Tag Archives: Christmas

Joyful > Seriousness

To those who read my blog, I thank you. And you personally know the wonderful nuggets of wisdom, deep theological truths, and powerful practical insights that are posted with every – single – post. (Typed in jest, some days I look back and scratch my head as to what was I thinking, lol.) But this week, something became evident.

People are starving for joy, gleefulness, light hearted humor and positive posturing.

Oh, we may not be able to turn away from viewing the mayhem and madness and our attention may be drawn to the wreckage and disaster; but I really believe we want the good news, we need the good news, we are starving for the good news. Maybe that’s why SGN: Some Good News with John Krasinski was such a big hit.

So this week, I posted a pic online. And it got multiple shares, quite a conversation in the response section, and an overall tremendous and positive reception. To be fair, I ripped it from someone who I am sure did not create himself either.

Maybe that’s why Christmas is such a positive time … it’s good news. In the middle of our normal life of doldrums, madness, or winter blues, we get good news.

Can you imagine Joseph’s life here? You’re engaged to a beautiful woman. You’re planning a life together, building a house to grow a family, and filled with the anticipation of what the future beholds … and all that comes crashing down.

But bad news came … She gets pregnant, and it’s not yours. She tries to explain with a unimaginable story … right, like that ain’t gonna change your mind to what you think happened. Your future is destroyed. Your dreams lay in a shattered pile before you that just reminds you of the betrayal, pain, and heartache. You plan to be kind, so you are going to break it off gently and privately. You just want the hurt and the pain to go away – to make the madness end.

And then, a dream, a vision … an angelic message that what she shared with you is real, is true, is a God-thing. You still have to adjust, have to change your plans forever.

But can you imagine how the good news was received by Joseph. No longer dwelling on the wreckage but the positive. A joy and satisfaction that overwrites the hurt and sadness.

The tough part for Joseph was figuring out how to tell others so they would understand. Who would believe him anyway? In spite of it all, he now had Mary to share that joy with. For the joy she knew from what God was doing and going to do through the child within her was now shared with the one closest to here … Joseph.

Don’t focus on the madness, but focus on the Messiah. Look past the Coronavirus and see the Christ.

Good news and sharing the joy of the good news with friends and family – what a great part of Christmas. This Christmas, be joyful to share with family your time, your love, and God’s great hope through Jesus. And as serious as that is, it’s also great joy.

Joy to the world, the Lord has come.

It’s the Most Loneliest Time of the Year, but Only for a While

For many, this is a time of joy, celebration and exaltation. For others, it’s a reminder of how lonely they are.

My mother called yesterday. I call her regularly, but she reached out this time. And through the normal chitchat and catch up, she was obviously in a deep struggle with loneliness and depression. Tears were muffled as she expressed her emptiness from the loss of her husband a while back, and her first husband (my father) decades ago. She talked of those in her retirement home that were sick and how she continues to be isolated and almost forced to shelter in her room 24 hours a day. She is not an isolated case. Thousands upon thousands remain in this type of forced quarantine.

She does have her phone, and she uses it. But there are many who don’t have family to call, don’t have friends to connect with, don’t have a support group to talk to as they trek through this journey.

I know this is a repeated conversation, but it got me to thinking of one young girl 2000 years ago who also was isolated.

Pregnant outside of marriage – a cultural taboo that could’ve cost her her life – but this pregnancy wasn’t her doing. Her fiancée almost dumped her, and would’ve had God not intervened. Her family sent her away to be with someone. Her being “with child” placed her into a type of social quarantine.

And when her betrothed and her had to travel, they did it alone to a tiny village. And upon arrival, they couldn’t even find a room to stay in … and this was in a culture that emphasized hospitality.

Isolated in a stable, or maybe even a grotto (cave) for animals, she gave birth. Accompanied only by her now husband, she brought forth a child.

Another reason for her isolation was knowing how special this child was and not really being able to share it. Divinely conceived with a destiny beyond what she could even comprehend … this young girl truly carried a great emotional and spiritual weight upon her.

