Monday, December 31, 2007
Saturday, December 29, 2007
Thursday, December 27, 2007
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
In Matthew 2, Herod got wicked angry and gave orders to kill all the children under two years of age in Bethlehem and the surrounding areas.
Two things to note regarding this event:
1.) Anger problems can sometimes be avoided by proper understanding of God's Providence.
God spoke through a dream, warning the Magi not to return to Herod. It was God's will that they did not return to Herod. Did Herod know that God had spoken to them through a dream? No, but it was clear to Herod that they would not be coming back to him-that shows God's will clearly enough.
I was reminded this morning that I often become angry when things don't correspond to my desire and expectations. Or when people don't do things I expect them to do.
But looking at this passage, I need to be reminded that they have acted exactly according to the 'script.' Hopefully I can relax more and not get so angry. I have no intention of killing a bunch of toddlers, but my anger shows up in other ways.
2.) Even when things aren't recorded for us in history books, it doesn't mean that they didn't happen the way the bible says they did
There is no mention of Herod's killing these Bethlehem babies in secular writings. Two explanations shall come forth. First of all, Herod did a ton of killing (his wife, mother-in-law, kids, enemies-which he considered to be everyone) that to record every act of murder would be impossible!
Next, Bethlehem was a small town. Scholars think that the town had only 1000 folks (if not half that), and so the number of babies might not have exceded 20. Just a scholastic conjecture, but it is certainly interesting. Jocephus and other historians might not have even known about a tragedy in a small town, or even bothered to record it. Things that happen in big towns always get more publicity.
Sometimes historical documents reinforce what we read in the bible, sometimes they don't. But it shouldn't bother us. After all, Jocephus was a turncoat Jew writing for the Romans. In his writings, he tries to justify his turning. He was even more biased than the bible writers. And they weren't getting paid like he would have been! Just some food for thought for the skeptic (or skeptic in us).
Monday, December 24, 2007
Yesterday, we examined the historical background of Herod the Great and the Magi (the wise men), and had a fun time speculating on some of their heart motivations. Speculating can be dangerous if it is not tempered by community, other scriptures, and a recognition that speculation cannot be confused with special revelation (bible).
However we all found it helpful to speculate a bit to dig a little deeper into these scripture accounts of Christ's birth and the short time thereafter (Magi found Jesus in a house, perhaps up to 2 years later). Since the Magi were overjoyed, and 'rejoiced exceedingly with great joy,' probably knew somewhat of what/whom they were seeking (they would have been very well educated), worshiped Jesus, we found great application this Christmas.
Instead of being bothered by a Bucs loss this morning (which really doesn't mean anything in the long run, or short run either-they'll end up the same seed in the playoffs regardless) or all the busyness that lies ahead, I was reminded to rejoice simply in Jesus. Not presents, not family, not the blessings I've received, but simply in Jesus' coming and promise to come again.
We concluded with some reflection on the poem "The Journey of the Magi" by T.S. Eliot. I think this poem reflects his own spiritual journey to Christianity. Here's an excerpt we briefly pondered. Its an inquiry into what the Magi might have felt like when they returned to the East. I recommend "googling" the rest of it.
All this was a long time ago,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt.
I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death,
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.
Saturday, December 22, 2007
Instead I sat back in my favorite chair and listened to Indelible Grace's "Your King Has Come" Christmas album. Various artists have rewritten (slightly) for guitar some of the traditional hymns (the good ones-with one exception) and have been very edifying to myself and Amy. I highly recommend this CD.
Friday, December 21, 2007
Its easy to play the cultural blame game, but it is our fault for being influenced by it. So another question to ponder is this: "How can Christmas time be more silent?" Not necessarily silent as in the absence of all noise, but 'silently' as in the absence of that noise, activity, that drives our focus away from the celebration of our Messiah's first coming and anticipation of His Second.
For example, listening to good Christmas music (if you're a reader of this blog, you know what I think is good and not good; but each has freedom to decide for him/herself!) can be extremely devotional, uplifting, reflective, and even challenging and convicting.
