Monday, December 17, 2007

Belly Laughs

Belly Laughs
By John Fischer

Not long ago I spent three days in a hotel in rural Indiana. In the lobby of my hotel was a group of six women who spent the better part of a day laughing and carrying on while they worked on a sewing project together. These six women, ranging in age from fifty-five to eighty, shared an obvious camaraderie that evidenced itself in their animated conversation, laced with a generous supply of laughter—what I would call belly laughter, a deep-from-way-down-inside-because-we’ve-gone-through-so-much-together laughter that was highly contagious. And when I saw their Bibles come out, I knew I had to find out more.

I almost fell in on them I was eavesdropping so close, but one of them caught me and invited me in. That’s when I found out they were at one time all from the same town and were meeting back at this hotel as a sort of semi-annual reunion. I could see why they would make the effort because they indeed had something special going here.

When I asked them why they were still meeting, I received a litany of divorce, cancer, dead husbands, and lost children that would have kept a sitcom supplied with material for more seasons than Friends ever dreamed of. There was history behind those belly laughs. There was an obvious spiritual center to this group, but not a rubber stamp. There was a Roman Catholic, a southern Baptist, a Methodist, a Pentecostal, and two who named no church affiliation, yet I couldn’t help thinking that they were having church there, and it was a church I wouldn’t mind joining.

The “youngest” and spunkiest among them was quite clearly the eighty year-old who was actually the excuse for this particular get-together having just turned eighty that week. I commented about how she didn’t look a day over sixty-five. That’s when one of the other women quipped: “Oh she’s eighty, alright. Why do you think she’s been trying to thread that needle for the last 15 minutes!” Belly laughs followed with birthday girl, the loudest.

What held these women together wasn’t just a religious experience, it was their shared human experiences as well, their love and respect for each other and their ability to let each other’s character come out of the box where I would wager it stays most of the time when they are not together like this.

I actually found myself being jealous of what these women had, until I realized I could have it too. It requires commitment, stark honesty, love, acceptance, and refusal to judge one another. It requires needing and serving one another. This is something we all need.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Letter from JESUS

As you well know, we are getting closer to my birthday. Every year there is a celebration in my honor and I think that this year the celebration will be repeated.

During this time there are many people shopping for gifts, there are many radio announcements, TV commercials, and in every part of the world everyone is talking that my birthday is getting closer and closer. It is really very nice to know, that at least once a year, some people think of me. As you know, the celebration of my birthday began many years ago. At first people seemed to understand and be thankful of all that I did for them, but in these times, no one seems to know the reason for the celebration. Family and friends get together and have a lot of fun, but they don't know the meaning of the celebration. I remember that last year there was a great feast in my honor. The dinner table was full of delicious foods, pastries, fruits, assorted nuts and chocolates. The decorations were exquisite and there were many, many beautifully wrapped gifts.

But, do you want to know something? I wasn't invited.

I was the guest of honor and they didn't remember to send me an invitation. The party was for me, but when that great day came, I was left outside, they closed the door in my face .. and I wanted to be with them and share their table. In truth, that didn't surprise me because in the last few years all close their doors to me. Since I wasn't invited, I decided to enter the party without making any noise. I went in and stood in a corner. They were all drinking; there were some who were drunk and telling jokes and laughing at everything. They were having a grand time.

To top it all, this big fat man all dressed in red wearing a long white beard entered the room yelling Ho-Ho-Ho! He seemed drunk. He sat on the sofa and all the children ran to him, saying: "Santa Claus, Santa Claus"as if the party were in his honor!

At midnight all the people began to hug each other; I extended my arms waiting for someone to hug me and do you know no-one hugged me. Suddenly they all began to share gifts. They opened them one by one with great expectation. When all had been opened, I looked to see if, maybe, there was one for me. What would you feel if on your birthday everybody shared gifts and you did not get one?

