Thursday, December 27, 2007

Wrappings and Ribbons

I was just thinking about - - - -

The rush to plan and prepare for Christmas is now past. The rush to get to stores for after-Christmas sales and to return unwanted (or unneeded) items has begun. It might be though of as The Great American Comedy, or The Great American Tragedy!
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One of the Primary Candidates for President thought an innovative idea was to show wrapped packages with beautiful ribbons and to discuss what was represented in each package - from health care to immigration reform, etc. Sadly, we know those are empty boxes and empty promises - well intentioned but resulting in non-fulfillment and disappointment.
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Back to the Christmas Tree and the Packages that were under and around it - I observed the children with their anticipation regarding the packages both large and small. When given the signal, they literally ripped open the packages to see what "stuff" they had received. And then, there was mess, parts and pieces (some missing), excitement, some disappointment, incorrect sizes, intrigue and interest in the younger child's toys and gifts, and preoccupation with electronic games... And - so it went, and so it is.
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I couldn't help but think of the yards of ribbon that had been purchased and used; the many feet of wrapping paper; the boxes and packages - and all so quickly carried to the trash. And my mind went to God's gift to us - His Son, and the Angel Proclamation in Luke 2:8-15...

That night some shepherds were in the fields outside the village, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord's glory surrounded them. They were terribly frightened, but the angel reassured them. "Don't be afraid!" he said. "I bring you good news of great joy for everyone! The Savior – yes, the Messiah, the Lord – has been born tonight in Bethlehem, the city of David! And this is how you will recognize him: You will find a baby lying in a manger, wrapped snugly in strips of cloth!" Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others – the armies of heaven – praising God: "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to all whom God favors. When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, "Come on, let's go to Bethlehem! Let's see this wonderful thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."

His wrapping was not costly and decorative paper and ribbons - but "wrapped snugly in strips of cloth"! He wasn't found under a Christmas Tree that was brightly lit and decorated but in a Manger located in a stable because there were no available rooms left in the Inn.
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But this Gift of God was filled with meaning and promises. This is Jesus Who will save His people from their sins! This is Jesus Who willingly set aside all of the prerogatives of Heaven and Glory so He could redeem His people. This is Jesus Who humbled Himself and made Himself of no reputation - Who one day will be given The Name that is above every name - that at the name of JESUS, every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is LORD to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:5-11).
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Does this Gift fill you with excitement, and expectation, and gratitude? Does this Gift satisfy your every longing? Does this Gift captivate your attention above all else? This is Jesus - God's Gift of Love to all!

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Gifts and Giving

I was just thinking about - - -

The values one embraces apply to all areas of life. Not the least of these is the avoidance of debt - especially through the use of credit cards. All one needs to do is to go to the store of your choice, be it Target, Wal-Mart, Circuit City, etc. and you will see people incurring debt at an exorbitant rate. These businesses know the propensity of people and have special sale days and hours starting on the day after Thanksgiving. With all of the lecturing and counsel given by conservative economists, and broadcasts such as Dave Ramsey - people ignore it all because they want their children, family and friends to be happy.

When it comes to gifts received (or given), even the Atheist would not quibble with whether the 25th of December is a Winter Holiday or A Day commemorating the historic Birth of Jesus Christ - thus calling it CHRISTmas Day. The focus is on a gift, not on the day per se.

If we allow ourselves to get back to basics, we would ask ourselves: "If this is the birthday of Jesus Christ, why aren't we giving him presents and having a party for Him?" Over the years, our family has tried to remember the reason of the day. We did the routine of a Birthday Cake and the singing of Happy Birthday to Jesus. For the past several years, there is ample opportunity of ministering to the needy and homeless and helpless in our country and world...
  • The Salvation Army collecting our change outside of businesses...
  • Angel Tree - a ministry of Prison Fellowship where gifts are given to children and families of prisoners
  • Samaritan's Purse - that began the Shoe Box Ministry and giving practical supplies, as well as toys and games to children throughout the world
  • Jimmie Hale Mission in Birmingham, AL that economically feeds the homeless and hungry
  • Palmer Home for Children in Columbus, MS where children are housed, fed, provided a home setting with House Parents, and assisted in their education
  • French Camp Academy in French Camp, MS where children are housed, fed and educated in a House Parent setting
The list could easily be extended to include other worthwhile efforts and ministry. The above are among the more credible and efficient in their use of funds and materials.

