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Friday, December 21, 2012

Cancel Christmas?

Christmas, the time for comfort and joy, has become clouded in grief as our nation considers the tragedy surrounding the school shooting in Conneticut.  As mourning families bury their young children, many ask where was God?  If He is a loving God, then why didn't He intervene?  As one grieving resident in the small town said, "Christmas has been cancelled."

Every talking head seems to have an answer for the problems that plague our nation:

What about increasing funding for mental institutions?  More surviellance, programs,and medications could potentially keep lunatics from shooting children in schools. 

Others advocate gun control. Will a law prevent guns from getting into the hands of the evil, deranged people?   Or is better to put the guns in the hands of every teacher?

What about prayer in schools?  Is Huckabee right?  How dare we, ask where is God in the school tragedy when America has shut God out of everything in the classroom.  Although Huckabee's response should cause introspection, it is still incomplete.  Legislation cannot keep God out of schools--He's already there.

Here's another issue to ponder?  What about the silent death of over 3500 innocent unborn children in our country every day that many call an American holocaust?  We seldom hear anyone in the media mention the abortion crisis in our nation.

Christmas day twenty years ago, our surgical team labored to save the lives of five innocent children killed in a drive by shooting. Several weeks ago I had to tell a mother suffering with metastatic gastric cancer, that she would be leaving her husband and three teenage boys this Christmas. It's hard to understand why such tragedies occur. I have concluded that we will never understand on this side of heaven exactly why evil and suffering are allowed to exist.

Centuries ago, Herod the great tried to cancel the first Christmas.  He decieved, lied and ultimately murdered many innocent children trying to suppress God's will.  Motivated by pride and power, Herod ordered a massacre of all the boy toddlers in Bethlehem, attempting to stop the coming of the Christ.  Yet even Herod's schemes could not cancel Christmas.

God knew in eternity past the events surrounding the first Christmas,  prophecying six hundred years earlier that the massacre would occur.  He could have given us a political answer.  He could have stopped Herod's mass murdering of innocent children just as easily as He could have prevented the school tragedy in Conneticut.  Yet, He didn't!   Why?

God had a solution far more comprehensive than any remedy mankind could imagine.  God's solution did not involve politics, policies or programs. His answer was a Person, wrapped in swaddling clothes, sleeping in a manger.

Despite opposition, God brought the remedy to our world--personally.  The plan, materialized at the birth of Jesus, would ultimately deal with all evil and sin in the the human heart.  True reform must begin with a change of heart.  Through the suffering and death of his innocent Son, God provided a remedy for evil, giving purpose to suffering, meaning for life, and hope for the future. 

Like watching the scenes unfold in a movie, we must remember that we are somewhere in the middle of this eternal drama. When the curtain of history closes, the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdoms of God, all evil will we squelched and peace on earth will be established.  Everyone will confess that history was "His story."  For believers--when the roll is called up yonder--We win!

Although it's been tried many times, many ways over the past two millenia, Christmas cannot be canceled.  Nothing can suppress God's plan to defeat evil, bring hope, offer forgiveness, provide purpose and establish real peace in our world.  There is nothing that can cancel Christmas.

O come Emmanuel.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Free Book

If you are interested Deborah Bateman is giving away a free bible study of Ezra on Amazon that can be downloaded on you Kindle.

The Book of Ezra: A Story of Provision and Protection

 Kevin Smith a Kansas lawyer also has a fiction legal thriller that can be downloaded onto Kindle as well-- free on 12/6 and 12/7
.Broken: A Story of Hope and Forgiveness


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Life is about Living

Want to really know what will help you sleep better tonight?  One of the best strategies for getting a good night's sleep begins the moment you wake up in the morning.  When the things of eternal value are pursued during wakefulness, sleep is easy. The conscience is clear--no regrets. No worries.
In the dogged pursuit of things that matter sometimes we fail to recognize the obvious.  Those moments of time to be embraced before they quickly vanish into the past.  Sometimes we stumble upon the signficant serendipitously, like finding the pearl of great price.  It was there all the time.  But the treasure was found only after recognizing it's presence.  Capturing the moment.  Life is about living for eternity--one precious moment at a time.  Sometimes those "things" crawl into your lap.
This morning I was hit over the head with this principle. Instead of lightning rounds in the hospital before the crack of dawn, I had the priveledge of staying home to help the kids prepare for school.  Hoping to catch a quick devotion while my five children were jockeying for a place in the bathroom, I sat down for a quick study of the Psalms.

