Auld Lang Syne

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    “Should old acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind? Should old acquaintance be forgot, and days of auld lang syne? For auld lang syne, my dear, for auld lang syne, we’ll take a cup of kindness yet, for auld lang syne.” You’ve heard those words countless times…but do you know what they mean? Where they came from? Let me tell you! “Auld Lang Syne” is an extremely old Scottish folk song. The title means “Time Long Past.” The words, handed down orally for many years, were first written down in 1788 by Scottish poet Robert Burns.  Scottish musician George Thomson set those lyrics to the tune of “Can Ye Labour Lea”, A pentatonic Scots folk melody, probably originally a sprightly dance in a much quicker tempo. As Scots emigrated around the world, they took the song with them.

    The song was played by Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians as a New Year’s Eve song for the first time on December 31, 1929. Though it was played as the band’s theme song for years, and it had even occasionally been sung on New Year’s Eve, this was the first time that Lombardo’s group played it at the Hotel Roosevelt Grill in New York City to usher in the new year. The annual tradition continued when the party moved to the  Waldorf-Astoria Hotel and the song still kicks off the Times Square celebration every New Year’s Eve. In the movie “When Harry Met Sally”, Harry (Billy Crystal) talks about never fully understanding what the song means. “I mean, ‘Should old acquaintance be forgot’? Does that mean that we should forget old acquaintances, or does it mean if we happened to forget them,we should remember them, which is not possible because we already forgot?

     As much a drinking song as a song of remembrance, the title is literally translated”old long since”- the equivalent of “long long ago”, “days gone by”or even “once upon a time.” When we sing this song, we are saying, “We’ll drink a cup of kindness yet for times gone by.” The song speaks of fondly and resolutely remembering the past…while we face the future. I fear, especially at the beginning of a new year, too many of us not only remember the past, but dwell there. We labor over decisions we’ve made,paths we’ve taken, things we done…or left undone. The reality is that we cannot go back and change ONE THING that has already happened. All we can do is move forward appropriat
ely. That means we remember the good times with fondness in our heart and we learn from the hard times with resolve in our outlook.

     When you “drink a cup of kindness yet for times gone by” this year, what will follow? Will it be swimming in a sea of “what if’s” and “might have been’s”? Or will it be a commitment and dedication to being the best…YOU…you can be in the eyes of God? To quote that great theologian Billy Joel, “the good old days weren’t always good, and tomorrow ain’t as bad as it seems”! Make 2010 the year you completely step out of the boat, in water over your head, knowing God will be there to keep you afloat!

Grandma’s Cooking

   
   My grandma was a sweet woman! (This is my paternal grandma, by the way. I never met my maternal grandmother, she died LONG before I came around.) Now, grandmas of that era (early to mid-1960’s) had their own stereotype- stay-at-home moms, great cooks, cleaning machines- all in all, VERY domestic! Notice- I described my grandmother as “sweet”… NOT “domestic”!My grandma did NOT fit the traditional “grandma” mold. To begin with, she was a professional woman. She was  teacher and, later, a school principal. In fact, she was MY DAD’S principal! (He said THAT was NOT a pretty sight- he would GET IT and school…and then come home and GET IT again!) The other thing that made my grandma a “mold breaker” was that she was…we’ll just say…not the best cook in the world! She once made a “box cake” mix, and decided that if ONE box was good, then TWO boxes would be even better! She dumped both cake mixes into the bowl…but only added the extra ingredients for ONE cake! She got a hot, chocolately BRICK when all was said and done! She really couldn’t. or perhaps didn’t is a better word, clean- her house looked…live in! She was NOT the prototypical 60’s grandma!
     But you know what? She was a great lady! I was only 6 years old when she died, so I don’t remember her as well as my siblings do- but I DO remember her! She was sweet, kind, gentle, loving, caring, nurturing, generous…I could go on and on! I remember that all her grandkids would gather in her living room at Christmas. In the middle of the room was a BIG box, full of wrapped presents. The oldest grandkid would play Santa and deliver the gifts to everyone to be opened. It is a Christmas memory I cherish to this day!
     My grandma did NOT fit the mold. She couldn’t cook. She didn’t clean. She wasn’t domestic at all. But, at least for me and my siblings, it didn’t matter- we loved despite those things…perhaps BECAUSE of those things! Who do YOU know who doesn’t “fit the mold”? Who in your live goes against the grain, and sometimes pays the price for being “different”? (Some who read this blog have to contend with a shaved-headed, earring-wearing, rock-drumming pastor in their church!) If you read the Bible, it’s full of folks who didn’t fit in “normal society”- whatever THAT is! The list of Jesus’ disciples reads like a list of the residents of the Island of Misfit Toys from the Rudolph show. But Jesus CALLED them, TRAINED them, ministered THROUGH them…and LOVED them, perhaps BECAUSE they were different. Next time you see someone who isn’t what you would expect them to be, stop and try looking at them through Jesus’ eyes. You will see them in a totally different light. Once you see past color, race, age, gender…once you see past “different”…your world will begin to expand exponentially. And how cool is that?!
     Thanks for coming by and sharing a few minutes with me today. I pray you have a blessed day. Please share this with others. Make sure and come back tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

A Visitor in the Chicken House

 
     It was hot…it was SO hot! It was the middle of summer, and the air conditioner was on the fritz! (Ever thought about what that meant, by the way? “On the fritz”? Who is Fritz? And why is “it” on him? And why does THAT translate to “not working”? I’m guessing all the Fritzes out there don’t particularly appreciate that phrase!I wouldn’t be real happy if, every time the car broke down, someone said, “the stupid car is on the Mark again!” But that’s just me!) So, before I was so rudely interrupted (by myself!), I was explaining how it was so hot and no air conditioning. The bottom line is that I was sleeping with the window open, trying not to die from heat stroke! (I’m SO dramatic! Of course I DO have a degree in DRAMA, so it would seem appropriate!) About midnight that night, I was awkened by what can only be described as a “ruckus”. Now, said “ruckus”, as I slowly gathered my wits about me, was clearly coming from without, as opposed to within, the house. That’s good! As I listened more closely, it became apparent that the sounds were coming from the chicken house. And BOY were those chickens upset about something. We had been having problems with…SOMETHING…killing chickens, and I was determined to put a stop to it. I got dressed and ran down to the barn. Meanwhile, the chickens are in full uproar mode. I get there, run into the chicken house, and come face to face with a big, fat, MAD possum. (For those of you who WEREN’T born and raised as southern Illinois hillbillies like me, that would be the “opposum”, thank you very much!) The chicken house was inside the barn- it was about 6 feet deep and 15 feet long, with a little hole cut in the wall for the chickens to get out to their “yard”. The door into the chicken house was toward the left end, and the roost (a series of staggered “rungs” that the chickens rest/sleep on) was at the right end. The possum had gotten into the chicken house and climbed the roost. He was on the next to top rung (with what intention I am STILL not sure!), the chickens were carrying on to beat the band, and I was standing a mere few feet from him! Now, if you see a possum waddling down the side of the road, they look pretty doggone harmless. But look at the teeth on the one in the picture- if they get cornered…they are NASTY! He was hissing and snarling at me. I needed to get him out of there, but did NOT want to advance on him any further. I stood there for a moment, trying to figure out ehat to do, then…I “thunk a thought”! I grabbed a shovel that was nearby, went OUTSIDE the barn to the spot were the possum was on the INSIDE, and “whacked” the daylights out of the side of our sheet metal-skinned pole barn with the head of the shovel! I have NEVER seen a possum move so fast! He was out that little hole in the side of the barn and GONE in the blink of an eye! Job well done AND I didn’t have to get my hands dirty- an OCD person’s dream come true!
     What possums do YOU need to get out of the chicken house? What are the things which don’t belong in your life that are messing everything up? Let’s be honest- we KNOW what they are for each of us, it’s just that naming them…and claiming them, is the tough part. But if you CAN name them and claim them, you can flush them out and send them running. When you do that, things tend to settle back down- the chickens can go back to roosting comfortably and quitely, if you will. Don’t let those things just sit and fester, threatening to ruin your life. Turn to God, pray for strength, and then do the spiritual version of the shovel to the side of the barn. Willfully push those dark places out of the corners of your soul- let the Light in- the Light of God! You will be happy with what you see!
     Thanks for stopping by today- I pray you come back again tomorrow. Share this with others. have blessed day, and stick with Jesus!

