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Yvonne climbed into the storage closet. She handed me box after box of Christmas decorations. Then, she had to climb out of that hole that the Christmas decorations once filled. It was a time for a great laugh shared between the two of us.
Our Christmas tree is set up. Now, it was time to open up our storage and see what we could do to trim the tree. I was surprised.
There were no more Christmas lights. It seems like over the years we have bought hundreds and hundreds of lights. When a string of lights goes bad, there is always a store that has lights on sale. We must have thrown them all away in our move out West.
Colorful lights add so much to a tree. Each year I think about changing the colors of the tree decor. One year the lights are red, another time they are white and one year I was tempted to make the tree all blue.
Today is my day off so we are heading out to run errands. Along the way I’ll stop at a store or two and see what is the latest in color crazes for humble tree. Yeah, the tree will always be green with a hint of freshly fallen snow. But, I will highlight it with a nighttime glow of the latest colorization from the local discount store.
Of course the ornaments have to be the same color. When these splendid shiny globes reflect the lights hung on the tree, the sparkle is mesmerizing. Occasionally, there are sparkles when air flow moves some of the decorations.
Some day I may go really retro and hang those bubbling lights that heat up a glass tube of colored water. For hours on end as a kid, I watched those lights heat up and the endless streams of bubbles entertained my insatiable curiosity.
Lights make Christmas one of the remarkable times of the year. They match the real meaning of Christmas. Since Jesus is the Light of the World, it makes sense that lights are a main stay for decorations during this time of the year.
First, untangle those little lights. Second, lay them neatly on the tree. Finally, turn on the switch and stand back to admire. I love this time of year!
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Thanksgiving is done for 2010. The mountain of food is now stored in zip lock bags and stuffed into the refrigerator. Yvonne was like a maestro conducting a philharmonic orchestra the way she planned, cooked and served the dinner.
Our thoughts now turn to Christmas. We have already set out our tree. The weekend was our time to decorate it with lights, ornaments, and garlands.
Like so many we along with them eagerly look forward to our first evening when we can shut out the house lights and turn on the tree with all of its sparkling lights and glistening tinsel. The little child in all of us sighs deeply and we smile with all of our memories of this very fabulous time of the year. I love to touch the tree and feel the fun that is absorbed in this symbol of the season.
Then, there is the music. Isn’t Christmas music just the best? The familiar melodies, the message of the birth of the Savior, Jesus, and treasured moments poetical displayed in the lyrics make this season absolutely sensational.
Every community in our great country shares in this spirit of Christmas. Decorations spill over into businesses, schools and churches. Colorful lights and that special flavor of music transform our neighborhoods, towns and cities.
Even the greetings of shoppers, business connections and neighbors changes. We cheerily greet one another with “Merry Christmas!” To total strangers we link ourselves to each other with this seasonal salutation and douse it with plenty of smiles.
Television specials start to take up prime time. They know how to pump in the jolly and joy. I will be looking forward to taking in the Country Christmas special that is coming up soon.
Then, there are holiday shows in town. Even for those who never think about liking the ballet, make an exception and take in the local Nutcracker show. Or a neighborhood Christmas parade fits the bill. For others it is the Hollywood yule tide releases that gives them a chance to laugh and choke up at the same time.
For me it there is always church. When it comes to celebrating the reason for the season, it is about the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. He came so that He could die and we could all live. What a great reason to remember this remarkable season because of the love of God for us all.
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I have vague recollections of this day from days long past. tantalizing ads of incredible deals on desired items lured me from the safety of my home. Once I was within a half mile of the key stores, I had that worrying anxiety in the pit of my stomach that I had made a mistake.
Parking was horrendous. People were not happy. Anger was rampant. The modus operandi was simple, “first grab not necessarily the last grab.”
This must be the genesis of the game “tug-o-war”. People with their game faces on simultaneously reach and grasp on to the same item, a sale item of remarkable discounted prices. The words of interchange fly, “Excuse me, I had this first.”
There is a firm but distinctive tug followed by a compensating pull. Next, the rapid erosion of civility captures the attention of several. Most step away to give the fighters room to spar.
In the end the resolution is predictable. One pulls harder and claims the prize. The loser quips, “It’s not my size…way too big.” A cat snarl seals the audible interchange with a hiss. Then, the winning shopper dumps the now horribly stretched garment back on to the sale table and walks away in victory.
The hustle and bustle of holiday shoppers is most amusing to me.
