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Braking Points

Exploring the Adventure of Aging

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sacrifice

Thanksgiving Day Eleven 2015

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John Dougherty served his country in both World War I and in World War II.  He was a soldier who remembered vividly the two wars, the first as a teenager in the European Theater, the second as a middle aged Army officer in the Pacific Theater.  He volunteered for both conflicts. John and his wife, Ruth, were members of Yale Avenue Christian Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma when Terry and I were members in the 1980’s.

On the Sunday before Veterans Day, John would rise from his pew, approach the front of the Sanctuary, lecturn side, in full uniform. Once there, he would pull a yellowed piece of paper from the breast pocket of his jacket, unfold it, narrow his eyes over the congregation assembled until all shuffling, whispering–even from the youth pew–ceased.  The gravel in his voice betrayed his advanced years, but there was no mistaking his sense of purpose.  After a few words regarding the solemnity of the occassion, he looked at the paper, then again at the crowd and recited:

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Years have passed but I still remember as I am sure others do as well.  Since John served in the two World Wars, men and women have chosen or been selected to serve in the United States Military Service.  Some served during the Korean War, the Cold War, the Vietnam War, the First Gulf War, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, and various other places within the USA and around the world.  As Jesus said, there will be wars and rumors of war…that never seems to go away.  Until the other side, we will need Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines who step up to defend the Constitution of the United States and its citizens.

Today I am thankful to John Dougherty for his service not just to his county and mine, but to the congregants who had the opportunity to hear him recite “In Flanders’ Fields.”  I am thankful for the service of ALL the men and women who have served in the military of the United States of America, over 48 million since 1776, and honor their service and sacrifice.

The ruts in the path of freedom both as a citizen of the United States and as Christian runs with the blood of sacrifice.  Thankful doesn’t even seem to cover the emotions that image evokes.

Thank you, Veterans!  Thank you, God!

Ten Days In, Need a Promise for Lent?

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For those Christians participating in this season of Lent through intentional soul searching, sacrifice, and seeking, frankly, even those who are not, today is the 10th Day of Lent, a quarter of the 40 days leading to Easter.

One beautiful and tragic truth about the calendar and time

It marches forward, there is no going back

Time for those of us in human form marks the days, the hours

And it does so relentlessly

Without any “hitting the pause” button or “rewinding”, without my control

Like the poem, “Into the valley of death marched the six hundred”*

Marching like the Grand Old Duke of York’s men, “up the hill” and “down again” **

Reaching that magical peak of life, younger for some, older for others, before the after,

beginning the downward march or on more days than I care to admit the “SLIDE”

I can look back, but I cannot go back

So forward I go….whether through Lent to Holy Week or through Advent to Epiphany

Season after season of life in this fragile flesh, with a finite mind and limited mastery

Remembering, Reenacting, but not Returning

So it was when the Incarnation occurred, Suddenly God became man

Christ Jesus, The Lord in the form of a baby and grew up to be a man

Came to be trapped by the movement of time

He Who knew the freedom from the calendar chose to be tied to the days and nights

Of human fleshly existence, no going back, no going back

Eyes fixed on a Cross, unlimited power and authority self-limited for those few years,

So that beaten, battered, bullied, the brunt of mockery stinging,

He struggled up the Via Delarosa, up Calvary’s hill bearing my sins

He struggled upward on the downhill side of His life as a man for you and me

In the darkness of despair, with the ugliness of all sin from beginning to end on him

The weight, the ways of the world infusing His dying form, God Left HIM,

Still human, Still divine but briefly separated from the Father

MY GOD, MY GOD, Why have You forsaken me?

He knew it was coming and still he continued…..

So here I am 10 days into Lent, considering the work Christ has done for me, the sacrifices made, the power of the Cross, the power of his resurrection. And then in Philippians I read:

For I am sure of this very thing, that the one who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6 NET)

And I am reassured by the promise. He continues to work in me…to perfect me, to lead me to stand closer to the Cross as He leads me forward in time to that level land.

Teach me to do what pleases you, for you are my God. May your kind presence lead me into a level land. (Psalms 143:10 NET)

*Charge of the Light Brigade” Alfred, Lord Tennyson 1854
**The Grand Ole (Noble) Duke of York, English Nursery Rhyme

Fat Tuesday

Today marks the final hurrah for the self-indulgentimage gluttony of body, mind and spirit that can so easily imbed itself in our lives. And truly, I am feeling fat but not sassy. The following devotional from Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd in Old Bridge, NJ really hit home. Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday. Tomorrow I am challenged by Pastor Phil’s list and I hope you are too to really draw closer to Christ by daily giving up that in my life that separates me from Him. Gotta expand it to 40 but I suspect that is possible.

20 Things to Give Up for Lent
FEBRUARY 27, 2014 BY PHIL

Last week we talked about all the wrong and right reasons to fast for Lent. We are less than a week away from Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. Many Christians “give something up” for Lent, but it usually has very little of impact on their life and walk with Christ. The reason is that we usually give stuff up for all the wrong reasons.

