The Power of the Pen

Several years ago I learned of a men’s ministry started by Greg Vaughn called Letters From Dad. Unfortunately the ministry/organization no longer exists (to my knowledge), but it still made a positive difference in my life several years ago, especially in my relationship with my daughter. Vaughn’s book by the same name is an excellent read. I was so inspired by what I learned about that ministry I purchased the training and encouraged a friend of mine to help bring the program to the church we attended. Since then I have had several of the dads come up to me later telling me they continued writing and how their letters blessed others.

pen

Men sometimes have difficulty either expressing themselves or don’t take the time to say the things they should to the people they love. LFD (Letters From Dad) ministry taught men how to speak from the heart in written form.  LFD taught men to start by writing four types of letters to four audiences; their children, wife and parents. The forth type of letter is the “final” letter. The purpose of this letter is to provide a means of expressing those important things to loved-ones and to create a legacy for future generations before the Lord calls you home.  By no means is this post applicable to men only.  It’s just that expression from the heart often requires men to step outside their norm and do that which comes naturally for women.

The great thing about writing is that it requires you to slow down. This slowing process better enables you to collect and organize your heart-felt thoughts in a meaningful form so they can be communicated in a special way on paper. Depending on the subject matter writing can be a from of meditation for me. An important thing you can experience in the slowing process is an increase in your ability to hear the still small voice of the Holy Spirit, frequently drown out by the distractions and pressures of the day. His voice becomes amazing clearer as temporal trivial distractions fade. The seemingly urgent becomes inconsequential while the important becomes captive in the forefront of your mind.

What happens to you in the writing process may have as much impact on you as what happens as others read your letter. You will be blessed by the experience and will have a new appreciation of what the “power of the pen” can mean (even though most use a computer to write today). Your heart might very well swell with emotions of pride, gratitude, thankfulness and love. One more than one occasion tears of joy have fallen from my cheeks in this wonderful process.

pen2Another benefit of writing is that the end result is tangible, meaning thoughts are captured instead of traveling through air and gone once spoken. A kindly writing letter can become an important keepsake, something “concrete” to return to over and over again. Consider it similar a photo in an album, except it is a personal and an unchanging message from one heart to another.

The Christmas after starting LDF I gave each of my three children and my wife, Debbie, “Memory Boxes.” Each box is a well-made mahogany box with their name engraved on a brass nameplate and picture frame on the lid in which to slide a photo. Inside each box was their first personal letter to written on high quality paper in a matching envelope, sealed by a hot wax stamp as was traditional a couple centuries ago. I wanted every aspect about their letter they received to shout importance.

Since that initial presentation of their letter in their Memory Box, I continue to write letters on special occasions like the birth of my first grandson, marriage of my children, and during those times when life becomes a struggle and a letter of encouragement might be what the doctor ordered. The letters I write are to positively encourage or recognize them in some manner. My wife saves  every letter I’ve given her safely in her Memory Box.

My Challenge to You

If you’ve read my previous post regarding Christmas, you’ll know where I’m headed. Here is my challenge and assignment to you, and I want your feedback.  Instead of giving one of those classless gift debit cards hanging on an end-cap at a grocery store aisle, write a heartfelt letter to special people in your life. But make it special.  Go to an office supply or stationary store and buy a package of fine linen stationery and envelopes; I recommend 24 lb. watermarked paper, the kind you would use for a resume. I like the ivory color as it is a little classier than plain white. Start with your significant other if you have one and if not someone else close to you that you love or respect. Write a simple letter where every  paragraph starts with, “ I am blessed because you ……” Sign it, seal it and that’s it!  You may find it doesn’t take long before you fill the page.

Since this is the age of the computer, I recommend working in a word processor as it allows for easy editing and correction. Print two copies. One copy is for the recipient and the other is for you to keep in a binder so you will have a record and reminder of what you previously wrote. This binder could  serve as an important part of your legacy to future generations. Lastly, choose a nice font representing your personality; Arial and Times new Roman fonts are just too blah.

After you have presented your letter and they have responded I would truly appreciate you responding to this post and sharing your experience.

Greg Vaughn’s book it is available on amazon at the link below. It might be out of print but as of this writing but Amazon still has copies and it is available for the Kindle too.

http://www.amazon.com/Letters-Dad-Greg-Vaughn/dp/1591453429

In a future post I will delve more into how you can create a legacy for future generations by writing your “last letter.” This letter is for your survivors after God called you home and you can no longer communicate with those you love or your future generations.

Be well and be blessed,
David

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Christmas – Disappointment to Joy

One might think it a bit early to think about Christmas, however I was in Home Depot the other day and it was difficult to ignore the Christmas products and trees obviously staged in the front of the store for all to see. This got me thinking about Christmas, its significance and how my parents transformed the meaning this joyous celebration of the Messiah’s birth from the spirit of brotherly SHOVE back into the spirit of brotherly LOVE.

