Wednesday, January 28, 2009

I Can Only Imagine

Late Saturday morning, I sat in a church in a small, rural community with tears running down my cheeks.

I know I was not alone.

We celebrated the life of my dear friend Scott's dad on Saturday. His nearly year-long battle with leukemia ended last Wednesday afternoon at 5 p.m. Just a couple of hours earlier another friend and I had prayed to God to throw the doors open and welcome Paul in - he did just that on Wednesday. Praise God!

Peace the passes all understanding is carrying the family left behind - a mother, a wife, two sons, a daughter and all of their families. Peace that comes from the blessed assurance that Paul is dancing with his creator in Heaven, that he is in a far better place where there is no more pain and suffering, continues to carry these amazing people of God.

But Saturday morning as I sat in that church pew with my wife and some friends along side, tears streamed down my face as the tune to the MercyMe song "I Can Only Imagine" began to play. Seated where I was, I could see Scott with his arm around his mother as they watched, listened and had to think about the words coming out of the soloists' mouth.

I sure did. Mine weren't tears of sadness, you see, but rather tears of rejoicing for Paul and wondering what it was like for him...what it will be like for me.

The lyrics to the song go something like this...

I can only imagine what it will be like, when I walk by your side
I can only imagine what my eyes will see, when your face is before me
I can only imagine, I can only imagine

Surrounded by your glory, what will my heart feel?
Will I dance for your Jesus, or in awe of you be still?
Will I stand in your presence, or to my knees will I fall?
Will I sing hallelujah, will I be able to speak at all?
I can only imagine, I can only imagine!

I can only imagine when that day comes, when I find myself standing in the Son
I can only imagine, when all I would do, is forever, forever worship you
I can only imagine, I can only imagine!

I don't really spend a lot of time thinking about what Heaven will be like. Why not? I really don't know the answer to that question, but on this bitterly cold Saturday in the dead of winter (and again right now) I was thinking about it.

Will I stand or will I fall? Will I ever let go of that welcoming embrace when He flings the door open and reaches out His hand to me? Will I sing and praise without ceasing? Will I dance? (That would be a picture!) Will I sing and golf at the same time? What is everything going to look like? Will I fall to me knees in awe and amazement of everything?

To be surrounded by His glory - I can only imagine what that will be like!

And as I think about all of this today, with tears welling up in my eyes again at the thought, I can't help but think of the many, many others I know who think on these things - and those I know who don't. It is for these that I live - it is for these that we must bring along!

I got a little glimpse of Heaven in that church pew on Saturday, a glimpse of what Heaven will be like as I pictured some of those things in my mind. I thank God for times like these, when the pace slows and He reveals Himself to me.

I pray for more and more of these times, for more and more glimpses of what eternity is going to be like. These glimpses during this life is what John was talking about when he talked about having life and having it abundantly - when Heaven and earth collide and get us to start imagining what it will really be like!

Grace and Peace,

Chris
video

Friday, January 16, 2009

Blogapalooza, y'all!

Hey, y'all! I want to encourage anyone who happens along this site to head on over to Middle Zone Musings on the High Calling Blogs network (www.highcallingblogs.com).

Robert Hruzek over at Middle Zone Musings is a real, live cowboy who is rustlin' up some of the greatest Christian bloggers you ever did see. Robert's goal of 100 blog entries has been eclipsed and the number continues to climb.

Head on over for a fantastic celebration of readin' and writin'...it's not called Blogapalooza for nuthin'!

The right One for me

If you've read my profile or know me in person, you know that my wife and I have four kids. Two girls, a boy and a girl - to identify them in order by gender.

To define each of them by personality in this space isn't very realistic, as I would probably lose you with the length of the blog. Plus, their personalities are all so varied it could take forever. Not different than your kids, I'm sure - it seems to be the way God created us and our families.

Invariably there is something going on in the life of our last born, nearly four year-old Anna. She has the biggest, brownest eyes you have ever seen and is quite the drama queen. She is all girl, can usually be found running around the house in a bathing suit or a tutu (even though it was -24 here yesterday), and loves to play with dolls. She can also usually be found with her hands on her hips, you know the way someone who has something to tell you does?!?!

