Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Praying For You -- Goodbye Old Hello New

Here on the East Coast of the United States, it's less than seven hours until 2013 is eclipsed by 2014. As I write, evening shadows have all but cancelled out the light of this final December day, and I am taking time to fervently pray.

"May you know the One Who is Peace, especially so in times of transition -- The One called 'The Truth, Jesus The Nazarene'.

I ask The Lord to strengthen you -- heart, mind, soul and strength -- with His Precious, Blessed, Always-Present Holy Spirit.

How I hope that yesterday's memories of God's faithfulness will follow you for all the days and nights for the rest of your precious life, and how earnestly I pray that His Holy Presence will be your Sacred Home both now and forever more.

I ask all of these requests at The Merciful Throne of our Almighty Personal God, yes and all in the marvelous and matchless Name of the One called Wonderful. 

May you be undeniably inspired in His sight until His face your eyes embrace in That Eternal Day! Amen and Amen and Amen!" 


Monday, December 30, 2013

Wearisome Yet Wonderful

Today, we were able to see our Dad's two-week hospital stay give way to a new season in his life as he was transported back to a rehabilitation home, The Sailor's Snug Harbor, located just 20 miles from our native island.

Tonight, after we finally got Dad settled in, our family celebrated The Willis Family Christmas, even our Uncle William joined us. 

The best way to define our long day? Wearisome yet wonderful.


Sunday, December 29, 2013

Volume 22: "Christmases Past"

People who say Christmas is no different than any other time of the year are badly mistaken or sadly deceived, or both.

During December, the remembrance of the Birth of God's Son Who came to become one of us is on display. As I drive in my vehicle at night during December, I see many unique and brightly-lit Nativity scenes scattered across front lawn landscapes. Only at Christmastime does the Light of The World unashamedly glow so wondrously in our neighborhoods as a welcoming witness of the One called Wonderful -- The Christ Child.

Among the many things I miss most about "Christmases Past" is the innocent wonder that inspired my childlike soul and illuminated my young mind. I guess you could say, yes, one thing I miss most about "Christmases Past" is just being a young boy.

However, during this "Christmas Present", I purposely pause to give my deep gratitude to God, because even as a man, I know the Bethlehem Boy and the little boy are both still very much alive within me. So, Christmas, like no other time of the year, helps to reveal that reality.


Saturday, December 28, 2013

Update on My Dad -- Yesterday & Yesteryear

Those of you who have been praying for my Dad's health challenges, thanks so much.

It's Day 13 of his hospital stay, but it looks like on Monday he will be able to return to our home county to spend two weeks or so in a rehab center there.

Since being diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma about 10 days ago, we can now report:

1. No cancer in the bones.
2. Cancer is Stage 1E. In other words not only is Stage 1 good, but his cancer also appears to be confined to only the area of his tumor. The doctors are 90% sure of the diagnosis. We'll take it.
3. Dad's chemotherapy has been free of side-effects such as nausea so far.
4. Yesterday, enough strength and motion returned to his left leg to take a good walk around the nurses' station with his walker while his physical therapist held onto him loosely. The nurses were cheering him on with one hospital worker getting blessed and telling Dad, "Lift up your eyes to the hills, your strength comes from The Lord." It was holy ground!

My Dad, age 20... Yesteryear

My Dad now age 73... Yesterday

Deo Volente -- Whatever God Wants!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Volume 21: "Christmases Past"

One thing I miss most about "Christmases Past" is drawing names in our Middle School boys' Sunday School class and then trading the gifts with one another on the Sunday before Christmas.

I remember one year in particular. My friend, Mike, had not been present the Sunday we had drawn names with one another for the gift-exchange, but he did want to join our family for church on Christmas Sunday. Mike was all concerned about coming without a purchased and wrapped gift. You see, Mike's dad raised him and his other three siblings, because their mother up and left the family of six when Mike was in first grade. But, we were dear friends, and so I helped him figure out how to come to church and to save face with the other boys in our class on Christmas Sunday.

Here's how my plan came down. I suddenly remembered that Mike had a model car in his bedroom that he had never opened. I told him to stick the model car in a paper sack and to immediately put the paper sack in the classroom closet upon arrival. When it came time to exchange gifts, I quickly gave my gift to the boy whose name I had drawn, received my gift form the boy who had drawn my name, and then quietly gave that gift to Mike. I then made a beeline for the closet to get Mike's paper sack. I pulled Mike's model car out of the sack so fast, the other boys didn't have time to realize it had never been gift-wrapped. 

Mike smiled at me with a look of gratitude that is simply and profoundly unforgettable. My friend's dignity had been preserved and my heart was wondrously warmed in the process.

During "Christmas Present", I remember the Christmas presents the boys in our  Sunday School Class exchanged on that very special Sunday of my "Christmases Past", and my heart is still wonderfully warmed because of the memory.



Thursday, December 26, 2013

Remembering Good Vibrations of Christmas Celebrations

Only 364 more days until Christmas 2014...

Go to iTunes and download "Already Miss Christmas" by Paul Sikes.

I'm so glad each December we pause to remember the Birth of the ChristChild, however I still wish every month of the calendar year overflowed with the good vibrations like our Christmas Celebrations.


Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Volume 20: "Christmases Past"

I really miss Christmas-evening-visiting-time from my childhood days. Yes, when I was a boy, after our family Christmas meal, we would ride in the Pontiac around the island, looking at Christmas lights, and spontaneously visiting a few homes of family and friends.

I remember how relaxing and carefree the final hours of Christmas Day were. Finally, after plenty of laughter and various desserts from home-to-home, Christmas Day came to a slow and wonder-filled close. Shortly after sunset, the holiday rush always gave way to the holy day hush. With only a few hours left to celebrate Christmas, we would settle back into our own home and just sit in the living room enjoying the presence of one another as the decorations and lights continued to inspire our souls.

As I write these words, it is the end of Christmas Day 2013. We're all sort of laying around in our living room. The dog has taken over my comfy chair, the lights and decorations seem to be embracing our hearts, and we know we are blessed beyond measure.

As my day comes to a close, and December 26 will soon arrive, I pray a special prayer for you as you have taken valuable time to read my simple words. Having celebrated the Birthday of the most Wonderful Baby this world has ever known or will ever know, Jesus Christ, I now ask our Awesome King Jesus to be your Hope. As this Holy Day comes to an end, may you be encouraged in realizing that while Jesus is the Season, you are truly the reason He came to Bethlehem some 2,000 years ago. 

O yeah, and I know He wants me to tell you something very important: "He's not mad at you. He's mad about you."


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Dad's Latest Cancer Update

The oncologist just said "Dad's bone marrow biopsy is fine." The load just lightened with those words. The faith journey resumes. Thanks for traveling with us.

While Dad's chemotherapy and physical therapy continues, we give thanks that the cancer is not in his bones. Blessed Christmas!

We are humbled and...
Grateful (Celebrate Nativity Passionately with us!) 

Volume 19: "Christmases Past"

It's Christmas Eve, and yesterday we finally received "IT!" We received "What?" Well, if you've been following my writings about "What I Miss Most About Christmases Past", you know I miss my Granny Margery's beautiful, bright-red, delicious Jelly Cake.

So, as requested, my Aunt Edith did write down the recipe and my Mom mailed it to us and, now, drum roll please.... "the simple-but-splendid Willis family Jelly Cake recipe is ours!"

Yes, yesterday we received "IT!" And it only gets better, because yesterday afternoon, my wife, Kim, made a grocery run to buy the ingredients, and Lord willing, the Jelly Cake will once again thrill future generations of Willises!

In case you want to bake one yourself, I will now write the sweet strategy out for your enjoyment, while looking at my Aunt Edith's handwritten recipe, of course.


* 1 box of Duncan Hines Butter Batter Cake Mix
* 32 Ounces of Apple Jelly
* Add red food-coloring until the jelly is as RED as you want it.
* Add lemon juice to taste.
* Spread RED-colored, Apple Jelly on cake layers, around all sides, and on the top.

Friends, the time is now to watch my Granny's Jelly Cake from "Christmases Past" make it's way into the wonder of "Christmas Present!" 

