Monthly Archives: November 2012

Christmas Questions

If you were to ask a couple of our grandsons “What do you want for Christmas?” they could name some things fairly quickly. They have seen some kid-targeted commercials and have probably been discussing this subject with their friends at school. If you were to mistakenly give them a catalog and ask them to pick two, just two, items, they would each circle twenty-five or so of the latest, coolest, flashiest stuff around. It is hard to stop at just two when your choices seem endless, and haven’t you seen Santa’s workshop/warehouse/factory with thousands of elves in all of those movies? I need to change the question.

What are you going to get for Christmas?  This turns the subject slightly. This question presumes they remember what they received last year and can make a reasonable comparison. It also assumes you can lower their expectations and the ever lengthening want list.  It’s funny how they never list any new shirts or socks.

The problem with Christmas is the materialistic self-serving, self-interest that we have perpetuated over these last fifty years. Decade after decade as consumers, we have demanded more and more stuff. Everyone wants the best bargain for the latest, coolest flashiest stuff at “Door Buster Prices.” I’ve seen the Black Friday videos. I need to change the question I ask of our grandchildren.

What are you going to give for Christmas?  Let’s make a list. Okay, it is Jesus’ birthday that we are celebrating. What are you going to give Jesus for Christmas? Who else do you think needs a gift?

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Change the question. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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Thanksgiving in the E.R.

I spent ten Thanksgivings in a row in the hospital emergency room. It was no accident. I had volunteered to be there. I was the Thursday evening hospital chaplain. Needless to say our family has some interesting Thanksgiving Day stories. Our daughters remember joining me once for the Thanksgiving Buffet in the hospital cafeteria. One of those daughters chose the cheeseburger and fries. We usually got in a family meal at the lunch hour before I headed to the hospital in the late afternoon. I covered a 15-hour shift, usually getting home about 7:30 on Friday morning.

Patients would begin to arrive in greater numbers around four on Thanksgiving afternoon. The staff would jokingly say, “Too much food. Too much family.” It is a very sad experience to find yourself in the emergency room because of a heart attack or stroke after trying to prepare the perfect Thanksgiving meal. Over-drinking, car wrecks, hunting accidents and attempted suicides would bring others in through the night. Some of them would die on Thanksgiving Day. It is estimated that nearly 300,000 Americans sit in medical waiting rooms each day. Some are patients, others are family and friends. A hospital is a busy place 24-hours a day, holidays included. It is hard enough to be a patient in the hospital, but on Thanksgiving Day it can seem almost ironic. How do you count your blessings under those circumstances?

I have a suggestion: make every day a day of thanksgiving. Recognize the gift of today and live in gratitude. Rejoice in the Lord always. In all things give thanks. Serve the Lord with gladness. Forgive as you have been forgiven. Love as God has loved you. Bless others and bless yourself.

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Say “Thank You.” And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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Maybe I’ve overlooked it. Maybe I’ve just misread it over the years. Today I discovered a new word in the bible. I thought maybe it was a misprint in the text. That happened in “The Wicked Bible,” the 1631 King James Bible where the printers failed to include the word “not” in the seventh commandment. Little words can make a big difference.

I gave up preaching from the King James Version (KJV) many years ago because of the outdated language. I still use the majestic language of the KJV at funerals and on some special occasions. I found myself spending too much time within Sunday sermons translating Elizabethan English into the American vernacular. I have an affinity for the New American Standard Version (NASV) but found that the New International Version (NIV) hit the right tone for my preaching. Clarity in our words helps us avoid confusing others with insider jargon or religious speech.

This particular word is only found in Isaiah chapter 66. In an extended metaphor about a nursing mother and her child, the prophet tells of a future joyous time when “you will nurse and be carried on her arm and dandled on her knees.” Turns out the word is translated from the Hebrew as “dandled” in all of the standard bible translations. Some very recent translations are beginning to use the more meaningful language, “bounced on her knees.”  Now I understand.

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Words matter. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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The Hawk

We have lived in our house now seven years. In the early years we were surrounded by open farm land and wooded hills. Overseeing this kingdom sat an old hawk on a telephone line. When other, smaller birds got too close, the hawk would stare them down and open his wings menacingly. They would move further down the line. One day machines tore down the old farm house and collapsed barn and began to excavate the fields. New housing additions, apartment buildings and a full hospital and medical center rose up in their place. The old hawk moved to the top of a dead tree by the woods.

Soon other machines began to cut a road through the wooded hills. Every day more of the wildlife was displaced. It became easy for the hawk to catch the fleeing mice and rabbits.  Each morning as I headed to the church I would watch the hawk watch the shrinking fields and severed woods. In the evenings coming home I would see him circling overhead. A couple of years ago he moved on. Two or three younger hawks took over circling the area. The dead tree began collapsing, ever shrinking. Hawks began to rest on area roof tops. Today, just before sundown, I went out in the backyard to cover the faucets from the winter freezes. When I looked up, the hawk was looking at me.

He was sitting on our back fence, just a few yards in front of me. I pulled out my phone and he posed for pictures. Even the flash did not faze him. Then he turned suddenly, opened his mighty wings, dropped down and took off with his prize. I mistakenly thought he was watching me. I was just a manageable distraction. Too many distractions and the hawk would come up short. He stayed on mission. It was getting dark quickly. The little creatures now live in suburban backyards and flowerbeds. The majestic hawk has learned to adapt to his changing world.

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Keep your eye on the prize. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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