In preparation of the Christmas season I would like to share with you my most memorable Christmas growing up and why it is the most memorable. But before I do, I would like to contrast that experience with some of the financial and cultural realities of today.

Financial Woes

Some retailers started vying for your dollar in late September, just after those of you with children paid for their new clothing and school supplies. Data from the National Retail Federation, the American Christmas Tree Association say the national average for a family of four is $877.22—but depending where you live, the cost of basic holiday purchases can vary by as much as $500. A family of four in the New York City metro area can expect to spend more than $1,200 this year on gifts, decorations and other purchases. The difference is explained by the wide variance in what you pay for goods across the U.S. For more information you can go to https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/shopping/holiday-tips-news/spending-cash-christmas/

Consumer counseling agencies see a 25% increase in the number of people seeking help in January and February, and most of that traffic is propelled to their doors by holiday bills that haunt consumers like the ghost of Christmas past. “A lot of people get by, paying the minimums on their credit cards,” said Durant Abernethy, president of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. “Add on the holiday bills and all of a sudden, those minimums are more than they can afford.”

So before you start swiping the “fantastic plastic” first ask yourself, “Am I still paying off last Christmas?”

Cultural Indifference

Christmas is supposed to be a religious festival where families come together and celebrate the birth of the Messiah, Yeshua the Christ child. It isn’t about plastic Santa and reindeers and lights. Tacky decorations such as these have nothing to do with family respecting or rejoicing for the gift of salvation afforded us through G_d’s gift to us in His son Jesus. In a recent survey, less than three-quarters of children knew Christmas was to celebrate the birth of the Messiah Yeshua, with 11% believing it was the birthday of Father Christmas. This shows us that society sees Christmas as a shopping holiday and society is quite happy to keep this momentum going.

In these secular times, when spiritually and faith play little importance in our lives, we hunger for something else. Festive cheer is the answer, or so we think. We start to think what we should buy for others to cheer them up; we talk to old family members, we even offer perfect strangers good will. Children are now expecting many presents and are getting greedier every year. Because of this, parents and guardians spend a lot of money on presents rather than focusing on those things having true and eternal value.

Many people are like the innkeeper in the Christmas story. Their minds are occupied with the business of the day and stuff that doesn’t matter. As a result, they miss the Christ of G_d. Our society is filled with the unnecessary, the insignificant, and the meaningless. We spend a fortune to amass things so we can let our children fight over them when we die. And our time is eaten away by the demands our things place on us.

People miss Christ at Christmastime because our Messiah (Savior Redeemer) is crowded out by a world that dictates what they should think, do, and buy. Like the innkeeper, people today are preoccupied. The innkeeper didn’t know anything about the baby Mary gave birth to, and neither do many today. Many people don’t know who Christ is and they don’t know why He came. Instead, they’re ignorantly preoccupied with the mundane and the meaningless (no belittlement intended). How sad it is that so many people live their lives in pursuit of such, only to wake up one day in eternity without G_d.

With the advent of gift cards Christmas to some has become little more than an exercise of exchanging pieces of plastic having some monetary value. While this is easy, it is not very memorable. It may be time to reevaluate what you want to do in this upcoming holiday season both financially and spiritually.

My Christmas Disappointment

Growing up, I can remember only a handful of gifts I received at Christmas. A Daisy BB gun, a Swiss Army “Tinker’s” pocket knife (not the one with dozens of tools in it), my first NEW green Schwinn bicycle my freshman year in high school (I dislike green) and a TRS-80 computer. The BB gun eventually broke, the computer quickly became obsolete, the bicycle was stolen and the knife, lost. Despite my very limited recall of Christmases past, there is one Christmas that stands above all others. While it had nothing to do with presents I received it remains the most memorable of all.

One year, when I was about 13, my parents called a family meeting with my sister and me. They informed us, “Christmas was going to be different this year.” They explained that instead of spending the money normally spent on Christmas gifts for our family they would instead “adopt” a family in need and buy things they desperately needed as well as some gifts for them to enjoy. They informed us we would still receive a gift this year but only one.

“What!” I exclaimed. Are you kidding? I don’t even know who these people are and you want to spend MY Christmas money in them. Don’t you know Christmas is for kids like me? After all, I am your son.”

Bear in mind I grew up in a Christian home; we attended church several times a week. I knew what Christmas was all about, or so I thought. I tried to rationalize with my parents, “I know it is Jesus’ birthday, but He is dead and we can’t buy anything for Him. If we could, how would we get it to Him?” My selfish logic failed to achieve the results I desired.

My parents tried to soften the blow by explaining that I could help with the shopping and the wrapping of the gifts. Right. I was supposed to buy stuff for other kids I didn’t know and just give it to them? They were getting more stuff than I was. How could they possibly make my Christmas any worse? Oh yeah, one little gift? Humbug.

My mom being the ultimate organizer obtained the sizes of everyone in the family and created a shopping plan of attack as only she could. Begrudgingly I was forced to accompany my sister and mom on a few of the trips to the mall and clothing stores. Oh joy. Every new pair of shoes, blankets, clothing or toys loaded into carts, bags and eventually the car meant something wasn’t going to be under MY Christmas tree.

