A Star Defies Nature For Jesus

In the Bible there is a story about ‘wise men’ who were traveling to see a newborn King. They were following a star along their journey and this star made some incredibly unnatural moves along it’s journey.

It started in ‘the East’ with a group of people known as ‘magi’. Magi actually first entered the scene around the 7th century BC in the Median empire, but at the time of Jesus they were a priestly caste dwelling within the Parthian empire (a large area to the east of the eastern frontier of the Roman Empire). They were known for interpreting dreams and practiced a hybrid of astronomy and astrology. They were ‘star people’.

So, they see ‘the‘ star. This is not just any star, but the star that was a big deal because it was the star that marked a king being born. If they were in Persia when they saw the star (although the Bible is silent on the exact point of origin), they would have traveled 1,000 miles to Bethlehem as they followed that star! (Their feet must’ve been like stone after walking all that way… all calloused and blistered by the time they made it into Jerusalem. Either that or some sore butts from the camels. Either way, they were feeling it. )

Now, this is where it gets strange.

They start getting close to this baby named Jesus and we read:

“…the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was.” Matthew 2:9b

Now stars travel in a certain trajectory. If you were to sit and watch the stars through a telescope, you would occasionally have to move the telescope. Because… these stars are not static… they move. They move from the east to the west. But Bethlehem in 5 miles south of Jerusalem.

Did you hear that? The star moved south.

In order for this star to lead these ‘wise guys’ from Jerusalem to Bethlehem it would have taken them on a five mile southward journey. It would have done the impossible to bear witness to the King of all kings… Jesus. 

This is just another one of those facts that I quickly read over and don’t pay any attention to. However, I can imagine the awe of these ‘astronomers’ who spent their entire lives with their eyes to the sky. They knew how stars were supposed to react. They knew what was ‘supposed’ to happen. But, when nature moved to bow before the child named Jesus… they noticed… and so should we. 

We should read God’s Word with fresh eyes to see the miracles in the simple moments. To watch the impossible become possible as the fingerprints of God show up all over the situations relating to Jesus. Because, those fingerprints don’t simply stop around the life of Jesus and the first disciples, but they can be found all around you… also.

God is still at work and He is moving around your life. Sometimes, like when we read the Bible, we skip over those ‘small verses’ that don’t stick out. We just look at the ‘big things’ that are going on around us. But, it is in those small details that the real miracles are taking place. 

If you are frustrated or wondering where God is, I want to reassure you that He IS here and He IS active and He DOES care so much about you. Maybe start by saying a simple prayer like this to Him today:

“God, help me see your fingerprints in my life. Help me see that you are here in the little details of my life. Help me see that You do care and that You are actively at work all around me. Help me see that You will never leave me and that You are fighting on my behalf. Open my eyes to your work today.”

GP

 

 

 

 

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3 Keys to Living In Gratefulness

Living a life of gratefulness is key to living the best possible life ever. When you think about your life, does the word ‘grateful’ come to your mind?

Oftentimes, it may only happen when we are gathered at a table with a big fat turkey staring back at us. But, when we lose something or face difficulty, gratefulness comes back into perspective in our life. When we allow gratefulness to be part of our everyday life, however, we gain a greater perspective on what is truly important.

Personally, there are 5 things that I try to keep centered in my life to remember to be grateful. You can try these too.

  1. Say “Thank You” before your feet hit the floor.Before the java hits your lips, say ‘thank you’. There are so many things to be grateful for when your eyes open. Thankful for the breath in your lungs, the pillow under your head or the opportunity to make a difference in a new day. By making these the first two words out of your mouth, you will start your day with an attitude of gratefulness.
  2. Keep your eyes open to the little things.Each day we are surrounded by so many little things that are often taken for granted. That moment we have a conversation with someone that we didn’t plan and learn something that changes us or opens our mind to something new. Or, that moment when we look around at the job or house or family or friends that we have with new eyes. These moments have the power to increase gratefulness in our lives.
  3. Ask yourself one tough question every day.
    The question is simply this. “If I only had today what I thanked God for yesterday, what would I have?” Ouch! For some of us, that question hurts. We realize that our lack of gratefulness would cause us to live in a pretty sad and empty place. I recently shared this question at THE PLACE Church. Check out the video here:

Strive to live in gratefulness. It will truly have a profound impact on how you see yourself… others… and your life.

