Friday, December 31, 2010

A New Year's resolution to Let It Go!

I heard this week about one of our faithful and committed individuals at church. Our pastor discovered that he is still harboring hurt from a confrontation with an individual who had happened to be the pastor at the time in his northern congregation, a congregation that he left nearly 40 years ago. Our pastor was speaking with him about joining, but out of fear that this former pastor would write something negative about him he hasn’t joined another church since leaving his northern home church so many years ago. In truth he is being held an emotional prisoner by that former pastor and the pain of that confrontation.

In 2006 Bishop T. D. Jakes, senior pastor of The Potter’s House in Dallas, TX and one of all time favorite preachers, wrote a small article entitled, “Let It Go.” The only editing I have done is to remove the references to 2006. What he shared then is applicable as we head into 2011.

“Let it go” By T. D. Jakes

There are people who can walk away from you.

And hear me when I tell you this! When people can walk away from you: let them walk. I don't want you to try to talk another person into staying with you, loving you, calling you, caring about you, coming to see you, staying attached to you. I mean hang up the phone.

When people can walk away from you let them walk. Your destiny is never tied to anybody that left.

The Bible said that, they came out from us that it might be made manifest that they were not for us. For had they been of us, no doubt they would have continued with us. [1 John 2:19]

People leave you because they are not joined to you. And if they are not joined to you, you can't make them stay. Let them go.

And it doesn't mean that they are a bad person it just means that their part in the story is over. And you've got to know when people's part in your story is over so that you don't keep trying to raise the dead.

You've got to know when it's dead. You've got to know when it's over. Let me tell you something. I've got the gift of good-bye. It's the tenth spiritual gift, I believe in good-bye. It's not that I'm hateful, it's that I' m faithful, and I know whatever God means for me to have He'll give it to me. And if it takes too much sweat I don't need it. Stop begging people to stay. Let them go!!

If you are holding on to something that doesn't belong to you and was ever intended for your life, then you need to... LET IT GO!!!

If you are holding on to past hurts and pains... LET IT GO!!!

If someone can't treat you right, love you back, and see your worth... LET IT GO!!!

If someone has angered you... LET IT GO!!!

If you are holding on to some thoughts of evil and revenge... LET IT GO!!!

If you are involved in a wrong relationship or addiction... LET IT GO!!!

If you are holding on to a job that no longer meets your needs or talents... LET IT GO!!!

If you have a bad attitude... LET IT GO!!!

If you keep judging others to make yourself feel better... LET IT GO!!!

If you're stuck in the past and God is trying to take you to a new level in Him... LET IT GO!!!

If you are struggling with the healing of a broken relationship... LET IT GO!!!

If you keep trying to help someone who won't even try to help themselves... LET IT GO!!!

If you're feeling depressed and stressed... LET IT GO!!!

If there is a particular situation that you are so used to handling yourself and God is saying "take your hands off of it," then you need to... LET IT GO!!!

Let the past be the past. Forget the former things. GOD is doing a new thing!!! LET IT GO!!!

Get Right or Get Left... think about it, and then... LET IT GO!!!


Not a bad resolution for 2011 … simply to LET IT GO!

Quote for today: We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day. ~Edith Lovejoy Pierce

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Reflection on The Lord's Prayer

While serving my first church I came away one Sunday disturbed that the congregation was just going through the ritualistic process of praying The Lord’s Prayer with very little thought or feeling … so, I determined that we wouldn’t pray the prayer again until someone mentioned that they missed it. Interesting experiment. A lady came up to me about 5 months later saying, “I’m really upset with you pastor.” “Why,” I asked. “Well, we didn’t pray The Lord’s Prayer this morning,” she declared. “Really, you just now missed it?” I said. “Because we haven’t prayed it for the last 5 months.” She looked at me with astonishment and shared, as she walked away, “Well, maybe I need to be more thoughtful in my spiritual walk.”

Here is a made up dialogue that can cause some contemplation concerning the sincerity of praying The Lord’s Prayer …

In a two part dialogue between the prayer and GOD (in Italics) in response.

Our Father Who Art In Heaven.


Don't interrupt me. I'm praying.

But -- you called ME!

Called You? No, I didn't call You. I'm praying. Our Father who art in Heaven.

There -- you did it again!

Did what?

Called ME. You said, "Our Father who art in Heaven." Well, here I am. What’s on your mind?

But I didn't mean anything by it. I was, you know, just saying my prayers for the day. I always say the Lord's Prayer. It makes me feel good, kind of like fulfilling a duty.

Well, all right. Go on.

Okay, Hallowed be Thy name.

Hold it right there. What do you mean by that?

By what?

By "Hallowed be thy name"?

It means, it means. . . good grief, I don't know what it means. How in the world should I know? It's just a part of the prayer. By the way, what does it mean?

It means honored, holy, wonderful.

Hey, that makes sense. I never thought about what 'hallowed' meant before.


Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven.

Do you really mean that?

Sure, why not?

What are you doing about it?

Doing? Why, nothing, I guess. I just think it would be kind of neat if You got control of everything down here like You have up there. We're kind of in a mess down here, you know.

Yes, I know, but have I got control of you?

Well, I go to church.

That isn't what I asked you. What about your bad temper? You've really got a problem there, you know. And then there's the way you spend your money -- on yourself. And what about the kind of books you read?

Now hold on just a minute! Stop picking on me! I'm just as good as some of the rest of those people at church!

Excuse ME. I thought you were praying for my will to be done. If that is to happen, it will have to start with the ones who are praying for it. . . like you. . . for example.

Oh, all right. I guess I do have some hang-ups. Now that You mention it, I could probably name some others.

So could I.

I haven't thought about it very much until now, but I really would like to cut out some of those things. I would like to, you know, be really free.

Good. Now we're getting somewhere. We'll work together -- You and ME. I'm proud of You.

Look, Lord, if You don't mind, I need to finish up here. This is taking a lot longer than it usually does. Give us this day, our daily bread.

You need to cut out the bread. You're overweight as it is.

Hey, wait a minute! What is this? Here I was doing my religious duty, and all of a sudden You break in and remind me of all my hang-ups.

Praying is a dangerous thing. You just might get what you ask for. Remember, you called ME -- and here I am. It's too late to stop now. Keep praying.


Well, go on.

I'm scared to.

Scared? Of what?

I know what You'll say.

Try ME.

Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.

What about Ann?

See? I knew it! I knew You would bring her up! Why, Lord, she's told lies about me, spread stories. She never paid back the money she owes me. I've sworn to get even with her!

But -- your prayer --What about your prayer?

I didn't mean it.

Well, at least you're honest. But it's quite a load carrying around all that bitterness and resentment isn't it?

Yes, but I'll feel better as soon as I get even with her. Boy, have I got some plans for her. She'll wish she had never been born.

No, you won't feel any better. You'll feel worse. Revenge isn't sweet. You know how unhappy you are -- well, I can change that.

You can? How?

Forgive Ann. Then, I'll forgive you; And the hate and the sin, will be Ann's problem -- not yours. You will have settled the problem as far as you are concerned.

Oh, you know, You're right. You always are. And more than I want revenge, I want to be right with You. . (sigh). All right . . . all right . . . I forgive her.

There now! Wonderful! How do you feel?

Hmmmm. Well, not bad. Not bad at all! In fact, I feel pretty great! You know, I don't think I'll go to bed uptight tonight. I haven't been getting much rest, you know.

Yeah, I know. But, you're not through with your prayer are you? Go on.

Oh, all right. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

Good! Good! I'll do that. Just don't put yourself in a place where you can be tempted.

What do You mean by that?

You know what I mean.

Yeah. I know.

Okay. Go ahead. Finish your prayer.

For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.

Do you know what would bring me glory --What would really make me happy?

No, but I'd like to know. I want to please You now. I've really made a mess of things. I want to truly follow You. I can see now how great that would be. So, tell me . . . how do I make You happy?

YOU just did.

Quote for today: When thou prayest, rather let thy heart be without words than thy words without heart. ~John Bunyon

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

On re-gifting

Well, it has happened again. I’m not really surprised because this isn’t the first time. I agreed to be a part of a “Secret Santa” exchange with a group of individuals that I really don’t know and who really don’t know me. Fortunately, I picked a person that I did know and so I could purchase a gift, under $10, that I thought that he would enjoy.

Unfortunately, the person that picked my name just went to the store and purchased a generic male gift. Now I have something sitting in my closet waiting for the opportunity to be re-gifted. Yes, that’s right, I re-gift. And, if you are honest with yourself, so have you. Not all the time, but there are occasions here and there when something has come into our possession that really cannot be used and appreciated … and so, instead of asking for a receipt so you can return it or taking it to Goodwill or just throwing it away, it becomes a part of the re-gifting box.

This doesn’t happen often and hasn’t happened in sometime, but the minute that I unwrapped my gift from my “Secret Santa” I knew that I would never use it … but I knew someone who could and would. In fact, it will become one his stocking stuffer for next Christmas.

I believe that re-gifting has gotten a bad name in recent years. It sounds tacky, but it is a creative way to “use” those unusable gifts. The first time that I re-gifted wasn’t really that long ago. We were given a set of uniquely decorated glasses. In the store we wouldn’t have given them a second look, but they came into our possession as a hostess gift. We thanked the giver and later put them away in one of the extra closets wondering what we were going to do with them.