And not all activity is bad; in fact, many Christmas related activities are good. We recently had a Christmas party for our comm group in which we invited neighbors and friends without a church. Another comm group went caroling to elderly members and friends. Even our cookie outreach was stressful to organize, but everyone who participated found deep encouragement and a real Christmas joy in participating.
But there are some potentially (I also think they can be good with proper heart bad motivations) noises/overstressing activities in my opinion. The loudest noise/activity for me is shopping. Don't get me wrong, I like buying gifts for family. But figuring it all out, running all over town; it never seems to end.
Getting stressed by Christmas shopping for Xmas presents a bad noise, which moves our focus away from joy and onto the stress of figuring out whether you spent enough or how well the gift will be received, or what the next person needs. I really haven't figured out a remedy for this yet. Is it better to spread out your shopping, or just endure all of the stress in one day? I don't know.
Perhaps a remedy would be to just draw names. Instead of shopping for small presents for a bunch of people, you might just get one or a few expensive things. That would certainly help my spirit during this busy time.
Today, I'm planning on not listening to any Sports Talk (one day out of the year isn't too bad, eh?) when I drive and I will simply try to reflect the two important aspects of Christmas: His Coming, and His Return. I'm not punishing myself, nor am I performing some radio-less act of self-flagellation; I simply feel a need for some silence in my busy world. I'll let you know how this exercise goes.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Nevertheless, the timing was perfect, or close to perfect. I actually never thought it would happen. It seemed like the Bucs were under some sort of curse, and I really kind of believed it. So whether there was an official curse or not, the 'curse' has been broken. And how appropriate because Christmas is a time when we celebrate 'The Curse' being broken.
'The Curse' started back in Gen 3 when sin entered into this world of ours. The serpent was cursed, the ground was cursed, and both the man and woman had to endure the effects of this curse, because they were both responsible for it (however neither Adam nor Eve were actually cursed by God-look it up if you don't believe me).
Jesus then becomes the 'seed' or 'offspring' of the woman who would crush the offspring of the serpent-ultimately foreshadowing a victory over Satan by means of the cross. But Jesus, this 'seed' or 'offspring,' didn't stop with His triumph at the cross and resurrection. In fact, He will one day crush Satan under our feet (Romans 16:20). And that is one more thing we can celebrate at Christmas.
What it looks like for Jesus to crush Satan under our feet is captured in the popular Christmas hymn "Joy to the World." By the way, most Christmas hymns have some incredibly profound, and theologically rich lyrics. Check these out:
No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.
Jesus' coming was the beginning of His work, and He will one day extend his blessings as far as the curse is found. One day we shall have a world without 'The Curse' (what that means for fishing, I don't know yet). But this the distinctly Christian hope, and one more reason to celebrate, pray, and long for The Return of the King.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
On a Christian radio station trying to raise money, my wife heard something a bit unsettling. The emphasis was on the blessing of giving. Certainly giving is a grace of God, and it is also a blessing for the one giving. There is joy in giving, and God gives that joy, and He loves a cheerful giver (II Cor 9:7).
But the emphasis seemed to be placed (I didn't actually hear it myself) on what you get back when you give. Now I could spend much more time on this, but the 'advice' from a DJ took a different turn. If we give, we get back something in return that is of great value. For example, look at God. He gave Jesus and He got 'us' out of it.
In case you don't know by now, you can argue with most things people say, and often find out that the real problem is either semantic, or the fact that the person cannot say everything-and is merely trying to something specific and apropos to the situation. For instance Paul wrote Corinthians and Galatians to different audiences, with two different emphases: one has more emphasis on justification, the other on living consistently with our justification. Its the same gospel applied to different problems in different churches. We can't say to Paul, "This is true, but you left out this part." No, he said what needed to be said to that particular audience, and left out what didn't need to be said.
