Tag Archives: Christmas

Tuesday Picks ~ 11-14-2017

This is some stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing today that I think may enrich your day as well...

If you think “thoughts and prayers” are powerless, you might be forgetting the cross…

Conflict, Comfort and the CrossAdam Parker
https://pjcockrell.files.wordpress.com/2015/09/cross_nail.jpgIt should be no secret in the Christian community that the world thinks that we’re foolish. We acknowledge it, but sometimes we see it in ugly ways.

Perhaps the most despicable reactions came from Actor Michael McKean, who mocked the dead on Twitter and attacked those who encouraged prayer for the people in the church: “They had the prayers shot right out of them. Maybe try something else.” Wil Wheaton attacked one politician who expressed sympathy and prayers for those who had lost so much: “If prayers did anything, they’d still be alive.”…

The mockery of the unbelieving world assumes a few significant things. It assumes that God would never permit his people to die. It assumes that suffering isn’t part of God’s plan. It assumes that if prayer “worked” then God’s people would just keep on living. And most fundamentally it assumes that God builds his church on power and strength. There’s an entire worldview of assumptions that have to be true if their mockery could have any basis, but of course all of these assumptions miss the cross…


A view of American Evangelicalism from a Canadian pastor…

The State of Evangelicalism in America and all that Blah Blah BlahTim Challies
I have grown accustomed to hearing about the horrific state of evangelicalism in the United States of America. The 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation has seemed to add some new fuel to that fire, a fresh opportunity to bemoan the sorry state of the church today. It has apparently become almost a pastime among conservative Christians—and perhaps especially Calvinistic Christians—to lament what the church is, rather than what she ought to be.

I’ve come to think y’all are being a little too hard on yourselves…


We long-time Christians need to be reminded of this from time to time…

The Gospel Cuts the Knees Before It Lifts the Soul
Michael Kelley
No other world religion treats humanity with such pessimism. In all other schools of thought, we have something to bring to the table. We can strive toward God and meet Him, and in a sense, be congratulated when we do.

Not Christianity.

In Christianity, we bring nothing to the table. In fact, the only thing we bring to the salvation of equation is the sin we need to be rescued from…

This is how we are cut at the knees. And part of the reason the gospel, at times, ceases to lift our souls is because we have bypassed that cutting. That’s because the one character flaw that has, and will continue, to most keep people from Christ is not greed. It’s not lust. It’s not lying or stealing or killing.

It’s pride.

That’s the only thing there is no room for at the foot of the cross.


Science confirms what I have long suspected…

Science: Constant Christmas Music Has Some Extremely Negative Mental EffectsRelevant
You no longer have to feel like a Grinch just because you don’t like constant Christmas music blasting at you all of the time.

New research has found that constant holiday tunes can be wearing you down psychologically. Essentially, all of those songs—and their constant reminder of all-too perfect celebrations and never-ending too-do lists—can actually stress people out.


Dickensian Wheel of Misfortune…
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Wrong Hands – Click image for a larger view.

How was your Christmas?

“How was your Christmas?”

I’m glad you asked.

It was good.

Allow me to try to explain what I mean by that…

December 24

When our girls were little we started the tradition of giving them each one gift to unwrap on Christmas Eve. It was always pajamas. The idea was that they would have nice new pj’s for the pictures on Christmas morning. They caught on after about…one year.

Our girls are now 35 and 33. They can buy their own pajamas. But we continue the tradition with our grandkids. On Christmas Eve they stop at our house either before or after the Christmas Eve worship services at church. They get one gift each. They know what it’s going to be. They just don’t know what they will look like. But we also throw in a little something else, like a book or a stuffed animal, just for fun.


It’s our tradition. It warms my heart.

And it’s good.

December 25

Christmas morning used to be just the four of us. Lloyd & Kathie & Liz & Kate. The LKLKs. (Pronounced “lick-licks.”) This was still true when Liz & Kate grew up and moved out. But now it revolves around the next generation. This is as it should be. But the transition has been a little awkward, I think. We want to keep family traditions alive, but we recognize the need for the next generation to establish their own traditions. Like we did.

We’ve settled into a pattern where the kids have their own Christmas celebration at home, then, later in the morning, everyone comes to our house for brunch and another round of gift giving. By “everyone,” I mean Kathie and I and our kids, and kids-in-law, and grandkids.

We take turns opening gifts. There is chaos, mess, laughter, and love.

And it’s good.

