Wednesday, November 25, 2015

what does "Black Friday" mean to you?



 sometimes...simplicity is the greatest gift of all!


With all of the noise about after Thanksgiving sales that are blaring on TV, one would think that "Black Friday" is a holiday within itself. Unfortunately, commercialism has dictated that this must be so. "Spend! Spend! Spend!" In all of this, the true meaning of what it means to be thankful for the little things can be lost. To do so using the spirit of Jesus' birth makes it even more sad.

I think of the episode of "A Charlie Brown Christmas," in which Charlie Brown questions the commercialism of Christmas. It takes an oration from Linus to remind everyone just what Christmas is all about. That Thanksgiving's date this year makes Christmas only three weeks away, that lesson is even more important.

Oh sure, if you need that new appliance or TV, by all means, this is a great time to save money. But if it is just to spend money on frivolous things, maybe think again. Even Jesus had a hard time seeing the solemnity of the Temple being trashed by money changers who turned it into a freak circus side show. We know how that turned out!

Back to the spirit of what these true holidays mean: to be thankful for friends...family, our jobs (such as they can be) and all who make those jobs worthwhile. To be grateful for our health, our homes and our families, again, such as they can be at times! In short, give thanks to God for every little thing! You may not have much, but how much does it take to bring a smile to your face?

When Jesus was born, the world was in turmoil, just as it is today. He did not arrive on a chariot, but rather in the quiet hush of a stinky stable, with only the animals present. His birth was heralded by angels on high NOT to kings, but to lowly shepherds. Jesus came to save us all from our own selves...sinful, sorrowful and hopelessly inept as we are. And all we can do to honor Him now is to buy! buy! buy? I can only think of His sorrow...that in over two thousand years, we still have not learned from history--not at all.

Today...turn down the noise of commercialism. Put away those credit cards and instead, turn on some reflective Christmas music that reminds you of Jesus' arrival as an innocent Babe. Gather your own friends and family and hold them close. You only have today...no amount of buying power will give you anything more than that--just today.

It is my hope that you have a blessed and memorable Thanksgiving. May God be with you and yours...amen!

click on the link below to view Linus' important message for us all!

Linus Explains Christmas

Thursday, November 19, 2015

what does peace sound like?



I first heard the Simon and Garfunkel tune, "Sounds of Silence" back when I was about 11 years old. When I was growing up, there was a lot of uncertainty in my life. A lot. I worried and stressed about so much; my folks moved many times, money was extremely tight and there were not as many social net programs then as there are now to catch one. When you fell...you fell. Yet that song seemed to lift me out of the muck and mire of my thoughts. It's quiet message buoyed me. I remember when I was about 13, climbing a very high hill that was near my house., I had thought that if I could climb as high as possible, that God would hear me better. It was peaceful there. I'd found a source of serenity. I would pray to God....and in time, found solace. I "knew" that I had been heard.

Today's world is becoming more scary by the day. Bombings in Paris, followed by news reports that other certain cities are next, while our country's leaders try to calm the masses so that there is no panic.

Panic, no we do not need to panic, but we do and must be ready. Like the proverbial turtle with it's head inside a shell, to live in denial is just as bad as sounding a constant alarm. Our lives should be like the school fire drills, remember those? Practice until you realize that when the real event occurs, you'll know exactly where to go and what to do.

Life is like that. When your relationship with God is secure, you will know that when the "real event" comes along, you'll know exactly what to do.

Yes, I know all about the events that can broadside us. Those seemingly small things that affect us only, such as loss of a family member or friend, or a job loss, a sudden move...or more. I have heard from many people who say that in those times of darkness, they can't hear God. In order to hear Him, you need to walk with Him daily. He is that life jacket that you wear each and every time you are in that boat. When you spend time with him, you will know exactly what His Voice sounds like. You will have no fear, for His Voice reassures you that this too, shall pass.

"My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me." ~John 10:27

Back in the days of Jesus, He spoke in parables. The people then were very simple folk, all they knew were sheep, vineyards and fish! So Jesus spoke to them in a way they could relate to. This in NO WAY implied that they were stupid, just innocent. Much like a shepherd understands his flock and does all he can to protect them, so God is with us. But in order for us to know and understand that, we must spend time with Him to HEAR Him! How can a voice comfort you if you assume it may be a stranger instead? Think of a child who cries out in the middle of the night? Not recognizing the soothing words of a parent, it may feel fear instead, lashing out in anxiety. When I was young--and anxious, I had learned that to go to God in supplication, that somehow I would be heard. I came to rely on Him as my Source of Solace.