Our solution was quickly solved. In a Bible share group we participated in I noticed that the decor of our host and hostess was an exact match to our new set of glasses … and they hosted an annual Super Bowl Party. We usually took them a box of candy as a hostess gift, but not this next time. Out of the closet the glasses came, rewrapped and taken with us to the party. Later we were told that they were exactly what they had been looking for, but couldn’t find. There they were on the counter for all of us to use as we shared the evening snacks and munchies.

When you think about it we are actually directed to re-gift the precious gift we received in Jesus Christ. Actually we are told to give it away … often … to as many people we can … to share the Good News with others … to “re-gift” so to speak. So, don’t put your faith in a closet somewhere or in an empty dresser drawer only to be brought out on certain occasions when the “giver” is coming by to visit or when you think that it won’t offend someone (like when you are around other believers) … re-gift the faith and the relationship. Besides it just might be something that the other individual has been “looking for something exactly like it.” You never know!

Quote for today: An American Express survey about Christmas gifts found that the fruitcake was chosen most often (31%) from a list of "worst" holiday gifts. It even finished ahead of "no gift at all." When asked how to dispose of a bad gift, 30% would hide it in the closet, 21% would return it, and 19% would give it away. This suggests that the Christmas fruitcake might get recycled as a gift for the host of New Year's party. ~Resource

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

God's return policy

Yesterday was our turn to join the crowds returning certain Christmas gifts. We actually didn’t have many … there were 3 to return and one to exchange … not bad. It helped that we had all the receipts … no hassle … no “reason for returning” questions … just a simple, quick and painless process … a quick in-and-out.

I do have to admit that I am amazed at the variety of return policies. Some are limited as to when you can return an item, usually 90 days and only if you have a receipt. One store in particular, Best Buy, charges a 15% restocking fee … we don’t shop there any longer.

Remember, I’m a part of an older generation who remembers an old department store by the name of Montgomery Wards. They would take back any item period … and I mean any item, it didn’t matter if they sold a particular item or not. Maybe that is why they are not around any longer, but I doubt it. It was an era where the customer was king. The customer was more important than the store policy.

It was during this era that while Sears wouldn’t take back just any item, their service department would help you locate which department store sold the item that you were seeking to return. People went out of their way to assist you. They wanted your business. They cared about what you thought of them and the company they worked for. Times have changed.

I’m glad that God has a no limit return policy, aren’t you. It doesn’t matter how damaged the “merchandise” (you and me) is God will always take us back … fixes the damage and then return us to active service. There isn’t a restocking fee accept a desire to be forgiven. There isn’t a 90-day time period and we do not need to have a receipt. God is always open 24/7 ready to receive us. He never asks us why, although it probably would be helpful for us to do some personal reflection as to why we wandered away from God in the process of our living and God does care, but he already knows the reason.

Within the Kingdom of God we are always important. God wants to know what we think, how we feel, what we are doing, In God’s Kingdom the “customer” is most important. And, while we cannot be king so to speak, since his Kingdom can only have one King and we got into trouble when we tried to usurp his authority in the first place, nevertheless we are important … most important. The entire event that we just celebrated along with the Calvary and resurrection events, to be celebrated in the next few months, are totally for our benefit. We are that important to the Creator of the Universe.

The King’s policy is to take us back, fix us up and love us into becoming what we were created to become … that is worth celebrating … that is reason enough to string up a few lights, bake a few cookies, act a little crazy, hug as many people as you, sing a few carols, drive through a snow storm, spend a little money … it is a celebration worth having!

Quote for today: Author Leo Buscaglia tells this story about his mother and their "misery dinner." It was the night after his father came home and said it looked as if he would have to go into bankruptcy because his partner had absconded with their firm's funds. His mother went out and sold some jewelry to buy food for a sumptuous feast. Other members of the family scolded her for it. But she told them that "the time for joy is now, when we need it most, not next week." Her courageous act rallied the family. ~Christopher News Notes

Monday, December 27, 2010

The light has come into our dark world

Another Christmas and New Years Eve tradition …

When I was a young teenager I delivered the Miami Herald. It was the early to mid 1950s. Streetlights were rather spread apart which resulted in some interesting dark shadows. Most of them had become familiar to me, but every now and again something different would appear and it would cause me to pause, my heart stopping as my breath would be taken away. There were a number of late night bars along 36th street with some rather frightening characters. The police often patrol the area because strange things did happen. Most of the night sounds were taken in stride, but again there were times when strange sounds would happen, my skin with become nothing but goose bumps. I was always glad when I finished throwing the morning paper on certain streets along my route.

But all of that changed on Christmas and New Years Eve because the various people along the route that had outside decorations would leave them on all night. The darkness of night was lit up, the shadows were gone and the causes of those strange noises were easily identified. Besides it sure made for a pretty sight so early in the morning.

Light of the world, we hail thee,
Flooding the eastern skies;
Never shall darkness veil thee
Again from human eyes;
You long, alas, withholden,
Now spread from shore to shore;
They light, so glad and golden,
Shall set on earth no more.

The light of the world has come into our darkened world. There is nothing to be afraid of … no strangers, no noises … nothing that goes bump in the night. And so the lights are left on not only in celebration of Christ’s birth, but in recognition that in his coming our world has received a great light! It is time of celebration and of joy. Old things have passed away and all things have been made new!

Quote for today: Who is more foolish, the child afraid of the dark or the man afraid of the light? ~Maurice Freehill

Friday, December 24, 2010

'Tis the season to be tempted

I’m beginning to believe that this season has been misnamed. Give everything that is bombarding our senses it should be called … ‘Tis the season to be tempted. If you thought stores opening at 3am on Black Friday were crazy, now there are a number of stores that are operating around the clock … and we are tempted! Then they add those ridiculous “savings” discounts of 50 to 75% off the already discounted price. No wonder that it is being reported that this is turning out to be the best Christmas season for the stores since the downturn in the market … and we are tempted!

Online merchants are sending a constant stream of bargains via e-mail to your in-box offering deep discounts with free shipping … and we are tempted!

Our homes, offices, church events, etc. have plates and plates of goodies placed just within arms reach. We know that none of that stuff is good for us, but we are tempted nevertheless. After all, what harm could just one cookie or one more little chocolate square or one more small glass of eggnog really do to us … and we are tempted.

Our television is offering up and endless number of bowl football games, college and professional basketball games, and a number of other sporting events … so it is tempting to simply find our favorite comfortable chair, kickback and relax a little. After all we have been a little stressed recently and we deserve to take it easy. And, besides the temperature outside is not too inviting to go for a walk or play a pick-up game of touch football or basketball … and we are tempted.

‘Tis the season to be tempted … there are special programs at church, but the good old television is offering up some of our favorite season specials like the Charlie Brown Christmas or the Miracle on 34th Street or the Wizard of Oz and we try never to miss seeing them when they are on. Watching them is just a part of our Christmas traditions … and we are tempted. Plus, there are a couple of new offerings at the local movie theatre that we are just dying to see … and we are tempted.

With the temperature being so low it is tempting to simply turn off the alarm, rollover, pull up the warm covers and stay in bed another hour or two. Thus, we put off doing that chore that has already been put off previously two or three times … it is just so tempting.

At least, my friends, this is MY list of bad temptations that I continue to struggle with every day during this season of temptations. I don’t have an answer of how to successfully deal with them, but I just thought if I spread the guilt around a little it would relieve my personal burden.

Do you have any suggestions? I’m a little tired of singing the old gospel hymn, “Yield not to temptation for yielding is sin …” besides it isn’t working. Have you discovered something that does work?

Quote for today: Historian Shelby Foote tells of a soldier who was wounded at the battle of Shiloh during the American Civil War and was ordered to go to the rear. The fighting was fierce and within minutes he returned to his commanding officer. "Captain, give me a gun!" he shouted. "This fight ain't got any rear!" ~Daily Walk

Thursday, December 23, 2010

I'll be home for Christmas

G. K. Chesterton, the noted British poet and theologian, was a brilliant man who could think deep thoughts and express them well. However, he was also extremely absent-minded and over the years he became rather notorious for getting lost. He would just absolutely forget where he was supposed to be and what he was supposed to be doing. On one such occasion, he sent a telegram to his wife which carried these words: "Honey, seems I'm lost again. Presently, I am at Market Harborough. Where ought I to be?" As only a spouse could say it, she telegraphed back a one-word reply "HOME!"

There is something special about that word … Home. It is a place of safety, warmth and comfort. The smells are familiar to us. The people there know us with all of our faults and they still love us. As the old saying goes, “home is where the heart is.” And as the Christmas song states, “I’ll be home for Christmas if only in my heart.”

So one of my counted blessings this Christmas season is my home. It has taken me longer this time to become comfortable in our house … I’m not quite there, but I’m working on it. It really helps to have the familiar Christmas decorations surrounding me. It is also a blessing to know that our daughters have a home in which they are comfortable and are discovering happiness in life.

Sometimes we can get lost … even in our own home. We simply forget how to live. Oh, our bodies are at rest, the surroundings are familiar, and our stuff is scattered about, but our heart simply gets lost in the process. We go through the motions, moving from one day to the next. There seems to be a disconnect between our mind and our heart, our spirit. Nothing, or very little, makes any real sense.

It is at these times that I have found it necessary to check my spiritual compass. Nearly every time my directional needle is pointing in the wrong direction. It doesn’t take much to get us off course and only a fraction of a degree in one direction or another can bring about disastrous results.

