November 28, 2009

The Majesty of My Thanksgiving

Somewhere between the Turkey and Sweet Potatoes, it struck me like a down pillow in a late-night pillow fight, "It just doesn't get any better than this!".

Envision what I was looking at...A stellar Southern California day coming to Michelangelo masterpiece sunset conclusion. A lazy ocean, like a mirror, reflecting God's artistry right on to our patio. A table decorated by Martha Stewart's twin, with autumn floral arrangements crowning the stunning Indonesian batik fabric. Candles flickering and bouncing light off the exquisite "Country Rose" china and creating diamonds of light in the Moonsplash Crystal goblets.

Ladening the table is turkey prepared with the love of my Father-in-law, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, Uncle Kenneth's amazing cranberry relish, three new heaven sent vegetable creations by Deb, Aunt Ella's delight, butternut squash soup, rolls, five tasty desserts, and sparkling apple cider bubbling with joy.

But far and away the most enriching aspect are the people. The lovely folks who scoop the delicacies into their grinning mouths. Bill - wild Bill, his first Thanksgiving in his 80s, a father-in-law who loves me. Aunt Ella, a dear old lady eating her second Thanksgiving since Tony, her husband of 52 years, has gone. Marvelous, that is actually a proper name of one little 3 year old who is experiencing her first American thanksgiving far from her Nigerian homeland. Her dad John with his mile wide smile illuminating his dark face. Sitting beside him is his wife, Joy, in her traditional Nigerian dress and then the childlike sparkle emanating from Miracle and Victory, Marvelous' 6 and 4 year old sisters.

Rudy, the fire chief of great distinction, yet wearing his continual humble quiet smile. My sister-in-law, Donna, the ageless wife of Rudy, with her dazzling green necklace shimmering next to her perfectly matched blouse.

Molly and Stephen, the seminarians, recently returned from the remote villages of Africa, where their youthful strength is being spent to lovingly serve those forgotten by the world but remembered by God. Their friendship with my daughter is a treasure to her and thus to me. Molly's three cousins provide the giggling teen element to the table.

Then there are a Dad's pride and joy... My birth daughter, Lindsey, doing what she does better than anyone I know - lighting up a room with her infectious joy. This Thanksgiving she is beaming brighter than usual with her ruggedly handsome, almost fiancee beside her. TJ is like a son, and probably will be a son-in-law soon. His solid character and deep love for God and Lindsey will be a welcome addition at many Thanksgiving's to come. The lovely olive complexion of Anjelica graces our table for the third time but it is the first time she sets there as "my daughter". How honored I feel as I watch her dark eyes dance with moments of joy as her gorgeously thick black hair falls down her back. I am sad for her first Thanksgiving without biological family but thrilled that God has given us the joy of her presence.

The Master of the Feast, the magical architect who is able to creatively build an ambiance that is beyond comprehension sits there effervescently holding all things together. Stunningly beautiful in her dark black dress, covered with a spectacular apron that declares the reality - "Queen of Everything".  Her thick blonde hair, perfectly styled, bounces on her shoulders as she efficiently orchestrates the evening like a symphony conductor coaxing other worldly music from the various elements. The fact that she is in love with me makes the awe of the moment beyond believable.

I stop and listen to the laughter, the voices of love. I feast my eyes on the scene, drinking it in and wanting to freeze the moment forever on the front page of my mind. And as I listen, I hear the Spirit say, "Son, this is only a sliver of what I have prepared for you. Wait until you sit at the ultimate Thanksgiving feast in the kingdom of heaven. It will thrill and fill your heart in ways you can't even imagine now." I lift my eyes to the bright moon and the first star that is now shimmering in the sky above. I let out a silent but loud, "A Billion Thank Yous to You Great God of LOVE!" 

November 06, 2009

52 Candles

I remember my 10th birthday. I had always been able to blow out all of the candles on my cake in ONE breath. But when I looked at all TEN of those candles I panicked. This was going to be a two breath birthday cake!!

Today is going to be tough. 52 Candles. That will probably be like 5 breaths, especially since my wife often gets the candles that come back to life. I hate those!

Someone has said that "life is not a matter of how many breaths you take but how many moments take your breath away" I have so many of those, like 2 or 3 a day, that I am often left breathless. Blowing out candles is certainly one of those breathless moments!