Let me hear from you. What are you grateful for this week?

Feel free to keep the conversation on my  Facebook page. 

With a Grateful Heart,

GP

 

Sitting Shiva… Meaningful Suffering and a Perch Sandwich

So, I led my dad’s memorial service the other day.

The question came from someone who cared deeply for me. “So, who are you going to get to do your dad’s service?” I looked back without any thought or hesitation. “Me. I am doing it. There is no one on earth who will do what I want to be done. I am the only one who knew my dad good enough to do his memorial and I am the one doing it.” 

They smiled… almost as if they knew the answer before they asked the question.

I meant those words. No matter how much care or preparation someone could put into a service for my dad, it would still leave me wanting more. I knew the purpose of the day and it was so simple. It is to celebrate my dad’s life and the man that he was… to share his struggles and triumphs in life… to let my mom (the absolute love of his life) shine as I knew that he would want… and to let his life inspire everyone who chose to be there.

And, I get to do this twice. My dad is blessed. He will get two services. One in Arizona and one in Ohio. 

His life could be broken down into three seasons. Life before my mom. Life until the death of my mom. Then, the last 10 years spent in the Grand Canyon State… Arizona. Those who have met him and cared for him in this final decade of years came out to celebrate his life this week. Over 100 people were cramped into church. Through tears… smiles and stories were shared. 

I heard a lot of stories that day.

I heard from those who had ridden motorcycles with my dad. They spoke of the love that he had when they were on the open road. They spoke of the stories they shared and the miles that they drove… together. Before my dad’s last ride. 

I heard from people who knew him at church. They spoke of his smile and the time that they spent serving God together in ministry. They told of how he would be missed. 

I heard from others who met my dad through the town. From his time working at the school to those things that he did to help the community, I heard many stories that continued to bring healing to my heart.

I heard from many who were near my dad’s age. They understood how young he was… how tragic is was… how it could have been any of them… how it could have been any of us. 

Tragedy makes you stop and think. That’s what it does… doesn’t it? There was no long sickness or extended goodbyes. There were no last words that were spoken or plans that were made. There was simply a man who was full of life and embracing adventure and then… nothing.

Or was there something?

I wonder if we speak more through our death sometimes than in our life. I wonder if the unspoken sentences still bounce around in souls and minister to minds who are left asking the question “What if?”

I would ask “what if”. But, my “what ifs” would be different than what you may think. They wouldn’t be…

“What if my dad didn’t take that motorcycle trip?” or

“What if I could have stopped him?” or

“What if someone would have done something that could have caused this nightmare to never have become my reality?”

No. I wouldn’t waste breath on questions like that. But, I would ask something like...

“What if God took my dad home and I am still here to take what he left me and live in such a way to make him proud?” or

“What if those lessons my dad gave me were for a greater purpose in my life?” or 

“What if there is not only meaning in my dad’s life… but also in his death?”

You see… these are better questions for me. I will still ask “what ifs”, but they will be questions that propel me forward and not drag me back. They will be questions that bring glory to the name of God and the Surname “Hintz” which was given to me by my father. I will seek to shine bright on this earth and let people know that the years of hard work, sweat and tears shed by my father were not in vain. They have a sense of purpose… great purpose… and they are not meaningless.

There’s no scarier word for me… “meaningless”.

At the memorial service this week I showed a video of a beautiful song called “Though You Slay Me” with a section that talks about “meaning”. And the message is simple… there is nothing that is “meaningless” in your life. It all has meaning. Everything has meaning.

Even the suffering. 

Even the tears. 

Even the pain.

Even the questions.

It all has meaning. 

I’m sitting in Ohio now and if there was ever a place that encapsulates the word “meaningless” to me… It’s Ohio… I know that some Ohioans are reading this right now and I am glad that you love your state… but I don’t.