In my Granny's words, "Hooray for Christmas!!!"


P.S. More on my Dad's health should be known later today. He's at peace still and is so grateful for your prayers. Me too. 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Volume 18: "Christmases Past"

The Sears and Roebuck store of yesteryear is on my long list of "What I Miss Most About Christmases Past." It was just a small mail-order store "in town" about a 30-minute drive from our island home.

What I liked most about the Sears showroom was seeing Old Saint Nick each December. Yes, Santa would come and sit in his big chair there and talk tenderly to all of us kids about our Christmas wishes. Obviously, he was in partnership with the store, but it was a special moment year-after-year for the children of our community. I am thankful to Mr. Sears for inviting Mr. Claus to come help us celebrate at Christmastime. 

In 2013, our family visited New York City at the beginning of the Christmas Season. We visited Macy's Department Store and waited in line to talk to St. Nick. Yes, we're all grown on the outside but still children on the inside. As we patiently endured the long line, excitement built in my heart to see the jolly, old, bearded-man in the red-and-white velvet suit. I even had my camera and took Santa's portrait as we left.

So, with the childhood memories of "Christmases Past" still very much alive in my mind, I still cherish celebrating "Christmas Present". Whether it's in a little-town, catalogue showroom or in a big-city, department store, I always expect to be inspired by the decorations of the giving season and I especially anticipate encountering the old saint, Mr. Claus. 

(Here's the portrait from Macy's.)


Saturday, December 21, 2013

"Still Trusting" Illustrated

Dad's chemo is complete for today. Lady Melba and Captain Billy are "Still Trusting!" All is well. 

Please celebrate passionately The Nativity Season with the Willis family. Human suffering must not decrease, but only serve to increase, the beautiful joy of The Bethlehem Boy! Sing NOEL!!!

Grateful still

Friday, December 20, 2013

Volume 17: "Christmases Past"

Well, let me assure you that my Holy Days reflection time has been enhanced these past few days during December of 2013. As I sit in the hospital beside my sleeping Dad, Captain Billy, my heart is strangely warmed.

One day ago we learned that my Dad has non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. Yes, cancer. He has a golfball-sized tumor at the base of his spine and chemotherapy begins this evening. Surely, Dad is very tender in his spirit, but has inner peace that is even more undeniable. He also has a deep joy that even the devil or cancer cannot put the brakes on.

In other words, "ALL IS WELL! GO AND TELL! EMMANUEL -- GOD IS WITH US AND WITHIN US!" Dad wins either way.

Spending these quiet days of waiting alongside my Dad has increased my memory. When it comes to "What I Miss Most About Christmases Past", I must admit, today especially, it's not about "WHAT I MISS MOST" but about "WHO I MISS MOST!" This will not be a surprise to most of my readers, but I really miss my grandparents. Their presence was such a comfort to my mind and such a refreshment to my soul while they were still here on Planet Earth.

My Dad thinks I look like his Dad, my Granddaddy, Captain Gray. Sometimes when I wear a cap in Dad's presence, he cries and often with trembling lips tenderly tells me, "You look so much like my dad." Resembling my Granddady Gray touches me deeply, because my Granddaddy Gray was a hero in my life. I named my only son after him.

At Granddaddy Gray's funeral in 1974, men told me that if I grew up to be half the man that Gray Willis was, I'd be a wonderful man. His integrity was on illustration to one and all.

So you guessed it. I especially miss my Granddaddy Gray at Christmastime. He was a quiet, humorous, and pleasant man. If he was in the room, everyone gravitated to him. When he left the room, everyone knew there was a sudden loss to the conversation, but especially a loss to the atmosphere, because he was a man of subtle but certain presence.

I remember one Christmas when my Granny gift-wrapped him a new CB radio for his shrimp trawler communication. After he opened it, she went over and passionately kissed my shy Granddaddy in front of the whole family. She laughed wondrously as he blushed almost to tears. We have a photo of that beautiful exchange.

I also recall the first Christmas after my granddaddy had passed on to Heaven. It was December 1974. My Dad (who surely is his mother's son) who had therefore always been the life of our parties, especially our Christmas get-togethers, was on this particular Chrostmas so broken-hearted that he could hardly get through the Holy Day season. The loss of his beloved Father was unfamiliar territory for his soul to travel. We all suffered with him. We all missed Granddaddy, a sanctuary of the the Presence of Holy God, but Dad was without doubt the most broken-hearted.    

As much as I miss Granddaddy Gray at Christmastime, I am still presently grateful that I still have my own Dad. Yes, he's seen better days, physically, but with each passing Christmas Season our whole family gets closer to our goal -- a grand reunion day with our loved ones and celebrating Christmas with the One called Wonderful, Jesus Himself. What a day that will be. He'll be waiting for our coming. Yes, both my Granddaddy Gray and our Lord Jesus.

Prayers deeply appreciated. You can find "US" right in the middle of J"US"T TR"US"TING!


Thursday, December 19, 2013

Volume 16: "Christmases Past"

Music is so essential to celebrating the Season of Christmas. Music has been paramount for me since I was a child and something I miss most about the music of "Christmases Past" is hearing Mrs. Reva Pearl violently and flawlessly play the piano and sing loudly and with great passion her favorite, yearly, signature, Holy Day, special song titled "O Beautiful Star of Bethlehem." I've heard it sung by numerous people but no one gives it the grand and glorious presentation like "Big Momma" did. (That was her beloved nickname.)

In case you have never heard the classic Christmas Carol, here is a YouTube of the Judds singing it and here also are the words. Enjoy it now, during "Christmas Present".

Click here: Beautiful Star Of Bethlehem - Christmas Time With The Judds - YouTube

Oh beautiful star of Bethlehem
Shining far through shadows dimmed
Giving the light for those who long have gone
Guiding the wise men on their way
Unto the place where Jesus lay
Oh beautiful star of Bethlehem shine on

Oh beautiful star the hope of light
Guiding the pilgrims through the night
Over the mountains 'till the break of dawn
Into the land of perfect dayIt will give out a lovely ray
Oh beautiful star of Bethlehem shine on

Oh beautiful star (beautiful, beautiful star) of Bethlehem (star of Bethlehem)
Shine upon us until the glory dawns
Give us a lamp to light the way
Unto the land of perfect day
Oh beautiful star of Bethlehem shine on

Oh beautiful star the hope, the grace
For the redeem the good and the blessed
Yonder in glory when the crown is won
Jesus is now the star divine
Brighter and brighter he will shine
Oh beautiful star of Bethlehem shine on

Oh beautiful star (beautiful, beautiful star) of Bethlehem (star of Bethlehem)
Shine upon us until the glory dawns
Give us a lamp to light the way
Unto the land of perfect day
Oh beautiful star of Bethlehem shine on
Oh beautiful star of Bethlehem


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Volume 15: "Christmases Past"

In the news of our nation, I just saw where two people won a total of 636-million-dollars by guessing the "right" numbers playing the lottery. I have news for the "winners". All of their new-won money will not buy them peace. Peace isn't found in new money. Peace is found in an old manger.

You know what I miss most about "Christmases Past?" I miss the sense that everyone was content and grateful with what they had. I know that ever since the beginning of Creation people have been grasping for more and more, however, when I was a boy at Christmastime, it seemed that most all of the families in our community were more content and grateful with what they had rather than desiring more monetary gain. People seemed more at peace with their own lives, more glad for their health and less focused on others' wealth.

Call it the naive perspective of a child, because maybe that's where my memories of "Christmases Past" originate? If so, then, I want to be more like a child these days, like I was in those days. I don't want success in my mind to be defined as more and more financial accumulation, but in more and more faith saturation.

As I write these words, December 18, 2013, my Dad is in the Greenville, North Carolina, Medical Center in severe pain. A few days ago, he learned that he has a tumor at the base of his spine. Operating is not an option because it could paralyze him. So, while we await the results of a biopsy taken yesterday, Dad's pain is severe. Hopefully, today, a desired diagnosis will be discovered and some form of treatment to reduce the size of the tumor and find Dad some relief will begin to happen.

