Saturday, December 1, 2001

The Bell Ringer

My wife and daughter and the grandbabies had gone into the mall shopping. I decided that I didn’t need to go so I sat in the car.

My attention was drawn to a man who was ringing the bell for the Salvation Army. He was a very common looking man. He had a beard and a mustache with a plaid shirt and blue jeans on. He looked like he could use the money that was being put in the kettle. Behind him I could see a suitcase and a back pack. I thought he might be a homeless person working for a place to stay and a meal. Maybe some cash. I didn’t know why he was ringing the bell but he was doing a good job.

I couldn’t help but notice that he always had a smile. When a person with children would approach he would put on his big smile and greet the children as if they were someone very important. As the moms and dads would contribute he would let the children ring his bell. Boy, you should have seen their faces! They would smile and look up at the parent as if to say, "Did you see what I just did?"

The bell ringer was bringing joy to the little children.

Here was a man who was in need, and yet he himself was trying to help others. I thought to myself, that’s what Christmas is all about... Not trying to see who can get the most presents. Not seeing how deep we can go in debt. Not buying things for people who don’t need whatever it is that we would buy them. The idea of Christmas is to bring joy, happiness, and peace to others. After all, that’s what Christ did when He was born.

I got to thinking about who the bell ringer was working for, and we all know that it would be the Salvation Army. As I sat there, I wondered how the Salvation Army’s bell ringing was started. So I did some research on the web. Here’s what I found. You might find it very interesting, I know I did.

History of the Kettle

In December of 1891, a Salvation Army Captain in San Francisco had resolved to provide a free Christmas dinner to the area’s poor persons. But how would he pay for the food?
As he went about his daily tasks, the question stayed in his mind. Suddenly, his thoughts went back to his days as a sailor in Liverpool, England. He remembered seeing passersby at Stage Landing place their charitable contributions into a large pot they called "Simpson’s pot".
The next morning, he secured permission from the authorities to place a similar pot at the Oakland ferry landing, at the foot of Market Street. No time was lost in securing the pot and placing it in a conspicuous position, so that all those going to and from the ferryboats could see it. In addition, a brass urn was placed on a stand in the waiting room for the same purpose.
Thus, Captain Joseph McFee launched a tradition that has spread not only throughout the United States, but throughout the world.
By Christmas 1895 kettles were used by 30 Salvation Army Corps in various locations on the West Coast. The Sacramento Bee that year carried a description of the Army’s Christmas activities and mentioned the contributions to street corner kettles.
Shortly afterward, two young Salvation Army officers who had been instrumental in the original use of the kettle, William A. McIntyre and N.J. Lewis, were transferred to the East Coast. They took with them the idea of the Christmas kettle.
In 1897, McIntyre prepared his Christmas plans for Boston around the kettle, but his fellow officers refused to cooperate for fear of "making spectacles of themselves." So McIntyre, his wife and his sister set up three kettles at the Washington Street thoroughfare in the heart of the city. That year the kettle effort in Boston and other locations nationwide resulted in 150,000 Christmas dinners for the needy.
In 1898, The New York World hailed The Salvation Army kettles as "the newest and most novel device for collecting money."
In 1901, kettle contributions in New York City provided funds for the first mammoth sit-down dinner in Madison Square Garden, a custom that continued for many years.
Today, the homeless are still invited to share holiday dinners and festivities at thousands of Salvation Army centers while many poor families are given grocery checks so that they can prepare their own dinners at home.
Now kettles are used in Korea, Japan, and Chile, and in many European countries. Everywhere, public contributions to the kettles enable The Salvation Army to bring the spirit of Christmas to those who would otherwise be forgotten - the aged and lonely, the ill, inmates of jails and other institutions, the poor and unfortunate. In the United States, The Salvation Army annually aids more than 7,000,000 Americans at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Kettles have changed since the first utilitarian cauldron set up in San Francisco. Some of the new kettles have such devices as a self-ringing bell and a booth complete with a public address system that broadcasts traditional Christmas carols. Behind it all, though, is the same Salvation Army message, "Sharing is Caring."