But… you see… that doesn’t matter because MY DAD DID. And, because my dad did… there is meaning in me being here right now. In two days I will gather together with a new group of people. These people are from the first two seasons of my dad’s life. From his childhood… from his work years… from before he became a widower. We will gather together in the state that he always called “home”. And, it is in this place, where he will be laid to rest. Right next to my mom. They will be together again. 

I will seek to share his story with an audience that lived that story with him. They will hear about his life and the seasons that made up his years. I will hear some stories that I’ve never heard before. We will laugh together and… we will cry together. And… my hope for all of us… is that we will heal together too.

And… in that healing… we can all find meaning.

I ate perch today. 

I did it for dad. Fried Perch sandwich and steak fries smothered with malted vinegar and lots of salt. I know that it would have been his meal if he were sitting in my seat. And, I know that he would have taken one bite, clapped his hands and said… “Ahhhhh. There ain’t nothing like that Lake Erie Perch. There’s nothing like it.”

I didn’t clap my hands and I didn’t praise the heavens for Lake Erie… at least not out loud. However, in my mind I heard his voice. I hear his voice all the time. I hear his grateful praise for following his final wishes to the tee. I hear him comforting me when I’m sad. I hear his smile when he looks upon all those in his life that have cared for him and for those who have cared for my family in this difficult season. 

I hear him all the time.

Early on in my grief I was praying and I was asking about what to share at his funeral. I heard something that day too. I heard this…

“Tell them all that I loved them. Tell them that I loved them all very much.” 

I smiled. “Of course.” I whispered. “But I think they already know that.” 

And, sitting here today… I hope you do. 

Blessings!

GP

Start the journey with me from Day 1 or go to Day 8

Sitting Shiva… Musty Gun Powder and a Fresh Start

I sat in my dad’s truck for a while today.

I had no reason to be there. I wasn’t looking for anything. I just wanted to be reminded of him so I sat. I breathed in an odor that belonged to him. It smelled like musty gun powder. I smiled. 

Sitting in that truck I knew that I was going to be OK. It’s been 7 days now. The reality is officially one week old and looking back… it feels like a foggy month of Mondays. One day bleeding into another… leaving a red pool at the foot of my bed that I have to step into each and every morning. The moments of sleep have brought comfort and have been appreciated and looked for. Today, however, I started to feel that same feeling… but awake.

I am starting to breathe deep again. I am starting to notice the moments as they pass me by. I am starting to talk to people without wishing that I could just disappear. I have left the house and not counted the seconds until my return. I have walked from my house into the stifling heat and saw things for the first time again. I am starting to heal.

The police sent my dad’s belongings to me. 

My wife sat the brown box on the table. I looked away. “Go ahead and open it.” I said, not wanting to see what I knew was there. It contained the things that he always had on him. The things that had sat locked up in a police locker until now. His keys… his phone… and his wallet.

Later in the day… I opened the wallet.

It smelled just like the inside of his truck. It was fat with memories. A picture of my mom when she was 18 years old is the first thing I saw as it flopped open. It was the first thing that he saw every time he released it. I know that he wanted it that way. Everything was positioned that way. She has been gone ten years now… but she was still the first face that he saw each morning. 

I turned the plastic photo cover in his wallet to expose another dated picture. This one is of a little baby’s first photo. The first photo taken in a hospital after the blood is wiped away. The baby staring back at me is me… many years prior. It was my first photo and one that never left my dad’s side. I was always with him… and now I was face to face with myself.

I speak to me. “I didn’t ask for this. I didn’t want this. But… who does?” 

No one imagines this day. No one knows how they will act… what they will say… how they will heal. You just hold your breath and go through it… one day at a time. And, that is what I am doing. One day at a time and this is just another day. I feel better today. The tidal wave hasn’t crashed… yet. It still might and I am OK with that. I don’t fear it anymore. In fact… I welcome it now.

It has been a week since my dad died, but he is more alive in me today than ever before. 

I am filled with his memories and stories and life. I am reminded of the lessons and principles that he put to work in my life. I am awed by the man that he was and who he is helping me to become. 

