Tuesday, December 27, 2011

In pursuit of knowledge and wisdom - Proverbs 8:10 with a story from the life of Socrates and an observation.

SCRIPTURE: Proverbs 8:10 (TM)
Prefer my life-disciplines over chasing after money, and God-knowledge over a lucrative career.

A STORY as told by M. Littleton:
There's a story about a proud young man who came to Socrates asking for knowledge. He walked up to the muscular philosopher and said, "O great Socrates, I come to you for knowledge."

Socrates recognized a pompous numbskull when he saw one. He led the young man through the streets, to the sea, and chest deep into water. Then he asked, "What do you want?"

"Knowledge, O wise Socrates," said the young man with a smile.

Socrates put his strong hands on the man's shoulders and pushed him under. Thirty seconds later Socrates let him up. "What do you want?" he asked again.

"Wisdom," the young man sputtered, "O great and wise Socrates."

Socrates crunched him under again. Thirty seconds passed, thirty-five. Forty. Socrates let him up. The man was gasping. "What do you want, young man?"

Between heavy, heaving breaths the fellow wheezed, "Knowledge, O wise and wonderful..."

Socrates jammed him under again Forty seconds passed. Fifty. "What do you want?"
"Air!" the young man screeched. "I need air!"

"When you want knowledge as you have just wanted air, then you will have knowledge."

We already know more than we can ever use and yet, our pool of knowledge is growing ever larger. A case in point is my little Mac-mini computer. It measures 8x8x1 inches. The speed is unbelievable. Its ability is unimaginable. Now, compare what this little square box to huge machines that occupied nearly the entire second floor of Sears and Roebuck in Atlanta in 1970 when I worked for them as a credit supervisor. The temperature in that huge room was kept in the 60-degree range. There were hundreds of machine linked together. And yet, my little Mac-mini can handle thousands upon thousands more data then those early computers could in 1970. It is just unbelievable.

We chase after knowledge, but lack basic wisdom. We desire bigger, faster things. We hunger after more “stuff” and leave our desire for the things called holy on the sidelines. We sell our souls for what the world offers and by-pass the unbelievable joy of a relationship with God.

One of the lessons of the Wise Men, scholars if you will – the best minds that the world offered in that day - is that in all of their knowledge and wisdom they desired to bend their knees in worship in the young child’s presence. Oh, that we would follow their example.

Examples abound, gracious Lord, of individuals who place what the world offers at the feet of Jesus in their desire to worship him to the fullest. Give us the courage to follow suit. In the precious name of Jesus we ask this, Amen.

Monday, December 26, 2011

And the joy continues

SCRIPTURE: John 15:11 (NIV)
I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.

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.

Most of the world took time out of their busy schedule yesterday to experience the joy which had come into the world. Admittedly, it might seem hard to celebrate when some tragedy has visited a loved one. But, while life could be challenging the time of celebration has come into all of our homes … even when this seem the darkest. As Mr. Buscaglia illustrated in his story, celebration rallies our spirits. Rejoicing dispels the gloom and dark. Joy turns night into day. And so we stopped to celebrate … may the celebration of Christmas continue not just on the 25th of December and not just during the month of December, but it continue throughout the year.

I have always found it peculiar the number of homes that remove all signs of the Christmas celebration on the 26th of December. The tree is out on the curb to be picked up. The lights come off the house. All decorations are packed away for another year. They seem to be declaring, the time of celebration is over … now get back to routine, our work, our busy schedule … we’ve had our moment of happiness and it is time to pick up the pieces of our life.

But I like the declaration of the little girl who got up on December 26th and proclaimed to her family, “Merry Christmas, Jesus is born!” When her father tried to correct her by reminding her that Christmas was yesterday she shared, “But if he isn’t born today then he wasn’t born yesterday either. His birth is every day and every day is Christmas.” I think that she got it right. Her joy was and is complete.

May we dear Lord celebrate the reality of Christ’s birth in our life everyday. May our joy be complete as you life in us. Amen.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Dealing with the real reason for this season - Luke 2:15 with a story and an observation

SCRIPTURE: Luke 2:15 (TM)
As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the sheepherders talked it over. "Let's get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us."

Many years ago the Puritans thought that they were ruining Christmas with all their pagan rituals. They especially objected to the fact that the holiday usually came on a weekday, therefore distracting people, they thought, from the Lord's Day of Sunday. But they did more than annually complain about it as we do. They took action and got rid of Christmas altogether. In Puritan settlements across 17th century America a law was passed outlawing the celebration of Christmas. The marketplace was ordered to stay open for business as though it was no special occasion and all violators were prosecuted. It was against the law to make plum pudding on December 25th. The celebration was not referred to as Yuletide but as fooltide. 

So we want to reform Christmas and clean it up do we? Well, is this how far we want to go? Do we really want to be rid of it altogether? Then will Christmas, as the Puritans thought, be saved from us and our sinful ways. So what if we spend $40 billion annually on presents. Can you think of a better way of spending all that money than on gifts of love? And most of them are just that. And so what are all the lights and tinsel does create a fairy tale setting that soon disappears, as does the so-called Christmas spirit. At least it lets us know, if only for a brief time, what life can be like if we only try. 
So let the message ring out this day, not that we are destroying this holy day, but rather, that we can never destroy this day. Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be for all generations. For unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a savior who is Christ the Lord.

A conclusion has come to mind and that being, God is going to do what God is going to do. It was while I was contemplating the popular and overused phrase during the Christmas season, “Jesus is the Reason for the Season.” I don’t know about anyone else, but it is fast becoming an irritant in my spiritual saddle, so to speak.

Individuals wear it as a pin, they place yard signs up in front of their businesses and/or homes, they send it out in Christmas cards, but … and that is a very large “but” … what else happens? Come on, let’s get serious now.

The conversation was heading towards the “reason for the season” stuff when I simply looked at the individual doing the sharing and asked, “When was the last time you introduced someone to Jesus Christ?” He began to choke on his words … but I didn’t stop. I continued, “When was the last time you feed the hungry, clothed the naked, visited the sick, cared for the widows and orphaned, or visited those in prison?” Again, choking.

It is one thing to proclaim the “reason” phrase, but is quite another matter to actually do something with the person of the reason. We become contributors to “fooltide,” in the story above, than in the true celebration of Yuletide. Puritans missed the mark in their attempt to “rescue” Christmas from the pagan and non-believers. And we too can miss the mark by just proclaiming the “reason for the season” stuff without following through by doing what he has instructed us to do. Could the real celebration of his birth be found in more practical, down to earth matters? Probably, if we would but look long enough at life’s situations and begin to respond to those problems. Like the little girl in one story that I like to tell when assured that Jesus was right here with her, “But I want someone with flesh on.”

From this old preacher’s perspective Christmas and the gift of Jesus is not about getting us into heaven, but getting heaven into us. It is not about getting our heavenly train pass punched. It is not about our salvation, but it is about salvation working in us for all people. It is not about feeling good and at peace (the warm and fuzzy feeling stuff), but it is about being agents of peace within a world that has gone a little mad. It is about us fulfilling the call to be changed agents for the Kingdom here on earth. Anything beyond this earth is but the icing on the eternal cake!

Lord, help us to find the true meaning of this season and guide us towards a deeper commitment to the work – the labor – of being part of the Kingdom. Amen.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Getting lost on our way to Christmas Day - some thoughts

SCRIPTURE: Colossians 1:20-23 (NKJV)
And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight-- if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister.

A STORY as shared by Robert E. Luccock:
In New York's Hayden Planetarium a special Christmas holiday show was enhanced by an added feature. A giant lollipop tree was projected onto the planetarium dome, surrounded by a horizon filled with brilliantly colored toys which came to life and cavorted to the tune of "Jingle Bells." At the climax a huge figure of Santa Claus faded out in a snow storm, and the star of Bethlehem broke through into a sky that produced exactly the Palestine sky on the night of the nativity. The designer of this show may not realize that he dramatically staged the supreme Christmas message our world needs to understand: The recovery of the lost meaning of Christmas. This is not said in any criticism of Santa Claus; the effect must have delighted the hearts of all the children who saw it, without doing violence to their love of Bethlehem. But for adults it is a tragic loss to substitute "Jingle Bells" for "Hark! the Herald Angels Sing," and a lollipop tree for the manger of Bethlehem. The instinct is right to fade out these things in the light of the Christmas star. It is about God's incarnation that the angels sing--God with us.

