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Sunday, November 29, 2015

Finding Christmas: The Best Advent of all

We prepare for the Christmas season in a variety of ways.  Shopping. Decorating. Gift wrapping. Christmas movies. Christmas music. Advent candles. I do some of those "preparations", too, but my favorite Christmas preparation is to re-read the book of Isaiah between Thanksgiving and Christmas. 

I've been reading it for so many years that I've lost count, but it never fails to speak to me. Today, I'm in Isaiah 25. 

And the Lord of hosts will prepare a lavish banquet for all peoples on this mountain;
A banquet of aged wine, choice pieces with marrow,
And refined aged wine...

He will swallow up death for all time,
And the Lord God will wipe tears away from all faces,
And He will remove the reproach of His people from all the earth...
Isaiah 25:6, 8 nasb

The Thanksgiving feast we've just enjoyed will be nothing in comparison to the lavish banquet God will provide. The crowd so recently gathered around our tables will be minuscule in comparison to all the people gathered at God's banquet. It will be a celebration and all God's people will be there. 

Our Lord will provide generously, and not only what we need to survive. He will provide the best of everything. It will be a joyous party. 

Even better than food, though, God will bring death and sorrow and tears to an end. He'll remove our reproach. 

When that glorious day arrives, we will say, "This is the God for whom we've been waiting." 

All the longing, all the anticipation, all the uncertainty will be washed away in the reality of the now, in the evidence of the promise fulfilled.

As we celebrate the Advent (or coming) of Christ, let us keep our eye on the other Advent (coming) for which we wait with eagerness. 

He is coming again, and when He does every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord. No more sorrow. No more tears. Only joy and celebration that will last for eternity.

Celebrating Christmas is about more than a baby in a manger. It's about a living, reigning Lord.

Christ has come. Christ has risen. Christ is coming again, and that's the best Advent of all.


In case you missed any of the past week's posts, here are the links:  Grateful Heart: Hard TimesRed Hot Christmas Pickles and the Broken JarGrateful Heart: The Beginning of StoriesGrateful Heart: Blessing of PositionGrateful Heart: Wonder PickleGrateful Heart: Family, and Beginning the Advent Journey.

The most read post of the last week: Grateful Heart: Family.

If you're looking for an Advent devotional, you can find The Road to Bethlehem on Amazon here.
#advent #disciple #JesusChrist #comingagain

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Beginning the Advent Journey

Sunrise from my balcony today. Sweet spot for morning devotions.

* Because I'm traveling today, I'm posting from my Advent devotional book, The Road to Bethlehem

just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, (Luke 1:2 NASB)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1, 14 NASB)

Your word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against You. (Psalms 119:11 NASB)

Luke describes two previous levels of information about Jesus. The first accounts came from eyewitnesses and "servants of the word", who handed down, probably orally, the stories of their personal experience with Christ.  Luke makes a clear distinction between eyewitnesses and servants of the word. 

Eyewitnesses simply reported what they had seen just as they had seen it. They had a story to tell, but not much more. 

Servants of the Word, however, are more than observers. They have become participants who give evidence of the truth of their story by their changed lives.

John tells us that Jesus is the Word, and Peter, when asked if he wanted to leave Jesus as the crowds had done, proclaimed, "Where would we go? You have words of eternal life!" (John 6:68) 

Jesus IS the Word. 
Jesus HAS the Word. 
Jesus SPOKE the Word. 

Our job is to know the Word, embrace the Word, and incorporate it into our lives in such a way that we  become SERVANTS of the Word.  

People who encountered Jesus and His life-changing truth responded in one of two ways. They were either an observer of the Word or became a Servant of the Word. Which are you? Do you merely pass along the stories of Jesus you learned as a child or are you a participant who demonstrates truth by the power of your changed life?  

Today pray to become a more committed Servant of the Word. Pray, too, that our loved ones will encounter believers who are Servants of the Word,  bearing irrefutable witness to the power of Christ by the quality of their transformed lives. May they present that truth in such a way that it is irresistible. 
If you'd like to follow along during Advent, you can find The Road to Bethlehem on Amazon here

In case you missed any of the past week's posts, here are the links:  Grateful Heart: Maggie Protects her MasterGrateful Heart: Hard TimesRed Hot Christmas Pickles and the Broken JarGrateful Heart: The Beginning of StoriesGrateful Heart: Blessing of PositionGrateful Heart: Wonder Pickle, and Grateful Heart: Family

The most read post of the last week: Praying for Peace.
#Advent #Adventdevotional #JesusChrist #disciple #WordofGod

Friday, November 27, 2015

Grateful heart: Family

The view from our balcony

I'm celebrating Thanksgiving at the beach with my family this week. As a total homebody, being away is a mixed blessing for me. This week, though, I've taken a part of home with me because of the people who are here. Once again, I've been reminded that home is more about the people within the walls than the walls themselves.