Bad Hair Day!

    My sister and brother hated me! No…really, it’s documented!Here’s why. I am the baby of the family…and I often got treated as such! Now, if you ARE the baby of the family, that’s not a bad deal at all! However, if you AREN’T the baby of family, it kind of stinks. Ergo…my siblings hated me! Here is ONE (JUST one) example of how that played out in time and space!
     When we were kids, one of them got a chemistry set for Christmas/ birthday/Groundhog’s Day/Whatever. One of the experiments init had to do with PH levels or somesuch. The only ingredient they weremissing was (ready?) some very light-colored hair! Anyone who knows meNOW says, “Well, that leaves YOU out!” But anyone who knew me when Iwas a kid is thinking, “I know where this is going!”I had such blondhair that is was nearly white. AND…mom and dad weren’t home! “We need light-colored hair, YOU have nearly white hair, AND mom and dad aren’t home!” Now THERE’S a recipe for disaster! Admittedly, the picture is a bit…exaggerated, but they DID take a decent…notch…out of the front of my hair. The BACK of my hair would have been better- at least I could actually face people. But NO…it HAD to be the front! They snipped it off, and then went about their nefarious science experiements. I was A) young, and NOT the sharpest tool in the shed, so I saw absolutely NO problem with the whole scheme. That is…until MOM got home! (Cue the spooky music!)
     As I recall, Mom walked in the door, saw me, and went COMPLETELY apoplectic (Googe it)! Words, phrases and emotions came out of that woman that I had never seen or heard before! It was NOT a pretty sight! Fortunately for me, Mom WAS “together” enough to identify the guilty and praise the non-participants- and was CLEARLY a non-participant! Punishment was handed out to the guilty parties- let’s see, this happened ABOUT 40 years ago, so…if I am doing the math right…I THINK my brother and sister are ABOUT to be un-grounded! (It’s REALLY hard to raise a family when you’re grounded!)
     Ever do stupid stuff when you were a kid? What was the stupidest thing you ever did? Ever do stupid stuff when you were a teenager? THOSE can get in you in bigger, more long-lasting trouble! Ever do stupid stuff, say…last year? Last week? Last night? Of course you have. I have. We ALL have- we’re human, for goodness sake! But here is the beauty part- forgiveness is available for the asking- from God. All you have to do is go to God in prayer and SINCERELY and EARNESTLY (those are BOTH crucial) ask Him to forgive you. Do that, and guess what- you ARE forgiven! Now, there IS a “but”! (There ALWAYS is!) You have to be willing to forgive yourself as well. God’s forgiveness is powerful, but it is incomplete if you are unwilling or unable to release yourself from that burden as well.
     What do you need to ask God forgiveness for? Do it. Do it today. Do it now, for that matter. But once you have done that, are you willing to forgive yourself? You NEED to. Look at it this way- if the Creator of the heavens and the earth can foegive you, why not forgive yourself?! You will be so amazed at the difference it makes when you do this. That 3-ton weight is finally lifted off your shoulders. You can walk upright again. You can breathe again. You can live again. Seek God’s forgiveness…and accept it!
     Thanks for stopping by today. Have a blessed day. Share this with someone who needs to hear it. make sure you come back tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Free Ride!



    In the Spring of 2003, I wrote, produced and directed an original Classic Rock musical called Free Ride: the Life and Times of Jesus Christ.It chronicles Jesus’ life from birth through resurrection andascension, and is told through a combination Scripture and music. Thedialogue is taken word for word from the Bible; the music is taken wordfor word from the 70’s and 80’s top 40’s list. Songs from groups likeThe Eagles, Chicago, The Edgar Winter Group, Blue Oyster, U2, TheBeatles, Queen, REO Speedwagon, Pink Floyd and Kansas are featured.That 1st year, 20 actors (including me), 5 musicians and 4 technicalfolks made the show happen. It was presented a few weeks before Easter-3 shows over one weekend. About 600 people came over the course ofthose 3 days!

     Whenit was over, I “put it to bed”, thinking that, while I might mountanother production of the show SOMETIME…it wouldn’t be anytime soon.Little did I know! The next winter, some of the folks who were involvedin the show began to talk about doing it again. I didn’t think I WANTEDto do it yet, so I told them I would only do it if the musicians wouldcome back- because I didn’t think they would! I was wrong. Much to mysurprise, they were all on board, so…we mounted another production- a”revival” if you will- one year later. This time, the cast swelled from20 to 30, the musicians from 5 to 6, and the “techies” from 4 to 5.Again, 3 shows- with over 700 coming this time. The man who playedJesus both years has since gone on to become a United Methodistminister (his wife was in the show as well), and several peopleassociated with the show are still my Facebook friends. Many peoplekidded me that there was some typecasting going on- my son played 2characters- Andrew the disciple and…ready?…Satan! (He wasuncomfortably beliebable!)



    While it was pure joy to blend my love of writing with my love oftheatre AND my love of God, the highlight of the experience was veryspecific and very unique. At the end of each show, we had an altarcall. People were invited to come forward and pray to receive Jesus asa result of their experience. That’s often a rather uncomfortable thingfor people to do, especially in such a public setting, so I wasn’tsurprised that not many people came forward. But there is one thatstands out. It was a Sunday matinee. I made the altar call offer andthanked the audience for coming. As I stood there, a rather diminutiveolder woman began to make her way forward. I knew she was related to acouple of cast members and I also knew she was involved in anon-Christian faith tradition. So my assumption was that she was NOTcoming forward to accept Jesus but to praise her relatives- made sense,right? Wrong! She walked right up to me. I said, “They did a great job,didn’t they?” She said, almost as an afterthought, “Oh…yes.” Then sheadded, “But I came up here to accept Jesus Christ.” I was speechless- astate I RARELY experience! When I got my “sea legs” back, I took her tothe altar, prayed with her, and she accepted Jesus, right there! It wasa highlight of my ministry!



    Now it strikes me that, if rock songs like “Don’t Fear the Reaper”,”Ridin’ the Storm Out”, “Another One Bites the Dust”, and “Bad MoonRising” can speak to an elderly woman and move her heart to acceptsomething she hasn’t accepted her whole life, then perhaps there issomething to this whole Christianity thing! What it tells me is thatit’s never too late and we are never too far from God. God can workthrough the least likely sources to change our direction, change ourhearts. What is God calling you to? How is He speaking to you? Be opento the many and varied ways God can and will move in your life. Thanksso much for stopping by today. Have blessed rest of the day. Share thiswith others, make sure and come back tomorrow, and stick with Jesus.


Is It Over Yet?




