Wednesday, February 7, 2024

4 Mountains of Men Who Shaped My Life



Four mountains of men who shaped my life all died within a thirteen-month span. I suppose that goes with being fifty-something.

In recent years, my wife and I commented several times, “You realize that people our age are the ones in charge and running things?” The adults who were in charge and in their forties to sixties when I was a child and teenager are now in their last quarter of a century and graduating to heaven one by one.

Shannon Harris, a blogger, writes, “A special kind of pain is felt when your mentor’s time on earth is through.” We remember significant conversations, lessons, and nuggets of wisdom they shared. Memories from their lives, which resonated with value, begin to feel out of reach. And those who loomed larger than life – almost immortal to us – show their mortality.


The Worshiping Pastor

Pastor Jack Hayford passed peacefully in his sleep in early January of 2023. Christianity
Today magazine once dubbed him “The Pentecostal Gold Standard.”  A world-renown leader, he pastored The Church on the Way in Van Nuys, California, eventually became Chancellor of The Kings College and Seminary, and wrote over 400 worship songs, including the popular chorus, “Majesty.” His radio and book ministry took his practical Bible teaching, heart for authentic worship, and love for the kingdom of God into the homes of countless Christians.

I benefited greatly from his preaching-teaching, his authenticity and vulnerability, and his ministry of writing. For three decades I listened to him and read many of his books, like Manifest Presence, The Key to Everything, The Spirit-Formed Life, and Blessing Your Children. I vividly remember his message from Exodus 3 at the Atlanta 1995 Promise Keepers event, when he had every man get on his knees in the arena.

Pastor Jack’s emphasis on integrity – first learned when his mother asked him to answer her question “with Jesus in the room” - his presence as a bridge-builder in the Body of Christ, and his passion to experience Christ intimately made him a shepherd of shepherds across denominational lines. My wife and I traveled once to the Billy Graham Training Center at the Cove to spend a weekend under his teaching.


Pastor Jack and
Rhett at The Cove


The Discipler of Men

Last February, my long-time friend, mentor, and cousin, Morris “Moose” Keller went to be with the Jesus he loved. Though almost forty years apart in age, our friendship continued for more than thirty years.

Moose loved to fish for men, and life was his fishing pond. Whether on the job, at the grocery store, or in church. His signature line was, "Can I ask you a personal question? Do you know if you died today, you would you go to heaven?" And then, often using a "Steps to Peace with God" gospel track, he told them about King Jesus who died on the cross for their sins.

During my college days, he and I met every couple of months. I'd drive from Clinton to Greenville and meet him for lunch at Stax Omega.

We talked about life, the Lord, and our struggles - things that matter. That's what mentoring is. Spending time with someone, connecting over important things, listening, helping them grow and learn. Moose trusted God. His faith was consistent.

The last time I visited his house he lay in a Hospice bed. His body frail but his mind bright, he quoted Scripture after Scripture to me, telling me how he was learning to trust God, and sharing how he led one of the hospital nurses to faith in Jesus Christ a few weeks before. Moose asked me about my wife and three children - all by name. He talked about my father, who had been gone for fifteen years.

He got out his IPhone and said, "Ooooooh. I have to share with you what I read in my quiet time this morning. I read it in the Message and I've never seen it say it quite like this." He proceeded to read his morning reading to me. The last several years, I could expect a daily email sent to several dozen people outlining the notes from his daily Bible reading. 

He told me, "We've been through a lot, buddy." That time was probably the only one he ever ended our conversation without, "Call me if you need me."


The Consummate Bible Teacher

Then in April, Charles Stanley, pastor of First Baptist Atlanta, Georgia, died. I tuned into his ministry as a freshman in college, listening to the InTouch radio broadcast. Attending a liberal religious college, which jettisoned the authority of Scripture and basic evangelical theology, his preaching helped anchor me in eternal truths.



My first year of school, I picked up his book, How to Listen to God, which had a shaping influence on my nineteen-year-old life. The first of more than two dozen of his books I would eventually read, I experienced his practical teaching that drew deeply from the Bible but also was illustrated with personal experiences. In that book I would find what was one of his constant exhortations: develop a lifestyle of meditating on the Word of God, expecting Him to guide you.

