Christmas at Point Loma

I had arrived in San Diego on Friday December 12, 1958. It was my first Christmas away from family and Jackson, Tennessee.  The palm trees made into ‘Christmas Trees’ did not impress this West Tennessee boy with his memories of cedar trees; they left something missing from Christmas. Since I was the new man on the duty roster I pulled Christmas duty on that Thursday of 1958 and sometime that weekend looking for something to do I made my way to The Point Loma National Cemetery. Standing there looking across that beautiful green bed with its white markers pointing to the sky I felt a sense of home. Looking back I am sure it was because of my love for those who had served our country. At Point Loma you look across the green grass of the hillside dotted with the white markers into the great blue of the Pacific Ocean. It is a beautiful sight and a great reminder of the price that so many have paid for our freedom. I had seen the lady and her young son of about seven but caught up in my own thoughts I did not notice them until the boy seeing me in my  dress blues came running over to me and asked with great seriousness, “Did you know my dad?” Standing, not sure what to say his mother answered for me as she told the boy not to bother me and that I would not have known his father. I stooped down asked the child to show me his father’s grave and read with pride, Chief Petty Officer Dan Raymond Sharp, 1919 – 1952. I saluted his grave and putting my hat on his son saluted him as well. I left that beautiful and holy ground with tears that day but my heart was very proud and thankful for all those who made the day possible for me.

Ivan

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Published in: on November 29, 2012 at 11:18 pm  Leave a Comment  

He Changed the World

You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.  John 3:2

In the manger the Shepherds knew that he was sent from God; likewise the Wise Men knew he was a gift from God. I believe that even the Inn Keeper and those who were there on that faithful night knew that something wonderful, glorious, and eternal was happening.

I have my list made, not all the grandchildren have responded, but the list is a work in progress and already I am worried; will I give the right thing, will it look cheap if we spend less this year? You could join me and add your fears and frustrations of the season to those that I have. Instead, let each of us remember that this is a celebration of His Birth, His Gift, and His Coming to change the world. It really should not be so much about us, instead it should be in a glorious way about Him. He has given to us His life, His time, His teaching, His comfort, and His hope. We don’t have to try and match that, we just need to give Him ourselves, that will be pleasing and that will be enough. Let each of us proclaim Him as God’s gift this Christmas of 2012.

We too have seen the glory of Christ.  Look at the world before He came. No mercy, no care for others, no medical treatment, no homes for orphans, no place for the worn out and worn down.  The coming of Christ has changed this world, and His coming has changed each of us. His Return will take care of all eternity. Let this Christmas belong to Christ.

Ivan

Published in: on November 28, 2012 at 11:40 pm  Leave a Comment  

It Be Ok

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, . . . Hebrews 12:2

While Tom was nearer my father’s age than mine in many ways he related to me as any other twelve year old boy would have. He liked the things I liked, cowboy and Indian movies, baseball, and talked about all the things which most of my friends talked about. He worked for my dad and came each week to pick up our trash and at other time to work in the yard and to in general help my dad. All of those years he had been a good friend to my father as well as to me.  They told me that Tom only had a few days left so I left the office early and went by his hospital room. He was alone, in a lot of pain, but seemed happy to see me and have a moment of old time memory.  Tom loved the old western movies that we had both watched when I was a boy. So we talked a lot about Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Johnny Mac Brown, and many others.  We talked about how little things cost back then and how much fun we had without the help of a phone, computer, and even a TV.

I told Tom that I understood that he was very sick and just wanted him to know that I would be praying for him and also if he had any decisions or thoughts he wanted to share now would be the perfect time. Tom turned toward me and with eyes dim with sight said, “Mr. Sonny it sure has been good to work all these years for Mr. Ivan, I hate to think what my life would have been like if I had not been able to work for him. He be a real good man, Sonny, and watching you grow up and become a preacher boy has been real good, I been keeping an eye on you and I am sure glad we had all those chats long ago. But now the time be done come that I got other things to do just like you got other places to be. Sonny, I be fixed my eyes of Jesus a long time ago.  All that like those old moves be ok. They always ended with the good guy winning and so I know my movie be alright, the ending will be good.”