    Well, the dust has settled.The area around the Christmas tree, recently SWAMPED withbrightly-colored packages, is bare…expect for a few odds and ends thekids or grandkids didn’t put away. There are 2 large trash bags outback, brimming with crumpled wrapping paper that you paid GOOD moneyfor a few days ago. The food has been eaten. People have gone back totheir homes. And here you sit…exhausted. In the stillness, youwonder…was it all worth it? Was it worth the AMAZING stress of theseason? The running around like a mad person trying to get all thegifts purchased. The exorbitant balances on the credit cards. Much likeThanksgiving dinner, we bust our TAILS to get READY for Christmas, andthen, before you can blink and eye…it’s over. And we are left withthat empty, unsatisfied feeling. “Mark another one off the list…wesurvived!”




     Now, Ipray that the cynical desciption you just read DOESN’T describeYOU…but, based on my experience as both a pastor and a human (I havebeen a human longer that I have been a pastor, for those of you keepingscore at home!), there are MANY people who DO feel that way afterChristmas. We set our expectations SO high, we couldn’t POSSIBLY meetthem. “This has to be the BEST Christmas, with the MOST presents, andjust the RIGHT food, and the RIGHT music, and the RIGHT attitude. Itmust be Norman Rockwell, Jimmy Stewart and Burl Ives, all rolled intoone. Is it any wonder we find ourselves disappointed?



     If you have these feeling as you read this, let me offer two thoughts:



1.I’m genuinely sorry you feel that way. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.Please feel free to go to the Prayer Request page on the website andshare your thoughts with me. I would be honored to pray for you.



2.Ask yourself what your expectations going into Christmas were. If theyfall toward that whole Norman Rockwell/Jimmy Stewart/Burl Ives thing,that might be part of the culprit right there.



    Society has taken us SO far down the path of commercializing andsentimentalizing (is that actually a word? Well, if not…it is NOW!)Christmas that it can’t POSSIBLY live up to the hype. But here’s thebeauty part- Christmas isn’t really about those things anyway! ItREALLY IS about the birth of a Savior, to a young, unwed Jewish girl,in a backwater town. It REALLY IS about the fact that God chose totrascend the laws of nature and physics and enter into time nd space ina powerful and unexpected way. If you look at Christmas THAT way, thentoday ISN’T the day it’s all over- it’s the day it all BEGINS! Thespiritual seeds that are planted at Christmas are cultivated throughoutthe year and harvested at Easter, when we celebrate an empty tomb and arisen Savior!



     Sodon’t look at today as one of those “Phew! Glad THAT’S over!” days.Instead, look at it as a journey- one that began in a manger inBethlehem and ends at the door of your heart. Jesus stands this day andknocks…will you let Him in?



    Thanks for stopping by on this day AFTER Christnmas. Have a blessedday, share this with someone who needs to hear it, make sure and comeback tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!


Merry Christmas!


     “And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to  the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

     Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them,“Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: “ Glory to God in the highest,and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”



     So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.” (Luke 2:1-20, New King James version)



    The greatest story EVER told. A child, born in a dirty stable, in a backwater town, on the fringes of the empire. A baby who SPLIT TIME IN HALF- even non-believers mark time based on Jesus’ birth. An infant who came to save the world…to save you…and me. I pray you are having a wonderful, blessed day today. I pray you get to spend some time with people you love. I pray the glory, peace and love of Jesus Christ is upon you this day! Merry Christmas!



On the Eve of…Amazing!

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 . In solitude, wonder and awe, we wait for the majestic, humble Savior– the Wisdom of the ages, come down from Heaven to show us the way. We pray He will melt away our darkness, deliver us from daily trouble, lift our spirits, restore our hope, bind our hearts. Love coming down, God with us, Emmanuel, here to pay a ransom our souls.  As we prepare our hearts for the Coming One, we pray that He would grant us grace, grant us mercy, grant us forgiveness- Son of Man, Son of God.

    The stars seemed brighter that night. The trees danced in the breeze, the silent stars twinkled,and nature held its breath. And deep within our souls, the world felt a stirring. In solitude, wonder and awe, we wait for the majestic, humble Savior– the Wisdom of the ages, come down from Heaven to show us the way. We pray He will melt away our darkness, deliver us from daily trouble, lift our spirits, restore our hope, bind our hearts. Love coming down, God with us, Emmanuel, here to pay a ransom our souls.  As we prepare our hearts for the Coming One, we pray that He would grant us grace, grant us mercy, grant us forgiveness- Son of Man, Son of God.

     The night before Christmas, the world was asleep. But long-awaited hope would dawn with the sun. Silently the wondrous gift comes, The holy Child of Bethlehem, the everlasting light. God reveals the blessings of heaven to our hearts, our souls. The hopes of the world come together at this moment, in this place. In an ordinary stable, in an ordinary town, in the stillness of the night, God wrapped our injured flesh around Himself, came down from heaven, breathed our air, walked our soil and the world was never the same…the night before Christmas.What child is this who, laid to rest on Mary’s lap, is sleeping? We should hurry to bring Him praise, this son of Mary, Son of God. The King of kings brings salvation to all who seek…peace on earth!

     A simple man, an ordinary girl, a hay-filled stable- an unusual way for God to reveal Himself. Joseph had no idea where this road would take him. He certainly never dreamed of a baby in a manger. But he grew to understand God’s motivation- love reaching across the gulf of time. Did Mary know what Jesus would do? That He would…walk on water, calm storms, heal, restore life…and save us? They got to see for themselves the angel’s message come to life. Joseph held our Savior in his arms. Mary kissed the face ofGod. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel has come! Peace on earth is not out of reach. The Savior who walked with angels walks with us- Heaven’s perfect lamb,

the great I AM.

     The shepherds, settledfor the night, couldn’t imagine what lay ahead. A glorious angel came, “Fearnot, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy. To you is born this dayin the city of Davida Savior who is Christ the Lord.” Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, goodwill to all.

     Kings came from afar, bearing gifts, following a dream. Gold, frankincense and myrrh they bore for the Messiah. The knowing light of the starshone down, guiding their way. They knelt down and worshiped theChild– praying, praising, lifting theirvoices in praise to God on high. Alleluias sounded throughout Heavenand earth.

     Jesus wants to make our hearts a royal throne for Him. How can we thank God for the giftHe sent? Come and worship. TheLord is come! Let earth receive her King. Jesus wants to rule ourlives with truth and grace. Let the bells ofChristmas ring loudly, proclaiming the message of peace on earth, good will to all! This Christmas,listen for the sound of angels filling the sky. In one voice let the world join with the angels singing-Come and worship Christ, the newborn King!

     Thanks for stopping by today. I pray your shopping is done and that you get to just…be…for a time today! Please stop by tomorrow, we will look briefly at the Christmas Gospel as found in Luke. Have a blessed Christmas Eve, and stick with Jesus!


Through a Child’s Eyes

    The wait is almost over.
Well…for us…it IS over! Because of the fact that I have to work
Christmas Eve (if you had asked me when I was 25 if I would take a job
that required me to work on Christmas and Easter…I would have told
you you were nuts! Now, apparently, it has come to pass that I am the
one who is nuts!), we opened our Christmas presents this morning. It is
now a Lego and Wii Wonderland at my house! (I, of course, need to work
today, so we did that early, and then off I went to church!) The part I
have enjoyed the best is watching my 9-year old- ever since he found
out we were doing presents today as opposed to tomorrow, he has been
one big giddy ball of enthusiastic energy! EVERYTHING has made him
laugh in the last 24 hours. He has also been a love-bug, hugging on
everyone in the family. (I think perhaps he is attempting one
last-ditch shot at lobbying for as many presents as possible!) He
wanted to go to bed early last night, so today would come sooner, but
was too excited to actually DO that! I thought he would be disappointed
that I had to go to work today. Nah- I got a wave and a “see you at
lunch, dad!” from the Wii-enabled TV! He is already talking about the
fact that he still gets “two MORE Christmases before it’s all over!”
How awesome is THAT?!