A little confession … I do get carried away with the festivity of celebrating Christmas. Always have and probably always will. It is kind of built into my nature. I love the decorations, the outside lights, and everything that goes along those ideas. By the Wednesday or Thursday after Thanksgiving everything is up and ready for Christmas Day to get here. I cannot wait. It is the kid in me … and my faithful spouse is correct when she observes that I over do it – kind of over the top. And, a little more confession, there is a little envy for those families who are have been featured on the TV programs illustrating the best, most outlandish decorated homes in America. If I could afford it would I follow suit?

But at the heart of it all is my love of Jesus. Behind all that I do is the reality of the birth of the Savior. Nestled within the lights, the tree (in several homes we were able to have two trees), the decorations (in every room), and all the food and drink (remembering fondly Margaret’s tremendous efforts with the annual Christmas open houses) is the truth of the miracle of God reaching out to all of us in a way that we neither can fathom nor completely understand. All we can do is receive the gift and be glad.

It is easy to get lost along the way to the actual celebration of Jesus’ birth, but in years such as 2011 when Christmas Day falls on a Sunday (the last time this happened was 2005) it is much easier. Oh, mainline denominational folk decide to stay home from worship on Christmas Day because they are following some “family traditions” and yet, are we not a part of a larger family – the Family of God? Shouldn’t we want to be together with our brothers and sisters in Christ? Maybe the liturgical church folk have it correct because they have set a high priority on being in church for Christmas Day worship regardless if it falls on a Sunday or a Wednesday or a Friday.

It is that “reconciliation” thing God does through Christ. God has taken the trappings of our Christmas celebration and brought us into his divine presents. Again, a little confession, I get somewhat angry with individuals who refer to the “trappings” as pagan. I look at all the “stuff” of Christmas as a means of the world throwing a huge birthday party for the King of kings. Anyway, many do get lost in the Santa Claus thing, the tinsel and colored lights thing, and the gift-buying-the-gift-giving thing … but, maybe, just maybe, in their hearts they do realize the central event of the season as testified by the large number of those who find their way to a worship service on Christmas Eve.

Anyway, that is my way of approaching this seasonal event of all events … and I’m sticking to it be it a “Merry Christmas,” a “Happy Holidays,” a “Season Greetings,” or simply a “Merry Xmas”. I feel sorry for those who see it differently. They have lost sight of their inner-child. The wonder and “magic of Christmas (truly) lies in our heart” as Santa Clause shares in “The Polar Express”.

Keep each of us focused so that when the stress of trying to get it all done and completed by the deadline of the 25th we don’t get lost in the process. In the name of the babe of Bethlehem. Amen.

Quote for today: "The mystery of the humanity of Christ, that He sunk Himself into our flesh, is beyond all human understanding." Martin Luther

Thursday, December 22, 2011

O Little Lord of Christmas - a poem

As in other years I post today my favorite Christmas poem. It always get me thinking about how I celebrate this beautiful season, how I set my priorities, and what I deem to be important.

On Christmas Eve they filled the house, some fifty guests all told.
(O little Lord of Christmas, were you left out in the cold?)
And ate and sang, played cards and danced till early morning light.
(O little Lord of Christmas, did they think of you that night?)
Next morning came the presents on a glittering Christmas tree.
(O little Lord of Christmas, was there any gift for thee?)
The dinner was a Roman feast, and how those guests did eat!
(O little Lord of Christmas, were you hungry in the street?)
Then came some teas, a movie, and at night the last revue.
(O little Lord of Christmas, what had these to do with YOU?)
By midnight all were tired and cross and tumbled into bed.
(O little Lord of Christmas, did they think that you were dead?)
They all woke up with headaches and no joy in work or play.
(O little Lord of Christmas, did they mark your birth that day?)
The love, the joy were good, no doubt: the rest a pagan spree.
(O little Lord of Christmas, let us keep the day with THEE!)

Quote for today: “To perceive Christmas through its wrappings becomes more difficult with every year.” ~ E. B. White

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Jesus is the light of the world and we are the keepers of the lighthouse - John 8:12

SCRIPTURE: John 8:12 (TM)
Jesus once again addressed them: "I am the world's Light. No one who follows me stumbles around in the darkness. I provide plenty of light to live in."

Making decisions in the dark can lead to some regrettable consequences. Back in the days before electricity, a tightfisted old farmer was taking his hired man to task for carrying a lighted lantern when he went to call on his best girl. "Why," he exclaimed, "when I went a-courtin' I never carried one of them things. I always went in the dark." "Yes," the hired man said wryly," and look what you got!"

Recently I came across this statement: “Early lighthouse-keepers were priests who tended to the duty of providing firewood to fuel the lighthouse beacon. As a result, many churches near shorelines were also used as lighthouses. Not by coincidence, the lighthouse is often referred to as a symbol of Christ, the light of the world. The rays of light symbolize God’s guiding path, just as the lighthouse serves to guide ships safely to the shore.”

The challenge is to consider how we are “tending the light” or we expecting to Jesus to do it all himself? The celebration of Christmas is to embrace the reality that the light of Christ has come into a very dark world and thus, as his followers, to make sure that light shines in us.

Here we evaluate our daily work and make sure that we shine with his light. E. Stanley Jones was fond of asking, “Do you have Christ in your heart?” If the answer was yes, then he would follow it up with, “Well, how about informing your face of that reality.”

Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!

Help us not to hide the light of Christ in the middle of our busy and over-scheduled life. May your agenda God become our agenda. May the light of our Savior and Christ be evident to all those who see our face.

QUOTE FOR TODAY: “Some people change their ways when they see the light, others only when they feel the heat.” Source unknown

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Version of 1 Corinthians 13

One of my favorite Christmas hymns is, “Love Came Down at Christmas.” The images housed within the three short verses of this hymn are magnificent and creative. Besides, the tune is just fun to sing.

Sometimes within the mad dash to the Christmas finishline the love portion of this season gets lost. We get lost in the decorating, the party going, the endless trips to the mall, sending/receiving Christmas cards that many see as “just another necessary” task that isn’t filled with joy, and so the list goes on and on and on.

My neighbor expressed his regret our first year in the community because immediately after Thanksgiving our outside Christmas lights were up and turned on. He fretted because he just knew that his wife was going to start pestering him to their lights up. Well, evidently he won that battle for the last two years since the lights didn’t go up. Go figure … right?

Recently I came across the Christmas version for 1 Corinthians that I would like to share:

If I decorate my house perfectly with plaid bows, strands of twinkling lights and shiny balls, but do not show love to my family, I'm just another decorator. If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas cookies, preparing gourmet meals and arranging a beautifully adorned table at mealtime, but do not show love to my family, I'm just another cook. If I work at the soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home and give all that I have to charity, but do not show love to my family, it profits me nothing. If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels and crocheted snowflakes, attend a myriad of holiday parties and sing in the choir's cantata but do not focus on Christ, I have missed the point.

Love stops the cooking to hug the child.
Love sets aside the decorating to kiss the husband.
Love is kind, though harried and tired.
Love doesn't envy another's home that has coordinated Christmas china and table linens.
Love doesn't yell at the kids to get out of the way,
but is thankful they are there to be in the way.
Love doesn't give only to those who are able to give in return
but rejoices in giving to those who can't.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails.
Video games will break, pearl necklaces will be lost, golf clubs will rust.
But giving the gift of love will endure.

From our home to yours … Have a very Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Cookie Rules for Christmas

A little confession is probably good at this point. As those who are regularly visitors to this blog discovered during the past many days, I haven’t posted anything for more than a week. First, our PC went south and had to be replaced. Since our son-in-love just took a job at an Apple store and was quickly converted “to the other side,” he easily converted me to the idea of replacing my old PC with a new Mac. Therefore, I made the decision to add a Mac-Mini to my home office. The Mac-Mini is one of the most dependable of all their machines … except for the one I purchased. Thought first it was the power pack, but to their amazement it was the mother-board. Long story, I was dead in the water for too many days and am just now getting caught up so, here’s the confession – this blog was posted back in 2010, but since I dearly love my spouses Christmas cookies and found the “Cookie Rules” delightful during this time of celebration I decided to repost. Enjoy … Maybe tomorrow I will be back to my regular routine, but we will see!?!