It is easy to become annoyed through mail solicitations for one to borrow money. Blank Checks are sent so you can fill in for up to $5,000.00 that will enable you to consolidate your bills and make that special purchase. WARNING - - - you will pay for that money!
I love the words of Proverbs 30:7-9,
O God, I beg two favors from you before I die. First, help me never to tell a lie. Second, give me neither poverty nor riches! Give me just enough to satisfy my needs. For if I grow rich, I may deny you and say, "Who is the LORD?" And if I am too poor, I may steal and thus insult God's holy name.
I hope we can retain our focus the The One Whose Birthday is being remembered and celebrated. I love the words of a Christmas Lyric that bring us back to an apt focus and commitment - - -
What can I give him, Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I'd give him a lamb.
If I were a Wiseman, I would do my part.

What can I give him?, I'LL GIVE HIM MY HEART.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Winners and Losers

I was just thinking about - - - -

All of our lives, we have had to face the reality of the difference to being a winner or a loser.

  • In our school work, it is Pass or Fail!
  • It sports competition, it is Win or Lose!
  • In business, it is Success or Failure!
  • In employment, it is Promotion or Remaining Static!
  • In life, it is Acceptance or Rejection!

The Christmas narrative is filled with the choices and possibilities of Positives versus Negatives. Just think through the scenario - - -

  • A young man and a young woman have met and fallen in love.
  • Their love develops and they become engaged (betrothed) to be married.
  • They have made a commitment to remain free from infidelity in their courtship and relationship.
  • An Angel appears to the young woman and tells her she is highly favored by God and will be the vessel through whom the Savior will come forth.
  • An Angel appears to Joseph and tells him his betrothed is expecting a baby.
  • The young man knows he hasn't caused this event and wonders about his betrothed - "Why would she betray me in this way?"
  • He decides he must dissolve this relationship but will do it privately and compassionately - that's just the way he is.

Can we even begin to imagine what was going on in the minds of these young people? The love they have for each other; the plans they were making for their lives together; their hopes and dreams; and now - THIS! What a tragedy! What a calamity! What should the young man do? What is God's purpose for him...for the young woman...for the world...?

As difficult as it must have been, the young man BELIEVES the Messenger (Angel) from God! The young woman did as well! And because they made this choice, they had this unique privilege and opportunity to impact the world from that moment onward! Did they know that as these events were taking place? How could they!

There's a religious adage that has been around for a long time: "God said it! I believe it! That settles it!" The adage is easier said than done because we often think we have a better plan and resolve than what God is indicating should and must be done! How one handles the adage, and personal faith, and commitment will determine the difference between one being a Winner or Loser and realizing Victory rather than Defeat!

The words of The Apostle Paul in I Corinthians 9:24-27 are helpful and challenging...

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified!

We need to be focused on the Goal! We need to persevere on the journey! We will Win if we do not precipitously give up before the race is over or the journey ended!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

What Are You Seeing and Hearing?

I was just thinking about - - -

Politics has a way of monopolizing the news and discussions today. The political season has become much too long and so many vying for the one office only adds to the confusion. It seems that candidates have their "talking points" and seldom vary from them. If one continues to listen to them, it becomes more of "the same old, same old" rhetoric. And, laziness on the part of competing candidates and the media to research and discuss factually adds to the confusion. One commentator stated as much when he allowed, "we will make this a story because that's what we do!"
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One can only hope that the season of the year will bring a respite - however brief - so one can refocus on the significance of this time of year. And even though one candidate has come under scrutiny and criticism for his most recent TV Ad that focuses on Christmas and it's true meaning, we should be attuned to the significance and meaning of the Day set apart to commemorate the Incarnation (Birth) of the Lord Jesus Christ.
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The words of a Christmas song raises an interesting question as it progresses:
Said the night wind to the little lamb, "Do you see what I see?...
Way up in the sky, little lamb, Do you see what I see?