You see, he is still working in my life today. There are principles that he gave me that are still being defined and molded in my mind and family. Obstacles that I’ve never hit before will come and I will be reminded of the lessons that he has given me to overcome them. I know that his lessons will continue to be developing for the rest of my life. I wait in eager expectation to see what my dad will teach me next year with the principles that he planted in my life for nearly the last four decades. I know that there will be many. 

My six year old was walking away from me today and… all of a sudden… he turns around to look at me and his eyes are as big as saucers as he said…

“Dad! We haven’t read the Bible in a lot of days!”

You see, before the news of my dad’s death, we had been on a streak of reading the Bible each day for around 80 straight days.

I smiled. 

“You’re right buddy. We need to get caught up. How about we start again tonight?”

He smiled. 

“Sounds great!” He turned and took off into the next room.

How about we start again tonight?

I am so happy for the last 7 days. I am happy I stopped. I am happy I took time to breathe and cry and remember. I am happy that I turned my phone off and ignored the endless dronings of social media. I am happy I lost my shoes and drew my shades. I am so grateful for this time.

I know that I will have many more sad days and I know that tears will find their way to my cheeks again. I will get angry and frustrated and question why and have trouble sleeping and want to crawl the wall and feel like there is an elephant on my chest and… and… breathe.

I will breathe and I will heal and I will be OK. 

Because of this time that I’ve had for the past seven days… I know that I will be able to start again. I won’t be the same… I will never be the same… but, I know that this is all part of the process and the change that I will go through. I embrace it and am excited about what is next.

I sit in the truck. 

I don’t sit there to look back, but to look ahead. The smell will fade, but these memories will shape me and make me into something more than I was. I am thankful for these moments now. I breathe in deep.

I shut the door and walk away… back to my house. My step is lighter. My heart is open. My mind is clear.

I’m ready. Tomorrow… we start again. Tomorrow… we begin anew. 

Today… we rest and remember. 

Thank you for sitting with me today.

Blessings!

GP 

Start the journey with me from Day 1 or go to Day 7

Sitting Shiva… My Dad Died Yesterday

So my dad died yesterday.

I guess that’s how you do it… right? Like a bandaid that has been left too long and sealed itself to your skin, you pull it off and endure the pain that you know is bringing healing. 

But, the statement isn’t really true. My dad actually died two days ago, but they didn’t tell me until yesterday. A ball dropped by a phone call to a police officer to a memo that sat on someone’s desk was the news that the one who grasped my hand as I took my first steps, hugged me tight when I graduated high school and sat each week to hear me speak in a church that he had been part of since the very beginning. That memo sat from night till morning and never made it to my ears until a “medical examiner” called me to question me about the death of my dad.

“Is this Greg Hintz?”

“Uh. Yeah.”

“By now you are aware of the passing of your father.”

“Uh. What?”

“Uh. Well. Uh. Yeah. It tells me hear that you were notified about…”

“About what?” A heat starts to move up from my chest.

“Sir. I am so sorry to be the one to tell you this. This is not our normal protocol. We want family members to be informed in person and it tells me that you were notified. Again, sir, this is not the way…”

JUST HURRY UP AND TELL ME. I DON’T CARE ABOUT YOUR PROTOCOL OR YOUR MISTAKES OR YOUR STUPID MEMOS. JUST TELL ME WHAT I ALREADY KNOW BECAUSE OF YOUR BROKEN PROTOCOL!

“Around 9:30pm last night your father passed away…”

His words continued but I was disconnected from them. The heat transformed into a lump in my throat as I tried to swallow the flame.

I was driving…  I pulled over. 

“Sir, if you would like you can call me back. I just have a few questions about your father’s health history. Again, sir, this is not our normal protocol and I am so sorry to have to be the one to tell you this.” 

“Yes.” The words slipped through gritted teeth. “I think that’s a good idea. I will call you back.” 

My thumb pressed the big red button on my phone and I sat in disbelief staring at a mountain made of dirt in the middle of nowhere.

My dad had left yesterday morning on a motorcycle ride that he had been planning for months. He had found someone to go with him and they had left after breakfast that morning. I thought about the last text that I received from him the day before.

