Saturday, December 30, 2006
As I reflect on Christmas '06, I realize I haven't put out a new edition of WHADJA GIT? . So here is a rundown of some of the cool stuff I got from Santa this year (and before you write me, yes, I know the truth about Santa (sigh--don't dump cold water on my fun!)) :
*Socks (standard requirement)
*Black leather jacket (my wife really likes it)
*New coffee maker (with pause and serve, programmable timer, and built-in clock)
*A subscription to a theological journal (I looked at the table of contents--yippee skippee, it's got big words! wiping away a tear of joy).
*DVD's: Cars and X-Men 3 (told you I had diverse tastes)
*Chocolate covered peanut brittle
*Mug and coffee pack from Hawaii (thanks you, sis-in-law)
*2 Tom Clancey-authorized novels
*Why the Manger? by the Thoenes
*Cordless drill from Black and Decker (no more excuses)
I also got assorted goodies in my stocking, as well as various candies and chocolates from kids at our DayCare. And at our employee dinner gift exchange, I got a t-shirt with a picture of the comic book Avengers from the early 60's (looks like about issue 2 or maybe 3).
Of course, the best gift was having my family together...my wife, mother-in-law, and all three kids. I even got to talk to my sister in Colorado the night before....she was bragging about not having gotten much snow in what has been termed the "Blizzard of '06". Little did she know that "Blizzard 2: the Revenge" was set to premiere. Don't know how much snow she's gotten lately, but I don't think they escaped this time.
Okay, I told you what I got. Now I want to hear what you got. Until then, have a happy New Year everyone!
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
But our God is the God of the five percent! Our Children's Ministries secretary shared this humorous insight from a movie. One of the characters asks a girl if there was any chance they could get together. She dismisses him by saying, "one in a million." The character gets a bright look on his face and exults, "So you're saying there's a chance!"
One in a million is still a chance.
Five loaves and two fishes are still enough.
A little mud for the eye is still effective.
Even if "silver and gold have you none, such as you have you can still give."
And five percent.....wow...it's more than enough for God to work.
Zeb was released from the hospital and arrived home before Christmas Eve. He is doing incredibly well in managing his pain. The doctors and nurses were amazed at how rapidly he healed. What an amazing Christmas blessing.
Keep Zeb and his family in your prayers. The little guy still has some recovery ahead. His family faces some extra financial burdens from all this. But our awesome God is still the God of the five percent! Merry Christmas ( a day late).
Saturday, December 16, 2006
Dashing through the malls
With a maxed out credit card
Oe'er the sales we go
Breathing really hard
Or something like that. On this, the next-to-last Saturday before Christmas, my wife and I decided to do some last minute Christmas shopping. Actually, before you think this was a joint decision based on careful discussion, let me set the record straight. I like to go to the mall in December. I don't like to go the last couple of days before Christmas, but before then it's not too bad. I love the decorations, the music, the energy, and the excitment. My wife doesn't quite share my fascination with the mall in December, but she comes with me and ends up enjoying herself after all.
So why do I have this near compulsion to brave the traffic and the crowds during this season of dollars off sales and holiday savings galore? Well, it goes back to my birthdays growing up. I was a new year's eve baby, but I rarely had a full-blown birthday party. My parents would do their best to get me a cake and a present or two, but I never had the classic birthday bash (I was amazed to discover later that we were actually poor--all those years growing up, I had no idea!). Well, anyway, when people would ask me later if I had a birthday party, I would grin and say that a lot of folks had parties...there were parties all over the country on my birthday!
Of course, none of the revelers around the nation on New Year's Eve knew me. They didn't know I had been born and that I was alive. They were celebrating, but they didn't know who or what they were celebrating.
I'm joking, of course, but consider this: stores, malls, shopping centers, and retail establishments pull out the decorations, the lights, the pageantry, the celebratory frills, and the fun every year. It's as if they are in full scale party mode. Folks around the neighborhood decorate their homes in festive colors and twinkling lights, as if they were throwing a big birthday party. The only problem is, they don't know Whose party it is! They don't know Who they are celebrating.
