Monthly Archives: December 2017

We survived Christmas with Brody

IMG_1548Brody was definitely a challenge this Christmas.  Puppy crazies were not the issue.  He took a great interest in all the trimmings and trappings this wonderful holiday presents.  His idea of fun included shredding any wrapping paper within reach, chewing the bottom boughs of the tree and turning gift tag labels into spit wads.  Some of his less harmful antics included wadding  up the tree skirt into a bed (each night) and snagging ornaments from the tote that weren’t on the tree.

We grew wise to his antics and wrapped presents in high places, stowing them in dresser drawers, under the desk, in the basement and in the upper reaches of our closets.  There’s a possibility that not all the presents were distributed on Christmas morning.  Time will tell.

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Brody and Jake enjoyed ripping their stuffed animal presents to shreds and eating dog chews.

From our house to yours we hope you had a blessed Christmas and wish you good health, peace and prosperity in 2018!!

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Table Scraps – “The Christmas List” (2015)

IMG_0542I am posting a series of “table scraps,” highlighting words likely used in family gatherings connected with the holiday season. This week I thought I’d take a satirical look at “the Christmas list.”

We are rapidly moving through the month of December and Christmas morning looms larger on the horizon with each passing day. Your Christmas list, once an inspiring collection of vagueness, is quickly turning into an obsession, dictating how you will use your remaining time before that great day of merriment and gift-giving.

The stakes are high in this season of giving.  Money is an object and it’s in limited supply, so you find yourself scrutinizing everyone connected to you.   With so little time remaining, you’ll need to determine the extent of your list this year.  As part of the process, you can’t forget to take into consideration the gift transactions that occurred last Christmas. No doubt there were individuals who you gave gifts to that did not reciprocate. Likewise, persons who were not on your gift list blindsided you with one.

As if scrutinizing the people on your list wasn’t enough, you must also determine the methodology you plan to use for gift selection, especially for that special someone in your life. Do you get him or her exactly what they asked for? That is certainly the easiest and least stressful approach. Hopefully, you’ll consider wrapping it instead of handing over the gift in the shopping bag it came in. Maybe you’ll go the extra mile to disguise the item first, making it less recognizable before you distribute it. Have you considered this approach:  send the person you are buying for out to buy their own gift?IMG_0260

Perhaps it’s more your style to weigh what a person asks for against a gift you think they’d like better. You can develop a reputation as a poor gift giver in a hurry, if you don’t put a lot of thought into your substitute gift. As a parent I learned that substituting a knock-off copy of the toy being asked for made me appear uncaring and out of touch. You could always give the universal gift, good old American dollars, a viable compromise for many gift-givers.

The most risky giving strategy of them all is to give someone a gift that is completely foreign to them. One that they would never have asked for but introduces them to something they have yet to experience. For this strategy to be successful you must really know the person well; their likes and dislikes, personality, interests, etc. A successful gift using this strategy can result in a lifetime of satisfaction or pleasure, particularly if it involves the start of a new hobby, gives birth to a hidden talent or develops a new or different career path.  Some conjecture that only God could give the perfect gift using this strategy (and they would be more right then they could possibly imagine).

So, once you think you’ve got your Christmas list together and you’re about to do that Santa Claus thing: making a list and checking it twice… there are a couple more things I’d ask you to seriously consider.

Does God appear anywhere on your Christmas list? Certainly, He has done something meaningful on your behalf this year. The birth of his son, Jesus, is “the reason for the season.”   But what kind of gift can you give to God? Will you consider your indebtedness settled by simply throwing money in the offering plate this Christmas?

IMG_0548Have you considered giving God the gift of your time? It’s probably the greatest gift you can give to anyone. When you give the gift of your time you are giving away a piece of yourself. God would love you to spend time with him in prayer, hear you sing a song from your heart or read from the Bible He authored. You can give God your time in other ways,too. You can be God’s ambassador by spending some of your time serving others. God is also looking for messengers who are willing to spend a moment telling others what God has done for them. Perhaps you will be given an opportunity this Christmas season to tell someone, “God loves you.”

Well, there you have it. I hope I’ve given you something to think about as you finish off your Christmas shopping. Will you join me in taking a moment to step away from the commercialism our culture so tightly embraces and reflect on the gift that God has given us.

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23 NIV

Annie and Willie’s Prayer

IMG_0561Twas the eve before Christmas. “Good night,” had been said,
And Annie and Willie had crept into bed;
There were tears on their pillows and tears in their eyes,
And each little bosom was heaving with sighs,
For tonight their stern father’s command had been given
That they should retire precisely at seven
Instead of at eight – for they troubled him more
With questions unheard of than ever before:
He had told them he thought this delusion a sin,
No such creature as “Santa Claus” ever had been.
And he hoped after this, he should never more hear
How he scrembled down chimneys with presents each year.
And this was the reason the two little heads
So restlessly tossed on their soft, downy beds.