As I was working in my office the other night, just a few hours after Anna decided to give herself a "self-haircut" for the first time (much to her mother's chagrin), my wife was prepping the youngest two for their nightly bath when I hear this from the bathroom.

"Anna, why did you do this with the band-aids (picture opened band-aids in a drawer, others strewn about)?," her mother asks in a frustrated, it's-been-a-long-day kind of voice.

"Well, I had to find the right one for me," says Anna.

Hmmm. I laugh out loud a couple of rooms away. My wife, frustrated as she was, laughed too! Sometimes kids say the greatest things.

"I had to find the right one for me."

Kind of reminds me of my life and my search for "the right one," if you will. It been an interesting search, trying to fill that hole in my heart.

Growing up, I figured I would fill that hole with sports. I played every sport that was in season during high school. I played football, basketball, track, golf and baseball. I loved sports and found a great deal of satisfaction in competition and playing the game - whatever it was. Not unlike most high school kids, I suppose.

I was even fortunate enough to play sports in college. I got to play small-college football and baseball and had a great time, but that wasn't really filling the hole anymore, so I started drinking, too, hoping that might "be the right one for me."

I never really drank during "season," football or baseball, until I got a little further into college, then that was what I did during baseball season. I got up, skipped class, played a baseball doubleheader and then celebrated. I got up, skipped class, skipped chapel, went to baseball practice, partied - you get the picture.

Drinking and having a great time began to consume large portions of my time. I was still trying to "find the right one for me." I knew I had a problem, that something was missing, but also knew I could quit when I wanted to. I eventually grew up, though I still enjoy a nice Guiness once in a while.

During this time in my life I met this angel who I would eventually marry. We moved hours away from family and friends, and it was there that I met Jesus for the first time. Still trying to fill that hole, though, "trying to find the right one for me," I jumped head-long into the pursuit of success.

I worked dog-like hours in the pursuit of success. I wanted to have it all - a business empire, a loving wife and family - and I was chasing that American dream. The "hole," though, remained. I hadn't really met the "right One for me" yet, largely because of me.

The hole in my heart was a God-shaped hole that no amount of athletic prowess, no amount of alcohol or no amount of business and financial success could fill. I went to church, and most of the time did the right things, but the hole in my heart was the result of a life-time of dreadful decisions and choices, running from the One who only wanted the best for me all along, because I didn't figure there was any way He could or would love me!

It is because I found the right One for me, and that He was patient with me all the while, that John 10:10 is a becoming more and more of a reality in my world. "I have come that you may have life and have it to the full." That is not to say that life isn't full of trials and times of difficulty - not at all, but His grace is sufficient for me. God's amazing grace saved me, inspires me and has me wanting to shout from the rooftops about Him and what Christ has done, and is doing, in my life.

Having life to the full to me looks a little like this...

...A day-to-day walk with Christ, seeking to experience grace and peace in the moment, in the mundane, in my surroundings - wherever I may be...

...Bible study with people wanting to dive deep - deep into the Word and deep into each other's lives. People who enter in at the most gut-wrenching levels with us, and we with them, as we journey through this life together...

...Praying alongside brothers and sisters in the midst of struggles, whatever they maybe. (Please remember to pray for the Paul Lee family as Paul is home on the farm, living his last days - however many they are - to the full. Go ahead - pray right now!)...

...Celebrating successes with those in our lives...

...Serving others, be it in church or in random acts of kindness that happen because we have found the right One...

...Cursillo weekends...

...Praying with and for my wife as we follow Christ together (there is NOTHING better!) - and watching our kids develop a relationship with Him (a very close second)...

...Having people love you, even when they know from where it is that you come - community at it's finest - and invest in your life...

The list could go on and on. I thank God in Heaven every day for not giving up on me, for loving me even when I am unlovable, for offering me life to the full - right here, right now - and for being the right One for me. I thank Him for that amazing gift of grace, Jesus crucified and resurrected!