The time was 4:48pm and his text was an answer to my “How’s the ride?” text that I had sent him at 4:02pm.

“Heats awful, dumped the bike twice. We just left LV.”

At 5:42pm I read his answer and responded, “What!?!?!?!? Dumped the bike?”

I never received a response… and I never would. 

My dad loved that bike. It brought him so much joy. He would wash it and wax it and would even put off riding it at night because the bugs would get all over it. For him to “dump it”, there had to be something wrong. And… there was. My dad was on his final ride. His ride to glory.

I hurt.

It is so sad and it makes me feel so alone. My mom died around 10 years ago, but I still had dad. He followed me to Arizona. He was part of my life. He was present at the holidays and went to my kids’ baseball and soccer games. He was a 12 minute drive away. He was still here… but now he’s gone.

I don’t have any brothers… no sisters… just me. I jokingly say, “God broke the mold with me.” And he did. But, I sometimes wish there were others who knew how I felt or could understand exactly what I’m going through. 

No one else sat on his lap and ate popcorn out of a big green plastic bowl. No one else played catch in the front yard on Sunday afternoons after watching the Browns get beat. No one else remembers the way that he would look them in the eye and while patting their cheek say, “I’m so proud of you.” No one else can feel that. No one else can relate. And so I’m left in a sea of somebodies searching for the anybody that knows exactly where I am… and they will never exist.

I could easily try to turn back the clock and live in a place of “should have” or “could have”. Why didn’t I tell him not to go? Why wasn’t I more ‘present’ in his decision? Why didn’t I put my foot down? But I can’t stay here.

I was proud of him that he was going. I was glad that he was doing something that he was excited about. I didn’t want him sitting around watching TV all summer so I applauded his desire to  seize life and do something crazy. Life is all we got… they tell me. But I know that this isn’t true. We are a sum total of our experiences… our dreams… our passions… our moments. And my dad had chosen to have some moments… and in his last moment… do something that he was passionate about.

He had a love for history and railroads and that is where he was heading. He talked about a place where the East met the West called Promontory Point where a Golden Spike still stood. He was heading to see that spike but never had the opportunity. Maybe someday I will go and see that spike for him.

Days before his death a good friend had moved. This man led a spiritual group that my dad had been part of since his time in Arizona. I was forwarded an email that my dad sent him. Here is what I read: 

“I wish you two just a wonderful and safe trip on your move to Texas and that God will continue to bless all that you do as you go forward into a new chapter in life. One thing that can be a very positive item in what will be some sadness in your leaving us, God is taking both of you and your amazing Faith in Him and allowing you to shine in another part of the Country now. He truly is presenting you with a Golden Opportunity to carry His Word to others who may be in so dire need of hearing and seeing His love within you both, at least that’s how I kind of look at it.

So, even in some sorrow at your leaving, there can be great, great joy that only we, His people can bring to our fellow human beings that are so desperate for His love.  I believe you two are being given an absolute great chance to live out that which we declare at THE PLACE Church each Sunday, taking the word of Jesus to those of our neighborhood, Country and the World and we ARE making a difference in this world.”

Those last words that my dad shared to his close friends are words that we use each and every week at THE PLACE Church. We reaffirm that God IS using each and every single person in a positive way in their worlds. Those words were planted deep in my dad. I truly believe that he knew that he was making a difference. And, I know without a shadow of a doubt, that he DID make a difference and that he will live forever in my heart and life.

But, not only mine, but also in the lives of his grandkids who he was so very proud of.

My oldest son, Dylan, wrote some special words on Facebook yesterday. He was very close to my dad and  had even went on a cross country road trip with him that will forever be etched into his memory. I will let his words speak for themselves.

