Friday, December 28, 2007

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

This is a picture of how we celebrate at the Prater house on New Years Eve!


I pray that all of my friends in the blogosphere have a safe and happy New Year!

Oh yeah, here are some words of wisdom for this holiday:

Don't make any resolutions you can't keep,
but keep the resolutions that you make... or something to that effect.


Anyway, Happy New Year!!!



Sunday, December 23, 2007

UH OH, NO HO HO...


Merry Christmas to all my friends out there in the Blogosphere!!!!!!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Leap Frog Incident...

Today, I had this funny memory hit me that I just can’t seem to shake out of my skull. So, I decided to share it here, even though I really don’t know how to tie it into a spiritual story-daily walk kind of thing. BUT, I know my buddies in the blogosphere (ie. Andy, Grant, Larry, Hook, Gabrielle, Will… and the rest) can surely turn it into a lesson. This is your assignment guys: Turn this story about “The Leap Frog Incident” into a sermon, and post it in the comments. Here we go!!!

The Leap Frog Incident happened one morning last Spring. Will and I came out of the house, just as Napoleon’s (our golden retriever) "Girlfriend" showed up. I saw the dogs sniffing each other behind the Jeep as I threw my bookbag inside. But when I looked up, there was Napoleon and his girlfriend "At It", so to speak… AND, there was my son standing five feet away from them watching with a strange, quizzical look on his face.

I told Will to come on and he stood there and said, "Hey Dad look!". I blew it off and said, "Yeah I know. Now come on, we're late!".

He walked to me laughing and said, "That's funny, Napoleon and his girlfriend are playing leapfrog and he's not strong enough to jump over her back."

At this point, I started laughing. Then I quickly strapped him in the Jeep and ran behind it and cackled loudly. When I had regained my composure, I hopped into the driver’s seat and fired up the engine. Will was still smiling when he turned to me and said,

"Dad,” he said with a smile, “We need to help Napoleon next time.”

“Huh???” I said stunned.

“We could just grab his butt and push him over the top," he said as he motioned this movement with his arms.

Obviously, I couldn't hold back so I laughed out loud, he laughed, and then I told him that it wouldn't be a good idea. I went on to say something to the effect of Napoleon needs to learn this one on his own...


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A Simple Invitation...

"The majority of people say they would come to Church if only someone would ask them"

Why is it that we don't invite everyone we know that isn't involved in a Church, to come to our Church? I've sat and thought of why we tend to do this and have come up with the following possible answers:

1. Afraid they'll think we're a Bible-Thumping Jesus-Freak Weirdo.
2. Afraid that we may look like a hypocrite because we may have done something that seemed "Un-Christian" while they were watching.
3. Embarrassed that they might think we worship in a strange way at our Church.

You may have laughed at a few of these, especially the first one. But then again, maybe you've seen yourself in these three reasons. But now, I am left with the simple answer that we don't invite people to come to our Church simply because it is

"OURS"

Huh??? Stay with me as I try to work this out...

We humans are proud of "Our" stuff. Whether we're talking about our car, family, or even our college, taking pride in things that are important to us will always shine through to others. The first thing I think of, is how proud I am of my son. I love to tell people about the things he's done, and if you've read my blog for any length of time, you know this much is true. I'm also proud of my wife and all she has accomplished, and most of all for putting up with me and proving how tough she really is. I'm also proud of my service in the Army and I always feel a kinship when I am around any other veterans, especially Tankers. But what about Church?

When it comes to Church, I am extremely proud of my Church. There have been disagreements and other rifts over the years, but I still see it as a city on a hill that's still reaching the lost, one soul at a time. The problem I have is that I haven't invited anyone to come to my Church in a very, very long time. And, I'm puzzled by this fact. But why? Let's go further into what makes me tick...

When I was in High School, I had a 1965 Mustang. I was ridiculously proud of this little red car that Dad and I had painstakingly restored to pristine condition. I never let anyone else drive it, ever. Neither did I permit anyone to ride in it if they had dirt on their shoes. I even remember washing it on the carport after driving it in the rain one time! I guess I was so proud of this car that it became my most valuable possession. But why not? After all, my folks had in trusted me with it, and it was up to me to make sure I cared for it. It was my life for two years... then I sold it and used the money at college.

Church... we are His Church. God gave us His son so we could come to Him and be called His. But not only "His", all believers are HIS CHURCH and he calls us to reach the lost and bring them to Him. If you think about it,


We Christians have the greatest, most valuable gift living inside of us that nothing can even come close to, and that is the Holy Spirit


And, the neat thing about having the Holy Spirit is that we are called to share it with others and help them get it. It is a well that never runs dry, gets sold out of inventory, or becomes obsolete. But I like to quote Cousin Eddie from National Lampoons Christmas Vacation, "It's the gift that keeps on giving".

So, what have you done this Christmas season to reach others for Christ? What gift have you given? This picture at the right is the simple invitation I handed out this year, and I'm offering it to you, the reader, as well. I'm inviting you to my Church, but then again, any Church in general will do for this simple invitation. I've personally invited a couple people to Church this season in a hopes of bringing them closer to Him. One was easy to invite, while one took a huge step out of my comfort zone. But then again, He is worth a little bit of discomfort for what He's done...