Eventually the shopping was complete and the laborious task of wrapping was to begin. Somehow this part of the process failed to thrill me in the least way possible. My parents grossly overestimated the level of enthusiasm and cooperation I would bring to their idea of this Christmas. Christmas Spirit seemed to pass by this 13-year-old boy. However, this part of my journey taught me how to conserve on wrapping paper and how to wrap a package so it was tightly wrapped, looked neat and topped off with the right kind of bow. That task is still relegated to me to this day in my home.

TinkerNormally, we opened our gifts on Christmas Eve and this year was no different with the exception that i t would only take a few minutes before we headed out he door to visit our adopted family and play Santa. The gift, my one and only gift was a Swiss Army pocket knife, the Tinker’s version, equipped with a couple blades, leather punch, screw drivers, bottle/can opener, plastic tooth pick and tweezers. I had to admit I thought it was very very cool.

We carefully loaded the Christmas packages for our adopted family in the station wagon and off we went, to a strange place I had never been to meet people I did not know giving them stuff that should have been mine.

Joy Discovered

Dad drove us to a part of town where most people would not venture, especially on a Christmas Eve. When we arrived, we were warmly greeted and welcomed into their modest home. In one corner sat with a small Charlie Brown style of tree atop a small table adorned with bulbs that were too large for the size of tree. Their little children were excited we arrived and were jumping around the living room as they saw the stream of packages being unloaded from the car and carefully placed about the table and tree. I stood thinking I wish I were that happy. After the introductions were made, we all settled down and my mom (who usually played Santa handing out the packages while my dad took photos and helped open packages) asked, “Who would like a gift from Santa?” Piercing screams of joy once again erupted.

My mom whispered in my ear, “Son, I need your help.”

What was to happen next was a pivotal moment when Christmas changed for me – forever. Call it if you will, a “teachable moment.” My mom asked me to be the one to pass out the gifts after she examined the card on the package to determine who it was for. The first gift she gave me was a large soft package for one of the boys. When I presented the gift to the little boy he quickly ripped off the paper with great anticipation then leaped for joy. I would have never thought a kid would be so excited about getting a mere blanket. He smiled and gave me the most expressive “Thank you.” That’s when it happened – the realization that we could bless this family by giving that which most would consider mundane. This little boy’s excitement was contagious and my attitude started moving closer to where Yeshua desired it to be.

Mom immediately started sifting through the packages to find another gift for the next child, a little girl. I eagerly waited for Mom to place it in my hand. I was starting to feel as though I was doing something important to contribute to the festivities. The next gift was quickly unwrapped but securely taped by the manufactured so the little girl couldn’t get it open. That was OK though. My new trusty Swiss army knife came to the rescue giving me the opportunity to show it off. I felt important because I could help this little girl enjoy the moment.

As the night festivities continued, so grew the mountain of wrapping paper. There was a continuum of noise, smiles, thanksgiving and hugs. This part of my journey is where I experientially learned the difference be selfishness and selflessness, the giving is TRULY better than receiving. While the knife eventually was lost somewhere as happens with boys, this life lesson was not. On this special cold evening in an older part of Phoenix, that spirit of Christmas was giving indelibly and permanently engraved in my heart and mind. Seeing the excitement, smiles and tears of joy made all the difference in my attitude. I was caught up in the spirit of the evening and was sad when we finally had to leave.

So before you plop down those “C-notes” (that’s $100 bills) buying iPhones, iPads, X-boxes or any other stuff for your kids that will be obsolete in a year, consider ways of making an investment in your child’s journey teaching them the meaning of Hanukkah and Christmas and to bless others. Consider what kind of statement you want to make in your family, specifically engaging your children. You’ll likely have to choose between being popular and being a mindful parent. Ask yourself if you as a responsible parent do you feel the need to help this generation move from entitlement to gratitude and thanksgiving. Throwing down the credit card is easy, creating a life lesson not so much as it requires time, maybe some money but most importantly thought.

We celebrate both Christmas and the Hanukkah (also called Festival of Lights) in our home as this respect both of our cultures and faiths. In 2015, Hanukkah is from in the evening of Sunday, 6th December until the evening of Monday, 14th December. This holiday season should be a time when families pause and thank G_d for the many blessing we enjoy in this great country. While there is still time left as of the time of this writing, I encourage you to spend time in G_d’s word and think about what our focus should be and how we can creatively bless our loved-ones and those around us. It doesn’t mean a lot of cash must be involved, but there should be an investment of your heart in some way and maybe your hands too. Maybe it’s time to replace gift/debit cards with hand-written letters of blessing, appreciation and love. These are the things of eternal value and will be remembered long after the Christmas bills were paid.

