10 Years Ago Today

10 years ago today, Rochelle and I were married in Salado, TX. I would post a picture  for you all to see, but Rochelle and I have decided that we’re both much better looking now than then.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been ten years. They’ve flown by. Of course, we’ve had our ups and downs, but we’ve done more than just make it 10 years; we’ve thoroughly ENJOYED ten years.

Rochelle is the greatest blessing in my life. I’m so grateful for her, and couldn’t breath without her presence in my life.

Thanks, Ro, for 10 incredible years.

What I’m Thinking…Today

Though I’m not a fan of any particular team in the SEC, I think we can now put to rest the conversation about which conference is the best in the nation — though I’m sure USC fans might like to have a crack at LSU.

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I’m wondering why we read. Recently, I wrote a post about books and a “literacy” group linked to it. On their page, they write about the importance of reading, but I found it interesting that they never said “why” reading is important. And this past Sunday I heard a sermon where the preacher spent five minutes talking about the importance of reading.

It seems like people read for lots of reasons. Have you ever thought about why you read? Why is it important to you?

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Speaking of reading, my wife gave me a great book about writing for Christmas entitled, Writing to Change the World. So far, it’s great. If you write for advocacy — blogs, sermons, self-help, therapy, speeches, editorials, books for churches, etc…, — you’ll love this book.

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The New Hampshire primary is today! I’ll be up late tonight, I suspect.

Living in Crisis

I’m spending this week with Dr. Virgil Fry discussing theology and ministry in times of crisis. Virgil is a hospital chaplain, actually the Executive Director of LifeLine Chaplaincy. I don’t know very well, but Virgil has long been a hero of mine, and I’m astounded by people who can walk others through pain, crisis and difficulty.

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I don’t blog about politics very often, with the previous post being an exception, because I aware of the danger of “e-communication.” Yesterday, my mother-in-law received a lie-filled e-mail about a presidential candidate, and Saturday I got a recorded phone call from a candidate raising funds by arguing falsehoods about another candidate. We do live in a technologically advanced world, don’t we.

All that to say this: Be careful what you read, learn, and forward on e-mail and the internet. Make sure it’s true and make sure it reflects the life and teachings of Jesus.

Flowing/Healing/New Year

Our family is flowing into the new year. Our youngest, Katharine, started it all this weekend with vomit and diarrhea. Malia, the big sister, join her right before dinner last night with enough vomit for a 350 lbs. man. And alas, yours truly, joined the fun around 4:00 am.

Rochelle is loving life right now, don’tcha know.

Anyway, the new year reminds us of what sickness demonstrates — we’re all broken, flawed people in need of second chances and redemption.

May God’s healing be richly showered on us all this new year!

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Just finished reading Philip Yancey’s classic, “Where Is God When it Hurts” for the second time. This go around I’m left with more comfort and still more questions.

Christmas Services w/ the Palmer

My family loves to go to Christmas Eve services. One year, I want to see how many services I can make, but for now, since our girls are young, one service will have to do. Christmas Eve services at my congregation are a fairly new event — just two years now. That means most folks have another service that they’re used to going to. Last night, good friend and elder, Edward Fudge celebrated his 25th visit to St. John the Divine here in Houston.

I find Christmas Eve a tremendous time of reflection, worship, and joy. At our service last night, my wife, Rochelle lead the congregation in a prayer of confession and I lead the Eucharist. Here they both are.

Prayer of Confession:

In the book of James, we are instructed to confess our sins to each other and pray for each other so that we might be healed. Contemporary author, Richard Foster, says this about our responsibility surrounding confession and prayer:

“Our task is a small one: to hold on to the agony of others just long enough for them to let go of it for themselves. Then, together, we can give all things over to God.”

During the next few moments, we will engage in a time of silence for personal confession. Please join hands with your neighbors.

As your hands are connected, imagine that for a moment, you are holding your burden and the burden of your neighbor. Following the silence, we will, together, give these things over to God.

SILENCE

“Oh, Gracious, Holy, Loving and Eternal One,

We hold in our hands the selfishness, pride, envy, greed, jealousy, gluttony and unbelief that have been confessed. Together, we release these things to you, seeking your forgiveness.

We ask for the touch of your Spirit, that you would take our self-centeredness; that we would have a higher view of others.

Take our selfishness and greed, that we would look first to the needs of others.
Take our envy and jealousies; that we may find joy in your daily blessing and in the gifts you have chosen for us.
Take our pride, that we may forgive and accept forgiveness.
Take our dishonesty and deception, that we may proclaim the truth of Jesus.

On this night, as we bow before the manger throne, let us leave with humility. Grant us a renewed sense of wonder and hope at the gift of the Christ-child. Grant us belief, O Lord, that through Christ, you will love and heal without prejudice or preference…and may we do likewise.
Amen.”

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Communion Meditation:

There she is strangely placed not two breaths into Matthew’s telling of the birth of Jesus – Tamar – the woman who connived and conned her way into Judah’s bed. She wanted to ensure that her father-in-law kept his promises to her, so she made it happen, one way or another. Next thing you know, there’s Rahab – the prostitute of the Promised Land. No one knows all the factors that lead her into a life of back-alleys and street-corners, but we do know she manages to make at least one good decision, – she hides the Hebrew spies – and for it we meet her right here, a branch on the family tree of Jesus. Matthew doesn’t stop there; he doesn’t even pause, the apostle is anxious to tell us about Ruth and Boaz, and that interesting tale about the happenings on the threshing room floor. Boaz wants Ruth there all night, but she needs to leave before morning!

And if that weren’t enough, we all remember Uriah’s wife, her name is Bathsheba, but she will always be Uriah’s wife, no matter what lengths King David might go to cover his tracks. She too finds herself listed in this dynasty of the Divine. She like Tamar, Rahab, and Ruth before her, along with the men who aided and abetted and sometimes insisted on their indiscretions are related to Jesus. They, believe it or not, are made of the same stock as the savior.

And that’s a good thing! As Matthew writes his Gospel, it is imperative for him to articulate and important for us to integrate that Jesus comes into this world both from sinners and for sinners.

On this day, as we recall the birth of Jesus, we are mindful that the child Mary delivers, is in fact the deliverer. He is not isolated or separated from the sins of people. He knows them, and he comes to forgive them. And in this act of coming, we join Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba entering the family and Kingdom of God. In communion, we acknowledge that we, too, are sinners, the very sinners Jesus has come for, and we embrace the forgiveness that lies waiting in the manger.

This evening, we will partake of the Eucharist by simple intinction. In a moment, if you will make your way up the center aisle to a pair of our servers, you simply take a portion of bread and dip it into the wine.

By doing so, the bread and wine become one, a symbol and sign of the oneness we share with the Holy Babe of Bethlehem.

Here these words from I Corinthians:

“For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”