Lions and Tigers and Bears…Oh, My!!

Lion and Lamb“The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, The leopard shall lie down with the young goat, The calf and the young lion and the fatling together; And a little child shall lead them.”   Isaiah 11:6

I once saw a show on cable about odd animal pairings; members of different species that formed a bond. For example, an antelope and giraffe formed a strong bond. It also include pairings between people and animals.

One old cowboy was friends with a ferocious buffalo. That thing would charge the fence when others came near. He damn near lifted the whole fence up and out of the way, almost freeing himself. But when the ol’ boy entered the corral, the buffalo became gentle as could be. This 1 ton behemoth was even allowed in the house where he sauntered around, slow and easy. Didn’t so much as knock a tea cup off a table.

Hyena ManAnother guy – and this yahoo was COMPLETELY nuts in my book – got himself in with a pack of wild hyenas. HYENAS!! The host of the show had to stay in a cage so the hyenas couldn’t get to her while he frolicked and played dominance games with this pack of carnivores. By the way, seeing them next to a person, this was the first time I realized just how big those ugly suckers are! He’s even gotten severely bitten and hospitalized when they got a little too zealous in trying to take some dominance from him. It’s taken him many years to become part of the pack, but they consider him a dominant member of the pack now.

Hyena

Laughter – The best medicine?

After getting over my amazement at what I was seeing, a question came to me. Is sin instinctual? Is sin part of human and animal instinct? Is it when we overcome our instincts to maul and eat each other that we start getting a glimpse of what the new Earth will be like, as Isaiah wrote above? People won’t maul and eat each other. Animals won’t maul and eat other animals, let alone people. Is love and patience, such as the hyena man showed, a glimpse of the real natural order God intended? The hyenas were buddy/buddy with him as long as he could keep that love and patience in front of them. But when instincts come back to the fore…

 

Let’s continue the parallel. In each case, someone put a lot of work into being loving instead of tasty. In particular, this effort was not only fraught with danger, but real injuries for the hyena guy. But he “forgave” in a sense and overcame the pack. He overcame instinct with love.

Passion of ChristIsn’t that what Jesus did? Isn’t that what he’s asking us to do? Just like I saw hyena-man as seriously deranged for his efforts, might we not see people the same way for wanting to overcome a person who is more animal than human with love? And get pretty well roughed up in the process?

Allow me a confession here. I sometime witness people who I can’t help seeing as just animals in human form. They are just so far gone from civilized behavior, it’s hard to see them as people, let alone people with souls.

Should you make the same confession?

Isaiah paints a much better picture of eternal life than we give him credit for. Maybe God uses these sorts of people – and I have no idea if they’re Christian – to show us graphically what Isaiah wrote about? Maybe this show is not just educational or entertaining. Maybe it’s another way God uses the world to get our attention. If we just decide to listen.

I look forward to that day when the instinct is to hug and love, not eat and burp.

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Quote for 1/9/2018

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.    Matthew 6:19-21 NKJV

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A member of your family has a car accident.  What’s your first concern; person or car?

How do you spend your time?  Do you read God’s Word?  Do you talk to other people about it?  Do you seek knowledge or do you sit in your nest like a hungry fledgling bird, mouth open, waiting for someone to feed you?  Are maybe a grown bird sitting there like a chick, looking ridiculous?

Are you taking an active part in your own relationship with God, your own salvation or is an hour or two once a week all you devote to a heavenly treasure?

Are you working toward retirement?  No, not that retirement…THAT retirement!!  What do your savings look like?  Where are they stored?

Being Judgmental

“I looked down into that carriage and I swear that baby was judging me.”   American Sweethearts Gwen (Catherine Zeta-Jones)

Things have gotten to the point where, not only can’t you talk about religion and politics, you can’t talk about much of anything without stirring controversy.

Christians have been cornered into trying so hard to be nice to other people we seem to have made it OK to not be nice to us. And being nice often takes the form of relaxing God’s standards. Christians will even have their own scriptures thrown in their faces in condemnation. “Judge not lest ye be judged!” So there! Ha!

In Romans 14 St. Paul writes to the church there to stop judging each other. In Matthew 7 Jesus says, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

Well, shucks! There seems to be biblical evidence that maybe we should not be judgmental. Maybe we are supposed to keep our mouths shut and let others live their lives. But wait! Read the following from Proverbs:

“My son, do not let wisdom and understanding out of your sight, preserve sound judgment and discretion.”

“Good judgment wins favor, but the way of the unfaithful leads to their destruction.”

So am I supposed to be judgmental or not? The first thing about interpreting bible passages – or any written word – is to be sure to read around the passage. Get the context. It’s a basic technique which is apparently no longer taught in journalism school. But I digress.