Is He the right One for you? What does having life to the full look like to you?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Tick, tick, tick

Can you hear the counter spinning out of control? It's the number of hits on this blog - well, maybe not.

My wife and I used a little down time during the Christmas break to watch a movie. We don't do that very often, and since I have been pretty well "banned" from picking out movies, she ran into town to select the flick for the evening.

"Untraceable." That was her choice. Never heard of it? I hadn't either! I am not one to give movie reviews, but there is a point, so stick with me in this as I walk you through this movie.

Untraceable is a story of a serial killer in the Portland, OR area who tortures people to death - live - through hits on his website. He is a computer genious whose father's suicide had been captured on film and broadcast over the Internet. He then went on to torture his victims, those who played a role in his father's suicide being broadcast on live TV and then the Internet by using hits on his website to hasten the execution. The movie was called "Untraceable" because the FBI and all of its experts couldn't trace the killer because of how brilliant he was in his use of the Internet.

As movies go, the FBI intelligence folks finally tracked him down and the good guys one out.

It was disturbing on so many fronts, one of which being how the world of cyberspace would continue to log-on to watch these people executed, even though they knew their mere presence would quicken the death of the victims.

A couple of days later I was in the office of a friend of mine who is a successful magazine and Internet publisher. He is always on the cutting edge and was working at that moment on a project that he is both excited to launch and also afraid to launch.

He asks:

"Have you seen the commercial - the one for the two guys who launch an Internet site? They sit there waiting for that first hit. Pretty soon there are 20 hits, a hundred hits and all of a sudden the hits just keep coming - so fast that they can't keep up with them all."

Tick, tick, tick...

I find it interesting that this conversation took place a day after watching that movie with my wife. Here we just watched the power of the Internet, used horribly the night before in this movie - and now I am having this conversation with a successful businessman who wants to provide his customers with the "tick, tick, tick" at a great pace to increase business, and yet wants to be able to handle all the hits that come along without things getting out of control.

Both examples are webmasters, so to speak. One fictitious, the other very real. They use this thing we blog on, communicate on and are entertained on to drive traffic - one for bad, the other for good.

It makes me think of God, on His throne high and lifted up - THE webmaster, if you will. Can't you see Him sitting there watching the numbers to "tick, tick, ticking" along - the numbers of those who accept him, who profess the name of his son, Jesus Christ for the first time.

I think God wants us on the streets of our communities, on the Internet, in our churches, in our workplaces telling others about Him. I think He wants us to let His light shine through us, to get his counter spinning seemingly out of control.

In Matthew 28: 18-20 he says: Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

God isn't sitting in heaven worried about being able to handle the load, to have the counter spinning out of control. He can handle that - He's God! In fact, I think it is what He wants.

I believe God wants everyone to come to Him - that not one would go uncounted! I believe He wants everyone to accept Jesus and to allow the Holy Spirit to work in everyone's life...don't you?

Isn't it humbling that He wants to include us in that work? Isn't it humbling to think that the God of heaven and earth - who created EVERYTHING including us - wants to use us in the lives of others who may not know Him? Who may not yet have chosen Him? That God wants us to go and make disciples?

Tick, tick, tick...

Who do you know or encounter that might not yet know God? I mean know Him, in his or her heart. Anyone? Are there people you encounter or run into that might be in need of a savior? May we do what we can to get them counted!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Shine Your Light

For women, I would expect one of the great joys in motherhood comes when daughters join you in what you enjoy doing.  Perhaps it is baking, perhaps it is shopping or getting dolled up to go somewhere.

In the past couple of months, our six year old son, Alex, has taken a liking to watching football with me.  It makes me smile.  Something in me has gotten excited to sit down on the weekend and watch football with my son, passing on one of the great passions of my life to our only boy.

He is like a sponge, too.  He asks a billion questions and wants to learn, which is fun.  During stretches of the game, like right now, he puts on one of his helmets and mimics what he sees going on during the game - motioning like the quarterback who sees a blitz coming - running and sliding for a first down.  Stuff like that.  It is awesome.

One a humorous note, like his dad, Alex really doesn't care much for losing.  Sometimes if we are watching a game where I really don't care what the outcome is, we change who we are rooting for in the final 15 seconds to avoid the tantrum that can accompany losing!