I first learned to preach from listening to radio teachers like Stanley. His winsome, conversational style combined with practical exhortations and challenges to trust God marked his teaching.

I met Dr. Stanley only once quickly at a book signing in Atlanta. After waiting in line, I said, “Dr. Stanley, thank you for teaching me about intimacy with God.” He stopped, lowered his pen, and stared directly into my eyes. Then he emphatically said, “That is the most important thing!”


The Encouraging Eagle

And then on January 21 of this year, my friend and business mentor Dan Miller left this earth. Dan’s books and podcast helped open the door for me, and many others, to become entrepreneurs, explore nontraditional work, and challenge conventional thinking about work opportunities.

Dan wrote, “Putting yourself in the driver’s seat requires creating a clear sense of where you want to go. A clear plan of action will separate you from 97 percent of the people you meet.”

Creating the 48 Days Eagle Community, he mentored modern entrepreneurs, which he called eagle-preneurs, to create the life they want, building their work around their life.

He modeled for many businesspeople how important it is to balance your life with both faith in God and making deep deposits in your family relationships. As he often said, “Success is more than a job.”

When we lose mentors, sometimes we grieve the lessons we’ll never learn from them. And then we realize we can cling to their God, embrace the same unchanging truths they believed and practiced, and make the world a better place by shining our light and investing in others – one person at a time.


Mountain picture used courtesy of Pexels

Monday, January 29, 2024

The Eagle Has Flown - A Tribute to Dan Miller

 

It was a moment I’ve never forgotten. Driving home from a frustrating day at the
church office, I listened to Crown Financial Ministries interview a career coach on their radio broadcast. Dan Miller was promoting his book, 48 Days to the Work You Love. As I listened, it was like this man was speaking directly to me. He was speaking my language, like he had been reading my mail.

For several years, I’d wrestled with vocational angst. I gradually realized numerous desires shouted within me to use my gifts and pursue interests outside of the scope of what we consider traditional church ministry. And, I wanted to find ways to make money and prosper outside of the limitations of depending on a fulltime church salary to provide for my growing family.

In the years since then, I’ve come to realize many pastors and ministry leaders wade through similar struggles. My friends Les Hughes and Jon Sanders, both pastors, have an entire business, EntrePastors, dedicated to helping pastors realize that following God's calling into ministry doesn't mean you have to live a life of scarcity and meagerness. They share, “We believe God is a God of abundance who gave you multiple talents to build and serve His Kingdom. By using ALL of your God-given talents, you take better care of yourself and your family, and become a better pastor in the process.”

But at the time I was wading through those questions alone, learning to work through the needed mindset changes, personal assessment, and exploration of possibilities.

Dan Miller was the first person I heard – outside of my own head and heart – that affirmed my struggle and gave me hope that there was a positive path forward.



As I reflect on Dan’s life-message, coaching, and writings, so many words come to mind. Here’s just a few of those that impacted me.

Understanding Divine Calling

Remembering the happiest times in your life and the times when you felt most fulfilled are better indicators of your calling than just knowing what you have the ability to do.

You can have different careers at different points in your life. Conversely, two or three different careers can all support one’s calling.

The word vocation comes from the Latin word vocare, which means “to call.” It suggests that you are listening for something that is calling out to you – something that is particular for you. A Calling is something you have to listen for, attuning yourself to the message. Vocation then is not so much pursuing a goal as it is listening for a voice.

Never separate your work from your worship. See what you do during the week as a form of worship. Remember, you are in full-time service, doing what God has called you to do if you’ve engaged your unique skills, your personality and your dreams and passions.



In 2022 I sent Dan this eagle carving I found at Dollywood.
He posted this picture in the Eagles Community and said,

"Thanks so much for this awesome Eagle, Rhett Wilson, Sr. 
I love the natural wood colors and the kind expression of the eagle.
I'll find a prime place in my office for this new addition!"
 

Mastering Motivation

It’s tough to make good choices at eighteen that will be meaningful at forty-five.

Your only security is knowing what you do well. Knowing your areas of competence will give you freedom amid corporate politics and unexpected layoffs.

Our culture glamorizes being under time pressure.