As I watched the bell ringer I thought, "I need to know this man’s name." I went over to him and introduced myself. I ask him who he was and where he was from. I told him he was doing a good job, and after making a contribution I left. I don’t know much about the bell ringer, but I do know that he was giving out lots of smiles that day. I do know the money he helped raise will help lots of people this Christmas. Maybe he will benefit from his own work. I hope so. I will pray for him...

Luke 6:38 "Give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom."

Thursday, November 1, 2001

Flying the Flag

Since that awful day of September 11th, I’ve seen more of the American flag than I had seen in all of my life. Not long ago the only place one could see the flag most of the time was either at the Post Office or other government buildings. Oh...and at a sports event! Now all you have to do is take a drive or a walk and it won’t take you long to count several dozen. Why, just this morning on the way to school I counted at least four dozen. I saw it on cars and homes in every shape and form. I saw people wearing it on their clothes. I saw it in store windows. I saw it on bumper stickers. Everwhere I looked, I saw it waving proudly.

I have heard a country song that has words about our flag. It goes like this:

I’m proud to be an American where at least I know I’m free.
And I won’t forget the men who died, who gave that right to me.
And I’d gladly stand up next to you and defend her still today.
’Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land. God bless the USA.

Yes, our flag is flying proudly today as we face an enemy that would like to take our freedom from us. (Let’s pray for our president and other leaders as we pursue this enemy.)

I suppose the pledge has been repeated more these last weeks than any other time in our history. The words carry valuable meaning to them.

"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of Americia and to the republic for which it stands. One Nation UNDER GOD, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

When I see the flag waving in the breeze, it makes me proud to be an American. When we see it, we know that it stands for liberty and justice for all. When I think of all that has happened, it has made me aware that our nation has had a revival of patriotism. That has produced a unity that we have needed for a long time.

As I was thinking about all of this, a thought came to me. What if every Christian in America were to fly the Christian flag along side the American flag? Think about it! Driving down the road one could see the Christian flag on homes and cars. In store windows. Lapel pens in the form of the Christian flag. The Christian flag flying beside our national flag. I wonder if it would turn people's hearts toward God? I wonder if we would see a spiritual revival in our land? God grant that it might happen. What a great opportunity we have these days as Christians.

God told Jeremiah in chapter 51: 27 "Set up a standard (flag) in the land, blow the trumpet among the nations."

Could this be applied to our day?

Think of the pledge to the Christian flag and what it means.

"I pledge allegiance to the Christian flag and to the Saviour for whose kingdom it stands. One Saviour, crucified, risen, and coming again, with life and liberty for all who believe."

The pledge is a sermon itself. One Saviour’s kingdom. One Saviour who shed His blood. One Saviour who was crucifed. One Saviour risen.One Saviour with life and liberty. One Saviour coming again for all who believe.

Let's wave our flags high.

Let's be proud to be Christian Americans!

Monday, October 1, 2001

Connected

One day, not too long ago, I was going about town... running from school to school doing what ever it is that I do. I was asking the Lord for some new thoughts for the family news when I begin to notice the lines that were above my head. You know the kind that runs from pole to pole.

I wondered how many miles of lines there are in the United States. I knew there was no way I could know that, but I thought there must be many millions of miles. The ones I was looking at were seven high.

I got to wondering what kinds there were. I thought of the electic lines that give us power to run all of our gadgets. Then I thought of the phone lines that we can’t live without. There are the t.v. lines that we must have! They have come out with what they call fiber optic lines. I guess this can carry many more things than the regular lines. I'm not sure but I think this is for computers which involve phone lines. The more I think about this, I guess there are billions of miles of lines
.
I think that all of those lines only do two things for us... they give us power and they let us comunicate with each other.

Think of all the things that electric power does for us.

Think of all the ways we comunicate with each other.

If all the power and phones lines were down for a week this whole country would stop dead in its tracks. We, as a nation, wouldn’t know what to do.

I thought of all the numbers that are involved in these two things.

When they come to read our meter to see how much juice we have used for the month they look at numbers.

Think of how many numbers you use when you use the phone. I am glad they are coming out with voice activion. Yes, one just speaks and the phone will dial the number for you. I know that its down the road but they are already using it some. As bad as I hate numbers it will be a blessing for me.

