Embracing the Season of Life during the Holiday Season

I’ve been blessed to make my mobile office in far flung places and click away at the latest letter, blog, article or lesson. The surroundings were equally diverse. I once outlined the plan for two hundred lessons of Acts: God’s Training Manual for Today’s Church, which birthed Portable Bible Schools International, on the front side of a restaurant napkin, during our twelfth wedding anniversary getaway at a little rustic hotel on a beach in central Ghana.

These days you find me writing—usually rushed—at World Evangelism Center. My backdrop is an office filled with my growing collection of globes. I sit behind a desk covered with ever-present projects, smacked in front of a huge lighted sign. Encircled outside the globe are the words “The Whole Gospel to the Whole World.” This treasure hung on the outside of one of our earliest headquarters’ facilities sixty or more years ago. It reveals our existence and refocuses our attention. As an organization. As a church. As an individual.


This morning’s setting is a little different. I’m at home. Not a creature is stirring. Except me. My laptop is where it was meant to be—on my lap, and I’m busily clicking out a few faithful words to you. Norman Rockwell would have loved capturing this scene. The lighted tree, in its array of Christmas colors, goes merrily round and round, nestled in the corner of our living room. Fluffy red and white stockings hang from the fireplace. Gifts are neatly wrapped and displayed under the tree and flanked in front of the hearth. No fire this year. Sorry, Norman! In my younger years I would have assessed, shaken, and successfully guessed the contents of each neatly wrapped box or gift bag. These days, in my executive finesse and maturity, I save my energy for lifting boxes on Christmas morning.

Whether from my corner office, flanked with globes, or my Lazy Boy at home, my thoughts often take me to our short-term and long-term missionaries in distant nations, our national ministers, and all those that support and love the cause of global missions. They make it possible—you make it possible—for us to proudly proclaim that the banner of apostolic truth waves high in 208 nations and the sun never sets on the United Pentecostal Church International.

Overall, our Christmases have been spent in West Africa where I didn’t even bother dreaming of a “White Christmas.” Most have been merry. But, there have been a few that have been lacking. My worst memory of Christmas, just because I want to get it off my chest, is one of my first as a married guy, when I was clowning around, and accidentally backed into—and broke—my in-law’s Christmas tree. My mother-in-law was never one to get angry. Congratulations, James! You brought her pretty close. I still remember the look of her disappointment and displeasure. It still leaves me shuddering in despair and stuttering at the computer keyboard. My father-in-law was able to get the tree base fixed. But, alas the tree was wounded and never the same again. And, we were reminded of my folly, on a yearly basis. The tree was shipped off to Africa to be featured in our home there. Crooked. Crippled. Even broken things are the makings of great Christmas memories.

Then, there was our first Christmas in Ghana in 1995. Twas the morning of Christmas, and all through the house…no cooking gas could be found. Cooking gas selectively goes out at the absolute worst of times. I scoured the city for hours just so we could have breakfast Christmas muffins at lunch or supper. Yep, that takes the cake, or I should say blueberry muffin, for ranking first place as my most carnal Christmas.

My most unforgettable Christmas was the first one Linda and I shared as a brand-spanking-newly-married couple thirty years ago. We were on AIM in Nigeria. We had been hitched for three weeks when we returned to the field during the holiday season. Our first month’s income was $12.79, or was it $12.59? I often get it mixed up. Doesn’t matter. What difference does twenty cents make, one way or the other? We had brought with us this little paper pop-up Christmas tree to decorate. No need for lights.  They only would serve as a constant distraction for cockroaches-with-nine-lives that scurried across the concrete floor. Amazingly, we felt so alone in the midst of 100,000,000 people. My Christmas gifts that year from my new bride (I have no idea how she found the money); a pair of sandals and a Nigerian peach-colored “up-and-down.” That’s the equivalent to a very bright pair of pajamas designed to be worn in public. It made perfect sense, as I sit here thinking about it. Peach was Linda’s favorite color so it should be mine as well. Right? Wrong! I have no idea what I bought her that year. Hopefully it was something better than that first doll I brought her from Holland. You know the classy one, with the wooden shoes. I thought all girls, at any age, loved dolls. Right? Wrong! It’s marvelous, though, how the most un-treasured gifts ultimately become the most treasured ones. The worst of memories eventually become the best of memories. Now, I struggle, on a yearly basis, to recall the many gifts I receive. Some of the unforgettable memories have not surfaced from when I’ve had much but from when I’ve had little.

So, this year, whether your Christmas is white or green, cold or hot, at home or far from home, longstanding family or new-found friends, lonely or crowded, plenty or lean, evergreen or palm, my sage advice is embrace this season of life as you face the holiday season. The memories in the making are your own!