Out of nowhere, Charlie my four year old crawled into my lap with his morning devotional--a lego dinosaur comic book.  God spoke volumes to both Dad and Charlie through that "lego" devotional. 

Life is about living, nuturing relationships with eternity in mind, knowing that we have captured those moments prepared for us to invest in the lives of others.

Speaking of psalms, this one reminds us of the futility of our own self sufficiency and the need to focus on a lasting legacy--those little ones entrusted to us.  If  you want to sleep better, think about putting a priority on those relationships God has given you.

1 Unless the Lord builds the house,
the builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the guards stand watch in vain.
2 In vain you rise early
and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat—
for he grants sleep to[a] those he loves.
3 Children are a heritage from the Lord,
offspring a reward from him.
4 Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
are children born in one’s youth.
5 Blessed is the man
whose quiver is full of them.
They will not be put to shame
when they contend with their opponents in court.
Sleep on it!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Your sleep posture: Does it Matter?

  Probably the last thing that crosses your mind as you lie down to sleep is the significance of your sleep position. Recently there has been a lot of buzz about how your sleep posture may be affecting the quality of your sleep. Instead of blaming your bed it may be your posture that is the culprit for your sleeplessness. Although sleeping flat on your back may be good for your neck, back and joints this position can worsen snoring and sleep apnea by causing your tongue to close off the airway. Sleeping on your stomach worsens gastroesophageal reflux, diminishes the depth of your breathing and hyperextends your neck. Probably the best position is dozing on your side. The side position complements the natural curvature of your spine and allows your airway to stay open as you rest. But sleeping beauties—beware. Sleeping on your side may worsen your wrinkles as you press your face upon your pillow. You should choose a sleep posture tailored to your individual needs—one size does not fit all.

Dr. Idzidkowski, a sleep specialist, maintains that your sleeping position is also linked to a specific personality type. Wherever you go—there you are—even as you sleep. For example, the “freefall” types, those that lie on their tummies with their arms out, like they’re jumping out of an airplane, are often the gregarious, brash and sensitive types. On the other extreme those who rest on their backs with the arms out—the “starfish” stance—tend to be more friendly, helpful and receptive to others. Apparently the most common is the fetal position—almost 41% sleep in a ball. These personalities are often tough on the outside but tender on the inside.

I don’t think sleep specialists are ready to describe my sleeping habits. If “Extreme Sleep” was a TV reality show, I would win hands down at putting sleep to the test. In medical school I was so exhausted that I once slept standing up during surgery while holding retractors. I’m not proud to admit that! I’ve fallen asleep at the steering wheel of my car after staying up for three days during surgical residency. I’ve been so sleep deprived that I’ve fallen asleep eating soup. I’ve even slept on the floor of an African bus with pigs and chickens—probably infested with some rare deadly type of ebola virus.

Has it ever occurred to you that God is also interested in your sleep posture? The most important position that you can embrace is not a physical one—it’s a position of surrendering control of our lives over to the Shepherd of sleep.
You can rest assured:
  1. Knowing that God has removed your sins “as far as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12).
  2. Trusting that God is watching over you and working for you as you rest (Psalm 34:15; Psalm 121:4).
  3. Understanding that your future is secure in His providential care (Jeremiah 29:12). You have nothing to fear or worry about—whatever you face tomorrow God has planned it for His glory and for your good.

Tonight as you prepare for rest make sure you get into the proper “spiritual” position. Resting in a clean conscious before God and man is the softest pillow that you can experience. Fall to sleep in His arms.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Got Earplugs?