I haven’t mentioned this yet, but earlier in December, Kathie’s mother took a turn for the worse. Her health hadn’t been good for a while now, but it had worsened to the point where hospice care was called for. During these weeks Kathie made the 45 minute drive to be with her mother almost daily. We had even discussed how things might go if her death occurred before Christmas. Her condition weighed on our hearts during our Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day activities. But, as I reflect on those days now, I realize that, even though there was sadness in the knowledge that Louise could pass into the arms of Jesus at any time, this knowledge did not cast a gloom over our family times.

In fact, I think it added warmth and meaning and depth.

This is why we celebrate.

This is what hope can do.

This is what Jesus’ coming to earth can do.

And it’s good.

December 27

On Tuesday morning we got the call. Louise’s breathing had changed. It was starting to happen. Kathie left work and I met her at the Hospice Care Center. During the rest of that day the room was filled with her children and grandchildren. There was laughing, and talking, and serving, and remembering, and loving. Louise wasn’t really conscious, but I’d like to think she could hear it all. I believe she did.

As evening came, some decided to go home. The lights were lowered. It got quieter.

A couple years ago, Louise was very sick. We thought we were going to lose her then. During some of those times of delirium she would call out for her older sister who had passed away some years ago. “Ruby!” she would cry.

“Ruby!”

She did this again a couple weeks ago. When she was more alert she explained that she had dreamed she saw a door in front of her. Light was streaming from under the door, and she knew that Ruby was on the other side. But Ruby wouldn’t open the door to let her in.

I don’t really know what to make of these kinds of experiences, but there are too many stories like this to ignore. There is something going on here that we cannot quite understand.

What I do know is that, around 2:30 on Wednesday morning, surrounded by her children, Louise’s breathing slowed to about 6 breaths per minute. Susan whispered to her to ask Ruby to open the door and let her in.

She did.

And it was good.

The following days were spent planning a memorial service.

December 31

Just as Kathie and I have had to transition our family Christmas time from one generation to the next, my parents have done the same thing. Not only do their kids have families of their own, their kids’ kids have families of their own, and we don’t all live in the same state. So, it takes a little effort to figure out how and when we can all get together. But we believe it’s important, so we do it. This year, the 31st was the day.

It’s nothing fancy. Just the usual holiday food and gifts.

I picked dad up at the nursing home and brought him home for the day. I can’t tell you in a few words what that man means to me. This is the man who would throw the childhood me in the air. The man who would make the teenage me work with him in the hot sun building a stone patio behind our house, and I just couldn’t keep up. The man who consistently demonstrated to the grown up me what it means to stand for what was good and right, regardless of the personal cost. He’s the same age as my mother-in-law. He is certainly not dealing with the same life threatening issues she was, but his physical ability seems to deteriorate every time I see him. This is why my heart aches every time I’m with him.

I want him to experience the love of his family as often as possible.

Four generations celebrating together make for an interesting afternoon. There is certainly a lot of joy, a lot of love, and a lot of warmth, but there are definitely stressful moments. It can’t be helped, and it shouldn’t be avoided. The stress is where love grows. You deal with it, recognize it for what it is, forgive, and move on. You’re family. That’s what you do.

And it’s good.

Then there’s New Year’s Eve.

We have celebrated New Year’s Eve with the same basic group of friends for many years. These people mean the world to me. This year, I think I needed their presence more than ever. Yes, it added one more activity to what was already a busy and emotional couple of weeks, but we needed it. It was life giving.

And it was good.

January 2 & 3

Funeral services.

Monday evening’s visitation. Watching a video collage of photos and telling stories. Covered with love from family and friends. Oliver, 18 months old and currently the youngest reminder that a part of Louise lives on, oblivious to the purpose, but enjoying the gathering, bringing life and charming everyone.

Tuesday morning’s memorial service. A bit of a delay as we wait for one family member to arrive. Typical. While we sit and wait like mature adults, inwardly we run and explore vicariously through Oliver who has a hard time sitting still but easily brings a smile. Young life. It’s sort of hypnotic in these circumstances.

It’s a dreary, drizzly day, and kind of muddy around the gravesite, but we’re thankful it’s warm for a January day. After the short committal service, we were invited to take a flower from the beautiful spray on the casket. I was deeply touched when my daughter Liz took one of the flowers across the road to the nearby grave of her great-grandparents and placed it in the small vase on the marker. Her sensitivity impresses me.

The chain of life. Generation to generation.

These connections are important. We do live on after we die. I carry the life blood of those who came before. A part of me lives on in those who come after.

It’s humbling.

And it’s good.

I think maybe it’s fitting that our Christmas season ended with a funeral. This is why Jesus came, isn’t it?

“For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.
The last enemy to be destroyed is death.”
-1 Corinthians 15:25-26

So, maybe our Christmas didn’t look like a Currier and Ives print.