Thursday night I had to be out of town at a local high school basketball game with our oldest children - the night of the big BCS championship game between Oklahoma and Florida.  Thanks to modern technology, I DVR'd the game so that Alex and I could watch it later.

On Friday after school, we watched the first half.  The conversation at the start of the game went something like this.

"We are we cheering for, Dad?" asked Alex.

"Florida," I said.

"Why the Gators, Dad?  Don't we like the red team?

"We like the red team okay, Alex, I'm just cheering for the Gators."

"Okay, me too!"

"Great," I said.

"Why are we cheering for the Gators, Dad?"

"Well, we're cheering for the Gators because their quarterback, Tim Tebow loves Jesus."

"Oh," said Alex.  "I love Jesus, too, Dad."

"I know," I said.

"How do we know that Tebow loves Jesus?" asks Alex.

"I have heard and read a lot about him, Alex, and see his face, he has Bible verses on his eye-black?!?"

After explaining what eye-black is, why players use it and everything else that goes along with that topic, the conversation continues.

"Dad, does the red team's quarterback love Jesus?"

"Why, I don't know," I said.  "He might, I just don't know."

"Why don't we know?" asks Alex.

"Because he doesn't tell us, son."

"Oh!"

Makes me think a little bit about this life we are living.  Do we tell people we love Jesus?  Do they see that we love Jesus?  Are we bashful about who He is and how much we love our Savior?  Are we leading others to Him?

Matthew 5:13-16 reads like this...read these words:
"You are the salt of the earth.  But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.  You are the light of the world.  A city on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl.  Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."

A bridge in one of my favorite songs by Hillsong entitled, Mighty to Save, goes like this:
"Shine your light and let the whole world see, we singing, for the glory of the risen King, Jesus!"

Tebow and the Gators won the game, which was fun for Alex and I to see.  Even more, it was awesome to see a picture on ESPN.com leading up to the BCS title game with him having Philippians 4:13 on his eye black, and then to see John 3:16 on his face during the title game. Every single time Florida ran a play, there it was for the whole world to see.

A two-time national champion and Heisman Trophy winner isn't hiding his light under a bowl...neither is a six year old boy in a living room in northwest Iowa.

Are you?  Do I?

May we be a people whose love for Jesus is evident to those we come in contact with - everyone we come into contact with.  Not just at church on Sunday, but on Monday when the going is getting tough!  May our light shine bright and it be so obvious to all that one might think we were wearing eye-black testifying to God's greatness.

The Steelers game is coming on.  Know what question I have been answering in the past day-and-a-half?  

"Dad, does Ben (Roethlisberger, the Steelers quarterback) love Jesus?"

Grace and Peace,

Chris

Friday, January 9, 2009

Rest


As I stood looking out my back window the other afternoon, thoughts of spring, rebirth and holy ground flooded my mind and my heart.

Though a nice January day by northwest Iowa standards, we are in the dead of winter here and hope is sometimes fleeting during these cold, hard winter days.

My friend Janelle over at www.ihavebeenchanged.blogspot.com posted an entry called "Holy Ground" the other day and got me to thinking about that topic - those special places where we have seen and met God - those places in our world that we deem to be holy ground.

I immediately went to my back window and the hours that I spend on my lawnmower during the spring, summer and fall.  My lawnmower and my lawn are my sanctuary, that place where I go to unwind - let my hair down, if you will.  We - God and I - have the most intimate times there.

It is on the lawnmower that I listen to my wife's iPod, belting out praise and worship songs for hours on end.  I once thought that the lawnmower was loud enough that others couldn't hear me, but am pretty sure that is incorrect - who cares?  It is always a great time of worship for me.

It is on the lawnmower that I go to God with the cries of my heart.  It is there, during that mindless act, that we meet one another and that I experience a little grace and peace in asking what it is He wants from me in this life.

Jeremiah 29 tells us: "you will call on me and come and pray to me and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  I will be found be you."

I love the truths that the Lord has for us in His word.  I love the fact that we can find him, and do so when we seek him with all our hearts.

