2010 – 10 Events That Made It An Interesting Year

The Grandkids – Heath, Caleb & Emma

As 2010 prepares to be rolled into the archives of history, I thought I would share with my readers a list of some key events in the life of Frank and Suzie.  It has been an interesting year to say the least.  We have been

rather nomadic and less certain of what the next day was to bring.  In the midst of all of this, we learned afresh the importance of trusting in the Lord.  Since we have been married, we have not faced as much uncertainty in a year.  Yet, we have learned more of God and more from God.  He has demonstrated his goodness to us.

Here are our top ten events in this year.

1.  The move from Louisville, KY to Chattanooga, TN.

The company I was working for at the time promoted and transferred me to Chattanooga from Louisville.  We left behind the kids and grandkids.  Chattanooga was a beautiful city, but we didn’t have any real connections there.

2.  The launching of Fruzie’s Collectibles.

In April we launched Fruzie’s (Frank + Suzie).  We find and sell collectibles, antiques, books and just about anything.  We love combining a hobby with making some money.  You can check out our eBay store here or our website here.

Lessons from a Hotel #2: Schedule Your Cleaning

This article is the second in a series of articles in which we attempt to learn some spiritual and life lessons from my experiences in managing hotels.  Not to toot my own horn, but the guest service scores have always been high in the hotels which I have worked.  I learned from two of the best hotel men in the business.  These articles glean from what I have been taught and practiced.  I am confident that some of these lessons translate into great spiritual lessons.  The first article was about Calling People By Name. This second article is about providing a clean hotel for the guests.

Nothing is more revolting to a hotel guest than walking into a dirty hotel room.  Likewise, our lives should be clean.  The God who comes to us and dwells inside of us is a holy God.  He desires that we be holy, too.

A clean hotel does not happen by accident.  It requires committed people with a deliberate schedule.  Here is a rough sketch of that schedule (I can’t give away all of the secrets).

1.  Immediate Cleaning

Let’s say that a man is walking through the hotel lobby with a soft drink in his hand.  He loses the grip on his drink and it falls to the ground spilling onto the lobby floor.  When should somebody clean up this mess?  Should we wait until the lobby attendant arrives on their normal schedule of cleaning the lobby floor?  Obviously not.  For the sake of safety and cleanliness, somebody has to clean it up immediately.

How I Use the New Facebook Layout in My Prayer Life

As users of Facebook are aware, newly designed profile pages have been rolling out on the popular social site.  Whenever a new version is released, one can count on seeing status updates bemoaning the changes.  I certainly understand getting comfortable with a version only to find yourself learning something new.  However, I have found a way to take advantage of this new format.

For some time Facebook has kept me informed about urgent prayer requests for people with whom I am connected.  This morning I am praying for a former co-worker’s father-in-law after an automobile accident placed him in serious condition in the hospital.

I am also connected with people on the mission field and with missions organizations.  Their updates allow me to intercede for what God is doing around the world.  This morning I am praying for a cousin and her co-laborers who are building a crisis pregnancy center in Mexico.

Lessons from a Hotel #1: Calling People by Name

I have spent most of my post-pastoral career in the hospitality industry as a manager in hotels. This can be a challenging yet rewarding career. Each day seems to bring interesting encounters with guests from around the world. Some of these encounters involve sharing in the joys of guests on a traveling adventure. Other encounters are gut-wrenching when guests are going through difficult times.

I plan to write a series of posts that examine some of the lessons I have learned in the hotel biz. The first lesson involves the usage of a guest’s name. When a guest walks through the front door of a hotel to check in, we want them to be greeted and welcomed warmly. We train the people at the front desk to use the name of the guest at least three times during the check in process.

Like most things, this can slip into a wooden formality. When that happens, it really is a waste of time.  When done well, it adds a nice touch.  Here are some sample scripts that use the name of the guest (Mr. Jones).

How About a Legalistic “Merry Christmas”?