My friends, I know all about the happenings in our sad world today. But if you listen to the constant news media reports, it will only drag you down even more. Listen instead for His Voice, the One who can offer solace. Instead of acting on fear, perform acts of kindness to all you meet. Offer as much unconditional love towards the ones who need that hug, that kind word, that sense of peace that lets them know that they, too have been heard. 

Yes the world IS scary, but in actuality, it has been for a very long time. We must draw together as one, for as sheep also know, there is safety in numbers. Turn to the Voice of the Shepherd. In Him, there lies your peace.
May you have a blessed day.
Amen.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

is peace just a "Christmas card thing?"





I was working with my nephew the other day, homeschooling him in History. As we read about the civilizations of the Middle Ages, I paused and asked him, "do you see how their errors then lead to the downfall of life as they knew it?" He replied that he did. I then asked, "do you see this happening today?" He gave it a moment's thought and said, "we're doomed!"
Wow...he sees it...and he is only (almost) 16!
What a world we are leaving for his generation, eh?

The nightly news is full of shock and awe...but you know, shock and awe has been going on since way back when Cain beat up on and killed his brother, Abel due to jealousy.

Wars are being fought now as they always have been, for greed, for power, for control. Countries that once were peaceful have been torn asunder out of the need for control. Refugees cross the borders into other countries that are already burgeoning under the weight of too many immigrants already...and more fights break out for daily necessities...it is an ongoing pattern.

We see and hear about these things and we do not understand why, why, why...with all of the technology and ability to blow our world up with a single nuclear bomb, why we cannot get along at all.

It seems to be hopeless, this whole "peace on earth" thing, doesn't it? With Christmas rapidly approaching, we once again will pull out Christmas cards with pleasant pictures, whose inscriptions promise us peace on earth which we can have, all due to the birth of a tiny Child.

Do you believe that?
I do.

I place my belief in One who can create miracles out of nothing! Who can heal, who can turn water into wine and feed thousands from a few loaves and fishes! I believe in His strength and promises!

Last week, someone questioned me about that belief. You see, he didn't believe. He posed the statement that if there was "a God," then why is there so much pain, why can't God just make everything all better? Thus he tried to prove his own convictions that what I was saying was just a waste of time.

Despite my explanations, he remained unmoved. I then conceded with the words that Faith needs no explanation, because you either have Faith and believe, and if you don't...no amount of explanation could change that. I bid him well, as I said I also believe in "live and let live." I didn't wish him harm. You just never know...perhaps it wasn't MY mission to convince him....perhaps that would happen on another day in another time...(hopefully time will be on his side).

What we CAN do...you and I, is to create peace where WE go. You want that Christmas card sentiment to come true? What are YOU doing to create peace and happiness? It isn't just writing a check and putting it in an envelope, it's getting in the trenches and being with those who are in need...of friendship...of love...of someone being at their side in a non-judgmental way. Oh sure, I could have gotten into an argument about Jesus with that person...but then that wouldn't prove my point, now would it? We need to foster our beliefs by words AND deeds...by thoughts AND actions!
You've seen the homeless...what is your attitude about them? Do you shake your head and walk away or do you offer assistance, even if it is only a cup of coffee in a warm place? The hungry....how about offering a bag of groceries to the local food shelf? An alcoholic....instead of condemning them, realize that for many of them, each day can be a living hell as they try to function in a life where people won't tolerate their misbehavior. The list is endless and by now, you're exhausted.
Peace on earth....it isn't just a "Christmas card thing." It is a YOU thing...it is a ME thing...it is an EVERY DAY of our life thing!

"Right now, you and I may be subjects of discussion between God and Satan, just as Job was. Or we may be part of conversations between God and righteous angels, or between angels and redeemed people in Heaven. You may lie in a rest home or a hospital or sit alone in your house. But you’re not alone—an unseen universe is watching. You may feel your choices have been reduced to whether you want Jell-O or a window opened or an extra blanket. On the contrary, your choice of whether you will trust God and worship him today reverberates throughout the universe, honoring or dishonoring your God. It also has enormous implications for the eternal rewards God promises us in the next life.

"Like Job, we look around us and see suffering and evil we do not understand. As Job did in the end, Lord, may we see you now as you truly are, as revealed in your Word, and trust you to accomplish your purposes even when life doesn’t make sense to us. Thank you for your sovereign grace in my life, drawing me to yourself even as I grew up in an unbelieving home. I look back now at many difficulties in my life and clearly see your hand. I pray you’ll give everyone reading this the ability to see how you have worked in their lives in the past. Give them the faith to see you at work today and the capacity to fully trust you for their future."
~Randy Alcorn, Ninety Days of God's Goodness: Daily Reflections That Shine Light on Personal Darkness