Be well and be blessed,
David

© David Hall, 2015

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Opportunity Lost

Years ago, the pastor of my church preached a sermon on helping others. He challenged everyone in the congregation to carry a $20 bill in their wallet for the express purpose of helping someone in need without a moment’s notice. Several times since then my wife and I have purchased groceries for those ahead of us in the checkout line when they came up short or not having the money they needed to buy food for themselves and their children. It is not only a good thing to do, but you feel great doing it, and it’s much cheaper therapy than you can get from any psychologist.

Fast forward to today —

On many Friday mornings I have breakfast with some friends of mine. We used to go to the same church many years ago and we’ve been having these breakfasts for over 12 years. We casually refer to it as an “accountability” group but it’s really just a time Life–on–Life  to keep up with what’s going on in each others’ lives, challenges we might have, and things to pray for.

This morning as I was getting out of my truck, a man came up to me and stated he had been waiting there for two days for someone from Tucson to pick him up. He said he was hungry and asked if I would buy him breakfast stating it would only take about $3.00. Happy to do so, we walked toward the restaurant. He politely opened a door for me. We approach the counter and I told him, “Order whatever you want as much as you want.” He ordered, thanked me and left to sit down and eat and I sat with my friends. In retrospect I gave up two opportunities to “help in the harvest” and love someone the same way Christ would.

Firstly, when he thanked me, I had the opportunity to ask him to thank God as it was our Lord that provided the meal no me. Opportunity lost.

Secondly, I should have invited him to sit with Brian, Jim and me. He stated he had been waiting for two days outside and I’m sure it would’ve been enjoyable for him to sit with us (as doing so is often very entertaining). But I did not ask. I was too focused on doing what I wanted to do, catching up with my Christian brothers. While this may not seem to be a big thing to some, Christ commanded us to love one another as he loved us. Jesus would have sat with the man and spent time to talk with him, not ignore him as I did. Opportunity lost – make that wasted.

In our culture today we are busy at work, home and even at church we involve ourselves in activities doing what we think G_d needs us to do, while people all around us are “ripe and ready to be harvested.”  But I made no attempt reap even one of them, instead I merely wasted G_d’s time with my choices. Often we engage in activities are we think are important to Him instead of doing what he has already commanded we do in His word.

Screen Shot 2015-10-16 at 1.30.04 PMLuke 14:12-14 (NASB) reads, “And He also went on to say to the one who had invited Him, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, otherwise they may also invite you in return and that will be your repayment. 13 But when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.

You see buying this man breakfast then going my way may have blessed him in a small insiginificant way and curbed his hunger a short time, but that really required nothing of me personally. No risk or vulnerability was required, nor did I have any thought of this man’s eternity at that moment. G_d provided the money and the opportunity. What our Father in heaven really wanted from me was to step outside of my comfort zone and take time relate to one of His creation brought across my path. This would have required a minimal investment of time and effort on my part. But I was too stingy with my time and too self-absorbed to make even the smallest investment of myself.  Did I behave in such as way that he experienced his Creator’s love?  Assuredly not.

Note to self: When He provides the means, TAKE THE TIME.  Not doing so is shameful.

My friends, I encourage you to learn from my failure and strive to be more Christ-minded, weighing these opportunities in terms of eternity while living and loving in the moment. In doing so we can help in “the harvest” and honor His name. Time is running out, Christ is soon to return and I do not want to hang my head in shame because I gave up opportunities to care for and share His love for others, especially when He has provides everything needed to share His love.

So here is my challenge to you (and me). Keep that $20 bill handy and be watchful for those in need. Don’t respond as I did, but reach out with more than money. Invest yourself in others’ lives by sharing not only with your money but also your heart and time in the name of Christ. Doing so will bring you incredible joy, Christ will be honored, and you will be repaid in the “resurrection of the righteous.”

Prayer: Lord Jesus, help me better respond to those in need and do so in the ways you would, especially when you have provided everything needed in that moment. Amen.

NOTE:  I don’t not give money to begging strangers on the corners of traffic intersections.  As someone with prior law enforcement experience this is not only a safety issue, but giving strangers money may be providing them with the means to buy illegal drugs supporting their addition.  This deprives them of the motivation they may need to get the help for their addition, keeping them trapped in a vicious cycle of dependency.  I will alway provide food when asked.

© David Hall, 2015

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Why “Journey to Blessing”

First, let us understand that both of these words can take two different forms in the English language, the noun form and the verb form. For our general purposes and in most contexts we are taking the verb forms of these words to express concepts in action. A walk or journey with Messiah Jesus is (or should be) a daily action of growth, as we journey (verb) through life with Christ. In that walk we should not only expect to be blessed as His word promises, but we should also be about His business of blessing (action verb) others as Christ also commands.

So imagine a life of journeying to bless others in the name of Messiah Jesus, the Christ! Your life could or would be a journey of growth and maturity in Christ so you can be a witness and blessing to others, thereby expanding and glorifying the Kingdom of G_d. See “The Great Commission” in Matthew 28:19,20.