However, I think this issue is slightly more than semantic and perhaps touches on a deep church cultural problem. God the Father gave up His only Son as a sacrifice. It was a great sacrifice. It was not as though He-though if you want to get Trinitarian and technical, Jesus received the Church (John 10:29)-was getting something of equal or greater value (sounds like a coupon) when He received the church.
A wise person once declared a great error in our normal everyday thinking: "We think we are 'the SH*T (in case you aren't aware of this colloquial, it means awesome, or the best). And don't we? Do we think that God made a fair trade? That we are worthy of this great sacrifice of a Savior being born in a feeding trough and crucified on a cross?
If we fail to see the depth of sacrifice, we fail to see how great we are loved. It wasn't a fair trade-I can speak for myself. I was not worthy to be saved. However, Jesus would never say I , or you, weren't worth it.
Instead of hopes of a fair trade, he came out of his great affection for His people and His own glory. And while He would never say anyone was worthy (deserving-before or after salvation) to be saved, I guarantee you he would say "I'm glad I came down to save sinners. It was worth my sacrifice."
The greater we think we are, the closer it becomes to being a fair trade. The closer it becomes to being a fair trade, the further away from love we get: not only His love for us, but concomitantly our love for Him. He simply, and amazingly, puts His love over His children, like a Father/Mother puts his/her love over a newborn child. And I'm glad He does.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
I invited another young couple from church over to the house to eat some snook (the same snook pictured on this blog). So I had already begun thawing the meat when I get the call that his wife was too sick to attend. With Amy not eating much fish, I didn't know what we would do with all that snook (it was one whole fillet of a 30 inch fish).
I started calling, and ended up with about 5-6 different "No thanks" for a last minute snook eating invitation. Only one was even close to saying yes.
Then I go to the gym, and I get word that it will be closing down. That day. Where would I work out now? I was actually beginning to meet more and more people there. I wondered why God would just take this away. I had grown fond of the gym I once loathed.
No one knew what would happen. Getting the truth out of the few workers left was about as easy as getting the truth out of a baseball player accused of using performance enhancing drugs. And I had no power to play the perjury card.
I cut my workout short because I was so disgusted with the gym ownership. I really wanted to call the newspapers, the TV News channels, and give this owner some negative publicity.
Then I asked my workout partner if he wanted to come over to the house and eat some snook. He said yes, and then I invited one more person whose wife was out of town. So we had 4 over to the house to eat the snook which I was uncertain how to prepare. This no fried food thing for Amy is killing my style. However the baked snook was world class good. The evening was a blessing for all.
On Monday I drove up to Fusion Fitness to see what was up. It was surely closed. But lo there were Lifestyles employees there to answer questions, and like angels, herald the good news. I am now a Lifestyles member. Lifestyles (aka Glob0-gym) bought out Fusion Fitness (Average Joe's). Praise God I didn't cancel on Friday afternoon! Basically I upgraded for free, with the same terms of contract in a nicer place.
I only hope that those I had begun to get to know will see me at the Lifestyles gym. If not, I'll just meet and build relationships with those whom God puts before me. Closed doors can be frustrating, but they are never truly 'bad.'
Monday, December 17, 2007
I'm still pretty high right now. Not drugs, not hugs, just kind of an emotional and spiritual high. Yesterday, we had our neighborhood outreach cookie/craft decoration thing. We invited neighborhood kids (we had 2 families come), Amy's kindergarteners (close to 10, and some of their siblings), a number of our church kids, and those invited by our church folk. It was amazing (25-30 kids).
There were so many little things that God worked out to make it run as smoothly as possible. Amy and I borrowed the pastor's big blue van and picked up 6 kids at 5 houses. Fortunately Amy called the parents on Sunday, and reminded them that we were coming. Miracle of miracles, they actually called back. Some were surprised, some couldn't come, others would be coming but THEY wanted to drive them here.
That was great news. Finding these houses was not easy, and took a long time because they were all spread out. It was great news to hear that we would only need to go to 5 houses, not 8! Had we gone to 8 we would not have made it back in time to get some last minute things ready.