Eight, nine, and the clock on the steeple tolled ten,
Not a word has been spoken by either till then,
When Willie’s sad face from the blanket did peep,
And whispered, “Dear Annie, is ‘ou fast as’eep?”
“Why, no, brother Willie,” A sweet voice replies,
“I’ve long tried in vain, but I can’t shut my eyes,
For somehow it makes me so sorry because
Dear papa has said there is no ‘Santa Claus.’
Now we know there is, and it can’t be denied,
For he came every year before mamma died;
But, then, I’ve been thinking that she used to pray,
And God would hear everything mamma would say,
And maybe she asked him to send Santa Claus here
With that sackful of presents he brought every year.”
“Well, why tan’t we p’ay dest as mamma did den,
And ask Dod to send him with p’esents aden?”
Four little bare feet bounded out on the floor,
And four little knees the soft carpet pressed,
And two tiny hands were clasped close to each breast.
“Now, Willie, you know we must firmly believe
That the presents we ask for we’re sure to receive;
You must wait very still till I say the “Amen,”
And by that you will know that your turn has come then.”

“Dear Jesus, look down on my brother and me,
And grant us the favor we are asking of thee.
I want a wax dolly, a teaset, and ring,
And an ebony workbox that shuts with a spring.
Bless papa, dear Jesus, and cause him to see
That Santa Claus loves us as much as does he;
Don’t let him get fretful and angry again
At dear brother Willie and Annie. Amen.”
“Please, Desus, ‘et Santa Taus tum down tonight,
And b’ing us some p’esents before it is light;
I want he should div’ me a nice ‘ittle s’ed,
With bright shinin’ ‘unners, and all painted red;
A box full of tandy, a book, and a toy.
Amen, and then, Desus, I’ll be a dood boy.”

Their prayers being ended, they raised up their heads,
With hearts light and cheerful, again sought their beds.
They were lost soon in slumber, both peaceful and deep,
And with fairies in dreamland were roaming in sleep.

Eight, nine, and the little French clock had struck ten,
Ere the father had thought of his children again:
He seems now to hear Annie’s half-suppressed sighs,
And to see the big tears stand in Willie’s blue eyes.
“I was harsh with my darlings,” he mentally said,
“And should not have sent them so early to bed;
But then I was troubled, my feelings found vent,
For bankstock today has gone down ten percent.
But of course they’ve forgotten their troubles ere this,
And that I denied then their thrice-asked-for kiss:
But, just to make sure, I’ll go up to their door,
For I never spoke harsh to my darlings before.”
So saying, he softly ascended the stairs,img_0849
And arrived at the door to hear both of their prayers;
His Annie’s “Bless papa” drew forth the big tears,
And Willie’s grave promise fell sweet on his ears.
“Strange – strange – I’d forgotten,” said he with a sigh,
“How I longed when a child to have Christmas draw nigh.”
“I’ll atone for my harshness,” he inwardly said,

“By answering their prayers ere I sleep in my bed.”
Then he turned to the stairs and softly went down,
Threw off velvet slippers and silk dressing gown,
Donned hat, coat, and boots, and was out in the street,
A millionaire facing the cold, driving sleet!

Nor stopped he until he had bought everything
From the box full of candy to the tiny gold ring;
Indeed, he kept adding so much to his store,
That the various presents outnumbered a score.
Then homeward he turned. With his holiday load,
With Aunt Mary’s help, in the nursery was stowed.
Miss Dolly was seated beneath a pine tree,
By the side of a table spread out for her tea;
A workbox well fitted in the center was laid,
And on it the ring for which Annie had prayed,
A soldier in uniform stood by a sled,
“With bright shining runners, and all painted red.”
There were balls, dogs, and horses, books pleasing to see,
And birds of all colors were perched in the tree!

While Santa Claus, laughing, stood up in the top,
As if getting ready more presents to drop.
And as the fond father the picture surveyed,
He thought for his trouble he had amply been paid,
And he said to himself, as he brushed off a tear,
“I’m happier tonight than I’ve been for a year;
I’ve enjoyed more pure pleasure than every before;
What care I if bank stock falls ten percent more!
Hereafter I’ll make it a rule, I believe,
To have Santa Claus visit us each Christmas Eve.”
So thinking, he gently extinguished the light,
And, tripping down stairs, retired for the night.