The first verse of Romans 14 reads “Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters.” Paul then goes on to write about how one individual eats only vegetables and is judgmental toward the ones who eat meat. There were other, non-scriptural disputes over what they thought was good, Christian behavior. There were doubtless any number of issues that the Roman church was fracturing over, with plenty of opportunities to be judgmental. It was apparently getting personal and people’s faith was being damaged.

In Matthew 7 Jesus sounds pretty adamant against being judgmental. If you read the whole thing, you realize He is advising us to be very careful about putting ourselves in the crosshairs by calling other people out on their behavior. Now read the rest of that section:

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

Jesus is telling us to not be hypocritical by judging others for a behavior that we ourselves practice. It’s stupid, a bad witness, and we put ourselves in jeopardy. He does indicate that, once we’ve cleared up our own vision, we will then be able to see clearly to, ahem, be judgmental. Now let’s go a step further and look more closely at the analogy. Jesus talks about removing a speck from our brother’s eye, clearly an act of kindness.

AN ACT OF KINDNESS!

Think about what you’ve read so far, and you’ll see that there are two types of being judgmental on display here. In Romans, Paul was trying to stop people from being judgmental in a way that was one-upmanship and personal. In Matthew, Jesus was talking against hypocrisy and also warning us to be very careful and kind with being judgmental.

I was on an international flight some years ago. My seat mate from Detroit to Amsterdam was a nice, young Scandinavian lass. As our discussions ranged, we got to the topic of religion. After some talk, she asked me if I thought she was going to hell. I thought I detected a bit of a challenge and realized I was in a very precarious position. I was a Christian potentially being set up by an unbeliever to be judgmental. My mind raced. God gave me the words to say.

“You must realize it gives me no pleasure to tell you this,” I said with heartfelt sadness, “but I do. And it isn’t me passing judgment on you. I’m simply answering your question based on what God tells us in the bible. If you don’t believe in Jesus as your savior, yes, you will go to hell.”

I was given the clarity to let her know that God is her judge, not me. I’m just the messenger holding up the yardstick God has given us all to use.

Sometimes I think about that young girl on the plane. Did that tiny seed of God’s Word ever take root or not? Did hearing Truth and my sorrow for her plight get her thinking…and seeking? Does telling anyone of any age the difference between right and wrong in love and sincerity do any good? I think it must. Certainly it does not every time, as many people’s hearts have been hardened. I do believe that society needs to know right and wrong.

C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity, that human beings are something akin to the product of a factory. The bible is the instruction manual. It tells us how to operate the human “machine” without damaging it.

Go ahead. Be judgmental, but in a good way.

The Children of Washington

Chuck as MosesBehold, I set before you today a blessing and a curse: 27 the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you today; 28 and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn aside from the way which I command you today, to go after other gods which you have not known.    Deuteronomy 11:26-28

Many people, me included, feel like this country’s best days are behind us. When I was growing up in the 60’s and 70’s, I would never have foreseen the day where you would expect a backlash from admitting you are a Christian. When I was in high school, there was a separate public high school downtown for girls who had “gotten in trouble.” It was shameful. Homosexuals did not parade around, flaunting themselves, let alone trying to get married.

And, while those and other issues didn’t always get handled in the best ways, people knew the difference between right and wrong. God meant families to be made up of a man and a woman and their children. He did not intend that we intentionally leave one of those out or change their natural relationships. How did we know?

Choices14 for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, 15 who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them) 16 in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.   Romans 2:14-16

Crime and PunishmentGod wrote His law on our hearts that we should have a conscience and know the difference between right and wrong. If you stole, you knew it was wrong. Ever read “Crime and Punishment” by Fyodor Dostoyevsky? OK, me neither. I mean I tried when it was assigned in high school, but it just went ON for freakin’ ever! I just couldn’t finish it.

But think of it. This is a novel by a Russian about a guy who commits a crime and ends up eaten up by guilt.  He was writing from the human perspective that inevitably includes God’s input. In this case, conscience.

So what have we, The United States of America, done in the last few decades? We’ve done our damndest – literally – to stamp out conscience, to eradicate right and wrong, to put down those nasty, judgmental Christians, and to serve “other gods.” Namely ourselves and our own passions. It truly seems as though our best days are behind us.

I’m sure the Children of Israel figured at more than one point in time that their best days were behind them. They thought that they would listen to the fearful reports of the spies sent in to scout Canaan instead of going in confidently per God’s instructions. Result: every adult dies in the desert during a forty year trek through the sand.