I then understood that I was unwanted at that party and quietly left. Every year it gets worse. People only remember the gifts, the parties, to eat and drink, and nobody remembers me. I would like this Christmas that you allow me to enter into your life. I would like that you recognize the fact that almost two thousand years ago I came to this world to give my life for you, on the cross, to save you.

Today, I only want that you believe this with all your heart. I want to share something with you. As many didn't invite me to their party, I will have my own celebration, a grandiose party that no one has ever imagined, a spectacular party. I'm still making the final arrangements..

Today I am sending out many invitations and there is an invitation for you. I want to know if you wish to attend and I will make a reservation for you and write your name with golden letters in my great guest book. Only those on the guest list will be invited to the party. Those who don't answer the invite, will be left outside. Be prepared because when all is ready you will be part of my great party.

See you soon. I Love you!

Share this message with your loved ones, before Christmas

Friday, December 7, 2007

Down to the Water

Down to the Water
By John Fischer

Think about your baptism today. And if you haven’t been baptized, you will want to be, if you are a believer in Jesus.

I was baptized in a lake on the campus of Stanford University with a small crowd of believers and unbelievers looking on. It was a warm Sunday afternoon in March 1971. Two of my best friends put me down. I still have somewhere a picture of them pulling me up out of the water. I had the picture blown up to an 8 X 10 and framed on the wall of my office at the time. It was, and still is, my “credential” for life.

I had been baptized before at age 9. I was “sprinkled.” That means the minister dipped his hand in some water and sprinkled it on top of my head. Getting baptized again as an adult wasn’t an issue of doctrine or theology; it was an issue of passion. I was watching all my friends and a whole bunch of new converts get baptized and I wanted to join them. I felt a little like Peter when he protested having Jesus wash his feet and Jesus said that he couldn’t be a part of Him unless he let Him do this, to which Peter replied “Well then, give me a bath!” or something to that effect. I understand that. I wanted to get all wet. I wanted to identify with the death and resurrection of Jesus and I wanted to identify with my new family in Christ.

When you are baptized you go down. You put yourself in the hands of someone else and they fold you back under the water. Now they could keep you there and you’d really die, but they pull you back out as a symbol of your death to your old way of living, and your rising to a new way of life trusting in the Spirit of God. And there is great joy in this.

You go down a sinner and come up a saint. You go down guilty and come up forgiven. You go down dead and come up alive. You go down alone; you come up in the family of God. It’s really a big deal. If it hasn’t happened to you, you need to consider it. If it has, you need to remember.

That’s a big part of this—remembering. Whenever you are tempted to doubt your faith, remember. Whenever you think that what you just did, God could never forgive you for, remember. Whenever you are tempted, remember. Whenever you think you are alone, remember. It happened to you in time and space. You were baptized into this and you have witnesses. Just as Jesus was crucified and raised again at a point in time in the real world, you were identified with Him as well, and with all those who have believed in Him from all time all over the world.
That’s a big deal; and a pretty big family, indeed!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Does God cry?

A little girl once asked, "Mommy does God cry?"
"Don't be silly, God can't cry baby," her mother replied.

"But what about when He looks down from Heaven above
And sees all the people who needs His love?

And what about when He looks down and sees
The playground kids fall and scrape their knees?

Or how about Aunt Jane who can't have baby girls or boys?
Or what about the poor kids who gets no Christmas toys?

Maybe God would cry if He lived with my friend Tommy.
Whose daddy beats and bruises him and his mommy.

Or maybe if He looked down and saw people being killed,
I think He'd surely have eyes that are tear filled.

But I think most of all, mommy, what would have made God cry,
Is when He looked down at the cross and watched His baby die."

The mother stood in silence as her eyes filled with tears,
For she knew her little girl was wise beyond her years.

Staring into deep blue eyes, the mother found courage to say,
"Yes baby girl, I think God looks down and cries every day."

God Bless you and keep you safe in Jesus' arms!