And then there were shepherds, also people who live in a type of isolation. That is unless you count the hundreds of wooly, four-legged creatures. Working the graveyard shift away from town and away from social interaction. Not an easy life.

But this young girl, and these scruffy sheep herders, had their isolated little lives interrupted by the supernatural event of the Creator of, well of everything. The Lord God Almighty emerged into human form in the form of a tiny baby, the Christ child.

No isolation, no quarantine, no social outcasting can stop the joy of knowing Jesus. I know we were created as relational beings, needing companionship, but that should never take away from finding the hope, peace, joy and love of knowing Jesus.

So this Christmas, take some time to reach out to someone that just might need a virtual hug. Give a call, send a card, let them know they are not alone.

And this Christmas, I hope you know the real reason for joy … His name is Jesus.

Post Script

Here is a cool activity down at an Ohio nursing home. Idea brought laughter all across our nation.

See the video here.

The Lights of Peace

The Messiah is called “Prince of Peace!” The angels cried out, “Peace on Earth!” Really? Look around. It doesn’t really look like peace. Forget the lack of harmony between people, which keeps escalating, look at nature … hurricanes, natural disasters, fires, pandemics, and so on.

So “Peace on Earth” seems to be a stretch. Or does it?

There is a word – Shalom. Shalom is a peace that is not an absence of chaos, not a silence with no distractions nor a lack of confusion. It is an entrenched sense of harmony, health, and wholeness in the midst of chaos. It’s even said that true Shalom is best detected with a backdrop of commotion and confusion.

Shalom remains steadfast when instability abounds. Shalom keeps its confidence when disappointment and confusion are near.

Shalom is not scheduled with an event. It is not found in circumstances. It can’t be bought with the largest of resources. And it can’t be earned. It’s not deliverable by Amazon, brought down a chimney on the 25th, or placed under a tree.

Peace is found in a person. It is written, “… for He himself is our peace.”

As we celebrate this season, we look back and rejoice the very presence of the Son of God coming and dwelling among us. The personification of peace coming to bring peace with God and the peace of God.

I also realize there is a longing for the completion, the fullness of the Shalom that happens when all things are made new. In Revelations 21, we see a glimpse of eternity … a Shalom, a peace, brought about by the Prince of Peace. The full completion of His work.

Here are five ways we see that Shalom in its fruition …

Presence – Jesus dwells amongst his people. Compassionate – He comforts and wipes away every tear. Comprehensive – ALL things new. Gracious – He doesn’t charge or make us earn His peace. Overcomer – all our conflict, all our battles are now over. He has provided victory.

And that’s real Peace, real Shalom … and it comes form one place. The person Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, the Son of God, the reason for the season.

I hope you know that peace, that you know Him this Christmas.

Searching for the Tree

Christmas Trees … expressions of personality, delights to children, reminders of Christmas joy, and targets for cats to stealthily bring down when no one is around.

Trees have made the news this season. The Rockefeller tree through all its transition is the biggest. Then there is the shopper who found a koala bear in the tree they brought home. And here in heartland Virginia, tree farms are selling out quickly.

For years as an apartment dweller, the use of real Christmas trees was prohibited. I could use small potted evergreens, but no cut tree was allowed. Now that I am no longer in an apartment, I desire to have real trees that shed, die, and need to be discarded before the new year rolls in. I love the smell, the ambiance, the feeling of accomplishment as I search for the right tree.

But alas, my local tree farm is not selling this year. They are letting the trees grow for another year. So I opened Yelp and looked for another local tree farm. I found an open farm, decent ratings (though dated 2018-19), and not too far away. I drove the 40 miles and my endeavors were to naught. They had trees, but the trees that remained left much to be desired. The needles were browning, the foliage was bare, you could see all their limbs, and they probably would not last more than a week or so.

So I turned around and headed home … empty truck.