Said the little lamb to the shepherd boy, "Do you hear what I hear?
Ringing through the sky, shepherd boy, Do you hear what I hear?...

Said the shepherd boy to the mighty king, "Do you know what I know?
In your palace warm, mighty king, Do you know what I know?...

Said the king to the people everywhere, "Listen to what I say!
Pray for peace, people, everywhere, Listen to what I say!
The Child, the Child sleeping in the night He will bring us goodness and light,
He will bring us goodness and light."

The world during the days of the birth of Jesus Christ was busy with movement to comply with a government demand for a Census. Only a few were sensitive to the events that were about to take place. An illustration is the case of the shepherds who were out in the field tending their sheep. An Angel visits them and declares what is occurring in Bethlehem. Because the shepherds were attuned to hearing, they were privileged to be the first to see the newborn baby, the Savior - Jesus!
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Don't let the media's preoccupation with politics nullify your excitement pertaining to the Celebration of the Birth of Jesus Christ. Don't let Sales Advertisements have the greatest appeal in your thoughts! Don't let your hearing become impaired, or your vision blurred regarding the true meaning of this time of Celebration...(Luke 2:8-20, NLT)...
That night some shepherds were in the fields outside the village, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord's glory surrounded them. They were terribly frightened, but the angel reassured them. "Don't be afraid!" he said. "I bring you good news of great joy for everyone! The Savior – yes, the Messiah, the Lord – has been born tonight in Bethlehem, the city of David! And this is how you will recognize him: You will find a baby lying in a manger, wrapped snugly in strips of cloth!" Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others – the armies of heaven – praising God: "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to all whom God favors." When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, "Come on, let's go to Bethlehem! Let's see this wonderful thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about." They ran to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. Then the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds' story were astonished, but Mary quietly treasured these things in her heart and thought about them often. The shepherds went back to their fields and flocks, glorifying and praising God for what the angels had told them, and because they had seen the child, just as the angel had said.
May you be among those who have received the Gift of God - Jesus Christ, and may you be overflowing with great joy because unto you a Savior has been born. And His name is called, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
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O Come Let Us Adore Him...Christ, the Lord!
For He alone is Worthy...Christ, the Lord!
We'll give Him all the Glory...Christ, The Lord!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Media Myopia

I was just thinking about - - -

The notion that "Ignorance is bliss!" is a misnomer at best. When it comes to the Media, perhaps the adage, "None are as blind as those who will not see!" is more appropriate.
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In the recent exchanges regarding a person's faith, some media have been both dismissive in their assertion that Candidate A is wrong, and lazy in not doing some basic research to determine exactly what the Church of Candidate B states.
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Regarding the question of whether or not Jesus and Lucifer are thought to be brothers, the following from the official website of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints answers that question:
How can Jesus and Lucifer be spirit brothers when their characters and purposes are so utterly opposed? [Jess L. Christensen, “I Have a Question,” Ensign, June 1986, 25–26 Jess L. Christensen, Institute of Religion director at Utah State University, Logan, Utah.]
On first hearing, the doctrine that Lucifer and our Lord, Jesus Christ, are brothers may seem surprising to some—especially to those unacquainted with latter-day revelations. But both the scriptures and the prophets affirm that Jesus Christ and Lucifer are indeed offspring of our Heavenly Father and, therefore, spirit brothers. Jesus Christ was with the Father from the beginning. Lucifer, too, was an angel “who was in authority in the presence of God,” a “son of the morning.” (See Isaiah 14:12; D&C 76:25–27.) Both Jesus and Lucifer were strong leaders with great knowledge and influence. But as the Firstborn of the Father, Jesus was Lucifer’s older brother. (See Colossians 1:15; D&C 93:21.)