The apostle Paul visited a pagan culture and commented on all their idols, then used their statue to the "Unknown God" as an opportunity to tell them about the one true God. In that spirit, I just want to stand on the balcony of the mall and shout (like the little girl in The Best Christmas Pageant Ever) "HEY, UNTO YOU A CHILD IS BORN!!!"
Thursday, December 14, 2006
I'm not naive. I am keenly aware that we live in a fallen universe. I know that bad things happen to people. Given that, I have a very sharp sensitivity to kids getting hurt. Eons ago, I briefly worked with a county social service department as part of a grant. Given the choice to work in the adult unit or the child protective division, I quickly chose the adult unit. Why? Because either breaking down and weeping uncontrollably at the plight of an abused child or pummeling the abuser to within an inch of his life are both considered bad form in the social service biz. Even fictional shows that have realistic depictions of kids in danger upset me.
But God has also brought people and situations into my life to temper my emotion with the only effective cure for such emotions: casting all my cares upon Him, for He cares for me! I think of a lovely young lady in our church that I've known since she was a little girl. I learned from her mom that, when she was an infant, she had open heart surgery! Open heart surgery! Since that time, the family celebrates two birthdays for this girl. She is part of our Krew of teen helpers in our Sunday morning program.
Not that every situation is a happy one. Earlier this year, I attended two memorial services for a boy whose family was active in our church at one time. We had lost contact with the family after they moved to a nearby city. The boy was a victim of the murder-suicide of his dad. These things aren't supposed to happen. Not too far from here, a California man perished in the mountains while trying to find help for his stranded family. I think of the kids and their thoughts this December. I grieve, but I also learn.
Which brings me to the little guy in the snowmobile accident. For those who have wondered, his name is Zeb. He has the kind of smile that brings sunshine to a cloudy room. His injuries were critical and the initial assesements were not good. These things are not supposed to happen. But they do. And as trite as it sometimes must sound to some on the outside, all we could do was pray. So we prayed. In fact, a lot of people prayed. A lot.
The breathing tubes have been removed from Zeb. He is communicating. He may possibly be out of ICU by the weekend. One of the doctors remarked that someone bigger than him was watching over Zeb in surgery! Indeed! On the patient web site, there is a pic of Zeb, flashing a thumbs up and smiling that incredible smile.
There's a long way to go yet. I would ask that you continue to pray for Zeb and his parents, not only for the continued physical healing of Zeb's body, but for the parents whose stress levels are no doubt at an all time high, and for the more temporal matters of added medical expenses and just trying to find a way to have some semblance of a Christmas.
No, I'm not naive. But it's nice to have a genuine Christmas miracle ever so often!
Sunday, December 10, 2006
Tonight's final installment: "Angels, Why This Jam-boree?"
Tonight was the annual Children's Ministries Christmas Program. Actually, in theory, it takes in all of the Christian Education departments (teens, adults, and children). When the teens participate, we can usually count on something rousing and unsusual. Tonight was no exception. Coming on the stage to "We Like to Move It" from the movie Madagascar, the combined Middle School (6th-8th grade) and High School youth groups moved swiftly to an air-guitar rendition of "The 12 Days of Christmas" by Reliant K. This was followed by Feliz Navidad from the "Veggie Tales Christmas" CD.
The adults didn't have a portion, so we recruited 9 of them from the audience to hold the letters in "CHRISTMAS" while we read what each letter stood for (got that one from Kidology!).
And then came the moment we've been waiting for: the Christmas Pageant! Let me say at the outset that I love kids acting out the Nativity story. I love the bathtowels on the shepherds heads and the stilted dialogue and the missed cues. There's a charm to an old fashioned children's Christmas pageant that cannot be equaled by any sophisticated production. Besides, any problems or difficulties we faced could easily have been solved if we had started rehearsals just a little earlier.
All began well. But somehow, someway, our angels didn't want to leave the stage after appearing to the shepherds. They stood there smiling in their beautiful silver and white splendor and didn't leave, in spite of the frantic waves and stage whispers of me and the other teachers. The narrator, not aware that the action on the stage had come to a complete halt, kept reading the passage. The shepherds, who had to go with haste to see the Baby, got caught in an angelic traffic jam.