In talking with Dad early this morning, he said tenderly, "I am in great pain, son, but I have good peace." In our conversation, financial accumulation had no relevancy. The only things that matter now pertain to internal and eternal priorities. Remember, it's our faith, family, and friends that deliver to our lives the essence of true peace.

Good News! It's "Christmas Present!" Don't focus on money and "winning" some big, complicated Jack-Pot. Simply, fall at the manger and find everlasting Jesus-Present, and LIVE at Peace with God and with yourself this Christmas and beyond!


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Volume 14 "Christmases Past"

Christmas represents a miracle for us and the whole human race -- for "unto us a Child is born" to be our Savior from Sin.

And memories of "Christmases Past" race through my mind very often. As a result, I have been writing down words to  communicate "What I Miss Most About Christmases Past."

As my mind races backward today to yesterday's treasures, I miss my whole family being together and especially everyone being healthy.

I remember a certain Christmas Eve at my Granny Margery's and Granddaddy Gray's homeplace. Their home was such a safe place for me and even today I can still sense the comfort I felt that particular Christmas Eve in their living room. 

In the glow of the Christmas lights, I can see all of our family laughing and enjoying one another and basking in good health. Across the generations of our family, from my young brothers and me, my young Dad and Mom, then my older Grandparents and even my very old, Great Aunt Lizzie, we were all enjoying a short, but sure season of good health. 

The reason I am remembering good health during these Holy Days is very obvious. Yesterday, December 16, 2013, I got a phone call from my own Dad. After an ambulance ride to the local hospital, Dad tenderly told me that a MRI revealed a mass at the base of his spine. He was then transported last evening to Greenville Medical Center in my native North Carolina. While there are yet many unknowns about my Dad's physical wellness, Dad assured me that it is well with His soul.

So, more than thinking about "Christmases Past", today I am thanking God for the Hope of "Christmas Present". Though we are not sure about the physical wellness of our family, my heart sings out with this song of the season:

"All is well. Go and tell... Emmanuel." Indeed, "God is with us and within us." Blessed Christmas.


Monday, December 16, 2013

Memories... Are...

Today, we received some heart-warming Christmas cards in our mailbox. The most meaningful line was handwritten on the inside of one:

"Memories of the past...
are treasures of the heart."

This line was beautifully written in a card that I received from Mrs. Ruth, the dear mom of my two childhood friends, Craig and Jeffrey Kent Paylor. I wrote about them in Volume 6 of my December 2013 blog series titled "What I Miss Most About Christmases Past."

Humbled and...


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Volume 13: "Christmases Past"

"Christmases Past" flood my memory. It's a blessed thing to have a memory and I am grateful for the ability to recall many personal stories and family events, even details about my most favorite moments from Decembers now behind me.

One recollection is watching my Granny Margery adorn her Christmas tree. While her tree and overall holiday decorating was never quite as as elaborate as my mom's was, Granny had a great finale when it came to her Christmas tree. The finale was fueled by the revealing of a special old ornament she had kept from her childhood Christmases.

Yes, one thing I miss most about "Christmases Past", is watching Granny place the hook in her last tree ornament and then handing it to me to hang on her evergreen. It was a plastic, brightly-colored, old-timey Saint Nicolas. He was very fragile and even had scotch tape holding his feet together. But, he was, nonetheless, quite glorious to me.

As I searched for the perfect place to hook Old Saint Nick to a branch, I imagined how many times my dear Granny, first as a little girl, then as a teenager, and as a young wife and now an older lady, had pulled that beloved ornament out of her attic year-after-year. It thrilled my soul to the maximum just thinking those thoughts.

When granny passed from this life to Eternity, I only asked for a wall-hanger from her home and I got it from my Aunt Edith. However, I really would have loved to had inherited the old plastic Saint Nicolas Christmas heirloom, as well, but I suppose I just didn't have the heart to ask my Granny's only daughter to part with it.

As much as I sometimes long for "Christmases Past", even more so I love "Christmas Present". Our tree is all decorated for another season and we even purchased a newer version of the Old Saint Nick ornament like Granny had. And, on our own tree, my wife and I, always hang some old ornaments we made our first year of marriage. We didn't have extra money to buy nice tree-hangers, so we made some out of plaster and then hand-painted them.

Again this year, I suppose our own son and daughter, will ask us to point out the oldest ornaments once again. I have a feeling our first Christmas tree decorations will be hung for generations to come, as well?

Friends, it's Christmas. Surely, Christmastime is a tender time to remember yesterday, to embrace today, and to anticipate tomorrow. Blessed Christmas to you.



Friday, December 13, 2013

"Finally, In The Boat" -- A Testimony

I recently received this inspiring testimony in the form of an early morning e-mail message from one of the men who prays with me and my Pastor's Prayer Patrol on Tuesday mornings.

His name is Scott, and he gave me his blessing to share his words with the world. Here's some of what he wrote:

Pastor Kerry, 

Having been raised the way you were as the son of a fisherman, this thought that keeps resonating inside me may seem very simplistic, even so I would like to share it with you...

I AM FINALLY IN THE BOAT!!!  Years and years of just being "saved", being dragged along,  hanging on to my Christian life preserver. Swallowing salt water, being battered by the wake of life's debris, foolishly having thought that being out on the water was were the fun is.

My arms were so tired of just being "saved", of just hanging on.

Then Jesus beckoned me from the boat, saying "get in".  This is your boat,  Scott,  I OWN it but I will let you steer it and not only will I let you steer it, I will be WITH you as Lord and Master, guiding you around and/or through all of the trials and joys of life.

Thank you Pastor Kerry, for helping me see my MASTER and COMMANDER.


Thursday, December 12, 2013

Volume 12: "Christmases Past"

When I glance in the rearview mirror of my life, many of the things I miss most have happened during the season of Christmas.

One of those memories is strong in my mind now. When our children were ages 5 and 3 -- after tucking them in bed on Christmas Eve of 1991, and while Kim was wrapping gifts -- I drove to my dear friend, David's house.

David was an exceptional artist and called himself "Santa's elf" at Christmastime, because he always painted artwork through the night completing late projects for his customers to pick up by daylight on Christmas morning. 

I miss the strong memory of sitting until about midnight on that particular Christmas Eve with my dear friend. I can remember the peace of the companionship and the joy of the conversation we shared.

Little did I know it would be my last Christmas Eve as a resident of my native North Carolina home. In 1992, we moved to Colorado Springs for Bible College and then onto Virginia. And little did I realize David would pass away a few years later. 

I cherish especially that specific season of "Christmases Past". Our children are now 26 and 24, and while David is now in Heaven, I still of plenty of his art work to warm my heart and to inspire my soul.

I am doubly blessed by yesterday's Christmas memories and today's Christmas moments. 


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Volume 11: "Christmases Past"

One of my favorite Christmas memories happened when my wife, Kim, and I, were eating supper at my most favorite restaurant in our hometown, The China Jade. Annie, whom I met in the restaurant many years earlier as a waitress, was now running the business. It was a few nights before Christmas and Annie came to our table and said, "I have a gift for you. You are my best customers." She then handed me a little, plastic, orange and black, tiger Christmas tree ornament from her native homeland, China. Our hearts melted at the gesture and to this day we cherish Annie's tender gift.

Yesterday was Tuesday, December 10, 2013, and it was a sad day for me. That's why I didn't blog, I suppose. While having lunch with a pastor friend in Annie's and Jackie's Chinese Restaurant, Annie came up to me and said, "I have bad news. Jackie and I, along with our three children are closing the restaurant and moving back to China." It truly broke my heart. I have been eating most every week (I've been in town) in The China Jade for at least seventeen years. Annie was my first waitress way back then. We have formed quite a friendship. I have my own table in the corner pocket of the establishment.

I have done my best to send The China Jade business and I have surely given them mine. However, by the end of December 2013, maybe earlier, the doors will be closed and the precious family that I adore will be gone. Family? Yes, Annie and Jackie have three precious children -- a son and a set of twin girls. They call me "Uncle Kerry".