One of my favorite quotes is, "Live so your life demands an explanation!" I want to live that unique, daring, creative, passionate, impactful adventure that people look at and say, "Either Jesus is real or Larry is crazy!"

Today I will write down 52 things I am thankful for at the end of this blog, in small font. For the one person who will read them MOM!

Today I will run on the beach, lift at the gym, spend time in the Word, write on a sermon, spend time with family, laugh, write in my journal, pray, kiss my wife, dream of this coming year, read a good book, taste some good food, dance vigorously before the Lord, and sing Alleluia.

Today I will freshly commit myself to God's purpose and call on my life. I will delight myself in HIM!

I am thankful for God's love, God's word, the Cross, the example of Jesus, the beauty of creation, the promise of heaven, the help of the Holy Spirit, my church family, the church of Jesus Christ worldwide, my wife, my birth daughter, my new daughter, TJ, mom, my brother, sister, all my in laws, my close friends, my other friends, my staff, my health, my house, my job, my place in Silver Star, my country, my freedom, my wife's healing from cancer, my education, my mentors, our non-profit LIME, our worship leaders, my friends in Ethiopia, Nigeria, Kenya, Philippines, and Indonesia, my strengths, my talents, my spiritual gifts, my personality, my destiny, my neighbors, my cars, my aunts and uncles. my office, my executive assistant, my fellow pastors, my Free Methodist family, my our business partners Dwight & Shelley, the joy of the HS, the peace that passes understanding, my boat, and LIFE!

November 05, 2009

Run, Larry, Run

"Run, Forest, Run." The great line from Forest Gump has become a classic in our house. I read a original and insightful book last week called "Born to Run". A study of the Tarahumara Indians of Copper Canyon in Mexico. They are known as the "Running People". 80 year old men can go out and run 30 miles.

After loving running and running in marathons, I had not run distance in 10 years due to the absence of knee cartilage. It was biking  and elliptical machines in the gym for me. Running even a little distance would create knee and back pain.

However, the book advocated a different form of running. Small strides, landing on the ball of the foot, running barefoot or with only light shoes. Run easily, lightly, smoothly, uprightly, joyfully. The author says, "if you are working hard at running you are running too hard. Running should be natural."

This book was so inspiring to me that I began running barefoot on the beach...(handy have a beach in front of my house.) In just two weeks I am running over 2 miles, with NO back or knee pain so far. What's even more amazing my wife Deb has jumped on board and she ran 2 miles last night barefoot, without pain.

I am so excited and waiting to see if I keep running free or if I run into trouble.

November 03, 2009


B...O...R...I...N...G!! That's just what this three year old tow head said. He was walking through a fun filled pumpkin patch with rides and games and looked up at his dad and said..."boring!"

I was thinking about his remark and about so many people in our great nation. With more entertainment than ever, with 239 channels from Direct TV, ipods, flat screens, mobile apps, cell phone, blue ray hi def, etc. we are more bored than ever. What gives? 

I believe boredom is a result of one or two realities or a combination thereof. Either you love the wrong things or you have not found enough right things to love. 
Consider the first. When you love the wrong things, you spend your energy on that which ultimately leaves you empty. Like eating lettuce, you lose more calories chewing than you gain by swallowing it. Your mind says "I ate", your body says "huh?" When you love emptiness, you end up bored.  

The second consideration is different. You love the right thing but you don't have the variety of right loves. I love reading my Bible, running, lifting, biking, journaling, reading books, writing, playing games with wife and kids, watching old movies, praying, visiting churches, drinking coffee with friends, and the list goes on and on. Now I don't always feel like doing all of those, but I almost always have a choice between at least four things I love doing and I feel like doing at that moment. People who only have a few loves are frequently bored. 

Predictability is another cause of boredom. If you always know what's next it's easy to be bored. But when you are following an unpredictable leader you never know where he's going to take you next. You don't know what's around the corner. Jesus is in many ways an inscrutable leader who always leaves you guessing about the next bend in the road. Jesus said, "No one knows where the wind is blowing to but we see it's effect". We never know where the Spirit will take us each day is an adventure. 

May God deliver us from a "boring" life. We are walking with our Father through the pumpkin patch of life. What a hoot!!