because it’s not His will that any should perish.

But, unfortunately, His will isn’t always done.

That’s why he told us to pray; “Thy will be done…” That’s why Jesus Himself had to pray, “Father not My will, but Yours, be done.”

I think about tomorrow. The timing of it all. Easter; Resurrection Sunday. April 1st. April Fools Day.  

Psalms 14:1 “The fool has said in his heart, ‘there is no God.’”

Can you hear Him whisper, as He holds back the curtain of time? “Today, if you hear His Voice, harden not your heart.” (Hebrews 3:15)


Sunday, January 21, 2018

The vehicle prayer

I’d been living on the road for about eight-months, working everything from hail storms to hurricanes.

We had a little money in the bank, so I figured we could hole up for the winter, in our little Florida home.

I enjoyed about a week break until the old vehicle decided she wanted a break, too.

After multiple trips to the mechanic, I was on a first name basis with one of the salesman, the service manager, general manager and a few of the mechanics.

The mechanics were so tired of keeping ol’ Bessie on life support they were begging one of the salesman to sell me a car.

But... I don't buy new cars. Ever.

After swapping war stories and kicking tires just for something to do, salesman Bob, became more than just a salesman, he became a friend.

I couldn’t believe I said it when I said it, but after I did, it felt right, and I was glad I did.
“I’ll go home and talk to my wife and God, and let you know…tomorrow.”

On the way home (about a ten-minute drive) I prayed something like: " Lord, you know everything. You know I don’t want to spend a bunch of money on a new car. You know I’m in-between deployments and shouldn’t step into a monthly payment without a monthly income, so...if we’re going to need a new vehicle—” I patted the steering wheel—“if ol’ Bess isn’t gonna make it, please, provide a monthly income as well…today.”

I was less than a mile from the house when I said that prayer.

Before I pulled in the driveway, the phone rang.

"Hey Doug, we just had something open up, would you be interested in a desk adjuster job?"

Wow! I thought.

"No" I said…

"Not if I have to live on the road again. I just got home from an eight-month stint.”

"Nope, you can work from home. It pays ($$$) per day. Are you interested?"

“WOW!” I said

No-way! I thought. God really heard may prayer—and that’s really good pay.

But, the story doesn’t end there.

The only requirement for our vehicle was it needed three seats, so the grandkids could ride. “It doesn’t have to be fancy, it doesn’t need bells and whistles, ‘cuz I won’t toot ‘em anyway. All it has to do is get us from A to B.”

Well, out of all the vehicles there was only one on the lot that had three seats. It was bran-new, not too fancy, so it would work.

When I told my wife, what had happened, she was excited, of course, but she said, “Don’t they have any used vehicles?” She thinks like me.

That night, a used vehicle showed up on the lot. It was almost new, only about ten thousand miles, they still offered the new car warranty, it had three seats and more bells and whistles than we’ll ever figure out how to was a whole lot cheaper and a whole lot fancier than we’d ever have chosen for ourselves.

I called the salesman...we have a new Bessie in the drive…and everyone at the dealership, from mechanics to management, are talking about how God answers prayer.

Monday, December 11, 2017

The First Christmas Tree

Stripped of its' leaves bare of its' branches
The Gift lay not under, but on that tree
The star
a cruel 

Red stripes 
On that tree, The Gift died

The First Gift given, for us, He is risen