We've walked on the beach for hours, gathered bucket loads of shells, laughed, and played together. It's been good. Tomorrow, most of us will begin our treks toward home.  

As good as the time has been, as sweet as the companionship, a part of me is already packing my bags and loading the car... at least in my mind. A part of me is already heading home.

That may sound shocking, because our time here has been nothing but good and there are no other people in this world with whom I'd rather share these days.

The truth, though we often forget it, is that this world is not our home and we are all, whether we realize it or not, already headed home. 

It was the Apostle Paul, writing to the church at Corinth, who said, "For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens..." Paul lived his life as a journey, headed to his final, eternal, destination. "I prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord...." 2 Cor. 5:1,8 nasb

Until we reach eternity, let us live with one eye on our final destination, for we like Paul, are on a journey. We, too, are already headed home. 

Early morning quiet

My morning walking track 


In case you missed any of the past week's posts, here are the links:   Nigerian Nightmare,  Grateful Heart: Maggie Protects her MasterGrateful Heart: Hard TimesRed Hot Christmas Pickles and the Broken JarGrateful Heart: The Beginning of Stories, Grateful Heart: Blessing of Position, and Grateful Heart: Wonder Pickle.

The most read post of the last week: Praying for Peace.
#family #heaven #thisworldisnotmyhome #eternity #journey #Jesus Christ

Grateful Heart: Wonder Pickle and Augmented Reality

Yes. I'm posting a picture of my new Wonder Pickle mug. I realize a "mug shot" may not seem like a Thanksgiving picture, but in my family, this is a source of great rejoicing.

My cousin, Terry, has a new project and it has come together so rapidly that we are all in awe. Well, it seems rapid to us, but maybe not so fast to Terry. 

After thirty years of professional computer programming experience, he has a resume that most of us only dream about. For the past twenty years, he has developed large portions of the video technologies in use today. If you have ever watched a DVD, Video On Demand, Cable, or Satellite, the odds are that some of the video data came from technology he developed.

In addition, he has provided engineering due diligence for several start ups and has led projects varying in size from $550K to $200 million. The most amazing thing, at least to me, is that every project he has led has been delivered successfully, on time, and under budget. 

How's that for a professional dream career? 

Terry's been interested in Augmented Reality (AR) for years, but about six months ago, he had an idea for using AR technology for educational and special education needs. Initially, he collaborated with a team interested in using AR in storytelling. 

Their plans did not work out, and Terry found himself at loose ends. It was a scary time and I can't begin to tell you how much we prayed. 

What looked like a disaster in the making turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

When Terry started talking about a comic book Super-hero called Wonder Pickle, I wondered if he had lost his mind. A Pickle? Really?

He hadn't lost his mind at all. He was finding a new direction. His dreams were about to come true.

Terry is the creator of Wonder Pickle, a comic book superhero who fights evil in all its forms. What's unique about Wonder Pickle is the Augmented Reality enhancement. 

When Ryan delivered my new mug last night, he said, "I think you should look at it with the app." I was doubtful, but I had already downloaded the Wonder Pickle app, so I gave it a try. I positioned my iPhone over the mug and nearly dropped my phone. What a surprise! Here's the WP mug shot:

As you can see, the characters "come to life" in 3D. 

A comic book will be available after the first of the year. This is not the comic book of my childhood. When viewed using the Wonder Pickle app, the characters seem to jump off the page. It's amazing. 

What felt like failure was actually a whole new beginning.

In just a few short weeks, a dream has become a reality.  

My family and I have played with Wonder Pickle for the last few days. Ryan tells me the technology is cutting edge and "very cool". For those of us who read comics in the "old days", this is nothing short of astounding.

If you'd like to share our joy and have a taste of this new technology, go to and print the targets. Download the Wonder Pickle app from the app store, turn it on, and hover over the targets. Be sure to hold on to your phone. When Wonder Pickle jumps up, it's always a surprise!

If you'd like to pre-order the first-ever Wonder Pickle AR comic book, a Kickstarter will be live December 14th. (I am seriously excited about Pickle, so you can be sure I'll remind you.)

My mug is so cool that I'm trying to convince Terry to make them available for sale. Don't view Wonder Pickle with AR when your mug is full of hot coffee, though. It's far too exciting to risk a burn.

