Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Best Lip-Sync of the Worst Rendition of O Holy Night

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Jesus Was a Small Town Preacher

The majority of protestant churches are in small towns and rural communities. Many pastors, upon graduation from seminary, find themselves in one of these "ends of the earth" assignments.

Their attitude is "I'm stuck here in this one horse town until I learn the ropes.  Then, I'll move on and do something important."

Today, as Christmas approaches, I'd like to challenge the assumption that small places are insignificant.

Jesus, God in human flesh, came to the earth on a mission from heaven to transform humanity. He looked the whole world over and picked the perfect place to launch his global and eternal enterprise.

Where did he go? What was his strategic missional selection? A small town!

"But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from old, from ancient times." (Micah 5:2)

You won't get any Christmas cards with pictures of Rome, Athens, or Jerusalem on them -- It's the little village of Bethlehem that takes center stage each December.

Of course, if you want to go further -- Jesus also grew up in a small town (Nazareth), spent most of his ministry in Galilean hamlets, and headquartered in rural Capernaum.

He literally changed the world from end of it!

If you have been chosen to serve in a small place, take heart! Be encouraged! You're in excellent company. Jesus was a small town preacher too!

I pray that in days to come, small town and rural churches will rise up, reclaim their heritage, and play a significant role in the coming worldwide revival.

Monday, December 15, 2014

How About Giving?

Santa asks, “What do you want for Christmas?”   Little kids bring their lists while parents eavesdrop.

That’s precious, and I certainly don’t want to detract from the Christmas wonder little ones experience.

But, at the essence, Christmas is not for getting – it’s for giving!

'Tis the season of unselfishness.  'Tis the season to share with those you love. 'Tis the season to be compassionate for those less fortunate.

It’s not about spending money you don’t have on stuff they don’t need.  This year, especially, with financial squeeze we’re feeling – how about simplifying? How about being creative, spending a little less, and giving a little more of yourself? How about shopping locally, so you bless your neighbors by your spending, helping them put food on their tables?

How about giving something homemade? How about giving your time?

How about remembering those in need? Did you know that Americans spent $450 billion on Christmas spent year and that we could provide safe, clean drinking water for every person in the world for $10 billion? What if this Christmas, we were less consumeristic and more compassionate? Consider joining the “Advent Conspiracy” (http://www.adventconspiracy.org/)

How about your neighbors who are suffering? If you have a heart to help, you will find the path to do it.  There are many little children, right here in our own community, who go to bed hungry and don’t have adequate winter clothing. What can you do to make a difference for them?

How about putting something in the kettle, when you pass the Salvation Army bell ringer? Better yet, how about signing up for a stint of bell ringing? How about getting a few friends together and caroling at the home of someone who is sick?

Who knows? In the end, you might just say, “It was my best Christmas ever!”

Friday, December 12, 2014

ABC's of Gratitude

Alphabet Soup For the Soul

A lthough things are not perfect

B ecause of trial or pain

C ontinue in thanksgiving

D o not begin to blame

E ven when the times are hard

F ierce winds are bound to blow

G od is forever able

H old on to what you know

I magine life without His love

J oy would cease to be

K eep thanking Him for all the things

L ove imparts to thee

M ove out of "Camp Complaining"

N o weapon that is known

O n earth can yield the power

P raise can do alone

Q uit looking at the future

R edeem the time at hand

S tart every day with worship

T o "thank" is a command

U ntil we see Him coming

V ictorious in the sky

W e'll run the race with gratitude

X alting God most high

Y es, there'll be good times and yes some will be bad, but...

Z ion waits in glory...where none are ever sad!

(Special thanks to my sister-in-law, Sandy, who sent this to me.  I do not know the author.)

Your Thorns Have Roses Too

Happiness is a decision -- a choice.

If you wait for "happenings" to make you happy -- you'll be waiting
most of the time.

Life isn't easy. It brings a measure of pain, as well as joy. The thorns come with the roses.

There's no such thing as a thornless life.

John Calvin said, "We must develop a better and deeper concept of happiness than that held by the world, which makes a happy life consist of ease, honor, and great wealth."

Now, it's a wonderful thing when somebody pushes the "easy button" for us. When plans go better than anticipated, we all rejoice.

It always feels good to be appreciated and honored. We are all glad to be recognized for "extra mile" effort.

Having extra money is always nice. "Money doesn't buy happiness, but it sure comes in handy!"

Nevertheless, if we must depend on ease, honor and wealth to make us happy, we are doomed to misery

When we chase happiness by these avenues, we'll never find it. It's like trying to catch a butterfly with your hands.

When we seek the Higher Truth, rather than these lesser desires, we find what we've been wanting all along!

Follow the God-path, and the joy will follow.

"Seek first, the Kingdom of God and all these things shall be added unto you." Matthew 6:33

Your roses may have thorns, but don't forget -- your thorns may have some roses too!

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Are You Running on Positive Juice?

What kind of juice do you have in your tank?

