More Than Just Inspired

I was told recently to identify the people whose lives impacted me the most and keep those lessons and their memories close to me.  So I thought about it and picked the following four individuals.  Their stories inspire me, challenge me, and sometimes even torment me a little, because I’m not sure if I could ever be as strong.  :)  These are a few short lessons I’ve learned from them after studying both their work and their lives.  I encourage you to know them better.  And tell me, who are your heroes?

Agatha Christie
The most ordinary people can do the most extraordinary things.
The most extraordinary people are the ones who cherish the ordinary things.

 

 

Corrie Ten Boom
Do what is right, no matter the cost.
Forgive other’s sin, no matter how horrible.
Always remember, God turns the darkest moments into our greatest strength, if we let Him.

 

 

Jane Austen
Witt and romance are worthless if they are not founded on propriety, honor and selflessness.

 

 

 

Glenn Beck
Face reality.
Adapt to reality.
Keep dreaming.
Keep believing.

The Truth, As Santa Claus Tells It

Think you know the story of Christmas?  How about the history of Santa?

Well, you might know that the story started with a Nicholas of Myra (modern day Turkey), whose first recorded act was filling the stockings of three sisters with gold so they would have enough to fulfill their dowries.  But even after he brought a happily-ever-after to each girl, Nicholas went on doing good and eventually became a bishop.  After that he was usually seen wearing the traditional red robes of the church.  Yes, the very first red Santa cloak.

But how did Saint Nicholas become Santa Claus? 

As the tradition of celebrating the birth of Christ spread, so did the story of Nicholas and his gift giving ways.  The pronunciations, however, did not follow too easily along.  The Dutch in particular had trouble with “Saint Nicholas,” which often came out sounding more like “SinterKlaas.”  And over time and more mispronunciations, SinterKlaas turned into Santa Claus.

Then along came the Reformation. 

When the Reformation swept Germany, most reformers decided to sweep away every semblance of the Catholic Church, including good St. Nick.  But that doesn’t mean they did away with Christmas.  By no means.  The Germans went on to develop some of our most well know Christmas traditions.

Legend has it that Martin Luther, always a fan of the object lesson, created the first Christmas tree, choosing an evergreen tree for the everlasting life we have in Christ and lights for the Light of the World.  Later people started hanging fruit on their trees to symbolize the blessings of God.  We now call them Christmas tree ornaments.

The Germans didn’t actually do away with Santa, especially since their children had become very attached to the Christmas Eve visit from the jolly gift-giver.  So, they just created their own version, by the name of Father Christmas.

“When, what to my wondering eyes should appear?”

Over the years, story after story rolled together until the idealized images of Santa came to be, perhaps best described by the classic poem, Twas The Night Before Christmas.  Yes, the image of a man whose belly jiggled like a bowl full of jelly made its author quite popular and quite wealthy.  Mr. Clement Clark Moore was in fact a son of a Bishop and eventually became a founder of the General Theological Seminary of New York.  The school was built upon ground paid for by eight tiny reindeer.

Years later, the school’s first instructor of church music, John H. Hopkins, decided to add to the annual Christmas pageant and composed what is now one of the most famous nativity songs, We Three Kings of Orient Are, and its iconic image of a star with royal beauty bright.

So, you see, whether it’s Saint Nicholas, SinterKlaas, Father Christmas, or our dear Santa Claus, you just can’t quite separate this jolly old soul from the true meaning of Christmas.  I’m sure he’d be the first to tell you that it doesn’t matter if it is the dead of Winter or the height of Summer, just give a gift, share a smile, and celebrate the birth of our Savior.

Oh, and if you like to check out my own version of the Santa Claus legend, you can click here to learn more about a free download of my newest book, The Father Christmas Confessions: A Christmas Comedy. 

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a goodnight. 

 

Somebody Please Say Merry Christmas!