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 … are 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 9, 2011

Day 6 in our journey to make sure Christmas is a joy-filled holiday

It is Day 6 in our incredible and fascinating journey into making sure that Christmas is truly a joy-filled holiday. I’ve been sharing some of the suggestions made in, “The Little Book of Christmas Joys,” by H. Jackson Brown, Jr., Rosemary Brown, and Kathy Peel. As the cover states, “432 things to do for yourself and others that just might make this the best Christmas ever.” The ones being shared are simply selections from the book – some I have edited and others, I have added.

• Be sure to wave a “thank you” when somebody lets you into holiday traffic.
• If one family member lives far away and can’t afford to fly home, suggest that other family members chip in and buy him/her a ticket. It could that persons best Christmas gift ever!
• Take time to remember that the greatest gift is a home filled with people you love.
• Find some place to serve as a volunteer like a homeless kitchen, Meals on Wheels, food pantry, etc.
• Ask children, “What are you giving for Christmas?” and volunteer to take them shopping to help their parents out.
• If you have friends who have lost family members since last Christmas, make a special effort to call and cheer them during the holidays. Why not invite them over for a special Christmas dinner. The holidays can be a lonely time for a single individual.
• Have a special Christmas tablecloth that’s used only on Christmas Day.
• Make a pot of chili and have some friends and/or neighbors over.
• Pull out some old games – Monopoly, Clue and Parcheesi – and have an ongoing family tournament during December.
• Try to find an interesting and new game for the family to play on Christmas Day.
• From a local craft store purchase a few Christmas rubber stamps and then use red and/or green ink and white paper to create your own unique design for wrapping paper.
• Discover the quiet satisfaction of anonymous giving.
• In the afternoon of Christmas Eve simply go to the mall, purchase a cup of coffee or hot chocolate and take a seat to watch the people.
• Create a holiday recipe collection. Add to it each year. Serve one different dish during the holidays.
• Instead of exchanging gifts with close friends at Christmas, decide to take each other to lunch.
• If invited to a holiday party make sure you take your camera and then send the photos to your host or hostess. They will be too busy during the party to really enjoy it, but the photos will be a cherished reminder of the special event.
• Don’t forget the homeless shelter. They always appreciate your leftovers. Call ahead first.
• Hide at least one small gift in the tree.
• Keep up with the local news during the holiday season to learn if there is someone who might need your help.
• It is usually cold during the holidays. Remember the homeless and collect some blankets to pass out to those who live on the streets.
• If you are taking a trip with children during the holidays, purchase a large number of small gifts that they can unwrap during the trip … one an hour is a nice pace. It makes the trip go faster and helps them keep their minds off the fact that they are riding a long distance.
• As you pack up the Christmas tree decorations, ask family members to write a prediction for the coming year on a piece of paper. Put them in the ornament box and read them next year.
• Don’t try to do everything yourself. Remember, even Santa needs helpers.

More tomorrow …

Quote for today: “Worry does not empty tomorrow of its troubles …. It empties today of its strength.” Corrie Ten Boom

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Day 5 in our journey to turn Christmas into truly a joy-filled holiday

This is day 5 in our journey to make Christmas a truly joy-filled holiday. I’ve been suggesting ideas that are presented in, “The Little Book of Christmas Joys,” by H. Jackson Brown, Jr., Rosemary Brown, and Kathy Peel. I hope that each of us have been able to begin a few new Christmas traditions because of what they have been suggesting. As in previous days I have taken the liberty of editing some and/or add a few of my own.

• During an evening meal start the conversation by sharing “the Christmas I remember best,” or “the craziest present I ever received,” and encourage others to share.
• When you hear the song “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” grab the family member closest to you and kick up your heels.
• This Christmas, give yourself the gift of living in peace with those things you cannot change.
• Let children wrap their own gifts by providing them with their own supply of wrapping materials.
• Serve some meals in front of the fire.
• If you don’t have extended family close by, invite a family with similar circumstances to share some Christmas festivities with you.
• Take the time to thank police officers, fire fighters, emergency personnel, and security guards for doing their job during the holidays.
• Consider hosting a holiday party the week after Christmas.
• Volunteer to watch a neighbor’s home while they attend a Christmas Eve service at their local church. Many robberies take place during that evening.
• Give someone who’s disappointed you the gift of a clean slate this Christmas.
• During a long flight, offer to entertain a small child for a while for a parent traveling along during the holidays.
• Use a wide variety of wrapping paper for the gifts under the tree. See how many different kinds of wrappings you can create. One suggestion is to use pages out of those Christmas catalogs that come every year.
• Instead of exchanging gifts at the office, take up a collection to give to a designated charity.
• Don’t let a rude person steal your Christmas joy.
• Give a pint of blood; it’s the gift of life.
• When you see a family or group taking holiday pictures of each other, offer to take one of the whole group.
• Give children toys that encourage their creativity.
• Whenever possible call stores to see if they have a particular item in stock, what the price might be. This will save time and energy.
• Trade out baking with three friends. Each of you bake a double batches of your favorite recipes; then swap.
• Acknowledge every gift you receive.
• Have frosty windows on your car? Write, “Joy to the World” and drive around town.
• Follow the Irish tradition of putting a bird’s next in your Christmas tree.
• If you have children buy a roll of plain brown kraft paper or white butcher paper and let them color, draw, or design their own wrapping paper.
• Call the dean of a local college and ask if there might be a couple of students who would like to share a holiday meal with your family. Not all college students can afford to travel back home.
• Create a special gift by gathering as many unique recipes for someone who loves to cook.
• For a quick holiday centerpiece, fill a large bowl with red apples. Intersperse with sprigs of greenery.
• Go to a store that is selling Christmas trees. They usually have a pile of branches which have been cut off from trees that they have sold. Bring them into your home to add some of the “smell” of Christmas.
• Serve cinnamon sticks with hot cider and peppermint sticks with hot chocolate.
• Buy a children’s Christmas music tape or CD. Listen and sing along with your children while you’re running errands together in the car.
• Have your car battery checked. A dead battery in a mall parking lot challenges even the brightest holiday spirit.
• Let other cars pull in front of you.

More to be shared tomorrow …

Quote for today: “Success comes in cans. Failure comes in cannots.” Source unknown

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Day 5 in our journey to turn Christmas into truly a joy-filled holiday

Finally, after many days with my computer not working I have a new Mac. It will take some time to get use to the different “feel” and the various new names for the programs that I normally use … but the good thing is that I am back up and running.

Now, I continue with what I started last week – here is Day 5 of ways to bring joy back into the celebration of Christmas taken from, “The Little Book of Christmas Joys” by H. Jackson Brown, Jr., Rosemary Brown, and Kathy Peel. In it they offer “432 things to do for yourself and others that just might make this the best Christmas ever.” I haven’t been sharing all of their suggestions, some I have chosen to edit and then I have offered a few of my own. Here’s to a joy-filled season of celebration and hope.

• If someone disappoints you this season, don’t give a lecture. Give acceptance and forgiveness.
• Once or twice, take a different route home from work and enjoy the decorations in another neighborhood.
• Turn off the lights, except for the Christmas tree, and turn on some Christmas music.
• Take advantage of the tour of homes offered in your area.
• Do something secretly for one of your neighbors.
• Answer your phone by saying, “Merry Christmas.”
• Have a fireplace? Throw orange or tangerine peels into your fire for a spicy aroma.
• Pray that God will help you see opportunities to be a blessing to others this Christmas.
• Learn the names of Santa’s reindeer.
• Learn the second verse to “Jingle Bells.” … yes, there is a second verse!
• Challenge someone to sing all the verses of “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”
• Create a gag gift that is passed on to different family members every Christmas. A complimentary hotel shower cap always brings a lots of laughs.
• Remember every individual who serves your needs during the year with something little extra during the holidays like money.
• Order two take-out lunches – one for yourself and one to give to a homeless person.
• Buy Christmas gifts from local artists and craftsmen.
• Remember to shop at the small businesses in your community.
• When you have friends over and there’s Christmas magic in the air, don’t let the evening end early. Throw another log on the fire or ask them to bring their walking shoes so everyone can take a leisurely walk through your neighborhood to look at the lights.
• Offer to keep a friend’s children when you learn that their sitter has canceled right before a holiday party.
• Pay the toll for the car behind you during the week of Christmas.
• Buy an extra cup of hot coffee to give to a homeless person.
• Order and pay for a pizza for a neighbor. Ask the delivery person to tell them it’s from Santa.
• Set aside twenty minutes each day to catch your breath. Make yourself a cup of tea, put your feet up, and turn on the answering machine.
• If you take a trip by plane during the holidays, offer to trade seats so a family can sit together.
• Let someone with just a few items go ahead of you in line at the grocery store.
• Use poster board and felt-tipped markers to create a giant-size family Christmas card for someone special.