     When did we lose that
wonder and enthusiasm? When did we “grow up” and put all this childish
joy behind us? If you’re like me, you can’t actually put a date and
time on it- it just happened gradually over time. But all I know is
that one day we wake up…and Christmas is much less about joy and
wonder and much more about lists and deadlines. And that, for my money,
is a shame. It’s tragic that we trivialize the celebration of the
greatest single event in the history of the planet. God…the Creator
of ALL things…CHOSE to leave Heaven and break into time and space,
forever changing things. Not only did He choose to come to earth, He
chose to come, not as a conquering king astride a white horse but as a
helpless child born to unwed parents  in a backwater town. Why? Because
God is much less about power and might and much more about relationship.

     Tomorrow evening, when
things have settled down and you have a quiet moment, use that moment
to contemplate the Christmas story. Imagine the story as it unfolds.
Then realize that it ALL happened…ready?…for YOU! Not “just
’cause”. Not just for a group of sweaty, smelly shepherds 2,000 years
ago…but for you! How COOL is that? Have a GREAT day, and thanks for
stopping by today. Please share this with someone, make sure you stop
by tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Through a Child’s Eyes

     The wait is almost over. Well…for us…it IS over! Because of the fact that I have to work Christmas Eve (if you had asked me when I was 25 if I would take a job that required me to work on Christmas and Easter…I would have told you you were nuts! Now, apparently, it has come to pass that I am the one who is nuts!), we opened our Christmas presents this morning. It is now a Lego and Wii Wonderland at my house! (I, of course, need to work today, so we did that early, and then off I went to church!) The part I have enjoyed the best is watching my 9-year old- ever since he found out we were doing presents today as opposed to tomorrow, he has been one big giddy ball of enthusiastic energy! EVERYTHING has made him laugh in the last 24 hours. He has also been a love-bug, hugging on everyone in the family. (I think perhaps he is attempting one last-ditch shot at lobbying for as many presents as possible!) He wanted to go to bed early last night, so today would come sooner, but was too excited to actually DO that! I thought he would be disappointed that I had to go to work today. Nah- I got a wave and a “see you at lunch, dad!” from the Wii-enabled TV! He is already talking about the fact that he still gets “two MORE Christmases before it’s all over!” How awesome is THAT?!
     When did we lose that wonder and enthusiasm? When did we “grow up” and put all this childish joy behind us? If you’re like me, you can’t actually put a date and time on it- it just happened gradually over time. But all I know is that one day we wake up…and Christmas is much less about joy and wonder and much more about lists and deadlines. And that, for my money, is a shame. It’s tragic that we trivialize the celebration of the greatest single event in the history of the planet. God…the Creator of ALL things…CHOSE to leave Heaven and break into time and space, forever changing things. Not only did He choose to come to earth, He chose to come, not as a conquering king astride a white horse but as a helpless child born to unwed parents  in a backwater town. Why? Because God is much less about power and might and much more about relationship.
     Tomorrow evening, when things have settled down and you have a quiet moment, use that moment to contemplate the Christmas story. Imagine the story as it unfolds. Then realize that it ALL happened…ready?…for YOU! Not “just ’cause”. Not just for a group of sweaty, smelly shepherds 2,000 years ago…but for you! How COOL is that? Have a GREAT day, and thanks for stopping by today. Please share this with someone, make sure you stop by tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

My Son…the Hero

    It was Klondike Derby time! If
you aren’t a Boy Scout…or KNOW a Boy Scout…you may not be familiar
with the Klondike Derby. Well…let me tell you! A team of Scouts build
a sled- not unlike a dog sled- except that it is not powered by
dogs…or horses…or incredibly steroid-laced gerbils…but
instead…by people! Boy Scouts people to be more precise. They build
the sled, then, on a prescribed day, they have to push it, in the snow,
over a particular course. To make matters more interesting, they have
to stop at stations along the way and complete tasks- make fire without
matches, for example- before they can move on to the next station.
Obviously, the team that completes the race 1st wins. The year BEFORE
my son was old enough to be a Boy Scout, the Klondike Derby team was 2
kids short of having a full complement of boys. So the Scout leader
asked my son and another boy from his class if they wanted to join the
group. They both thought it was awesome to be asked to be in the OLDER
group!

     For several Saturdays
beginning in January, we had to drive him out to the Boy Scout camp,
where they would work on building the sled and training for the Derby.
It was COLD, it was SNOWY, and he LOVED it! One Saturday, they were
working on their project, and the leader sent my son and the other
younger boy to get wood- they were going to work on making a fire
without matches. The boys set out into the snowy morning to find some
firewood. They came to a small valley- it was more like a BIG hole, 20
feet deep and 40 feet across- in the middle of the woods. At the bottom
were some dead trees that looked like they would make great firewood,
so the boys climbed down. The exertion of the climb, coupled with the
cold air, caused the other boy to have an asthma attack. My son tried
to help him climb out, but the boy was unable. So my son left him there
and ran back to where the rest of the group was to get help. He led the
rest of the team and the leader back to where the other boy laying
gasping for breath. My son helped rig ropes which they used to pull the
boy up out of the hole. They carried him back to the lodge, where he
used his inhaler, warmed up, and was OK.

     When we picked our son up
that day, the leader was waiting for us. He told us what happened, but
kind of downplayed the whole event. We didn’t think much more about
it…until we went to the annual Scout banquet! In the middle of the
evening, the Scout leader got up and announced that
he had a very special award to give…and he proceeded to tell this
story of my son, the other boy, and the asthma attack. However, as he
told the story, we learned that the boy had been in potentially serious
trouble, and that, in the leader’s estimation, our son had saved the
boy’s life! He then called our son up and gave him the first-ever Hero
Award giving by this particular troop! Well…there was not a button
left on my shirt- they all popped off! My son…the hero!

     Who’s your hero? Growing
up, many of my heroes where sports figures- Lou Brock, Bob Gibson,
Wayne Gretsky, Michael Jordan, George Brett, Joe Montana, etc. I also
looked up to actors, comedians, singers, musicians- folks who could
entertain others. And many of those people are perfectly good folks to
look up to, to admire for their accomplishments. But it wasn’t until
MUCH later that it dawned on me that the real heroes are, like my son
at the Scout banquet, just ordinary folks who do extraordinary things.
And the reality is that, for MY money, “extraordinary things” means
things like taking care of your children, being faithful to your
spouse, doing the right thing simply because…it’s the right thing. So
at this stage in my life, my heroes are the men and women who get up
every day, kiss their family, go off to work, do the best they can,
come home, get dinner on the table, help with homework, play ball on
the weekends- heroes are people who see the glass half full, and live
their life accordingly.

     So, again, who are YOUR
heroes? I’ve shared before that many folks in the public eye who SEEM
like heroes have had the polish come off the apple recently. Instead,
look to the people around you. Who is setting a good example by being a
good parent, a good spouse, a good human being, in the midst of a world
that seems to reward BAD behavior? THOSE are the heroes. Let them know
you notice what they do. Applaud them for living a decent, moral life.
Thank them for being a good example to and for others. Sound a
bit…sappy? I don’t care! We need a little “sappy” right about now!