Call me obsessive, but I took extra precautions to get some shut-eye on my first trip to New York City. I brought my earplugs! Police sirens, airplanes, taxicab horns, shrill screams from the alley are peculiar and unfamiliar sounds for one accustomed to slumbering “deep in the heart of Texas.” Although I was prepared for the city that never sleeps, later I was totally blindsided by the bizarre experiences of sleeping in Africa. Note to self: when trekking in Africa remember to bring your earplugs.
I turned a deaf ear to my pastor’s warnings about bringing earplugs. What could possibly keep one awake in the middle of a barren desert? There were no signs of modern civilization—only grass huts, Fulani nomads and lots of dirt. No screens, no electricity, no roads, no cars, no lights—none of the typical things that disturb our sleep in “civilized” countries. After an exhausting day of ministry in the desert country of Niger, nothing could deter my eyes from closing—or so I thought.

First, the dogged winds of the Hamarttan filled my ears with a low monotonous groan as the sun set over the Sahara. What followed was the bleating of goats, the cackling of hens and the most peculiar sound I’ve ever heard—roars from camels. But the greatest deterrence to rest was the nearby voices of the Fulani as they watched us toss and turn on our beds. It’s an eerie feeling to know that curious eyes are watching you try to sleep.

There are many voices that whisper to us in the still of the night. Voices of guilt, fear, anger, regret and loneliness can plague us on our pillows. Spiritually speaking, God has provided us with the most effective pair of earplugs imaginable. As believers, we can learn to tune out those voices that threaten to steal, kill and destroy our lives (and our sleep) through the power of God’s Word.

For example, how can the scriptures drown out the voice of regret? Many times the “What ifs” and the “Woulda, Shoulda, Coulda’s” can cripple our ability to rest. Yes, we really do make the bed we sleep on, but we must remember that God’s forgiveness is always available. Start by memorizing 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Then begin to meditate upon different aspects of this truth (Psalm 119:148). Begin by considering the significance of the words “if” or “all”—what if they were omitted? Maybe you need to meditate on His faithfulness to you through the activities of the day. Or ponder how a Holy God could be just in forgiving you of every mistake that you have made. A clean conscious before God is the most comfortable pillow that one can have to prepare for rest.

Whether you are in New York, Niger or Nacogdoches, TX remember God’s earplugs. When those destructive voices whisper in the night, memorize, meditate and appropriate God’s promises. Like earplugs—God’s promises are ineffective till you use them.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Sleeping with your baby?

What do you do when you feel that gentle nudge from your child in the middle of the night asking to cuddle up with you in your bed? This probably goes against the opinions of most sleep gurus but my wife and I allow them to climb in and rest with us. We want our children to feel free to come to us day or night—waking or sleeping—for comfort, reassurance and guidance. Nurturing a relationship of trust and openness with our children is worth the loss of a little shut-eye.

Whoever said, “those who sleep like a baby usually do not have one,” spoke from experience. It’s sometimes scary to see how our dozing toddler practices his midnight tackling drills right in the middle of my back. Tebow beware—linebacker Charlie Page is coming through the ranks. Charlie always seems to glue himself to us instead of spreading out in our king-sized bed. When I move to get a little freedom, Charlie follows—almost like a magnet. My own sleep-shadow! It seems as though children have an innate need to have someone close in the wee hours of the morning.

Has it ever occurred to you that the worries, regrets and fears that you may experience as you fall asleep may be a reminder to curl up to your Heavenly Father? As God’s children, we can take refuge in a heavenly Father that invites us to be close to Him as we lie down to rest. Your “Daddy” is not inconvenienced or bothered by your midnight crisis of faith. The Lord who watches over you never slumbers—He awaits you with open arms. Remember that you are as close to God as you chose to be. “Come near to God and He will come near to you” James 4:8.

What are the barriers that separate you from intimacy with God tonight? Wherever you are, whatever your need—it all begins with worship. David gives us some pointers in the Sixty-Third Psalm as he runs for his life from his son Absalom.
“On my bed I remember You; I think of You through the watches of the night, because You are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings” Psalm 63:6-7.