#WonderPickle #TerryDLee #AugmentedReality

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Grateful Heart: The Blessing of Position

It was just after 6 am when I headed out. Light was dawning, but most of the sky was still dark. As I drove up the ramp to the interstate, I thought, "This sure is a gloomy morning for driving." By the time I'd merged onto the interstate, I realized my mistake. 

There was a glorious sunrise, but it was only visible when I moved into position. 

The dictionary defines "position" as a "condition with reference to place, location, or situation", but position is also defined as "mental attitude." It's that mental position that can have the most impact on our lives. 

Perhaps you've had the same experience I've had. Up close to a situation, it looks like the worst possible event. Destruction. Devastation. No hope of survival. I've had a few times in my life where the situation looked so bleak, all I knew to do was get face-flat on the floor and weep before the Lord, begging for intervention. 

Years later, though, I look back on those situations as great blessings and gifts from God because of how I grew, what I learned, the ways my faith was strengthened.  Even when the situation didn't change, my "position" to it changed, and thus my perspective.

Today, I thank God for the blessing of position that allows me to see even the hard times in a different way.

Malachi wrote about a time when our position will make all the difference. A time is coming, he wrote, when God will judge this world. Those who love Him and those who don't will experience the same events, but the outcome will depend on their position ahead of time.

"But for you who fear My name the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings, and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall." (Malachi 4:2 nasb)

No matter what we face today, no matter how hard the circumstances, our position will change, whether the actual circumstances change or not. If we are willing, our Lord will move us through whatever we face. On the other side, the new position will allow us to look back and see the evidence of His hand all along the way. 

So take hope. If the view from your position is not all you'd hope, hang on. A few miles down the road, a glorious sunrise may burst into view and make your wait worthwhile.
In case you missed any of the past week's posts, here are the links:  Answered Prayers in Disguise,  Grateful Heart: MizpahNigerian Nightmare,  Grateful Heart: Maggie Protects her MasterGrateful Heart: Hard TimesRed Hot Christmas Pickles and the Broken Jar, and Grateful Heart: The Beginning of Stories.

The most read post of the last week: Praying for Peace.
#perspective #disciple #JesusChrist #position

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Grateful Heart: The Beginning of Stories

By the time most of you read this, I'll be on the road, heading to our family Thanksgiving festivities. The days ahead are a great treasure for us. We rarely have this much time together under the same roof, and I'm looking forward to it. 

Because I'll be driving when I'm usually writing, I've posted the first little story I ever wrote, the story that gave me the first hint I might be a writer. Of all the moments that touched my heart, of all the stories I've heard in my head, this is the one for which I'm most grateful because of what it began in me. I love this story. I hope you do, too.

Pounding for Perfection

“All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.”  
Hebrews 12:11 

The potter explained to us that, before the clay could be placed on the wheel, it needed to be pounded a bit to make it round and symmetrical.  “You can’t skip that pounding at the first,” he warned.  He knew our temptation would be to hurry straight to the wheel.  “It won’t work if the clay’s not right.”  

He told us that the clay had to be even all the way around for the next step in the process to work correctly.  “Keep pounding,” he said.  He would not let us quit until it was perfect.

Once the clay was smooth, he showed us how to center it on the base.  It took quite a bit of pressure to get the clay properly centered.  He demonstrated how to put extra pressure on the areas that were not right.  “Sometimes it takes a lot of pressure to get this centered.  Now, you try,” he said.  “If you have it right, it won’t slip off; it will get better centered.”  

I pushed down hard.  At first, it looked as if I had done it correctly.  “Hooray!” I thought.  “I’m doing it!”  Just as I put my finger in the center of the clay and began to pull up, however, it was obvious that my design was going to be warped.  I had put too much pressure on the inside.  

My next try was no better.  This time, I let up on the pressure too quickly, and the edges flopped.  “Ease up gradually,” he suggested.  

I’ve found life to be a lot like the clay.  It takes some “pounding” (also called discipline) to get our rough places out, but those hard times help us focus on what really matters.  It’s terrible to endure, but the finished product makes it worth it in the end.    

On the other hand, pressure is a funny thing.  A little makes us work harder, fine tunes us, makes us better.  Too much pressure, though, can overwhelm us and make us warped, just like my first pot.  When that pressure is self-imposed, it is especially destructive.

Have you experienced God’s discipline in your life recently?  The hard times may be specially designed to prepare you for the next step in the journey.  