As I read Janelle's post, the old hymn by the same name, Holy Ground, came to mind...
This is Holy ground,
we're standing on Holy ground
For the Lord is here
and where he is, is Holy
This is holy ground,
we're standing on Holy ground,
For the Lord is here
and where he is, is Holy

Chorus:
We are standing on Holy ground.
And I know that there are angels all around
Let us praise Jesus now
We are standing in Your presence 
on Holy ground

"For the Lord is here, and where he is, is Holy."  For me, my backyard is holy.  Though it is snow covered and ugly with dead grass right now - it is Holy ground.

So is my living room.  It wasn't really until reading Janelle's post that it dawned on me - that it really sank in for me.  I have blogged about my desire to be intentional in reading, praying and studying as I "used to." 

I have had mixed results so far this winter. Life blows by at breakneck speed and we let things get in our way of spending time with God.  For me it is rest.

I have been so dog tired of late that I really long for my lawnmower - that forced 2-3 hour break in my week that I spend on Holy Ground.  I used to have that time in my living room, in this spot right in front of my fireplace.  

I spent a lot of time there - in front of my fireplace - last winter and last spring.  In prayer, in the Word.  I had some amazing moments there. When I do spend time there, the chorus from that old hymn becomes true.  "We are standing on Holy ground, and I know that there are angels all around.  Let us praise Jesus now, for we're standing in Your presence on Holy ground."

Yesterday I returned to the fireplace - my indoor holy ground - and commit to meeting him there every morning in prayer for my dear friends Scott and Jennifer Lee, and his dad Paul, who is home on the farm...living.

It was 11 months ago that Paul learned he had leukemia (yet another attack on this old soldier's body).  After months and months of treatments, he was home working on the farm as he loved to do, when recent back pain sent him back to the hospital.  A new fungus was detected, pain meds were administered to deal with that pain and some relief was coming, but last Friday a scan showed that the leukemia cells had returned.  

At this stage, Paul's options are pretty limited, so he is choosing to live.  John 10:10, to be exact: "He came that they might have life, and have it to the full."  He is at home on his farm in northwest Iowa where his family and friends continue to pray for that healing miracle, but he is also there choosing to live, to make memories with family and friends.

Watching this past 11 months from a close distance, to hear how Scott and his dad have talked about their faith with one another - for father to tell son of his own holy ground and his own blessed assurance - is a thing to behold.  While it has been an incredibly hard 11 months, I believe it has also been a good 11 months for them spiritually, relationally.

So often we go about our days with no true purpose, just getting by to the next day.  Over the past year these two farmers and their family have had some great times and will continue to do so. They are just more aware than ever - than most of us - that these times really are fleeting, that we really don't know how much time we have on this earth, and so they are living.

I praise you, Jesus, for your work in the life of the Lee family.  I praise you for their strength in the storm.  I praise you for perseverance.  I praise you for their witness to your power, might and strength.  I praise you for the love of a family on display for the world to see.

I am reminded of another piece of scripture.  Matthew 11:28 says:  "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

This is a verse for LIFE.  When we are tired and stressed, when we don't know what to do or where to go - we may go to Jesus - learn from him - and he will offer rest.  Not necessarily more sleep, that's not it.  But peace in the storm, hope for tomorrow, a will to live.

And so I commit to standing on Holy Ground, right there in front of my fireplace, every morning on behalf of the Lee family (and others in our lives who are in need of prayer - the list continues to grow), knowing that there are angels all around...knowing that He offers rest for our souls...that He listens to us.  

Will you join me by standing on your own little piece of Holy ground on their behalf and on behalf of those in your life who need your prayers - who need Jesus?

Grace and peace,

Chris

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Tagged

I have been tagged in a blogosphere game of "tag." As one who enjoys a little tomfoolery once in a while, and doesn't mind poking fun of himself (safer this way than someone else doing it), I have decided to play along.

My buddy Billy Coffey at What I Learned Today (http://billycoffey.blogspot.com) was tagged recently and applied the tag to me yesterday. The rules are simple: list six random or weird facts about yourself and then tag six others. As Billy penned, I am both random and weird, so this really shouldn't be too difficult.