To be continued …

Quote for today: “Don’t sell your soul to reach your goal.” Bob Bledsoe

Friday, December 2, 2011

Day 4 of trying to celebrate Christmas as a joy-filled holiday

Day 4 in our journey through, “The Little Book of Christmas Joys,” by H. Jackson Brown, Jr., Rosemary Brown, and Kathy Peel as we each seek to make this a joy-filled season of hope and promise.

· Give someone who’s discouraged the gift of encouragement.
· Make your family feel just as important as your holiday company.
· Change out the Christmas CDs or Tapes or Records (whatever you use) so you embrace the full scope of the holiday music.
· Offer to carry someone’s packages.
· Plan a quiet evening with your family the week after Christmas. Talk about your goals for the coming year.
· Take your family and some neighborhood children to the movies, ice skating, to the park … make it adventure.
· Try different recipes.
· Go out and look at Christmas decorations … Shout, “Merry Christmas” to everyone you meet.
· Pass out some candy canes at the mall, Wal-Mart, Target, or on main street.
· Serve holiday cookies on a Santa Claus platter.
· Give a small gift – such as a tree ornament – to each guest when you have a holiday party.
· Feeling harried? Go to a church, sit in the sanctuary, and reflect on the real meaning of Christmas. You’ll leave feeling more peaceful.
· Consider taking a family trip one Christmas instead of exchanging gifts.
· Invite people over on the spur of the moment, serve hot apple cider and freshly popped popcorn.
· Don’t forget, no matter how many Christmas photos you take, next year you’ll wish you had taken more.
· Try to create the funniest or silliest Christmas photo of your family – have fun!
· Read out lout “The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry when you have your family over.
· This Christmas, write letters to several people who have had a positive influence on your life.
· If you are able take the parking space as far away from the entrance to the mall leaving the ones closest for others … besides, you need the exercise anyway.
· Put Christmas lights and a small wreath on the dog house.
· Whenever you are out of town make sure you pick at least one little ornament for your tree this way you will remember the trip and celebrate the season.
· Tie peppermint candy canes to children’s packages.
· Always buy something from students holding a Christmas bake sale and tell them to keep the change.
· Unless you’re certain of the correct size, don’t give someone clothing.
· Take a child to the library and check out a book of Christmas stories.
· Keep a roll of one dollar bills in your pocket to pass out on a whim when you are out shopping.
· This season, cut others – as well as yourself – more slack than usual.
· Replace your shoelaces with a red one and a green one.
· Put pebbles or marbles instead gift boxes so that when they shake the packages, they won’t be able to guess what’s inside.
· Hide a least one gift per person and send them on a scavager hunt through the house and garage.
· Include a new game among the gifts under the tree. Play it several times on Christmas day.
· When you put away the decorations label each box as to what is on the inside. You’ll have a better chance of starting with joy next year.
· Visit in the nursing home. Ask for the names of those who do not have regular visitors. You will be surprised as to how many never have a visitor.
· Take daily walks with a person that you love, especially after the Christmas meal.
· Read “The Littlest Angel” by Charles Tazewell to a child.
· Remember that the loving holiday spirit in your home depends more on the words you speak than on the gifts you give.

More to come tomorrow.

Quote for today: “Without eternity, life would be but a tale told by an idiot.” Source unknown.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Still more suggestions how to turn Christmas into a Joy-filled season - Part 3

This is day 3 of looking at the suggestions made by H. Jackson Brown, Jr., Rosemary Brown, and Kathy Peel in. “The Little Book of Christmas Joys.” In this book they make “432 things to do for yourself and others that just might make this the best Christmas ever.” And so, I pass on some of their suggestions in the spirit of Christmas that the joy of this wonderful season might surround you and lift your spirit, as well as all those who you touch in and through your life. Some of their suggestions I have edited and/or added to for the sake of this blog.

· Remember the bubble lights your parents used to decorate Christmas trees when you were young? They are available again. Buy a couple of strands for old time’s sake. Or, recapture one or two of the other “old” traditions from your growing up days like painting pinecones to hang on the tree.
· Include a family photo with Christmas cards sent to relatives and friends you don’t see often.
· Let a child decorate a small Christmas tree just the way he/she likes it for his/her bedroom.
· Start a collection of Christmas cookie cutters.
· Refuse to let heavy traffic and long lines dampen your Christmas spirit.
· Wear a Christmas apron while cooking in the kitchen during December.
· After attending a holiday party, be sure to call or write the host to say “thank you” for a wonderful time.
· Fix yourself a cup of hot cocoa and read “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost.
· Give a donation every time you pass Salvation Army bell-ringer. Remember to say “thank you” to the volunteer bell-ringer.
· Find something special to wear on Christmas day and then make that a part of your Christmas tradition.
· Regardless of the temperature, if you have a fireplace, have it blazing Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
· Wrap a gift in an odd-shaped package so the recipient can’t guess what it is.
· Make a friend of an enemy this Christmas.
· Pay for the Coffee of the person standing behind you at Starbucks, Dunkin Donut or wherever you purchase your morning coffee.
· On a clear night, find the bright North Star and recall the story of the Wise Men – best to do this on a very cold evening so that you have to snuggle under warm blankets.
· Teach children to look at the gift tag before they open the present so they will know whom to thank.
· Be a generous given.
· Be a gracious receiver.
· Make it a daily practice during the holiday season to do something nice for someone without telling them you did it.
· Read “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” the night before Christmas.
· Read “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” by Barbara Robinson. If you have children/youth in the home, take turns reading and read the story over several nights.
· Send Christmas cards with encouraging messages to military personnel on duty overseas.
· Record your young child singing Christmas carols on a cassette tape. Send it to grandparents who live far away.
· Set out a bowl of walnuts, tangerines, and pecans in the family room.
· Buy the biggest red candle you can find for the kitchen table. Light it every night at dinner during the holidays.
· Attend a children’s Christmas pageant.
· Share a plate of homemade cookies with a family in your neighborhood.
· Visit someone who lives by himself or herself.
· Open Christmas cards as a family activity each night at the dinner table. Read the messages aloud. Or, save all the cards until Christmas eve and open them all at once as a way of celebrating the joy of Christmas.

More suggestions to come tomorrow.

Quote for today: “God was in Christ hugging the world – embracing – nurturing it back to health.” Source unknown.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Still more was to turn Christmas into a truly Joy-filled holiday - Part 2

Yesterday 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 the things I shared got all of us thinking about how we can celebrate Christmas with more meaning and purpose.

Today, I want to add to that list – there are just so many good ideas and thoughts that it is hard to pick and choose which ones to share. 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 Christmassy 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 … one that is filled with joy. The sharing of these ideas will continue tomorrow!

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

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Sharing a little of the Christmas Joys in many and varied ways

Today’s blog is a “re-run” from last year. As I wrote last year, I’ve really been taken by this little book and the multiple things that anyone can do to spread a little of the Christmas joy to others, but I am beginning to see these suggestions from a different perspective as I work on Sunday’s sermon which deals somewhat with the life of John the Baptist. In Luke 1:14 (NIV) it states, about his pending birth: “He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth.” Which got me thinking, do others rejoice because of my birth? How about your birth? Oh, people were rejoicing when we were born, but then we grew up. Maybe, just maybe, if we start to share the joy of Christmas in many and various ways the rejoicing just might come with the sharing. Here is what I wrote last year:

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

Friday, November 25, 2011

Two Thanksgiving Proclamations made by Abraham Lincoln in 1863

Two 1863 Thanksgiving Proclamations which are said to be by Abraham Lincoln.