Are you overwhelmed with the pressure you feel, not only from outside sources but also from within?  Is the pressure making you warped?  Unbalanced?  Are you “flopping” around the edges?  Perhaps you need to ease up on yourself a little.  Maybe you need to reassess the pressures you have allowed into your life.  What can you remove?  

If the pressure is getting you “off center”, it is time for some changes.  Get your life centered on Christ and begin to do things His way.  Not only are you less likely to have a “warped” life, you are much more likely to enjoy the journey. 

You can read more stories from my time in pottery class in The Clay Papers, available as an e-book on Amazon. Here's the link

Don't forget to pray for those who have lost so much recently as a result of terrorist attacks - Paris, Lebanon, Syria, Nigeria. Our world is filled with pain and sorrow. Pray that they will find the comfort only the Prince of Peace can give.
photo courtesy

#JesusChrist #PotteryLessons #Toomuchpressure #Unbalanced

Monday, November 23, 2015

Red Hot Christmas Pickles and the Broken Jar

Not long after I started practicing medicine, one of my patients brought me a jar of red-hot pickles for Christmas. These were the best pickles I had ever eaten (and the most beautiful). I was thrilled when she shared the recipe with me, but it's intense. There's something to do to these pickles every day for five days. I don't make them often.

As you can imagine, every jar is precious. In my family, they've come to be known as the Red Hot Christmas Pickles. That's because I only bring them out at Christmas.

I made an except this year and included them in our upcoming family Thanksgiving menu. Last night, I reached in the cabinet for a jar of pickles. I pulled out a half-pint jar, decided I needed a pint jar, and reached back inside. Somehow, in the reaching, I dropped the half-pint jar. It shattered. 

Red pickle juice, glass, and red-hot Christmas pickles went everywhere. I reached down to pick up the broken glass and sliced my arm. Blood dripped onto the floor and mingled with the Christmas pickles. My first thought was not, "Thank you, Jesus." My first thought (I'm sorry to say), as I tried to wipe up the mess on the floor while holding pressure on my wound, which was on fire from the pickle juice in it, came straight from my life before Jesus. 

I was disappointed in my mind, but I know I'm not the only one who's had that experience. As I read about Jacob/Israel again today, I realized he'd done the same thing. You probably remember his son, Joseph. He was a great man and much-loved by his father. 

Joseph's brothers were jealous of him because he was his father's favorite, so they sold him into slavery. To make matters worse, they stole the multi-colored coat his father had given him, dipped it in goat blood, and gave it to their father. "Look at this. Is it your son's coat?" they asked him.

Israel held the blood-soaked coat in his hand and jumped to a terrible conclusion. He assumed an animal had eaten Joseph and torn him to pieces. I don't know how he thought an animal had removed the coat without tearing it to shreds, but that's what Israel assumed. 

The sons handed the coat to their father. Israel held it in his hands, and assumed Joseph was dead. Jacob tore his clothes, put on sackcloth, and mourned for his son. (Gen. 37:34) Jacob refused to be comforted.

Do you see how quickly he reverted from Israel to Jacob again? He believed a lie he had made up himself (with some help from his sons) and immediately went back to his "old" self. It's entirely too easy. We all do it. 

We will likely struggle with the old man versus the new man until Jesus returns.

One day, though, He will give a "white stone, and a new name written on the stone" to those who overcome. (Rev. 2:21) On that glorious day, we will be who He intended us to be. No more struggle. No more "pre-Christ" words or behavior. 

Until then, we are to treat our "old self" like a set of worn-out clothes. We take them off and put them aside. We are to "put on" our new self, the one that is being renewed to a true understanding of our Lord. (Colossians 3:9-10) When that "old self" creeps back, what are we to do? Take off that old, no good, pile of filthy rags and put on the pure-white robes of righteousness purchased for us on the Christ.

We can be better than we once were, but only if we lay aside the old and embrace the new. 

As disciples, we continue to lay aside the old and embrace the new. Every day. Until Jesus returns or calls us home.

"He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed." 1 Peter 2:24 nasb
In case you missed any of the past week's posts, here are the links:  Resisting EvilPraying for PeaceAnswered Prayers in Disguise,  Grateful Heart: MizpahNigerian Nightmare,  Grateful Heart: Maggie Protects her Master, and Grateful Heart: Hard Times

The most read post of the last week: Praying for Peace.
The season of Advent is almost here. Now is a good time to consider purchasing The Road to Bethlehem, an Advent guide, available on Amazon. Available in paperback or e-book.

#JesusChrist #oldman #madenew #disciple #Joseph #whitestone