Monday, November 27, 2006

Slicing Turkey & Skipping "Wocks"

Another Thanksgiving has come and gone. Now, in spite of what the merchants have been promoting for two months, I'm ready to think about Christmas. Our neighbors put up their extensive outdoor decorations over the weekend, and since the glow from their property can cause a tan in ten minutes, we plan to put our decorations up today to somehow fight back and create a cross lighting dimness that allows us to go outside at night without sun glasses. Just kidding! They actually have quite beautiful decorations that really help me get into the spirit of the season. I'm glad they like to spend the better part of a weekend putting up thousand of lights on their houses. My goal is to just not look like a dark hole in the neighborhood. We put lights up so that the passengers in the string of cars touring our street will have to look to both sides of the street. If we do get our decorations up today, it will be the first time in our life that we actually put them up before the first of December. Usually it's the middle of December before we put them up. In fact, for a lot of years the goal was to get them up before the kids came home from college. That's really the biggest reason for me to decorate the house. Special days or seasons of the year are all about family. I'm so thankful that we got to have most of our family with us for Thanksgiving. We ate too much, slept too little, laughed too hard, and loved every minute of it. We thought about Jonathan and Holly and prayed that they had a great time in spite of not being with loved ones. Love doesn't need a holiday and it's not restricted by miles and schedules. Still, it's wonderful to get hugs from little arms, hold hands for prayers, and play games around the dinner table late into the night. Maybe putting up the Christmas decorations will remind me that it can happen again in just a few weeks. It's amazing how Thanks-giving becomes thanks-blessing.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Same Song, Second Verse!

It's been troubling me since our phone conversation last week. It was a conversation I've had scores of times with scores of different brethren. This good brother was "worried and anxious" about the struggle that seemed to be tearing his church family apart. My heart ached for him, because I've been there so many times and talked with others about the same problem so many times. I'm talking about worship wars. Members want life, relevance, and some excitement to build one another up and speak to the next generation that is coming along, but elders are petrified about changing any traditions because of the "good ole boys" who will get mad and leave. What do you do? What's best? Do you change non-essentials to speak to the culture of the day, or is the goal maintaining our heritage, our traditions, our comfort zones? So we clash about everything from song types to hand clapping to from where and how the communion should be served. Should we be contemporary or traditional? What kind of "style" does God want us to have in our assemly? Can we solve the "worship problem"? No - not until we start truly caring about what God wants! If anyone's assembly style is defined by anything other than love - it's in serious error! We are so focused on ourselves that we have forgotten what God's simple intent was with all this "assembly stuff!" It's never called "worship" or "church" or any of the other things we have developed through the centuries. Worship is a life given in obedience to God (Romans 12:1). Church is not an institution but simply a tool for building spiritual relationships, because that is how we learn to love God (read 1 Jn). The assembly of Christians - getting together for any reason - is a necessary requirement if we are going to do all the "one another" things listed repeatedly in the New Testament. THE ASSEMBLY IS FIRST, LAST, AND ALWAYS A GIVING EVENT! Encouragement and edification are always things we do for others! How in the world did we get it so turned around that we see it as a "receiving" event? Like I've said for years, we believe it's "more blessed to give than to receive" until we assemble together. It's my opinion that this transformation of God's original intend is one of Satan's greatest victories! It's universal among Christian religions. When we start returning the Christian assembly to a giving experience, the worship wars will stop and brethren will begin to realize that it's all about learning to "love one another" not "have it your way." That is true no matter what kind of style you think your assembly should have. If Satan is cheering, what must the Father be doing? I think He's hoping our togetherness will start looking more like a Thanksgiving dinner with family and less like a group of Olympic diving judges with score cards in their hands. Happy thanksgiving!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Okay - so it's been a week since my last blog! It's been an unusual week. We made a quick trip to Nashville to be with our WHOLE family for the first time since July of '05. Since Jonathan is in a Broadway show, he just can't leave whenever he wants. He and Holly will be spending another Thanksgiving and Christmas in New York without being able to visit with family for even one day. So, it was absolutely worth the eleven hours of driving time to get to spend a little over twenty-four hours with family (counting sleep time). I can't put into words how blessed I felt to just watch Chad and Elizabeth's house literally churning with family. Holly's parents where able to be with us and we had an absolutely wonderful time. Of course, even with long-lost Uncle Jonathan and Aunt Holly there, the grand-kids where the center of attention. God is so good to allow me to just sit and watch all the playing, laughing, and sharing of three generations at once. To look around the room and see how much God has blessed each person and each family there made Paul's phrase, "Rejoice in the Lord always" an understatement and a commitment that will be there when life's "inevitables" come along. We have so much to be thankful for and so much that bonds us together, but what thrills me the most is knowing that Jesus is Lord of all from the little ones to the oldest and widest. (I wish I could say wisest.) So of all the profound thoughts I could blog about today, the only one that compels me is this: Love your family enough to keep God first in everything you do. You won't be perfect at it, but that's part of of the teaching. Repenting and forgiving is just as important as being kind and considerate to others. Get the awards, the diplomas, and the promotions, but never forget that one day you'll want to sit in the living room and watch your adult children and their godly spouses laugh and play with grand children who pray "Thank you for your Holy Spirit" and who stand on the hearth and sing "Praise Jesus." I don't care what they say on TV - that's real "living large."