Friday, December 14, 2007

Not Tonight Tooth Fairy...

"Not tonite! Tomowwo is a very Busy day! O.k."

My cousin Ann sent me this picture yesterday and I have been chompin' at the bit to post it here for everyone to enjoy.

You see, Ann's daughter Sarah finally lost her front tooth. I guess she had heard so much about the Tooth Fairy, that she wanted nothing more than to catch him sneaking into her room so that she could see exactly who, or what the Tooth Fairy really is. The only problem was that she was too tired to wait up and unmask the legendary figure. So, to give her the time she needed, she simply wrote the Tooth Fairy a note, requesting his return the following night when she'd be prepared.

If we could peek into the psyche of a child's head, I'm pretty sure we'd be in awe of the innocence we would find there. I know that I am amazed by the little things that come out of my son's mouth. The questions about "things", you know, the things we just know and obviously take for granted. But, it's also a little humbling and even scary to think that whatever we tell them will be absorbed like a sponge and become a part of them. This worries me because if you know me, you know that I am "slightly sarcastic"... Actually, I love to mess with people and joke around with them. I guess I need to be much more sensitive to how I answer his questions because he hangs on my words and believes me.

Sarah's note is a great black and white, concrete exhibit of just how much innocence God has in trusted to parents. And, I'm reminded to tread lightly on it. I don't want to shelter my kid, but then again, I do want to keep the World from messing with him for now. Obviously, the World is always picking on us and them, the Enemy is alive and well, and we have our own sinful nature or flesh that prowls within. Just another reminder to be armored up and aware at all times. But, I sure hope Sarah gets him...



Wednesday, December 12, 2007

SORE AFRAID...

Did you ever notice what the first thing every Angel has to speak when coming into contact with a human?

"Do not be afraid"...

Obviously, they must be pretty scary/terrifying to look at because over and over, they have to let everyone know that they are not to be feared, they come in peace, they bring great tidings of joy, etc, etc, etc...

Marci, Will and I had a speaking part in the Church Christmas musical, 'We Bow Down'. Our part was comprised of walking on stage and taking turns reading the Christmas story of the Angel and the Shepherds, Ala the Peanuts Christmas Special of which Linus canonizes through his monologue. Well, ours turned into a Trialog if there is such a word, in which my four year old son led off with,

There were Shepherds living out in the fields keeping watch over their flocks at night...

He performed flawlessly and I even think I heard a few 'Oohs' and 'Ahhs' from the crowd. Obviously, he's a pretty cute little guy. But, his cuteness turned into perfectionist as I recited the next line.

And an Angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shown round about them, and they where SORE AFRAID...

Just then, my little angel shouted into the microphone,

"TERRIFIED!!!!"

I paused, looked down at him, and then spoke these poetic words:

"Uhhhh...... Terrified."


Obviously, there were a few laughs and giggles from the audience due to the fact that Will had gotten the Old Man. Anyway, Marci was next and she performed her parts flawlessly.

We finished our parts, had a seat, and after the show, countless people told me to get some help from Will before I did anymore speaking. But, I can't blame this mistake on not memorizing the lines because I did study them. We studied them. We practiced them as family. Over and over and over...

Herein lies the problem: I grew up with the King James Version not the New International Version. This play and our part was in the NIV and although I practiced in the proper translation, when the moment arose, I reverted to my memory from years past. It reminds me of the saying about taking a country boy out of the country, but never being able to take the country out of the boy. Just like a country personality is ingrained in him, the KJV is in me and I guess always will be, even though I like the NIV better.

Who knows, maybe there will be a New New International Version (NNIV) when Will becomes an adult and he'll say "Terrified" and his little boy will correct him with "In Great Fear and Horror" or some other synonym for terror. I hope he gets the chance to see that love of God's PERFECT Word in his child as I have seen in mine...



Monday, December 10, 2007

Forgiving an Accidental Robber...

Will and I had a little father-son time to hunt for the items we needed, kill them, tie them to the bumper, and triumphantly return home with our spoils. The objects of our desire for this "hunt": a flag pole and bracket to mount on the side of the house and a bunch of other little odds and ends. So off to Lowe's on Saturday we went.

We did our usual hoist-and-lift into the buggy and down the never ending aisles we went. We quickly found the 5' flag poles and bracket and added them to the cart. Will liked the flagpole because it reminded him of a lance. You see, we recently watched Braveheart together, and he decided it'd be fun to hold the flagpole as if it were a lance and he were charging the fields at Bannockburn, as the English of course. I thought it was a little dangerous, but fun so I played along as much as possible with the following rule:

You must hold the lance (flagpole) up until I say "Charge!!!!"

This rule was put into play to keep us from injuring any innocent bystanders (Shoppers) that just happened to wander onto the battlefield. With this single rule, we spent the next twenty minutes finding aisles with no people in it so that we could get up enough speed to make it fun and call out "Charge". Upon the utterance of that word, I would be at top speed, and Will would drop the flag pole and search for a target. Maybe it would be a garbage can, or my personal favorite, another shopping cart. Looking back, I still can't believe that we weren't asked to leave, but then again, we were moving around so much that the store employees probably couldn't keep up with us.