But we found all of them-mapquest was actually accurate. We took on some enemy fire when driving through one of the neighborhoods (rocks or something else hard). But those kids were gone when we returned to drop them off.
We used the symbolism of the candy cane to share about Jesus, and offered a possible name change if they only would turn it upside down: Jesus cane. We also tried to teach them "Silent Night." The other two stations involved making donut snowmen and reindeer cookies, and decorating a bag to house their creations and our Xmas Eve invitation.
Everything ran so smoothly, particularly when you think of 25-30 kids, 15 or so adults, 10 youth, other parents of kids. I bet we had at least 50-60 people in my yard, cul de sac, or house! On Sunday I thought this would have been a good idea if we hadn't invited Amy's kids. It would have been more manageable. And it might have. But God 'managed' everything, working behind the scenes.
One report from a member came today which spoke of a young girl understanding the importance and symbolism of Jesus and the candy cane. Another neighbor told me how grateful she was that we do things like this and neighborhood cookouts. I spoke with several neighbors and warned them of the activities which would be going on. Fortunately they were cool. Forget Robert Frost's saying, "good fences make good neighbors." Communication, community, love, regular prayer, and of course God's grace and providential involvement make good neighborhoods.
Friday, December 14, 2007
In case you're not aware, Zech was the father of John the Baptist. While offering prayers, most likely prayers on behalf of the people (not a personal prayer for a son, since he was a priest), an angel appeared to him. Like all people who see, or would see an angel today, he freaked out.
But good news soon came to him that he and his barren elderly wife would bear a son. So he asks, "How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years." The angels response is basically, "You let God figure that out. Just go on home and get on with your marital privileges." But since he didn't believe at first, God shut his mouth until the child was born. No talking for 9 months. Wow. Can you imagine that?
Well, Mary asks a question that seems very similar to her, and the same, unsolicited angel: "How will this be, since I am a virgin?" And the angel obliges her with a simple answer (although it really doesn't make any logical sense-'power of the Most High will overshadow you') and reminds her that "nothing is impossible with God."
Is this a double standard? Do young lasses get a pass while old priests don't? Does God expect more out of old priest than young ladies regarding faith? Is this angelic affirmative action?
After looking at the passage in length, and looking up a commentary, which was largely unhelpful (that's why its good for pastors to have 2-3 per bible book), I will, as George Mitchell did yesterday, report my findings. While the verbiage of the two questions in question look very similar, I think perhaps the heart behind the questions might have looked very different.
With only written words, we are not privy to tone, which I'm learning in marriage, makes a HUGE difference in communication. I don't know what Zech sounded like when he questioned the angel's good news.
Ultimately though, I think that what we have is the difference between doubt and a simple question of 'how' or "Am I hearing you correctly?" Zech could have been more of a "Yeah, sure, whatever" or "How am I supposed to believe that?" versus Mary's "How will that happen-I'm still a virgin and I think I should stay one until I'm officially married."
But another explanation can be found if we simply look at the scenario. An angel brings great news, good news not only to YOU, but to your nation, and to the world. You can imagine the joy in which it was brought. And then the dude you're bringing it to says, "How am I supposed to believe that?" I'd have shut that joker up for a lot longer than 9 months!
Regardless, there was more a difference in heart than exactly what was being expressed in words. And the issue of the heart has always been what God cares about. It is the heart which God looks at, not simply the words being expressed. The heart. "More than words," said one early 90's band called Extreme.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
There are numerous dynamics which provide great fodder for discussion. Questions arise such as, "Could God use a fleeing, unrepentant felon to plant a church?" I mean he did use Luther who was a raving anti-semite, was physically violent to those underneath him, and is himself one of the reasons why Lutherans don't look all that much like Luther. I could use other examples, but am fully aware that people could also say, "Well, he used Geoff, and he had anger issues, and he did this or that.......!" So I'll stop there. There is 'beef' on everyone if you look closely enough. There really is. Even on you.
