Thursday, December 27, 2007

2007 - A Year in Review

Fast Times

Hindsight is twenty-twenty they say, so let’s take a rather clear look at a year that’s gone by in a blur. The Brewer must be getting old because it seems like it ought to be March or April. The calendar pages are turning faster than I can keep up with. I don’t think it’s my high doses of caffeine, I really think the days are accelerated somehow.

In the fury of our race around the sun, more than a million people a week spun off into infinity and are no longer with us in body. The seventh year of the new millennium saw the last of some people we all recognize and lots of people we never had the privledge of knowing.

A Year of Leaving

Dan Fogelberg and Ike Turner are two fairly famous musicians that passed away. I doubt if Tina will miss Ike but I will definitely miss Dan. Evel Knievel jumped into eternity and Don Ho sang “Tiny Bubbles” for the last time in Hawaii. Anna Nicole Smith took her reality show to the other side and we all said farewell to Jerry Falwell. 2007 was an interesting year.

A Year of Living

2007 didn’t kill everybody. Edna Parker lived to be 114 years old and holds the distinction of being the oldest living person in the world as of Aug. 13. Edna is a retired teacher who saw the world truly change during her extra-extended time. Her husband, Earl, died way back in 1938 and she never remarried. Edna is the oldest of the 74 known supercentenarians (people older than 110 years old) in the world and the Brewer tips his coffee cup to her. You go girl!

A Year of Craziness

Other notable events include that Wile Chavez lost his election in Venezuela, more than 1500 people lost their homes in California wild fires. Britney Lost her mind and “Lost” was in season three.

Gas prices hit the roof, Barry Bonds hit his 756th homerun and Bishop Weeks hit his wife, Juanita Bynum in a hotel parking lot.

In 2007 The Cowboys rocked the house while the housing market hit the rocks.

Michael Vick was kicked out of the Doghouse and into the Big House for a sentence of 23 months for dog fighting.

A Year of Disgrace

It seems like there were several disgraced high profiles including Marion Jones loosing her Olympic medals, which I was really sad about. Ted Haggard fell out of the pulpit and onto the national “gaydar” after vehemently protesting all things homosexual. God help high profile preachers to remain vertical and with their wives!

Then there was Senator Larry Craig getting caught trying to pick up a fling in the men’s bathroom of an airport. Nothing says class like an adulterous, homosexual escapade in a public toilet. Thanks for being such a great leader and example, Senator.

A Year of Stepping, Passing and Heroes

Bob Barker Stepped down as the host of the price is right and handed Drew Carey a steady paycheck. OJ Simpson stepped into trouble one more time and celebrities stepped into a dance off.

Toys with lead were passed back to china while Marie Osmond passed out all together on national television. It’s worth noting that my son Benjamin passed his report cards for the first time ever. You Rock, Ben!

While heroes were avoiding bombs and tracking down terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan, America was watching Heroes on NBC. Its amazing how big of a priority entertainment is when so much is on the line.

The Wind Up

For me personally it was another adventurous year and anything but boring. I married some friends and buried a few others. I got my food bank warehouse built and really feel like we made a difference this year. I spent several months on mission’s trips and recorded a live album with my band. I wrote another book, Numbers That Preach that should be out in January. My kids are happy and doing well. My wife is still the most amazing woman on the planet. 2007 was a really good year for me.

No matter where you are at or whatever you are doing, I pray that you know the love of God more than ever before. I pray that you grow in happiness, thankfulness and just flat out prosper in the New Year. Blessings on you, Texans and thanks for sipping with me.

“Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.” 3 John 1:2

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Learning Happiness from "the Dumps."

About ten years ago I made my first trip to the border and across into the trash dumps of Matamoras. It was a lot like going to the moon for me. Anytime you get out of your box you are likely to hear God speak to your heart in a profound way. It tends to be dangerous territory because when you really hook up with the heart of God, you tend to get changed. I have discovered Jesus never leaves me the same way He finds me.

I had seen things on TV. I had an idea of what to expect, but I was completely unprepared for the effect it would have on me personally. I went to Mexico and came back completely different. The impact of those beautiful people in that terrible place was so strong that in some ways it defines me today. A lot of the ways I think and deal with life’s issues, the Lord taught me from a trash-dump pulpit. I still go back there four or five time a year. It’s something like another semester in Brewer’s theological seminary.

Planes and Trains

It’s not the traveling part that changed me. Yes I’m a gringo, but hardly a greenhorn. I’ve been to India twice, Uganda four times, all over Central America and even made an illegal missionary trip to Cuba. The trips we take tend to be rugged, raw and off the beaten path. Always on the bad part of town.

Still traveling has its perks. I’ve prayed at the wall in Jerusalem, suffered for Jesus from hammocks on the Caribbean and had the high honor of addressing the King in his actual palace at Kampala. I have had just as great an honor in hugging leprosy victims at a colony in Asia. It’s been awesome.

I’ve been so sick in Nicaragua that the locals put me in a 50-gallon oil drum full of water to cool my fever down. I’ve been so pampered I’ve eaten steak from first class on Singapore Airlines with a ticket I didn’t even pay for.

I’ve seen little kids in East Africa playing with a deadly black mamba snake and two men fight to the death with machetes for money in Cuba. I have actually witnessed Muslim rebels coming into Western Uganda from Congo and seen the village after they got through with it. I’ve also seen people have so much mercy and compassion it defies explanation.