How could two such great spirits become so totally opposite? The answer lies in the principle of agency, which has existed from all eternity. (See D&C 93:30–31.) Of Lucifer, the scripture says that because of rebellion “he became Satan, yea, even the devil, the father of all lies.” (Moses 4:4.) Note that he was not created evil, but became Satan by his own choice.
When our Father in Heaven presented his plan of salvation, Jesus sustained the plan and his part in it, giving the glory to God, to whom it properly belonged. Lucifer, on the other hand, sought power, honor, and glory only for himself. (See Isaiah 14:13–14; Moses 4:1–2.) When his modification of the Father’s plan was rejected, he rebelled against God and was subsequently cast out of heaven with those who had sided with him. (See Revelation 12:7–9; D&C 29:36–37.)
That brothers would make dramatically different choices is not unusual. It has happened time and again, as the scriptures attest: Cain chose to serve Satan; Abel chose to serve God. (See Moses 5:16–18.) Esau “despised his birthright”; Jacob wanted to honor it. (Genesis 25:29–34.) Joseph’s brothers sought to kill him; he sought to preserve them. (Genesis 37:12–24; Genesis 45:3–11.)
While the official answer is clear from a Mormon point of view, it should not factor into whether or not Candidate A is more qualified than Candidate B to hold the office of President of the United States.
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Character, Moral Values and Sound Judgment should be the focus. I doubt the electorate will ever find an ideal and perfect candidate to hold office. We should cease majoring on minors and deal with the basics of who has the Character, Commitment, Integrity and Fortitude to lead this nation. Whoever it is will have a huge task and responsibility and is one for whom our prayers must be ceaseless.

Friday, December 14, 2007

A Proper Heading

I was just thinking about....

In one's approach to life, a good starting point would be to ask oneself: "Where am I going, and How do I expect to get there?" The adage has real merit when it states - "If you aim at nothing, you will always hit your target."
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I love to observe people! The ebb and flow of a life is revelatory. Some display great ambition while others demonstrate almost complete apathy. Some have ability to go along with their ambition, whereas others stumble along with their apathetic approach to life.
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Some years ago, a film - Mr. Holland's Opus - gained some acclaim as it focused on the lives of different ones in a High School setting. An aspiring musician, Mr. Holland, reluctantly accepts a position in the school to teach Music. He has always wanted to write a Musical Composition and Symphony, but has not been successful. The Principal of the school challenges this reluctant teacher in terms of the difference he can make in the student's lives. At one point, the Principal is going to retire and she takes the time to give this Music Teacher a gift. It is a Compass! Her point was simple! It's important to know your own heading so you can lead the young people in the right direction. And then she gives a word of encouragement, "Mr. Holland, of all the Teachers I have known and worked with, you are my favorite."
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When adjustments have to be made in the school curriculum because of budget priorities, the Music Department and Arts is discontinued. The man who reluctantly came to teach music has now been motivated and is reluctant for the Music and Arts to be discontinued. He fails in his effort to continue the programs. At a surprise "pep rally" farewell, Mr. Holland is to be honored. One of his former students has gone on to become the Governor of the State. In her tribute to Mr. Holland, she states: "I'm sure that Mr. Holland feels he has failed...but look around you Mr. Holland at the lives you've touched...We are your Opus, Mr. Holland."
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It would be good to know the heading of one's Compass. It is good to be challenged and motivated by the words of the Apostle Paul in Philippians 3:13-14, "Forgetting what is behind...I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." The Goal...Compass Heading...Knowing where you're going, and Knowing how you're going to get there - I hope I don't try to tamper with The only valid Compass Heading!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Political Verbiage

I was just thinking about - - -

The language of politics reminds one of the old baseball manager, Leo Durocher, who was known to echo the words that "nice guys finish last"! It is said that he would coach his players to slide into a base with spikes high to gain the strategic advantage and to cause fear in the opponent. His philosophy regarding the "game" of baseball was to do whatever it took to win!