·         Remember Godthink of some times in   your past that God has showed up in a big way for you.
·        hink of GodRecall His attributes and His character—His unfailing love towards you—how it is even better than life itself (Psalms 63:3).
·       Understand that God is your helpsurrender control and allow God to do for you in the nighttime hours what you cannot do for yourself. Appreciate the truth that God has your back covered as you rest.
·       Sing. Yes sing to the One who gives songs in the night (Job 35:10). Maybe it’s the rawness of a song of sorrow and pain. Or perhaps it’s one of joy and gladness. One rendering would suggest that we sing “for’ (or to obtain) joy. Have you ever considered that making a melody? Nevertheless, sing in the solitude of the night watches.
·      Experience His presence—Being under the shadow of God’s wings reminds us of shekinah glory that one could experience only by being in the most holy place in the temple. Being so close to the ark that the actual wings of the cherubim would cast a shadow over you would require some major life adjustments! This reminds us that God is holy and must be approached with a humble and contrite attitude. But also this picture of the “shadow of your wings” reminds us of how a baby bird seeks shelter, security and comfort under the wings of its mother. We’re encouraged to crawl into the Father’s open arms. As you lay down to sleep, remember that your Heavenly Father desires you to snuggle up close. Surrender your sleep into His arms.

Surrendered Sleep

Here's an article that reviews three of the attitudes discussed in our work.  It's part of a guest blog on Thinking Out Loud with Paul Wilkinson.  Thanks to Paul and blessings to you.


Monday, July 16, 2012

The Great Physician's Prescription for Rest

The Great Physician’s Prescription for Rest

As fast as our interconnected world is moving these days who’s got time for sleep?  Our “screenage” culture tells us that if you snooze – you lose.  Insomnia, sleep deprivation and sleep disorders are rapidly becoming an epidemic--even among believers in Christ. 
We are seeing the consequences of lack of rest everywhere in our society:  air traffic controllers falling to sleep on the job; health care workers having more complications when sleep deprived; truck drivers having their driving times controlled due to accidents.  What’s the answer?  Sleep Medicine?  A new mattress?   Sleeping Pills?  Herbal remedies?  Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?  Although these methods may be effective, one may miss God’s purpose of rest in their lives. 
  Many times those “quick fixes” don’t address the underlying causes of difficulties sleeping.  The scriptures help to give us a framework to evaluate many of these remedies.  As believers in Christ, we need to go back to the source of all truth for answers. 
Has it ever crossed your mind that there may be a spiritual connection to your sleep issues?  Sleep was God’s idea!  Therefore, we need to take a step back and reflect on the life and ministry of the Great Physician.  The Bible offers a prescription for rest and sleep which begins with surrendering our lives over to the One who uniquely created mankind’s need for sleep in the first place. 
Jesus modeled the perfect balance between activity and rest.  There were times when Jesus slept peacefully in the bow of a ship in the midst of a raging storm. The Lord slept calmly because He trusted in the protection and provision of His Father through the adversities of life.   If the Spirit of Christ indwells our lives then we also have the ability to sleep soundly no matter what difficulties we may face as we lay our heads on our pillows.
But on the other hand, there were times when Jesus sacrificed sleep and rest to fulfill a higher purpose.  The night before the Messiah was crucified He stayed up and prayed in preparation for the suffering that He would endure on the cross.  From a human perspective, one would think that Jesus should have gotten a good night’s rest to prepare for upcoming trials of the crucifixion.  But as our Lord surrenders to the will of the Father, He is given a supernatural ability to fulfill the plans that were prepared for Him the following day.  Unlike the disciple who slept carelessly that evening, Jesus stayed up and prayed.
Solomon declares that there is “a time and a place for everything” (Eccl 3:1).  There is a time to fall asleep trusting in the arms of a loving God whose eyes never close.  But there is also a time to stay up and obediently serve the Lord.  As we surrender our lives over to His will, God will teach you to follow the Great Physician’s prescription for rest.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Friday, July 6, 2012