This has sort of become an annual post for me, but I think as we officially start out the Christmas season it is always worth saying.  So, maybe we’ll just call this particular little post yet another Christmas tradition.

~~~~~

We’ve become quite accustomed to the outcry against saying Merry Christmas by now.  Such words might offend someone.

A few years ago I worked for a major department store during the Christmas season.  While we were not told to avoid saying Merry Christmas, it was pretty clear that a traditional Christmas was not on the marketing agenda.  The slogan for the season was “Give” (aka, buy).  Christmas trees were confined to the corner that sold ornaments.  Other than that, decorations consisted only of snowflakes and fake presents.

Still, I just decided to say Merry Christmas to every person who came by my register.  I am here to tell you that nobody was offended.  Most people smiled and returned the greeting.  Multiple people stopped, sighed, and said, “THANK YOU FOR NOT SAYING HAPPY HOLIDAYS.”

It is a sad, sad day indeed when the majority of the population fears offending the approximately one percent of people who get offended by everyone anyway.

So please, this Christmas season, do everyone a favor and SAY MERRY CHRISTMAS to as many people as you can.

The Question?

Q: What are you going to do today?
A: I’m going to change the world.

Q: How do you do that?
A: I’m going to change a life…or two…or more.

Q: And how do you plan on doing that?
A: I’m going to smile at someone, make someone laugh, help someone with something, give someone a gift, tell someone the truth, tell someone I love them, tell someone God loves them, give someone a hug, listen to someone, write a book that does it all….Whatever it is, I’M GOING TO DO SOMEMTHING, because I’m done with doing nothing.

….
Q: What are you going to do today?
A: [Fill in the blank]

Living in the Lawnmower Chalet

Have you ever tried living in a lawnmower chalet? Hm, perhaps I should explain before you answer.
Several years ago my family and I dropped in on an open house for a very expensive home. While walking through the living room we noticed an interesting building in the backyard. For all intensive purposes, it appeared to be a shed…a shed with a wide front porch, gingerbread eaves, and a very elaborate light fixture suspended in front. When we asked the realtor about it, she said, in all seriousness, “Oh, that? That’s the Lawnmower Chalet.” I’m afraid we broke out laughing.
It has become a very big joke in the family. Every time my dad starts talking about retiring I just say, “Don’t worry, you can always live in my Lawnmower Chalet.”
Funny as it is, the whole idea took on a different meaning for me this week when I was thinking about trying to do things that make my natural self say, “Oh, that is way too hard. Almost nobody succeeds. Why are you even trying?”
I realized if I succumbed to those thoughts I’d end up being a lot like someone who lived in a shed their whole lives, wishing I could live in the real house, but assuming it’s too hard to get there. It would be so easy to just dress up the shed, give it a fancy sounding name, and pretend that I’m just fine living there. But it wouldn’t be fine, would it?
So, are you living in a Lawnmower Chalet? Is there are “real house” out there you’d like to live in, but you’ve assumed it’s impossible to get there? Are you adding gingerbread eaves to your shed?
Personally, I’ve decided to stop decorating my shed and start moving out. How about you?

Somebody Please Say Merry Christmas!

I know I posted this one last year, but I figured it was the sort of thing that could be said every year.

We’ve become quite accustomed to the outcry against saying Merry Christmas by now. Such words might offend someone.
A few years ago I worked for a major department store in our area during the Christmas season. While we were not told to avoid saying Merry Christmas, it was pretty clear that a traditional Christmas was not on the marketing agenda. The slogan for the season was “Give” (aka, buy). Christmas trees were confined to the corner that sold ornaments. Other than that, decorations consisted only of snowflakes and fake presents.
Still, I just decided to say Merry Christmas to every person that came by my register. I am here to tell you that nobody was offended. Most people smiled and returned the greeting. Multiple people stopped, sighed, and said, “THANK YOU FOR NOT SAYING HAPPY HOLIDAYS.”
It is a sad, sad day indeed when the majority of the population fears offending the approximately one percent of people who get offended by everyone anyway.
So please, this Christmas season, do everyone a favor and say MERRY CHRISTMAS to as many people as you can.

A Rubber Band Simile

I have the tendency to get struck by the weirdest comparisons. ;)
My “other job” is submitting blueprints to the City Building Department for my family’s drafting business.
If you spend any time regularly in the City Building department you will notice two things. Everyone has to wait and rubber bands are very important.
Yes, they hold our plans together, but they also provide another important function. Amusement.
As the minutes drag on we begin by flicking and rolling them along the plans. Before long we’ll have one in our hands, twisting and bouncing between our fingers.
Then at last one of our names is called from the waiting list. We gather up our plans and papers and charge the counter like we will lose our position if we wait for more than thirty seconds.
What we usually fail to notice in the rush to the counter is that we’ve woven the rubber band around one of our fingers like a ring. I usually don’t realize it until my fingers start to feel cramped.
