Monday, December 07, 2009

I’m really not a Scrooge, I like Christmas! I like the warm feelings I get as the day gets closer. I love the feels that surround the Christmas Eve service as people come bundled up knowing that tomorrow is the “big day”. I like that we pause in the hustle and bustle and take time to come together as a church and remember the birth of our Savior. It is the calm before the storm and it is one of my favorite traditions.

We blend Santa into our traditions and I love it for the kids. Watching them put out goodies for Santa will always reveal who knows who the real Santa is and usually includes some sort of bribery with the items selected for the plate. Santa brings the stockings at our house and it’s the only time the kids get to rip open their gifts all at once. When it comes to the gift giving, that happens later in the day and it is done one at a time. We all watch one person open their gift and get to see their reaction to the surprise. It’s a lot of fun.

This year I think I’m going to try to add in a new tradition; the making of a Jesus cake. It is a German tradition (my blood line) that goes back many hundreds of years. It consists of:
1. White cake to symbolize Jesus’ purity
2. Red frosting to symbolize his shed blood for us
3. The rising of the cake represents the resurrection
4. The single candle represents Jesus as the light that would never be extinguished
5. The sweet taste is to remind us of the wonderful life that awaits those that have received him.
6. The treats (coins and metal toys) that are dropped into the batter symbolize our need to seek Jesus and the gift he has for us.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Why do we celebrate? When I look at the traditions of Christmas, that we as Christians hold near and dear to our hearts, I wonder if it matters what we are celebrating. I mean what does eggnog, trees, stockings, house lights and going into debt have to do with celebrating the birth of Jesus? The focus on loving people and being with family seem to be the current spirit of Christmas and hope for the season. If this is true, why do Christians knock all the other religions that celebrate the holiday under their names (Hanukkah, Rohatsu, Ramadan, Kwanzaa, and Yule) when they are celebrating the same things us Christians are. Love, family and good will.

Christmas is gone. It is no longer a religious holiday, we have given it up for something else. What we do at Christmas is good, but so are the things “non-Christians” do during the same time. Christmas was started by the Church in about the 4th century to combat the pagan celebration of the winter solstice. The church designed many holidays to give spiritual meaning to these pagan celebrations in an attempt to convert them to Christianity. It looks like the church gave up on Christmas years ago and it has returned to its original state…a pagan celebration.

I say let it go and let’s celebrate the birth of Jesus in July, the month he was actually born in. I’d be curious if we would do all the same fanfare for that date as we do the current one. I wonder…

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

I had decided that back in June of this year, I wouldn’t post to this blog as long as I’m posting to the Read through the Bible with Hillcrest blog every day but today it changes. I woke up on the wrong side of the bed today. I’m a bit touchy and the people close to me are giving me the space I require on days like this. I’m ticked with the same old ridiculous Christmas schedules and focus. It seems like everyone is unhappy with their business and just wishes they could slow down and spend time with family and other “more important” things. The truth is that none of what they don’t do is important to them. They use their business to justify and excuse their behavior and negligence of what Christmas really is.

Christmas is not about giving gifts. In fact giving gifts does nothing to draw us closer to Christ or remember his birth.

Christmas is not about traditions as most traditions have little to nothing to do with drawing us closer to Jesus or connecting with his birth.

Hold on to your hats for this one because it’s going to gain me negative popularity points and is sacrilegious. Christmas isn’t about family and being together. (now is when you can hear a pin drop).

Seriously, the best way we can come up with to celebrate the birth of Grace is to hold a family reunion. I mean, it’s great and all, but it’s not Christmas. It’s wonderful to hang with friends and be with family, but it’s not Christmas.

Sometimes I wish we could just wash the slate clean and start again but that’s not going to happen. So try in some way to slow down and stop being so busy that you can’t celebrate that Jesus was born. If family is around, have them join you in a happy birthday song or bake a birthday cake. I in no way want to spoil or rain on Christmas Spirit, but I will if it replaces the reason for Christmas in the first place.