“In loving memory of my Grandpa Al,

The definition of grandpa says grandfather but he was more than that to me. He was my friend, my second father, he was someone who was there for me whenever I needed someone to lean on. Now as I have heard what happened I always want him to know that I will be the best I can be for him. He would expect nothing more as he told me from man to man talk that he gave me advice just like my dad did because he said “I am going to tell you EVERYTHING I have told your dad when he was your age.” I listened to every word he had to say at the end of the conversation the thing that stuck to me the most was these 4 words, “I love you kiddo.” I spent every minute that was given to me to be with him all the good times we have made together. The one I will honor the most is when last year 2014 when we did the across the states trip. There is nothing that will make me lose that memory. I love you too Grandpa I hope you are in a happy place now and I will do everything you told me and become the best I can to honor you! God Bless you Grandpa.

Love,
Dylan”

These words bring tears to my eyes. They are so pure and they hurt so much. I don’t hurt for my yesterdays… I don’t hurt for my memories… I hurt for the unknown tomorrows. The Christmases without him lighting a candle in honor of my mom. The many times that he would do the “pop in” at my house for no reason. The outdated clothes that he would wear that I would threaten to throw out when he was away. In fact, I told him that while he was on his trip I was going to go through his closet and clean it out for him. Little did I know that I would be fulfilling that threat and so much more.

Last night Dylan came out of his room and said these words…

“Xander is sobbing.”

Xander is my six year old. He had been fine all day, so we weren’t sure why he was crying. I went into his room and he was curled up in his top bunk filling his pillow with tears. I walked to his bed.

“What’s up buddy?” I said.

He turned his head towards the wall and I crawled up into his bed… lightly touching his arm. 

“What’s wrong buddy? Are you sad?”

“Yeah.” Through big breaths and wet cheeks he spoke.

“Why?”

Then came the word… “Grandpa. I miss grandpa.”

Tears filled my eyes as they do now writing these words. 

“I know buddy. Me too. I miss grandpa too.”

We laid there for some time. Both covered in tears. Both mourning the same man. Both staring at the wall. 

After some time I told him that it was OK to be sad. We could be sad together. He smiled. I made a “fart joke” and he laughed. I laughed too. His tear stained blue eyes softened.

“I brought a photo album home and I have some pictures of me when I was your age and I looked just like you… well, you’re a little better looking, but it’s close.” I smiled.

He smiled back. “Really!? He jumped up. Let’s go see them.”

“Absolutely. There are some pictures of grandpa there too. He even has a mustache and is wearing some ‘shorty shorts’.”

“Cool. Let’s go.”

We spent the next 30 minutes surrounding an old photo album that had baby photos of me. As we flipped each page, Xander was filled with questions. “Who is this? Who is that? Where are you here?” I told each story as I remembered it. His smile returned and I thanked God for the tears.

I have heard it said that tears are words that the heart can’t express. I believe that. I also believe that tears are healing to the soul. As a family we choose to speak unexpressable words and heal together. With wet eyes and a hurting heart, we throw our arms around each other and strengthen one another. 

I have never felt the healing power of family until now. There is no where else that I want to be. My phone rings. My email fills up. My Facebook continues to build ‘likes’ and ‘comments’ and they are all appreciated… they really are. But, the healing that I need can only be found in the circle of my family. They give me something deeper and richer than anything that I could get anywhere else. They don’t need to say a word… just be in my presence. Their souls radiate and strengthen me. Without them, I don’t know where I’d be.

This event will change me… is changing me. I will never be the same. I can only wish that it will make me a better man and a better dad. I hope to appreciate the little things much more after all this. Because, in the whole scheme of things… those little things that we worry about don’t really matter. These dreams and aspirations that I have are very shallow in the oceans of reality… family… and life. 

I don’t remember my dad’s college degrees or his trophies. I don’t think about his salary or the things that he acquired. I remember the times on his knee and the times we embraced. I remember his caring conversations and his cards filled with love. I remember the joy in his eyes when he saw his grandkids and the days when he taught me how to shoot. I remember Cub Scout projects and shadowing him at his job. I remember tough love and his tears the day my mom died. I remember his passion for politics and his loyalty to friends. I remember the love that he had for me…

I know that he loved me. More than life. More than anything else. I know that he loved me. 

And, if he were sitting here right now, I wouldn’t have to say a word for him to know that I loved him too. I would throw my arms around him. I would thank him for never giving up on me. I would honor him… because that is what he would deserve. 