I’ll still search. Who knows, maybe I’ll go creative. I’ve had trees made from crates. I’ve seen trees made from book stacks. Or maybe go with a twig tree … one with no needles to fall off. Options abound. Who knew that a search for a tree could be so vexing.

In the mean time, I will prepare. I’ve laid out my ornaments … all Peanuts/Charlie Brown theme. Characters from the mind is Charles Schulz lay on a table … organized and ready for the once a year escape from their storage bins. And this year, a surprise for my beloved will adorn whatever tree/plastic/metal contraption ends up in front of the big window. What is that wonderment I have planned? Can’t say. She reads this.

The joy is in the search. The thrill is it all coming together. The sense of fulfillment will be there no matter which way I go. And isn’t that much of life? The journey is the adventure.

So this Christmas, whether in search for a tree or search for that perfect gift … enjoy the journey, enjoy the search, enjoy life.

Over the Hills and Through the Woods

Today I am headed East to see my mother. It’s one of those events many do around the holidays – traveling to see family. And it’s both joyful and daunting.

It’s daunting – for family knows us. Our flaws. Our failures. Our frustrations – things that we call pet peeves. And they know how to push our buttons – and they are not hesitant to push said buttons. My mother will talk of me being out of shape, how the other siblings pay her more attention, and how I should get jeans without holes in the knees.

One of the few pictures of me as a kid – Christmas at Grandparents

But it is joyful too for they are family. I see the love in her eyes and have the heritage of faith her and my father have passed on to me. So I delight in the time I can spend with her. It’s about a 7 hour round trip, so a visit is an all day event. But I am glad we still have her – knowing so many would give so much to just say I Love You again to ones they have lost.

And every time I talk to her, visit, or even think about her – I grieve over the impact age has had – memory loss and more. Her short term memory dystopia has taken an effect. I am grateful her long term memory is mostly intact.

In this holiday season – remember to embrace those friends and family that are around. Make memories. Forget the trivial daunting things and focus on the love and joy of relationships.

Life gets muddy – but family doesn’t care. They will get in the mud with you. That’s family.

Merry Christmas!

Travel Time – Is Getting There Half the Fun?

They say that getting there is half the fun. I’m not sure who “they” are. Maybe it’s the travel industry. I am not sure they can say that anymore. Plane delays, cramped seats, traffic jams, car repairs, and the unknown always taking place.

But it surely isn’t my family’s mantra.

Whenever I did my road trips with my son, he would always fall asleep when I wanted him to drive. I think he was faking. And my wife can’t sleep when I’m driving. I kind of take that personally. She doesn’t ever complain, but the foot through the floorboard, the gasps and the rolling of the eyes shout loudly.

When I was a kid (long before car seat laws), our family took few vacations. And when we did, we traveled in our Crowne Victoria with all four kids piled in the back. Our longest trip was from NoVa (northern Virginia) to Disney World. Getting there was NOT half the fun. Maybe me being the smallest, youngest, and most picked on made this trip not so pleasurable.

However, this was my first (and only) trip I ever took to Disney World. And there was a bit of excitement, anticipation, and deep desire to see the magical kingdom. I remember seeing pirates, going to a haunted house, riding the teacups, and even think I saw Tony Orlando and Dawn. (Yes, that long ago!)

So yes, the trip was magical. I still have my chalk drawn caricature of me.

Can you imagine the trip of the Magi to Israel. The anticipation. The discussions along the way. The selfies taken at the Babylonian departure, the desert dunes, the crossing the Jordan, group picture with Herod, and the star over the shoulder of the three in front of the stable. The memories of the awe when they saw the Christ Child, and the passion when they shared the stories on their return home.

This journey. This adventure. This pilgrimage. It may have been a wonderful experience, but it pales in comparison to seeing the Immanuel.

We are on a journey too. And it may seem exciting or depressing. It may be full of mountain tops and low valleys. It may be magical. Or it may seem to be nothing but a long trip through a desolate wilderness. Whatever your journey is like, we can long for the greater and greatest experience that eternity with God beholds for His children.