     Thank you for come by
today. Have a blessed day, share this with others, make sure and come
back tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

My Son…the Hero!

     It was Klondike Derby time! If you aren’t a Boy Scout…or KNOW a Boy Scout…you may not be familiar with the Klondike Derby. Well…let me tell you! A team of Scouts build a sled- not unlike a dog sled- except that it is not powered by dogs…or horses…or incredibly steroid-laced gerbils…but instead…by people! Boy Scouts people to be more precise. They build the sled, then, on a prescribed day, they have to push it, in the snow, over a particular course. To make matters more interesting, they have to stop at stations along the way and complete tasks- make fire without matches, for example- before they can move on to the next station. Obviously, the team that completes the race 1st wins. The year BEFORE my son was old enough to be a Boy Scout, the Klondike Derby team was 2 kids short of having a full complement of boys. So the Scout leader asked my son and another boy from his class if they wanted to join the group. They both thought it was awesome to be asked to be in the OLDER group!
     For several Saturdays beginning in January, we had to drive him out to the Boy Scout camp, where they would work on building the sled and training for the Derby. It was COLD, it was SNOWY, and he LOVED it! One Saturday, they were working on their project, and the leader sent my son and the other younger boy to get wood- they were going to work on making a fire without matches. The boys set out into the snowy morning to find some firewood. They came to a small valley- it was more like a BIG hole, 20 feet deep and 40 feet across- in the middle of the woods. At the bottom were some dead trees that looked like they would make great firewood, so the boys climbed down. The exertion of the climb, coupled with the cold air, caused the other boy to have an asthma attack. My son tried to help him climb out, but the boy was unable. So my son left him there and ran back to where the rest of the group was to get help. He led the rest of the team and the leader back to where the other boy laying gasping for breath. My son helped rig ropes which they used to pull the boy up out of the hole. They carried him back to the lodge, where he used his inhaler, warmed up, and was OK.
     When we picked our son up that day, the leader was waiting for us. He told us what happened, but kind of downplayed the whole event. We didn’t think much more about it…until we went to the annual Scout banquet! In the middle of the evening, the Scout leader got up and announced that he had a very special award to give…and he proceeded to tell this story of my son, the other boy, and the asthma attack. However, as he told the story, we learned that the boy had been in potentially serious trouble, and that, in the leader’s estimation, our son had saved the boy’s life! He then called our son up and gave him the first-ever Hero Award giving by this particular troop! Well…there was not a button left on my shirt- they all popped off! My son…the hero!
     Who’s your hero? Growing up, many of my heroes where sports figures- Lou Brock, Bob Gibson, Wayne Gretsky, Michael Jordan, George Brett, Joe Montana, etc. I also looked up to actors, comedians, singers, musicians- folks who could entertain others. And many of those people are perfectly good folks to look up to, to admire for their accomplishments. But it wasn’t until MUCH later that it dawned on me that the real heroes are, like my son at the Scout banquet, just ordinary folks who do extraordinary things. And the reality is that, for MY money, “extraordinary things” means things like taking care of your children, being faithful to your spouse, doing the right thing simply because…it’s the right thing. So at this stage in my life, my heroes are the men and women who get up every day, kiss their family, go off to work, do the best they can, come home, get dinner on the table, help with homework, play ball on the weekends- heroes are people who see the glass half full, and live their life accordingly.
     So, again, who are YOUR heroes? I’ve shared before that many folks in the public eye who SEEM like heroes have had the polish come off the apple recently. Instead, look to the people around you. Who is setting a good example by being a good parent, a good spouse, a good human being, in the midst of a world that seems to reward BAD behavior? THOSE are the heroes. Let them know you notice what they do. Applaud them for living a decent, moral life. Thank them for being a good example to and for others. Sound a bit…sappy? I don’t care! We need a little “sappy” right about now!
     Thank you for come by today. Have a blessed day, share this with others, make sure and come back tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

A (Crazy) Day in the Life

      I describe this blog as “a daily look at life as a shaved-headed, earring-wearing, rock-drumming United Methodist minister”. Well, here’s a chronological look at yesterday!Please to enjoy-

5:28AM- alarm goes off
5:29AM- take dog out
5:31AM- bathroom- shave, other functions to remain unmentioned!
5:42AM- get dressed
5:51AM- pour coffee (which was pre-set the night before)
5:54AM- load presents for church staff into van
5:58AM- drive to IGA
6:04AM- buy dozen donuts for son’s Sunday School class
6:09AM- arrive at church- unload
6:20AM-8:15AM- turn on lights,activate sound system, set thermostats, make more coffee, and get things ready for “Sunday morning”
8:15AM- begin Contemporary Worship Service- preach, pray, lead singing
9:15AM- make mad dash to bathroom
9:30AM- begin Blended Worship Service- preach, pray, lead singing
10:15AM- get a drink
10:30AM- begin Traditional Worship Service- lead March to the Manger with actors, singers, musicians
11:30AM-11:45AM- “shut down” the sanctuary
11:45AM-12:00PM- call “shut-ins” to make sure they’ll be home when we come caroling later
12:00PM-12:45PM- attend a potluck/gift exchange at the church
12:45PM-2:30PM- go home, change clothes, see my family, sit down, nap for about 10 minutes
2:30PM- go to IGA for cookies/hot chocolate for Christmas caroling
2:45PM- arrive at church, warm up church van, print lyrics
3:00PM-4:30PM- take van load of parishioners caroling to several homes in the area
4:30PM-5:00PM- back to the church for hot chocolate and cookies
5:00PM-5:20PM- go home, fix dinner…QUICKLY
5:20PM- receive call, young family with 2 small children, car wreck (bad weather), stranded
5:25PM-5:45PM- arrive at church with food, get family in, feed them
5:45PM- fire department shows up with another stranded family of 6
5:45PM-10:00PM- feed 6 more people, get diapers/antifreeze/drinks/etc., make 2 trips to a motel in another town to get one of the families settled for the night, get the other family off with a relative who drove 3 1/2 hours to get them,clean up the church
10:15PM- arrive home, immediately read to my 9-year old who has been waiting for me
10:30PM- eat home-made caramel corn for dinner
10:45PM- fall asleep in my chair
11:00PM- get up, go to bed….another day of ministry!
     If you have a pastor…thank them this Christmas! Thank them for being a spiritual leader. Thank them for be a man or woman of God. Thank them for all the things they do BEHIND THE SCENES that very few (if any) people actually see. Thank them for sacrificing so much to try and do the job to which God has called them.
     If you DON’T have a pastor…find one! Get to know them. Develop a relationship. See what God can do through that incredibly human, somewhat flawed individual to make a difference in YOUR life!

     Thanks for coming by- have a blessed day! Share this with someone. Make sure and come back tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

The Candles of Advent

    Advent- the 4-week time of waiting leading up to Christmas. It is a time when we are invited to slow down and consider what it means to wait. Waiting is a HARD thing- but I truly believe the old adage: “good things come to those who wait”! When we wait upon the Lord, we are blessed in ways we cannot imagine!
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     There are 4 Sundays in Advent– and there is an Advent Candle for each of those Sundays, plus a 5th on Christmas Eve. Since today is the 4th – and last- Sunday of Advent, let’s take a moment and see what the 4 candles are called and what they represent:

     The 1st candle is the Candle of Hope. We light this candle to remind us that our hope is in Jesus. It is also called the Prophecy Candle, because it represents the anticipation of a coming Messiah. Its purple color represents the royalty of Jesus Christ. Here is a prayer that goes along with this candle- “Loving God, we thank You for the hope You give us. As we worship You this morning draw out of us the darkness of the world, and fill us with the light of hope. Help us to prepare our hearts for the Lord’s coming. We ask in the name of the One born in Bethlehem.Amen.”

