Like the Shepherds

Our own live nativity. Colin is Joseph, my niece Katie is Mary, Faith is the angel, my nephews John and Jacob are the shepherds, and Grace is baby Jesus.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.


Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”


Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 
 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”


So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.


But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Luke 2:8-20 NIV


When the shepherds encountered Jesus, they returned glorifying and praising God. Be like the shepherds. Don’t leave His presence unchanged.

From my family to yours,

Merry Christmas!

Carol

Spreadsheet Faith

I have a friend who organizes his prayers on a spreadsheet. With spreadsheet prayers, he can easily add new prayers with a few clicks of the keyboard and even send weekly prayer updates to his wife via email. As he explained the process to me, my interest grew. I thrive on organization. I never even considered how I could organize my prayer life.

You see, he has a column for family members, one for business needs, one for friends, and one for financial concerns. “Oh, and there’s a separate column for people I know without a job,” he shared. In today’s economic situation, that column is a large one.

He explained how categorizing his prayer life, helped him stay diligent in honestly taking his needs to the Lord. “But one day, I ran across a problem,” he told me. One of the people in his “Without a Job” column got a job. He was elated as he surveyed the spreadsheet and realized he could move this individual from this list. But then he realized there was nowhere to move him. He hadn’t accounted for answered prayers.

As my friend relayed this story to me, I realized how much I could relate. So often, I take my prayers to the Lord without any expectation – expectation that He will answer them. Sure, I believe he CAN answer them, but do I honestly have the faith that He will? I focus on the problem so much I don’t see the solution.

And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive. Matthew 21:22 KJV

Now I’m not telling you to have a Magic Lamp kind of faith. Rub the bottle, ask the Genie, expect it to happen. “God, I want a big screen TV!” And poof, there it is. That’s not it at all. I’m just saying we should have a spreadsheet faith. The kind of faith that is diligent to ask and leaves room for answers.

I’m happy to report my friend now has a new column on his spreadsheet – “Answered Prayers.” How about you? Have you left a space for God to move?

p.s. I really could use a big screen TV, though. Just sayin’.

Carol

Just the Beginning – continued


And now, for the rest of the story…

(From Friday) – The car slowed in front of me with its blinker on, but quickly sped past after surveying the situation. One look, and I understood why. The armed guards blocking the road were enough to frighten even the innocent. But they didn’t scare me. Nothing could have kept me away that day.


I turned my vehicle towards the guards to explain my arrival. They let me pass only to be stopped by a second group of armed guards in menacing black uniforms. I glanced upward and saw eyes following me from the overhead tower. My eyebrows rose as I took in the amount of guns in that one parking lot. After I was directed to a parking spot, I searched for my drivers’ license and hopped out of the van. I couldn’t hide my smile…


It was graduation day at the prison. Twenty-eight men were about to make history. Twenty-eight convicted felons were on the verge of receiving their associates’ degree in Christian ministry from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. This was the first graduation for the Phillips Extension Center of the seminary.

Kevin, who entered the Georgia prison system at 18, quoted Burl Cain, the warden at Angola State prison. “Educate a prisoner, you get a smart prisoner. Lead a prisoner to God, you get a changed man.” I watched as 28 changed men filed in the prison’s gymnasium with cap and gowns. Those gowns covered their blue and white STATE PRISONER jumpsuits; it was a dichotomy.

As Brian neared the stage to speak, he caught his foot and stumbled up the stairs. There was an audible gasp in the room. He righted himself and grinned. “I bet you won’t forget that entrance,” he gushed. Then he got serious, “I hope you don’t. You see, that fall represents my life. I stumbled, but God reached out His hand and pulled me up again. The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way. Psalm 37:23” That tumble will forever stick in my mind.

You see, I’ve fallen, too. We’ve all tripped. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Romans 2:23 But, like Brian said, God picks us up again. If you don’t believe it, just ask any of the twenty-eight changed men in Philips State Prison. I just bet you’ll get an answer that will change you, too.

December 15, 2009, I watched these men walk across the stage and receive their associates’ degree in Christian ministry. They have completed a chapter in their lives, but friends, it is just the beginning. If you were to walk away from these men now, it would be like walking out of a movie during the last action scene, like tossing a book in the fire before you read the last chapter. You’d be left hanging. Today is just the beginning.

Today is also the beginning for you. Forget about what happened yesterday, last week, last month, or last year. Maybe you’ve stumbled and are lying in the dirt – broken. Just reach out your hand. The Lord has your steps ordered, too. He can and will pick you up, if you allow Him. And if you think you have stumbled so great you cannot recover, call me. I’ll put you in touch with some men who just might change your mind.

Congratulations to the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Phillips Extension Center Graduates. Men, this is just your beginning…

James, Robert, Chris, Stanley, Larry, Johnny, Jack, Jerrell, Joe, Brian, Alton, Jerome, Thomas, Kevin, Jamel, Charles, Jacob, Hugo, Darrin, James, Tim, Derrick, Farah, Marco, Christopher, Nolan, Gerald, and Pat, I’m so proud of you!!!!

You can also read about these men HERE and HERE.

Carol

Just the Beginning

The car slowed in front of me with its blinker on, but quickly sped past after surveying the situation. One look, and I understood why. The armed guards blocking the road were enough to frighten even the innocent. But they didn’t scare me. Nothing could have kept me away that day.

I turned my vehicle towards the guards to explain my arrival. They let me pass only to be stopped by a second group of armed guards in menacing black uniforms. I glanced upward and saw eyes following me from the overhead tower. My eyebrows rose as I took in the amount of guns in that one parking lot. After I was directed to a parking spot, I searched for my drivers’ license and hopped out of the van. I couldn’t hide my smile…

This is just the beginning. No, really. It is just the beginning. Come back to hear the rest. It’s a true story. You won’t want to miss it!

(I know you hate it when I do that! Sorry. Haven’t you ever heard of a cliff hanger?)

Carol