Lawnmowers and cars run on gasoline.
Chainsaws and weed eaters run on a gas/oil mixture.
Sailboats and kites run with the wind.
Campfires run on wood -- And you run on one of two kinds of energy:
positive or negative (or, more likely, a mixture of both.)

What's the difference between running on positive vs. negative juice?

1. Negative juice is the "default" mode. If you don't deliberately choose the positive path, you'll end up operating in the negative. We are grumpy by nature -- and cheerful by choice. Nobody is positive by accident -- It requires a strong commitment and a new way of thinking.

2. Running on negative juice is easier at first -- but much harder in the long run. Since it is the default mode, you don't have to work at becoming negative -- it just happens naturally! No extra effort is required. However, those who operate with negative energy find that life is much more difficult. Positive energy takes more effort up front -- and less effort all the rest of the way. Guaranteed -- a negative life is harder than a positive life.

3. Positive juice continually refills its own tank. In other words -- this energy creates more energy. Negative juice, on the other hand, is always draining. The tank is continually empty. When you're running in the negative, you will find yourself always tired, burdened and depleted.

4. The biggest difference between positive and negative juice people is the way they think:

Positive juice people think about solutions rather than problems.
They think about their blessings rather than their rights.
They focus on serving others rather than themselves.
They are givers rather than takers.
They talk about what can be done, rather than what can't be accomplished.
They realize that happiness is a choice rather than a reaction.
They are directed by principles rather than situations.
They find the good rather than the faults.
They are encouragers rather than discouragers.

Nobody wants to be a negative person -- but many end up that way, because they have not determined to change the course.

Your canoe will not go upstream unless you're willing to paddle!

Here are a few suggestions to help you paddle upstream and fill your emotional tank with positive energy:

1. Intend to be a positive person. Your life will never rise above the level of your intentions. Generally speaking, you become what you intend to be.

2. Surround yourself with positive people. Who is the most positive person you know? See if you can spend some time with that person.  Positive people lift and encourage us to be our best.

3. Spend time in prayer and meditation every day. Connecting with God puts everything else in perspective.

4. Read the Bible as well as other inspiring books. Biographies of great people instill hope and inner strength.

5. Listen to "soul filling" music. What type of music fills your soul?  How can you build this into your life?

6. Capture your negative thoughts. When these emotional terrorists attack, you need to capture them and hold them as prisoners of war.  You can replace old mullings with new, inspiring ideas. The Bible  instructs us to  "take every thought captive."

7. Find a 'replenishing" place. Certain places help us to order our hearts. It is good to discover beautiful, inspiring places where we can be refilled.You can become a positive inspiring person if you make the commitment and the effort. Your family and friends will certainly be delighted if you do!

Monday, December 01, 2014

Are You Ready for Christmas?

December is here -- bringing the dreaded question everybody hates: "Are you ready for Christmas?"

Whenever that question is asked, the response is always a groan -- "Are you kidding? Don't remind me!"

The assumption here is that "Are you ready for Christmas?" means "Are your decorations all up, your cookies all baked, and your gifts all purchased? Are you finished with all of your Christmas preparations?"

Of course, the answer to that question will most likely be a resounding "NO!" (Unless you are one of those rare breeds who plans way ahead and finishes your Christmas shopping sometime around
Halloween. Many of us are "adrenaline" shoppers. We wait until the last minute, and then scurry off in a shopping frenzy.

I wonder what would happen if we moved being ready for Christmas from the "finished" side of the holidays, to the "beginning". Instead of thinking we have to be done with everything before we're ready, can't we "get ready" ahead of time? If we wait until all the tasks are finished before we are ready for Christmas, we miss out on the beauty of the season. A properly prepared heart changes the way a person experiences the days between Thanksgiving and the New Year.

One early December day, I was on a solitude seeking drive, and happened upon a monastery. If there's solitude anywhere, a monastery tops the list! As I entered the building, I noticed brown-robed monks chanting around, along with a white haired lady who was obviously a visitor.

"What are you doing in a monastery?", I asked.

"I'm getting ready for Christmas," she replied. Looking around, I didn't see any gift wrap or cook books.

"How are you getting ready for Christmas here?"

"I'm reading the works of C. S. Lewis." 

"Oh," I mumbled, "I didn't know Lewis wrote Christmas books".

She smiled as she responded, "He didn't!"

Today, as December 25 approaches like a freight train, I'm pondering: What can I do to prepare myself for Christmas? How can I tune my heart so I will fully embrace this sacred season?

Here are a few thoughts:

1. This Christmas, don't over-do it. Think ahead and refuse to overspend, overeat, or overextend yourself.

2. Refuse to succumb to commercialism. Gadgets and gizmos are merely clutter.

3. Practice the art of intentional generosity. (i.e. caroling, ringing the Salvation Army bell, helping others)

4. Renounce all "grinchiness" and willfully embrace the Christmas spirit -- love, joy and peace.

5. Keep Christ first in Christmas.

6. Express love through simple acts of kindness.

I hope the next time somebody asks the banal question, "Are you ready for Christmas?" You can respond with a surprise: "Absolutely! Bring it on, Baby!"