     The 2nd candle is the Candle of Peace. We light this candle to remind us that Jesus brings peace to all who trust in Him.  It is also called the Bethlehem Candle because it was there the final preparations for a coming Messiah were made. Its purple color represents the royalty of Jesus Christ. Here is a prayer that goes along with this candle- “Loving God, thank You for the peace You give us through Jesus. May Christ’s light shine in our lives, showing us the path of peace between God and all people.Help us to prepare our hearts to receive His peace. We ask in the name of the One born in Bethlehem.Amen.”

     The 3rd candle is the Candle of Joy. We light this candle to remind us that Christ is the bringer of true and everlasting joy. It is also called the Shepherd’s Candle because it was they who first experienced the joy of a coming Messiah. Its pink color represents the joy of a baby in a manger. Here is a prayer that goes along with this candle- “Loving God, we thank You for the joy You bring us. Through Your Son we have found joy in living as Your children. Help us to prepare our hearts for this gift. We ask in the name of the One born in Bethlehem.Amen.”

     The 4th candle is the Candle of Love. We light this candle to remind us how Jesus, the light of the world, came to show us God’s love. It is also called the Angel’s Candle because it was they who shared their adoration for a coming Messiah. Its purple color represents the royalty of Jesus Christ. Here is a prayer that goes along with this candle- “Loving God, we thank You for Your gift of love – shown to us perfectly in Jesus Christ our Lord. Help us to prepare our hearts to receive His love. We ask in the name of the One born in Bethlehem.Amen.”

      On Christmas Eve, we will light the 5th candle, the Christ Candle,representing the arrival of the Messiah. Its white color represents purity. The time of waiting is over; our Lord is born. Now we light the Christ candle to remind us that all of God’s gifts -Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love – are to be found in God’s greatest gift, His Son,Jesus Christ.” Here is a prayer that goes along with this candle- “Almighty God, we thank You for the gift of Your Son, born of the Holy Spirit and of Mary. Upon Him rests all Your grace, through Him comes all Your mercy.As the light shines from these candles, so may the light of Jesus shine within our hearts. Help us to make Your church the light of the world. We ask in the name of the One born in Bethlehem.Amen.”

     Jesus is the light of the world! Celebrate that light this Christmas! Thanks for coming by today. Have a great Sunday, share this with someone, come back tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Doin’ a Bumstead!

     Yesterday was my 9-year old’s classroom Christmas party. We signed up to bring the snack. I got 2 dozen Christmas cupcakes…BUT…there was one student who has an allergy to red dye. The cupcakes had sprinkles on them, which included red ones. I was told they probably wouldn’t be a problem, but I didn’t want to take a chance, so…I picked the cupcake with the FEWEST red sprinkles, and removed them with tweezers! (They didn’t prepare me for THAT in seminary!) I was to be there at 1PM. I arrived in the classroom at 12:58PM (always early- part of my OCD!) The kids came in from recess a few minutes later, and the party “officially” started at 1:15PM. The spent the 1st 25 minutes or so playing games. And then…it was time for the snack. The teacher went around and handed out a paper towel to each student- the “plate/napkin” combo, rolled up into one tidy little bundle! I delivered a cupcake to each student, only to find that the student with the red dye allergy wasn’t at school. (All that tweezing for nothing! Oh well, better safe than sorry…or some other old, tired adage like that!) As I handed out the LAST cupcake, the teacher began the gift exchange. Each student was to bring a $5 gift, specific to their own gender. Then they simply drew a present out of the pile, making sure not to choose their own. To be fair, the teacher wrote each kid’s name on a Popsicle stick and simply drew names out to see who was the next to pick a gift. She drew the first name out, and it was my son’s. I heard her say to him, “Is your gift up there?” Thinking she meant, “So that you don’t draw your own gift, is it up there, and which one is it?”  I looked and said, “No, it isn’t there.” She looked at me like I had tossed a live badger on her and said, “It’s NOT here?” I replied, “It’s not THERE…where did he put it?” In stereo my son and his teacher said, “He/I didn’t bring one!” Oh…MONKEYS! We bought the gift. We wrapped the gift. We put the gift in a bag to bring it to school. Apparently, we did EVERYTHING…BUT…bring it to school! I looked at my son’s face, thought about what it would be like to be “the kid who didn’t bring a gift”, and said, “What time do the kids go home?” The teacher replied, “8 minutes!”
     As I sprinted out the door, I quoted that great theologian Arnold Schwarzenegger, “I’ll be back!” I RAN through the school, took the stairs 3 at a time, out the door, in the car…and I was OFF- doin’ a Bumstead! I squealed out of the parking lot, did 45 in a 25 zone (and I’m the preacher, for goodness sake!), practically took turns on 2 wheels, flew into the driveway, left the car running and the door open, ran in the house, and fortunately found the bag immediately! Then it was out the door, in the car, driving like a bat out of somewhere, more 2-wheeled turns, back into the parking lot, in the school, SPRINTING through the gym (with some strange looks from the PE teacher!), up the stairs (again 3 at a time) and in the classroom…all in…ready?…SEVEN MINUTES- thank you very much! The kids were still 1 whole minute from leaving, the last presents were exchanged, all was well. I was, of course, in the corner, desperately trying to catch my breathe and wishing I hadn’t sprinted so much…but that’s a story for another day! Oh, by the way, for those of you keeping score at home, my kid got Tootsie Rolls, M & M’s, and bubble gum- he was quite happy. And the kid who got our gift got a 5-car Hot Wheels set- he too seemed pretty pleased!
     So, whose fault was it? Ultimately, it was everybody’s fault and nobody’s fault. It was just one of those things where, in our hurry to get out the door, everybody thought somebody else took care of it. But it raises the question, “what do you do when you screw up?” You may chuckle, but the answer to this question is pretty important. Do you try to pass the buck, point fingers at others, make excuses as to why it wasn’t your fault? Or do you own up to it, admit your error, and try your best to make it right? I at least HELPED mess things up- the LEAST I could do was everything possible to make it right for my son.
     WHETHER or not we mess up is a moot point- we are GOING to make mistakes. How we react to them, deal with them, is the key to everything. People are smart- they know when you are sincerely trying to handle things in a mature manner and when you are reacting like a 6-year old. This next week, when tempers are flaring and patience is strained due to the holidays, pray that God will give you the strength to handle the things in an adult, spiritually mature manner. Thamks for stopping by today- have a blessed day! Please share this with someone, make sure and come back tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