Abraham Lincoln's
Thanksgiving Proclamation
of 1863

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.

Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore.

Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American People.

I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.

And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

Abraham Lincoln's
Thanksgiving Proclamation
of 1863

It is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God; to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations are blessed whose God is the Lord.

We know that by His divine law, nations, like individuals, are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world. May we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war which now desolates the land may be a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole people?

We have been the recipients of the choisest bounties of heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown.

But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that God should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November as a day of Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father Who dwelleth in the heavens.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Story of Gratitude as told by Paul Aurandt about Captain Eddie Rickenbacker

A Story for Thanksgiving Day

It is a story that has been shared by many authors - Paul Aurandt, "The Old Man and the Gulls", Paul Harvey's The Rest of the Story, and in Heaven Bound Living, by Knofel Stanton. I first heard in when Paul Harvey told it on one of his, “The Rest of the Story,” radio programs. It touched me then and it touches me now. Gratitude is such a deep emotion. We each should find ways to express the gratitude of our lives to those who have assisted us on our journey. And now, for the rest of the story …

It is gratitude that prompted an old man to visit an old broken pier on the eastern seacoast of Florida. Every Friday night, until his death in 1973, he would return, walking slowly and slightly stooped with a large bucket of shrimp. The sea gulls would flock to this old man, and he would feed them from his bucket. Many years before, in October, 1942, Captain Eddie Rickenbacker was on a mission in a B-17 to deliver an important message to General Douglas MacArthur in New Guinea. But there was an unexpected detour which would hurl Captain Eddie into the most harrowing adventure of his life.

Somewhere over the South Pacific the Flying Fortress became lost beyond the reach of radio. Fuel ran dangerously low, so the men ditched their plane in the ocean...For nearly a month Captain Eddie and his companions would fight the water, and the weather, and the scorching sun. They spent many sleepless nights recoiling as giant sharks rammed their rafts. The largest raft was nine by five. The biggest shark...ten feet long.

But of all their enemies at sea, one proved most formidable: starvation. Eight days out, their rations were long gone or destroyed by the salt water. It would take a miracle to sustain them. And a miracle occurred. In Captain Eddie's own words, "Cherry," that was the B- 17 pilot, Captain William Cherry, "read the service that afternoon, and we finished with a prayer for deliverance and a hymn of praise. There was some talk, but it tapered off in the oppressive heat. With my hat pulled down over my eyes to keep out some of the glare, I dozed off."

Now this is still Captian Rickenbacker talking..."Something landed on my head. I knew that it was a sea gull. I don't know how I knew, I just knew. Everyone else knew too. No one said a word, but peering out from under my hat brim without moving my head, I could see the expression on their faces. They were staring at that gull. The gull meant food...if I could catch it."

And the rest, as they say, is history. Captain Eddie caught the gull. Its flesh was eaten. Its intestines were used for bait to catch fish. The survivors were sustained and their hopes renewed because a lone sea gull, uncharacteristically hundreds of miles from land, offered itself as a sacrifice. You know that Captain Eddie made it.

And now you also know...that he never forgot. Because every Friday evening, about sunset...on a lonely stretch along the eastern Florida seacoast...you could see an old man walking...white-haired, bushy-eyebrowed, slightly bent. His bucket filled with shrimp was to feed the gulls...to remember that one which, on a day long past, gave itself without a struggle...like manna in the wilderness.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The positive influences in our lives, Colossians 3:23-24 with a story from the life of Carl Rowan

SCRIPTURE: Colossians 3:23-24 (NIV)
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

In his autobiography, Breaking Barriers, syndicated columnist Carl Rowan tells about a teacher who greatly influenced his life. Rowan relates: Miss Thompson reached into her desk drawer and pulled out a piece of paper containing a quote attributed to Chicago architect Daniel Burnham. I listened intently as she read: "Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men's blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans, aim high in hope and work. Remember that our sons and grandsons are going to do things that would stagger us."

More than 30 years later, I gave a speech in which I said that Frances Thompson had given me a desperately needed belief in myself. A newspaper printed the story, and someone mailed the clipping to my beloved teacher. She wrote me: "You have no idea what that newspaper story meant to me. For years, I endured my brother's arguments that I had wasted my life. That I should have married and had a family. When I read that you gave me credit for helping to launch a marvelous career, I put the clipping in front of my brother. After he'd read it, I said, 'You see, I didn't really waste my life, did I?'"

“Whatever (we) do” do it well. Reminds of a statement that was heard often in our home: “If it is worth doing it is worth doing well.” Don’t waste time or effort in just doing something half-heartily. We should throw ourselves into the task at hand is if God is summoned us to that particular task at that particular moment among these particular people. It simply changes the perspective of what is before us … doesn’t it?

And then there are the people who positively influenced our decisions to be doing what we are doing it in the first place. Who are they? Where are they? And, even better, whom have we shared their influence with lately. This Thanksgiving besides thanking God for all of his blessings, praise him for putting people in our lives who made a positive impact and influenced the path our feet have trod. Who are the “Frances Thompson” in our lives?

Our lives have been filled with important people. Gracious God, all too often we have simply taken those people for granted and moved on, but during this particular season cause us to pause and remember with a thankful heart those individuals who have had a positive influence in our life. Help us to do this in the name of Jesus who calls us into our present reality to do whatever we are called to do well. Amen.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A crisis of leadership, Matthew 15:14 with a story/insight about and from Sonny Jurgenson

SCRIPTURE: Matthew 15:14 (The Message)
Forget them. They are blind men leading blind men. When a blind man leads a blind man, they both end up in the ditch.

A STORY as shared by Chuck Swindoll:
In typical fashion, when George Allen moved to Washington, D.C., as head coach of the Redskins, he promised the nation's capital the moon. He told them it would be just a few seasons before he would develop the Redskins into a championship football team. He promised them the Super Bowl by the second season. The team had a brilliant preseason that first year. Then, early in the regular season, they won several amazing victories. It appeared the Redskins were to be lifted from their common role of loser to the uncommon role of winner. As time passed, however, the inevitable occurred. They began to lose and lose and lose. The blame fell, at least in part, not on Coach George Allen, but on a quarterback named Sonny Jurgenson, in my opinion one of the most gifted and effective quarterbacks to ever play the game. Jurgenson possesses a quality I deeply admire: personal security. It seems as though no one can intimidate Sonny Jurgenson.

One day after another defeat, Sonny was getting ready to take a shower and go home. A sportswriter leaned over to him in the locker room and said, "Say, Sonny, be honest now. Don't all these off-the-wall remarks we write and all this public flack disturb you? Doesn't it make you want to quit when people throw things at you from the stands and when you get those dirty letters?"

Sonny just leaned back, gave a big, toothless grin, and sighed, "No, not really, I don't want to quit. I've been in this game long enough to know that every quarterback, every week of the season, spends his time either in the penthouse or in the outhouse."

Sonny's comment points out an important fact. It is true that if you are a leader, you spend your time either on the top or on the bottom. You seldom know what it's like to be in between. You are either the hero or the villain. You are respected or you are virtually hated. People in leadership must live on the yo-yo of public opinion, under the gun of verbal jabs as well as on the crest of great admiration. Being "in the outhouse" is a lot more difficult than those choice times "in the penthouse." It's when we are under verbal attack of the intimidating public that we show our colors.

I have discovered, after a number of years in the ministry, that this is true even in the spiritual realm. You commit yourself to a life of faith, you declare before God and man that you are going to walk with Him regardless, and suddenly, it happens! The enemy turns every gun he can upon you to blast you out of the saddle, to make you finish your season in defeat, to have you think that it's really not worth it after all.

Ever have a crisis of leadership? It is not a good feeling especially when the discovery is made that certain key leaders began to work behind your back to defeat a decision simply because they disagreed with the decision. That is not a good feeling. A vote was taken and they were on the side that did not prevail … so, the worked behind the scenes to make sure that it wouldn’t be carried out. It is hard to lead when few are following.