So, with these words I try to heal. It will take time, but I am not in a hurry. I openly embrace the tears and don’t try to swallow them back. I choose to take time to sit and remember and mourn.

I am reminded of the Jewish tradition of “Sitting Shivah”. This is a 7 day period where the mourners fulfill two main purposes. First, it is about honoring the dead. Secondly, it is about helping the mourner deal with their loss. I guess this writing is sort of my way of “Sitting Shivah” and by you being part of it, you are choosing to sit here with me. 

I am so honored to have you on this journey with me. Thank you for sitting with me. Thank you for your encouragement. Thank you for your love. Thank you for your kind words. I am so glad that I don’t have to sit alone. 

Blessings!

GP

Day 2

Matthew 1: Tamar, Halibut and the Plans of God

If you start reading the Bible in Matthew chapter 1, you are going to be smacked with a list of names. Not names that you would probably find in your city’s maternity wing either. Some of these names are long, confusing and can make us really frustrated when we start reading the Bible.

Amminadab

Jehoram

Zerubbabel

Or, my favorite, Salmon and his brother Halibut.

(Bible disclosure. What you just read was a joke. Salmon does exist, however there is no Halibut in the family. Aunt Tuna wouldn’t let it happen.)

But, what we have to realize is that every name has a story and that story can mean something profound to us. When we read the name and know the story… a greater understanding of the hope and peace and grace of God comes into our lives.

For example, there is a phrase that is thrown into verse three. We read:

“Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah (whose mother was Tamar)…” Matthew 1:3a

What’s the point? We don’t hear the name of everyone’s mom… so why would the Bible include Tamar?

I would encourage you to read the story in Genesis 38. It is a tale of ejaculation, prostitution and all the stuff you don’t hear preached about on a Sunday morning. You hear the dark side of a patriarch named Judah (whose name I still think is awesome, even though his character might have been slightly askew).

Here it is in a nutshell:

Judah’s son Er gets a wife and her name is Tamar. He was wicked so God killed him. (see 38:7)

Judah tells the younger brother to marry her, have sex with her and make a baby. For some reason, this doesn’t seem like the life plan that Onan has for himself, so he pulls out just in time (before his ejaculation) and the Bible tells us that he “spilled it on the ground”. (see 38:9) Because of this… God killed him. (see 38:10)

I can’t make this stuff up.

This left the third son who was too young to get married (and probably scared to death of the “black widow” that was killing off his family), so Judah tells her to go back to her family’s home until he grew up.

She does.

He grows up.

Judah just forgets about his promise to Tamar. Life goes on and she is left without husband and without child.

This was a big deal.

To be married and have children were the purposes that drove this culture. It was disgraceful not to have children and to be a widow and not have children was just shameful.

She had trusted in her husband… that didn’t work out. She had trusted in the integrity of her father in law… and he failed her. She had hoped her life would turn out different… it didn’t. So, she took matters into her own hands.

She dressed up like a prostitute.

Maybe you didn’t see that coming. I know I didn’t when I first read it.

“I’m frustrated. I’m upset. But, I’m also single and ready to mingle! Let’s go on down to the sheep barbershop and see what I can get into.”

Judah sees her, but she has on a veil. He thinks, “There’s a prostitute and then says…”

“Go to, I pray thee, let me come in unto thee.” This must be the normal King James talk between a “John” and a lady of the night.

Long story short… she gets a staff from him, gets a baby by him, gets accused by him, schooled him and then gets married to him. (For full story, please read your Bible!)

The baby (or should I say ‘babies’) are born… twins… named Perez and Zerah (NLT).

These babies are found in the lineage of Jesus. They are part of His story… Tamar is part of His story… and YOU are part of His story.

Maybe you understand how Tamar felt. Let down by people. Alone. Forgotten. Maybe you, like her, have tried to take matters into your hands. For some of us, that has worked. For others, it has blown up in your face. However… for all of us… whether we sit with smiles or singed eyebrows from a recent life explosion, God can work in that.

He does. He works in our mistakes. He works in our victories. He sees our pain and comforts us through it. He is guiding the steps of your life and has a perfect plan for you. The only question is… “Will you respond to Him? Will you give Him control over the chaos today?”