I Went to Give…But Instead, I Got

     A few nights ago, I got to play Santa. No, not with the red suit and beard. (Although, “back in the day”, I USED to do that!) No, this time I was in jeans, a sweatshirt, and my ubiquitous Cardinals baseball cap. A women’s group in my church contacted me around Thanksgiving, asking if I could find them a family to “adopt” for Christmas. Since I had JUST delivered vast quantities of food to 3 different families 2 days before that, I had some folks in mind! I asked them if they minded it NOT being a family from our church- they said that would be NO problem! (Gotta love those ladies and their giving natures!) I gave them details about the family (number of kids, ages, sizes, etc.), and off they went! From everything I heard, they had a blast getting everything. And thank goodness it was WOMEN doing this- a group of guys would have purchased 2 things: a gift card to the local grocery store and a gift card to Farm and Fleet (or perhaps Lowe’s)! Instead, they got clothes for the kids, toys, gift cards to APPROPRIATE places for the older kids, presents for the parents- you name it! (The funny thing was, when I contacted this family to get their information, the husband was very hesitant to give me any suggestions for he and his wife. “We don’t want anything. We’re just so appreciative that you are getting things for the kids.” My response? “Look, throw me a bone here, pal. I KNOW these ladies! If I come to them with nothing about you and your wife…they’re sending me BACK! Neither one of us wants THAT now, do we?”)
     Then, the day arrived- it was time to deliver the gifts. I made arrangements in advance with the family to make sure they would be home. My wife and I met one of the ladies from the group at the church, loaded a few last-minute things, and headed out. It was only about a 3-minute drive to their house, and when we pulled up, they had the light on, ready for us. We carried everything in, and the look of appreciation on their faces was overwhelming! We get jaded into thinking that people are unappreciative or blase’ about this kind of thing. Not so! These folks were overwhelmed by such generosity from people they literally don’t even know! We unloaded everything, stood for a moment and talked, then excused ourselves. We walked back to our cars, said “goodbye” to the woman who came with us, and got in our car. Now…call me a big girl, but I was trying not to cry- I was so touched by what I had experienced. I shut the car door, wiped a tear away, and turned to look at my wife. Tears were streaming down her face! That’s all it took! After we regained our composure, we talked about what we had just experienced.
     Let’s review: WE chose this family, WE bought LOTS of things for this family, WE delivered all the stuff to this family…and yet I left feeling like the one who had received something great! That’s the amazing thing about reaching out to others in the name of Jesus Christ- no matter WHAT you give (goods, services, whatever), you always go away having received even more. Good works for God are SO rewarding, and a large part of the reason is just that- because it was done FOR GOD. If you do good works to get accolades or draw attention to yourself, you will always be disappointed. But if you do good works for God, you will be RICHLY rewarded…every time!
     What can YOU do for God today? Perhaps you are in a financial position to adopt a family…it’s NOT too late. Perhaps you AREN’T in that kind of financial position- there are still many things you can do. Bake something for someone. Send them a card telling them you’re thinking about them, praying for them. Take your neighbor’s trash cans around back for them after the trash man comes. Stand outside the store for 5 minutes, simply holding the door for everyone who comes in, greeting them as they do. The list is endless, as are the potential rewards. Do something positive today, and do it because God loves you and you want to share that with others!
     Thank you for spending a few minutes with me today! Have a blessed day, please share this with others- that’s how this ministry will continue to grow. Make sure and stop by tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Crowded House

     A few weeks ago, I did the unthinkable…I cleaned my garage! (Gasp!) I don’t know about you, but my garage spends Spring, Summer and Fall getting cluttered. Then, when the weather starts to turn, I think to myself, “Self, you really need to clean that garage before winter hits, so you can pull both cars in!” Yep…that’s what I do! I don’t actually CLEAN it…I just announce that I NEED to clean it! Then, the first snowfall hits. And while I’m outside cleaning the cars off and cursing the day I was born, I commit to cleaning the garage! But THIS year, I was Capt. Proactive (promoted from Sergeant Proactive)! I cleaned the garage in November, while the weather was still decent…and I have had to clean NOT ONE bit of frost or snow off either car as a result! I rule (at least this once)!
     Clutter is an interesting thing. I have come to the conclusion that, although my OCD (Google it) tendencies mean that I don’t really LIKE clutter, sometimes it can be a good thing. The Narthex (a fancy word for “foyer” or “lobby”) at my church has been rather…cluttered…this Christmas season. It’s not all that big to begin with, and it is oddly shaped to boot. So when too much…stuff…accumulates in the lobby/foyer/Narthex (call it what you will), it makes for some interesting moments when one worship service is letting out and the next one is getting ready to begin (only 15 minutes between services…IF I get them out on time! You will be SHOCKED to know that I can be a bit…wordy!) Someone recently complained to me, saying, “The Narthex is so crowded! I can barely get through!”I realize that I was supposed to sympathize and rail against the fact that all this STUFF was in the way. However, I wasn’t much help! My response? “Yeah…isn’t it great?!” (I can be a bit of a problem child that way.  A parishioner once told me they visited a “modern” church in a neighboring town and they had…CUP HOLDERS…in the pews! Again I was supposed to be appalled. But my response was, “I know. Wouldn’t it be great to have those HERE?! I’d have someplace to put my coffee!” I get myself in trouble sometimes!)
     As I thought about the “stuff” in the lobby/foyer/Narthex of my church, I came to the conclusion that all that “stuff” represents powerful ministries that are going on. There is a Christmas tree with 90 presents under it earmarked for folks in nursing and group homes who will get no presents this Christmas. There is a table with large bags of walnuts and pecans that the ladies of the church are selling to raise money for their ministries. There is a table selling Texas Road House Rolls, again as a fundraiser for ministries being planned for NEXT Christmas. There are baskets collecting materials for a variety of groups and organizations who are in need. There is a table FULL of information about various ways folks can serve. There is a table with regular and decaf coffee with chairs nearby, so people can grab a cup of Joe and visit for a moment. There is a table with copies of a daily devotional called The Upper Room on it, available free of charge for anyone who would like to take one to read. If these things clutter up the lobby/foyer/Narthex…so be it! I would MUCH rather have an area that is full of great ministry but a bit of a challenge to navigate than a marvelously wide open space devoid of God’s work!
     How’s the clutter in your life? I won’t even ask if you’re busy…of COURSE you are! But what I will ask is this- what are you busy DOING? Is you schedule cluttered with “busy-ness”, or is it cluttered with things that really matter? I think, at the end of the day, a certain amount of clutter is inevitable. Since that’s the case, the only decision to make is what do I fill my dance card with? Which things do I commit myself, my time, my energy, my passion to? Am I making a difference with what I do, or am I just marking time? Let me assure you- God wants to use you. AND He has uniquely gifted you to be used for specific things. Pray about what those things are, and how you can be about the business of “kingdom building” through your efforts. Pray that God will reveal to you the purpose to which He has called you. Once you find that purpose and commit to it, your life will never be richer or fuller!
     Thanks so much for spending a few minutes with me today! Have a blessed day, share this with someone you know, make sure and come back tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Breaking News!

     Monday (the 14th) was the 3-month anniversary of this blog. In that 3 months, some remarkable things have happened:
1. The first month saw 1,913 hits. Month 2 saw 2,633 hits- an increase of about 38%. Month 3 saw 2,839, and increase of about 7%.  In addition, it has been read by folks from 41 states and the District of Columbia, as well as 36 foreign countries!
2. The Stick With Jesus Facebook Fan Site grew from 33 people to well over 200 in about 2 weeks.
3. The full website- stickwithjesus.net – my goal from the beginning, is up and running- in under 3 months. It’s NOT what I want yet- I have great vision for what it could be- but it IS the answer to prayer that is is functioning!
     I began this blog with almost NO expectations. While the vision of a site that would be a destination for folks seeking to connect with Jesus Christ was there from the start, I didn’t really have any clue what to expect beyond that. To have this kind of response is overwhelming! I have also had an interesting time adjusting to writing every day. I was already used to writing a weekly sermon, a weekly Bible Study, and a monthly newsletter. But to write 365 days/year is a different thing altogether! There are days when God puts an idea in my head and then pours it out through my laptop keyboard. There are other days when “the muse” isn’t really flowing (I’m SURE it shows!), but I am committed to posting daily, so I write anyway. I pray that, whether you have been reading since yesterday or September 14th (the day the blog debuted) or anywhere in between, you find a little nugget to ponder throughout the day when you stop by here.
     Have you taken some time to walk through the website? There is a variety of things to look at:
1. A Bible Study that is updated weekly,
2. A Resources Page, that has books, movies, and music that I recommend. The music section has MP3’s that you can click and listen to right on the site. I currently have a sampling of some of my favorite Contemporary Christian Christmas songs.
3. A Prayer Request page, where you can share with me any prayer requests you have.
4. A page that has an email link. Feel free to email me with thoughts, comments, questions…whatever!
5. A new Read the Bible in a Year page. Email me to sign up, and then come to the website daily to read that day’s Scripture. At the end of the year, you will have read the best selling book of ALL time cover to cover.
     Thank you for being a part of this fledgling ministry. I invite you to continue to partner with me to help it grow. Here’s how you can do that: first- pray for Stick With Jesus. Pray that God will use this site to reach more folks for Him. Next- share this with your friends, family, co-workers, neighbors and cousins by the dozens! The best way to grow a website is the same as the best way to grow a church- word of mouth. If you find things here you like, share them with people. If there are things you DON’T see but would like to, share that with ME! Again…thank you! Have a blessed day, make sure and come back tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!
    