Babylonian ExileOr how about the time the Syrians came to Jerusalem for a little R & R (razing and ruining)? They stuck meat hooks through the Israelites’ bottom jaws and back out through their mouths, chained them together, and took them on a little stroll back home. And, by the way, given today’s news, what is with those Syrians, anyway?

Both of those instances, and more, led to national repentance and resurgence. After the Syrian relocation, we had Daniel, the lion’s den, and the three guys in the fiery.

Despite the fact that God told them very clearly what would happen if they misbehaved, they went their own way anyway. In Deuteronomy, He even foretold that they would screw up and just how badly He was going to spank them for it. And they STILL went awry!

But then they repented and went back to the old ways, which are, after all, the best ways, God’s ways. They flourished once again under God’s good graces. Then they fell again! Let’s hear it for The Children of Israel, folks.

Back to us. Are the USA’s best days behind us? Maybe not. Maybe The Children of Washington are on the downhill slide for now, but we’ll recover after a good spanking. My fear is that our best days may well be behind this generation, if not the country. Remember the timelines spanning generations that made up the cycles of the Children of Israel. Those who did wrong didn’t usually see redemption. They got theirs and died before the resurgence.

George Washington Praying

sacredfire

Great Bio!!

My fear for the Children of Washington is that we are way too much like the Children of Israel. We’re only going to get the spanking when our time is full just like they did. Maybe the best we can hope for is that we’ll be gone before the real spanking comes. Maybe the best we can do is try to start pushing the pendulum back the way it came and shorten the cycle for our children. If nothing else, maybe that’ll count for something.

 

You know – in your hearts – what’s right and wrong. You know where you can get your hands on a bible.  And choose wisely.

Quote for 1/5/2018

“Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil, Learn to do good; Seek justice, Rebuke the oppressor; Defend the fatherless, Plead for the widow.    Isaiah 1:16-17 NKJV

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I recently related an experience many years ago at a Panera where a man was mercilessly berating his young son, saying that he was embarrassing them in front of everyone.  The young lad’s fault?  He couldn’t think of anything he wanted to eat that morning.  That’s it.

I quietly told him he was embarrassing himself.  The boy had nothing to do with his display.  He put his nose on mine and screamed at me point blank for the better part of a minute, which seemed much longer.  I just stared him down, never blinking.  He left with his tail between his legs, a beaten man.

A grade school teacher there praised me, saying the boy needed to have someone stand up for him, to hear someone say he was OK.  I also got a lot of stink eyes and side comments I was meant to hear about sticking my nose where it didn’t belong.

I still think I did the right thing, although a smaller voice sometimes raises doubts.

Then I read today’s verse, and I feel washed clean from that doubt.  I Rebuked the oppressor; Defended the fatherless.  Maybe that’s not what the world wants to see, but it IS what God wants to see.

I encourage you to do what’s right in the eyes of God, not man.  Even if it means disapproval on earth.  Fight the fights that need fighting!  For your reward will be great in heaven!

Quote for 1/3/2018

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age,     Titus 2:11-12 NKJV

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This is from Paul’s letter to Titus, who was building up the Way on the island of Crete.  There was a cultural disconnect between Cretan culture and Jesus’ command to “be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

We read in the first chapter, “12 One of them, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” 13 This testimony is true.”

From the Concordia Self-Study Commentary: “The quotation was commonly attributed to the 6thy century poet and religious reformer Epimenides, himself a Cretan and so a valid witness to their national character, which had a bad reputation in antiquity generally.”

So the task at hand was to get Cretans to ACT on their new faith and work against their culturally accepted, indeed expected behavior!

Do we conduct our lives in purity according to Jesus’ teaching?  Do we conduct business in ways that Jesus would frown on?  Maybe some of our actions are socially acceptable, but we need to study God’s Word, to shine that light on our lives and live as God would have us live!

Pope Suggests Re-Phrasing the Lord’s Prayer

“See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil…”   Deuteronomy 30:15

Lords PrayerThe Pope, and a lot of people, struggle with one petition of the Lord’s Prayer: “Lead us not into temptation.”

No one wants to believe God tempts us. Indeed, He does not. None less than Martin Luther sought to clarify this part of The Lord’s Prayer. From Luther’s Small Catechism, Concordia Publishing:

And lead us not into temptation. What does this mean? God tempts no one. We pray in this petition that God would guard and keep us so that the devil, the world, and our sinful nature may not deceive us or mislead us into false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice. Although we are attacked by these things, we pray that we may finally overcome them and win the victory.

The pope wants to find a better phrasing to combat confusion on this part of the prayer. I believe education and not re-wording is the answer. Honestly, the wording is fine as is. Understanding it is the key.