We all know what we are supposed to do to remain on course – prayer, Bible reading, meditation, etc. At best I run hot and cold in these spiritual disciplines and it usually takes the sense of that disconnect between mind and heart to bring me back. The message of Christmas that his name is Emmanuel, God with us is extremely helpful. If God is with me then I am not lost and wherever we are together is home!

Quote for today: A house is made of walls and beams; a home is built with love and dreams. ~source unknown

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The cumulative effect as illustrated by The 12 Days of Christmas

My sixth grade elementary school teacher was illustrating the cumulative effect has on various aspects of our life. As a way of illustrating this he showed a movie of the song The 12 Days of Christmas. It is the one that “my true love gave to me.” He introduces the idea that on each day of Christmas the true love gave a partridge and a pear tree … by the end of the 12 days there would be 12 partridges and 12 pear trees. Then he showed the film. It was very funny to witness the cumulative effect that the gifts of each day brought to the home.

By the end of the song, along with the 12 partridges and 12 pear trees, there were: 22 turtle doves, 30 French hens, 36 calling birds, 45 golden rings, 42 geese-a-laying, 42 swans-a-swimming, 45 maids-a-milking, 36 ladies dancing, 30 lords-a-leaping, 22 pipers piping, and 12 drummers drumming. This doesn’t include the cows that the maids were milking or the water that the swans were swimming in or the number of eggs that the geese where laying. The house of the one receiving all these lovely expressions of affection was busting at the seams.

After we stopped laughing at the ridiculous turn of events in the song the teacher dialogued with us about the cumulative effect that words and actions can have upon our thinking. One person shares a half-truth with another person who in turns shares it with another person and before too long everybody has heard it, but only the twisted truth because every time it is shared it just gets turn around a little more. The cumulative effect, like the preverbal snowball, simply builds the misguided statement ever larger.

Now imagine if we did the same thing with acts of love and kindness. What would be the end result following the rule of cumulative effect? It too would grow ever larger as one-person shares with another person and so forth and so on.

The best illustration that I can imagine is what happened in Bethlehem so many years ago. The angels told some shepherds and no doubt, they too shared what they had witnessed. How could they have kept silent? When Jesus began his ministry there were just 12 disciples; at Pentecost there were just 120 gathered in that Upper Room. How many Christ followers are there today? I don’t have a total, but they are in every country and ever-spreading outward to include more. It is the cumulative effect of each one of us taking what has been given to us and sharing it with others.

Quote for today: Kindness makes a person attractive. If you would win the world, melt it, do not hammer it. Alexander Maclaren

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Modern Day Parable - The Shoe Man

Modern day parables come in many forms and through many ways, but they show up just in time to touch ones soul, move our spirit and humble us in the process. This came to mind as I drove past another street panhandler and too quickly passed judgment about his situation. Oh, I tried to justify my thoughts by thinking of all those homeless and financial rip-off artists that tried to take advantage of the “system” and the generosity of the church … and then this showed up in my “in” box. Ouch …

The Shoe Man
I showered and shaved…
I adjusted my tie.
I got there and sat …
In a pew just in time.
Bowing my head in prayer …
As I closed my eyes.
I saw the shoe of the man next to me …
Touching my own. I sighed.
With plenty of room on either side…
I thought, "Why must our soles touch?"
It bothered me, his shoe touching mine…
But it didn't bother him much.
A prayer began: "Our Father" …
I thought, "This man with the shoes …
has no pride.
They're dusty, worn, and scratched …
Even worse, there are holes on the side!"
"Thank You for blessings," …
the prayer went on.
The shoe man said …
a quiet "Amen."
I tried to focus on the prayer …
But my thoughts were on his shoes again
Aren't we supposed to look our best …
When walking through that door?
"Well, this certainly isn't it," I thought,
Glancing toward the floor.
Then the prayer was ended …
And the songs of praise began.
The shoe man was certainly loud …
Sounding proud as he sang.
His voice lifted the rafters …
His hands were raised high.
The Lord could surely hear …
The shoe man's voice from the sky.
It was time for the offering …
And what I threw in was steep.
I watched as the shoe man reached ..
Into his pockets so deep.
I saw what was pulled out …
What the shoe man put in.
Then I heard a soft "clink" …
as when silver hits tin.
The sermon really bored me …
To tears, and that's no lie
It was the same for the shoe man …
For tears fell from his eyes.
At the end of the service …
As is the custom here
We must greet new visitors …
And show them all good cheer.
But I felt moved somehow …
And wanted to meet the shoe man
So after the closing prayer …
I reached over and shook his hand.
He was old and his skin was dark …
And his hair was truly a mess
But I thanked him for coming …
For being our guest.
He said, "My names' Charlie …
I'm glad to meet you, my friend."
There were tears in his eyes …
But he had a large, wide grin
"Let me explain," he said …
Wiping tears from his eyes.
"I've been coming here for months …
And you're the first to say 'Hi.'"
"I know that my appearance …
"Is not like all the rest
"But I really do try …
"To always look my best."
"I always clean and polish my shoes …
"Before my very long walk.
"But by the time I get here …
"They're dirty and dusty, like chalk."
My heart filled with pain …
and I swallowed to hide my tears
As he continued to apologize …
For daring to sit so near.
He said, "When I get here …
“I know I must look a sight.
"But I thought if I could touch you …
"Then maybe our souls might unite."
I was silent for a moment …
Knowing whatever was said
Would pale in comparison …
I spoke from my heart, not my head.
"Oh, you've touched me," I said …
"And taught me, in part;
"That the best of any man …
"Is what is found in his heart."
The rest, I thought, …
This shoe man will never know.
Like just how thankful I really am …
That his dirty old shoe touched my soul.

How we “look” at our neighbor makes a huge statement about our relationship with God. How we greet the “stranger” among us speaks volumes about the role of grace in our lives.

Quote for today: Let us touch the dying, the poor, the lonely and the unwanted according to the graces we have received and let us not be ashamed or slow to do the humble work. ~Mother Teresa

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas music and Goose bumps

The music of the season surrounds us. No matter where we might be it finds us. Almost like a staker sneaking up on us and before we know it … there it is. An usher at our local theatre said, “When we started playing the Christmas CDs I wasn’t too thrilled, but it has a way of growing on you. I am kind of getting into the holiday mood now.” Aren’t we all.

Christmas music has filled our home for a few weeks now. Most of the time it is simply resting in the background, filling in the gaps of living out our days of preparation. There are times that we find ourselves, much to our surprise, singing along – our souls response to the beautiful message being shared.

I do have some favorites – Dominick the Christmas Donkey and Grandma Got Runover by a Reindeer – they just bring a smile to my face, but there are others which touches something deeper within my soul. These Christmas carols lifts the spirit and connects me to the Divine. When I first entered the ministry I was a pureist … Advent hymns during Advent and Christmas carols during Christmas, but there was something missing year after year in the church’s life until we started to include the carols during all the Sunday’s leading up to December 25th … the lay people actually did know more than the preacher.

Last week Jim Harnish, senior pastor of Hyde Park United Methodist Church, Tampa, FL wrote in his weekly internet message, “Faith Matters,” about music and goose bumps. Here, in part, is some of what he shared:

Preachers know that anything we say on Christmas Eve is less important than how we feel when we sing Silent Night in the glow of the candles. It’s enough to put goose bumps on the spine of Ebenezer Scrooge.

The Science of Goose Bumps

It turns out that goose bumps are a scientifically measurable phenomena. I owe one to former Hyde Park pastor and brother-in-Christ, Magrey deVega, for pointing out the report of a recent study that was published in the journal of Social Psychology and Personality Science.

Scientists found that certain songs can trigger activity in a person’s hypothalamus, the part of the brain responsible for hunger, rage, sex, and involuntary responses like blushing and goose bumps, “sometimes known as aesthetic chills, thrills, shivers, frisson, and even skin orgasms … a seconds-long feeling of goose bumps, tingling and shivers, usually on the scalp, the back of the neck, and the spine, but occasionally across most of the body.” Leave it to the scientists to point out something we already knew!

But they also found that style of music doesn’t matter as much as a person’s deeper engagement with it. As a result, they said, “Messiah, Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, and your child’s rendition of Oh Christmas Tree might all give chills (though your kid’s singing might just be scary).” I’ll never forget sitting on the sofa and listening to my then-4-year-old grandson sing The Friendly Beasts. The memory can still bring me to tears.

Listen for the Music

But there’s a catch. The researchers claim that what’s most important is what they identified as a person’s “openness to experience,” one’s willingness to be moved by the music. It’s a reminder that we can be so busy, so wrapped up in the noisy confusion of our lives, so wrapped up in our disappointments and fears that we are no longer open to hear the angel’s songs. As a result, we can miss out on the music.

The classic example is the day that Joshua Bell played his violin in a Washington, D.C., Metro station. For forty-five minutes, one of the world's greatest musicians played some of the world’s greatest music on a $3.5 million violin. Two thousand people passed through the station, but only six stopped to listen. The rest rushed on, with the exception of small children who tried to stop to listen, but their parents pushed them on.

I wonder if that’s what Jesus had in mind when he said we have to be like children to experience the Kingdom of God? Perhaps the reason the shepherds heard the angel’s song is because they were out in the fields with nothing to distract them. They may have been the only people who were open to the experience. And perhaps that’s why Phillips Brooks wrote:
How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given;

So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of his heaven.
No ear may hear his coming, but in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive him still, the dear Christ enters in.