It’s not my scene. Once I had a great deal in my sites. Clearly I snatched it up to the disappointment of another shopper. With a smile I handed to him with the cheery word, “Merry Christmas!” He took it, never acknowledged the gesture and walked away.
No, I didn’t snarl behind his back. Honestly, I smiled up to heaven. Then, with unspoken words in a silent whisper, “Happy Birthday, Jesus.”
Since then I avoid “Black Friday”. Instead, our family sends off our adventurous shoppers with cheer. The rest of us occupy our time at home until the vagabonds return home.
Then, we enjoy some great left-overs from our Thanksgiving feast. When the clock strikes that preplanned time, we bundle up for the Autumn chilly temperatures. We walk into the movie theater for a family tradition of a new release and enjoy the thrill of entertainment together, without the drama of bargain shopping.
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Paul’s life was filled with schedules like anyone else. People and their well-being were a priority. Plans for the year and his travels dominated his thoughts.
In his letter to Titus, the Apostle is concerned about the pastor. He intends to send encouragement through a fellow servant. Paul will choose to send either Artemas or Tychicus. He knows them by name. There is a relationship among these three that Paul knows what they will do and be willing to do. Either one would be willing to travel and render aid to Titus.
Paul also spoke on behalf of others. He urged Titus to extend as much hospitality as possible for two friends. One is Zenas. He is a lawyer. For all of the attorney jokes that Paul never heard, he knew the importance of this civil skill as he served the fledgling church of Jesus Christ.
Apollos is another friend. He is a leader who served with Paul. This colleague had a substantial impact on the lives of others. He seemed to have been gifted with a kind of charisma that attracted people to build loyal relationships with him. Paul trusted them to the extent that he affirmed that every expression of hospitality was welcome and would be a very wise investment.
Opportunity is a chance to make remarkable advancements. The people under the care of these shepherds could benefit from helping the servants of God. If they responded and did good then, they could grow in a vital part of spiritual maturity: devotion.
When lives practice regularly the expression of hospitality then when there were urgent needs, these same people will be able to respond with immediacy. Their daily routine will be conditioning to help and not be caught unprepared. Productivity will fill up their lives.
Paul finishes his letter to Titus by passing on greetings from those with him. Then, he asks Titus to do the something similar, pass on his greetings to those with Titus who love him in the faith.
At the heart of this tender interchange is Paul’s desire for those with Titus. It is never about information, strategies or plans in and of themselves. Rather all rests on the grace of God. That was most important.
The food is spectacular during this of the year. Special aromas remind us of this special holiday season. Turkey whether roasted, baked, deep-fried or smoked takes center stage.
Mouths water when the sights and smells of a table spread with sumptuous dishes. Someone gets the honor of thanking our Heavenly Father for His generous bounty. Then, it’s time to dig in to the food that never fails to satisfy.
But, that savory feast is days away. I’m thinking about it. To enjoy it I have to plan my short work week with skill and determination.
The same amount of work has to get done in the week that only has four days in it. Sure, I will fudge when I can. Once I was done with this past Sunday’s sermon, I started work on next Sunday’s message.
My evenings were invested in the work for the week too. Sunday and Monday night got to bear some of the load. I was buying time and getting it done.
Normally, I turn in materials that will be published in our Sunday bulletin by Thursday evening. This week I had to turn my materials on Tuesday. Yeow! Study had to be in overdrive.
Wednesday is that is a work day. Then, two theoretical days-off follow, officially designated as holidays. I’ve got to figure out how to manage the work and enjoy my family at the same time.
Hmmm…I wonder if anyone will mind if I wing it? Afterall, I’ve given my A game every Sunday for 253 days now. No one will mind if I take it easy once, right?
Ha! I couldn’t do it. Taking it easy or going half-baked isn’t even possible. No, I have other tricks up my sleeve.
When everyone is sleeping, I’ll slip out of bed and hit the books. When it’s time to shower, I’ll be writing on the steamed up door. Football will be on for hours on Thanksgiving. I’ll glance up once in a while from my computer but, I’ll be working the sermon hard on my keyboard.
Learning by osmosis might work too. I could record the audio Bible and put my i-pod speakers in my pillow and learn while I sleep! Do not fear. It will get done!
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Once the church doors were unlocked, I pulled the handle of our large commercial glass door. My steady step into the foyer wasn’t a rush to my office as usual. Instead, I smiled broadly and stepped inside but stopped.
In our church foyer piles of shoe boxes were stacked in the center of the floor. Hundreds and hundreds of shoe boxes. The truth is that there were thousands of shoe boxes.