I hope Christmas encourages you to seek the Christ, the Son of God, the Light of the World, the Savior of all who call on Him.

The journey may be exciting, but the destination will be greater.

What’s in a Name?

There are things that define us. Actions which we do that speak volumes. Clothes we wear that label us. Looks we give that stick with others. And of course, names we are given that end up staying with us most our lives. (Think ‘Fruit Loops’ given time Howard on TBBT)

And sometimes, these ‘nick names’ are not positive but derogatory in nature. Today however, let’s stay positive.

So, here at Christmas time, I want to mention 4 names given by a prophet who wrote over 700 before Christ came. These four names describe different aspects of Jesus. Think on these. Ponder them. Which one speaks to you where you are today?

Wonderful Counselor …. awesome, great, and wise giver of advise and direction.

Mighty God … powerful, has got your back (and I’m glad He does) God. The God. Not one among many, not the highest of the gods, but The one and only True God, the Living God.

Everlasting Father … eternal, always been, always will be Father who protects and provides.

Prince of Peace … bringer of a peace with God and the peace of God. In our chaos, He calms the storms and provides security.

Four names, four ways to see Christ, four powerful insights. This Christmas, remember whose birth we celebrate and who He really is.

Want to see a little more on these, check out my wife’s entries on these names. Check them out starting here.

As a Seeker, May We Not Settle for Lies

I was a seeker, for light in a dark world. I looked for truth, but settled for lies … such are the opening words from a Gold City’s dramatic tune.

I can remember as a child my mother hiding our Christmas gifts. Tops of closets, in the blanket chests, trunks of cars. For if she put them under the tree early, we would have surely shook, toggled, weighed, and tried to guess what wonder was within.

One year she put a lot of them under the tree early. But instead of putting our names on each box, she put codes on the gifts. So as we explored the gift options before the official day, we had to try to guess which was ours. The only problem was that on Christmas Day, she lost her sheet that told which gift belong to whom. So we randomly opened gifts one at a time. I still remember the trauma of opening my sister’s gifts … I looked for truth, but settled for lies.

In so many ways, this search could describe so many of us. We seek something. We are trying find meaning, purpose, anything that makes sense of all of … life. And on our journey, we get distracted and we settle for less then the fullness of truth. We find something that makes us feel good, so we stop looking.

And way too often, we leave God out of the equation and try to stay in control of it all.

The next line of the song says … I had been blinded, I couldn’t see. ‘Till the star in Bethlehem’s sky, opened my eyes.

The Magi were seekers of truth. Looking to the stars, wise men of old, and wisdom of many. But it was the star in the sky that led them to the real truth. And they didn’t let up until they found him. Yes, I said him … for the truth they sought has a name.

We can be like the Magi, or we can be like Herod. They recognized the greatness of the event, but Herod thought he could control the outcome, control destiny, and squash the truth. His lie caused the slaughter of so many young baby boys. He had been blinded, and the there was eternal repercussions.

I love Christmas. The lights, the music, the food, the decorations … the gifts. But if that is all I get out of Christmas, I am settling for lies. There is nothing wrong with these things, they just aren’t the real reason of a Christmas. And I don’t want to settle. I want the truth, the whole truth, the fullness of all He has for each one of us. And He brings purpose, a reason to live.

When the star in Bethlehem’s sky, opened my eyes. I have seen the Light, shining in the darkness. Bursting through the shadows, delivering the dawn. I have seen Light, His holy name is Jesus. His kingdom is forever. He reigns on heaven’s throne.

That my friend is the Christmas I seek to experience. The truth’s name is Jesus. May you find Him too.

Merry Christmas.

Die Hard … is … Home Alone, for Adults

My son called yesterday. Something he normally does on his drive home when he is bored and has no one else to call. We call this action ‘pulling a Tuck.’ An inside joke. So he called me and said he was headed home where his newlywed wife had gotten home and made some chili. So an evening relaxing with warm food and a Christmas movie. And that’s when the argument started.