I prayed, left, cried a bit for an old friend and on reaching my car said, “Thank You Lord.”

Ivan

Published in: on November 27, 2012 at 11:04 pm  Leave a Comment  

We Are Angry

We Are Angry

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.  Jesus Mark 10:45

Not a very popular verse today when so many in the world are looking for someone to serve them.

Have you noticed how mad we seem to be in America? The market falls and we want someone, anyone to bail us out.  No complaints when it was going up. We are angry with our government, angry with the rich, angry with others who have more than we have, and angry that we in our minds have not gotten our share.

We purchased houses costing more than we really could afford, then when we were told that there value had increased we borrowed even more money on them and went on a new spending spree. Then bang, someone stuck a pin in our balloon and we got really mad. We blame the bankers, politicians, anyone except ourselves.  We really enjoy being served. Money coming in and we are happy but bang it stopped and we get mad and decide it had to be someone’s fault beside ourselves. The market had some bad days recently and I had some sleepless nights, like my staying awake was going to change the market. Now I know this is over simple, but in truth don’t you see us as real babies, spoiled, expecting everything to always be going our way.

I wonder how Jesus felt when he got on His knees and washed His disciples’ feet. You know of course that He was God, there on the flood, washing feet.

We will not take a job paying less than we think we should make let alone wash a bunch of guy’s feet that never listen and seldom got it right. I think we have put ourselves into a situation that makes us ripe to accept even that which is wrong in order for us to have it our way. In fact I think that most people would make a pack with the devil if he could promise them that they were going to make it through this world in comfort. The problem is we are not going to make it through this world, we are all going to die and after death we will see and understand the truth. Look, Jesus is on his knees washing the feet of His disciples, where are we?

Ivan

Published in: on November 26, 2012 at 11:48 pm  Comments (1)  

Just Counting My Blessings

Thanksgiving has been great and what a joy it is to just spend some time with family, eating, telling old stories, and sharing the joy of their lives. It has also been good to be able to spend the time driving back and forth to Nashville counting my blessings. I am a blessed man and I am so grateful for all that the Lord has giving me the joy of being a part of  these 75 years. I have spent the larger part of them, some 58 years pastoring, preaching and sharing in our Lord’s work.  How privileged I have been and how wonderful to have met so many great people. In fact I have preached most of the Sundays in these 58 years, outside of the time spent in training when I first entered the Navy I believe I have missed very few Sunday without being in the pulpit.  What a wonderful privilege, hard on a lot of the listeners but wonderful to me.

Of course I have met one or two people over the years that made life hard but very few and not really hard just not easy. For the most part they have been a joy to my life. I remembering going to a church where I had been sent by the Dean of our University to preach one Sunday and discovering that the Dean had sent me to moderate the removal of two church members. I will not share the story, but in the final decision I had asked the church to be forgiving and let time heal this new wound. The Dean smiled when I returned the next day, he knew what was going on but had not told me, telling him how it had all worked out. He turned to walk away and said, “I knew God wanted you to be in that pulpit yesterday.” I have held the hands of old friends leaving for their heavenly home, knelt beside giving mothers who had just learned that their boys would not return from Vietnam, wept with friend who had just learned that cancer had invaded their bodies, rejoiced with people being saved, goofed when performing a marriage for someone and enjoy and been blessed by it all.

With a family that cares, a work that is glorious, and a Lord like I have it could have worked out no other way for He is the Captain of my life and His course is always, always right.