Work doesn’t have to drain the energy from your life. You can have work that resonates with your soul and draws you into a deeper, more intimate relationship with God.

Learn from any failure. See it as a stepping stone toward the success you ultimately want.

Exploring Opportunities

Your best opportunity may not look like your last job.

The opportunities in today’s work environment are endless. You can change course several times in a lifetime without feeling like you’re derailed or starting over, if you have a sense of calling to act as a consistent compass.

Your work must integrate your skills, your personality tendencies, and your interests. The more you know and understand about yourself and match that up with your business direction, the more you exponentially increase your chances for success.

Many people are finding that it makes more sense to use this model [of nontraditional work] than to attempt to find the one right job that provides all their needs. One of the hottest terms for creating a work life today is “multiple streams of income.” You may have two or three things that are creating income for you, rather than only one all-important job.

Taking Action

Putting yourself in the driver’s seat requires creating a clear sense of where you want to go.

A clear plan of action will separate you from 97 percent of the people you meet. Everyone has dreams, but very few ever turn those into goals.

If you are in a negative environment – one that causes you pain and anguish - maybe its time to take a fresh look at yourself, define where you want to be, and develop a clear plan of action to get there.

 

In the years following that introduction to Dan Miller, I would read and re-read and re-read his books, 48 Days to the Work You Love, No More Dreaded Mondays, and An Understanding Heart. Hours of my time were invested listening to his podcast, consistently rated in the top ½ percent of the top 1% of all business podcasts, and his audio course from NightingaleConant, Dream Job, which was rated their #3 most popular audio course.


He opened the door for me to explore and benefit from the world of motivational speakers, authors, and coaches in the business and motivational world. Today, people like Zig Ziglar, Brian Tracy, Napolean Hill, Earl Nightengale, Og Mandino, Andy Andrews, Jim Rohn, Bob Proctor, and Russell Conwell line my shelves and audio library.

Dan introduced me to the world of modern entrepreneurs, guys in the mid-stream of life learning to pivot and create multiple streams of income in this rapidly changing world and economy. He knew remote work was cool years before COVID. He assured me my questions were valid, my desires to experience more, good, and that challenging my mindset in some traditional areas was wise.

Success if More than a Job

Miller modeled for many businesspeople how important it is to balance your life with both faith in God and making deep deposits in your family relationships. As he often said, “Success is more than a job.”

It was a long time before I’d realize how many other people he had helped in similar journeys. The more I became familiar with this world of new entrepreneurs, or eagles as he called them, the more I heard stories like my own.



In the years since that Crown radio broadcast, I followed my interest and passion in writing, developing that skill. I became a published freelance author, landing bylines in numerous print and online publications well-known in the evangelical world. I wrote for newspapers, magazines, devotionals, online news sources, compilation books, and more. I worked as Senior Writer for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and started my own company, Hendrix Communications. I also serve as Senior Communications Director for Leighton Ford Ministries. And I dove into bivocational ministry, which is actually how the apostle Paul often operated.

I considered it quite an honor when Dan endorsed my first solo book last year, The 7 Ps of Prayer: A Simple Method to Pray for Your Family. Here was a man who considers Dave Ramsey his best friend and participated in a men’s small group for more than a decade with high-achievers Ramsey and Michael Hyatt. Yet Dan always saw value in the person standing in front of him.

On December 19 last year, I received a personal email from Dan, thanking me for a 7 Ps coin I had mailed to him for Christmas. He told me of his recent diagnosis of Stage IV cancer with an expectation of less than six months to live. He wrote, “Totally out of the blue – no warning until I had some abdominal pain two weeks ago. . . . I’m savoring the time with my precious wife, children, and grandchildren. And the opportunity to live out all those wonderful principles I’ve been teaching all these years. Thanks for your support and friendship.”

Many people in the entrepreneurial world were shocked, saddened, and grieved over this news. Dan had the ability and warmth to make you feel loved, appreciated, and valued. And his life and teachings helped so many of us pursue and create work that is fulfilling, meaningful, and profitable. Dan challenged us to “plan our work around our life, rather than planning our life around our work.” He taught us to find the sweet spot where work and play become indistinguishable.