Yesterday I posted an article about the debate over saying either “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas.”  Today Robert Jeffress appeared on CNN to discuss his new website grinchalert.com.  Jeffress is the pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, one of the largest and most influential Baptist churches in the country.  This website is a forum for people to put businesses on either a naughty or a nice list based on whether they say “Happy Holidays” (naughty) or “Merry Christmas” (nice).  The actual words on the website are to identify the naughty are,

When companies use misplaced political correctness to halt the celebration of Christmas, they belong on the “Naughty List.”

Nowhere on the website does it specifically identify the use of a greeting, but the contents of the lists and Jeffress’ comments on CNN clearly indicate that this is the major test.

Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays?

The other day I was working as a greeter at a department store in the mall. I would welcome people to the store and thank them when they left. As you can imagine scores of people passed by during the 8 hours I stood at the mall entrance. Some people returned my greeting. Others asked directions. Some simply grunted. Some even stopped for a friendly chat. I even had to assist a lady in a medical emergency before paramedics arrived to transport her to the hospital.

One conversation was troubling for me as a Christian. It was not because of somebody doing anything overtly anti-Christian. Nobody cursed at me. Nobody made any lewd comments. In fact, the conversation was with a woman who verbally identified herself as a Christian.

This is how the conversation began:

Frank: “Good afternoon.”
Woman: “What? No ‘Merry Christmas’?”
Frank: “Merry Christmas to you.”

This lead to a lengthy monologue from the lady about her right as a Christian to be greeted with “Merry Christmas.”

Several things troubled me about her monologue. First, until later in the conversation she did not know that I was a Christian. Had I been Jewish, atheist or anything else, I would have heard the same thing.

Second, she told me that she had previously been at one of the other anchor stores in the mall. In that store she had become upset because she was greeted with “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” She had asked to speak to a manager to voice her opposition to this perceived travesty.

I can only imagine what the worker and then the manager of that store thought about this demonstration of “Christian” virtue. I am glad that I was the one who had to listen to her in our store instead of somebody who might be wondering what Christianity is all about.

Third, she has a right to be greeted in a certain manner? Really? As an American, I’m not sure that the first amendment dictates how we are greeted. As a Christian, I know that we don’t. Instead we have a responsibility to demonstrate Christ in our interactions with others in the marketplace. I am fairly confident that this is not how Jesus would have responded.

I write this article knowing that many of my Christian friends are publicly supporting attempts for businesses to say “Merry Christmas” rather than “Happy Holidays.” I understand their motivation. They fear that Christ is being left out of the season. I get that. However, if we as followers of Jesus genuinely spoke and lived as people who grasp the impact of God becoming flesh, we probably would take no offense when greeted with a “Happy Holidays.”

Consider the words themselves. Nobody is complaining about the difference between “merry” and “happy.” The perceived slight is over the use of “holidays” instead of “Christmas.” Christmas is the preferred word for many because it has the word “Christ” in it. But it also has the -mas ending. This ending does not mean birthday. The ending relates to a mass. So Christmas is literally a “Christ Mass.” It seems strange to me that most people insisting on this term, don’t believe in nor participate in any mass.

Now look at the word “holidays.” The first part of the word “holi-” is for the word “holy.” Days, in the past, was a reference to both Christmas and New Years. We have a popular carol titled, “Happy Holidays.” For the Christian, these holy days are days to celebrate the advent and the beginning of a new season.

If we are really so interested in older, God-oriented greetings, then Christians should refrain from saying “good-bye” when parting company with another person. This phrase was originally “God be with ye.” As time went on, it was shortened to “good-bye.” So if you want to insist on the phrase “merry Christmas” you should also be using the phrase “God be with ye.”

In conclusion, I hope that December 25th is a holy day for you focused on the advent of Christ. God be with ye.

Dallas Willard’s The Divine Conspiracy Goes to Prison

Federal Prison in Coleman, Florida

I have been selling some of my books online.  Today I shipped off a purchase of The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life In God by Dallas Willard.  What was unusual was that the order was placed by an inmate in a federal prison in Coleman, Florida.