Annie explained that Jackie's father, who cooked for them for a long time, is back in China, and at 80-years-old is near death. He wants his family to come home and to be with him. So, I am glad their family will be united, but honestly I feel as if I am losing family myself. When I left the restaurant on Tuesday, I got hugs from them all. Though I plan to see them before they leave, we were taking no chances so we properly said our good-byes.

I gave them my address and phone number and promised to pray for them. I walked out the door and wept on the way to my car. I told God later today, "I trust You, Lord, with my precious family and cherished friends."

As much as I will cherish the memories, I have a witness in my soul that even though they are moving literally around the world, I will see them again. Love conquers all. Indeed, my God is Love.

(Note added later: On Saturday, December 14, 2013, Annie called me to say, "Good News. My father-in-law seems to be improving in his health. We have decided that just my husband will go to China for now and I will remain here for the time being with our three children. My restaurant will remain open. Tell your friends.")


Monday, December 9, 2013

Old or New?

Today, I helped officiate a funeral for a 97-year-old lady who was part of our local church family -- Mrs. Dorothy Viola Halterman Lee. My mind has been so full thinking of all the changes and transitions she surely encountered during her life.

Mrs. Dorothy went to bed Thursday night as an old lady in her one-bedroom apartment and Jesus woke her up sometime before sunrise on Friday morning in her brand new home. What a powerful thought! No doubt she traded old pains and aches for new rest and healing.

At the benediction, I read from Revelation 21. Especially these words spoken by The Glorified Christ in verse 5 are so powerful: "I am making everything new again!"

If this were to be your final night on planet earth, are you confident Jesus would wake you up Brand New?

If not, talk to Jesus. Tell Him you want to turn from old and look forward to the new. He will help you turn from sin and turn to Him. Take it from me, walking in the Light beats running with the devil.   


Sunday, December 8, 2013

Real Rest

I pray that today you know real #rest for your soul. In Jesus' name.


Saturday, December 7, 2013

Volume 10: "Christmases Past"

Lately, my heart has been full of gratitude and as a result memories of "What I Miss Most About Christmases Past" is overflowing from my mind. 

You know what I miss? I miss riding with my cousin Mitch on Christmas Eve in his white Mustang. It was a 1965 model, I do believe. It had a red interior with a manual transmission. Mitch could shift gears faster than a NASCAR driver.

Each Christmas Eve, after Mitch set off fireworks in the front yard, would take me for a joy ride right after dark. We rode to the east end of the island and pulled into a big field called Academy Field. Mitch would switch off the headlights and wildly drive the car around in circles until we were both delightfully dizzy. You would've thought we we had just won The Daytona 500. Going round and round in that Mustang, time would seemingly stand still. I laughed until I cried. It was more fun than I can describe.

Finally after a long while , Mitch would decide we were done, switch the headlights back on, and we would go meet the rest of the family at the west end of the island. There our Christmas Eve would continue as we opened Christmas gifts and ate holiday desserts (like my Granny's beautiful and delicious, red, Christmas Jelly Cake.)

This Christmas Eve, no doubt, I will as always think of Cousin Mitch, his classic white, Ford Mustang sports car, and breathe prayers for him and for all of my precious family.

As I give thanks for "Christmases Past", my thanks only enlarges for "Christmas Present" and "Christmases Future", because I know that the rest of our Holy Days will still be the best of our Holy Days. Christmas only increases the joy in my soul as the years pile up behind me. Yes, the season keeps getting "gooder and gooder".


Friday, December 6, 2013

Christmas Jelly Cake Illustrated

Well, if you've been reading my "What I Miss Most About Christmases Past" writings, you recall me talking about how I miss my Granny's beautiful and delicious Jelly Cake. You also know that my Aunt Edith froze me a couple of slices of my Granny's recipe Jelly Cake that she baked for Thanksgiving. 

Just for fun I took a photo of the two slices before I devoured them. Here it is just in case you are the curious type. 
Was the Jelly Cake delicious? It tasted just like my Granny's did when I was a boy. Yes, the word would definitely be "delicious." 


P.S. Mom is getting the recipe from Aunt Edith for me tomorrow. I am so stoked.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Volume 9: "Christmases Past"

The little church I was raised in was blessed with musical talent that was off-the-charts. Clint Nelson, a former rock-and-roll singer, was without doubt the cream of the crop vocally. With his shiny-black, electric, Les Paul, Gibson guitar strapped around his neck, inspiration always happened for those of us who were blessed to hear him sing and play.

As I recall "What I Miss Most About Christmases Past", the Christmas music sung by The Free Grace Church voices and led by Clint Nelson is surely at the top of the list. Year-after-year, the Holy Day Season came alive throughout the month of December, as our local church family enjoyed both traditional Christmas Carols and newly written, sacred songs by Clint Nelson. I especially enjoyed hearing one of Clint's original Christmas tunes titled, "Born is The King." 

The congregation that still meets on the island property on The Old Ferry Dock Road, still has a Christmas Concert each Advent season. Clint Nelson is still the lead vocalist and the pastor, too. The church-house is always overflowing with local members of the community. Last year they had to turn people away, so this year they have made the concert a two-night invite.

My son, Grayson, and I arrived on the island tonight just in time for the annual holiday music extravaganza. Clint came to the microphone wearing his red vest and welcomed a capacity crowd. As much as I often miss the music of "Christmases Past", tonight my memory gave way to the present. Though Clint is much older now, he never sang or played his guitar more beautifully.

Maybe it's because the older I get the more I need Christmas inspiration. Anyway, I love Christmas even more this year than I did last year. As I hugged Clint Nelson on the way out, my heart was wonderfully warmed once again.

Indeed, I am blessed! And, I am ...


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Volume 8: "Christmases Past"

"Whatever happened to yesterday.
It picked up our children
And stole them away..."

When it comes to remembering "What I Miss Most About Christmases Past", without doubt I miss being a little child and I miss my own children being little.

When you come to think about it, Christmas is all about a little Child -- The Christ Child. Maybe that's why having little children around during Christmastime makes the Holy Days seem a little bit Holier.

Think about it? What would a Nativity scene be without The Christ Child? It would be really sad. So, surely little children add gladness to our Christmases.

As much as I miss being a little child and having my own little children around at Christmastime, I am so totally grateful that the little child within me is still very much alive and wondrously well.

Yes, I still love all the lights and decorations of "Christmas Present". I have anticipated setting up our Nativity scenes -- the ones inside our house and the one lit up brightly on the front lawn. 

Watching Christmas movie classics continues to warm my heart. "A Charlie Brown Christmas" is especially a personal favorite of mine. You got it. "A Charlie Brown Christmas" overflows with ageless child characters and take it from me: being a child never grows old for my eternal soul.


P.S. And, yes, I Still BELIEVE!

Volume 7: "Christmases Past"

Mailing Christmas cards is surely one of the most compassionate ways to express blessed greetings to others. For as long as I can remember and wherever I have lived -- the week after Thanksgiving -- Christmas cards have started to come my way in the mail.

When I think about "What I Miss Most About Christmases Past", I clearly remember my Mom showing respect for each Christmas card that came to our island-home mailbox. Here's how she did it. She could be found scotch-taping all the Christmas cards to the interor living room doorframes of our home. Yes, the cheerful cards that arrived at the Willis address became decorations in our home year-after-year.

It was both sacred and inspirational for me to view each beautiful Christmas greeting card and to carefully read the names of the senders. I suppose it was my way -- as a young boy -- of blessing them back.

After the holiday decorations came down in January, Mom would always pack the current year's Christmas cards in with the candles and ornaments and save them until the new ones arrived the following Advent season.

Guess what? I am my Mother's son. Yes, I still do the same thing. I don't scotch-tape Christmas cards to doorframes, but I do still save the cards for a whole year. And, I don't pack them away. I keep them in a gift bag in my clothes closet and reread them from time-to-time from January through November of the new year. Often I breathe a prayer for those who have signed their names in the cards.

As much as I miss Mom reverently scotch-taping the Christmas cards to the doorframes during "Christmases Past", I honestly cherish getting the "Christmas Present" cards in our mailbox even more. 

As I write these thoughts, three new Christmas cards have already arrived in our mailbox today. 