The Eagles Community
received word last week that Dan passed away from this earth on Sunday night, January 21. He had shared with his followers that he was looking forward to his spiritual transformation.

The Eagle has flown. Thank you, Dan. You will be missed.

 


Check out my 2022 post, 18 Benefits of Working Remotely.

Click here to listen to one of Dan's 48 Days podcasts when he responds to an email of mine. Through this podcast I got connected to Jon Sanders and Les Hughes of EntrePastors.

Monday, January 8, 2024

Out with the Old, Embracing the New



We bought the television from Kmart in Taylors in 1988. Long before flat screens or digital technology, this set included the turn knobs and required the antenna wires to be wrapped around the screws on the back of the tv. I watched many a show on that set while I lived at home. My mother – not one to be abreast of the latest technology – just got rid of this set one month ago. I surprised her with a new flat-screen television in early December, and we unplugged the old set that served our family for thirty years. I left the set at the dump to be released into 1980’s household electronics after-life.

Moving into another year involves letting go of old things and embracing some new ones. For me, the first couple of week of January include getting my mind in gear as I shift from the holidays into the winter of another calendar year.
I love the sights, sounds, routines, and excesses of Christmas. And partly because of my melancholy temperament, I find my spirit somewhat deflated the week or two after Christmas as the decorations go down and the feasting turns into dieting!

I find it helpful to embrace disciplines early in January, turn my mind into preparing for a productive year, and set my spirit to seek the Lord afresh.

Here are five suggestions to help embrace a mindset of moving forward towards a successful year:

1. Make time to pray.

January offers a good time to retool my prayer life. Spend extra time in prayer and Bible meditation. Ask the Holy Spirit, Prepare my mind and spirit to walk with Jesus this year. Lead me in Your will and purposes. Let Your Word find a fresh home in my heart and your hands mold this clay as You wish.

Some Christians ask the Lord the first few weeks of January to put a word on their mind and heart for the new year. They ask, Lord, give to me a word, Scripture, or idea to be a theme for me in the coming days.

2. Make plans to grow.

I try and start my year by reading some positive instructional and motivational material. Stretch yourself with some plans to read.  By reading (or listening via digital audio resources) 30 minutes a day I can easily finish a book a week. Turn off the television and pick up some books! This week I chose five books to dig into this month:

The Power of Purpose by Michael Catt
A Resilient Life by Gordon MacDonald
On Reading Well by Karen Prior
Wilderness Wanderings by Bill Lawrence

3. Get organized.

As the decorations come down and a sense of tidiness arises, I decide afresh what in my life and family needs to be tackled organizationally. As taxes loom on the horizon, January always seems a good time to gather appropriate financial records. I loaded my Turbo Tax program on my laptop on December 29.


But, with a fresh surge of inspiration, I also ask what other areas need attention. This year I am diligently working to make sure my external hard drive backup is up-to-date. For me this includes tediously going through several saved and recovered backups from previous crashes and collecting everything I want to keep in one digital location.

This undertaking also involves deleting some of those unnecessary pictures (who really needs 30,000 pics of their family!!!) and organizing them into useful files. If I can never access them, they don’t help me.

Maybe you should work on a new system for your personal calendar, remembering birthdays of people you love, storing your addresses, planning for a family vacation, or preparing to shop in more efficient ways.

4. Review.

January offers a logical time to review some big-picture items from the previous year. I take some time to reconsider my journal entries from last year, asking the Holy Spirit to show me anything He wants me to remember.

You can ask questions like the following as you review: Are there recurring themes in my life from last year? What promises from God’s Word meant the most to you? What were your most meaningful moments with the Lord? What were you trusting God for last year? What was going on in your heart? What failures did you experience? Review any areas of neglect or disobedience. Did you let anything drop the Lord gave to you? Note any high or low points in your entries.

5. Set goals and move forward.

As you have done numbers 1-4, ask the Lord to help you set goals in various areas of life for 2019. Just like moving forward with a flat screen television meant I had to let go of the old set, we may have to let go of some things from 2018 – good and bad.

We didn't achieve every goal from last year. We made some poor choices. We have room to grow. But, we made progress in other areas and learned valuable lessons.