Willard’s book is a great book that should strengthen any Christian who picks it up.  I pray that it will become part of Christ being formed anew in this prisoner’s life.

Spreading Your Prayers Before the Lord

In an article last week, I wrote about how our posture or physical position of prayer can be a prayer of itself.  This week I came across an interesting example of a physical action in the prayer life of King Hezekiah.  In 2 Kings, Hezekiah finds himself on the receiving end of a threatening letter from the King of Assyria, Sennacherib.  This militarily powerful king was preparing himself to sack the nation of Judah ruled by Hezekiah.  In the letter Hezekiah was specifically warned,

Do not let your God in whom you trust deceive you by promising that Jerusalem will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria. Behold, you have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all lands, devoting them to destruction. And shall you be delivered? Have the gods of the nations delivered them, the nations that my fathers destroyed?

–2 Kings 19:10-12

The prophet Isaiah had already assured Hezekiah to be unafraid of Sennacherib.  So when Hezekiah received the threatening letter, what did he do?

Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers and read it; and Hezekiah went up to the house of the LORD and spread it before the LORD. And Hezekiah prayed before the LORD…

–2 Kings 19:14-15

Hezekiah had in his hand a troubling document regarding his future and the future of God’s people.  He took this document and spread it before the Lord.  Read the words of his prayer:

O LORD, the God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth. Incline your ear, O LORD, and hear; open your eyes, O LORD, and see; and hear the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to mock the living God. Truly, O LORD, the kings of Assyria have laid waste the nations and their lands and have cast their gods into the fire, for they were not gods, but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone. Therefore they were destroyed. So now, O LORD our God, save us, please, from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, O LORD, are God alone.
(2 Kings 19:15-19 ESV)

God-Focused Praying

Notice the strong acknowledgment of God and who God is.  He might have a threatening letter in front of him, but his focus was clearly on the Lord.  He pleads with God to pay attention to the threatening letter.  He acknowledges the troubling circumstances.  This is a great example to us.  While we might be troubled, our focus should be more upon the God who rules all things more than upon what troubles us.  Then he makes his request.

The Request

Hezekiah’s request was a simple one.  He asked to be saved from the hand of Sennacherib.  We should be praying a similar prayer.  God save us from those people and those things which could destroy us or impede us on our mission.

The Desire for God’s Fame

Please do not miss the end of Hezekiah’s prayer.  He was not praying for God’s intervention merely for his own good.  That is not reason enough.  The ultimate outcome of Hezekiah’s prayer was that God would be famous or be made known to all the kingdoms of the earth as the only God.

For much of my life, my requests have been motivated simply for my own well-being.  That might be important, but of ultimate importance is that God is honored and that He is made known.  The test for our souls is to determine whether our highest priority in prayer is for us or for God.  If God’s purposes are furthered and he is honored through our suffering rather than our lack of suffering, then we should rejoice.  Why are we praying?

Do you have something that you need to spread before the Lord?  Currently I have a few pieces of paper that represent my concerns in life.  I have knelt before God and spread those pieces of paper in front of me before the Lord.  I have prayed the best I know that God might intervene in my life in such a way that his name is made known.  I am hoping you will join me in this kind of praying.

Praying Postures

Did you know that the position or posture in which you pray can be a prayer in and of itself?  Some of us learned to pray in a certain position and only feel prayerful when in that position.  Let’s take a look at some of the prayer postures and examine what they should mean.  At the end I hope you will think about other postures and incorporate them into your prayer time.

1.  Praying with our heads bowed

2.  Praying in a kneeling position

3.  Praying with our eyes closed

4.  Praying with our eyes uplifted

5.  Praying with hands uplifted

6.  Praying while we walk

When we kneel or bow our heads or both, we should be expressing our humility before the Lord.  The imagery is that of a subject coming into the presence of a king.  The subject would kneel, bow his head and yield to the wish of the king – even if the king’s wish was to put the subject to death.  In this position the back of the subject’s neck was exposed to the king.  If he so desired, the king could take a sword and remove the subject’s head by striking the back of the neck.