Ivan

Published in: on November 25, 2012 at 10:27 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Last Thanksgiving Shopper

(A tease of the first chapter of The Last Thanksgiving Shopper, a book still in progress.) @Copy Right Pending

The Last Thanksgiving Shopper

Fadi checked his email it was a go. He pulled out of the Brentwood Landings drove his car to the Jeep dealership on 96, parked in the back and walked to the gate of the storage facility, put in his special 24 hour code and walked to his unit.  Opening the door he saw at once that it was a rental van, in the back a box of 5 one pound bricks of explosive wrapped in red Christmas paper, he checked the instructions then opened the long box which contained the high powered sniper rifle, scope, and silencer. He looked one more time at the instructions, started the van and pulled out of the storage unit. At 3am he was the only person anywhere in the area. He put the van in park, closed the rental unit door and drove to the gate putting in his code and moving forward to the road leading back to 96, then a right to interstate 65 and North toward Lebanon.

He was familiar with the area, after all he had spent the last three years in school at MTSU, working at O Charlie’s, and hanging with the locals in their churches and activities. No one knew that he was on the payroll of a place far away and that today he would earn the salary and first class life style he had enjoyed for these past years.

At fifteen minutes past 4 am he pulled into the truck parking lot at Pilots in Lebanon. He took the packages one at a time and slipped them near the gas tanks of five trucks letting the magnetic qualities of the explosives do the arming. By 5:45 he had picked up a coke and donut inside the store and was on his way back to Cool Springs. The wrapped bricks would take three hours and fifteen minutes to activate unless someone discovered them and tried to remove it from the truck, if this happened they would explode within ten seconds. He stopped at the I Hop in Brentwood for breakfast, looked at his watch as he waited for seven thirty to arrive. Driving to Cool Springs Mall he parked in the steak house parking lot across the area from the Sears end of the mall sit up his shot and waited. The parking lot of the mall was almost full as shoppers hurried to get in on all the specials of Black Friday. At two minutes to eight he slid the door open just wide enough for his sigh to be clear, picked a group of three ladies getting out of a small white car and pulled the trigger, all three hit the pavement; no one heard a thing and no one noticed. He closed the door of the van, drove to the Wal-Mart lot, paused just long enough to pick his shot, opened the door, took the shot and two people fell.  A car behind him honked his horn; he stepped out of the van, motioned for the driver to go around him. Then getting back in the van he started toward the storage facility. Turning on the radio he heard the frantic voices of reporters from one hundred cities across America, telling of death at malls and exploding trucks on the highway. America went panic and by the time he returned to his apartment the president had order all retail malls and stores across America to close and all trucks to stop where they were and drivers to get away from their rigs as far as possible. Black Friday had turned into Black Death and America was paralyzed.

Published in: on November 22, 2012 at 12:19 am  Comments (1)  

A Song of Thanksgiving

A Song Of Thanksgiving

Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands!
Serve the Lord with gladness;
Come before His presence with singing.
Know that the Lord, He is God;
It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;[a]
We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.

Enter into His gates with thanksgiving,
And into His courts with praise.
Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.
For the Lord is good;
His mercy is everlasting,
And His truth endures to all generations.

We are a blessed people and we must give our Praise and thanksgiving unto God.

Have a wonderful day with your family. Ivan

Published in: on November 21, 2012 at 11:04 pm  Leave a Comment  

Just Look Around – Now!

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last. John 15:16

It’s a bit like receiving a gift from someone not on our list, we did not have one for them, and we feel really bad. But remember the gift Jesus wants from you is a fruitful life. That’s all; just serve Him.

I can remember people coming by at Christmas that we had not seen in a long time and we had not purchased a gift for them.  So we would rush around and wrap something to have for them before they left.  I think a lot of people try that with Jesus.  Just give him what is lying around, just anything, and get him on his way. That will not do, Jesus wants our service, real service, and nothing else will do.