Where do I want to take my family this year? What books will we read as a family? What's a plan for leading some family devotions this year? How can I intentionally build into a meaningful relationship? What work skills do I need to add or improve? How can I better use my time?

As we learn from the past, let’s set our focus to learn new things from the Lord, trust Him today, and accomplish His purposes in our lives in this fresh year.

I’ve just started Michael Catt’s book The Power of PurposeIn the Introduction, he writes, “As long as God is on the throne, there is hope. . . . Whatever you are facing, look it in the face and look God in the face and ask Him what He wants you to learn. Wherever you are, it’s not an accident. God can take a setback and turn it into a stepping stone. . . . I believe hope and purpose are tired together. If I have a sense of purpose, I have hope. If I have hope, I have a sense of purpose. Purpose matters. . . . God didn’t place us here and wish us good luck. He didn’t make us in His image to be a victim of circumstances. He put us here to be overcomers.”


Pictures used by permission from Pixabay

Monday, January 1, 2024

10 Questions to Ask at the Start of a New Year


The first days of January offer a great time for evaluation, reflection, and planning.  The following is a helpful article by Donald Whitney.  

"Once, when the people of God had become careless in their relationship with Him, the Lord rebuked them through the prophet Haggai. 'Consider your ways!' (Haggai 1:5) he declared, urging them to reflect on some of the things happening to them, and to evaluate their slipshod spirituality in light of what God had told them. 


Even those most faithful to God occasionally need to pause and think about the direction of their lives. It’s so easy to bump along from one busy week to another without ever stopping to ponder where we’re going and where we should be going.

The beginning of a new year is an ideal time to stop, look up, and get our bearings. To that end, here are some questions to ask prayerfully in the presence of God."

Read the entire article, 10 Questions to Ask at the Start of a New Year or On Your Birthday, here.



Picture used by permission from Pixabay.

Tuesday, December 26, 2023

The Jealous King

 


He was a madman. He exiled or killed off all of his wives. A master of manipulation, he worked to gain the favor of the people above and below him. Known as a “ruthless fighter, a cunning negotiator, and a subtle diplomat,” (Nelson’s Bible Dictionary), he was the first of six King Herods, Roman rulers in Palestine around the time of Jesus’ life. The biblical account presents Herod the Great, a self-designated title, as the narcissist in the Christmas story. He was so bad that when people recognized the leadership potential of his son, the buzz around Jerusalem became, “Herod is great, but his son is greater.” To eliminate the competition, he ordered the assassination of his son.

In direct contrast to the magi, the joyous kings, who came to worship the newborn King of the Jews, Herod was the jealous king. The Herod spirit is an insecure, manipulative, self-serving one.

Narcissism, a term derived from Greek mythology, designates a person obsessed with themselves. Modern psychologists even designate a narcissist disorder for some people, though many people would simply be described as having narcissistic tendencies.

Unfortunately, the church is not immune from this reality. I’ve spent more than twenty years studying the effects of narcissistic ministry leaders on churches and people. I’ve seen it surface in a senior pastor. I’ve experienced it in a pastor’s wife (not my own!). I’ve seen it in a church treasurer. And likely, you may have too. The manipulation and politicking I’ve occasionally – not often – seen in churches by someone with narcissistic tendencies rival anything that happens in Washington, D.C.! And it leaves much damage in its wake.

Earlier this year I read Chuck DeGroat’s recent release from InterVarsity Press, “When Narcissism Comes to Church.” DeGroat offers several characteristics of the narcissistic ministry leader.

Decision-making centers on them. They must keep their hands in the decision-making, and they are offended and angered when people make decisions different than what they would choose.

Impatience and lack of ability to listen to others. He may call his impatience decisiveness, but he lacks curiosity, empathy, and compassion.

Delegating without giving authority. She wants people around her to carry out her wishes, resulting in micromanagement. She may call a team together and ask their opinions, but at the end of the day she instructs them to do what she wants in sundry subjective details.

Feeling threatened or intimidated by other talented people. DeGroat says they often “feign connection in order to woo followers.” They pour it on to people they want to sway, yet they are deeply threatened by someone who does not seem to need them.