Do you present yourself to the King of Kings in this kind of humility.  Making no claims even of life, we should say as Job:

Though he slay me, I will hope in him.
(Job 13:15 ESV)

The apostle Paul also speaks of this kind of humility,

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
(Romans 12:1 ESV)

Our bodies are to be presented to God as a living sacrifice.  If God so chooses, he can take our life.  This is a perfect posture for praying prayers of confession and repentance.

When we pray with our eyes closed, it might also represent the same thing as when we kneel and/or bow our heads.  It also should be a way for us to shut out all of the worldly influences and focus our minds and hearts upon the Lord.  Practically, we might need a bit of encouraging with regard to this.  For some, closing the eyes too closely resembles going to sleep.  If we are not careful, we might become sleepy or daydream.  Focus.  Exert all of your mental strength into focusing on God and who he is rather than letting your mind drift or tire.

When we pray with our eyes and/or hands lifted, we should be acknowledging the praise-worthiness of God.  We are saying that he is above us.  He is high and lofty.  I remember the days when a person who raised their hands to praise God was looked upon as somebody strange.  Hopefully that no longer exists.

Jesus made it a habit to pray with his eyes lifted up.  He did this when he blessed the bread and fish to feed the 5000.

Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds.
(Matthew 14:19 ESV)

On at least two occasions, Jesus lifted his eyes when he performed a miracle.  While we may not have the miraculous power which Jesus had (not that we can’t pray for miracles, we don’t inherently have that power like he did), we can mimic why he did this.  He was honoring the Father and demonstrating that the Father was working through him.

And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.
(Mark 7:34-35 ESV)

So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
(John 11:41-44 ESV)

In this final example from Jesus, we find him praying as the time for his crucifixion was at hand.  He looked to heaven because of the intimacy between the Father and the Son.

When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you,
(John 17:1 ESV)

We should be reminded of the intimacy we have with the Father.  We are able to call him Abba.  He dwells in us.  He loves us.  When we express our love for him, we can lift our eyes upward in adoration.

The final posture is that of praying while we walk.  Note:  don’t combine this with praying with your eyes closed.  The results might not be prayerful.

To pray while we walk should help us be mindful that we are to walk with the Lord.  As we go about our day, we should be speaking with God.  We ask for his advice.  We pray for his wisdom.  We praise him.  We intercede for others in need of God.  Walking in prayer pretty well encompasses whatever other positions in which you might find yourself.  Sitting in a chair, lying in a bed…praying like this is walking with the Lord.

We can also use walking in prayer as a means of praying for specific geographical areas.  In recent years, Christians have embarked upon Prayer Walks.  They walk through a neighborhood or city while praying for God’s blessings on that area. It is a pretty good idea.

Pick one of the postures from the list above.  Make it one which you have not used before or have not used it in some time.  Spend some time in prayer.  I welcome any comments about what you experience.

Jesus Draws Tourists Better Than a Racetrack or Golf Course

Jesus Statue in Poland

So Jesus is a tourist attraction.  One that will attract more tourists than a racetrack or golf course.  At least that is the opinion of the folks in Swiebodzin, Poland.  According to a news report, this town of 21,000 is nearing completion on a 108 foot statue of Jesus.  With additional height added by a base and the crown of thorns, this statue will be the largest Jesus statue in the world.  It will surpass the ones in Rio de Janeiro and in Bolivia.

For some it is a symbol of gratitude to God.  Yet here is what one local official recently said,

If we had opened a racetrack or a golf course here, tourists would have come only for the season. But with a statue of Jesus the season will last the whole year.

I’m not sure this is what Jesus had in mind when he said,

And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”
(John 12:32 ESV)

But let’s apply this to our own lives.  Do we do things which should be motivated by gratitude to God, but instead are our attempts to profit for ourselves?