My entry consists of six facts that are listed in no certain order:

1.) I have been known to rock pillows to sleep! Being a hard-working guy who used to rise quite early in the morning to get to work, the thing I liked least about babies is when they would wake 75 times in the middle of the night. Taking my turn was always brutal, and one night after my wife elbowed me to get up, I obliged. But I grabbed my pillow, was swaying back and forth saying "Shhhh!!!" to her - only to illicit an irritated response from my wife that the baby was actually in her crib in the other room.

2.) I am quite a sight in a lime-green cocktail dress! (See attached image) Along with a number of other businessmen in our little community, I donned a dress and paraded down the runway this fall in a fundraising effort for the American Heart Association. I am proud to announce that I didn't realize until after the fact that my wig was on backwards! My only regret in this is that I didn't think of sending out Christmas cards with images of others on them like one friend of mine did with me in the center!

3.) My college experience included many things, but mostly playing football and baseball. Part of my education was paid for because I could swing a bat. I didn't say swing AT BATS! A manly man (6-5, 475 pounds - self-deprication works here since that is the topic of the entire piece) by all accounts, I am afraid of bats! So much so that when one decided to swoop through our bedroom in a former residence, a friend had to be called around Midnight to come get that disgusting creature out of my house.

4.) Earphones tend to irritate me! Or is that the call of the official. For a number of years I was a high school football coach who had a hard time with referees and their blatant lack of ability to see what was going on on the field. Missed call after missed call would occasionally result in my headset being thrown to the turf. I thank God I have retired from coaching and that headsets no longer irritate me - wish I could say the same for referees.

5.) God and I communicate on the lawnmower! Some of my favorite moments, the most intimate and deeply spiritual moments with Christ I have ever had, have occurred on my lawnmower. For whatever reason, perhaps it is slowing down to do nothing but communicate with him for the 2-3 hours it takes to mow my acre of ground, we have some of the most amazing times together when I am seated on the mower. My wife doesn't always seem to enjoy these conversations because of where they lead - but I think deep down she loves that He and I chat and/or sing together during these times.

6.) I am somewhat cell-phone challenged! Totally frustrated with my former provider, I recently switched cell service and acquired a new phone. Our eldest daughter is irritated with my phone (as it is far better than hers), which is one of the fun things about it. However, I need to figure out how to lock the keys on occasion. My wife returned home the other day to hear a message on our answering machine - it was me singing the song "Counting on God," at times in unison with my truck stereo, other times in perfect harmony - but there was no sound of the stereo in the background - JUST ME! I love to sing, just a little self-conscious on occasion.

Well, there it is folks. Six random and weird thoughts. Someway, somehow, I tend to experience a little grace and peace in my shortcomings and being able to laugh at myself...hopefully you chuckled a little, too!

In the spirit of continuing this blogosphere game, I tag:

Popcorn - The 5th Food Group
Flirting With Eternity
Red Letter Believers
Jennifer Lee
Scott McQueen at Just a Thought
The Van Otterloo Family

Friday, January 2, 2009

Think on these things

The year 2008 was one of awe and wonder in my little world. In the midst of it all - moving from one day to the next, it is sometimes hard to see the forest for the trees - but as I now reflect on all that transpired in 2008 - blown away is the best useage of the language to describe what God has been up to.

In case you have missed it, the Spirit is on the move and is doing amazing things in this world through His people. The great bloggers over at Red Letter Believers and Getting Down with Jesus have inspired me to share with you what God has been up to in the past 12 months as I think on these things. I encourage you to take a peek at other reflections on 2008 at www.redletterbelievers.blogspot.com.

One of my favorite pieces of scripture was used by Jennifer Lee in her entry in this project - her poem there is beyond anything I can touch - but Philippians 4: 8-9 is certainly a fantastic backdrop to what comes to mind for me in 2008.

Here is the passage from the NIV: "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice (or "do" - emphasis mine). And the God of peace will be with you."