One of the first steps in “the journey” can be found in Matthew 6:33,34 (AMP) which says, ”33 But seek (aim at and strive after) first of all His kingdom and His righteousness (His way of doing and being right), and then all these things taken together will be given you besides.  34 So do not worry or be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will have worries and anxieties of its own. Sufficient for each day is its own trouble.

What are “these things?” — In the verses prior Jesus talks about anxiety and worry, telling us not to be concerned about our life, whether food or drink will be available to sustain us, or we have clothes on our back. He states what we should already know: that worry will not add an hour to our lives. Further, He takes care of even the smallest of details of life we don’t even consider.  He instructs us for focus our attention on the things that really do matter, and if we do, “all these things” will be taken care of so we can eagerly grow in our faith while focusing on His kingdom.

Stop reading and read no further. Take some time and find a quiet place undisturbed, open your bible and read Matthew 6:25-34. Pray over this scripture and ask the Holy Spirit to give you the courage to take your focus off of the things of this world and to draw your complete attention to G_d and His will for your journey and your life. When you are done praying, read how Matthew Henry so profoundly describes this passage in his commentary below.

“There is scarcely any sin against which our Lord Jesus more warns his disciples, than disquieting, distracting, distrustful cares about the things of this life.

This often ensnares the poor as much as the love of wealth does the rich. But there is a carefulness about temporal things which is a duty, though we must not carry these lawful cares too far. Take no thought for your life. Not about the length of it; but refer it to God to lengthen or shorten it as he pleases; our times are in his hand, and they are in a good hand. Not about the comforts of this life; but leave it to God to make it bitter or sweet as he pleases. Food and raiment God has promised, therefore we may expect them.

Take no thought for the morrow, for the time to come. Be not anxious for the future, how you shall live next year, or when you are old, or what you shall leave behind you. As we must not boast of tomorrow, so we must not care for tomorrow, or the events of it. God has given us life, and has given us the body. And what can he not do for us, who did that? If we take care about our souls and for eternity, which are more than the body and its life, we may leave it to God to provide for us food and raiment, which are less. Improve this as an encouragement to trust in God. We must reconcile ourselves to our worldly estate, as we do to our stature. We cannot alter the disposals of Providence, therefore we must submit and resign ourselves to them.

Thoughtfulness for our souls is the best cure of thoughtfulness for the world. Seek first the kingdom of God, and make worship your business:say not that this is the way to starve; no, it is the way to be well provided for, even in this world. Happy are those who take the Lord for their God, and make full proof of it by trusting themselves wholly to his wise disposal. Let thy Spirit convince us of sin in the want of this disposition, and take away the worldliness of our hearts.”

Are you experiencing challenges in your life that seem overwhelming, the loss of a job, health problems, finances running short? Consider the possibility that G_d is allowing these things to happen in an attempt to draw you in to a place of dependency on Him. If so, spend more time with Him in prayer and in His word and less time worrying. This is harder than it sounds, at least at first. You will find, as you journey and grow in faith following the command (not a request) not to worry becomes easier as we claim His promises and start to depend on Him for sustenance. Start and end each day in prayer and supplication seeking first His will for you, your heart and mind.

Journey on,
David

© David Hall, 2015

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But Lord, I Like It Up Here

In years past, I’ve gone on summer retreats with five guys who have been close to me for over 15 years. The intent of these retreats is to fellowship with and challenge each other (and work in some fun too).  Each guy is expected to prepare a devotional or study to present to the group. There is always significant time invested in discussion and sharing what’s been going on in our lives while establishing and challenging growth goals for the upcoming year. Depending on what’s been going on in my life, these retreats spanned the range from a time of spiritual uplifting to being in the spotlight of the cross-examination of a congressional hearing. One year I could hardly wait to get home, shrinking in retreat to start a new work-week.  Most times however, I wanted to stay in the mountains  worshiping, singing, laughing, praying and praising G_d with my brothers in Christ.  Hopefully, you have experienced those special times of exhilaration of having that joy filled “mountain-top” experience when you feel the presence of that Holy Spirit.

Naturally we want to stay upon those mountain tops. However, I would like to share with you what Oswald Chambers so wisely and eloquently said about these mountain top experiences.

mountain-top“The true test of our spiritual life is in exhibiting the power to descend from the mountain. If we only have the power to go up, something is wrong. It is a wonderful thing to be on the mountain with God, but a person only gets there so that he may later go down and lift up the demon-possessed people in the valley (see Mark 9:14-18). We are not made for the mountains, for sunrises, or for the other beautiful attractions in life— those are simply intended to be moments of inspiration. We are made for the valley and the ordinary things of life, and that is where we have to prove our stamina and strength. Yet our spiritual selfishness always wants repeated moments on the mountain. We feel that we could talk and live like perfect angels, if we could only stay on the mountaintop. Those times of exaltation are exceptional and they have their meaning in our life with God, but we must beware to prevent our spiritual selfishness from wanting to make them the only time.