Eventually, everyone got to where they were supposed to be. And the moms and dads loved every minute. So did I. After the program, I turned to one of our other leaders. He and I shared a shell-shocked look for a second, then burst into laughter!
I wouldn't want a "Week" every season. But aside from some self-evaluation, it's good to know that there are no more programs to produce, costumes to try on, or parts to cast. It's time to relax and celebrate Christmas!
Saturday, December 09, 2006
Our event on Saturday night is a very special one for our church and community. It is the "Live Nativity Procession," and it has the distinction of being a church presentation presented on behalf of a secular, civic organization. The Community Association is a citizen committee that works to promote the image and well-being of the city. During the 4th of July, the Association runs the parade and fireworks display. They organize many patriotic events.
And in December, they run a series of events collectively known as "Christmas Around Town." There are downtown carol sings, where the giant pine tree is lit up. There's a house decorating contest and the obligatory visit from Santa on a fire truck. And then there is the Live Nativity. At its most basic, the Community Association asks the city's church's to recreate the Nativity. Usually, one church takes the lead, with other churches participating (although the reality is that one church generally takes on most of the program). For the past four years, our church has been asked to stage and host the program.
The action begins at the little park on Main Street with the angelic announcement to Mary, then Joseph. The couple (along with a live donkey) then proceeds up the street, where the audience then sees the dramatic appearance of the angel to the shepherds. Across the covered bridge and to the Grange building, the spectators can see King Herod send the Wise Men on their way.
And then, in the front parking lot, the manger scene is recreated. No, the costumes are not Hollywood issue. And is that an angel on a.....ladder? But it's special...almost like a living Christmas card (we even have lowing cattle!)
Tonight (Saturday) was great! After days and nights of bitterly cold temperatures, an approaching front brought the temps up to a comfortable 55. There was a 60 percent chance of rain, but it didn't arrive until an hour or two after the procession! We had plenty of cast, plenty of helpers, better sound (no more strained vocal chords for the narrator). Live Nativity 06 was such an incredible blessing. Once again, I felt the familiar catch in my throat as I saw Mary and Joseph. My week has been full of personal crises that have tended to distract from the events of "The Week" (and one day, when I feel peace about sharing, I'll let you in on what's been going on. In the meantime, I covet your prayers). But as I saw Mary and Joseph, the Baby, the Shepherds and Wise Men, and the Angels, I once again felt the familiar catch in my throat as we quietly sang "Silent Night."
Two events down, one to go. Join us next entry for "The Week", episode III.
Like most mid-size churches, a great deal of work is done by a small number of volunteers. When it comes to Christmas time, there is always extra to do in the form of special programs and events. So in an inspired piece of insanity, we decided that, rather than string out our special programs throughout December (thus, always having them in front of us!), we would schedule everthing for more or less the same week.
Okay, our hearts are in the right place. And it really does help to get all the prep, all the stress, and all the special costuming done at the front part of the month. But wow.....every year this happens, we find ourselves asking the timeless question that has plagued philosophers for centuries: "What? Are you nuts?"
Assuming that the answer to the above question is not neccesarily a deal breaker and you will continue reading, we present episode 1 of "The Week" with a little number I like to call "Do You See What I E-P-C-B-C-D-C?"
3's and 4's play for the Lord while proclaiming Jesus' love.
For the past eleven years, our church has operated a Christian child care center and preschool. A few of our KidServants (Children's Ministry volunteers) also are employed at the DayCare, including yours truly. I teach a 4 year old class part time. And every year, we put on a Christmas program for the parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, etc. There is always last minute prep. I usually prepare a devotion and a video retrospect (using tried and true amateur technology: two vcrs and my camera!), plus emcee the event. The rest of the teachers get the kids into full program mode worthy of a Marine drill instructor.
Thursday was the big day. It reminds me a lot of the show Trading Spaces, where the designers and carpenters are frantically trying to put the finishing touches on before the deadlines. In our case, it was ears, tales, angel wings, and so on. But in the end, the show went on...and the kids were great...and the gospel was proclaimed...and the Lord was glorified!
Note to all program directors: you absolutely cannot go wrong with the nursery department dressed up like angels!
The after school kids performed The Mouse's Tale.
One event down. Two more to come....one on Saturday, one on Sunday. Stay tuned!