One of the questions we did discuss was, "Is this an accurate/fair/positive portrayal of the church?" Rare do we see such positive depictions of the church from Hollywood, but we agreed this was one. The church was genuine, grew in numbers, had squabbles but sought reconciliation, showed mercy to the poor (by ringing the door bell, dropping off food, and running), had great fellowship, and even stood in the way of a bulldozer trying to destroy the church.
Finally, we did discuss some of the preacher's strengths. He was genuinely interested in getting the gospel to dying folks (sometimes literally/sometimes spiritually). The movie begins with him pulling over on the side of the road, circumventing the accident scene, and witnessing to the dying couple before he gets run off and ridiculed by a cop. In another scene, he is trying to witness to a guy walking in a bar and almost misses his bus!
In addition His discipleship relationship with a previous church member was a life-on-life relationship that profoundly effected the spiritually younger man. The man was so influenced by Duvall that he regularly visited his mother in the hospital. How many of us can say we have discipleship relationships like that? He did the same with another young mechanic until he eventually prayed with him to receive Christ.
Sometimes movies can really challenge us. Either they can point us toward Christ and His work and Church by way of good example. Other times they can point more clearly to our need for Christ by way of repentance.
Duval was quoted as saying, "This is my church! No one is going to take MY church away from me!" And so he beat a dude up! I see my own sin in this misplaced zealous thinking. Whatever church I'm at is Jesus' church. So I can relax that He'll build HIS church, and I'll be along for the ride. It will not depend upon me.
So this movie actually moved me to repent. Movies, as can all of life, can be quite devotional. It just takes some critical thinking, a framework in which to view them, and sometimes a healthy discussion.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Yesterday at my presbytery meeting I was greeted by a lad who had this to say to me: "You look nice. Have you lost weight?" I was a little taken aback, because I've been holding steady at about 210 lbs for a little while now. I'm thankful I'm not gaining more, but feel fine at 210 lbs.
This is weird because this is the first time in my life when the "Looks like you're losing weight" line hasn't meant something bad. The last time I heard it, I really had lost weight-down to the 160's after taking a medication (which is now off the market) that made me lose some serious poundage in seminary. But this time it was a compliment, not a concern.
Nevertheless, it was a bit hard to take, I must admit. Especially since I have had somewhat of a 'skinnferiority' complex throughout my life. Let me explain. Now I've never been ashamed to be thin, but then again I never like to receive comments like 'stick man' or 'bird cage chest.' Any comments reminding me of my slenderness have never been well received. No violence, just not well received.
Even though I'm balding and graying, I still don't think of myself as getting older-though I am 30! It's strange how times change when you get older. Now "it looks like your losing weight," becomes a compliment. Of course now is not the best time to lose weight since Amy's gaining 'baby pounds' now.
Getting older is good-I'm going to have to grow up quick in May when the baby comes. Getting thinner is good until I can become sans gut. But its a bit of a mindset change.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Now we do expect that this mini-series will be famous. How famous, is really up to you (I guess).
Regardless, if you have a spare 30 minutes, here is my sermon. In addition to our sermon series, for advent we've created a devotional to go along with the sermons. The last two years I've written a study for each day. However, this year, in order not to intimidate people, I've just written some questions to cause us to further reflect on God's word: in this case, the deity of Christ. If you don't think this is all that important, or practical, then listen to my sermon.
Here is the Devotional that my prove to be helpful. If not, then find someone to blame. Never me. Thanks.
1. Read John -59
No one knows exactly the precise date Jesus was born, but we can be certain that it was between 4-6 BC. We celebrate the birth (his taking on flesh) of Jesus at Christmas. But how old is Jesus in his divine nature? Who DOESN’T believe in this truth (Hint-J.W.)?
2. How do we know that Jesus really did claim to be God? How is this claim unique among all religions? Why is this so important to believe?