Tamar was far from a perfect person. Many things she did were wrong. However, God still used her in His story. I want to encourage you to believe this simple fact today:

God wants to use you in His story. Will you let Him?

GP

“Sometimes Life is Going to Hit You in the Head with a Brick”

Some people loved him… Some people hated him. No matter what your thoughts were on the man, his life changed the way that many of us live today.

When he spoke, there was a profound wisdom that can be found nestled in his words. He understood much more than gigabytes and computer programming. In fact, if we listen to his words, they have power to change the way that we live.

This short video is filled with wisdom. My favorite line is:

“Sometimes life is going to hit you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith.”

We are all going to face tough times. We are all going to face difficulties. It is not these tough times or difficulties that define us… but our response to these things. 

Maybe you have faced difficulty recently. Maybe you are facing it right now. I want you to know that, sometimes, losing everything can be the best thing that ever happened to you. Let me leave you with another quote from the video:

“The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.” 

Try to picture this difficult moment as a new possibility… a new journey… an incredible opportunity.

Maybe that brick that hit you really just knocked some sense into you. 

GP

Word of the Week: Agathist

Pronunciation: AG-uh-thist

noun:  from Greek-derived agath- (good): a person who believes all things tend toward ultimate good.

I’ve been called a lot of things in life, but I’ve never been called an “agathist”. However, now that I know what it means, I would truly embrace this title over my life.

I guess it’s a lot like an optimist. You know… “the glass is half full” kind of guy. It’s really a great way to live. I have an overwhelming belief that ALL THINGS have a way of working together for my good… even the tough stuff. I read it once here and it’s truly stuck with me.

In addition to that, one of my favorite sayings is that “Hindsight is 20/20”. I’ve lived it for so long… I have learned to preach it!

Trust me… eventually it will all make sense. Enjoy the ride and be an agathist. Life’s too short!

GP

Steve Jobs, Tough Questions and Life Perspective

Every now and then you hear a speech that really makes you think. The words from Steve Jobs after his diagnosis with cancer really woke me up. They were sobering words that seemed to keep ringing in my ears even after the video ended. Here is a little bit of that speech…

“When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.” – Steve Jobs

We are coming to the end of another year and I want you to answer that question for yourselves. 

“Do you want to do what you are about to do today?”

If you aren’t happy with the way things are going, today is the day to make the change. These changes are often simple and easily implemented, but they make a big difference.

What is one thing that you would like to do different this year? 

Will you start today? If not… why not. This is your moment!

GP

Top Ten Books that Impacted Me in Some Way

I was recently asked to do this on my Facebook Page:

In your status, list 10 books that have stayed with you in some way. Don’t take more than a few minutes and don’t think too hard. They don’t have to be great books, just the ones that have touched you.

Well, I took the time and answered. I thought I’d share it with you guys.

Greetings! Well, let me just shoot from the hip. These are in no particular order… just answering the top 10 I’d like with me on a deserted island.

The Holy Bible: Each day. Every day. Nutrition to the soul

The Road: Cormac McCarthy – Gripping Fiction that shares a struggle for survival between a father and son

Mere Christianity: C.S. Lewis – Takes me places every time I read it

On the Road: Jack Kerouac – The journey of the soul takes us to many different places. Hitch hiking, Train jumping and a beatnik adventure.

Any Hemingway Book – Simple language with a masculine tone is always good!

The Four Hour Workweek: Tim Ferriss ~ I’ve read it a dozen times and I’ll read it a dozen more. Changes life perspective.

Matthew Henry’s Exhaustive Commentary of the Bible: Great wisdom!

Walden: Henry David Thoreau ~ Keeps me thinking and appreciating the little things

The Message Bible – It is it’s own category. I could read this like a novel.

The Poetry of Robert Frost ~ His poem, “The Road Not Taken”, is a short picture of my life and I’d love to get lost in his work.

I know it’s pretty eclectic, but it’s me. What about you? Do you have a top 10? What is it?

Have a great Christmas!

GP