With that said, I want to offer up 20 things you might consider giving up this Lent. And these are things to give up not just for Lent, but for the rest of your life.

Guilt – I am loved by Jesus and he has forgiven my sins. Today is a new day and the past is behind.
Fear – God is on my side. In him I am more than a conqueror. (see Romans 8)
The need to please everyone – I can’t please everyone anyways. There is only one I need to strive to please.
Envy – I am blessed. My value is not found in my possessions, but in my relationship with my Heavenly Father.
Impatience – God’s timing is the perfect timing.
Sense of entitlement – The world does not owe me anything. God does not owe me anything. I live in humility and grace.
Bitterness and Resentment – The only person I am hurting by holding on to these is myself.
Blame – I am not going to pass the buck. I will take responsibility for my actions.
Gossip and Negativity – I will put the best construction on everything when it comes to other people. I will also minimize my contact with people who are negative and toxic bringing other people down.
Comparison – I have my own unique contribution to make and there is no one else like me.
Fear of failure – You don’t succeed without experiencing failure. Just make sure you fail forward.
A spirit of poverty – Believe with God that there is always more than enough and never a lack
Feelings of unworthiness – You are fearfully and wonderfully made by your creator. (see Psalm 139)
Doubt – Believe God has a plan for you that is beyond anything you could imagine. The future is brighter than you could ever realize.
Self-pity – God comforts us in our sorrow so that we can comfort others with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.
Retirement – As long as you are still breathing, you are here for a reason. You have a purpose to influence others for Christ. That does not come to an end until the day we die.
Excuses – A wise man once said, if you need an excuse, any excuse will do.
Lack of counsel – Wise decisions are rarely made in a vacuum.
Pride – Blessed are the humble.
Worry – God is in control and worrying will not help.
God has so much more in store for you. But so many of these things above are holding you back from walking in the full destiny he has laid out for you. Today is a new day.

So there you have it. What else might you add to the list? Please share in the comments below.

God’s blessings,
Pastor Phil

The Power of a Grateful Heart–For those who have worn or wear the uniform of the United States of America

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Compared to European history we are rowdy teenagers but compared to Middle Eastern history, the United States of America is a babe in arms. And yet by God’s own hand and human desire for freedom and justice, we are a free people under a system of laws designed to protect and defend human rights. We are not perfect and we are not always Godly, but God has not left us yet. More a stew than a melting pot, we are representative of all other nations in the world, all those with lengthier histories. From all people groups we have been united under God and the flag of the USA.

Today I am thankful to the men and women who have taken the oath, worn the uniform, and protected our country, our freedom against enemies both foreign and domestic, against great odds. Some have returned haunted by the battlefield, some physically wounded, and some in boxes covered in flags. Some have returned educated and trained to serve as civilians even leaders of the world. To these men and women I say: “Thank you for your service.”

Today I am thankful to be an American, recognizing that there divisions and wounds, troubles and sorrows, idolatry and rebellion in homes across the country, in the halls of government and even in my own heart. And so in thankfulness for this great country, the grandest on earth, I submit these wise words from scripture for all to consider:

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14 NIV)

Praise, Promise Keeping, Prayer–Sacrifices that Honor God

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I am God Most High! The only sacrifice I want is for you to be thankful and to keep your word. Pray to me in time of trouble. I will rescue you, and you will honour me. (Psalms 50:14, 15 CEV)

Sometimes it really feels like a sacrifice, being grateful, thankful, being truthful and keeping promises…other times those attitudes and actions flow from us without any reservation, any holding back. Our current situation, our failure to see the blessings, because they are obscured by the NON-blessings, our simple lack of attention to saying “thank you” can cause us to agree more with the bumper sticker that reads, “S–t happens!” than to bring the sacrifice of thanksgiving to God in response to the bumper sticker that reads, “Blessings happen!” So read the two verses above to understand that God understands that overt gratefulness can be a sacrifice…but He wants it…not for HIM..but for us.

Likewise, being truthful and keeping our promises, asking for His help. Yes, ASKING for help, even when it feels like pulling teeth without an anesthesia, Pray, Ask and He will not leave you hanging.

Most of all, these sacrifices Honor God! Read all of Psalm 50 and without a doubt you will see His resources are endless and you will see the contrast between those who trust Him and those who don’t.

Consider the old story of the two young boys whose parents tried an experiment, giving the pessimist of two, a pony and the optimist, a room full of manure. The pessimist immediately started belly aching, “This is going to be more work than he’s worth, cleaning out his stall, feeding him…and on and on. The optimist opened the door and saw the manure piled high in the stall and immediately grabbed a shovel and started digging. “What are doing?” His amazed parents asked. He looked up grinning, “With all this manure, there is bound to be a pony in here somewhere!”

Which child of God am I?Honor God and He will lift you out of all the “S–t Happens!” moments and open your eyes to the blessings all around!

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