3. People often simply create a God who suits their needs, schedules, desires, interests, etc... Can you think of any ways you’ve done this yourself? Be honest and specific. How can we keep from doing that on Sundays? Is there anything we can do during the week to keep us walking down this well traveled road?
4. How does knowing Jesus is fully God personally bring you comfort? How can it in the future?
5. God is described in the Old Testament as one who is “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling (Psalm 68:5)” and Jesus continually sought after those in need. Is there anyone to whom you might reflect this love? A widow, someone elderly, without family, someone hurting, lonely, depressed, etc…What step might God be calling you to take now? Visiting, baking cookies, giving presents, calling, etc...?
Sorry for the formatting weirdness. I tried like 6 times to correct it, and then gave up. Just because the first questions are the largest, doesn't make them the most important. Might doesn't make right, eh?
Monday, December 10, 2007
But I will say this: I think that his 23 months are certainly plenty for his crimes. As a person, I would have been happy with a year and half; as a Buc's fan I'm certainly fine with him being away from the NFL for longer. Perhaps if he were fighting dogs that I actually like, such as Labs, I might push for five years. But pit bulls don't exactly make my dog Top Ten list.
Again, I think dog fighting is unthinkably disgusting (whatever dogs are used-yes even little yippee dogs like Palmeraneans or Shitzu's-though that would be mildly entertaining if they didn't hurt each other), should be outlawed, and those involved should be severely punished.
But in our culture, animals can often be treated as though they are every bit as dignified as people. Whether we like it or not, mankind has a special place in creation; God has placed special honor upon him as His most highly regarded creation (Psalm 8). However as stewards of God's creation, we are to till the land, not kill the land (or its creatures). In fact there is even a command in Deuteronomy 22:6 which prohibits taking and eating the mother bird AND its young. So I think we are to act justly even with animals.
With all that said, since Vick is getting 23 months for dog fighting (and several charges related to it), we ought to see rapists or online predators get much more. Unfortunately that's not often the case, and I wonder if that is simply reflective of a culture that fails to see the dignity of God's highest creation.
Saturday, December 8, 2007
I had one of those moments today. The men of the church get together to play paintball about once a month. Well this time, everyone seemed to have prior commitments. Some regulars had to work, do housework, take care of wives who had back surgery, etc....
When I went to fill up my paintball CO2 tank at WalMart last night, I found out they didn't have the correct size tank. Just before that someone else canceled on me. The owner of the property wasn't going to make it. I had to preach the next day and could have used a little more sleep.
It seemed the writing on the Wall was saying "Cancel it." Was I being stupid? Willful? I decided it was too late to cancel and didn't feel like calling everyone up anyway.
So I got arrived on site. That made 5 of us. Then one more came fifteen minutes later. Fifteen minutes more and 2 showed up. Then the sounds of the Hallelujah chorus rung out as one youth brought 3 of his friends. His dad showed up and it ended up 6 on 6, with probably more than half not even from our church.
Sometimes the writing is clear. Sometimes it might be there, but it may not say what we think it says. Fortunately. God chose today to bring some different people to play. I'm glad we didn't cancel.
Friday, December 7, 2007
Last year Amy prodded me to put up lights. While I was reluctant at first, I'm very glad I did it. Most of our neighbors have lights up, so it is pretty cool pulling into our driveway after having seen all of the lights.
So when I get home from working out, or whenever I remember, I plug in our lights. But its weird. Lights are cool when you're outside of your own house. But when you're inside your own house, and don't plan on going out again, what's the motivation? Turning on your lights is really an act of love. I mean you're no longer enjoying the fruit of your labor. Someone else is.
And that's a lot like love. Love is finding delight in the delight of others. I guess the joy in putting up lights, particularly once you are inside your own house, resides in sharing in the joy of others. You make others happy, and you find delight in that.
Now I know for some people its keeping up with Jones', or a competition, as with Chevy Chase in Xmas Vacation or with Tim Taylor in Home Improvement. But for many, I think plugging in your lights, particularly when you've come inside for the night, is a mundane, but good example of love.