He recommended Die Hard. Which she said was not a Christmas movie. This should’ve been discussed before they exchanged vows. Great writers from reputable magazines such as Cracked and Mad Magazine have dealt with this.

Let’s put this argument to rest. Die Hard is a Christmas movie. Maybe in the top ten of all time. For the naysayers, I say you need to be impeached. Let me call my witnesses, specifically my fact witnesses (aren’t all witnesses to be fact witnesses, otherwise wouldn’t they be falsehood witnesses? Let’s move on). Let me call my witnesses … only one. I call Home Alone.

No one would argue that Home Alone isn’t a Christmas movie. And the connection between the two undisputedly prove that both are Christmas movies.

  • Both have quick witted main characters, and they both are from Irish families.
  • Both have family issues
  • The villains show up on Christmas Eve
  • They both have 911 operators that just don’t get it
  • Both like classic movies
  • They both fight guerrilla warfare against the bad guys
  • They both get help from friendships made in the movie
  • They both have sequels that take them back to NYC
  • Both have Christmas music playing during the movie

Now I will pound my gavel and cut off your input.

In the end, I think this fun exercise is just a way to put a smile on our face and enjoy differences in people’s point of view. In the end, it really doesn’t matter. But what I hope does happen is my son and new daughter-in-law have a first Christmas together that is joyous, memory making, and only gets better every year.

Merry yippee-ki-yay Christmas

There Was No Water In The House

my dilemma …

Yesterday, we woke up to the surprise of no water. A few trickles came out of a spigot or two, but those eventually dried up. Had the pipes frozen? Was the well dry? Maybe the pump broke. I walked to the church, and it too was impacted. The two buildings are on the same system.

No hot shower to start the day. I would’ve settled for a cold one. Fortunately we had bottled water for coffee and brushing teeth. And there is a whole pallet of water in the shed left over from Autumn and Railroad Fests.

So, I checked breakers. I looked for leaks. I extinguished the resources in front of me … and then reached out to a professional. By mid-morning, he was on site with the proper equipment, ample assistance, and an abundance of knowledge.

Eventually, they discovered a pipe to an outside hydrant had broken. They dug it up, repaired the break … and walaa … I have water.

our dilemma …

Maybe you can relate to this next part. There have been days I’ve woken up with a dried up soul. I listen to music. Try to fix the situation myself. Try to bypass the problem. Or even look for temporary fixes (like bottled water mentioned above), or take part of an action that distracts me.

And when I extinguish all my resources, I only then turn to the professional … who in this case is the only person who can actually take care of a weary soul, a wounded heart, or a troubled life.

The joy of the Lord is my strength.

And there is no greater time to remember this then Christmas. Joy to the world, the Lord has come. Let earth receive her King.

Recently I came across a great song that challenges me to praise Him no matter when, Even Now …

You say come, ye weary, come and find your rest
In the arms of Mercy, in the One who knows you best
You are good, You are good, let my heart remember this
Even now, You keep Your promise, even now
Your heart is kindness
In the dark, I shall not fear
For You are on my side in battle, God my Strength
My Shield forever
Where my hope is found, I will praise You even now
You say, come, ye broken, bring your burdens here
There’s a healing fountain that is flowing deep and clear
You are good, You are good, my deliverance is near
And in the pain, I will sing, every tear an offering
To my God, to my King, who’s redeeming everything
Even now, You keep Your promise, even now
Your heart is kindness
In the dark, I shall not fear
For You are on my side in battle, God my Strength
My Shield forever
Where my hope is found, on this broken holy ground
I will praise You even now

God, thank you that you are the Loving Water, a well that never runs dry. And that refreshes my soul. Today, tomorrow, always. Even now.

Merry Christmas and be refreshed by the Living Water.

See the artist perform this song here