A March to the Manger

     Two days ago, I saw Jesus! Really! My church does a March to the Manger every year, with actors portraying the folks in the Christmas story (angel, shepherds, wise men, Mary, Joseph and the baby), several singers, musicians, stage manager…the whole 9 yards! (What does that mean, actually? The whole 9 yards? There seems to be no definitive explanation as to either the meaning or origin. I guess it will just remain shrouded in mystery! Or perhaps…we will just continue to not really care!) The couple who played Mary and Joseph last year (when she was “great with child”, and NO, that is NOT a crack on her size!) played them again this year, partly because they did it last year and already knew the dialogue and partly because their baby is PERFECT for the role this year (that IS an actual picture of her as baby Jesus)! The singers and musicians practiced twice a week EVERY week since Thanksgiving. The actors prepared, costumes were brought out of storage, the set pieces were put in…everything was ready. (Someone at the church commented on the “professional” nature of the event. My response? “It should be…I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Christmas Plays!”) The singers, musicians and most of the actors all pulled “double duty”- doing two worship services this week, with one left to do next week. And the morning was…amazing! Everything went great! The actors were wonderful, the music was awesome (HERE are examples of some of the music we did)- I am convinced God was pleased on Sunday! But perhaps the best thing of all that morning was the baby. During the earlier service, she loved watching…the twinkling Christmas tree, the guitarist, the ceiling fan, the people- she didn’t miss a thing! She also apparently loved the music- she “sang” through much of the service! Then, toward the end of the 2nd service (yes, that sweet baby sat through TWO worship services…from 8:15AM-10:20AM…and NEVER cried!), I was giving the congregation instructions on how to bring their Christ Gift to the altar, and in the context of that, I encouraged them to stop and see this beautiful baby. As I turned to gesture to her…she was sound asleep! Eyes closed, cheek pressed  firmly to mom’s chest, rosebud mouth moving ever so slightly- and I thought of the carol “Silent Night”- “sleep in heavenly peace, sleep in Heavenly peace.” A more angelic, Christ-like physical example of that I have NEVER seen!
     Is Christmas a flat-out, pedal to the metal, helter-skelter, mad bum-rush to December 25th for you? Do you find it hard to even catch your breath, let alone actually ENJOY the season? When the 26th comes, is it like getting hit in the head with a baseball bat- it feels SO good when it stops?! If so…take a deep breath and slow down. Find time to experience the peace and quiet of Christmas. Only then can you truly appreciate the joy and wonder of Christmas. Too busy? Don’t have enough time? Make some- learn to say “no”. Prioritize. Leave some things out if you have to. Christmas is about so much more than presents and parties, money and mayhem. Christmas is when we celebrate a baby in manger who split time in half- who came to change the world, to change US! This Christmas, find time for a silent night, a holy night. See the world through the eyes of a child, even if just for a moment or two, and begin to more completely appreciate what this season is really about. You will be SO glad you did! 
     Have you seen the “Read the Bible in a Year” tab on the main stickwithjesus website? I would love to have you email me and sign up to be a part of this challenge! thanks for stopping by and spending a few moments with me today. Please share this with others. Have a blessed day, make sure and come back tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

The Little People in the TV

     Abraham Lincoln said, “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than open your mouth and remove all doubt”.  Well…prepare to have your doubts blown away! When I was a kid, I thought there were tiny people IN the TV who acted out the scenes live as I watched! They had all the costumes, props, etc., right in the TV with them, and they would do the show/movie at the moment I was seeing it! (Imagine “The 10 Commandments”!) My brother told me they were in there. I also thought they could see me- I would wave at them, not scratch or pick inappropriate places when I thought they were looking, etc. You are saying to yourself, “How old WERE you?” 17! No…not really! I was a pre-schooler. And to my defense, if you ever watched Romper Room, you can understand my confusion. Miss Lois would stand there with her Magic Mirror and SAY she could see me! (It never dawned on me that I have a relatively common 1st name!) I also thought that if I turned off the TV, it would freeze the show right there, and I could pick it up when I came back! (Remember, this was DECADES before TiVo!)
     Then  there is the radio. I thought that the singers/musicians were actually AT the radio station, performing the song live as I listened. My brother told me that, too. (Remember, I have been clear to state that I am NOT the sharpest tool in the shed!) They would tour the country, with ALL their equipment, setting up in radio stations from town to town, just to perform that one song…and move on! (Sounds REALLY cost-effective, doesn’t it?!) I am unable to explain why I thought people were IN the TV, but had a gear to “get” that the radio signal was broadcast.
     I also thought that there were little people inside my body- factory workers if you will, who made the whole shootin’ match work! Come to think of it, my brother told me that, too! (I am suddenly getting some serious clarification on many things! Give me just a second………OK, I’m back. Note to self: call your brother!) I thought people didn’t breathe when they slept (it made for some interesting times when I tried to pretend I was asleep)! I thought people could hear you through the phone if it was only ringing; when we were ducking a call, I’d be really quiet! I thought if I closed my eyes…you couldn’t see me! I thought lemonade was lemon juice and sugar…period! (Remember, no Rhodes scholars in MY home town!)
     Misconception is a pretty common thing. We are incorrectly informed on all sorts of things. I am often surprised and saddened by the misconceptions people have about the Christian faith. People think they have to earn their way to heaven- enough good deeds and they’re in. The reality is that we CAN’T earn our way to Heaven- it is instead offered by God we but accept it. People think that God is a distant clock maker- crafted the whole thing, wound it, started it, and then…walked away, leaving it to run on its own. But God is very active in our lives, guiding us, teaching us, forgiving us. People (including some seminary professors) think that Jesus was just a good guy- taught some things, got on the wrong side of the Roman government, paid for it with his life. Nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus is the only begotten Son of God. He came into our world, to quote singer Chris Rice “wrapped our injured flesh around you, breathed our air and walked our sod”. He exprienced the things we experienced, he never travelled more than about 50 miles from His home. He taught, healed, saved- and when His time here was complete, and not a moment sooner, He willingly laid down His life to take away our sin. On the 3rd day, He just as willingly picked that life back up so that we might have enernal life. THAT is who we recognize when we celebrate Christmas- a baby in a manger who split time in half! Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go try and feed the little people in my TV…they have GOT to be starving!
     Thanks for comoing by today, have a blessed day, please share this with others, make sure and come bacdk tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!