My son and I were robbed in a taxi in Bombay. I have protested anti-American protestors in downtown London and dawned a kilt in Scotland. When my wife and I were offered marijuana in Jamaica, I said, “No thanks brother, we are Christians.” The drug dealer smiled, gave me a big hug and said, “Yo mon, I am too!” He promised me the “weed of wisdom” would help me receive a higher revelation.

That’s just scratching the surface so when I say the Matamoras dump had a profound effect on me its not because I don’t get out much. In fact, I have been back to the dumps nearly sixty times since then, taken hundreds of people with me and nearly half a million pounds of food. It affects me because I want it to. Matamoras makes my priorities rightly align. It makes me realize how privileged I really am.

A Higher Education

Last week, we took 2,200 backpacks and tote bags stuffed full of toys to the kids in Brownsville (TX), Matamoras (Mexico) and yes, even to the city dump. The advantage of loving on kids and giving things away is one of the greatest gifts God has personally given me. My wife and I not only take a bunch of crazy people from the church down there but we always take our kids with us too. The impact it has made on them has been just as incredible.

This Christmas we will be in our little house on our little spot in Johnson County, Texas. We will have just come back from another experience in the trash dump of a major Mexican city. We will know we are blessed. We will know life is special and we will know that God’s goodness is overwhelming.

We won’t have an exuberant amount of gifts to give each other because we spent it all on our trip. But what we will have is happiness and appreciation. Sometimes happiness is wanting what you already have. I learned that in the dump.

Merry Christmas friends and may you be blessed with a Christmas of wanting what you already have.

Psalms 63:5 (NLV)
"You satisfy me more than the richest feast.
I will praise you with songs of joy."

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Gift That Keeps On Giving!

I write this sip of flavored wisdom on my birthday. I know its later than December 6th when you read this but its takes the Brewer a little more than a week to grind his column, but please feel free to send gifts.

December 6th is not only known for the glorious day God blessed the world with my 3 pounds of splendor (my how I’ve grown since then) but it is also famous for being known as the day America got drunk. About 30 years before I was born, prohibition ended on December 5th and most of America went to have a legal drink on the next day. I think God has a big sense of humor about a lot things and having me born on that day is somehow poetic. I have probably driven several people to drinking. Sorry, but still feel free to send gifts.

Kill the Grinch

The whole world is about to celebrate the birthday of the greatest troublemaker and peace giver ever seen. Christmas might have an X in the name of your holiday but you probably are still going to give or get a gift or two. The whole gift-giving thing goes back to the original scene. Wise men from the east of Israel came to Bethlehem with three kinds of gifts that would bank role Mary and Joseph on their exiled trip to Egypt.

If you look at those three gifts in the book of Matthew, we discover an important, yet often-overlooked, theological fact; in this account, there is no mention of wrapping paper.

If there had been wrapping paper, Matthew would have said, "And lo, the gifts were encompassed about with 7 square cubits of paper. The paper was covered within and without with pictures of Frosty, a man of snow.

Joseph purposed in his heart to cast the paper into the barrel of refuse, but Mary saith unto him, ‘Cease man. Thou shalt not. For Mary had purposed in heart that the paper should be set-aside for future generations, and Joseph didst roll his eyeballs at the wonder of his wife. It came to pass that the babe was more interested in the paper than the frankincense.”

…But these words do not appear in the Bible, which means that the very first Christmas gifts were NOT wrapped. This is because the people giving those gifts had two important characteristics: 1. They were wise. 2. They were men not women.

Men are not big gift wrappers. Men do not understand the point of putting paper on a gift just so somebody else can tear it off. You can tell when I have wrapped a gift because it’s either in a hefty bag with a bow on it or it looks like a giant spitball.

For some reason, I can never completely wrap a gift. I can take a gift the size of a deck of cards and put it the exact center of a section of wrapping paper the size of a rodeo arena but when I am done folding and taping, you can still see a piece of the gift poking out.

On the other hand, if you give my wife a 12-inch square of wrapping paper, she can wrap a C-130 cargo plane. My stepmother, like many women, actually likes wrapping things. If she gives you a gift that requires batteries, she wraps the batteries separately, which to me is bordering on mental illness.

Roll Your Own

The editors of Woman's Day magazine recently ran an item on how to make your own wrapping paper by printing a design on it with an apple sliced in half horizontally and dipped in a mixture of food coloring and liquid starch. Those people are smoking crack and need to get a job!

Remember that the important thing is not what you give, or even how you wrap it. The important thing, during this very special time of year, is that you save the receipt. Because most of us knucklehead men don’t have since when it comes to buying gifts anyway.

I find that Jesus Christ, who the Bible calls the unspeakable gift, does tend to come gift-wrapped. Part of the journey of Christianity is about discovery and revelation. Jesus Christ is not the guy that lives in the building with a big steeple on it, take that wrapper off and you discover He’s the God that lives with you in your living room even when its messy. He loves it when we unwrap him from religion and our pain and see him for who he really is. Yes wise men and girls still seek him and yes, incredibly blessed people still receive Him for the gift He really is.

Unwrapping Jesus as a gift is not a one-time thing. God’s goodness towards us is ongoing and never ending. It’s a progressive journey into an inheritance that is so awesome it will take an eternity for us to unwrap it. Keep unwrapping guys, and see Him this season in a way you’ve seen him before.

"Thanks be unto God for his UNSPEAKABLE gift.''--II Cor. 9:15