Monday, December 31, 2007


“I can’t get no satisfaction ... And I try, and I try, and I try, and I try...”
Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones

Well, another Christmas has come and gone, and Madison Avenue is still trying to get us to buy whatever it is we don’t need but think we want. The buying binge most Americans go through each December is another refrain of the Rolling Stones’ song. Every year, December 26 sees long lines at retailers of people returning those items they did not like, that they did not need, or both. The wrong size/color/style is often the excuse, but I believe most of the dissatisfaction stems from the fact that we are supposed to surprise each other, and many times are not accurate in our guess as to what the other person wants. Why not do what many folks did this year and give a gift card? Then the recipient can pick out whatever is wanted. But will that satisfy?

I cannot say for sure, but I don’t think Mr Jagger ever has gotten satisfaction. The key being that he tried. The Christian believes that we can never be satisfied through our own efforts. True satisfaction only comes from God. A pastor I know puts it this way: We will only be content based on the content of our soul. I think 1 John 2:15-17 sums it up best:

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Christmas or Xmas?

This time of year there is usually a discussion of the use of “Xmas” being a terrible thing. People think we are taking “Christ out of Christmas” when using it. I beg to differ.

In the first place, was Christ ever a part of what we think of as the Christmas celebration? Most of our traditions came to us by way of pre-Christian, pagan European tribes. The date we celebrate is because of the pagan mid-winter celebrations of the birth of the sun.

But those are other issues addressed in other places. My thought is that since Jesus came to Earth to be a sacrifice for our sins, we should always remember His death and resurrection while celebrating His birth. The letter “X” has often been used to signify the cross, so using it now does not take Christ out of the picture, but helps to put His birth in focus of the reason He came: the crucifixion, which saved us from the power of sin in our lives. So, to one and all I say:

Merry Xmas!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Let it snow!

Well, 3rd and College is experiencing the first big snow of the season. It is beautiful to see, but I am glad I made it home. The highways were not cleared yet for the evening drive, so the going was slower. I love the snow, at least as long as I do not have to shovel it or drive very far in it, or get cold feet from wet shoes!

Snow is interesting, but sometimes here in the MidWest, it gets old. It is not a pretty sight after the snowplows come by, as the roadside snow is grey. But seeing the freshly fallen snow on the trees and fields, piled on fences and cars. What a beautiful world the Lord gave us!

Of course, one of my favorite sights is snow in the desert. Growing up in the Southern Arizona desert did not give many opportunities for snow, unless we drove up to the mountains. I only remember two or three times in my youth when there was enough snow to play in. But the beauty of the desert is more wonderful than where snow is common, as witnessed in the photo above, taken from the online version of Arizona Highways magazine.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Seasonal music- Is it really necessary?

Well, Thanksgiving has come and gone and the rush to buy the latest fad for Christmas has begun, as well as the overplaying of Christmas music. Don’t get me wrong, I like the carols as much as the next person. I just get tired of hearing the same songs over and over again. Some of them are okay, especially the ones based on Scripture. It is the tacky, secular ditties that drive me crazy. It’s lovely weather for a sleigh ride together with you. For some reason, I have a hard time getting that one out of my head right now, and I haven’t even been tortured with it yet! I have never been on a sleigh ride, but I can find nothing pleasant or romantic about being out in the cold air with my toes freezing for a long period of time. I hear that tune and I want to scream! (BTW- what makes that and Jingle Bells Christmas songs? They have nothing what-so-ever to do with Jesus or December 25th. They can be sung any time between now and March and make sense.)

So, which are the ones I don’t mind hearing? The traditional carols like Silent Night; Oh, Holy Night; Joy to the World (which is actually about the second coming of Jesus, not the first); Hark the Herald Angels Sing; etc. Also, some of the modern songs by Christian artists are great, like Mark Lowry’s Mary did you Know? Back in the 70s, I heard and performed (in a group) a song by Tim Sheppard, which pointed to the reason Jesus came. The chorus of the song is this:

Born to die to rise again;
To crush the power of death and sin.
I lift my voice, I shout and sing,
Hosannah! Hosannah!
Hosannah to the King!

So, why do the Christian radio stations only play the great carols for a month? I suppose the mentality is that certain songs belong to a certain time of year. Why not mix the songs about the birth of Jesus in with the praise songs and repetitive worship choruses? Perhaps they think no one will like it. I remember back in the days I worked at a radio station and during the Christmas season we were playing the musical that Johnny Cash produced on the life of Christ. When the story got to the crucifixion and resurrection, a woman called and complained about us mentioning the death and resurrection during Christmas season. I asked her if we were not supposed to tell people why Jesus came?

Go tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere...

Saturday, November 17, 2007

My humor

A member of my family wants you to know that I had a joke and riddle book back in my childhood, and annoyed everybody (especially 3rd person singular direct object pronoun of non-specified gender) by memorizing it and quoting it often. Well, just so you know, I have forgotten most of the jokes (aforementioned relative sighs with relief). But so you are aware what type of humor I like best, and the kind that drives my students crazy (payback, they drive me crazy), here is a sample from one of my favorite comic strips, Frank and Ernest. Since I cannot legally post the actual comic here, I am giving you the link to today’s version*:

Anyway, what I find interesting is that this particular relative is one who also enjoys the type of humor in Frank and Ernest.

*If for some reason you cannot read the comic, it shows two men at the camel exhibit at the zoo. One says, “I read about a place that produces camel’s milk.” The other replies, “It must be a dromedairy.”

Thursday, November 15, 2007

A season of Death?

Death. This season of the year reminds me of death, with all the trees losing their leaves in such a splendid blaze of color. The grass gets yellow or brown, flowers wither in the cold, everything slowly becomes grey. Why? Because that is the way God made the world. Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. Symbolic of the cycle of life, in many ways.

It has been on my mind a lot recently. We are all in the process of dying.

November is also the month in which my mother died when I was only seven. I still think of her this time of year, as I did not know she was going to die until it happened. I never really knew her that well, or at least I don’t remember much about her.

Last Spring we said goodbye to my father-in-law. In life he did not like us to say goodbye, since it sounded so final, but alas, it was his time.

To those who have recently (or not so recently) said your final goodbye to someone whom you loved in life, remember what Solomon said:

It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart. (Ecclesiastes 7:2)

May the God who gives peace to His children, fill you with peace today.

Addendum (17 Nov 2007): Last night I witnessed a fatal accident on the way home form work. I hope I never have to see such again. How do EMTs do their gruesome work without God?

Monday, November 12, 2007

Are you a Christian?

There is a passage in the Gospel of John that I have not heard preached in too many sermons. It comes not far ahead of the most quoted verse in John, the one every Sunday School child learns, ch 3 vs 16. You know that one about God loving the world and sending His Son?

That passage to which I refer is chapter 2, vs 23-25 (NKJV):

Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did. But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men, and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man.

Have you ever pondered these verses? I find it interesting that Jesus commits Himself to men. I find it even more amazing that He considers us worth the trouble. It makes me wonder why I follow Christ. Am I a follower because of what He has done? Does Jesus “believe” in me? After all, the word commit in verse 24 is from the same Greek word translated believe in 23.