Do You Know What You’re Getting For Christmas?

I do!

I’ve written this before, and tell people all the time, but one of the greatest gifts my parents have given through the years is they have always been intentional about creating memories.     They did that when I was a young boy – and now, as an old boy, they continue.

For my Christmas present this year they are giving us a cruise for our family in June 2015 – and we can’t wait!     We’ve already begun the countdown to departure — my little girl (who is 5) consistently asking “how many more days to the cruise”?

Last week I was privileged to be hear Jason Gray’s Christmas Stories tour featuring Carrollton and Lauren Daigle.     A great night of music if you get the chance to catch one of the 10 shows performed by these amazing artists!     Prior to the show and during the devotional, Justin (from Carrollton) shared an Advent devotional from Dietrich Bonhoeffer which reminded that “Waiting” is a part of the Advent season.

I’m not a patient person.   I look for shortcuts – the fastest lanes,   the shortest lines, the most expedient routes.   I’ve heard its good to stop and smell the flowers –   but I prefer them to be a blur as I speed by.     And yet sometimes God calls us to wait.

As Bonhoeffer suggested,   Mary and Joseph learned to wait – in fact – they could have received a PhD in waiting;   waiting for Jesus to be born, waiting for him to grow up,   waiting for him to become the chosen Messiah….. waiting.

I’m fairly certain they didn’t have a countdown clock like we do for our cruise next summer –     they just waited –   with faith in their hands and hope in their heart!

Isn’t it true that all good things come for those who wait.     Isaiah wrote “they that wait for the Lord, he shall renew their strength…..”.       Every parent starts the journey of parenting by waiting .   Mary and Joseph did.     And so did I.   My kids, aside from Jesus and my wife, are the best thing I’ve every waited for – Definitely worth it!!

So this year as we wait for Christmas to come, we actually celebrate the gift that came to those who waited for so many years …..for a Messiah.    And for those who believe, we wait for him to come again to experience the gift of eternal life.

So yes…..I count the days with my 5 year old princess for our cruise next summer.     But I count the blessing of knowing that I ultimately wait for an eternity that I can’t imagine.

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I Wish I Could Have Known Her…..

Funerals.

Historically, I’m not a fan.   Too often they are a depressing exercise and I can’t wait for them to end.    But yesterday I had the rare privilege of experiencing a celebration service for a lady that I never met, yet I left wanting to hear more about this sweet woman.    The lady, Christy Mosteller, passed away unexpectedly last week and I went to her service because her son, Justin, is the lead singer of a band that am blessed to work with,  Carrollton.

Everything about her service was inspiring and Christ honoring.     I don’t believe that I can capture the sweetness of the service in these few words  – but there were several takeaways that I hope I don’t soon forget.

The Mosteller’s pastor shared one of the first truths in the early part of the service.     As a part of the welcome, he stated that “everyone will have their day on the front row, but until you’ve been on the front row, you’ll never know how important the people behind you are.”     I hope the Mosteller’s know that I was blessed today being one of the people behind the front row – and even more blessed just being in the room with such great people, and honoring Christy with them.

Another surprising reminder today came through the music.    I have known and worked with Carrollton for over two years – and have had the pleasure of hearing the countless number of songs that they’ve been writing for the last two years.       In February their EP, Breathe in Deep, was finally released with 6 great songs that I absolutely love –  one of those songs was the first song played in the service, You are Faithful.

I’ve been in the music world for almost 20 years…….and was reminded again that  God uses music to heal and stir our hearts.     It is  incredible that a song that Carrollton would write and record over a year ago would be used to start a service to celebrate Justin’s mom.

Even more poignant was the song that closed the service.   Carrollton returned to the studio several weeks ago to record a new song that they had just written.      An incredible testimony on the value of holding on to our God,  “Holding on to You” has become one of my new favorite declarations –   with the verse

I’ve been lookin’ for / Peace of mind / I’ve been lookin’ for / A reason why

and the chorus that ends –

When I can’t catch my breath and there’s nothing left to hold on to… I’m holdin’ on to you

Justin sent me the demo of the song on April 16th –  3.5 months before it would be used to close the celebration service for his mom.    I know he never could have imagined how those words would ring true in his own life.    The song will be released to radio in a few weeks –   but regardless of how God uses the song around the country,   it’s purpose was evident yesterday.

I will always marvel at the ways of our creator God and how he uses his children.

This was clear in the time that I spent yesterday in a small Kentucky town  hearing the stories of a single mom who cared for her children, who met the man of her dreams, and with him, raised her two sons to love Jesus, and now both of those boys are making a difference for the Kingdom.      I’m thankful for her oldest son Chad, a pastor in Louisville, KY,   who gave perhaps the most incredible message I’ve ever heard at a celebration service.     His mom would be glowing with pride to hear how he honored her,  and more importantly honored his Lord today.

I left yesterday with a new view of funerals —   and the way they are supposed to be!

I left also wishing  I could have known her………but  knowing I will one day!