So put that in your pipe St Nick and smoke that one!

Thursday, May 07, 2009

What happens when someone gives? I believe the heart of God can only be fully tapped into when someone gives. It is through the gift of time and significant resources that we "get" what sacrifice is and see what salvation looks like. Giving sacrificially is done by so few and it's seems to be becoming more scarce. Our culture of spending and material necessities squelch our God created desire to give. As a culture, we give when disaster hits, but a few weeks later we go right back to hording. I truly believe that if followers of Christ would take the risk and start giving, they would discover a side of faith that they never knew was there, a side that cannot be discovered without great sacrifice; because when you do give, you do receive and it's a gift that breathes life into your soul.

This last week my church, Hillcrest, did something to prime the pump. They gave out envelopes with $500 cash inside each one. As people are giving it away, they are seeing the joy of giving and seeing the need to continue the practice. Some may not get it, but some are and I believe that once you prime the pump, the life giving water should continue to flow. I'm excited to see what happens, not only with the $500, but what happens in the lives of people after.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

It’s my birthday today…39 years old…one year away from the strange 40 and not knowing exactly how to feel. My life is about as demanding as it has ever been. I know this pace is not good and I know that I need to set better boundaries of priority and definitions of success. What did I do with the past 39 years? Am I where God planned for me to be? Has my resistance and disobedience to God’s plan put me way off track? What legacy am I leaving to my kids? What kinds of things must I do to be the husband my wife deserves? Have I grown as a pastor? Do the people I shepherd feel loved and does God’s love flow through me? 39 has brought more questions than answers. I have reached the tipping point and realize I’m no longer looking forward to getting older as I just might have more years behind me than I have in front. The time to “get it right” is shrinking and there’s no time to goof off and say, “Some day I’ll get serious.” My kids are growing up; I’ll have a real teenager in a couple of months.

I do have comfort in the eternal God that loves me. He knows my mistakes and departures from his plan but in all of that he still loves me and still gives me opportunities to do that plan today. I may not be able to go back and restart or do over, but I do have today. I can make a choice to be a great dad today. I can love my wife sacrificially today. I can preach like each week is my last sermon each Sunday starting now. I can love others the way God loves me, right now. For God knows the plans he has for me.

I will embrace 39. 39 years of learning what I should not do. 39 years of missing the mark. 39 years of not being serious about my humanity and taking for granted that I have an infinite number of years ahead. 39 will be my year to realize that I may not have the years I thought. I will choose today to be happy and not wait for this to pass or for that event to resolve before I will step into contentment. I chose today. I am 39 and I will embrace the year.

Thank you God for my family, a great wife, real friends and a loving church. You have given me so much. Help me live to my full potential in you! Thanks for 39!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

What will solve the financial issues facing America (and the world)? It seems that overspending, spending more than what we have (debt), got us into this situation. Some people bought more house than they could afford. Some people have increased unsecured credit through over spending on credit cards and buying too much stuff on credit that they really can’t afford. Very few people have any reserves because their debt to income ratio is off the charts and leaves nothing left over. So why are we buying the belief that spending more is the fix?

I suspect that our financial situation will continue unless we change us. It’s time to stop spending like there are no repercussions, like we will never have to pay it back. I know that portions of industry will collapse if we do not continue to purchase at the rate we have been, but that’s just the point. We have to stop and allow our economy to reset. It will be painful, but to continue on the plan of “keep spending” when most families economic foundations look like a house of cards will only prolong and intensify the inevitable.

It’s time to stop spending and let the companies fail that need to fail. It’s time for us to stop buying and become content. It’s time to value financial security instead of financial insanity. It’s time to pay a person who acts and a person who plays a game for a living an appropriate wage. It’s time for all of us to knock ourselves down a notch or two and live within our means. It’s time for us to set an example that our government so desperately needs to follow.