Take this week of Thanksgiving and use it to prepare your heart to someday meet God face to face and give praise to Him. You can do that by not waiting until Thursday to give thanks but rather begin even today, Tuesday, to give praise and Thanksgiving to God.  Don’t worry about your gift fitting Him, being the right color, or meeting His desire; for His desire is for you to bear fruit and the fruit bearing begins with giving Him your praise and honor.  Just look around like my son use to do at the table when asked to say the blessing, see what is before you and like Vann say thank your Lord for the turkey, beans, and etc. I am sure that as you look you will see many things for which you can praise the Lord, begin now, look around your room, walk out the door, see, and behold His blessings.

Ivan

Published in: on November 19, 2012 at 11:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

Watching the Sun – Remembering Things Past

I drove down to the lake Sunday afternoon where I had one of those glorious views so that I could watch the sun dip itself into our beautiful Dale Hollow Lake . I thought about my dad and how he loved the water, rivers, lakes, just water. He talked for years about building a houseboat, but mother would have nothing of it, and that was enough excuse to keep him for starting the adventure. I think it might have been a dream that he enjoyed talking about more than doing. I am grateful for my parents, God placed me in a wonderful home and I am deeply blessed because of it. I remember mom and thought about how busy and worried she would be this time of year, planning for a big feast on Thanksgiving and again for Christmas. She loved it but you never caught that in her talking and in her worry. It would have been a dark hour if her ‘children’ had not come home for the holidays.

I ran across my mind those events when we gather at the house at 246 South Lindsey Street, grown ups talking, children playing, rooms full of people, but though it all the events of the day were all circled around our being a family and being together.

I remembered the Thursday night that mother died in that house, how it had changed even the aroma of the place. After mother left it was never the same, what she took with her could not be replaced. I thought about dad as the years closed and he stopped dreaming of a houseboat and travel and adventures; it was like the sun I was watching, almost ready to dip itself into the darkening waters of our lake. I asked him one day if he ever thought about the houseboat and he said, “I think there is not enough time to finish it.” He was right for when dreams stop, time begins to run at its rapid pace and like the falling sun it is soon gone.

Darkness fell across me, I said a prayer of thanksgiving for the life that God has given to me; remembering the past was good but living today in now the task.

Ivan

(This is my 500th post, these ramblings and stories have been opened more than 37,000 times in more than 52 countries and I am both humbled and grateful. However the only way that I know that they make any contribution is to hear from you.)

Published in: on November 18, 2012 at 11:55 pm  Leave a Comment  

Tough Chicken – Soft Hearts

 

As a young preacher people were always taking me home for lunch with them after the Sunday morning service. I must have eaten in several hundreds of homes over those early years as a preacher boy and pastor.

Many of them I still remember like it was yesterday, all of them helped me to become the pastor that God has granted me the opportunity to be in these last years.

This very poor and humble couple asked me one Sunday if I could come to their home in a couple of week.  Of course I told them I would be honored.  They were very bashful, always stayed on the edge of the group and I knew that they had very little of this world’s goods.

The Sunday came and I went to their home, it was small, aged with items that had seen a lot of hard years but they were sweet and seemed so pleased that I would have lunch with them.

It turned out that they had the toughest chicken that I had ever tried to eat. It was like chewing my shoe.  I struggled and made it through the meal but it was not very easy. I later learned that they had no money to purchase a chicken so they had killed their only chicken, an old rooster and fried it like a young fryer.

As I was getting ready to leave the man asked if he could lead us in a word of prayer. I also learned later that his wife had never heard him pray in all of their life together. I still remember the prayer. “Father you sure have been good to us to let this young man come to our home and give us the honor of ‘fixing’ lunch for him. No body like him ever been in our house before God and we be real pleased that he come to our house and make us so happy by eating at our table. Now God you bless this boy and make him into a great preacher just as you made our table a great table today. I be praying this in your name. Amen”

As I hugged them both and left the house I had to rub the tears away, maybe that had been a tough chicken but it sure came from some soft hearts and I was the one that was most honored.

Ivan

 

Published in: on November 15, 2012 at 11:46 pm  Leave a Comment