It seems we find a similar philosophy in politics as it unfolds today. A phrase in our discourse is "The Politics of Personal Destruction." Lower tier politicians and presidential "wanna-be-types" hurl all kinds of charges at the upper tier. They do so with the hope they may dislodge the front-runner and move up in the Polls themselves. It means that the public is somewhat cheated when charges and
accusations are bandied about and meaningful dialogue about major issues in the country and world are ignored and/or bypassed altogether. The modern politician appears to follow a course where it appears that throwing jello at a wall is valid because some of it may stick and cause some injury to a political opponent.

One wonders if the prophet Jeremiah might have had American politics in mind when he stated in
Jeremiah 9:5, "Everyone deceives his neighbor and does not speak the truth. They have taught their tongues to speak lies; they weary themselves committing iniquity." On the other hand, the admonition of The Apostle Paul declares, "Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another."

Is it any wonder that cynicism prevails with many? The philosophical argument abounds in terms of who can actually define "truth"! To expect people to think syllogistically and to formulate a premise in a concise statement is difficult at best, and unlikely at worst. It borders on the old humorous statement, "don't confuse me with the facts!" And so, we proceed down the path that Robert Bork referred to in the title of his book, "Slouching Toward Gomorrah"! If that was a valid premise in 1997 when he authored his tome, how much further have we come on that road in 2007.

Self-examination is a risky business because it is almost impossible for one to be in disagreement with oneself. Introspection just cannot be objective. However, being open to the evaluations by others is also remote. In a "politically correct" environment and our tendency toward narcissism, we just continue along on the slippery slope of self-indulgence and and personal gratification.

There is a fascinating Biblical account in I Kings 22:16. King Ahab wants full participation by all the prophets so he can have justification for engaging an enemy. When Micaiah agrees with the false prophets, King Ahab says to him, "How many times must I adjure you to speak to me nothing but the truth in the name of the Lord?" The King will ignore the "truth" spoken by the true prophet of the Lord and confine Micaiah in his cell with bread and water for his sustenance. King Ahab never would return from the battle. The truth had been spoken - and - ignored!

It is incumbent upon all of us to sort through the waves of political verbiage in order to seek and find the truth. It would be wise to compare what is said with the historical records and documents that prove or disprove what people have said and done during their political journey. Ask yourself - and those addressing the nation in their pursuit of office - what was meant by their previous declarations and actions. Also, why they have suddenly and conveniently changed positions on major concerns in our nation. Is it just a matter of doing anything that it takes to get elected? Is it based on the philosophy that "nice guys finish last"?

May God help us to see through and beyond the "smoke, mirrors, vagaries and deliberate misrepresentations" of those who will do whatever it takes to win!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Defining Moment

I was just thinking about - - -

In life, we all face a defining moment - sometimes several throughout an active lifetime. Some defining moments are more routine and focus on education, employment, marriage, purchases, geography, etc. Most of us have wrestled through these times and can discern the merit to the process and the ultimate decision.

Politics has become a very strange business. The media helps fuel situations that result in some of these defining moments, as well as confrontations with one's past. Some would call it muckraking - and so much of it is. Others shrug and see it as business as usual.

This makes the address by one of the candidates regarding his religious persuasion and practice an interesting and defining moment. In terms of the speech presentation, it was done masterfully. In terms of the content and substance, those who embrace their beliefs (or lack of the same) will not be significantly persuaded. Possibly, the key section of the 25 minute speech is in these words:
I am an American running for president. I do not define my candidacy by my religion. A person should not be elected because of his faith, nor should he be rejected because of his faith. No authorities of my church or any church, will ever exert influence on presidential decisions. Their authority is theirs, within the province of the church, and it ends where the affairs of the nation begin. I will put no doctrine of any church above the plain duties of the office and the sovereign authority of the law. I will serve no one religion, no one group, no one cause, and no one interest. My faith is the faith of my fathers. I will be true to them and to my beliefs.
He and others have shared they are running to be President - not Pastor of this nation. But one thought remains. This particular candidate indicated that "my faith does not define me"! That is a fascinating concept for one who also indicated that he believes Jesus Christ is the Savior of mankind. Just a question or two - (a) If Jesus Christ is one's Savior, does that not in fact define who that person is? Born again? A new creation? Crucified with Christ?, and (b) Is there not a commitment demand and requirement for one in relationship with Jesus Christ to be conformed to Him in wisdom, holiness and righteousness?