Need to be the best and brightest in the room. The narcissistic ministry leader wants to outshine others. In a healthy team, when one person wins, it makes everyone look good. In an unhealthy one, jealousy and turf wars erupt when one person shines. The narcissist needs to be special, needed, and the hero. Henry Cloud writes in his new book, “Trust,” that narcissistic “people have a great investment in being seen as ‘ideal’ or ‘perfect.’ They must be adored and idealized by others in order to feel secure and trust.” A narcissistic parent will even feel threatened by the success of other people’s children and may even target them.

Intimidate others. Highly insecure, “they are always on the watch for disloyalty, and when they find it, they punish it severely.” They see their opinions, views, and the way they would do things as the “right” way. And they will not hesitate from using intimidation to try to back you down into your corner.

Praising and withdrawing. She will pour it on to praise the person that she feels approves or her, submits to her, and can be controlled by her. But watch ought if you disagree with her, because she cannot tolerate disagreement. To her, it is disrespect and worthy of correction. Her correction. When she realizes you will not be controlled, she withdraws – and often begins plotting how to get you out of her system.

The narcissist works hard to control themselves, their family, and those around them. However, staying in control will attack your spirit of joy. Herod was crazy in part because he would not give up control. He tried to perfect his life by controlling everyone around him. But the spirit of joy is in direct contrast to the spirit of Herod.


The Bible describes the magi, after their 1000-mile journey that likely took six to nine months, as being “filled with joy” (Matthew 2:10 NLT). Unlike Herod the Great, they focused on One even greater – the true King of Kings. Seeing themselves as one part of a much grander plan, they served others, valued input from others, and helped others to accomplish their goals.

And the young Child born in the manger modeled the opposite of the Herod spirit. The Creator of the universe came to earth as a vulnerable baby, needed to be carried, nourished, and helped by the very humans He created. Giving up His rights, and giving up any need for acclaim, He humbled Himself.

And because He did, you and I can know everlasting joy. The spirit of great joy comes from submitting to and worshiping the King of Kings - and serving others with your life. Give up your control and trust Him.


Read Lessons Learned from Church Hurt


Pictures used courtesy of Pixabay.

Monday, December 25, 2023

Letting Go of Christmas

Reposted from December 2013 . . .


It is always hard for me to let go of Christmas. 

The fall months are my favorite time of year – all leading up to Christ’s birthday.  For our family, the celebrations begin with birthdays for my wife and I in August and September.  Then each year fun marks October as our children pick out costumes to wear on Halloween.  As the bright leaves of October begin turning into November’s duller hues, my oldest son has a birthday the first week.  After that celebration, we anticipate Thanksgiving, trying each year to give the holiday more attention than simply one Turkey Day.  I pull out some CD’s with traditional Thanksgiving hymns, and we read stories of the Pilgrims.  Thanksgiving Day (or the weekend thereafter) our family works on our Thanksgiving tree, each one writing down specific matters of thanksgiving on construction-paper leaves. 

Thanksgiving afternoon includes Daddy pulling out the sale papers and making strategic plans for Black Friday!  Christmas is the only season when I really enjoy shopping (and when I give myself permission to really splurge and enjoy spending).  Black Friday finds me most years leaving the house hours before the rest of the family awake.  And over the course of that weekend, as Thanksgiving hymns give way to Christmas ones, the Advent season comes alive once again! 

Our family enjoys the various aspects of December.  Tree-decorating always stands out as one of our favorite experiences.  We love unpacking the various ornaments – many that we have forgotten since packing them eleven months ago – and enjoying the memories associated with them.  We have fun Hallmark collectibles ranging from superheroes, Disney characters, and movie nostalgia.  There are classy, blown-glass ornaments including Santas, manger scene people, and drummers from Colonial Williamsburg.  Small treasures adorn our tree as keepsakes from the places we have traveled – a clear holy family that we obtained at The Biltmore House on our honeymoon, a small Ryman Auditorium from Nashville, a beautiful one replicating the barn at The Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, and a red round ball with the inscription “Thomas Road Baptist Church” which we bought to remind us of our December-trips to Lynchburg, Virginia.  There are even ones that remind us of friends from long ago – childhood friends, our families of origin, a star that deflects the light of the tree that was given to me in memory of a dear old friend, Gloria Taylor (the person who gave it called it my “Glo Star” to remember that sweet woman).  During the month we can hear Kermit the Frog sing the rainbow song, the Indiana Jones theme song, and Linus repeat the Christmas story as our children press various buttons on the ornaments with batteries!  What fun are Christmas trees!