First, Luther was right; God indeed tempts no one! But does God lead us to temptation, to choice, and, if so, what’s the difference?

ChoicesGod does indeed lead us to temptation, or to choice. God certainly led Adam and Eve to temptation when He asked them to take a look at this one tree in Eden.

“C’mere you two! I want to show you something and ask you for a favor. You see, I made you, this garden, the sky, all the animals…everything! It’s all for you, and I did all of this, because I love you so very much! I just want to ask you for an act of love in return. Just one thing. See that tree over there? Leave that one alone. Stay away from it. Don’t even touch it let alone eat anything from it. You can knock yourself out with anything and everything else in Eden, but I’m asking for a little love from you by way of you staying away from that.”

That is God NOT tempting them. That is God leading them toward a choice, toward the opportunity to choose, to love back. It was the serpent who did the tempting, who tried to get them to make a bad decision.

Here is where everyone needs to be educated more than the prayer needs to be re-translated. What does “Tempt” mean?

verb

verb: tempt; 3rd person present: tempts; past tense: tempted; past participle: tempted; gerund or present participle: tempting

  1. entice or attempt to entice (someone) to do or acquire something that they find attractive but know to be wrong or not beneficial.

“don’t allow impatience to tempt you into overexposure and sunburn”

synonyms: entice, persuade, convince, inveigle, induce, cajole, coax, woo; informal sweet-talk

Temptation

Kinda like that…

See the difference? God presents the choice and asks Adam and Eve to choose Him. The Serpent “entice(d) (someone) to do or acquire something that they find attractive but know to be wrong or not beneficial.”

 

God does not tempt. Satan and his staff do. God will lead us to a temptation/choice and asks us to choose Him. This is what God has done since the beginning. He shows us His love and providence and simply asks us to stay with Him and not betray His love. Look at Deuteronomy 30:15-20.

 “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil, 16 in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgments, that you may live and multiply; and the Lord your God will bless you in the land which you go to possess. 17 But if your heart turns away so that you do not hear, and are drawn away, and worship other gods and serve them, 18 I announce to you today that you shall surely perish; you shall not prolong your days in the land which you cross over the Jordan to go in and possess. 19 I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; 20 that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.”

No temptation there, but every incentive to choose the good, to choose God. As always.

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Check out my Christmas Novel, The Substance Hoped For!

Substance Cover

Christmas Class

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.   Romans 12:1

Nativity

It isn’t just that He came…

It isn’t really about the gifts. It’s about commemorating Jesus’ birth. The gifts? Those are part of the celebration much like food. And even then, the food isn’t so much about the food as it is about sharing the celebration and being a community. It’s about how you do it at least as much as that you do it.

 

That applies to life in general, true?

I described this concept in In Doing It With Style in October of 2016. Short version; I found a young lady’s wallet in the parking lot at work. Instead of just tracking her down and handing it back, I quickly memorized some information from her driver’s license and made it look I ran into her randomly.

Wallet Return

Not really me

“I’m getting a name here. Are you Caitlyn?”

 

I acted like a psychic, telling her stuff I never should have known. After sufficiently freaking her out, the grand finale was telling her she recently lost something of great value.

“Oh, yeah. Your wallet.”

How do you spell “relief?”

See?

My daughter takes care of horses at a stable. They recently got a new border; a nice filly who is a young girl’s Christmas present. My daughter’s equine education included how to braid manes for show horses. She bought some purple ribbon – the girl’s favorite color – to braid into the horse’s hair on Christmas Eve so the horse will be all fixed up for the girl’s surprise Christmas Day.

Here’s where my daughter really tugged at my heart and gave me a few tears. She said she’s doing this and always tries to do things like this because of all the times I made the extra effort to surprise her and her sister, to give them good memories.

Bicycle Store

So many choices!

Their favorite childhood memory? Their first “Big Girl” bicycles. That even comes in first – slightly – over their first overseas trip to London. Why?

 

The story is told in Enjoying Joy, but here’s the short version. They were still in grade school and only marginally big enough for adult-sized bicycles. It was a chancy proposition. We had to go to Toys R Us to get a birthday present, and I told them to stay by the bicycles and dream while Mom and I shopped.

I asked them when I returned if they found the bike of their dreams. Oh, yeah! Each stood proudly next to their ideal bicycle, knowing that the day to get it was far off. That’s when I told them to grab the ticket for each one. Today’s the day.

Faked ‘em out, but good!

That’s how Julie and I raised them; childhood is about memories. Bad ones happen too easily, but good ones take a little effort. It’s an effort that is oh, so worthwhile! How many kind deeds has my daughter done that I don’t know about besides this horse project?