Everything wasn’t perfect.

But we were reminded why we celebrate.

And it was good.

Lloyd

The Nativity

Source: more-sky.com – Click image for a larger view.

Among the oxen (like an ox I’m slow)
I see a glory in the stable grow
Which, with the ox’s dullness might at length
Give me an ox’s strength.

Among the asses (stubborn I as they)
I see my Savior where I looked for hay;
So may my beast like folly learn at least
The patience of a beast.

Among the sheep (I like a sheep have strayed)
I watch the manger where my Lord is laid;
Oh that my baaing nature would win thence
Some woolly innocence!

 C.S. Lewis, Poems

Monday Picks ~ 12-19-2016

This is some stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing today that I think may enrich your day as well...

This is pretty much where my family lands…

Putting Christmas Back in ChristHannah Ploegstra
The Bible never once suggests that the birth of Christ ought to be celebrated; the early custom of birthday celebration was so rooted in magic, astrology, and pagan idol worship that Jews and early Christians would have had nothing to do with birthdays. That said, if someone wants to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to Jesus on December 25, I think Jesus gets it. The nations have come to him and they’ve brought him some of their quirky customs; the nations are worshipping him in ways that make sense to them.


Sometimes I need this encouraging reminder…

5 Reasons To Read The Bible When You Feel Absolutely NothingStephen Altrogge
http://theblazingcenter.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/pexels-photo-69004-1700x1133.jpegReading God’s word is usually like planting seeds. I won’t see the fruit of it immediately, but eventually, that fruit will come forth. If you ever wonder why a particular Christian is so mature, it’s because they’ve spent many hours planting seeds in the soil of their heart.

Growth is slow. Fruit is slow. But it will happen.


You’ve Reached the BeginningSeth Godin
Image result for seth godinI was paging through a photo set that someone sent along and when I hit the left button one too many times, the screen popped up and said, “you’ve reached the beginning.”

I guess that’s right here.

And right now.

Always.


If you didn’t see this segment 60 Minutes last night you can watch it here, and I highly recommend that you do. These men are amazing. They are a powerful reminder that hate cannot ever win…

The White Helmets60 Minutes
http://eaworldview.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/CYSx0CuWsAETYub-680x365_c.jpg
“If there is meaning to the word courage,” said a Syrian journalist, “it is represented by the Civil Defense.” Also known as the White Helmets, the trained force of 3,000 rescue workers offer Syrian civilians their only hope. Scott Pelley reports.


Another way of putting things into perspective. This kind of stuff fascinates me…

While you’re there, make sure you click on the little “Speed of Light” icon in the bottom right of your screen.

If the Moon Were Only One Pixel

The model only goes to the edge of our own solar system then ends with these words:

Might as well stop now. We’ll need to scroll through 6,771 more maps like this before we see anything else.


Can you relate?
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Bizarro

Weekend Picks ~ 12-16-2016

xmas-weekend-picks

This is some stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing today that I think may enrich your day as well...

I was just talking with someone about this last night. I always find these posts by Joe Carter helpful…

9 Things You Should Know About Aleppo and the Syrian CrisisJoe Carter
https://tgc-cache.s3.amazonaws.com/images/remote/http_s3.amazonaws.com/tgc-ee2/articles/8211986232_63f6a929f9_b.jpg
The recent struggle for control of the Syrian city of Aleppo has brought renewed attention to the ongoing war crimes that have devastated the Middle East nation. Here are nine things you should know about Aleppo and the Syrian crisis…


When Christmas isn’t Good NewsRob Tims
6491-fx-6-0-12-6-8-0Christmas was not good news for Herod. Jesus was a threat to all he held dear.

And Jesus could be that for you and I today.

King Jesus wants my hard-earned crown.


No Gullible Bumpkins Here: Christmas and the Virgin Birth
Mike McKinley
…roughly a century ago influential theologians began to doubt whether or not that was actually true. They pointed to the virgin birth of Jesus as a superstition that intelligent, modern people simply couldn’t accept. After all, we all know that there is no such thing as a baby being born to a virgin. That’s impossible! If Christianity was going to flourish in the scientific era (or so the thinking went), it would need to jettison these kinds of “myths” that were an insult to our reason and intelligence.

On the surface, that might sound reasonable. But if you look closely, you will see that it does not really do justice to Luke’s narrative. Mary and Zechariah and Elizabeth were not gullible bumpkins who didn’t know how babies were made and believed fantastical stories (nor, for that matter, were Luke and his original readers). They found the whole idea just as unlikely as you and I might, but that’s exactly the point! The great theological truth that Luke is bringing to the forefront by including these events in his “orderly account” is that God’s salvation will come in a seemingly impossible way.