Then the thought begin to surface … is it worth the time and effort? Oh, there is a high value placed on spiritual, biblical teaching, but not corporate leadership … thus, the crisis of leadership. Commitments were called for, but few responded. Give us a good experience on Sunday, but don’t expect too much from us during the week. It is a crisis of leadership.

Then a person of high integrity steps forward and shares his process, his feelings, his insights. He doesn’t talk behind your back nor make phone calls, but comes directly to you with his decision. There is high praise for such leadership with integrity and it is deeply appreciated. For that I am thankful.

Sonny Jurgenson’s words are good words for today because the feeling of being on the bottom is not a good feeling. Doubt and frustration dominate ones life. Empty praise is just that empty if individuals do not back it up with integrity and commitment. The failure to be captured by God’s vision is a failure of trust or simply, the blind leading the blind.

Oh, give the church and its people men and women of integrity and a willingness to be captured by God’s vision. It is scary to God-size ones vision – it means going where no one else is willing to go, to spend money before you know that God will provide, and doing what others are reluctant to do. Now that is leadership!

We pray for men and women who are willing to forward and become God captured leaders – individuals of integrity and conviction – who are not afraid of the future and the unknown. Give us those men and women today. May each of us become such an individual. Amen.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Giving thanks with a grateful heart, Hebrews 13:5-6 with an Erma Bombeck story

SCRIPTURE: Hebrews 13:5-6 (The Message)
Don't be obsessed with getting more material things. Be relaxed with what you have. Since God assured us, "I'll never let you down, never walk off and leave you," we can boldly quote, God is there, ready to help; I'm fearless no matter what. Who or what can get to me?

A STORY by Erma Bombeck
An estimated 1.5 million people are living today after bouts with breast cancer. Every time I forget to feel grateful to be among them, I hear the voice of an eight-year-old named Christina, who had cancer of the nervous system. When asked what she wanted for her birthday, she thought long and hard and finally said, "I don't know. I have two sticker books and a Cabbage Patch doll. I have everything!" The kid is right.

What would it take to make us happy? I mean, really, really, dance-around-the-block, hug-your-enemy, sing-out-loud-in-a-crowded-store, exhaustive-celebration happy? What would it take?

Winning the lottery? Finding a long lost relative? Being reconciled with a family member? Being free of pain? Immeasurable success?

Wasn’t it John D. Rockefeller who said, “Success is having a little bit more than what you have”? In other words, we never get to the point of complete success or total happiness. Our lives are destined for constant achieving, striving, work so that we can grab hold of that elusive “golden ring” ... unless our souls are grasped by something larger … say, the Kingdom of God.

The kid got it right! It is the simple things that bring about contentment and a grateful heart as she “relaxed with what she had.”

That’s my challenge this Thanksgiving … is it yours?

Give thanks with a grateful heart,
Give thanks to the Holy One;
Give thanks because He's given Jesus Christ, His Son.

And now let the weak say, "I am strong,"
Let the poor say, "I am rich,"
Because of what the Lord has done for us.

Give thanks with a grateful heart,
Give thanks to the Holy One;
Give thanks because He's given Jesus Christ, His Son.
Give thanks, give thanks.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

With a full heart, Psalm 9:1 with a story from the 1860s and a lesson from a shut-in

SCRIPTURE: Psalm 9:1 (The Message)
I'm thanking you, God, from a full heart, I'm writing the book on your wonders.

Thankfulness seems to be a lost art today. Warren Wiersby illustrated this problem in his commentary on Colossians. He told about a ministerial student in Evanston, Illinois, who was part of a life-saving squad. In 1860, a ship went aground on the shore of Lake Michigan near Evanston, and Edward Spencer waded again and again into the frigid waters to rescue 17 passengers. In the process, his health was permanently damaged. Some years later at his funeral, it was noted that not one of the people he rescued ever thanked him.

The Psalmist expresses his continued thanks realize that everything that is a part of his life is from God … everything! In fact, I am taken by the idea of a “writing the book” about all the wonders that God has and is doing. Our life is just one marvelous act of God – one after another – and like the 17 people in the story, we take it all for granted.

Expressions of a thankful heart are becoming more rare in this day and time. Oh, maybe a quick e-mail note is sent, but little else. Our minds probably thought of offering an expression of gratitude, but we live such busy lives that seldom do we follow through on those thoughts.

Least of all to God for all the marvelous and wonderful things he does.

While visiting a shut-in once I noticed that by her bed was a note pad on which were a long list of penciled in items. She noticed that my eyes had fallen on her pad. She smiled, “Thanks my ‘thank you’ list to God. I’ve been keeping it for years. I started the day I got married over 60 years ago now. Whenever I get a little depressed or start worrying about this or about that, I just pick up my list and remind myself what God has done for me throughout my life. It sure makes living a lot more joyous!” And, this comes from a lady who can never leave her bed or her bedroom. And, she never knows a waking moment without pain.

She had a full heart and was writing her book.

May we never take you for granted God nor just assume that what is happening in our life is just “normal”. May our hearts always be filled with thanks. Amen.

Friday, November 18, 2011

What God has promised and what God has not promised, John 14:27 with a story by Berit Kjos about the perfect picture of peace

SCRIPTURE: John 14:27 (NLT)
"I am leaving you with a gift -- peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give isn't like the peace the world gives. So don't be troubled or afraid.”

A STORY as told by Berit Kjos in his book, A Wardrobe from the King:

Long ago a man sought the perfect picture of peace. Not finding one that satisfied, he announced a contest to produce this masterpiece. The challenge stirred the imagination of artists everywhere, and paintings arrived from far and wide. Finally the great day of revelation arrived. The judges uncovered one peaceful scene after another, while the viewers clapped and cheered.

The tensions grew. Only two pictures remained veiled.

As a judge pulled the cover from one, a hush fell over the crowd.

A mirror-smooth lake reflected lacy, green birches under the soft blush of the evening sky. Along the grassy shore, a flock of sheep grazed undisturbed. Surely this was the winner.

The man with the vision uncovered the second painting himself, and the crowd gasped in surprise. Could this be peace?

A tumultuous waterfall cascaded down a rocky precipice; the crowd could almost feel its cold, penetrating spray. Stormy-gray clouds threatened to explode with lightning, wind and rain. In the midst of the thundering noises and bitter chill, a spindly tree clung to the rocks at the edge of the falls. One of its branches reached out in front of the torrential waters as if foolishly seeking to experience its full power.

A little bird had built a nest in the elbow of that branch. Content and undisturbed in her stormy surroundings, she rested on her eggs. With her eyes closed and her wings ready to cover her little ones, she manifested peace that transcends all earthly turmoil.

The one thing that is heard repeatedly during any particular day is, “I just want my life to be peaceful”. Speaks to my heart, doesn’t it yours?

Layer upon layer upon layer of expectations, demands, other people’s agendas, pressure, self-esteem issues, roles to be fulfilled, assumptions, miscommunications … and the list continues forever … places our life at the pressure point of breaking. Filled with worry and heartache. And, all the while all any of us ever want is peace – in the midst of the trouble that life brings our way, peace – harmony – hope – possibilities – happiness … PEACE!

I love this story told above. If any of us were challenged to paint a picture of peace it would probably be the first picture and yet, the ability to build a nest in the midst of the threatening conditions indicated in the second picture is more to the point of our reality.

Jesus calls the peace he offers “beyond the understanding of the world” – as in something that the world cannot offer because it doesn’t understand it. It could just possibly be a reality for each of us, “this peace that passes all understanding,” if we only trust God to do in our life what we cannot get accomplished via any other means.

Some years ago I came across a poem. The first verse and chorus I carried for years in my wallet. It brought peace to the soul in the midst of troubled times and I offer it today as the prayer for peace in your life and mine:

God hath not promised skies always blue,
Flower-strewn pathways all our lives through;
God hath not promised sun without rain,
Joy without sorrow, peace without pain.

But God hath promised strength for the day,
Rest for the labor, light for the way,
Grace for the trials, help from above,
Unfailing sympathy, undying love.

God hath not promised we shall not know
Toil and temptation, trouble and woe;
He hath not told us we shall not bear
Many a burden, many a care.