The point of Advent is to prepare us to hear the music and to receive this Christ into our lives. But we probably won’t feel the goose bumps unless we are open to the experience.

The Longest Night

In the northern hemisphere, the darkness is never darker than on Dec. 21. And the truth is that some of us have walked or are walking in the darkness of some kind of loss, defeat, death or spiritual emptiness.

The music of the Christmas season can put you in a certain mood, so to speak, but it cannot answer the deeper needs of our souls. Only as we open our hearts to his presence and allow the warmth of his spirit to surround us can our spirits join the heavenly host in singing “Joy to the world, the Lord has come …”

Quote for today: Joy is the byproduct of obedience. ~Traditional

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Christmas Cookie Rules

When we use to do our annual Christmas open houses Margaret would bake dozens upon dozens of cookies … numerous varieties … along with various kinds of fruit bars, heavenly hash (truly, heavenly), and tons of other little goodies. It was unbelievable, but the glorious smells filled the house … I am still amazed at what she accomplished. Besides we got to taste as the baking continued for an entire week. Brothers and brother-in-laws got the leftovers.

One funny story concerns the “care package of goodies” we sent off to her brother in West Palm. It had arrived via US Postal service, but Ted was off at work. The postal carrier simply left it at the front door … on the ground. Well, a package of goodies on the ground in Florida – result was that the package was soon filled with ants. Ted comes home from work, finds the package, sees who it is from, knows what is inside, sees the ants … and decides I’m not going to throw it away so into the freezer the package went. A day later they started to enjoy the goodies as they brushed off the frozen ants. Go figure!

The only problem with all those cookies are the calories that come along with them. They are too good to resist, but our waistline is under attack. What I just recently discovered, thanks to my son-in-love, is that there are actually Christmas Cookie Rules that automatically eliminate the calories … or at least it is fun to think about the possibility that it just might be possible. Anyway, it takes away the guilt factor, but neither you nor me are going to stop eating those beautiful cookies that we only get once a year!

Christmas Cookie Rules...

1. If you eat a Christmas cookie fresh out of the oven, it has no calories because everyone knows that the first cookie is the test and thus calorie free.

2. If you drink a diet soda after eating your second cookie, it also has no calories because the diet soda cancels out the cookie calories.

3. If a friend comes over while you're making your Christmas cookies and needs to sample, you must sample with your friend. Because your friend's first cookie is calories free, (rule #1) yours is also. It would be rude to let your friend sample alone and, being the friend that you are, that makes your cookie calorie free.

4. Any cookie calories consumed while walking around will fall to your feet and eventually fall off as you move. This is due to gravity and the density of the caloric mass.

5. Any calories consumed during the frosting of the Christmas cookies will be used up because it takes many calories to lick excess frosting from a knife without cutting your tongue.

6. Cookies colored red or green have very few calories. Red ones have three and green ones have five - one calorie for each letter. Make more red ones!

7. Cookies eaten while watching "Miracle on 34th Street " have no calories because they are part of the entertainment package and not part of one's personal fuel.

8. As always, cookie pieces contain no calories because the process of breaking causes calorie leakage.

9. Any cookies consumed from someone else's plate have no calories since the calories rightfully belong to the other person and will cling to their plate. We all know how calories like to CLING!

10. Any cookies consumed while feeling stressed have no calories because cookies used for medicinal purposes NEVER have calories. It's a rule!

So, go out and enjoy those Christmas Cookies - we only get them this time of year!

Quote for today: Think what a better world it would be if we all, the whole world, had cookies and milk about three o’clock every afternoon and then lay down on our blankets for a nap. ~Barbara Jordan

Friday, December 17, 2010

Life is different than in 1904

Just 106 years ago the world was a much different place. Very few, if any, of the individuals alive in 1904 are still alive today and if they are, they probably have forgotten about the life they once lived. Here are some facts which should cause us to pause and wonder from that year:

* The average life expectancy in the US was 47 years.
* Only 14% of the homes in the US had a bathtub.
* Only 8%of the homes had a telephone.
* A three-minute call from Denver to New York City cost $11.00
* There were only 8,000 cars in the US, and only 144 miles of paved roads with the maximum speed limit in most cities 10 mph.
* Tallest structure in the world: Eiffel Tower.
* The average wage in the US was 22 cents an hour with the average US worker made between $200 to $400 per year.
* Yearly salaries: An accountant $2000, a dentist $2,500, a veterinarian $1,500 to $4,000, a mechanical engineer about $5,000
* More than 95 percent of all births in the US took place at home.
* 90% of all US physicians had no college education. They attended medical schools, many of which were condemned in the press and by the government as "substandard."
* Sugar cost 4 cents a pound; eggs 14 cents a dozen and coffee 15 cents a pound.
* Most women only washed their hair once a month.
* The five leading causes of death in the US were: 1) Pneumonia and influenza; 2) Tuberculosis; 3) Diarrhea; 4) Heart disease; 5) Stroke
* The American flag had 45 stars. Arizona, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Hawaii, and Alaska hadn't been admitted to the Union yet.
* The population of Las Vegas, Nevada, was 30!
* Crossword puzzles, canned beer, and iced tea hadn't been invented.
* There was no Mother's Day or Father's Day.
* Two of 10 US adults couldn't read or write. Only 6 % of all Americans had graduated high school.
* Marijuana, heroin, and morphine were all available over the counter at corner drugstores. According to one pharmacist, "Heroin clears the complexion, gives buoyancy to the mind, regulates the stomach and bowels, and is, in fact, a perfect guardian of health." (Shocking!)
* Eighteen percent of households in the US had at least one full-time servant or domestic.
* There were only about 230 reported murders in the entire US

Hmmm … I wonder what the next years will bring. I will be around to see some of the changes, but not all of them.

The real question, the proverbial $64,000 question is: How will I make a difference in the world or will I have come and passed without the world ever knowing that I was here?

Christmas … the Emmanuel event … the God with us occurrence … the world changing, life altering situation … the revolutionary incident to beat all revolutionary incidents. Christmas … a baby with dirty diapers and a cry for his mother’s milk … some smelly shepherds standing about wondering just what they are looking at … the world was becoming a very different place … an invitation would soon come from this baby to become world changers … to make a difference … to help turn the world upside down … to touch lives and help re-shape the community in which we live.

Christmas … a Christ invitation to be changed and to enact change. O come, o come Emmanuel … make us different … make us a somebody for the Kingdom … make us into a change agent for love … make us anew … O come, o come Emmanuel!

Quote for today: I've always wanted to be somebody, but I see now I should have been more specific. Lily Tomlin

Thursday, December 16, 2010

About being a vulture or becoming a hummingbird!

During a more peaceful era in the Middle East the preeminent preacher of New York City’s great Riverside Church, Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick, toured the Holy Land.

He was invited to address the student body at American University, Beirut, Lebanon which had a diverse student body, made up of citizens of numerous countries and at least sixteen different religions.

The problem confronting The Rev. Fosdick was what could one individual share that would be both significant and relevant to such a diverse and varied group of individuals.

Dr. Fosdick began with: “I do not ask anyone here to change his religion, but I do ask all of you to face up to this question: What is your religion doing to your character?”

He was summoning his listeners to allow their faith to make a lasting impact on their life. On another occasion he also stated: “What you are speaks so loudly I cannot hear a word you say.”

Wise words indeed! It is this old preacher’s opinion that all too often our faith and our life seems disjointed and at odds with each other ... as if what we state on Sunday has little effect on Monday – a dualism which is in a constant tug-of-war for our spirit’s allegiance.

May I suggest that the answer might simply lie in what we are looking for. Consider the life of two birds: Over our nation’s deserts two birds fly. One is the hummingbird … the other the vulture. One feeds on the sweet nectar of the colorful and beautiful flowers of the desert … the other feeds on the rotting and decaying flesh of dead animals.

Both birds are very much alive. Both birds thrive within the same environment. Both birds co-exist with each other … but, both birds live a very different life.

I would like to suggest that the hummingbird lives on what is ... the vulture lives on what has been. One bird looks for what is alive … the other looks for what is dead.

Each bird finds what it is looking for. We all do … be it dead and gone … or fresh and alive. It is the same for the reality of faith within the context of our life.

Now, I will not venture to suggest that some of us are hummingbirds while others of us our vultures … but, our approach to life can be much the same. Thus, Dr. Harry’s question: What is your religion doing to your character? Does it make a difference?

We are deep into the Christmas season. There are only 9 more days left in the lead up to the big celebration. Most of us will be out shopping during this period. Along with that delightful experience, we will also be sending out those last minute Christmas cards to people that we had overlooked. We will be gathering the “fixins” for the festival meal to be shared on either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day with family and friends. We will double check to make sure that we have enough gift-wrapping paper and gift tags before the last store closes. Packages that haven’t been sent will be rushed over to an overnight freight company so they can arrive before Christmas.

And, while we are doing all of that, the news media reminds us daily of the deep needs that individuals are having in these difficult economic times. They will show pictures of food kitchens, overnight cold weather shelters, the homeless and the needy. We stand at the threshold of being able to help others or only to do for our families and ourselves. When we look around we just might be reminded just how blessed we really are … how fortunate life has treated us … how “rich” our lives truly are … all of it stands as an example of the nectar of life that we have been privileged to drink in.

Just how alive we are to the people all around us and their various needs depends on our hummingbird or vulture status. We have a choice … we can either take from life or we can give life to others. One path leads to meaningless existence … the other? … well, have you ever seen a hummingbird in flight? I think that I’m going to try for the hummingbird status.