This is an excellent, thoughtful and encouraging article…

If Abortions Are Declining, Why Keep Fighting Roe v. Wade?
Aaron Earls
pregnancy abortion pro-life pro-choice
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say the current rate of 12.5 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-44 years is the lowest since 1971.

From a pro-life perspective, this is undeniably good news. But should this lead us to change our tactics in the work to prevent abortions?

With this news and previous stories like it, many Christians have taken this as an opportunity to step out of the public and political fight against Roe v. Wade and move toward easier cultural and political wins that could lead to a continued reduction of abortions…

My ultimate desire would be to see us so change the narrative that abortion is all but eliminated prior to any laws ever being changed, and the laws are changed to reflect the perspective of the citizenry.

But that final part is more than ceremonial. It matters what our laws say about life. Pro-life absolutely means more than outlawing abortion, but it doesn’t mean less.


I have a very good friend who has ministered in the same small town in Ohio for several decades. I doubt that I will ever have the kingdom influence that he has had…

A Word of Encouragement to the Small Town Pastor
Ron Edmondson
Many times the small city pastors compare themselves to the big city churches. They compare numbers rather than progress. They compare size rather than context. They compare notoriety rather than influence.

And, because of that, many times, they don’t know how well they are really doing.

I see the connections, networking and influence the small town pastor has and I wish I could have this kind of Kingdom influence in my city. I see the respect they command in their community and know, in my context, in many ways they are miles ahead of me.

Small city pastor. God is using you. You are making a Kingdom difference. You just sometimes don’t know how well you are doing.


Forgiveness…
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Pearls Before Swine – Click image for a larger version.

Thursday Picks ~ 12-15-2016

xmas-thursday-picks

This is some stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing today that I think may enrich your day as well...

I bet there are at least one or two of these that will hit you where you live, like they did me…

10 Ways to be a Christian this ChristmasKevin DeYoung
300px-Nativity_tree2011We love Christmas. We can’t wait for the day to come, and many of us can’t wait for the season to be gone.

But whether you love every nook and cranny about the holidays–or consider most of it “noise, noise, noise!”–there is no excuse to be grinchy and scroogeish. Here are ten ways we can remember to be Christians this Christmas…


This is a challenging article…

The Greatest Need in Special NeedsAbigail Dodds
When special needs kids are young, it’s easy to sentimentalize their disability as something that’s oh-so-precious and dear. It’s easy to think that God gave them their disability in order to help the church be more caring, or to somehow show us a simpler and purer person than those of us with the mental ability to really be sinful. But those are half-truths. We can’t forget that special needs kids need God…

When we sentimentalize kids with special needs, we do them a great harm. They may have an innate happiness or preciousness, but the realities of sin and redemption still apply…

We may think that folks with cognitive disabilities and delays in our church are mainly there as some sort of object lesson to enable our spiritual growth, forgetting that God wants spiritual growth for all of us. Or we may think that they’re so different from us that all effort to train them in the Lord would be meaningless, forgetting that in the deepest sense, they’re exactly like us — humans who simply need the gospel.


So is this…

Even if He Doesn’tMelissa Edgington
1sryerojdue-tao-wenShe tearfully told us that God had spoken to her and had assured her that this pregnancy would be different. She believed He had promised her that this baby would be perfectly fine, and she told us so with confident conviction. “He isn’t going to let anything happen this time,” she said. “I’m holding on to His promise.”

Even as she spoke the words, I cringed inside…

Someone had taught her wrong thinking about God. Somewhere along her Christian path, some teacher or mentor had told this woman that God is good because He does what seems right to us. She had been taught that we are to name what we want and claim it territorially, as if we can instruct God on the best way to do things. And, in her desperation to hold onto the hope that she would never again have to endure the death of a child, she convinced herself that God had promised her that she would never have to.


If we demand our way, is it really worship?

Worship MattersEd Stetzer
Worship Matters…believers are called to engage in worship, not argue about it. It’s a mark of maturity that we do so, and often we do so in churches that worship in ways that are, perhaps, different from our preferences.

Yet, worshiping in ways that are not about us makes sense, doesn’t it? That’s at least a part of what it means to offer up worship as service. In other words, it’s not about us, but about Jesus.

Many believers, driven by their preference, make the emotional worship experience all about themselves. But that misses the very point of Christian worship. It must be directed beyond ourselves to Christ.

Worship matters. Yet, at its heart, worship is not about us. My hope is that we might actually worship by putting aside our preferences, focusing on Jesus, and making it all about Him.


A classic holiday short…
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Off the Mark