We have really gotten onto dangerous ground in our politically correct world. A person should be considered for political office on the basis of the content of his/her character; his/her ability to think clearly and rationally; his/her demonstrated quality of leadership; and clear and verifiable indication that one can have confidence in the sound and valid judgments of the one seeking the political office.

There ought not to be a litmus test in terms of one's Biblical, Theological or Religious Persuasions. One would hope that when the elected official places his/her hand on the Bible while taking the oath of office and states - "So help me God!" - there is a genuine belief in a Divine Creator Who must be revered, honored and consulted. Regardless of public posture, the one elected will resort to prayer and seeking divine wisdom while holding the Office of President. One will be awed by the duties and demands of The Office. One will realize that after all the rhetoric and claimed ability, etc. - there is the need to cast oneself upon the Lord in order to be sustained (Psalm 55:22), as well as to seek the Lord while He may be found and to call upon Him while He is near (Isaiah 55). We need to pray for our nation and those who govern us now, and who will be elected to govern us in the near future.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Me, Myself and "I"

I was just thinking about - - -

Some people have both a preoccupation with and a bad habit of utilizing the personal pronoun "I" in whatever discourse is occurring. A recent example of this was in Iowa this past week when a 10 minute speech was given to support one's spouse in the caucus. In the course of that speech, the pronoun "I" was mentioned 94 times, whereas the candidates name was mentioned only 7 times. This type thing occurs with many egocentric types and those who have a great sense of self-importance. It requires considerable discipline and commitment to bring about correction in this area.
From both a personal development in one's physical interaction, to one's spiritual nurture, the subject of "I" needs to be minimized and less apparent.
There is an old Hymn of the Church that captures this idea. The first Stanza of that Hymn is:
Not I, but Christ, be honored, loved, exalted;
Not I, but Christ, be seen be known, be heard;
Not I, but Christ, in every look and action,
Not I, but Christ, in every thought and word.
From a Christian perspective, there is a twofold example:
First, is John the Baptist - -
In John 3:30, John the Baptist makes this distinction: He must Increase, but "I" must decrease. And in Luke 3:16, he also states: "...I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie..." John the Baptist understood his role and calling, primarily that of a fore-runner. Could he have drawn attention to himself? Of course, he could but he lived humbly and came into the public arena only reluctantly.
Second is the Apostle Paul - -
Galatians 2:20, "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." Very simply, Paul was indicating the importance of "I" being minimized and eliminated as the focus and/or subject. The third stanza of the above mentioned Hymn is:
Christ, only Christ! no idle words e’er falling,
Christ, only Christ; no needless bustling sound;
Christ, only Christ; no self important bearing;
Christ, only Christ; no trace of “I” be found.
This is an achievable goal and should be sought and striven toward. We can and will have greater acceptance and impact if we discipline ourselves to get the focus off of "I". The contribution we are attempting to share in human discourse will be more readily received, considered and debated if and when the "I" is not the prominent point of discussion. It surely suggests, maybe demands, that at the very least we Think About It.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Holiday Hearts

I was just thinking about....