It is about character. It is about giving ourself away. It is about shaping our future and reshaping the present reality of others who are in desperate need this holiday season. It is about a baby born in a stable in a world filled with vultures. It is about the opportunities to become hummingbirds that Christ alone provides. It is about life and becoming more alive than we have ever able to realized before! It is about the character of our faith and the shaping that faith is having on us.

Quote for today: Where your pleasure is, there is your treasure; where your treasure is, there is your heart; where your heart is, there is your happiness. ~St. Augustine

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Where is God?

I’m a sucker for anything that starts out with a little boy or girl. Evidently all of my friends know this because they sure pass on a bunch of stories and I enjoy them all. I’m also knowledgeable enough to realize that most of the words placed on the lips of the children were really written by adults, but that doesn’t bother me.

The Christmas message is that in the babe of Bethlehem God had entered our world with real flesh and presence. Here was now here! But since his death and resurrection and because of the power of the Holy Spirit God is now everywhere – even if we fail to acknowledge him or not.

Elizabeth was a member at the Hudson church. She had one little statement that anchored her in her faith and she took every opportunity to share it. Elizabeth would share, “If God seems further away, who moved?


He was just a little boy,
On a week's first day.
Wandering home from Bible school,
And dawdling on the way.

He scuffed his shoes into the grass;
He even found a caterpillar.
He found a fluffy milkweed pod
And blew out all the 'filler.'

A bird's nest in a tree overhead,
So wisely placed up so high.
Was just another wonder,
That caught his eager eye.

A neighbor watched his zigzag course,
And hailed him from the lawn;
Asked him where he'd been that day
And what was going on.

'I've been to Bible School,'
He said and turned a piece of sod.
He picked up a wiggly worm replying,
'I've learned a lot about God.'

'M'm, very fine way,' the neighbor said,
'for a boy to spend his time.'
'If you'll tell me where God is,
I'll give you a brand new dime.'

Quick as a flash the answer came!
Nor were his accents faint.
'I'll give you a dollar, Mister,
If you can tell me where God ain't.'

Quote for today: Security is not the absence of danger, but the presence of God, no matter what the danger.” ~source unknown

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Christmas traditions

Christmas is a season filled with all sorts of traditions. I thought about that this week as I finished cooking a batch of Horns – a date and nut filled pastry. Growing up we all knew that Christmas was getting close when we would come home to find that mom had just finished baking a batch of Horns. It is an ancient recipe brought to America by my maternal grandmother. I also marvel at the stamina of my mother with all she did in the kitchen during this season. Horns takes two days to make and they were just one of a number of special traditional goodies from that marvelous kitchen.

Some other traditions that my mother carried on was that Santa brought the Christmas tree. So the tree went up and decorated with tinsel hung one piece at a time … very time consuming – after I had gone to bed. The Christmas Cards were strung along a ribbon hung in the living room. Presents were sorted under the tree into piles for each of us kids. As turkey was the centerpiece of our Thanksgiving dinner so ham took center stage for our Christmas meal.

As Margaret and I established our own family we also established our own family traditions. The Christmas tree actually went up early in the season since we would hold an annual Christmas open house for our congregations and friends. Margaret developed a rather extensive list of cookie recipes and other favorite dishes. She would work hard the week before the open house cooking all the cookies to make sure everything was fresh.

It was in our first parsonage, with finances a little tight, that a simple Christmas season first appeared on our dinning room buffet. There little cardboard houses, bought at a local 5 & 10 store, with pine cones serving as trees and little lights taped to a coat hanger base and then covered in cotton sheets. A very cheap little plastic Santa and reindeers were hung over the little scene on a cloud of small blue bulbs. Over the years the shape has changed because of what was available for displaying the scene until we purchased a piano for Tracy. Well, when she moved into her own home and took the piano the Christmas scene went with her. It is now about 40 years old and everything, except the cotton sheet – it had gotten very yellow over the years – is from the original creation. It’s traditional.

Christmas tree moved from a real tree to an artificial one when we lived in Jacksonville thanks to a very generous member. The girls wouldn’t talk to me for several weeks because the tree wasn’t a real one. There were eight years that our home was large enough for 2 trees – the artificial one in the living room and the real tree in the family room. Now all three of us have pre-lit artificial trees … and no tinsel. Go figure.

Stockings are still filled with items under $3 a piece and they are all wrapped. The oldest child would place the angel on top of the tree after it was all decorated. Presents were unwrapped one at a time starting with the youngest to the oldest. The youngest child had the responsibility of passing out the presents to each person … still does. It will become Ava’s turn in the next couple of years after she gets past the desire to unwrap every present herself.

It was also a tradition to open one present Christmas Eve. A family in my last church have two boys – both grown now, but their traditional Christmas Eve special present were and is a new pair of PJ’s so that everyone will look “fresh” Christmas morning.

For a couple of years we took turns during the weeks leading up to Christmas of reading chapters from “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” … a great book and a real joy to read, especially out loud.

The items included in our Christmas morning breakfast always include sausage balls, various special breads (Cranberry, pumpkin and/or banana nut), cinnamon rolls, fruit, coffee, eggnog and a breakfast casserole … most of these items were leftovers from the open house. Now they are all made fresh for Christmas morning.

The house roof is outlined with Christmas lights a tradition that was started in our first parsonage when Margaret’s parents gave us their set of outside lights since they were not using them. It created quite a stir in that small Georgia town. People would slow down while passing our house that sat on the main drag heading out of town. Conversations would come to a halt when I walked into any of the town’s stores. Then I noticed that no other house in the town had any outside Christmas lights decorations. It was then that our close friend and church leader informed us that there was only one house in all of Carroll Country that had outside Christmas lights and they were on the house all year long … and you could buy anything you wanted at THAT house … anything!!! People were wondering just what kind of preacher the Methodist church had. Well, the lights stayed up and were turned on ever evening. The following year other homes in Temple, GA joined in the fun … and an old tradition was broken.

Celebrate your traditions … share the histories … see what new traditions can be started. Someone has suggested that one new tradition should be added for every special occasion – marriage, birth of a child or grandchild, purchase of a new home, change of jobs, move to a new community … something to mark the occasion and to celebrate the event to be remembered for years to come.

Quote for today: “Traditions are the guideposts driven deep in our subconscious minds. The most powerful ones are those we can't even describe, aren't even aware of.” ~source unknown

Monday, December 13, 2010

Some ways to spread some Christmas Joy - part 2

Last Wednesday I shared some of the “432 things to do for yourself and others that just might make this the best Christmas ever” from the book, “The Little Book of Christmas Joys” by H. Jackson Brown, Jr., Rosemary Brown, and Kathy Peel. I hope that some of things I shared last week got you thinking about how you can celebrate Christmas with more meaning and purpose.

Today, I want to add to that list – there are just some many good ideas and thoughts. There are some that I have edited or inserted my own.

· Begin a family Christmas journal. Write down memories your family shares: events you attend, presents you give and receive, and the inevitable crises that occur. Give this journal of Christmas memories as a gift and then add a page each year.
· Give an anonymous gift of money to someone who has been laid off.
· Start a special collection of Christmas ornaments each year for your children and grandchildren. Add a new one every year.
· Help an elderly neighbor decorate his or her home.
· Remember that the more a toy costs, the more likely kids will want to play with the box it came in.
· At least once in your life, visit New York and take in the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Show and enjoy the skaters and the huge Christmas tree at Rockefeller Plaza.
· Put something Christmasy in every room of your home … including the bathroom.
· Sing at one verse of your family’s favorite Christmas carol between opening each present.
· Keep Christmas music going in the background at home, in the car and at the office. Before too long you will be singing along, enjoying the holidays and lifting the spirit of those around you.
· When you don’t know what to give, give a book. Inscribe it with your name, the occasion, and the date.
· Want to rediscover the child in yourself … then walk through the toy section at one or more of the stores and remember when you played with some of those toys or when you gave some of those toys to your children.
· Be creative with gift wrapping. Use old maps, the funny papers, posters, the yellow pages.
· Some time during the holidays, go through your closets and box up clothing you haven’t worn in two years. Give away items that are still in good condition.
· Always record the names and addresses in your address book as you receive Christmas cards. That way your list will always be current.
· Take an evening to drive around to see all the decorated houses. Take a thermos of hot chocolate and some special Christmas cookies to enjoy during the drive.
· Create a special Christmas morning breakfast menu and serve it every year.
· Give a “Love Gift” to the special people in your life. A “Love Gift” is something that you will do for them during the next year.
· Help your child or grandchild make red and green paper chains from construction paper. Hang them all over their bedroom as their special decorations for Christmas.
· Reserve a night for the entire family to make homemade ornaments for your tree.
· Park as far away as possible at your local Mall. You need the exercise.
· Save the fronts of your Christ cards and then glue/paste them together the following year to cover one of your doors as a decoration.
· Offer to baby-sit for new parents to give them a chance to do some shopping or just enjoy one of the new movie releases.
· When decorating the tree, nestle photos of past Christmas morning experiences in the branches.
· Walk up to people standing in lines at the Mall and say, “Repeat after me, ‘I’m having fun, I’m having fun …’” and watch their faces and posture change.
· Take some time out to sit in the mall and watch youngsters having their pictures made with Santa while you sip a holiday blend of coffee.

Well, I hope some of these make your Christmas a little more merry and meaningful.