God hath not promised smooth roads and wide,
Swift, easy travel, needing no guide;
Never a mountain, rocky and steep,
Never a river, turbid and deep.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

"Fear not" are good words to hear in the middle of life coming from he who is the first and last - Revelation 1:17

SCRIPTURE: Revelation 1:17 (NIV)
When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: "Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last.

The beginning of anxiety is the end of faith, and the beginning of true faith is the end of anxiety. George Muller Massena, one of Napoleon's generals, suddenly appeared with 18,000 soldiers before an Austrian town which had no means of defending itself. The town council met, certain that capitulation was the only answer. The old dean of the church reminded the council that it was Easter, and begged them to hold services as usual and to leave the trouble in God's hands. They followed his advice. The dean went to the church and rang the bells to announce the service. The French soldiers heard the church bells ring and concluded that the Austrian army had come to rescue the town. They broke camp, and before the bells had ceased ringing, vanished.

“Do not be afraid” or “Fear not” appear repeatedly through holy writ and yet, our life is in the constant grip of fear of one kind or another. Is it because we do not have enough faith or is it because the things we fear are so many or is it simply another issue totally?

The words from scripture are a constant reassurance that God is in control and that we have nothing to fear. And, so, as the town was surrounded by a deadly army on the verge of destroying the Austrian town the pastor said, “But first we worship” and he rang the bells. What a story. In the face of danger, we peal out the glorious news that Jesus is alive. In the face of certain death, we ring out the tremendous news that death has been defeated. In the face of pending doom, we ring out the unbelievable news that God is still in charge and we have nothing to fear.

And at the sound of this Good News the evil flees. It has always been the case and it will continue to be the case. And, so the reassurance of God’s word, “Do not be afraid” for truly he is the first and last and everything in life answers to him! When God is on our side who or what can stand against us? … NOTHING!

May the good and glorious news that you are the first and last ever peal from our heart so that all fear will be gone and we can live a triumphal life of victory. Through Jesus Christ the first and the last, amen.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Turning our worries into prayers, Philippians 4:6 with a neat idea about a schedule weekly day to worry and the creation of a worry box

SCRIPTURE: Philippians 4:6 (The Message)
Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns.

J. Arthur Rank, an English executive, decided to do all his worrying on one day each week. He chose Wednesdays. When anything happened that gave him anxiety and annoyed his ulcer, he would write it down and put it in his worry box and forget about it until next Wednesday. The interesting thing was that on the following Wednesday when he opened his worry box, he found that most of the things that had disturbed him the past six days were already settled. It would have been useless to have worried about them.

It is probably the largest understatement that has ever been written namely, worry is a waste of time … a glorious, huge, time consuming, mind boggling waste of time. And then I came across J. Arthur Rank’s idea of creating a “Worry Box” and a day dedicated to worrying.

What a marvelous thought and a creative way to get rid of those pesky little annoyances that we label “worry”.

As the sermon was coming together for this week the thought came surfacing – why do we worry so much? Could it be that we do not believe that we matter enough to God that he would be bothered with our simple little mundane worries … or, just the opposite, namely that the worry is too large for even God to deal with.

And then the mind went down the path as to just how big is our God? Bigger than any situation that we might find ourselves dealing with. Bigger than any problem that threatens to undo us. Bigger than the problem that causes us to stumble and lose our spiritual balance.

As the one quote goes, as the person was wakened at night with a huge worry, “Go back to sleep, I got this one,” God shares. So the person rolls over in bed, goes back to sleep and sleeps through the night. Or, as the scripture shares, allowing those things that bother the stuffing out of us to become the very vehicle for our prayers and petitions. May they bring us closer to God! Amen to that … wouldn’t you agree!

May we each learn this lesson for today … especially me! Help us each to give the night shift to you and discover the peace that can only come through you. In the name of Jesus Christ, our problem solver. Amen

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Worry is interest paid on a loan never taken out ... Matthew 6:25 with a story from the life of Connie Mack, an observation, a little lighter look at worry and a prayer

SCRIPTUE: Matthew 6:25 (NIV)
"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?”

Connie Mack was one of the greatest managers in the history of baseball. One of the secrets of his success was that he knew how to lead and inspire men. He knew that people were individuals. Once, when his team had clinched the pennant well before the season ended, he gave his two best pitchers the last ten days off so that they could rest up for the World Series. One pitcher spent his ten days off at the ballpark; the other went fishing. Both performed brilliantly in the World Series. Mack never criticized a player in front of anyone else. He learned to wait 24 hours before discussing mistakes with players. Otherwise, he said, he dealt with the goofs too emotionally.

In the first three years as a major league baseball manager, Connie Mack's teams finished sixth, seventh, and eighth. He took the blame and demoted himself to the minor leagues to give himself time to learn how to handle men. When he came back to the major leagues again, he handled his players so successfully that he developed the best teams the world had ever known up to that time.

Mack had another secret of good management: he didn't worry. "I discovered," he explained, "that worry was threatening to wreck my career as a baseball manager. I saw how foolish it was and I forced myself to get so busy preparing to win games that I had no time left to worry over the ones that were already lost. You can't grind grain with water that has already gone down the creek."

So much of our living is consumed by worry about something that will never happen. Who was it that stated: Today Is the Tomorrow You Worried About Yesterday. As as another unknown author has stated this truth: Worry is wasting today's time to clutter up tomorrow's opportunities with yesterday's troubles.

Bottom line – what a glorious waste of time and energy this foolish habit of ours.

Can we really change our health by worrying about it? Yes … we can make it worse! Can we really change our financial situation by worrying about it? Yes … we can make it worse! Can we really change our future by worrying about it? Yes … we can make it worse by fretting way the time that we could be doing something constructive about our future.

Next week is Thanksgiving. Isn’t it a wiser use of our time and energy giving God the praise and glory for everything … living in the moment … sharing the journey with others … enjoying the sunshine and the rain? Somewhere along our journey to adulthood we have lost the joy of playing in the rain … actually, dancing in the rain … and then the thrill of curling up in a warm blanket after getting all wet.

Enjoy the moment because it will soon pass on and then there will be another moment coming down the pathway of life. Experiences are all around us and we simply miss so much of life by worry about something that will never happen.

A LIGHTER SIDE OF WORRY Just had to share this one because it is better to laugh than to cry at life:
How you can tell when it's going to be a rotten day:
You wake up face down on the pavement.
You call Suicide Prevention and they put you on hold.
You see a “60 Minutes” news team waiting in your office.
Your birthday cake collapses from the weight of the candles.
You turn on the news and they’re showing emergency routes out of the city.
Your twin sister forgot your birthday.
Your car horn goes off accidentally and remains stuck as you follow a group of Hell’s Angels on the freeway.
Your boss tells you not to bother to take off your coat.
The bird singing outside your window is a buzzard.
You wake up and your braces are locked together.
You call your answering service and they tell you it’s none of your business.
Your income tax check bounces.
You put both contact lenses in the same eye.
Your wife says, “Good morning, Bill”, and your name is George.

Help us to see life as you see it, gracious God, and then guide us so that we will learn to trust you in all circumstances through Jesus Christ. Amen.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Be a faithful witness to your faith, with a story about a preacher who almost compromised his for 25-cents

SCRIPTURE: Acts 1:8 (The Message)
"What you'll get is the Holy Spirit. And when the Holy Spirit comes on you, you will be able to be my witnesses in Jerusalem, all over Judea and Samaria, even to the ends of the world."

THE STORY and the OBSERVATION came to me via an e-mail written by an unknown author:

A Christian

Several years ago, a preacher from out-of-state accepted a call to a church in Houston, Texas . Some weeks after he arrived, he had an occasion to ride the bus from his home to the downtown area. When he sat down, he discovered that the driver had accidentally given him a quarter too much change. As he considered what to do, he thought to himself, 'You'd better give the quarter back. It would be wrong to keep it.' Then he thought, 'Oh, forget it, it's only a quarter. Who would worry about this little amount? Anyway, the bus company gets too much fare; they will never miss it. Accept it as a 'gift from God' and keep quiet.'

When his stop came, he paused momentarily at the door, and then he handed the quarter to the driver and said, 'Here, you gave me too much change.'

The driver, with a smile, replied, 'Aren't you the new preacher in town?'