As soon as the beams of the bright morning sun
put the darkness to flight, and the stars one by one,
Four little blue eyes out of sleep opened wide,
And at the same moment the presents espied;
Then out of their beds they sprang with a bound,
And the very gifts prayed for were all of them found.
They laughed and they cried, in their innocent glee,
And shouted for papa to come quickly see
What presents old Santa Claus brought in the night
(Just the things that they wanted,) and left before light:
“And now,” added Annie, in a voice soft and low,
“You’ll believe there’s a ‘Santa Claus’, papa, I know”;
While dear little Willie climbed up on his knee,
Determined no secret between them should be,
And told him in soft whispers how Annie had said
That their dear, blessed mamma, so long ago dead,
Used to kneel down by the side of her chair,
img_0851And that God up in heaven had answered her prayer.
“Den we dot up and prayed dust as well as we tould,
And Dod answered our prayers: now wasn’t He dood?”
“I should say that He was, if He sent you all these,
And knew just what presents my children would please.
(Well, well, let him think so, the dear little elf,
‘Twould be cruel to tell him I did it myself.”)

Blind father! Who caused your stern heart to relent,
And the hasty words spoken so soon to repent?
‘Twas the Being who bade you steal softly upstairs,
And made you his agent to answer their prayers.

-Sophia P. Snow (c) 1884

Brody, I love you but…

IMG_E1481A Brody update is long overdue.  Let me begin by stating the obvious, he is a beautiful creature, there is no doubting that fact.  Today I weighed Brody and Jake (his older brother) and for the first time they shared the identical weight.  Brody, however, is getting bigger everyday and Jake has been shedding ounces chasing Brody around the house.

I had forgotten how much life changes when there is a puppy in the house.  Here is a partial list of things I took for granted.

  • Sleep (Brody wakes up every time one of us turns over in the night)
  • Snacking peacefully on the sofa (I have to shield my food from him)
  • Relaxing in the evening before bed (puppy crazies start around 7 pm each night)
  • Watching a television show without interruption (see previous comment)
  • Leaving my shoes by the front door with the expectation of finding them there the next morning (use your imagination)
  • An orderly morning routine before work (how many times do I have to let him out before I go to work to make sure he’s finished his business)
  • Being able to sit down and put my feet up after working all day (Brody expects me to play with him after being penned up)

We are making it work and loving on Brody.  God made puppies cute for a reason!

Table Scraps – “Leftovers” (2015)

IMG_0561Leftovers is the subject of this week’s post, the sixth installment in a series of words likely to be used at family gatherings during the holidays, which I affectionately call, “table scraps.” I am torn as to which direction to take this piece. Do I champion leftovers because I happen to love them, or do I point out the ills of wasting and neglecting them?

It has been my experience that people deal with leftovers in one of three ways. They are hot, cold or lukewarm to the idea. I am not referring to the temperature of the leftovers about to be served, rather, to a person’s philosophy of dealing with them.

Those who are “hot,” myself included, are totally committed to leftovers. Because I love them, I will make every effort to preserve, and later eat them. Coming home after working late, and spotting last night’s goulash in the refrigerator, definitely brings a smile to my tired face. People committed to leftovers refrigerate them, freeze them and incorporate them into their meal plans.

I’m sure there are a few people out there who are “cold” to the idea of leftovers. Maybe they don’t like rewarmed food or the leftovers they do generate are insignificant and not worth the effort to save. Tossing the food out immediately makes the most sense to them.

The third group is half-hearted, or “lukewarm” about dealing with leftovers. They spend the necessary time and energy storing the food but that’s about where the effort ends. Food piles up in their freezer or refrigerator where it is neglected. The neglected food then spoils or frosts over to the point where it is no longer edible.

Since Christmas is less than a week away, I thought it would be fair to consider opinions on the birth of the Savior of the world. I am of course speaking of Jesus, whose birth we celebrate on Christmas day. Are you hot, cold, or lukewarm to the idea of a savior? Have you embraced him, rejected him or neglected him?

The Apostle John recorded a vision he received from Jesus in the book of Revelation. In the opening chapters, Jesus addressed seven different churches, chastising some, and commending others. To the church called Laodicea he had this to say,

“I know your deeds, that you are neither hot nor cold, I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” Revelation 3:15-16

Jesus is speaking out against lukewarm believers in Him. My Life Application Bible notes had this to say about lukewarm ChIMG_0562ristians, “The believers didn’t stand for anything, indifference had led them to idleness. By neglecting to do anything for Christ, the church had become hardened and self-satisfied.”

Jesus goes on to say, “Those whom I love, I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with them, and they with me.” Revelation 3:19-20

How will I respond to the message of Christmas this year?  Will I pack away my faith after Christmas along with all my Christmas decorations?