When our jousting matches were cut short by a scheduling conflict (We had to go pick up Marci and her Mom at the Mall), we proceeded to the checkout line, paid for our items and out the door we went with one more joust in the parking lot, comprised of attacking an ominous cigarette receptacle and of course, defeating it soundly.

But that's when it happened... When I lifted Will out of the cart, I realized that the bracket we were there to purchase was still in the cart. I guess my son had been sitting upon it when we went through line, and I had forgotten to pay for it. It was in that instant that I realized my fleshly nature is still alive, still kicking, and still trying to manifest itself in my daily life. I know this because the very second I realized I hadn't payed for the bracket, a voice inside of me said loud and clear,

"Just stick it in the bag and go to the car"

And even worse, I considered it! But, I also came to my senses and realized that was wrong and how horrified I would be should my son one day do this. That's when the still small voice pinged me with the following:

BINGO! Father-Son Moment Life Lesson Time!!!

I quickly grabbed the bracket from inside the cart and showed it to Will. I told him, and I quote,

"Uh Oh! We forgot to pay for this."


"Dad you are a Robber!" He said. "You robbed Lowe's!"

"Will," I said, "You are right. I did take it out of the store without paying for it, but it was an accident."

"You're still a Robber," he said.

Puzzled with what to do next, I simply said, "Even Robbers can be forgiven so let's go back in the store and pay for this. That's the right thing to do isn't it?"

"Yep, it is" He said.

I took his hand and led him back into the store to the register. We found a Self-Checkout that was unattended, scanned the item, and paid cash for it. He got his point across to me, and I pray I did the same...



Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Only Book that Really Matters...

I'm leading a new study at Church. Well, actually it's an old study of old topics designed to shed some light on why our Church believes like we do. You see, my Church is actually a non-denominational denomination... Huh? Just stay with me and you'll get it later.

I was raised in a Southern Baptist Church. I was first saved on Mothers Day when I was 11 years old. I was shortly thereafter baptised with my Mom, Dad, and sister and became a member of the Church and started learning the doctrine. I learned that once you are saved, your saved forever. I also grew to believe that baptism was simply something you did so that you could call yourself a member of the Baptist Church.

Fast forward 20 or so years...

It's 2002, I'm married, my wife is expecting, and I've been attending her "Home Church" which is a congregation of the Church of God (the Anderson, Indiana Church of God, not the Pentecostal Cleveland, Tennessee Church). I'm not close to God, and I'm confused. I was taught eternal security, but didn't feel as though I was saved, even though I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was converted on Mothers Day 19 years prior. Obviously, God was working on me and working on me hard.

The Pastor at this Church is about my age, which was a real odd thing to me, but a really good thing. He preached over an over how Christianity is a lifestyle and not simply a 'Sunday-Wednesday Thing' overshadowed by a doctrine. It's about knowing God, worshipping God, Loving God, and even more, letting God love you back. That was something I always seemed to miss.

But the strangest thing about this new Church I was attending was the fact that they were not a "Denomination" but a "Movement". The Baptist in me had to learn more. I had to figure out what the boundaries of the Doctrine are and just what it takes to be a member. What I learned was that the Doctrine is pretty close to Baptist: no drinking or dancing. But, the biggest difference was that this Church did not agree with the Baptist/Calvinist belief that 'Once in Grace, Always in Grace'. But that was OK with me because I had always considered a one time commitment to Christ as a blank check, so to speak. And I always cringed when someone I debated this belief with and had backed into a corner, simply replied with "He/She wasn't saved to begin with". I always thought that was a cop-out.

So back to membership....

One of the things that makes the Church of God Reformation Movement (it's full name) unique is that it's pews are filled with members from tons of different denominations. There are your ex-Catholics, Baptist, Methodists, Lutherans, etc. with one thing in common, a thirst and a hunger for more of God. But I always thought this could cause problems due to the different belief systems/interpretations that the members may bring to the table.

Fast forward to my Wednesday night class...

What better thing to study than what the Church believes? On the first night, I had an ex-Freewill Baptist, Baptist, and my personal favorite, an ex-Lutheran/Catholic/Methodist. As you can see, the diversity is pretty good. And, we kicked off with most people's favorite to differ on beliefs: END OF TIMES!!!! Long story short, we had a good time discussing how the Church holds to the Amillenial view.

The next teaching topic on the agenda is membership. Unlike Baptist and several other Doctrines, the Church of God doesn't have "membership". Sure, there is a roll that one can sign on after they've attended for at least six months, but this is for voting on things like the budget, elders, Pastoral calling, etc. The way we see it is that if your name is written in the only book that really matters (the Lamb's Book of Life), that's good enough for the Church. As the old hymn of the Church says:

"We reach our hands in fellowship to every blood washed one"

It's good enough for the Church, it's good enough for me, and it's a snapshot of how Heaven will be one day...