Friday, November 10, 2006

With all the pictures of my grandkids on my blog, and of course my lovely wife, I decided it was time to post a picture of Jonathan. Actually, I was just thinking about how wonderful it is that, while we are so looking forward to finally seeing JD do the presentation at the Quill Awards, now we are going to get to see him and Holly in Nashville next week. I'm recording the Awards show which is on here at 3:00 AM Monday morning on MSNBC. And while I'm looking forward to seeing it, it's soooo much nicer to see the real people in person. We've only seen them once in the last 13 months and that's tooooo long. I hate that we are so far away from them, but we are so proud of the way they have taken The Big Apple by storm. Who knows - there may be a quick trip to NY in the near future. In the meantime, we will be praying for safe travel for all of us who will be making the whirlwind - 24 hr turn-around trip to Nashville next week. Wow - how long has it been since the whole Root clan was together? Wasn't it July before last? Picture time!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

There but for the grace of God...

One of the most astounding passages of scripture in the whole New Testament is also one of the best known. It's a "WOW" passage for me. Always has been. I'm talking about the opening verses of the great love chapter, 1 Corinthians 13, where Paul tells us that popular spiritual gifts, like speaking in tongues and prophecy, and faith that can move mountains, and total sacrifice of possessions and body - all pale to insignificance when there is no love in the heart. He says that without love "I am nothing" and "I gain nothing." I have always simply thought of that as a hyperbole to elevate the importance of love. Come on! Move mountains? Give all possessions to the poor? Giving up your body to be burned alive! That's pretty heavy stuff. It certainly dwarfs anything I do in the name of Jesus! But here's the deal: the context is Christians who have been given spiritual gifts as tools to help them draw close to God, but they started focusing on the tool and forgetting purpose! THAT'S WHY IT'S ALL ABOUT LOVE, BECAUSE GOD IS LOVE! Everything He has given us was meant to help us know Him, understand Him, and seek Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Any spiritual thing we do, should be part of that desire to seek Him, or it becomes a ritual, an act of self-righteousness "to be seen of men," or at worst blatant hypocrisy and/or idolatry. If it's not contributing to our awareness of the presence of God, deepening our relationship with Him, and helping us become like Him, to use Paul's words, "I gain nothing." God must be in the private corners of our life or we will allow secret sin to move in. My heart aches for Ted and all the crushed spirits of his church in Colorado. The news media "stars" were salivating over another scandal - another opportunity to ridicule faith and values, but we need to ignore embarrassment and embrace the Father with open hearts, clear consciences, and the peace that only comes from letting His light shine in all the dark corners of our soul. I believe with all my heart that secret sin is Satan's most powerful tool in destroying Christians. He uses the shallow nature of external faith. He feeds our brain the idea that if other Christians don't know what we're doing, thinking, feeling, or committing - and our spiritual acceptance is intact, there's no need to confront and confess the sin. But secret sin is the worst kind of faithlessness because it ignores a real and present God! One doesn't have to "come out of the closet" for God because He knows exactly what's in the closet. Remember, He's the One who told us to go there and pray (Matt.6)! Love God's people and love everything about His church, but love Him enough to seek Him in the secret places. He's not interested in the "resounding gong or a clanging cymbal." He waiting to hear the whisper of a wounded heart asking Him into the dark places where pride, greed, lust, and lies are spiritual tumors. Isn't it wonderful to know that there's not a spot anywhere that His love and grace cannot reach. There are no secrets with God. I can't think of any reason why there should be any secrets with His children either! "Father, keep me from secret sin!" For God, that's an oxymoron. For me, it's a passionate petition.

Monday, November 06, 2006

View & Review

There's something special about the bright wide eyes of children who are believing the unbelievable. The innocence of youth is beautiful and scary when you think about it being lost, abused, or misdirected. But we all were there at some time in our life, we just can't remember it. Maybe that's why it's so wonderful to see it - especially in adorable grand children. A couple weeks ago a friend (initials - Danny Younger), brought us the gift of a talking deer head that is mounted on the wall and will sing songs, crack jokes, and move like it's alive. It's like having Disney World in our den. You can also use a microphone and talk through the deer and it moves as it talks your words. Saturday morning I had Pat provide the voice as our deer talked to Joshua and Caleb in our den. At first they were surprised, of course, and Caleb was even a little afraid. But within seconds they were talking with the deer head as if it were the most normal thing in the world. It was so sweet to see them carry on a conversation with a deer head that they clearly didn't see as dead. I can't wait to have all four grand kids here at Thanksgiving talking to the deer head. I think we need to come up with a name for the new deer. Any suggestions?

We went to see Spamalot last Saturday afternoon and enjoyed it. The word that I keep thinking of is "cute". It's not great theater or great music it's just fun. In fact, what I enjoyed most was the "making fun" of musicals that is a major theme through the show. It's worth seeing and full of typical MP humor, if you enjoy that kind of thing, and I do. In fact, most of the jokes would be classified in our family as "Dad jokes". I could do without the obligatory gay Lancelot number, but it was funny. Great costumes and scenery and some great audience connection/participation. All in all it was a good experience, but I'm sure it was nothing like seeing a great musical on Broadway with you-know-who!

Friday, November 03, 2006

"I aint no Prince Charming!"

We are so thrilled to have Pat, Deborah, Joshua, and Caleb with us that I don't want to spend much time doing blog work today. However, I thought I'd share this picture from this past Tuesday evenings Trunk or Treat/Fall Festival/Call-it-anything-but-Halloween church event. We had a lot of fun and the Lord blessed us with tons of community goblins, I mean guests. But of course, for me (and others who aren't as prejudiced as I), the best dressed and prettiest maiden in the building was Snow White. I was so dwarfed by her stunning presence that I came dressed like a preacher with a camera (lot's of make-up). I really love to see the kids faces light up when they see Snow White. They all know it's "Mrs. Donna" but they all know she's the closest thing to the real Snow White anyone could ever be. That's why I like to see her wear the outfit - it really is quite natural and appropriate. And in case anyone wonders, yes, I did do the Prince Charming costume once, but never again. I just don't like blue tights! Maybe camo...