Indeed, I count each card sacred and the inspiration they deliver is undeniable.


Monday, December 2, 2013

Volume 6: "Christmases Past"

Among the things I miss most about "Christmases Past" is spending Christmastime with my childhood friends in our little, quaint, island neighborhood.

The boys on the west end of my native island homeland were really close. I was especially close to the Paylor brothers -- Craig, who was one year older than me and Jeffrey, who was one year younger.

About mid-November the Christmas mail-order catalogues from Sears and Montgomery Ward would wondrously appear in our mail boxes -- Wish Books. Oh my, the toys on those pages were captivating to my boyhood brain.

I remember one year I asked old Saint Nick for an electric automobile race track. I suppose that's the year my love for NASCAR kicked into high-gear.

I was up that Christmas morning before sunrise. With the rest of my family still snuggled in their beds, I wondered how I would ever assemble the race track all alone. It was then that I heard a gentle tapping sound on the living room picture window. I looked up from the floor and there were the two faces of my dear friends pushed against the glass -- yes, the Paylor brothers, Craig and Jeffrey. Help had arrived! Who put that racetrack together? Well, here's a hint. Craig grew up to be an engineer.

Anyway, the three of us spent most of that special Christmas morning taking turns racing two colorful muscle cars around the black oval electric track. Sometimes the tires spun so fast that the cars would go airborne. Wow! What fun!

More than missing my childhood racetrack, I often miss the Paylor brothers. I especially miss Jeffrey. Craig and Jeff were in a car wreck in the early 1980s. They were both riding in the backseat of a speeding car that went airborne around a curve in our community and landed upside down in a roadside canal. At age nineteen, my dear friend, Craig's little brother, Jeffrey "Kent" Paylor was... gone.

How much did I love Jeffrey "Kent" Paylor? Well, in 1987, our firstborn, a son, arrived. We named him Grayson "Kent" Willis. That's how much I loved him! Jeffrey once told me that he loved his middle name, the same middle name that Superman had -- "Kent". I never forgot it.

A few weeks ago I was visiting on my island home. I stopped by The Virgie Mae Cemetery. Jeffrey "Kent" Paylor is buried right next to my beloved Granny and Grandaddy. Boy, do miss them and him.

I still collect Hot Wheel cars occasionally. I guess the little automobiles remind me of "Christmases Past" and especially my dear friends, the Paylor brothers. To this very day, I still like to collect the all-chrome Mustangs. They remind me of the special edition Hot Wheels that the boys in our neighborhood used to mail-order for one American dollar, as long as we enclosed two Kellogg's Cereal box tops, of course.

As much as I miss my friends from "Christmases Past", I am so humbled and grateful that The Lord has allowed me to stay around to keep our boyhood memories alive for "Christmases Present" and for future generations of Christmas lovers. 


Sunday, December 1, 2013

Volume 5: "Christmases Past"

I know that memory can be burdensome sometimes, but it can be a beautiful thing as well. In this spontaneous writing endeavor, I choose to focus on beautiful memories -- specifically, "What I Miss Most About Christmases Past".

So, what do I miss most about Christmases Past? I truly miss seeing our little children take part in a live Bethlehem nativity presentation in the yearly church Christmas pageant.

My memory has a lovely picture stored away of our little boy decked out like a shepherd, complete with a bathrobe, a cloth head-dress, and a stuffed sheep under his arm. Then, there's our little daughter. She's wearing a tinsel-decorated, white angel's outfit with a halo made of shiny-gold garland scotch-taped around her head.

Seeing our own children in a humble, live nativity made the birth of a Savior more personal for me. 

Yes, "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son", however, knowing "God included my own family" in that amazing love, simply and profoundly takes my breath away. 

In this instance, memory is indeed a very beautiful thing to me. 


Saturday, November 30, 2013

Volume 4: "Christmases Past"

I miss many things about "Christmases Past" and today I'm thinking about those miracle moments when I was a participant in community Christmas parades. Yes, for six Christmases, from ages 12-17, I marched and played drums as a part of East Carteret County school bands. The Christmas parades were always the highlight of being in the band for me personally.

Music has been and continues to be essential in my life and is such a wonderful part of the Christmas Season year-after-year.

Honestly, playing drums gave me a tangible way to connect hands-on with The Holy Days and it also helped to connect my heart to the season through the simplicity of seasonal songs. There's even a favorite seasonal song titled "The Little Drummer Boy". 

As I write this post, I am sitting on a Saturday evening in our local church sanctuary listening to one of the most beautiful tenor voices God ever created practicing Christmas Carols. Yes, Brian Arner is giving me a private concert. I am overwhelmed in my soul in such a wonderful way.

Brian will be singing in both of our worship services in the morning as we celebrate The Christ Child on the first Sunday of the Glorious Advent Season. My heart is presently warmed as my mind reminisces about "Christmases Past".

One thing is for sure. As much as I treasure yesterday's musical memories, no way in the world would I ever trade what I am feeling at this very moment or the expectations today's Christmas music gives me for the future.

In my own opinion, Christmases keep getting better and better. And just maybe singing and hearing Christmas music in December is the closest thing to experiencing Heaven we will know while on Planet Earth. 

Think about it and be inspired deep in your eternal soul. Blessed Christmas to you and to yours. 


Volume 3: "Christmases Past"

In Volume 2, of this "Holy Days" series: "What I Miss Most About Christmases Past", I was "writing" down memory lane wanting one of my Granny's beautiful and delicious, holiday, jelly cakes to reappear in my life. And guess what? After writing about the childhood remembrance, I talked on the phone with my Mom and she revealed that My Aunt Edith does still have the recipe and she actually baked a jelly cake for their Thanksgiving in North Carolina. A few slices have been placed in the freezer until I revisit my homeplace in a week or so. How unbelievable is that! And, yes, the recipe will indeed be coming home to my wife's kitchen so she can prepare jelly cakes for our Christmases future, Lord willing.

Now for Volume 3. Something else I really miss about Christmases Past is getting new pedal cars and bicycles.

I remember my first pedal car. It was a red fire truck, complete with a bell and a mesmerizing battery operated, red-flashing light on the hood. It was one of the most wonderful and fun forms of transportation a boy could ever hope for. 

And when it comes to bicycles, I only remember owning two -- a green Schwinn cruiser and a gold English Racer with ten gears.

There's nothing quite like getting a new bike for Christmas. A bike was a thing of freedom especially when I was young. Riding the roads of the island I called home was in itself pure joy. In many ways my journey around the world started with pedals and spokes.

Yes, funny how my "writing" down memory lane, reminded me of riding down memory lane. The fire truck pedal car helped me go from walking to riding around the home place. The bicycle got me off the Willis property and onto the roads that would lead to the rest of my life.

As much as I love riding down memory lane, I am so glad that because of The Christ Child born in Bethlehem, today I am promised that the rest of my journey will be the best of my journey. 


Thursday, November 28, 2013

Volume 2: "Christmases Past"

In Volume 1, of this spontaneous series: "What I Miss Most About Christmases Past", I talked about how I miss cutting down a live Christmas tree each year at the mountainside Evergreen Tree Farm with our little children. While that was a while back, I continue Volume 2 with a much older memory.

I really miss the "holy days" at my Granny and Grandaddy's house on the west end of the little East Coast island I was raised on. 

I especially miss my Granny and Granddaddy and my Granny's kitchen.

While Granny's major expertise was cooking seafood, she was also quite the holiday cake baker, too. And her specialty cake was called a jelly cake. It was a yellow layer cake with a secret-recipe frosting made of a glistening red jelly plentifully applied between each layer and totally adorning the outside. I have never ever seen a more beautiful dessert and I have never ever tasted a more delicious sweet holiday treat.

In fact, when I was a young boy, my Granny's sister, my Aunt Dicie, taught me the word "delicious" in Granny's kitchen as I was eye-balling one of Granny's impossible-to-ignore-shiny-red, jelly cakes.

I think my Aunt Edith, Granny's only daughter, might still probably have the secret jelly cake recipe? I must find out! My memory demands to know!

Who knows, maybe my wife will even be able to make these irresistibly beautiful and delicious cakes in our Christmases future?