'Yes' he replied.

'Well, I have been thinking a lot lately about going somewhere to worship. I just wanted to see what you would do if I gave you too much change. I'll see you at church on Sunday.'

When the preacher stepped off of the bus, he literally grabbed the nearest light pole, held on, and said, 'Oh God, I almost sold your Son for a quarter.'

Our lives are the only Bible some people will ever read. This is a really scary example of how much people watch us as Christians, and will put us to the test! Always be on guard -- and remember -- You carry the name of Christ on your shoulders when you call yourself 'Christian.'

Watch your thoughts; they become words.
Watch your words; they become actions.
W atch your actions; they become habits..
Watch your habits; they become character.
Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.

It is our prayer today that in all that we do or say, we will reflect your glory and be a faithful witness to your kingdom to all those we meet. In the name of one we witness for, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Is our normal response in all situations to kneel in prayer? Ephesians 3:14 with a story from British Parliament and an observation and a prayer

SCRIPTURE: Ephesians 3:14 (The Message)
My response is to get down on my knees before the Father

Neil Marten, a member of the British Parliament, was once giving a group of his constituents a guided tour of the Houses of Parliament. During the course of the visit, the group happened to meet Lord Hailsham, then lord chancellor, wearing all the regalia of his office. Hailsham recognized Marten among the group and cried, "Neil!" Not daring to question or disobey the "command," the entire band of visitors promptly fell to their knees!

There are amble examples in scripture of kneeling before the Lord in prayer and supplications. There are numerous instructions through the church that when we bow in prayer we should kneel as well. A number of denominations include this practice as a regular part of their worship experience. When serving churches that had an altar rail I have regularly invited people forward during the morning prayer to kneel with me as we go to God in prayer. Kneeling in prayer is a part and partial of the spiritual disciplines.

This past week I was surprised by the comic strip, CURTIS by Ray Billingsley when it referred to the father being witnessed by his oldest son kneeling in the evening for prayer. I was surprised on two fronts – one that the father did that and by his own testimony in later strips, did it regularly, and two that since it was a “regular” habit that one of his sons wouldn’t have known that. Curtis, the oldest son, later observed that he didn’t think adults had any difficulties in life that should cause them to kneel in prayer as if that is the only reason one would pray.

Thus my question – why do we have a tendency to pray only when there is a problem and, depending on the magnitude of the problem, only kneel when it is a BIG problem? Paul’s general response to all situations was to kneel in prayer as indicated in the one I used from Ephesians. I am taken by the word, “response” – it was Paul’s general, regular, normal response in all situations to kneel in prayer. Now I confess that arthritic knees do not always permit me to kneel, or at least that is the excuse I use. If we were to do a time management of our daily activities how much of it would we discover is dedicated to prayer or is most of our prayer time a “catch-as-catch-can” kind of situation? Maybe if we would set aside a time to kneel for prayer we would be more discipline in our active prayer life.

Guide us in the path of the spiritual disciplines, especially in those rich opportunities to speak with you as a child speaks with their parent. Guide us down this path and may our spiritual disciplines begin to reflect our relationship with you. In Christ’s precious name, Amen.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Remembrances on this Veterans Day with song lyrics by Willie Dixon

Whenever I think of Veterans Day the first thought that comes to mind is my oldest brother Ronnie who got called up during the Korean Conflict. Mom was a nervous wreck. She just knew that he would be shipped off to Korea. Well, while in basic training they discovered that Ronnie could paint large murals and pitch fastball softball. So for three years he spent painting those large insignias on the buildings and pitching for the Army Softball team. Hard duty, but somebody has to pull it.

I also remember that Mom was putting together a “care” package of cookies and other necessities. One item she included was a can of shaving cream. The aerosol can had just hit the market. None of us ever used one before. Dad still used the brush and soap method. So, there she was in the dinning room packing the box when she said, as she picked up the can of shaving cream, “I wonder how this works?” At that point she pushed down on the dispensing button and shaving cream started to shoot out the little spout, as she got excited, pressing even harder, exclaiming, “How do you shut this thing off?” She nearly emptied the entire can before one of us grabbed the can from her. What a mess! There was shaving cream all over the dinning room. We all pitched in to help clean it up and poor Mom; she had to go get another can of shaving cream. This time she was careful not to push any buttons.

I also think of the family that was on Ralph’s (my other brother) paper route. Their son had fought in WWII and was anticipated home just days before Christmas, Instead, what they received was the knock at the door and the news that their son had lost his life just a day before he was to return to the states. What was sad was that the Christmas tree was still standing in the corner of their living room, now without any needles still on it. All of the presents were still wrapped waiting for his return that wasn’t ever going to take place. Oh, they took the morning paper and kept up with the latest news. They both continued to go off to work every day … but their life had stopped that fateful Christmas so many years ago. Theirs, like so many was a personal lose so deep that they just couldn’t move past it.

My thoughts also take in the Viet Nam era and how close I came to being called up myself. I was in school in Nashville, TN. One Tuesday I called home to just check in. I asked if there was any mail. Mom, bless her heart, said, “Well, not very much, but there is this letter from the Selective Service. I didn’t open it. It probably isn’t important.” Well, at my bequest she opened it and discovered that I was to report for active duty in Miami that Thursday. So, first thing Wednesday morning, I was in President D. D. Holt’s office laying out my problem with Selective Service. I’m glad that he was a long time friend … anyway; Dr. Holt got on the phone to my Selective Service board and informed them that I was a full time ministerial student in good standing. He dictated a letter and I sighed a sigh of relief.

Tommy Gregory did go off to serve during the Viet Nam War. Tommy was one of the leaders of our youth group. He was always pulling off a practical joke – like getting a number of us to pick up our Young Adult counselors little Morris Minor vehicle and put it into the narthex of our church one Sunday evening. He was always good for a great laugh and ready for lots of fun. Tommy also played a mean piano. What a talented, fun loving great guy. Well, when he returned from Viet Nam the laughter was gone, he didn’t really care about music. The person who came back from the war was super serious … he was a changed man.

I also think about Lt. William Calley. Bill was in my homeroom at Miami Edison High School. While we weren’t friends I still knew him and felt that he got a raw deal ... as some of the present veterans of our ongoing war. They simply become the scapegoat for other officers.

My heart goes out to those families that have lost a loved one during the various conflicts and wars we have been involved in, as well as those men and women who have returned less than the person they were when they entered military service. There is an emotional toll that is taken out on them, as well as their families. The physical toll we can see and attempt to do our best in providing the medical and rehab therapy that is required, but the emotional and mental toll often goes unnoticed. The other concern I have is for their families. I served a church in Jacksonville, FL, which is home to a naval base. I counseled a large number of domestic abuse situations during those years. We just never know the ultimate cost our men and women and their families pay.

We too often take their service for granted, but they really should be at the top of our prayer list. We give great mouth service to “thanking them for protecting us,” etc., but the real support that could come from a top notch VA, the real support for medical and counseling assistance … for years to come, the real support of helping them readjust to civilian life, the real support of making jobs available as they return … the real support just isn’t there. Too many times they go off to fight a war and then return to fight the VA and our government for adequate and sustaining care. It just isn’t fair!

Let us remember our Veterans by stepping up to hold the VA accountable for doing what is right and proper for those who have given more than their fair share of sacrifice for our country.

Quote for today: "I dream of giving birth to a child who will ask, “Mother, what was war?” ~Eve Merriam

And then you have this song Willie Dixon, “Study War No More” ~

Won't that be one mighty day
When we hear world leaders say
"We don't have to cry no more"
"We're givin' it up, we gonna let it all go"

Ain't gonna study, study war no more
Ain't gonna think, think war no more
Ain't gonna fight, fight war no more
We're givin' it up, we gonna let it go
We're givin' it up, we gonna let it go

We will take gun powder to have fun
Then get rid of the atom bomb
Something else that we can do
Get rid of all those rockets too


The money spent on bombs alone
Can build poor people a happy home
Something good we can do
You treat me like I treat you

No more starving in the nation
Everybody gets an education
Everytime a baby is born
We know he'll have him a happy home


No more sleeping in the street
We all happy whoever we meet
Then we all will shake their hand
And make this world a promised land.