We enjoy reading books about Christmas.  One series we have used in recent years explains from a Christian perspective the traditions of the candy cane, the Christmas stocking, the Christmas tree, and the history of Saint Nicholas.  What a rich heritage surrounds Christmas.  I suppose one reason that Christmas is so wonderful is that, whether the world understands it or not, it is as if the modern world adjusts their lives for one month to remember and celebrate what happened at Bethlehem.  You can turn on virtually any radio station – country, rock, classical – and hear people singing about Jesus Christ.   On our CD players we hear The Robert Shaw Chorale singing “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” The St. Olaf Choir sing “O Come O Come Emmanuel,” Nat King Cole roll out “The Christmas Song” and “A Cradle in Bethlehem,” Kenny and Dolly frolic and play with “I’ll Be Home with Bells On” Michael Buble croon with “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas,” Alabama share “Christmas in Dixie,” and The Oak Ridge Boys add my children’s favorite from this year – “A Peterbilt Sleigh!” 

People often take time to be friendlier, to show generosity, compassion, and goodwill during December.   People share their goods with the needy and hungry, often purchasing toys or meals for children or families in want.  Church services abound with songs about Jesus, festive lights and colors, and genuine wishes of cheer and blessing to one another.  Dickens also said, I have always thought of Christmas as a good time; a kind, forgiving, generous, pleasant time; a time when men and women seem to open their hearts freely, and so I say, God bless Christmas!

In early December our family celebrates the birthday of our daughter, often by taking a road trip to Lynchburg, Virginia, to experience The Virginia Christmas Spectacular, a fantastic Christmas show at Thomas Road Baptist Church.

Yes, to me it is the most wonderful time of the year.  Charles Dickens wrote, “There seems a magic in the very name of Christmas.”

I enjoy giving.  I often don’t have the money to give the type of gifts through the year that I would like to people I love.  But Christmas offers an opportunity to find ways to express your love and appreciation to those around you.  I find it a great yearly joy to prepare and give those over-the-top presents for my own children and to enjoy their pleasure in them.  (We chuckled happily at our seven-year old falling on the floor as though he were fainting when he saw that Santa had left him not one or two but six Star Wars action figures!)

The few days before and after Christmas offer time to devote almost completely to the family.  For my wife and I, that may be the best gift of all.  To have a few days to spend in almost uninterrupted leisure together – that is surely a taste of heaven on earth.   Each year I am surprised afresh at how little I long for the outside allurements around Christmas.  Email and surfing the internet hold little appeal, I don’t want to spend any more money on anything after the gifts are purchased, there is little pleasure in engaging the outside world of stores, shopping, and the like.  I suppose it is because when you have focused on Jesus and His coming for weeks, when you have given your best to those you love, and when you take time to really enjoy the people around you – that indeed is  a blessed, contented taste of heaven.  Time to play long with the children without feeling the need to "hurry it up."  Time to say, "What do you want to do," and mean it!  Time to get on the floor and engage the children and play with their toys in their world.  Time to talk with your spouse and enjoy the blessings of marriage!

Oswald Chambers rightly says that the real test of spiritual maturity is not how well one does on the mountain but how well he descends the mountain.  As we walk forward with the afterglow of Christmas 2012  on our backs and still ringing in our ears, may we remember the words of Charles Dickens, “I will honor Christmas in my heart and try to keep it all the year.” 

May we remember and live our lives in light of the things that really do matter.

 

Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Hendrix Performs at Liberty University

 


Our son, Rhett Jr. (Hendrix), and his band rocked the house last Saturday evening at Liberty University's coffeehouse held in the Vines Arena. Watch (below) the L Street Band perform "Santa Claus is Coming to Town."




Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Rhett's Interview with Bob Crittendem - The 7 Ps

 

Here's an interview with me and Bob Crittendem of Faith Radio that recently aired. Bob and I talked about my new book. Click here to listen.