Quote for today: It is Christmas in the heart that puts Christmas in the air. ~W.T. Ellis

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sunday postings

Since all of our schedules on Sunday are hectic, as indicated by the fewest number of "hits" on any particular Sundays, I've decided not to continue to post a blog item on Sundays and holidays - Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. Therefore, from now my postings will be Monday thru Saturday. Thanks for your readership!

Peace and grace as always,


Saturday, December 11, 2010

Three Cups of Tea and building lasting relationships

Presently I am reading “Three Cups of Tea” by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. It is the story of one man with a mission to advance the cause of peace in a land torn by war, Pakistan and Afghanistan … one school at a time. Dr. Mortenson was determined, faced unbelievable difficulties, but through friendship building, passion for his vision and an incredible amount of patience he was able to achieve success. What stands out, and becomes a living metaphor – a symbol for what he was trying to do in building places where boys and girls could be educated – was the need to build a bridge for his first community before he could build the school. This story is about building bridges between individuals of different cultures, religious beliefs and history.

On page 150 it states:
“When the porcelain bowls of scalding butter tea steamed in their hands, Haji Ali spoke. ‘If you want to thrive in Baltistan, you must respect our ways,’ Haji Ali said, blowing on his bowl. ‘The first time you share tea with a Balti, you are a stranger. The second time you take tea, you are an honored guest. The third time you share a cup of tea, you become family, and for our family, we are prepared to do anything, even die,’ he said, laying his hand warmly on Mortenson’s own. ‘Doctor Greg, you must make time to share three cups of tea. We may be uneducated. But we are not stupid. We have lived and survived here for a long time.’

“’That day, Haji Ali taught me the most important lesson I’ve ever learned in my life,’ Mortenson says. ‘We Americans think you have to accomplish everything quickly. We’re the country of thirty-minute power lunches and two-minute football drills. Our leaders thought their ‘shock and awe’ campaign could end the war in Iraq before it even started. Haji Ali taught me to share three cups of tea, to slow down and make building relationships as important as building projects. He taught me that I had more to learn from the people I work with than I could ever hope to teach them.’”

What a valuable insight into our lives here in America taught by an individual who has never gone to school, cannot read or write, and yet, has an understanding of life far beyond anything that we have obtained. The lesson here for me is to take the time to build relationships, one cup of tea at a time and everything else will flow from that.

Christmas has traditionally been a time of hospitality – the sharing of our home with others. I am sure that sharing three cups of coffee will work instead of tea, as long as we understand that by the third cup the other individual has become family and a person for which we will do anything including dying for them. That is some serious stuff. I believe that we take our relationships, even family relationships, far too lightly and thus, the very fabric of our existence is threatened.

Our so-called “social networking” actually doesn’t bring about a connection. We have instant communication without ever truly communicating. The “time” we spend in each other’s company is quick and superficial. While we maybe visiting with each other our minds are going over a list of “stuff” we have to go and do … to accomplish … to complete before the sun goes down. In the process of our busyness we are losing out on the joy of taking the time of getting to know another person as a member of our family.

This Christmas find at least one individual with which you can begin to share the three cups of tea.

Quote for today – from the beginning of Chapter 12, “Haji Ali’s Lesson” of the above-mentioned book: It may seem absurd to believe that a “primitive” culture in the Himalaya has anything to teach our industrialized society. But our search for a future that works keeps spiraling back to an ancient connection between ourselves and the earth, an interconnectedness that ancient cultures have never abandoned. ~Helena Norberg-Hodge

Friday, December 10, 2010

What if one of us is the Messiah?

It is Christmas. The signs of the season surround us at every turn. People are rushing here and there just trying to get everything done before time runs out. We are making our lists and checking it more than twice not to find out who has been naughty or nice, but just to make sure that we’ve covered all the bases.

Within the celebration one question should be continuously asked: “What does it all mean … this idea that a Messiah, God’s Son, has entered into our world … our lives?” Well, M. Scott Peck wrote a book some time ago titled, "The Different Drum – Community Making and Peace." It is a rather poignant and mysterious story, but one that raises an interesting idea, especially during this particular season.

The story concerns a monastery that had fallen on hard times. There were only five monks left - all of them over seventy years of age. In the woods near the monastery was a hut visited from time to time by a rabbi from a nearby town. One day, in desperation, the abbot went to the rabbi to ask if he had any advice for their dying monastery.

The rabbi said, "I have no advice to give really. The only thing I can tell you is that one of you could well be the Messiah."

When the old abbot returned to the monastery, the other four monks gathered around him: "Well, what did the rabbi say? Did he have good counsel for us?"

"No, he couldn't help," the abbot answered. "We just wept and prayed and read the Scriptures together. The only thing he did say, just as I was leaving was something rather cryptic. He said that one of us might be the Messiah. I don't know what he meant by that."

In the months that followed, the old monks pondered the rabbi's words. The Messiah? But if that is so, which one?
- Do you suppose he meant the abbot? Yes, if he meant anyone, surely its Father Abbot.
- On the other hand, maybe he meant Brother Thomas. Thomas is a holy man.
- Certainly he could not have meant Brother James. James gets rather crotchety at times. But he's virtually always right.
- But surely not Brother Phillip. Phillip is so passive - and yet somehow he is always there when you need him.

As they contemplated, the old monks began to treat one another with extraordinary love and respect - on the off-chance that one of them might be the Messiah.

Because the forest was really quite beautiful, people would come there to picnic and play. Occasionally, some of them would enter the old monastery, and they began to sense the extraordinary love and respect that now surrounded the five old monks - love that bound them together and radiated from them, permeating the atmosphere. The people told their friends, and they came and brother others.

Soon some of the younger men asked if they could join the monks. And then others joined. So within a few years, the once dying monastery had come to life as never before. It became a thriving order and, thanks to the Rabbi's Gift, a vibrant center of light and spirituality.

So, what if one of us IS the Messiah? How would our world change? How would the people around us change? How would our interaction with other people change? Paul adds to this discussion when he states, “And it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20) Christ becomes the change agent ... changing our world … changing our relationship … saving us from ourselves ... saving us for ourselves … binding us together in love. The message of Christmas is the transforming power of the Messiah’s presence.

Quote for today: The adventure of new life in Christ begins when the comfortable patterns of the old life are left behind. David Roher

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A story of entertaining angels unaware ...

Some stories, when they come along, were just meant to be shared. Thus, was the case yesterday when I opened an e-mail from a friend and began to read this story by Catherine Moore. Is it “just” a story or is it something more. Each reader has to determine the story’s reality for him or herself.

Angels visited Mary and Joseph before their journey to Bethlehem and the stable. Angels visited those shepherds so long ago to tell them of the events which had just taken place in the small little village some 12 miles outside of Jerusalem. Some have suggested that the Star of Bethlehem was all the angels of heaven coming together in one brilliant heavenly celebration over the birth of the Son of God. Angels still come and make their visits to us.

It is my belief that angels have come to each of us even if we haven’t acknowledged their presence. Further, can you allow your imagination to take hold of the possibility that you … yes, even YOU … might actually be an angel who God has placed into the life of another individual, to touch their soul and to assist them in their journey? If we would dare to allow our spirit to embrace this possibility, even for just a second, it will change how we relate to everyone around us … wouldn’t it? And, in this story, an angel came in the form of a dog. I know that a loving Vet by the name of Jack would certainly believe it! Can you?

A Father, a Daughter and a Dog - story by Catherine Moore

"Watch out! You nearly broad sided that car!" My father yelled at me. "Can't you do anything right?"

Those words hurt worse than blows. I turned my head toward the elderly man in the seat beside me, daring me to challenge him. A lump rose in my throat as I averted my eyes. I wasn't prepared for another battle.

"I saw the car, Dad, please don't yell at me when I'm driving."

My voice was measured and steady, sounding far calmer than I really felt. Dad glared at me, then turned away and settled back. At home I left Dad in front of the television and went outside to collect my thoughts.... dark, heavy clouds hung in the air with a promise of rain. The rumble of distant thunder seemed to echo my inner turmoil. What could I do about him?

Dad had been a lumberjack in Washington and Oregon. He had enjoyed being outdoors and had reveled in pitting his strength against the forces of nature. He had entered grueling lumberjack competitions, and had placed often. The shelves in his house were filled with trophies that attested to his prowess.

The years marched on relentlessly. The first time he couldn't lift a heavy log, he joked about it; but later that same day I saw him outside alone, straining to lift it. He became irritable whenever anyone teased him about his advancing age, or when he couldn't do something he had done as a younger man.

Four days after his sixty-seventh birthday, he had a heart attack. An ambulance sped him to the hospital while a paramedic administered CPR to keep blood and oxygen flowing.

At the hospital, Dad was rushed into an operating room. He was lucky; he survived. But something inside Dad died. His zest for life was gone. He obstinately refused to follow doctor's orders. Suggestions and offers of help were turned aside with sarcasm and insults. The number of visitors thinned, and then finally stopped altogether. Dad was left alone.

My husband, Dick, and I asked Dad to come live with us on our small farm. We hoped the fresh air and rustic atmosphere would help him adjust.

Within a week after he moved in, I regretted the invitation. It seemed nothing was satisfactory. He criticized everything I did. I became frustrated and moody. Soon I was taking my pent-up anger out on Dick. We began to bicker and argue.

Alarmed, Dick sought out our pastor and explained the situation. The clergyman set up weekly counseling appointments for us. At the close of each session he prayed, asking God to soothe Dad 's troubled mind.