Table Scraps – “OMG” (2015)

IMG_0527Thanksgiving has come and gone and many of us have begun making preparations for Christmas in earnest. “OMG” is the subject of my fourth “table scrap” in the series of words used at family gatherings throughout the holiday season. OMG appears to be a smooth, catchy expression that’s become widely accepted in our culture, having found its way into everyday conversations, song titles, movies and websites featuring obscure facts.

OMG seems to convey a number of emotions ranging from extreme happiness and surprise to fright and horror. It’s much less offensive to people than its predecessors, “Oh my God,” and “Oh, God,” and can be used in many more situations. We live in a world where people feel the need to be culturally relevant  and express themselves as they go about their day. I understand a person’s desire to garner love, draw attention to themselves and fit in socially with their friends. I share the same desire.  Using OMG seems to fill the bill in every instance.  Except I don’t use OMG in my vocabulary but that’s just me.

Some of you are saying to yourselves right about now, but what about the second commandment, you know, one of the ten big ones found in the Bible (Deuteronomy 5:6-21). This would be the commandment God told the people of Israel, “do not misuse tIMG_0524he name of the Lord your God.”

Like many of you, I was taught when I was young that using the Lord’s name in an irreverent fashion was “swearing” and thus constituted a gross violation of this commandment. Now that I am older I am inclined to see this commandment as having more to do with ambassadorship than “swearing.”

What do I mean by that? As a Christian, I have become closely associated with the person and name of Jesus Christ. In effect, I am representing Him. So in every situation life throws at me I find myself positioned as an ambassador for Christ whether I like it our not. So, if I act or speak in an unchristian manner, then I have misused the name of Jesus Christ (this would be a clear violation of the 2nd commandment).  “Swearing” seems to pale in comparison to the responsibility of being an ambassador 24 hours a day/ 7 days a week doesn’t it.

These days, I find myself becoming less rattled when I am around people using “colorful” language.  I am trying to look past the language and see the person beneath it.  Some of these people are members of my family or friends. These are people I love and am praying for. Others are just acquaintances who I am trying to start up a simple conversation with.  In those situations I want my words and actions to be less about me judging their language and more about being a genuine ambassador for Christ.

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Jesus told his followers:

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. John 13:34, 35 NIV

As I contemplate what to think about OMG and its prevalence in our culture, I am reminded of the religious leaders of Jesus’ day.  They had Jesus labeled a blasphemer.  When one of them tried to expose him as a fraud by asking, “Which is the greatest commandment?” Jesus gave them this response:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments. Matthew 22:37-40 NIV

 

Psalm 119:17-32 (Deal bountifully with me)

god-2925343_960_720Anyone who has tried to keep the 10 commands knows that it is an impossible undertaking, especially if we are to factor in those errant thoughts and motives. Jesus came, not to discard the standard of perfection found in the Old Testament, but to fulfill that standard on my behalf. Jesus’ perfection is imputed onto me so that I can one day stand before God blameless.

This doesn’t make the word of God found in the Old Testament any less relevant to Believers. God sent Jesus, a living, breathing human being, to represent Him. John’s gospel declares, “The word became flesh and dwelt among us.” John 1:14 Jesus is the Word of God!

Gimel – Symbol of gathering or walking

v17-20 Be good to me – deal bountifully with me – help me, give me what is good.  Open my eyes – this could be a desire to seek what is truth, but also a request for guidance on what areas of my life need cleansing.  A stranger to earth – a sojourner needs a heavenly compass and a roadmap, to help him find his way.  My soul is consumed with longing – Carelessly pushing God away during times of prosperity or success leaves us wide open to anxiety in times of trouble.

v21-24 Rebuke the arrogant – have you ever been humbled by God for being too proud?  Do you find that people ridicule and criticize that which they don’t know or understand? The world will lead us one way, but often the council of God leads us in a different direction. The Word of God brings life to a dry thirsty soul.

Daleth – Symbol of moving, hanging, entrance

v25-29 My soul clings to the dust – a feeling of being emotionally dead and buried.  Preserve my life – have you ever thought of God’s Word as a life preserver?  Cause me to understand – don’t just help me out of my predicament, show me the way to keep from falling back into it again.  My soul is weary – The words of Jesus “Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden” (Matthew 11:28) are the perfect balm for the weary soul.

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v30-32 The way of truth – is the path chosen by the Psalmist. Jesus offers himself as the way, the truth and life (John 14:6). Following the way of truth means clinging to the promises (testimonies) found in God’s Word.  I have set my heart – the prophet Daniel purposed in his heart that he would stand up for what he believed in even if it cost him his life.

This week, try substituting the name of Jesus wherever you find a reference to “the word of God” or any of its synonyms as you read this psalm. As you do this, understand that there is a difference between knowing about Jesus and believing in him. Traverse the bridge of faith today and experience Jesus personally.