I know I don't need the calories, but honestly I'd just love to sit and stare once again at one of my Granny's red jelly cakes. The inspiring images from Christmases past are forever saved in my mind's eye.

Yes, I miss so much about Christmases Past, however please know that I am (on this very Thanksgiving Day 2013) totally appreciative that the memories are still being made. Indeed, this present holy day season is most sacredly being embraced within my mind and soul.


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Volume 1: "What I Miss Most About Christmases Past"

In no particular chronological order, I spontaneously begin Volume 1 of who-knows-how-many-volumes titled "What I Miss Most About Christmases Past".

So here goes...

I really miss cutting down live Christmas Trees year-after-year at the Evergreen Tree Farm when our son and daughter were little.

Each year we would drive the 20 minute ride towards the mountain, listening to Christmas music all the way there and back. 

We rotated the holy honor amongst the four of us year-after-year, yes the privilege of who would choose each year's special tree. (Okay, with my wife of course having the final approval, as she was and still is the master holiday house decorator.)

Last year, I caved in and I purchased an artificial tree from Hobby Lobby. I personally picked it out and brought it home -- not tied to the top of my Ford -- but in three pieces stuffed into a cardboard box. I must admit, it's a really beautiful fake fir, and once decorated, honest it looks "almost" exactly like a live one. (We even bought a real evergreen wreath last December to hang in our home over the holy days to get that real tree scent.)

With our kids now grown and living in their own homes, I hope and pray their memories of Christmases past are as precious as mine are. They both plan to be home for Thanksgiving and Christmas. 

More than cherishing Christmases past, I am personally grateful for the promise of Christmas present.

For me, the season between Thanksgiving and Christmas is still the most wonderful time of the year.


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

God's Mercies

The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!” 
Lamentations 3:22-24 (NLT)

Lord, Your Mercies are Marvelous!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Inspiring Bible Story

This Bible story still inspires my heart even though I first heard it some 50 years ago and I've been saturating in it the past few days:

Jesus was passing through Jericho. A man named Zacchaeus was there. He was the director of tax collectors, and he was rich. He tried to see who Jesus was. But Zacchaeus was a small man, and he couldn’t see Jesus because of the crowd. So Zacchaeus ran ahead and climbed a fig tree to see Jesus, who was coming that way. When Jesus came to the tree, he looked up and said, “Zacchaeus, come down! I must stay at your house today.” Zacchaeus came down and was glad to welcome Jesus into his home. But the people who saw this began to express disapproval. They said, “He went to be the guest of a sinner.” ⌊Later, at dinner,⌋ Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Lord, I’ll give half of my property to the poor. I’ll pay four times as much as I owe to those I have cheated in any way.” Then Jesus said to Zacchaeus, “You and your family have been saved today. You’ve shown that you, too, are one of Abraham’s descendants. Indeed, the Son of Man has come to seek and to save people who are lost.
Luke 19:1-10 (GWT)


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Real Gratitude Births True Generosity

Today, I preached a message based on these three words:

"Gratitude Births Generosity."

As this is the week of Thanksgiving in my home country, I have also come to know these four words are very true:

"Generosity Knows No Economy."

In other words, whether we are rich or poor, if we have real gratitude, true generosity will spontaneously flow from our lives. The giving of our treasures, talents, time and touch are all ways that generosity expresses itself.

Let us express thankfulness as we live our lives, and welcome the generosity that will surely flow from our living. 

May the motive of our giving not be to receive more blessings but to express gratitude for the blessings that are already ours.

Real gratitude births true generosity. 

Holiness Unto The Lord!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Appreciation for The Crucifixion

"Jesus paid it all. 
All to Him I owe.
Sin had left a crimson stain.
He washed it white as snow."

As the season of Thanksgiving approaches, I want to express my ever-increasing appreciation for the Crucifixion of the One called Wonderful. 

Where would I be had it not been for a place called Golgotha and a God who would rather suffer unprecedented agony rather than to live forever without me. 

"Amazing Love, how can it be?
That Thou my God would die for me."

Holiness Unto The LORD!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Who is Like The Lord Our God?

"Hallelujah! You servants of the Lord, praise him. Praise the name of the Lord. Thank the name of the Lord now and forever. From where the sun rises to where the sun sets, the name of the Lord should be praised. The Lord is high above all the nations. His glory is above the heavens. Who is like the Lord our God? He is seated on his high throne. He bends down to look at heaven and earth. He lifts the poor from the dust. He lifts the needy from a garbage heap. He seats them with influential people, with the influential leaders of his people. He makes a woman who is in a childless home a joyful mother. Hallelujah!"
Psalms 113:1-9 (GWT)

Holiness Unto The LORD!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

God is Great! God is Good!

Today, I have been thinking and talking about The Goodness and The Greatness of Our Almighty God. 

The Prophet Isaiah asked, "Who is like The Lord!" The answer is obvious: "There is no one!"

Let me encourage you by saying, "God is willing to be your Helper." Too often we focus more on helping God, which is really a funny thought in itself. While He wants us to partner with Him in miracles, God is not helpless without us like we are helpless without Him! 

So, let God help you by inviting Him to help Himself to your life. You can trust His Goodness to deliver Greatness for your good and for His glory. 

Indeed, God is Great.
And God is Good!

Holiness Unto The LORD!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Truths I've Heard

In the revival I'm speaking at this week, these are the truths I've heard for my own life so far:

1. Homesickness for Heaven is a legitimate longing to exist in a land where wrongs have been righted for forever.

2. God loves me as if i were the only soul He died to save and He really wants a personal relationship with me. 

3. More than anything in the world, I know I want my God's never-ending presence as my possession.

Holiness Unto The LORD!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

"Take Grace & Take Heart" (A Blessing)

During a prayer walk this morning, I sensed The Lord telling me to send this blessing to some dear souls on my contact list. And now I pray it over the dear souls who read my blog as well:

"Take grace and 
take heart... 
In all of our joys and 
In all of our sorrows, 
There is a love and 
There is a hope 
for each of our todays and 
for all of our tomorrows...
Jesus is your Courage. 

Amazingly Graced in God's Loving Embrace.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Jesus Will See Us Safely Home

Back in the 1980s, this song helped get me through many storm-tossed days of doubt. The lyrics still help me today:

"He didn't bring us this far to leave us.
He didn't teach us to swim to let us drown.
He didn't build His home in us to move away.
He didn't lift us up to let us down.

There are some promises in a letter,
Written a long, long time ago.
They're not getting older, they're getting better.
Because He still wants us to know...

He didn't bring us this far to leave us.
He didn't teach us to swim to let us drown.
He didn't build His home in us to move away.
He didn't lift us up to let us down (to let us down, let us down).
He didn't lift us up to let us down.

I read those promises in His letter,
And now I claim them for my own.
Filling my heart and making life better
And I just wanted you to know.

Never use the word defeat.
Claim His promises, every one of them.
And every spoken word He'll hear,
Because we're everything to Him.

He didn't lift us up to let us down."

The Master of the Sea, Jesus, will see us safely Home.


Sunday, November 17, 2013

Sail Within The Sonrise

Where am I? This photo below is the east'ard end of my native homeland, Harkers Island, N.C.  My youngest brother, Stephen, took this inspiring image on his i-phone at sunrise this Lord's Day morning. How great is our God! 

My dream holds to sail within the Sonrise far beyond the sunset. 


Saturday, November 16, 2013

Project Galilee Summarization & Invitation

Just to summarize our second annual Project Galilee gathering focused on the interior life of Jesus-believers, these are the 8 session themes we have saturated in together. 

1. Foundations
2. Grace
3. Identity
4. Courage
5. Perspective
6. Obedience
7. Unshackled
8. Community

Has it been a God-week? Well, here's the answer. We already have the dates on the calendar to come together again in 2014 with those who want to know Jesus more. 

I invite you to plan now to join us then. When? November 6-8, 2014. Once again, Lord willing we will gather together at beautiful Beaufort "By-The-Sea" along the crystal coastline of North Carolina.

Deo Volente -- Whatever God Wants!

Friday, November 15, 2013

His Sheep... His Flock...