Summertime and knuckleballs

 Take me out to the ball game!
  I was recently listening to a professional pitcher discussing the art behind his favorite pitch---the knuckleball.
  Pitching a baseball involves a complex technique that must be performed in the blink of an eye.  There are many different throws a pitcher must master to sneek the ball past the batter into the catcher's mit.  The fastball is tough but it's fair--a ninety five mile per hour bullet coming straight down the strike zone--fast but predictable. Curve balls are challenging because of the changing trajectory of the ball as it crosses the plate.  But the most challenging pitch to hit consistently is the knuckleball.  A well thrown knuckleball doesn't spin and tends to rise and fall in an unpredictable fashion. Even the best hitters can easily be faked out by a good knuckleball as it passes in the strike zone.
  Sometimes life pitches us knuckleballs.  Unpredictable circumstances that zoom past our lives before we ever see them coming.  Those unpredictable knuckleballs can rob us of rest as we try to close our eyes in slumber--financial dillemas, strained relationships, health problems, complicated decisions.
    In her book "My Father's House" Corrie Ten Boom recalls her childhood bedtime routines with her father. As she would lay her head down for rest, her father would place his hand over her head and pray a blessing over her. She would fall to sleep knowing that her father's hand was watching over her as she slumbered. Years later, while experiencing the horrors of a Nazi concentration camp, Corrie could only fall to sleep by visualizing the hand of her heavenly Father placing His Hand over her head.  Corrie faced those "knuckleballs" by realizing that everything she encountered--death, disease, destruction-- all passed through the Hands of loving God. 

 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.  Romans 8:28-29

  Those that have put their trust in Christ can rest in the assurance of the providence of the One whose eyes never close in slumber. We can face those knuckleballs life pitches when we understand that nothing passes through our lives except what is ordained by a loving sovereign God. He knows the outcome of every throw before it ever leaves the hand of the pitcher. He is watching over our lives and working out the complexities of our lives for His puposes and His fame.   At all times God is in all things, through all things and above all things--even the knuckleballs.

Here are some principles to help face those unpredictable pitches that life throws us:

1.  Thanksgiving: Giving thanks that God is working out all things for good in our lives--our homeruns and our strikeouts (I Thess 5:17).
2.  Prayer: Asking The Lord to give the discernment and skill to identify, predict and decide those critical situations that we face (James 1:5)
3.  Execution:  Allowing God to give you the strength and courage to take your best swing  (Psalm 18:1)
4.  Faith and Trust:  To leave the results up to His purposes and His timing.

Batter Up!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Insomnia: The Miracle of the Mundane

   If you really study the miracles recorded in the Gospels you will quickly realize that Jesus did not use a protocol or formula. Sometimes He spoke and at His word someone was healed.  Other times he touched people to cure their disease.  On one occasion He used saliva and mixed it with dirt to cover a blind man’s eyes.  Believers sometimes have trouble believing that something is from God unless it involves the supernatural and the extraordinary.   But God can be in it—even through a natural means.  When it comes to sleep and rest, God can also use the natural and mundane—especially when it is internalized by faith.
   This graph which breaks down the causes of insomnia suggests that almost one-third of cases of insomnia are caused by poor behavioral habits.  Medicine calls this poor sleep hygiene.  In other words almost thirty percent of cases of insomnia can be relieved by healthy bedtime habits.    Perhaps there is a simple habit that God can enable you to change that can help you sleep better.  Here are some helpful sleep hygiene tips that may help you rest better. 
    1.      Establish a consistent bedtime rhythm—boring is good. 
    2.      Exercise daily—but not before bedtime.  Most studies show that people (especially women) who exercise in the early afternoon have better rest.
    3.      Avoid drinking a lot of fluids before bedtime (to prevent frequent trips to the bathroom). 
    4.      Do not eat right before bedtime—better to rest on an empty stomach. 
    5.      Never use your bed for anything other than sleep or sex with your spouse.   In other words, don’t do anything that would help your mind associate activity with bedtime (ie surfing the web, texting, paying bills).
    6. Avoid lights when you sleep--this stimulates your brain to wake up.

Here’s another little tidbit that may help you wake up more refreshed in the morning.  We cycle through different stages of sleep through the night that last about ninety minutes each.  If you awake during the deeper stages (REM) you can wake up tired.  If you wake to an alarm you want to time your wake up when you are cycling into the lighter stages of sleep.  Check out this clock to help you determine exactly when to go to bed:  http://sleepyti.me/wake/