Tables were set up throughout the area. Clearly someone was directing the assembly line. Off to the corner there were large boxes that the smaller shoe boxes were crated.
I wandered over to the assembly line area. There were bins full of toys. Other bins were filled with hygienic supplies. Then, there were school supplies.
Soon workers showed up. They were laughing, singing and talking with wild gestures and animation. Someone turned on the music. It was music for the Christmas season.
They went right after the busy task of Operation Christmas Child. Our team fills shoe boxes with school supplies, personal hygienic items, candy, toys and most important of all printed materials about the REAL Reason for the Season, the story of the birth of Jesus. Sunset Church sends out approximately 2000 shoe boxes.
Our church family and friends of our families join together for a service of love. From the sincere hearts of the Christians of Sunset Church, they give of their finances and their energy to make this happen. On top of that they serve with a smile.
The director of this gift of love fills me in on the details. She shows me how the shoe boxes are wrapped in cheery paper to reflect the joy of Christmas. Volunteers sit at a table and do the wrapping.
Another set of volunteers take the colorful boxes and fill them with the goodies supplied by generous donors, amazing shoppers and benefactors in the church family. I am told how children in far away countries treasure their box. Once a family had to evacuate their humble home for an emergency. The children in that home all grabbed their Christmas Child box as their most treasured possession.
We who have been blessed by God with so much can share with those who have so little. Love drive us to do this. Jesus Christ is our reason to reach out to children all around the world.
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It is the Thanksgiving season. Our entire nation pauses and families gather for fabulous food, fun times and recollection of memories both long ago and those just recently lived. For three decades distance has kept Yvonne and me from enjoying that special moment. Instead, while we watched so many friends meet up with moms, dads, grandparents, grandkids, and siblings, we smiled and longed for those times.
One of our best friends, Mike and Suzy let us join them for so many years. We became a part of each others lives. Through blessings and trials we cheered each other on. I miss them.
But, this Thanksgiving season I have moved back to California where all of my relatives live. We have been gone for over thirty years. That is a lot of Thanksgiving family dinners to miss.
The Autumn air and cool temperatures are perfect for a fabulous feast. At the center of the counter was the turkey. It would be tough to enjoy this season with the dressed bird, sending up its aroma and sporting its golden brown skin.
Surrounding the center entrée are amazing fixings. Mashed potatoes lures everyone filling their plates. Stuffing is piping hot. Jellied cranberry sauce highlighted so many of the plates.
There was plenty of food. It was mounded up high on the guys’ dishes. Of course the women were delicate with their helpings.
All that I described I did by imagination. My in-laws Thanksgiving dinner conflicted with my work schedule. But, Yvonne and I made it for dessert!
When we arrived everyone had already eaten. But, there was plenty of food for all. Just to be there for part of the meal was special for us.
Afterall, it wasn’t about the food. Rather is was about being together as family. I liked that!
We brought part of the desert. Yvonne and I were introduced to amazing bakery called Schubert’s. We ordered a Taramisu cake. After my work was done, we swung by the bakery to pick up our order. It looked fabulous.
I’m not even a cake lover. Under most circumstances I would always choose pie. But, this bakery does something special.
Their cakes aren’t just good, they are fabulous. Everyone was full from the dinner. But, when the cake was sliced no one turned it down. Dessert with family for Thanksgiving dinner, how sweet it is!
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Yvonne and I were invited to a special party. We laughed with glee when we saw that the attire for the evening was cocktail or formal. Ooh, fancy!
It is fun to dress up. Even guys like the occasional chance to set aside mismatched camo for a slick tuxedo. So, I laid out my entire outfit.
A guy is very serious about dressing to the 9′s when he takes time to polish his shoes. My fancy shoes were more dusty than shiny. That’s how long it’s been since I got ready for celebration on this level. Once I finished these shoes I could see my reflection in its shine.
My tuxedo is all black. It is made from 120 wool. God did something special when He created sheep. When I slipped it on, it felt good. A quick glance in the mirror confirmed how I felt, stylin’!
When I dress formally, I prefer to trade in my cumberbund for a vest. My outfit is fitted with a full vest with vertical pinstripes. It has a matching bow tie that sits nicely on my turned up collar.
But, my fancy dress is nothing compared to the amazing spectacle when Yvonne stepped out. She had a stunning dress that she made look even better than it did on the mannequin. Her accessories were just the right amount of bling.