"Even though I walk through the dark valley of death, because you are with me, I fear no harm. Your rod and your staff give me courage." (Psalms 23:4 GWT)

Exhale. The Good Shepherd is among and within His sheep, yes ahead and behind His flock. Fear? Not!


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Jesus Is Going Ahead of You to Galilee

On the first Easter Sunday morning, the angel gave these words about The Resurrected Jesus -- yes these amazing words of Hope-filled Invitation -- to Mary Magdalene, the other Mary, and Salome:

"Now go and tell His disciples, including Peter, that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see Him there, just as He told you before He died.” (Mark 16:7 NLT)

Today, is our much anticipated launch of Project Galilee -- Year 2 here in beautiful Beaufort By-The-Sea, North Carolina. According to pre-registration, it appears our attendance of pastors and leaders from year 1 will at least triple. To God be the glory. 

Check out the details and please join us in prayer at www.ProjectGalilee.com and know that I am..,

... Grateful 

P.S. The audio of the Project Galilee sessions will be posted to our www.frontporchtalks.com podcast in the weeks and/or months ahead.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Blood

"The Blood (of Jesus) is the meeting place between God and man."
-- Billy Graham

Thank You, God the Father, for giving God the Son, to be our High Priest. He took Your Holy Hand and our human hands and brought us together by His Blood for forever. Thank You for God the Holy Spirit Who is here with us to keep the relationship right until we see You, Jesus, face-to-face. Amen and Amen.

Holiness Unto The LORD!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Lord Wants Me To Hear These Words

A dear friend shared this passage of Scripture with me from Psalm 118 last evening. What's "funny" is this morning at men's prayer I also read the entire Psalm aloud with my prayer partners without realizing it was the exact chapter given to me last evening. I think the Lord wants me to hear these words. As I understand it, this Psalm is likely a hymn Jesus and His disciples sang at Passover on the night before He was crucified.

Open for me the gates where the righteous enter, and I will go in and thank the Lord. These gates lead to the presence of the Lord, and the godly enter there. I thank you for answering my prayer and giving me victory! The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing, and it is wonderful to see. This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it. Please, Lord, please save us. Please, Lord, please give us success. Bless the one who comes in the name of the Lord. We bless you from the house of the Lord. The Lord is God, shining upon us. Take the sacrifice and bind it with cords on the altar. You are my God, and I will praise you! You are my God, and I will exalt you! Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever. (Psalms 118:19-29 NLT)

Holiness Unto The LORD!

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Greatest of All Love -- Veteran's Day

Today in the USA, we remember veterans and especially pray prayers of gratitude over them. 

Why? They have offered the ultimate price for our freedom -- their very lives. 

Jesus talks about the greatest of all love in The New Testament. He was foretelling the kind of death He would suffer to free eternal souls from death and Hell. His words recorded in John's Gospel also remind me of our veterans.

Listen now to what Jesus said: 

"There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends." (John 15:13 NLT)


Sunday, November 10, 2013

Which Prepared Place Will We Choose?

Today, I preached on Hell. The Lord had me to write the message in the local hospital chapel. It added weight to an already heavy subject.

Though it was a hard word to speak, I am confident that I obeyed God's desire. Seeing never-dying souls responding at the end humbled my heart.

Where will we spend forever? Will we be found forever in Heaven or lost forever in Hell? I choose to dwell forever in a place being prepared for me by Jesus, Heaven, rather than a place God has prepared for the devil and his demons, Hell.

Hear these words of Jesus: “Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons. (Matthew 25:41 NLT)

I desire an eternal resting place over an eternal restless place.


Saturday, November 9, 2013

My Soul is Sad, My Heart is Heavy

Based on the message topic The Lord is having me to preach this coming Sunday, my soul is sad and my heart is heavy.

That's one reason why I often refer to the preacher's responsibility in three words: "The Glorious Burden".

This Old Testament passage ties to my troubled heart as I consider how a ripe harvest of eternal souls is still in the fields, threatened to be lost if the season of today is not seen and seized:

"Sorrow has overwhelmed me. I am sick at heart! The cry from my dear people comes from a distant land: 'Isn’t the Lord in Zion? Isn’t Zion’s king still there?' They make me furious with their idols, with their foreign gods. The harvest is past, the summer has ended, and we haven’t been saved. I am crushed because my dear people have been crushed. I mourn; terror grips me."
 -- Jeremiah 8:18-21 (GWT)

Pray for the Harvest and for Harvesters before it's TOO LATE!


Friday, November 8, 2013

Lead Us

Dearest Holy God:
Your voice is our reward.
We listen with our ears wide open.
Give us Your direction for our lives.
Lead us in the paths of righteousness for Your Name's sake.
In Jesus' Name. Amen.

“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it’” (Isaiah 30:21).

Be Our Way, Jesus.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Happy 95th Birthday to Rev. Billy Graham -- MyHopeWithBillyGraham.Org

If you are unaware of Dr. Billy Graham's last message to the world -- My Hope -- please go right now to:

Check it out. Order multiple DVDs to show or to distribute to others.

This is an amazing and inspiring Harvest-of-souls opportunity. I sense that in partnering with this project, we are on the small end of something BIG!!!

Happy #95 Birthday to Rev. Billy Graham -- a hero of the faith, indeed.

Holiness Unto The LORD!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

My Prayer For Your Life

This is my prayer for your life:

I pray...

...That you will trust in God's Love,
And rely on His Grace,
That you will learn how to rest
In His Loving embrace.

And be...

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Pay Attention Today to Your Life's Brevity

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them. (James 4:13-17 NIV)


Sunday, November 3, 2013

"A Royal Priesthood" -- The King's Team

In the New Covenant, the curtain in the temple was ripped open from top to bottom when our King Jesus died on the Cross. Now all believers in Him are priests. The Holy of Holies is opened wide to whoever will come.

In 1 Peter 2:1-12, we read about "a Royal priesthood of believers". So, the question is... "Are we on the King's Team?"

1 Peter 2:1-12 (GWT) Live as God’s Chosen People

 1 So get rid of every kind of evil, every kind of deception, hypocrisy, jealousy, and every kind of slander. Desire God’s pure word as newborn babies desire milk. Then you will grow in your salvation. Certainly you have tasted that the Lord is good! You are coming to Christ, the living stone who was rejected by humans but was chosen as precious by God. You come to him as living stones, a spiritual house that is being built into a holy priesthood. So offer spiritual sacrifices that God accepts through Jesus Christ. That is why Scripture says, “I am laying a chosen and precious cornerstone in Zion, and the person who believes in him will never be ashamed.” This honor belongs to those who believe. But to those who don’t believe: “The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone,a stone that people trip over, a large rock that people find offensive.”
The people tripped over the word because they refused to believe it. Therefore, this is how they ended up. 9 However, you are chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, people who belong to God. You were chosen to tell about the excellent qualities of God, who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not God’s people, but now you are. Once you were not shown mercy, but now you have been shown mercy. 11 Dear friends, since you are foreigners and temporary residents in the world, I’m encouraging you to keep away from the desires of your corrupt nature. These desires constantly attack you. 12 Live decent lives among unbelievers. Then, although they ridicule you as if you were doing wrong while they are watching you do good things, they will praise God on the day he comes to help you.

On Team Jesus! And...

Saturday, November 2, 2013

We Do Not Belong to This World

Jesus reminds us that we do not belong to this world.  We have been sent into the world to be living witnesses of God's unconditional love, calling all people to look beyond the passing structures of our temporary existence to the eternal life promised to us.
-- Henri Nouwen

Friday, November 1, 2013

When We Sing

"When we are normal
When we are dying
But when there is more in us than we can contain,
-- Eugene Peterson

May your life overflow with God's presence.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

My Prayer Poem

Holy Spirit, be my Guide.
I come to you 
with my heart open wide.

To pray at all times,
I especially request.
With Your Holy Leading,
I know I am blessed.

Let Jesus know
that I love Him so!
And I join Him in prayer, 
While I'm here below.