But the months wore on and God was silent. Something had to be done and it was up to me to do it.

The next day I sat down with the phone book and methodically called each of the mental health clinics listed in the Yellow Pages. I explained my problem to each of the sympathetic voices that answered in vain.

Just when I was giving up hope, one of the voices suddenly exclaimed, "I just read something that might help you! Let me go get the article."

I listened as she read. The article described a remarkable study done at a nursing home. All of the patients were under treatment for chronic depression. Yet their attitudes had improved dramatically when they were given responsibility for a dog.

I drove to the animal shelter that afternoon. After I filled out a questionnaire, a uniformed officer led me to the kennels. The odor of disinfectant stung my nostrils as I moved down the row of pens. Each contained five to seven dogs. Longhaired dogs, curly-haired dogs, black dogs, spotted dogs all jumped up, trying to reach me. I studied each one but ejected one after the other for various reasons too big, too small, too much hair. As I neared the last pen a dog in the shadows of the far corner struggled to his feet, walked to the front of the run and sat down. It was a pointer, one of the dog world's aristocrats. But this was a caricature of the breed.

Years had etched his face and muzzle with shades of gray. His hipbones jutted out in lopsided triangles. But it was his eyes that caught and held my attention. Calm and clear, they beheld me unwaveringly.

I pointed to the dog. "Can you tell me about him?" The officer looked, and then shook his head in puzzlement. "He's a funny one. Appeared out of nowhere and sat in front of the gate. We brought him in, figuring someone would be right down to claim him. That was two weeks ago and we've heard nothing. His time is up tomorrow." He gestured helplessly.

As the words sank in I turned to the man in horror. "You mean you're going to kill him?" "Ma'am," he said gently, "that's our policy. We don't have room for every unclaimed dog."

I looked at the pointer again. The calm brown eyes awaited my decision. "I'll take him," I said. I drove home with the dog on the front seat beside me. When I reached the house I honked the horn twice. I was helping my prize out of the car when Dad shuffled onto the front porch. "Ta-da! Look what I got for you, Dad!" I said excitedly.

Dad looked, and then wrinkled his face in disgust. "If I had wanted a dog I would have gotten one. And I would have picked out a better specimen than that bag of bones. Keep it! I don't want it" Dad waved his arm scornfully and turned back toward the house.

Anger rose inside me. It squeezed together my throat muscles and pounded into my temples. "You'd better get used to him, Dad. He's staying!"
Dad ignored me. "Did you hear me, Dad?" I screamed. At those words Dad whirled angrily, his hands clenched at his sides, his eyes narrowed and blazing with hate. We stood glaring at each other like duelists, when suddenly the pointer pulled free from my grasp. He wobbled toward my dad and sat down in front of him. Then slowly, carefully, he raised his paw.

Dad 's lower jaw trembled as he stared at the uplifted paw Confusion replaced the anger in his eyes. The pointer waited patiently. Then Dad was on his knees hugging the animal.

It was the beginning of a warm and intimate friendship. Dad named the pointer Cheyenne Together he and Cheyenne explored the community. They spent long hours walking down dusty lanes. They spent reflective moments on the banks of streams, angling for tasty trout. They even started to attend Sunday services together, Dad sitting in a pew and Cheyenne lying quietly at is feet.

Dad and Cheyenne were inseparable throughout the next three years. Dad 's bitterness faded, and he and Cheyenne made many friends. Then late one night I was startled to feel Cheyenne 's cold nose burrowing through our bed covers. He had never before come into our bedroom at night. I woke Dick, put on my robe and ran into my father's room. Dad lay in his bed, his face serene. But his spirit had left quietly sometime during the night.

Two days later my shock and grief deepened when I discovered Cheyenne lying dead beside Dad 's bed. I wrapped his still form in the rag rug he had slept on. As Dick and I buried him near a favorite fishing hole, I silently thanked the dog for the help he had given me in restoring Dad 's peace of mind.

The morning of Dad 's funeral dawned overcast and dreary. This day looks like the way I feel, I thought, as I walked down the aisle to the pews reserved for family. I was surprised to see the many friends Dad and Cheyenne had made filling the church. The pastor began his eulogy. It was a tribute to both Dad and the dog that had changed his life.

And then the pastor turned to Hebrews 13:2. "Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it." "I've often thanked God for sending that angel," he said.

For me, the past dropped into place, completing a puzzle that I had not seen before: the sympathetic voice that had just read the right article ... Cheyenne 's unexpected appearance at the animal shelter ... his calm acceptance and complete devotion to my father ... and the proximity of their deaths. And suddenly I understood. I knew that God had answered my prayers after all.

Life is too short for drama or petty things, so laugh hard, love truly and forgive quickly. Live While You Are Alive. Forgive now those who made you cry. You might not get a second time.

Lost time can never be found.

God answers our prayers in His time ... not ours.

Quote for today: We are each of us angels with only one wing, and we can only fly by embracing one another. ~Lucretius

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Some ways to spread some Christmas Joy

Among the various Christmas books that are pulled out of the bookshelf each year is a small volume titled, “The Little Book of Christmas Joys.” It is authored by H. Jackson Brown, Jr., Rosemary Brown, and Kathy Peel. It lists “432 things to do for yourself and others that just might make this the best Christmas ever.” While I won’t share all 432 of them here, there are a few that just jump off the pages. I’m sure that one or more of these suggestions will mean something to you and yours.

· Buy a pair of red flannel pajamas that you wear only on Christmas Eve.
· Don’t count calories from December 15th through January 2nd.
· Mend a broken relationship with a friend or relative during the holidays.
· Be nice to sales personnel. They’re often wearier than you are.
· Take a holiday family photograph each year in the same spot. In years to come, you’ll have a wonderful record of the growth of your family.
· Place your children’s stuffed animals under the Christmas tree as a welcoming committee for Santa.
· Let go of a problem you can’t solve. Enjoy the season.
· Hang a favorite Christmas tree ornament from your car’s rear-view mirror.
· Take a basket of Christmas goodies to your local fire and police stations.
· Take along your address book when Christmas shopping so that you can ship out-of-town purchases directly from the store.
· Have a special place to display the Christmas card from the farthest distance away.
· Try at least one new recipe and one new decorating idea.
· Hire high school or college students to help with your holiday decorating and/or holiday entertaining.
· Wrap your gifts as you purchase them instead of all at one time.
· Sit in front of the lighted Christmas tree and with only candles glowing in the background read the Christmas story in Luke, chapter 2. Then join hands and sing “Silent Night.”
· When you think you have enough lights on your tree or house, add two more strands.
· Instead of the usual bedtime stories, read to your children about the Christmas customs in other countries.
· Enjoy a couple of meals illuminated only by the Christmas tree. If you can make it work, even sit on the floor together and tell favorite stories from Christmas’ past.
· During the year, collect inexpensive antique napkins at flea markets and yard sales. Use them to line baskets of Christmas goodies.
· Always take a picture of your decorated home and add them to your picture books. The collection will bring back many memories in later years.
· Try to finish your Christmas shopping by December 10th.
· Before going to bed every night of the Christmas season, ask yourself, “Whose life did I make brighter today?” (Not a bad idea to do every night of the year)
· Remind newlyweds to save an item from their wedding ceremony to use as a treasured Christmas ornament.
· A few don’ts … don’t give anyone a fruitcake; don’t give a child underwear; and don’t give your spouse a bathroom scale.
· Call a nursing home and get the names of five people who don’t often receive mail. Send each one a beautiful Christmas card and sign it, “from Santa.”
· Wear outrageous Christmas socks.
· Give new friends who have just moved to town a newspaper subscription from their old hometown.
· Never refuse a holiday dessert.
· Offer to run Christmas errands fro an elderly friend or relative.
· Change your answering machine greeting to a cheerful Christmas one.
· Learn to say Merry Christmas in several languages.

Well, those are just a few from the first 100. Maybe I will do another blog and include some other suggestions from the little book.

The one thing that I would add to their list is – make sure that you have fun every day, laugh a lot, drink a little eggnog and make sure you get yourself a good quantity of hugs every day.

Quote for today: Only a life lived for others is a life worth while. ~Albert Einstein

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

In the bleak midwinter

As the temperature plummets and the earliest freeze warning, that I can remember, wraps its icey fingers around our hearts, I am taken back to that first day of November when Margaret and me were just entering our third month of marital bliss. Well, it was bliss for me, I am not sure what it was for Margaret considering the level of immaturity that she had to deal with in her young naïve, self-centered husband. Our 45-years of marriage is a testimony to her level of forgiveness and tolerance of my painful stupidty. Anyway, that is a subject matter for another blog and beside the point in what I am trying to say today.

On that first day of November, 1965 a freaky winter storm blew through Nashville dumping a heavy, wet snow on the city. It caught the trees still wearing their fall foliage in splended display. It was my first snow storm that I could remember because my formative years in Cleveland had long been lost and it was beautiful. What a thrilling experience. It brought out the kid in all of us. Harry, who would later become a Rhodes scholar, was running around campus in his bathing suit and a pair of sneakers having a ball. He was soon joined by some other slightly insane students in their bathing suits. The president of our college stood off in the near distance laughing at the antics of his beloved “children”. And, as it could be expected, we made the front page of the newspaper with our large snow sculpture of the character Kanga from “Winnie the Pooh” – the drama department’s fall production that year.