Thursday, December 6, 2007
But beyond my preferences, God calls us to places such as these. That's who God cares about (Psalm 68/James 1:27 among a bunch of other references), and that's basically who Jesus visited. Since he was fully God, that's no surprise.
One of the most amazing things about the trip to the nursing home on Sunday was a response a youth gave to his mother. "Did you have a good time?" He responded, "No Mom, I had a GREAT time."
Why was this the case? I know he didn't smoke any cigars before our trip; I always check. Did he eat some Frosted Flakes before he came? I cannot confirm that he didn't, but it is highly unlikely.
The most logical explanation is that his parents take him with them whenever they are doing ministry. And why do they do this? Well there are probably a plethora of reasons, but I will give you one that I know to be true. Her mom always taught her, and I'm sure brought her, to be with and care for the sick and elderly. And I think that's one reason why they have such a heart for people in nursing homes and hospitals. It has been instilled in them from a very young age.
I watch a fishing show that airs early Saturday mornings. Its really pretty bad; they don't do a whole lot better than I feel I would do. But pickings are slim these days. Regardless, they always close with this line, "Do yourself a favor and take a kid fishing." I think that is sound advice. But taking one with you to do ministry will have a much longer lasting and more beneficial effect.
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
I have to admit that I love this time of year. I love pretty much everything about Xmas, with the exception of fruitcake, eggnog, and trying to figure out that last Xmas gift.
Perhaps my favorite part is listening or singing Xmas songs. I like pretty much all the carols/hymns-with the exception of "Lo' How a Rose Er' Blooming-and several other non traditional songs by The Chieftans and Amy Grant.
But to say I like Xmas songs is almost like saying I like dogs. I like many dogs. But some dogs I don't care for (I'll not put the names down in case you have one on the most hated list). Same with Xmas songs.
But one Xmas song I hate is "Jingle Bell Rock." That would be my least favorite. Dumb tune, dumb lyrics, dumb idea. But I would like to hear from you. What are your least favorite Xmas songs or song? Please feel free to post anonymously; most do anyway. I'd like to hear some other opinions, so I'll lend you my proverbial ear.
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
Down here its a little different. We actually had two new faces to join us in jubilant song. We don't do this to make ourselves feel good (even though there is great joy as we sing of Christ in a place which needs to hear him sung), but because God does care about the fatherless/widows/the oppressed (Psalm 68). So we read that verse right before we began practicing the songs.
This year we tried to have a little more interaction than in previous years. We started in the dining hall with several numbers and then did a little "M & M" (Meeting and Mingling). It was a beautiful site to see our youth go out in teams of two's and three's (don't worry they weren't wearing white shirts, black ties, black paints, backpacks, and elder name tags) and talk with these folks. To a man/woman, the residents were INCREDIBLY thankful we were there.
Afterwards we traveled upstairs and downstairs caroling through the hallway. We would stop after several songs and do some more "M & M." Once again it was a beautiful site to see youth care for those who have no one.
Amy and I, and a few of the little one's (that's why I call the Jr. High's) went in to a room with lovely lady who had lost her husband and was really struggling. She said that hearing us sing and having us come in and pray with her (our 7th grader offered the prayer-I was stoked about that!) blessed her greatly. Afterwards, since the rest of the group had already moved on, we offered her a special guest performance. It sounded terrible in real time, but in the ears of this lady, it was beautiful.
She claimed that it made her day to know that she was not forgotten. That someone did care. And someone does. Christ our God does care for widows/orphans/oppressed. And that is why caroling at nursing homes will always be a part of our Xmas festivities. When we have kids of our own, we'll do it again. But until then, I'll be taking others kids.
I would highly encourage you to grab a small group and go caroling at a nursing home near you. If you can't sing (meaning you can't get enough folks-they think anything sounds good!), just go and talk. The activities director will be glad to 'squeeze you in.' And like Cheers, "They're always glad you came."