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Immediate Versus Ultimate Miracles

When you ask The Lord to partner with you in an immediate miracle, don't become disillusioned if He chooses to skip the immediate miracle you asked for in lieu of a much grander, ultimate miracle that will bring Him more glory and you more amazement.

Read John 11. Martha and Mary requested an immediate healing of their deathly-ill brother, Lazarus, however, Jesus delayed and even denied their pressing request, because He had something much more wonderful in mind -- a resurrection of a graveyard-dead corpse from the dead!

Just Trust and be...
... Grateful

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

With or Without Jesus?

1. With Jesus? Endless Hope.
2. Without Jesus? Hopeless End.

Choose 1 and be...
... Grateful 

Monday, October 28, 2013

A Priceless Friend's Day

I spent most of the afternoon with my childhood friend, Paul. A ride down memory lane, coffee and pie, vulnerable conversation about God and life, and even a fun visit to a coastal antique shop. Priceless.


Sunday, October 27, 2013

"SOLD!" -- The Auction Redemption Story

This weekend I had a little time to unwind and I did so by attending a ten-hour event. You might say, "That doesn't sound much like unwinding time?" Well, the event was an auction.

Most people who know me well, realize that I have a need to go coastal from time-to-time. Yes, being an island boy by birth, salt water lapping on a seashore is the soundtrack of my life. 

This particular auction I attended was to sell the personal duck decoy collection of a man who recently passed away and who lived near my North Carolina childhood home. The event lasted a part of two days, because there were over 700 items to auction off. Most of the items were handmade duck decoys that date back as far as the late 1800's. (And this was only about 1/3 of his items. Another auction is planned for February to sell the rest.) One root-head shorebird from an unknown Harkers Island carver went for $4,500.

I sat alone in the gallery dressed very casual and wearing a ball cap. Of the 150 or so who attended the auction I may have personally known 25, but many of them didn't realize it was even me because I just sort of blended in with the other waterfowl enthusiasts. Besides, no one expected me to be there. So, it was indeed quiet time to unwind, as you can probably now imagine.

I admit that I personally have a modest collection of waterfowl items and some knowledge of the decoy folk art world. But what I learned at the auction was something beyond folk art value. I watched as those who appeared to be investment-minded millionaires biding against sentimental family members for these one-of-a-kind, historically significant items. It was heart-wrenching because the family members were among the 25 or so that I personally knew. 

You see, in his lifetime, it appears that the collector of many treasured decoys left most of his family at the fringes and held onto the collection for himself. After his death, I'm guessing that his left-behind wife really didn't know what to do, so rather than distributing the desirable items to extended family, she simply decided to put mostly all of them up for public auction.

So, I sat there experiencing all kinds of emotions during the event, especially feeling for the family members who would  occasionally bid in hopes that they might hear the gavel fall quickly and be able to afford a piece of the cherished folk art. However, their success rate wasn't very high. With glassy eyes, more often than not, they shook off the auctioneer as the price-range exceeded their ability to realistically purchase.

In the midst of all of my hurt for the family members, I suddenly learned that I was  among them. Say what? Yes, I discovered that there was actually one decoy, in the lot of some 700, that had belonged to my great, great uncle Ammie Willis, whom I never met. Suddenly, I felt the pain of thinking that a stranger would probably walk away with something that had once rightfully belonged to our family.

At about 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, Day #2, the auctioneer introduced "Lot #35. A Wooden Redhead Duck Decoy from the Hunting Rig of Ammie Willis." Goose bumps ran up and down my spine. Emotions I had previously known nothing about arose from somewhere deep within my being.

I was the first bidder and seemingly the final bidder, too. But just when it looked as if I would actually win the close-to-my-heart, Willis-family, folk art piece and at the modest price of $125......? 

"HE" walked in and sat in the row directly in front of me. "HE" immediately raised "HIS" hand and I knew by the casual way "HE" bided, that timing had not been on my side.

My eyes quickly glanced at the other family members across the aisle for moral support. They frowned in pain as one whispered in my direction, "We're so sorry." 

I took a deep breath, looked back at the auctioneer and gave the thumbs up to raise my bid to $175. I was back in the hunt. Finally, a dozen twenty-five-dollar bids later, the gavel came down and the auctioneer shouted: "SOLD to the gentlemen in the red cap!" There was silence in the room followed by mild applause.

So, the gentlemen wearing the red cap was now the owner of the 100-year-old Redhead duck decoy that my Uncle Ammie Willis had hunted over.

For the next ten minutes or so, I sat in the back row of the auction with a sick feeling in my stomach. 

You see, the night before I had been wearing a blue cap, but on this Saturday morning I was indeed...... "the gentleman wearing the RED cap". So, now you know. My great, great Uncle Ammie's decoy came home with his great, great nephew. That's me.

Tomorrow, Monday, I will ride to Davis Shore, N.C. to see Uncle Ammie's grandson, Preston. My mom called to tell him about the prodigal decoy's unexpected return to our family. 

I am going to see cousin Preston because when I was a boy, his mom, my Aunt Edna and Uncle Ammie's daughter, showed me a photo of Uncle Ammie duck hunting with his most famous decoy-toting friend -- THE "Babe Ruth". Yes, indeed, "the home-run-hitting Babe Ruth". Cousin Preston said I could copy the old photo so I can frame it beside my newest, old decoy. 

Indeed, it's mine. I paid the high price to redeem it. Yes, it just seemed right to buy it back into the family.

My stomach feels much better now. I think it would have actually felt much worse if I hadn't paid the high price to gain back the old, seemingly lost, family heirloom.

So, here's what I learned at a high price: "Redemption doesn't come cheap, but the buyer knows deep inside, it's more than worth it."

The End...
Author's Note: This Saturday, I will be renting a table at our Kid's Harbor bazaar. I will once again be "the gentleman wearing the RED ball cap". If you buy something off my table, you will probably help my marriage. ;-) I told my wife I would work hard to recover the expense of my auction adventure. Ask me and I'll show you a photo of my folk art family treasure.


Saturday, October 26, 2013

"Wide Awake" (Confessions of a Shepherd)

It's 2:15 a.m. and I am wide awake. Unusual for me, I must say. Just had trouble settling in for the night so I got out of bed and came to the sitting room.

Honestly, I have had some discomfort in my stomach, but I think I'm really just too relaxed to sleep. I know that probably sounds weird, but this weekend I scheduled myself out of our local pulpit simply to give my brain a weekend off and to be unplugged from ministry to be with my precious wife for a short season. 

Why do I need to unplug? Well, you may not know this, but after I preach on Sunday mornings, my mind "is engaged" nearly nonstop from the present Sunday afternoon to the following Sunday morning to know the mind of Christ. 

You see, because I pray always for the mind of Christ, I love to seek His thoughts always, especially as it pertains to preaching Sunday mornings at our local church. It's a great way to live, however, humanly I am sometimes drained and this particular weekend "off" from all the duties of shepherding and especially preaching (though I live to preach Christ) is somehow a good thing.

I guess I am, sort of, officially on vacation, however, I will still attend Sunday worship on Sunday morning, just not at my home church. 

This may come as a surprise, but it's more difficult on me when I do not preach than when I do preach, because after nearly 20 years, preaching Sunday after Sunday is now "normal" for me. So, it is particularly abnormal for me to sit in our local church on a Sunday and not share the Gospel. I mean I do it sometimes, and it's often a good thing, but it's really somewhat awkward and for whatever reason, more draining than actually preaching. 

So, this Sunday, I get a rare visit to another church without any real responsibility. Yes, I plan to simply attend and to profoundly worship as a Jesus-believer. 

Why am I blogging all of this? Not sure. But I feel better just "talking" about it. I also know many of the people who follow my writings fervently pray for me. 

So, thanks for praying for me and for listening to me. I'm not drowsy at all, but I am as I said earlier, "really relaxed". Maybe I'll fall asleep before daylight. But even if I don't, I feel pretty rested already. 

By the way, in case you're curious, though I am wide awake, I'm not counting sheep. I'm comfortably concentrated on the Good Shepherd. (That's not work for me, It's worship). I never desire to unplug from adoring my Almighty, Personal Lord, my Shepherd.

Baa... Baa... (It's past 3 a.m. now.)