We are inclined to think that everything that happens is to be turned into useful teaching. In actual fact, it is to be turned into something even better than teaching, namely, character. The mountaintop is not meant to teach us anything, it is meant to make us something. There is a terrible trap in always asking, “What’s the use of this experience?” We can never measure spiritual matters in that way. The moments on the mountaintop are rare moments, and they are meant for something in God’s purpose.”

In my selfishness I find that last sentence is something easy to overlook.

Lastly, you know things can get tough down in the valleys.  So please consider Ephesians 6:10-18 in prayerful meditation ask how you can glorify G_d in your daily walk when you are not on the mount-top.

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. 11 Put on the full armor of G_d, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore, take up the full armor of G_d, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. 14 Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of G_d. 18 With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.

Walk worthy and be blessed,
David

© David Hall, 2015

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Get Up and Reach – Initiating Your Blessings

Beloved friends,

If and when someone asks me what my favorite bible story is I tell them it is the story of the woman who touched the hem of Jesus’ garment. This amazing event in history is significant enough to be recored in all three of the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke). This particular event in Jesus’ ministry has so many things we can learn from just eleven short verses. But before I get into it let’s read through Marks account of the story to get a cursory view what actually happened.

Mark 5:29-34 (NASB)
24 And He went off with him (Jairus); and a large crowd was following Him (Jesus) and pressing in on Him. [emphasis mine]
25 A woman who had had a hemorrhage for twelve years,
26 and had endured much at the hands of many physicians, and had spent all that she had and was not helped at all, but rather had grown worse—
27 after hearing about Jesus, she came up in the crowd behind Him and touched His cloak.
28 For she thought, “If I just touch His garments, I will get well.”
29 Immediately the flow of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction.
30 Immediately Jesus, perceiving in Himself that the power proceeding from Him had gone forth, turned around in the crowd and said, “Who touched My garments?”
31 And His disciples said to Him, “You see the crowd pressing in on You, and You say, ‘Who touched Me? ’”
32 And He looked around to see the woman who had done this.
33 But the woman fearing and trembling, aware of what had happened to her, came and fell down before Him and told Him the whole truth.
34 And He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace and be healed of your affliction.”

Though it is not stated explicitly, it is very likely that her problem was a hemorrhage from her womb. Such a problem, according to Old Testament law, renders a woman unclean, and anyone or anything she touches is likewise religiously contaminated (Lev 15:25–30). There is elaborate discussion of this sort of condition and possible treatment in the Jewish Talmud, the collection of ancient rabbinic teaching. Also, the woman likely knew or at least spoke directly to Mark because he specifically understood and recorded her thought process stated in verse 28, “If I just touch His garments, I will get well.” This was more than a mere telling of a story he heard, but he had an intimate understanding of where this woman’s thought and faith was routed. Mark understood this was important.

So let us join Mark and closely examine this woman and try to better comprehend her plight and her struggles. I have broken the discussion into physical, mental, financial, social, emotional and spiritual considerations.

Physical – Verse 25 states the woman was hemorrhaging for 12 long years. As mentioned above, it is very likely that her problem was a hemorrhage from her womb. In her day vitamin and mineral supplements were not dispensed at a local drugstore on the corner. Surgery procedures available today to correct such a condition were of course not available to her. Her options were few. Most likely and minimally her symptoms would include anemia, tiredness, pale skin, weakness, fatigue, not to mention pain. For a case lasting 12 years her anemia was most likely moderate to severe that could cause shortness of breath, rapid heart rate, lightheadedness and headaches.

Not only had the doctors not helped her, but her condition had worsened because none of the treatments brought her any relief, let alone a cure. In short, this woman was literally in a “world of hurt” and for a very long time. Being ill for such a long time can and will have both physical and mental longterm consequences. Let’s look at the potential mental and psychological consequences of pain that would most likely accompany her condition.

Mental — One could assume her condition was accompanied by some level of chronic discomfort or pain. An article from the Journal of Neruoscience, February 2008, was titled “Chronic Pain Harms the Brain.” The paper’s summary stated, “People with unrelenting pain are often depressed and anxious. Researchers have identified a clue that may explain how suffering long-term pain could trigger other pain-related symptoms. Researchers found that in people with chronic pain, a front region of the cortex associated with emotion fails to deactivate when it should. It’s stuck on full throttle, wearing out neurons and altering their connections. People with unrelenting pain don’t only suffer from the non-stop sensation pain, they also have trouble sleeping, anxious and even have difficulty making simple decisions.” Research has shown that chronic pain carries with a plethora of baggage including brain damage, loss of gray matter, memory loss, depression as stated above, and this is the short list.

Many of us have experienced those times where we simply don’t feel well, are down and just don’t want to get out of bed or deal with others. For this poor soul, simply getting up in the morning to live her daily life would have been an extreme challenge for her let alone trying to navigate though the pushing and shoving crowd that would be part of dealing with being around Jesus on that day.