When unusal and/or different occurances take place I normally associate them with music of some sort. And so, with the temperature low and the freeze warning in effect while we attempt to finish out our Christmas preparations I think of a little used Christmas carol, “In the bleak midwinter”:

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Our God, heaven cannot hold him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when he comes to reign;
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

Enough for him, whom Cherubim worship night and day
A breast full of milk and a manger full of hay.
Enough for him, whom angels fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore.

When our souls are gripped by the bleakness of life; when our lives seem meaningless and empty; when our hearts have grown cold for the lack of an embrace; when our vision has dulled to hope and possibilities; when our future seems miserable because it has been mired in the muck of bad decisions; when it takes all of our strength and fortitude to simply get through another day … in the bleak midwinter of our existence, God comes when least expected in a surprisingly simple way … our world is turned upside down … our lives are forever transformed … we mount up on eagle’s wings … and the truth of the Bethlehem child born to two very young teenagers thousands of years ago becomes a pivotal point for us once again ... and the celebration of Christmas, a celebration of life, of hope, of possibility, of promise, of God’s grace and forgiveness takes on new meaning for each of us even when the world is in the grips of the bleakness of a midwinter’s storm.

Quote for today: There are no hopeless situations; there are only people who have grown hopeless about them. ~Clare Boothe Luce

Monday, December 6, 2010

Some assembly required? Not with God!

Three simple words that will strike fear in the heart of anyone trying to fulfill the role of Santa Claus … “Some Assembly Required.” Our two children were young when we decided that Santa should give them a swing set for Christmas. The plan was to assemble as much as possible of the set in the garage during the week leading up to Christmas and then on Christmas Eve, between the two services, the senior pastor and me would put the three pieces together while Margaret got Tim and Tracy ready for bed. At least that was the plan … “Some Assembly Required.”

So there we were in the backyard, flashlights in hand, the three pieces laid out on the ground … and, no matter what we did the three pieces just won’t go together. After spending too much time, too much effort, and working up a little sweat it was time for us to return to church and hold the midnight service. After the service we returned to the scene of the crime and tried to do it again, but with less success this go around. At about 3:30am we called it quits. “Some assembly required” … stupid words … a silly concept.

And before anyone jumps to the conclusion … YES, I did read the instructions first! So, there!

It would be the last Christmas that I lived with the foolish idea that Santa brought presents already assembled. Where I came up with that crazy idea is beyond me. From that Christmas on our Christmas’ became a lot simpler and much less stress filled.

With the help of my two brothers, in the afternoon of that fate-filled Christmas, we were able to finish what Santa wasn’t able to do. It is amazing what can be seen and accomplished when you are not trying to complete a task with a small flashlight. That swing set would be taken apart and moved three more times until it was finally abandoned in Jacksonville.

Some assembly required … it is amazing to this old preacher how often people have shared with me that they would start attending church or get involved or start believing once they got their life in order, as in getting their life put together, assembled. Each of us thinks that we are the ones who “assemble” the various parts of our lives and put them together. We miss the point of God’s grace and the message of the Emmanuel – God with us. We miss the power of Christmas. We are called to surrender our hearts, spirits and desires and God assembles the life. All we are required to do is make ourselves available. Some assembly required? Not with God thanks to Jesus Christ, the babe of Bethlehem.

The faith, as understood by the men and women of the Old Testament, was a “do-it-yourself” project. It is how they came to understand their relationship with God. The rules and regulations spelled out the requirements of how to “assemble” ones life … but the assembly was placed upon our shoulders. Reading the instructions, the Torah, made it understandable, but still almost impossible. Like trying to put together a swing set in the dark. But, when the Sun (or should I say, Son) came, shedding light upon what God really was trying to communicate so many years earlier, the “task” became so much easier because the “task” wasn’t of our doing. All that was required was surrendering ourselves over to God through Christ.

So, this Christmas, each of us can try to play “Santa” with our own lives with “some assembly required” or we can enjoy the celebration of the workmanship of God’s perfect plan as he puts the pieces together.

Quote for today: God is ready to assume full responsibility for the life wholly yielded to Him. Andrew Murray

Sunday, December 5, 2010

A good word from Dr. Harnish, The Dawn from on High

One of my weekly reads is FAITHMATTERS written by a colleague, The Rev. Dr. James A. Harnish (Jim), senior pastor of the historical, downtown Tampa church, Hyde Park UMC. If you ever find yourself in Tampa on a Sunday why not give yourself a blessing and go hear him break the bread of life. Besides being the long time pastor of this great church Jim is also a prolific author. I have found that Dr. Harnish’s insight into the spiritual journey and a deeper relationship with God always helpful, relevant and, for my own spiritual growth, timely. This past week he wrote his congregation a reflection of what really takes place in the event we call Christmas and I wanted to share it with the readers of my daily blog.

The Dawn from on High

Our scripture reading this Sunday is the beautiful story of Zechariah and Elizabeth (Luke 1:5-24, 57-80). It concludes with Zechariah singing:
By the tender mercy of our God,
the dawn from on high will break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.

I had Zechariah’s words in mind when I read Merton:
“It is not we who choose to awaken ourselves, but God Who chooses to awaken us … Our discovery of God is, in a way, God’s discovery of us. We cannot go to Heaven to find Him … He comes down from Heaven and finds us.”

The Christmas gospel is the shocking, unbelievable, radically reorienting story of the way God comes to be with us in Jesus Christ. We didn’t think this up. We would never have gone searching for a God who would do something like this. We can no more “find God” than we can cause the sun to rise. God comes down to find us. The incarnation is the intrusive story of the God who comes to us like dawn breaking into the darkness of our world in order to lead our feet into the ways of peace.

We can, however, miss the dawn if we aren’t awake to see it.

Awake When the Sun Rises

We spent Thanksgiving at the lakeside house in Polk County where Marsha and I will retire some day. Other than playing with the grandchildren, there’s nothing better than watching the sun rise over Eagle Lake. It’s absolutely spectacular. But I can easily miss it by being busy reading my e-mail or simply sleeping in. The sun will rise. I can’t cause or control it. But I have to choose whether I will be awake to experience it.

The Christmas story is as simple (and as difficult) as that. God comes to be with us in Jesus. We can’t cause or control it any more than the Grinch could stop it. But we can miss the whole thing unless we practice the spiritual disciplines that enable us to be awake to experience it. The purpose of Advent is to prepare us to be awake when the dawn rises.

Quote for today: Life is a constant Advent season: we are continually waiting to become, to discover, to complete, to fulfill. Hope, struggle, fear, expectation and fulfillment are all part of our Advent experience … The world is not as just, not as loving, not as whole as we know it can and should be. But the coming of Christ and his presence among us—as one of us—give us reason to live in hope: that light will shatter the darkness, that we can be liberated from our fears and prejudices, that we are never alone or abandoned ... May this Advent season be a time for bringing hope, transformation and fulfillment into the Advent of our lives. ~ “Life Is an Advent Season,” CONNECTIONS, 11-28-93

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Christmas is for children ... and we all should become childlike again!

I like Christmas … no that’s not correct … I LOVE Christmas. It is my favorite time of the year. There isn’t anything about this glorious season that I don’t enjoy – even the crowded malls and the “business” of it all or should I say, the “busyness” of it all. Oh, I must admit that I think that certain stores “push” the agenda just a little with their Christmas decorations and displays going up right after the 4th of July.

If it is true, as some have said, that Christmas is for kids – then I must be the biggest kid around. I love the excitement, the decorations, the buying and receiving gifts, the special stuff from the kitchen, the friends, and the music – you name it, I love it all. Bring it ALL on!!!

A few years ago, one of my favorite cartoons, “The Family Circus,” had one of the little children opening the front door, after it had just snowed, saying, “Oh, look, God gift wrapped the world!”

Isn’t this what Christmas is all about? Celebrating the reality that in Jesus Christ God is gift-wrapping the world in love and grace.

It is a magical moment. A time in history that changed the course of human history – your history – my history … forever! An eternal moment wrapped up in the fragile little baby boy lying in a manger.

To be honest, I think those who see Christmas as a time for kids haven’t really been touched by the power of the Christ. It is either that, or the fact that they have lost touch with their inner child.

Scripture states that unless we become like a child we cannot enter the kingdom of God (Luke 18:17). There is a difference between “child like” and “childish.” God is calling us to be “child like.” “Child like” sees the wonder of it all. “Child like” is surprised by new discoveries. “Child like” embraces life with joy. “Child like” shares the exuberance of living. “Child like” means that you can see snow and not think of being cold, wet or the work of shoveling – you see it rather as “God gift wrapping the world.”

When Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede was open in Orlando she would run a November/December TV commercial wherein she would say, “Christmas brings out the child in all of us.” Well, friends, I sure hope so because if it doesn’t there is much we are going to miss.

When I a senior pastor I would normally ask the children and youth to lead us in the celebration of lighting the candles of the Advent Wreath because they would bring a certain wonderment and excitement to the lighting that adults would often miss. Maybe, just maybe, we will once again discover the child in ourselves and in turn, make the greater discovery of the magical time in life called Christmas.

Quote for today: Two women who were having lunch in an elegant hotel were approached by a mutual friend who asked the occasion for the meal. One lady replied, "We are celebrating the birth of my baby boy." "But where is he?" inquired the friend. "Oh," said the mother, "you didn't think I'd bring him, did you?" What a picture of the way the world treats Jesus at Christmas. ~Source unknown