Well, let me get to the point!

As I was thinking about all of this the thought came to me that power and communication is what the Christian life is all about.

We must be connected to the power to comunicate with God!

Praise the Lord we don’t need a bunch of lines and numbers...

All we need do is talk with God and He is voice activated.

Jeremiah 33:1-3. "Moreover the word of the Lord came unto Jermiah the second time, while he was yet shut up in the court of the prison, Thus saith the Lord the maker thereof, the Lord is his name, Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and Mighty (powerful) things, which thou knowest not."

Wednesday, August 1, 2001

Brighten Your Corner

Boy, was I tired! Shadow and I had just finished our lesson of an hour. He was in the back of the van laying down, and I in the middle passenger set. I had reclined and was watching the beautiful country side as we drove home. Out the west side of the van the sun was setting and it looked like a big ball of fire. I began to praise God for its beauty and then I thought of what the sun does for us. Here are some things I thought of. In the morning it dispells darkness. It brings beauty to the earth. It wakes the birds and they sing. With its heat, it brings vitality to life. It lifts our spirits. I know there are lots more things that it does, but I will let you think about them.

I have a book in my library by Erich Sauer entitled The Dawn of World Redemption, in which I found a very interesting thing about the sun in comparison to our earth. "In the glowing ball of the giant sun alone there is room for over one and a quarter million such earths as we live on." Wow, what a Great God we have! He spoke and the sun was put in place.

As great as that is, let me give you something about the sun that is greater than anything in the world.

Isaiah 60:19-20, "The sun shall be no more thy light by day; neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee: but the Lord shall be unto thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory. Thy sun shall no more go down; neither shall thy moon withdraw itself: for the Lord shall be thine everlasting light, and the days of thy mourning shall be ended."

Psalms 84: 11-12: "For the Lord God, is a sun and shield: the Lord will give grace and glory; no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly."

The translation from The Message says: "All sunshine and sovereign is God, generous in gifts and glory. He doesn’t scrimp with his traveling companions."

Judson W. Van Deventer in 1897 caught the meaning of these scriptures in a song.

"I wandered in the shades of night
Till Jesus came to me,
And with the sun-light of His love
Bid all my darkness flee.

Tho’ clouds may gather in the sky,
And billows round me roll,
How ever dark the world may be,
I’ve sunlight in my soul.

While walking in the light of God,
I sweet communion find;
I press with holy vigor on,
And leave the world behind.

I cross the wide extend fields;
I journey o’er the plain,
And in the sunlight of His love
I reap the golden grain.

Soon I shall see Him as He is,
The light that came to me,
Behold the brightness of His face
Thro’-out eternity

Refrain:
Sunlight, Sunlight in my soul today!
Sunlight, Sunlight All along the way!
Since the Savior found me,
took away my sins,
I have had the sunlight of His love within.

Praise God for the sun!!!

Sunday, July 15, 2001

Christmas in July

I thought I was in the twilight zone. It was 5:15 on a July morning. I was on my way to work. I turned the radio on to the Christian station. What I heard was the song, "Joy to the World, the Lord Has Come." I had all kinds of thought go through my mind. I wondered if the D.J. had made a mistake and put in the wrong tape. About that time another Christmas song came on, "Hark the Herald Angels Sing." Then my mind had it all figured out. The D.J. was on vacation and the person that was taking his place was messing up bad. Then I heard the voice of the D.J. saying, "We hope you are having a wonderful Christmas in July." Boy, was I glad that I wasn't going crazy!

I started to change stations but the Spirit seemed to say, you need to listen more. The more I listened, the more in the mood of Christmas I got. Yes, in the middle of July! (I always have a hard time getting in the mood at Christmas.)

The song "O Come, All Ye Faithful" came on. As I listened, my spirit melted within me, as the words of the chorus came on.

O come, let us adore Him.
O come, let us adore Him.
O come let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

I think I cried the last few miles to town. Needless to say I had a great day.

Christmas in July? Yes! Try it, you might like it!

"And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us." --Luke 2:13-15

In other words, come let us go and adore Him!