After years of going through this routine I’ve become rather magnetic with rubber bands. If there is one within my range it usually ends up in my hands without much thought and then I’ll find it twisted around one my fingers sometime later.
I found one completely twisted around my pinky-finger yesterday. As odd as this may sound, the first thought that struck me was, “I wonder how many people are walking around absentmindedly attached to bad habits and bad attitudes.” Strange, I know, but that’s how this post started.
God does call us to have an “excellent spirit.” (Daniel 6:3).
Yes, we may not lie, steal, or cheat, but we have a tendency to think we have the right to be a little bit short with people because we’re having a bad day, or leave a mess for others to clean up, or ignore other people’s rules because we don’t like them.
As one of my favorite teachers is fond of saying, “When a store says, ‘Please leave your cart here,’ that means, ‘Please leave your cart here,’ not, ‘Leave your cart wherever and make the employees run all over the parking in the dead of winter or height of summer.’”
You think that’s too small to make much of a difference? Winding rubber bands around your fingers might be a small thing, but it is not particularly safe. Circulation does eventually get cut off.
What seems small and unimportant now can eventually add up to be the difference between average lives and excellent lives.

Spark Some Discussion

My family and I had a very interesting movie experience this weekend. We saw a commercial for a science fiction, doomsday film and on a whim decided to rent it.

No, I’m not going to recommend it or even tell you the title. I know I have younger readers and this was frankly one of the scariest movies I’ve ever seen. Honestly, I had trouble falling asleep because I kept envisioning waking up to find a tall, thin, blonde man standing over my bed with his abnormally long, boney fingers reaching out for me (okay, so I’m impressionable).

Then why bring it up? The movie had an interesting effect on my family. As soon as the credits began to roll everyone in the room burst into discussion about all the ideas presented and questions left. It was not a Christian movie, but the themes were oddly strong.

The ones saved from the fires were those who “heard the call” and “followed the path.” The elements sparked a lot of questions…Those creatures were certainly aliens…but allegorically could they also be angels, coming to earth to take the chosen before the finally destruction? Is that supposed to be the tree of life? The new heaven and earth? Adam and Eve? Noah’s ark? Personally, I found the end to be extremely strange for a big budget Hollywood film.
The main character, a scientist who declares throughout the film that life is nothing more than a purposeless accident, finishes the story by clinging to his father, a Christian pastor, and declaring he now knows death is not the end of life.

Before long we were discussing what we believed, what other’s believed, how each idea appeared to different viewers, what could have influenced the writers, and then we were on the internet looking up different reviews, movie facts, and quotes, trying to see if we could understand the writer’s perspective.

Interestingly, one of the reviewers said he did not like the movie because he walked away with more questions than answers. I’m all for stories that have nice, neat endings, but is there not also value in a film that encourages people to talk about deep issues and search out more answers?

Say the name of Jesus.

A newly released album sparked a very interesting conversation this weekend.
Over the past few months my brother, sister, and I have become fans of a Christian band called The Newsboys. We were talking about several new songs they just released when my brother said, “I just really like how much they use the name of Jesus.”
He went on to tell me how rarely he heard the name of Jesus when he listened to contemporary Christian radio. Usually the lyrics only talked of God, or Christ, or referred to “Him” when describing divinity.
Of course there is nothing wrong with this. When I write I usually reference God, but I do know that if I avoid the name of Jesus I’m missing the point of everything I believe.
Why are we so afraid to say the name of Jesus? I’ve seen some people in Christian media avoid that name in strange ways, even when directly talking about Jesus. I have felt pressured before to say or write “God” instead of “Jesus” because God is supposedly less offensive than Jesus. Do we really need to be reminded that Jesus is God?
When my brother ended by saying, “They are so comfortable with the name of Jesus it just makes their songs more powerful,” I think he completed the argument.

In The Fire

Okay, this struck me as neat, so I thought I’d put it up here. I’ve heard the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego approximately a hundred times now. ;) And I’ve heard it from lots of different angles as well. But I was listening to one of my favorite teachers recently and she looked at one particular aspect in a different way.
To refresh, the trio was tossed in a ferocious fire, expecting to be burned alive, but instead there was a “forth man” in the fire who kept them alive and well. The point she made was Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were tossed into the fire bound. I.e. in bondage. So, often when we are in bondage to something, we have to meet Jesus in the fire before we can be free.
I just thought that was a neat way of putting it. :)Of course we know that even when we walk though the fire we shall not be burned. (Isaiah 43:2) :)