Monday, November 30, 2009

A Prayer for the Day I Begin My Christmas Shopping

Some of my favorite prayers have been written by Kenneth Phifer who was the pastor of St. Charles Avenue Presbyterian Church in New Orleans. Many of Phifer’s prayers can be found in A Book of Uncommon Prayer.

One of my very favorites is a great prayer for entering into an Advent Conspiracy.

A Prayer for the Day I Begin My Christmas Shopping

O God, I do like real things like money and houses, fast automobiles and diamond rings.

Forgive me that when I think of Christmas, I often think of real things like that.

I teach my children to think of bicycles and dolls, of toy trains and airplanes, of sugar and spice and everything nice.

Forgive me for my foolishness.

These things I spend so much time playing around with are not bad, I can even use them creatively.

They make up much of my world and occupy a great deal of my time.

But You know what my problem is?

I get so involved in accumulating them that I forget who I am.

I get so surrounded by them that I end up tangelfooted, stumbling along from thing to thing, falling down at times, bruising my shins upon them.

Can You clear away some of the clutter of my life this year, O Lord?

Can You help me pick my way through the crowded stores?

Can You make me quiet long enough to hear angels?

Can Your Word about life break through the blare of tawdry commercials,

The commercials that insist life can be bought if I will only go deeply into debt?

Lord, do You understand me?

Can You help me to understand myself?

Do I really substitute gifts for self-giving too often?

Would I do better to say “I love you” as I pass out the presents?

Would I come closer to someone by spending as much time listening as I do shopping?

These thoughts bother me at times.

It may be that in my busyness I am losing touch with the things that are most real

It may be I am losing touch with You and with the Child whom You sent to grow up to be a Man, whose word was Your Word and whose love was Your Love.

I like real things, and I know if I will listen, I may hear of the most real things of all, things like hope and love and faith, that can change lives, even mine, and renew them in the image of Christ my Lord. Amen.

Monday, November 23, 2009


Before heading out of town for what promises to be a great Thanksgiving week “back home” in Charleston, SC – we spent a busy 4 days helping to host the annual Houston Christian girls basketball tournament. My volunteer responsibility was to operate the clock at scoreboard for about a dozen games. I got to see a lot of basketball – some good, some not so good and some absolutely awful.

As much as I enjoy watching our team play my highlight moment came following a “third place” game with Milburn Academy.

The six Milburn girls were overmatched much of the tournament. Their volunteer coach did the best she could but it was evident that the players had little experience, lacked discipline and varied greatly in athletic ability. It was equally evident that the girls come from tough “off-court” family situations. Tattoos and babies in the stand were testimonies to lives very different than most of the private schools teams participating in the tournament. Earlier in the week I had toured the Alief section of Houston with some Young Life leaders – a stark reminder that gangs and drugs are a very real dangerous part of Houston and a regular part of the Milburn team’s world.

As the final seconds of the game wound down I was asked to select a Milburn player to award a trophy as her teams MVP. I chose number 3, Octavia. She wasn’t the high scorer but she played with a passion and intensity that set her apart from the rest of the team.

After the post-game handshakes our head coach, one of the refs and I presented Octavia with her trophy – she was speechless and I realized that this was likely the first time Octavia had ever been awarded a trophy or an award for anything in her life.

We too often take that sort of recognition for granted. Many of our daughters collect those sorts of trophies and awards and they fill the walls and shelves of their rooms. This was Octavia’s first and it might well be her only – I don’t get a sense that trophies are handed out on a regular basis in her world.

The Houston Christian Mustangs lost to Concordia Lutheran in the championship game. But for me the highlight of the weekend and the memory I will carry with me for a long time is Octavia’s face as she held her trophy. Her joy was a great reminder of what sports can be about and the power of recognition.

So here’s a challenge for this week of Thanksgiving – Who can I recognize that too often goes unappreciated?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Fishing Revolution

Last night I attended a breakfast por la noche for NewSpring, a ministry that is empowering business development in the Spring Branch area of Houston. Jim Herrington (Mission Houston) was the host and in his remarks about missional living really got me thinking.

You’ve probably heard the proverb:

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day.
Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

But what if you wanted to revolutionize the fishing industry?

Too many churches (both mainstream and non-traditional) have been fishing (Jesus said when we follow Him we become fishermen) for years (and years and years) with pretty much the same methods. We might update the equipment now and then or come up with really flashy fishing lures but for the most part we all been in the “how do we attract the fish” paradigm.

One of the shifts that has the potential to revolutionize the fishing industry is a movement from attracting the fish to living with the fish. It’s a shift from attractional to incarnational – which when you think about it is God’s move that we celebrate next month.

Revolutions require three things:

Leadership. Specifically, leadership that cares enough to be incarnational. Incarnational leaders invest all that they have to the revolution. It becomes the very air they breathe.

Partnership. We can’t sustain a revolution on our own. Partnerships between churches and schools and businesses and government is essential – and it can happen – it is happening.

Sacrifice. No revolution takes places without cost and a willingness to risk whatever it cost to sustain the revolution.

As I head into the Christmas season where we will be proclaiming that Christmas can still make a difference (revolutionize the world) I’m asking myself:

Is my leadership incarnational?
Who are my partners?
What sacrifices am I willing to risk?

To the glory of God!

Baby Shower Thank You

Mom always said to say “thank you” so here’s a big thank you to everyone who made our Baby Shower for Houston a great success. Together we blessed moms and babies with the love of Jesus and:

Diapers – 15,209 each
Wipes – 378 packages
Formula – 64
Pedialite - 2
Baby Wash – 19
Lotion – 12
Baby Powder – 7
Cotton Swabs – 2
Diaper Ointment – 13
Dry Cereal – 4
Empty bottles – 14
Sippy cups – 2
Pacifiers – 12
Jar food – 44
Gerber snacks – 6
Bottles of juice – 44
Blankets/Quilts – 23
Cloth Diapers - 12
Receiving Blankets – 24
Washcloth – 18
Burp cloth – 12
Bibs - 11
Comfort clothes - 3
Stuffed Animals – 49
Socks – 57 pairs
Underwear – 18
Onesies – 52
Outfits (two piece) – 8
Robe – 1
Hat & Mittens – 1 set
Baby book – 1
Picture frames – 2
Baby Bather – 1