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Sunday, December 25, 2005

I Ruined Christmas

Yes, I ruined Christmas.

But, let me back up: I hate money or the lack thereof. And I don't think it is the love of money in my case. It's not that I want a lot of nice or expensive things. It's not that I want to buy my way or my friends. No, I don't believe it is a love of money - that root of all evil.

I do hate what the lack of money does to one. It certainly, for one, creates a lot of anxiety about paying the bills, and I'm tired of living with anxiety over finances. Yes, of course, I understand the nature of faith in God and trusting Him to meet my needs, but if I've made choices that have resulted in financial difficulties there are incumbent side effects and that includes the anxiety when the bills begin to mount up faster than the amount in the checking account. And, we don't even want to think too far into the future.

Then, there is the relationship to churches. I want to be able to minister without regard to financial compensation. Unfortunately, when a previous church has not compensated enough to keep up with financial needs, it creates a need to look at that area when dealing with churches. I hate that, so I hate the lack of money.

However, even worse is what it does to relationships. In my case, it has created a tension in my relationship to my parents. They do, I know, want to be helpful, but it does create strain when your parents want to talk with you about money as if you were 30 years younger. And, then the awkwardness when they extend money, as helpful as it is. I do hate the lack of money.

And, then the relationship to one's spouse. It is terrible when the uppermost thought on your mind is (almost) always: what is it going to cost? I am so tired of this feeling. I love my wife. I want to enjoy life with her. I don't like the feeling that I am trying to run her life by questioning every thought, every action, every move with "what will it cost?" Have I mentioned that I hate the lack of money.

And that brings me around to my subject: I ruined Christmas.

I stole my wife's joy. As much as we have been through this year and as much difficulty as she has endured, she in love went and got for me something that she thought I wanted very much. The bright spot of the day was her anticipation of my joyous reaction on opening my gift from her. She was really looking forward to it.

So, we get around to opening the presents and she points out the one for me. I can only imagine what she was thinking as I begin to unwrap it. Then I open the box and pull out the prized item, and ... the first thought that raced through my mind and showed on my face was "how much did it cost"?

I cannot get a "do-over." I cannot go back and erase that picture from her mind. I'm not sure I can even use the gift without her recalling that picture (she has a very good memory).

For my wife, I ruined Christmas and that is not what I am supposed to do. And, I have to tell you that knowing this has ruined my Christmas too. Oh God, please forgive me ...

for I ruined Christmas!

(By the way, if any of you readers have any advice for me, please keep it to yourself. I am beating myself up quite well by myself thank you. And probably the only words that might give me any comfort at all at this point are "you know, I did something stupid like that myself once.")

Saturday, December 24, 2005

All Is Well

My wife is scheduled to sing Michael W. Smith's All Is Well at the Christmas Eve Service of First Baptist Church, Toccoa, GA.

The message of the song is simple enough, but it comes into focus when, humanly speaking, all is not well.

When health fails.
When childlessness is assured.
When employment is not in sight.
When finances are inadequate.
When children go into rebellion.
When friends prove themselves unfaithful.
When government leaders foolishly go astray.
When religious leaders fall.
When the world is turned upside down.

Regardless. All, yes all, is well! Christ is born!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Christmas Tree

From The Mission of Sisters Baptist Church (Vol. 3 No. 37, December 20, 2005), the weekly newsletter of Sisters Baptist Church, Sandersville, GA comes the following from my friend and former high school classmate, Mark Riner:

"... Well, as we gather around our beautifully decorated Christmas tree this weekend with our families and express giving of our love to someone else, do remember that there was a Christmas tree that was not as colorfully decorated; but decorated nonetheless with blood.

"People gathered around that ugly tree, a tree representing death and yet, that tree -- Oh, that wonderful Christmas tree had gifts upojn it more wonderful than any gift we will find under our trees; gifts of forgiveness, grace, redemption, love, sacrifice, eternal life and more. Yea, it is a CHRISTmas tree. That is all it can be; it is what it is."

Thank you Mark for this wonderful illustration. God bless you, Connie, and family during this season of the year. To you and all readers: Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Lotta Bit More

"Maybe Christmas,
perhaps,
means a little bit more."

- from How the Grinch Stole Christmas (Jim Carey version)
which I am watching on tv -

Right, right, right!
That is part of the formula.

If only they could acknowledge the other part of the formula -
the little bit more (actually, it's a lotta bit more):

Christmas means Jesus, God with us,
the One who saves us from our sins.

I realize this post is very similar to the previous one, but I was struck by the quote and just had to acknowledge it.

It calls to mind the statement from World magazine that the only major Christmas tv program to get it right is the Charlie Brown Christmas special where Linus begins to quote scripture.

Jesus - the lotta bit more!

Friday, December 16, 2005

It Won't Be Christmas

It won't be Christmas ...

if I don't get that gift I want.

if I don't hear "Silent Night" 12 hundred times.

if I don't get to make gingerbread cookies.

if that special ornament is not on the tree.

if the kids don't make it home for the day.

if, if, if ...

Wrong.

If everything in our lives is going wrong,
If the world was turned upside down,

It would still be Christmas, because ...

Jesus was born - God become man - Incarnate.

That is what makes Christmas Christmas and nothing else.

It won't be Christmas?

Oh, yes it will!

And you
and I
and our circumstances cannot keep it from happening.

God's blessings on you for a very wonderful Christ-season and a God-filled New Year!

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Harry Potter

This afternoon I saw the televised version of "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" or something like that.

After all the hoopla, I was disappointed that it was such a tame movie. In fact, the phrase that jumped out at me was one that was basically the same as one I have been using regularly lately: "it's all about the choices we make."

Obviously from a theological perspective it is ultimately about God's choices, but on our level, so much of what we get is based on our choices. (This also does not discount the effect on us of the choices that others make.)

For example, my mother chooses to keep pushing herself when weariness and pain would easily dictate staying in bed, but she also pays the price for pushing.

And, in my own life, I have made choices that have affected the life that I live today - some good, some bad.

In fact, there is scriptural backing for this:

"For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind." Hosea 8:7a

World Magazine December 10 2005

Earlier today I finished the December 10, 2005 edition of World Magazine. There were a couple of articles that I found interesting and worth filing away - besides the articles that are more temporal but also interesting.

One article, "Why December 25?" gives indication that December 25 was celebrated as the day of Jesus' birth prior to the pagan use of that date for their celebration. Something to do with an ancient Jewish belief that major prophets died on either the date of their birth or conception. Therefore, someone earlier on decided that Jesus also died on the date of His conception. Thus, conception on March 25 led to His birth 9 months later on December 25. This article can be found at http://www.worldmag.com/displayarticle.cfm?id=11344 .

Another, "Ugly Things," quotes Socrates as saying that "opinions divorced from knowledge are ugly things." Everyone has opinions but if facts are not involved then basically stupidity is the result. This article is available at http://www.worldmag.com/displayarticle.cfm?id=11345 .

Well, check these and others out at http://www.worldmag.com and perhaps they would appreciate it if you subscribed to the print edition.

Blessings.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Limbo Revisited

Several posts back I discussed the fact that it is no fun living in "limbo." Well, now I really know why.

Just today I discovered that there is, apparently in some Roman Catholic theology, a place called limbo. It seems that it is the place where the souls of babies who die before being baptized go.

Oh, brother!