Mane-plait

The bike episode was a one-off for me. It was a fun gig. I had no clue it would turn out to be a life lesson!

So what are your Christmas plans? Are you going to celebrate with the mandatory presents and meals, complaining inside at how expensive this is, how much work it is, OR…are you going to do it with some class, some style? Are you going to rely on the price tag or the presentation? Will it be a signature on a card or something heartfelt, something personal?

In other words, are you going to commemorate Christ’s birth by giving of yourself as He did? Are you going to let price tags and Hallmark do your talking for you or are you going to give of yourself as Jesus did?

This year, celebrate Christmas with class!

Christmas Celebration

A Jew, A Gentile,…and a Beauty Walk in to a Bar

My friends, I just spent some time listening to a podcast interview with Caralyn of BeautyBeyondBones.  You’ll recall my recent review of her new book, Bloom.

I’ve been reading her blog for about two years, shared many comments with her, and even met her once while on one of my business trips.  This interview, however, was a very fresh and refreshing opportunity to listen to her at length.  The format is fun and relaxed, and I can guarantee very worthwhile listen!

via Episode 54: Beauty Beyond Bones

Christmas Light

Candle SingleThen Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”   John 8:12

I have struggled with Christmas in some years. I just didn’t feel that Christmas spirit. I wondered what went wrong. Misgivings have made this struggle more difficult in recent years. However, several things have coalesced in my mind that have given what, for me, is a sensible conclusion. I’m going to come at this from a few very different places, so try to bear with me.

I once read an article about how Christians can be deceived by wolves in sheep’s clothing. We can start doing ridiculous things just because “the church” has led us to them. Two big examples given were Christmas and Easter. The author wrote that Satan must be having a great laugh over how he’s managed to fool Christians into worshipping God on Satanic feast days.

That’s a concept I struggled with for years. What are we doing celebrating the birth of our Saviour on the feast day of that which He came to defeat?!? The same goes for Easter.

I struggled for years with loving the memories of the lights, the lightness of a true Christmas. My best friend and I from high school days would spend Christmas Eves going to church services around Toledo, hitting everything we could starting in the late afternoon and on to the midnight festival worship at my home church.

Christmas-Tree-Light in Darkness

Light in the Darkness

That last was spectacular. Precisely at midnight, as communion was being celebrated, the bell choir would ring everything they could get their hands on. It was an avalanche of bells falling from the loft, and the entire congregation would leap to their feet! The bells became the opening of “Joy to the World” and it was monumental! It felt like a beacon of sound and light in the dead of night.

 

Fast forward to today and another piece I very recently ran into regarding CERN and dark matter. And I promise I’ll make this as non-technical as I can. Here goes…

First, CERN runs a hadron supercollider for research into theoretical physics. They conduct what even Steve Hawking thinks are very dubious and dangerous experiments regarding anti-matter and the so-called God particle. If you want a bit more information, try my articles Weirdness at CERN and You Can’t Make This Up.

The difference between matter and anti-matter can be stated succinctly like this: matter does not easily ignite. Setting wood on fire requires building a certain configuration of kindling to get it going. A nuclear bomb requires several pounds to obtain the critical mass and exceptionally precise conditions are needed for an explosion.

Anti-matter, on the other hand, takes a great deal of effort and cost to contain and prevent it from exploding. Further, any explosion or combustion really is chaos writ large and complete.

A person has both dark and light energies in them. We can’t live in a material world without anti-matter/dark energy. A person is connected to both realms at the same time on the energy level. A person’s thoughts and feelings determines which energy they draw from.

Dark SpiritCERN has found out WHY paranormal activity exists. It’s a function of anti-matter/dark energy. Dark matter/energy affect our emotional state. It causes violent thoughts and behavior. It increases paranormal activity wherever it is accumulated. In fact, it is said they have even quantified how much dark matter/energy will cause someone to go berserk. Dark matter/energy attracts demonic entities.

Christmas Tree GoldenWhat all of this led me to think is that celebrating Christmas during the former feast times of the winter solstice is like planting a “Light Bomb” right on the enemy’s doorstep. Remember my description above of the midnight festival service at my home church. It was full of light, joyous sound, singing, and praise as we commemorated Jesus’ birth! It was a beacon of light amidst the darkest times of the year, a sure defense from the forces of darkness.

I invite you to discover Christmas anew this year, this first Wednesday of the Advent season. Don’t do it with toys. Don’t do it with spending money on things soon forgotten or broken.

Spend the next few weeks building your Christmas Light in your heart. Build it until you can join with others on Christmas Eve and set off another Light Bomb to drive darkness out of our lives with the joy only Jesus gives.

christmaseveservice