The Quiet of Christmas

A moment of anticipation, Christmas 2009.

A moment of anticipation, Christmas 2009.

I woke early this morning, memories of past Christmas mornings causing me to expect to hear the sound of our sons talking in low whispers as they pick through their Christmas stockings. Instead I hear the silence that comes with the gentle rise and fall of my wife sleeping, and not a peep from the living room that sits beyond the closed bedroom door.

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The Day After Your Answer Dies

So here I sit on the day before Easter, thinking about what the disciples were doing on THATjesusonthecross-2925 Saturday some 2,000 years ago.  I know there is an historical argument for what day of the week Jesus was actually crucified on – but that’s not the subject or point of this post.  I’m simply putting myself in the place of that group of men (and women) and wondering what they were thinking.

The Gospels don’t give us much detail about what took place on that day.  We do know historically it was the day of preparation between Israel’s weekly Sabbath and the annual Sabbath that took place during Passover.  What does that tell us… it means there were normal things  they needed to do in the midst of their questions and grief.  It also tells me during those times we wonder where God is or what He is up to – yes, even in the darkest of hours – life still goes on.

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‘Til He Appeared and the Soul Felt It’s Worth

Christas Tree 2012Christmas is my favorite time of the year.  Yes, I know it is for many (or at least we say that) – but for me it really is.  But even with all of the anticipation, I’m still a purist and want to wait for the season to arrive for things like not playing actual Christmas music or wanting to see Christmas commercials on TV until after the end of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  And yes, it bugs me that the big stores put their Christmas stuff out before Halloween these days, when you used to wonder why you’d see it just before Thanksgiving!  But this year I’ll have to admit that I was ready very early for the joy that comes with Christmas – and I broke a few of my rules when it came to those traditions.  I’m chalking it up on such a long political season that just put such a damper on the country, added to working a ton of overtime to make things work.  Whatever the reason, I was eager to experience that Christmas “magic” earlier than normal.

Even with my strictness about most things surrounding Christmas, one thing you’ll hear from me throughout the year is Christmas carols!  Well, not me SINGING them, but WHISTLING them.  There is just something fun about whistling a Christmas carol!  I don’t know if its the variations in tempo or all the note changes, I’ve just always loved to whistle them and you’ll hear songs like Jingle Bells or Deck the Halls from me as much in the month of June as in December.  But again, this year has been a different one… and it’s not just a tune to whistle that has gripped me – but a single phrase from the song O Holy Night that keeps ringing over and over not just in my head, but deep within my spirit.

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New life on the 3rd day…

Yesterday son # 3 celebrated his 18th birthday.  An incredible milestone in any young man’s life, but for our family it was another beautiful reminder of the grace and mercy of God.  You see, he drowned in a pool when he was 3 and shouldn’t be here today.

It was a Sunday evening and we were at a friend’s house having dinner.  We had dinner out on the patio by the pool, and after dinner the boys all went for a swim.  Josiah had enough of the pool and we had changed him into some warm clothes and he was lying in a hammock some distance from the pool.  I went in to help fix a computer issue, and my wife was clearing dishes while our two older sons (elementary age at the time) were in the shallow end playing with our friend’s teenage son.

In the few minutes that the dishes were being brought in, Josiah saw a ball in the deep end that he wanted.  He climbed out of the hammock and went reaching for that ball, and fell in.  The boys in the shallow end were splashing around and didn’t see or hear him fall in.  Tracy came back out carrying our youngest, just 8 months old at the time.  Josiah wasn’t in the hammock.  She asked the older boys where he was, they didn’t know.  She started calling his name and looking for him, and that’s when she noticed what looked like a towel at the bottom of the pool.  She told the teen boy to dive down and check that out.  Seconds later he surfaced with Josiah’s lifeless body.

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Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink!

Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.
– from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
 
The words of this poem ran through my mind this morning as I looked out our back windows at the Bay.  All you can see is the sun glistening off all of this water – people in boats fishing, sea birds diving for fish and sunning themselves on the docks, the bobbing of crab trap markers.  But the water out there isn’t the problem – its the lack of water in here that is! 
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Glimpses of the Cross

My wife and I pastored our own church for 6 years.  It was a wonderful experience, full of many unforgettable memories – many of which surrounded holidays or special services we held.  One of my favorite times was an Easter service we did one year at the local movie theater.  I didn’t like just doing the “normal” things churches do for holidays and wanted to reach out to people who might never come to the church itself, not even at Easter.  This was when the movie “The Passion” had just come out, so we rented the largest theater at our local AMC Theater and on Easter Sunday morning opened it up for free to whomever wanted to come. Our worship team brought all their instruments and we sang before the movie started. After the movie I summed up the Gospel message and invited people to respond.  Many lives were touched that morning, and I’m so glad we decided to step out of the norm.

One of the simpler things we did for Easter which became something our church really loved, is what I am about to share with you.  We didn’t have the congregation size, building, or finances to put on some elaborate production… so I pulled together a telling of the Easter story from Peter’s perspective, using readings from Max Lucado and Dawson McAllister along with a mixture of video clips and live songs our worship team sung.  It was simple, but powerful… and it had just as strong an impact as seeing “The Passion” did on the big screen.  I’ve updated it a bit since then.  Enjoy. Continue reading

Seeing God in “The Hunger Games”

I think that the first I’d heard of The Hunger Games was in a FaceBook conversation between a high school teacher I know and some of her students.  I love to read and have a heart for teens, so when I heard an outline of the story I knew I had to read it for myself.  Of course, then I found out it isn’t just one book but three, and I was thrilled.  There is nothing like a continuing story to wet the appetite of an avid reader.  I remember years ago discovering a paperback book series about the Oregon Trail that numbered into 30 or 40 books… I think I bought the whole set at a used book store in town and I devoured a book every couple of days.  Needless to say, if The Hunger Games story went on beyond the three books, I’d be one happy camper. So, when I found out that the books were being turned into movies as well, I got about as excited as any other fan of the series.

If you’re not familiar with the book, here is the story in a nutshell.  It is written from the perspective of a sixteen-year-old girl named Katniss Everdeen who lives in one of the 13 “districts” in the country of Panem, which is what is left of North America after some future war.  Everything is run by the Capitol, a highly advanced city that seems to hold complete power over the rest of the nation.  The Hunger Games are an annual event in which one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 to 18 are selected through a lottery system from each of the districts  to compete in a televised battle in which only one person can survive.  The citizens of the Capitol find the most perverse pleasure in following what happens to the contestants from the comfort of their over-indulgent lives, and seem to love hearing the Gamekeeper’s creepy mantra, “Happy Hunger Games!  And may the odds ever be in your favor.”  Think of it as “The Truman Show” meets “Survivor” meets “Lord of the Flies” – or the extreme end result of our cultural fascination with reality television.  The story has families ripped apart, sacrifices being made, a disgust for the disconnected masses of the cultural elite, and a love story or two woven in between. Continue reading