I Bought LIFE

Yep, I did it. I bought it–the game called LIFE. You, who know me, know I’m not a game player, especially a full-size game bored type that takes an hour to play. And, Mr. Editor, I did spell “board” as “bored” on purpose. Live with it, okay! That’s LIFE!


Why did I do it? Why did I fall or fail into this depth of despair? Crazy, I know, but I woke from a dream very early one morning thinking about it. Wildly, I sometimes plan my sermons and lessons in my sleep, looking for ways to keep people from falling to sleep when I teach and preach.  Sometimes, it even works!

Unfortunately, LIFE isn’t merely a dream. You eventually wake up. It’s not a game. You don’t get to play it again and again. It’s not a drama. There ain’t any dress rehearsal. It’s the real deal! You get it live it once. But, like the board game, at the end all the pieces go back in a box.

I love the description: “a classic family game that can be a reality check–or just a fun time.” Living life is certainly a wakeup call—at times from what occasionally seems more like a nightmare than a dream.

“Different spaces offer life challenges like babies, houses, night school.” Yep, life challenges compete and contest God’s very purpose and plan causing you to comply and change. You are propelled to take a drive along twisting roads because life is full of twists and turns. You only get to see as far as the next bend in the road.

Note some of the comments left on Amazon:

“It takes forever to put together and it’s kind of boring.” The real deal feels like that at times. Seems to take forever to get it together, But, beware, once together, life is over before you know it. Whew, here today, speedily gone tomorrow. And boring? Sometimes, but that’s up to you. It can be adventure after adventure, pursuing God’s will, fulfilling His plan, and living out His passion.

Another commentator said, “It does not have enough money and does not fit in the box well.” I’ve experienced that too. Haven’t you? Seldom enough money. Well, usually enough. God provides. But, often there’s not a lot of excess to spare, but just enough to depend on Him.  And it’s irritating fitting life into the neat little box. That’s for sure!

I grinned at this complaint, “missing some pieces.” The real thing feels like that too. But, in actuality, you’ve been given all the pieces necessary to travel through life. It’s all there. And, with Him, you are totally complete! 

We’ll come back to this thought again and likely again. I’m not finished with LIFE; gladly still on the journey! See you on the road of LIFE!

photo credit: Telstar Logistics via photopin cc

Lessons from the Road they Travelled


There are great lessons we can learn from elderly men and women. Someone has rightly said, a church without elderly people has no history. A church without young people has no future. I’m glad we have an abundance of both in this church. Let’s look at the elderly:

  • They’ve made the journey of faith; the walk of the godly before.
  • They’ve been through all that life threw at them, and made it.
  • If they can survive the long-haul, I can survive the long-haul, and you can survive the long-haul. You can make it. You will make it.
  • God, through their stories, has proved that He remains the same through the ages. He met them at their need; and He will do the same for us. See Hebrews 13:8; Malachi 3:6.

The impact of one’s journey through life is many times determined by what is said or remembered after they ran the race, completed the course, and kept the faith.

Pause for a moment and ponder how you would like to be remembered after the end of your life. It has been said, “When you were born, everyone around you was smiling and you were crying. Live life so that when you die, you are smiling, and everyone around you is crying.”

Are You Having a Chippie Day?

I love this story. There are several versions on the Internet. Here’s one: Maybe you feel like “Chippie the Parakeet” in Max Lucado’s Eye of the Storm.

Chippie the parakeet never saw it coming. One second he was peacefully perched on his cage. The next he was sucked in, washed up, and blown over.

Problems began when Chippie’s owner decided to clean Chippie’s cage with a vacuum cleaner. She removed the attachment from the end of the hose and stuck it in the cage. The phone rang, and she turned to pick it up. She’d barely said “hello” when sssopp! Chippie got sucked in.

The bird-owner gasped, put down the phone, turned off the vacuum, and opened the bag. There was Chippie—still alive, but stunned. Since the bird was covered with dust and soot, she grabbed him and raced to the bathroom, turned on the faucet, and held Chippie under running water.

Then, realizing that Chippie was soaked and shivering, she did what any considerate bird-owner would do. She reached for the hair dryer and blasted the bird with hot air. Poor Chippie never knew what hit him.

A few days after the ordeal, the reporter who’d originally written about the event contacted Chippie’s owner to see how the bird was recovering.

“Well,” she replied, “Chippie doesn’t sing much anymore—he just sits and stares.”

It’s not hard to see why. Sucked in, washed up, and blown over. That’s enough to steal the song from any heart. Maybe that’s the way you feel.

photo credit: hyper7pro via photopin cc