Bob and I talked about the release of my new book, The 7 Ps of Prayer.


Monday, December 4, 2023

Christmas Concert - Rhett and Tracey

 

Tracey and I enjoyed performing last November at Edwards Road Baptist Church in Greenville, South Carolina. You can enjoy our concert by clicking here.




Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Here’s Why We Should Still Celebrate the Pilgrims at Thanksgiving

 

"For most American families, Thanksgiving is a time to gather with loved ones, eat delicious food, and perhaps watch some football.


But not everyone is pleased with the celebration of this holiday, and some have taken to maligning its 'originators,' the Pilgrims.

An editorial in Al Jazeera labeled Thanksgiving a 'thoroughly nauseating affair,' one that is 'saturated with disgrace.' Other articles have called the Pilgrims genocidal toward Native Americans, or argued that the original idea of a Thanksgiving feast is a 'myth.' ”

Read the entire article by Jarrett Stepman at The Daily Signal here.

Picture used by permission from Pixabay.


Preparing for Thanksgiving


I love the beauty of the leaves as October turns to November, reminding us that autumn is passing and winter approaching.  And it aggravates me every year when the stores try to sell Christmas to us way-too-early.  The pursuit of the dollar tempts us to overlook one of the year’s most important observations: Thanksgiving.
 
Here is one holiday that avoids commercialism, brings people together, offers fantastic food, and calls us to forsake our selfishness and instead practice gratitude.  Don’t lose the spirit of Thanksgiving.  Claim it, prepare for it, and practice the art of that holiday.


As we plan for Thanksgiving this month, here are a few ways to intentionally lead your family to be thankful.
 
Read the entire article, Preparing for Thanksgiving, here.

Thanksgiving in America

 


The tradition introduced by European Americans of Thanksgiving as a time to focus on God and His blessings dates back well over four centuries in America. For example, such thanksgivings occurred in 1541 at Palo Duro Canyon, Texas with Coronado and 1,500 of his men; 1 in 1564 at St. Augustine, Florida with French Huguenot (Protestant) colonists; 2 in 1598 at El Paso, Texas with Juan de OƱate and his expedition; 3 in 1607 at Cape Henry, Virginia with the landing of the Jamestown settlers; 4 in 1619 at Berkeley Plantation, Virginia; 5 (and many other such celebrations). But it is primarily from the Pilgrim’s Thanksgiving celebration of 1621 that we derive the current tradition of Thanksgiving Day.



The Pilgrims set sail for America on September 6, 1620, and for two months braved the harsh elements of a storm-tossed sea. Upon disembarking at Plymouth Rock, they held a prayer service and then hastily began building shelters; however, unprepared for such a harsh New England winter, nearly half of them died before spring. 6 Emerging from that grueling winter, the Pilgrims were surprised when an Indian named Samoset approached them and greeted them in their own language, explaining to them that he had learned English from fishermen and traders. A week later, Samoset returned with a friend named Squanto, who lived with the Pilgrims and accepted their Christian faith. Squanto taught the Pilgrims much about how to live in the New World, and he and Samoset helped forge a long-lasting peace treaty between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians. Pilgrim Governor William Bradford described Squanto as “a special instrument sent of God for [our] good . . . and never left [us] till he died.” 7

That summer, the Pilgrims, still persevering in prayer and assisted by helpful Indians, 8 reaped a bountiful harvest. 9 As Pilgrim Edward Winslow (later to become the Governor) affirmed, “God be praised, we had a good increase of Indian corn”; “by the goodness of God, we are…far from want.” 10 The grateful Pilgrims therefore declared a three-day feast in December 1621 to thank God and to celebrate with their Indian friends 11 – America’s first Thanksgiving Festival. Ninety Wampanoag Indians joined the fifty Pilgrims for three days of feasting (which included shellfish, lobsters, turkey, corn bread, berries, deer, and other foods), of play (the young Pilgrim and Wampanoag men engaged in races, wrestling matches, and athletic events), and of prayer. This celebration and its accompanying activities were the origin of the holiday that Americans now celebrate each November.



Picture in the Public Domain.