Financial Destitution— We don’t know much about this woman regarding whether or not she was married or anything about her extended family or their ability to support her. What scripture does tell us is that she was flat broke, as she “had spent all that she had.” Most of us know what financial stress can do to one’s physical and mental health. I don’t have to wonder how she felt after spending all her money and getting no relief – frustration upon frustration and with no relief.

Before we go any further, read in Leviticus 15:19-33 and see what Jewish law says about her condition and how to deal with it.

Leviticus 15:22-31 (NASB)
19 When a woman has a discharge, if her discharge in her body is blood, she shall continue in her menstrual impurity for seven days; and whoever touches her shall be unclean until evening.
20 Everything also on which she lies during her menstrual impurity shall be unclean, and everything on which she sits shall be unclean.
21 Anyone who touches her bed shall wash his clothes and bathe in water and be unclean until evening.
22 Whoever touches any thing on which she sits shall wash his clothes and bathe in water and be unclean until evening.
23 Whether it be on the bed or on the thing on which she is sitting, when he touches it, he shall be unclean until evening.
24 If a man actually lies with her so that her menstrual impurity is on him, he shall be unclean seven days, and every bed on which he lies shall be unclean.
25 Now if a woman has a discharge of her blood many days, not at the period of her menstrual impurity, or if she has a discharge beyond that period, all the days of her impure discharge she shall continue as though in her menstrual impurity; she is unclean.
26 Any bed on which she lies all the days of her discharge shall be to her like her bed at menstruation; and every thing on which she sits shall be unclean, like her uncleanness at that time.
27 Likewise, whoever touches them shall be unclean and shall wash his clothes and bathe in water and be unclean until evening.
28 When she becomes clean from her discharge, she shall count off for herself seven days; and afterward she will be clean.
29 Then on the eighth day she shall take for herself two turtledoves or two young pigeons and bring them in to the priest, to the doorway of the tent of meeting.
30 The priest shall offer the one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering. So the priest shall make atonement on her behalf before the Lord because of her impure discharge.
31 “Thus you shall keep the sons of Israel separated from their uncleanness, so that they will not die in their uncleanness by their defiling My tabernacle that is among them.”

Social Isolation— This poor woman might as well have had leprosy. Because of her “discharge,” by Jewish law she was considered ceremonially “unclean.” To make things worse, anyone in the crowd that day who touched her would also be deemed unclean if they knew they had come in contact with her. Look at the words I highlighted in bold, “anyone,” “anything,” “any” and “whoever.” This pretty much includes everything!

How could she, or anyone else, have a healthy self-image knowing that anyone or anything she touched was doomed to also be unclean? Prepare a meal for a love-one or a friend – absolutely not. Sit with someone on the couch to converse – nope. Ride to the market with a friend – no way. Her lifestyle could be summed up in two words – isolated and alone.

Consider the risk she took even being in public. It took great courage for her to overcome the fear of someone potentially recognizing her and publicly “calling her out.” Add his thought that many in her day would have already scoffed at her considering her cursed by G_d if she had no children because of her condition.

Hopefully you are connecting with the picture this woman lived in total isolation as an outcast. Sadly, her closest and maybe only friend was her pain.

Emotionally Starved — For this woman a simple touch of kind reassurance or a handshake of friendship was entirely out of the question. No one could or would touch her to comfort her, without having to go though the cleansing process and making a sacrifice at the temple for simply touching her. If she were married, this meant they could not enjoy life as a typical husband and wife would. Walking hand in hand was simply out of the question; forget about kissing or anything more. I know my day is not complete without kissing, holding or touching my wife. This woman enjoyed little to no physical contact in any loving context.

Spiritual Depravation—Let’s not forget, this woman was not be allowed to enter the meeting place at the temple. She was denied access to any worship facility of the day. Yet, I’m sure she pleaded and prayed to G_d those twelve long years to heal her, but she was not allowed to do so in public worship with others to support and encourage her. G_d precisely described how He was to be approached and worshipped. No one who was unclean or unholy was to approach Him. With all her other deprivations, this particular hurt was probably her greatest, and why she was able muster the courage to be in the crowd that day. She had nothing else to loose.

Can you imagine or feel how her heart must have hurt?

So she took action and I imagine it took the last bit of strength and courage mixed with a tremendous amount of hope and faith to stretch out her weakened tired arm to touch the hem of The One who brought her into this world (John 1:3). Instead of being paralyzed by anger and bitterness, this amazing woman instead chose action, faith and hope — one single simple hope upon which everything else in her life depended. Despite all that had happened to her, this woman demonstrated great faith. How she got it and held on to it is beyond me, but her faith is what made the difference in receiving the blessing of healing.

At that moment when the tip of her finger touched the hem of His garment, she experience G_d’s power course through her body though His son Jesus the Christ. She felt what it is like to be blessed by the creator of the universe in all ways she hoped. Such energy. Such power. Yet, her first response to her blessing was fear when Jesus asked who touched me.