The volume of things that God worked in and around me in 2008 was staggering, indeed excellent and praiseworthy, and thus I want to "think on these things" with you for a little bit.

The past year was one that saw incredible highs for me and those closest to me, and yet some wrestling and struggles that also draw us closer to the One we love.

On a late-February 2008 Saturday night, I spent an hour with a friend in one of the basement rooms of a conference center in tears and in prayer over the word he had received the night before that his father was sick again. Seeing the pain and concern, the struggle and hurt is something I will probably will never forget - but that hour was a powerful one in my walk with Christ. This was certainly true, pure, noble and right - I often "think" of this evening.

A day later, in the same building, seeing my dad make a choice for Christ was an answer to hours and hours of prayer. This was certainly excellent and praiseworthy - something to "think" about again and again.

February also marked the start of a new little outreach ministry of our church called The Lighthouse. Some of you might be getting sick of reading about The Lighthouse here, but statistics tell us that even in a part of the world where church attendance and "Christians" are plentiful, there are still people who don't know Jesus, don't go to church and feel downright uncomfortable with the notion of both.

So we started this little outreach. with the objective being to shine the light of Christ on life in a variety of ways. As a result lives are being restored, transformed and are flourishing - this goes for the lives of the target audience I mentioned a moment earlier, as well as those of us who have ventured into this ministry in hopes of showing the love of Jesus to people who don't know him. Again, excellent and praiseworthy!

An incredible time of growth and development was also occurring for my wife and I in the midst of these February events and throughout the spring in our involvement with The Lighthouse and Bible study. Times of reading, praying and studying with framily that continued to draw us closer to Himself.

In mid-June, our 14 year old daughter professed Christ. Her 11 year old sister did so in late September - both without external pressure but certainly partially in response to the things they were seeing happening with us and this ministry. I think on these two things often.

Another memorable moment in the month of June for me came on the practice tee of Brooks Country Club at Okoboji. There on the practice tee I discussed the idea of grace, what it looks like, what salvation is, who it is for and "who is this Rick Warren guy, anyway?" with my mother. She had attended the women's weekend a week after my dad's weekend in February - and is today continuing in her quest for knowing more and more who God is.

For a parent there is nothing greater than to see your kids accept and profess Christ - but as a child of parents who aren't getting any younger, finally knowing for sure their final destination is a pretty huge thing, too. Excellent and praiseworthy, even, so I think of these things often, too.

Professionally speaking, 2008 was a roller coaster that drew me ever closer to God. Business has long been about me and my ability - my penchant for generating revenue and chasing the dream. I don't remember the exact day (I wish I did and really don't believe that I can't), but in a tear-filled wrestling match with God, I threw my hands in the air and washed myself of the pressure of one our ventures making it. I finally gave it to God, fully.

That decision didn't come without some stress and angst, but more and more prayer in this situation has alleviated some of that stress and there is no way to explain what has gone on in our little businesses in 2008 - in this economic mess our country finds itself in - other than God! I will forever "think on these things." All praise, glory, and honor to him!

The fall brought more and more blessings in ministry, in prayer, in reading and in study
- and also another conference weekend in November. Another late night conversation with a dear friend was a bond-tightening one that neither of us knew at the time would be so necessary just a few days later. It was also a weekend in which my dad prayed over me. It was a fairly big moment for us both, I know.

For my wife and I, 2008 has to be the year in which we look back and say "WOW!" Has God been amazing or what? We had no personal tragedies to deal with, but were able to stand alongside some who were struggling. We have experienced the hope, joy, peace and love of Christ in so many circumstances and events during the past year that it is humbling to say that God has let us be a part of some of them.

And now that 2009 is upon us - that it is here - my prayer is that more and more we will think on "these things" and that we will "do" more and more of them - those things that are right, pure, lovely, and true. That we will not miss opportunities to be blown away - that more and more, with every fiber of our being, we will seek God in everything. In the hear and now...in the everyday...in our families and friends...in our businesses...in our walk with Christ...in our ministry opportunities...in prayer and in study.

May we think on these things, knowing that when we do, "the God of peace will be with you"!

Grace and peace,

Chris