WSB Radio News reported today there is a connection between the holidays and heart attacks. The following was stated in the report:

  • Death rates tend to go up around the holidays, and some researchers have started calling the trend the merry Christmas coronary and happy New Year heart attack. Cardiologist Keith Churchwell of the Vanderbilt Heart and Vascular Institute said hospitals often see heavier traffic at those times.
  • "A national database on the 53 million deaths that occurred in the U.S. between 1973 and 2001 showed that deaths from heart disease peak in December and January, with spikes on Christmas and New Year's Day."
Several reasons are given in terms of the spike in heart issues - (a) the stress of preparation; (b) delaying medical attention so as not to interfere with family plans and activities; (c) the increase in alcohol consumption; etc. The opinion of Dr. Churchwell in terms of alcohol consumption is:
  • "Alcohol has a toxic effect on the heart muscle in a number of different ways, but in particular it can lead to an irritation of the heart muscle, This can lead to atrial fibrillation, an abnormal heart rhythm that is a classic finding of holiday heart."

Are there things one can do and principles one should apply? Two Biblical passages give one a clue in this regard...

  • Psalm 37:7 - ""Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him." The idea of "rest" is one should learn to relax. Pacing oneself is vital. It might be better to have dust on the furniture rather than have a Minister intoning, "dust to dust, ashes to ashes"!
  • John 14:27 is a declaration of a Gift than is given and a Legacy to be received. Jesus is speaking and says: "Peace, I leave with you. My Peace, I give to you..."

There is a strange irony with family gatherings. The host home is readied as the Homemaker cleans, and dusts, and waxes, and polishes, and prepares, and buys, etc. Then the family arrives and they begin to bring in their luggage, children's toys, food and snacks, beverages, gifts, etc. Within a fraction of time, one can hardly recognize all the cleaning, and dusting and waxing, etc. And after the family leaves, the entire cycle begins again as laundry must be done, and sweeping, vacuuming, dusting, re-arranging, doing something with leftovers, etc. dictates the pace for the next couple of days.

The significance and wisdom in the embrace of learning to relax and enjoying the peace of Christ are found within the guideline list of a holiday habit: "Eat slowly and engage in conversation to slow down the process of eating. It takes your brain about 20 minutes to get the signal that it's full."

I hope that you will remember God's Gift in Christ as you act upon His gift of Peace, and as you Relax in Him. It is the solution and pathway for ones healthy enjoyment of family and friends, and having a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Souls In Anguish

I was just thinking about…

Yesterday, a man in Rochester, New Hampshire held several people hostage in a Political Campaign Office. It was commendable that no physical harm was done to anyone. What caused this man to take this drastic action? Why did he indicate he would blow himself up? What issues provoked his behavior? In a telephone call to CNN, he indicated he had Mental Health needs that required attention and he wasn’t able to get the help he needed. In this strange incident, this depressed man seems to have been crying our for help – and – was being ignored by those who could give it. Thus – his threatening and menacing behavior.

Mental health matters impact many people, especially during the holidays. Such times may evoke loneliness; failures of the past; loss of loved ones; missed opportunities. Even within the professional ranks, depression is a reality. A study by the Mental Health Administration (2004-2006) found that nearly two out of ten who serve in the personal care and service profession reported being depressed. Major depression strikes 17 percent of Americans and government figures show about 30,000 a year commit suicide, according to USAToday.

I remember my Grandmother using a phrase often with us about people of different walks and backgrounds. She would say: “They are more to be pitied than laughed at!” In the rush of our lives and the multitude of our activities, we need to notice others around us and give due consideration to those we might deem to be dysfunctional, or even a bit “weird”! Those who honor Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord would do well to remember the Scriptures that touch on these areas that impacts different ones:

· "The Lord is close to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit" (Psalm 34:18).

· "A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones" (Proverbs 17:22).

· "We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed: perplexed but not in despair" (2 Corinthians 4:8).

Whether we say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays”, for some of our acquaintances and neighbors it is anything but a merry or happy time. We need to be deliberate in doing our part to lift up the troubled spirit and to help bear the burden of the troubled soul. Sometimes, those who need the assistance and help the most will reject your effort and offer. But – keep on trying! You may be the only one who demonstrates care! Don’t give up! Do what you can to have a positive thrust into another’s life. It could be a life or death struggle that you have helped to avert.