Really, I am not crazy! Why not have Christmas all year round? He is worthy, isn't He?

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, July 1, 2001

My Legacy

Karla has been working on our family tree, on my mother's side of the family. After reading quite a bit of the past history I have noticed some things that are very interesting. I learned that my great-great-grandparents, William and Elvira Rester, died on the same day in 1890 of pneumonia. That was one of the many things that history has revealed about our family on that side of the tree. There were some things that we don't want to talk about too much.

Well, as I was reading page after page of this history, the question that came to me was, a hundred or two years from now what will my history reveal? What will they say about me? Will it be good or will there be a shade over my life?

The life that I live now will determine what my life will reveal in the future!

I desire that people would think well of me... that I was a good husband to my wife... that I was a good dad to my children... that my relatives and friends thought well of me. But, above all, I would want them to say that I was a Godly man... that I did my best to serve Him with my whole life... that I loved to talk with and about Him... that I loved to sing His praises... that I loved to preach His truth.

As I write this I am praying that God will help me to draw closer to Him than ever before.

Let me leave this scripture with you:

"My son, do not forget my law,
But let your heart keep my commands;
For length of days and long life
And peace they will add to you.
Let not mercy and truth forsake you;
Bind them around your neck,
Write them on the tablet of your heart,
And so find favor and high esteem
In the sight of God and Man."
--Proverbs 3:1-4, NKJV

What will people years from now think about you?

Tuesday, May 1, 2001

Shadow's Training Collar

I recently got a new dog. Shadow is a big Black Lab. He is very active and very loveable. That is if you like big dogs. Well, Mr. Shadow and I are in obedience classes.

The trainer told me that I have to have a training collar for Shadow. This thing looks mean. It is designed to get his attention. When he does what I tell him to, it does not bother him, but if he doesn't, I give the leash a real pull and it pinches him. Then he does what I tell him. I mean, he is learning to do what I tell him. He doesn't like to be pinched.

About the second lesson I thought about the scripture in Acts 9:1-5. The Lord was trying to get Saul (Paul) to see the error of his sinful ways. Let's look at what the Lord told him.

Saul had been making it hard on disciples of the Lord. He had gotten letters from the high priest that would give him power to bring any Christians to Jerusalem for trial. On the road to Damascus the Lord revealed Himself to Saul and he fell to the ground and heard a voice that said, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?" And he said, "Who art thou, Lord?" and the Lord said, "I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks."

Let me ask you a question. Do you still have on your training collar? Doe the Lord ever have to pull on your chain and cause a prick to get your attention? He pulls on mine all the time.

Monday, January 1, 2001

God Never Changes

It wasn't long ago that people were worried about Y2K. We have made it through and it's the year 2001.

We have seen lots of things happen. If nothing else, we all learned to count! I mean, the news kept wanting more counting in Florida of the chads and dimples. It reminded me of a child learning how to count. 1... 2... 3... 5... 6... 9... No, you must start again because you missed it. What a year!

I have been reading a book about my home town. It has lots of history with pictures I recognize from my childhood.

During our trip to Louisiana at Thanksgiving, I saw quite a few places that remembered as a child. We drove by a place where a house once stood that we lived in and we played with a red wagon there. But now it is an empty lot.

I saw buildings that at one time were a hardware store and a drug store. Now they are something else.

I saw the old depot where I caught a train that took me into adulthood when I boarded it to go off to Bible school. The depot is now a place where people sell their crafts and art works. It also has an eating place in it.

Interstate 55 now goes right through my old playground... trees and swamp.

The old train track that people called a dummy line, (a train track that wound only into the swamp and back to the mill) is long gone.

I couldn't help but notice the tall cypress trees that were very stately when I was a child, are now nothing but very tall walking sticks sticking up in the swamp.

All of these things gave me a feeling of sadness when I thought about how things change. Then I thought about how old I am, and that about 45 or 50 years have gone by and things do change, as I have.

But as I was riding along, the thought came to me, "God never changes."

Hebrews 13:8. "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever."

He loved us yesterday!

He loves us today!

He will love us tomorrow!

Praise God!!!