Her hair was perfect. The shoes that she chose enhanced her final outfit. She tried a couple of pairs but we both agreed on the sharp sandals that matched her dress ideally.
The final touch was what necklace to wear. She tried a few but decided on our favorite piece, her 30th wedding anniversary pendant. It was perfect!
Together we ascended the elevator to the beautifully decorated banquet hall. On three sides of the Crown Room of the Fairmont Hotel we had panaoramic views of San Francisco. The birds that were flying far below us made me smile at our perch high above the city.
We gazed to the south and marvelled at the compact urban sprawl. Apartment high rises, row houses and distant hills covered with houses pointed the way to homes for thousands. To the East the mighty Bay Bridge showed the endless trail of tailights heading to destinations out of the city. Finally, to the North, Alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge and Fisherman’s Wharf added a kind of glitz that is hard to ever forget.
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We humans love to pick a fight. If we can get the upper hand and confidently win an argument based upon knowledge, we love it. When the facts support us and we know it that kind of confidence in a debate is like an elixir that gives life its essential vitality.
Unfortunately, we are then vulnerable to quarreling about what is not important. Controversy means that varying opinions exist. Even more, those opinions are held with emotional bravado. Minutia is more important than practical truth.
Debate is a great and useful skill. Reasoning that is objective and dependent on truth and strength of presentation are vital in our population of many people. But, wisdom and foolishness are as much a part of what we argue over and what battles we choose to enter.
Christians in pursuit of righteousness make consistent right choices. Some of those choices are not just what to do but also what not to do. foolishness is as much a matter of avoidance as it is advocating wisdom.
The law is one subject that generates a great deal of heat over than light. Legalism is not the written code from God but the attitude that we humans put on it. It is important to note that arguing about the law is considered by Paul to be foolish; but, he does not say that the law itself is foolish.
Those with a keen appetite for learning discernment will also pick up wisdom looks ahead. It will perceive that outcome of a discussion and determine if the conversation whether heated or not is profitable or useful. If, however, the dialogue regarding the law is a spurious interaction that will result in what is unprofitable or useless, then, is should be avoided.
Not everyone who has been redeemed by Jesus Christ lives a redemptive life. Some live lives from their flesh. They are by nature, divisive people. Bias, suspicion, prejudice fuel their choices in life. These lives must be warned once or twice. But, after that they are not worth engaging any longer.
Paul teaches all of us that there comes a time to end our efforts with certain flawed people. Their thinking is warped. Even their own values are self-condemning.
As a relief for the righteous who feel the need to continue extending more and more grace, this passage of Scripture is a welcome respite. There is no use to continue mercy to those who cannot receive it. Tuck this passage away for those hopefully rare but very bad people.
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The room in the Hall of Justice reserved for gathering jurors accommodated hundreds of us private citizens. My fellow San Franciscans all looked normal. When any of our eyes met in a growingly crowded room, two smiles emerged.
When something comical occured, we laughed. No one seemd sour. The clerk invited us to watch an introductory video. I enjoyed it. In both Oregon and Michigan, I previewed a similar presentation.
Over my lifetime I have received four jury summons. While a registered voter in Oregon, I was summoned twice but never was selected to serve. While I lived in Michigan, I was summoned once. The court did not select me then either.
Now, as a new resident in San Francisco, I was looking forward to serving. I am not only a patriot I am also a serious citizen. I am certain that God wants me to be both.
When the clerk announced that the first group of jurors had been selected, I didn’t not wait to hear my name. Rather, I packed up my book, telephone and grabbed my jury summons. As sure as the sun rises every morning, my name was called and I headed for court room 16.
Nearly 40 of us filled the gallery of the Judge’s court. The Baliff announced that the Judge was entering and directed all of us to stand. Then the judge introduced the court personnel and began teaching.
He taught us about our responsibility as jurors. We were to remain dispassionate while attempting to evaluate the evidence. Often the judged asked us to consider whether or not we could remain objective and decide fairly even though in our past experiences we may have had unpleasant circumstances that might parallel the case at hand.
Then, came the moment of truth. Standing up from her computer desk the court clerk called 24 names. The first 12 were seated in the box, where the jurors sit. Then, she called an additional 12 to serve as alternates after the jury was selected.
The rest of us in the peanut gallery just had to listen. Only six jurors were excused during the selection process. Two alternates were sworn in as official alternates.
Then, the judge nodded to the Baliff. He came to all of us who were not selected and thanked for our day of service. He confirmed our question, “We’re done for a year?” “Yes, you are free for a year. Thank you for your service.”
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