Remember, at that moment she was still ceremoniously unclean and unacceptable as far as the law and any good Jew who attempted to uphold the law was concerned. All eyes were now on her and with no place to hide. Try for a moment to imagine what was racing through her mind. Fear. Fear like she had not experienced before. Now the Lord of Lords and the King of King was asking, “Who touched me.” Scripture says, “She trembled and fell down before Him.” Fear on top of everything else she endured. What next? I bet she wondered, “How could thing possibly get any worse?”

Then it happened. Fearfully she confessed she touched Him. Then that great moment of relief washed over her like the cool water of a brook on a hot summer day. It was the pinnacle moment of relief and acceptance she hungered for the last twelve years when she heard that special word, “Daughter.” A familial term expressing love, affection, acceptance and a sense of belonging. From the very lips of creator of the universe, the king of all kings, the Lord of lord came a gentle word, “Daughter.”

Can you imagine the surge of relief mixed with awe and amazement she must have felt?

Immediately Jesus publicly and kindly acknowledged the testimony of her faith in front of the masses declaring it was her faith in Him that healed her. “Go in peace.” She was not only healed and free from Levitical law, but she could live with that one critical ingredient missing from her life for the last 12 years – Peace.

How she must have danced through the streets on her way home. She could now be held in loving arm instead of longing for touch. She could develop friendships where there was isolation and worship with the community instead of looking in from the outside. She could partake in the Jewish feasts and join in celebrations instead of hungering for companionship. But most important of all she now has shared G_d’s greatness with you and me.

I encourage you to take a moment and try to imaging the kinds of changes she was freely able to experience and share. Try to mentally walk in her shoes on the way home. Now ask yourself, in what ways has G_d blessed me and how do I or should I react? Are my blessings and my attitude towards those blessings allowing me to reflect G_d’s greatness? In what ways can I be a blessing to others?

Please share your thoughts.

Blessings,
David

© David Hall, 2015

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Coincidence – A Paradigm Change

Many years ago I was visiting a dear Christian brother, Gary, who lives in the beautiful hill country near San Diego. There are three things we typically do when we do when we get together; we laugh (a lot), share what’s been going on in our lives and most importantly we often pray (usually extemporaneously throughout the day).

On this particular visit Gary had to run an errand in town; so we hopped in his truck and took off through the winding roads outside Jamul. “Drive-time” is often a good time for sharing and catching up with each other because there are no distractions and we have privacy. While driving, Gary told me something cool that recently happened to him where several things seemingly fell in place for him. I casually interjected, “That’s quite a coincidence.” Gary immediately stopped what he was saying and asked, “You know what a coincidence is, don’t you?” I responded, “Sure, it is when two or more things coincide with each other or happen at a moment in time.” Boring, but that’s the best answer I had at the moment.

I expected a joke or funny quip to come from him as is often the case. Instead, Gary shared a life and paradigm-changing thought that forever transformed an important aspect of how I view G_d. What he wanted to share was important enough to him to pull the truck off the side of the road and stop, and I am thankful he did.

Gary said, looking directly at me, “If this is the only thing you get out of me today, don’t miss this. A coincidence is a minor miracle of G_d where He chooses to remain anonymous. Don’t take this casually.” Gary continued about how G_d truly delights and gets excited about every possible opportunity to bless those faithful to Him. This was truly a WOW moment for me. Not that G_d delights in blessing his children was a new concept to me, but that there is frequently evidence of G_d actively involved in our daily lives.

Think about it.” James 1:17 (NASB) says, “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. This says two things to me. First that the cool things in life not only come from or through Him, but that randomness of events or happenings are completely ruled out as is clearly stated as “Every good thing …” Secondly, His nature is not fickle and His love, concern for and desire to bless us is constant and never changes.

A while later while running the errands, we needed to find a parking place in a very crowed part of town. “Coincidentally” someone backed out of a parking space directly in front of the place where we needed to stop. Gary quietly uttered, “Thank you Lord” as if he expected the parking spot to open up. This minor miracle of G_d served as immediate reinforcement to me of Gary’s definition. Gary’s attitude toward our Father actively demonstrated confidence and thanksgiving, fully acknowledging the continual presence of G_d and His concern for the smallest details in our lives that we (I) often miss or dismiss as what is conventionally though of as random events occurring simultaneously.

Jesus speaking of himself says in John 10:10, The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. (NASB)

Matthew 10:29-30 (AMP) “Are not two little sparrows sold for a penny? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s leave (consent) and notice. But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.”

Beloved friends, never forget G_d is decidedly predisposed to bless His children in both great and small ways. He is continually working in the detail of our lives as much as we allow Him to. Don’t miss and don’t dismiss the so-called small stuff. Even those little things that make life a little bit better are orchestrated by the Master and Creator of the Universe.

Prayer: Father G_d, help us to be continuously mindful of your greatness and unending love for us. Create within us an attitude reflecting outwardly to others our attitude of thanksgiving for you. Let our thoughts and behavior be a reflection of your love. Thank you for this day. Amen.

© David Hall, 2015

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