Christmas Birthday

Jesus Manger

Wait till they hear our story!

So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.    Luke 2:6-7 NKJV

 

I’m writing this on December 21, because today is my eldest daughter’s birthday.  Today’s Quote of the Day is the account of Mary giving birth and laying Jesus in a manger, and I realized I’ve never shared the tale of Hillary’s birth before.  It’s a tale worth telling!

Julie and I had gotten married the previous March 16, and, despite our carefully laid plans, she was with child much sooner than the several years we had planned to wait.

We eventually figured out what causes that sort of thing, but this particular cat was already out of the bag.

We had been in our apartment for the year and had just bought a house.  We wanted to be in it before Christmas and before Hillary was due a few days later.  The sellers wanted one more Christmas in their home before moving out.  Fortunately, Julie worked at our bank and the appraiser had a real thing for Toll House cookies.  Do the math.

Family and friends helped move the small stuff on December 20th while Julie was under strict orders to do nothing but supervise from a chair.  I had already changed over the utilities and shut the phone off at the apartment – this was before cell phones.

So we’re back at the apartment that evening, me exhausted from lifting and toting all day.  We roll into bed, shut off the light, and within minutes I hear, “Jeff?”

“Yes?”

“I think my water just broke.”

“Ha, ha.  Go to sleep.”  Pause.

“I really think my water broke, Jeff.”

“Quit playing with me, Babe.  It’s been a long day.”

“But I…Oh!  Oooohh!”  Julie scrambled out of bed and headed to the bathroom.  I chased her and found her there, standing in the tub, water running down her legs from under her nightie.

Oh.  Good.

So with no phone, I have to drive 2 miles through an arriving snow storm to her parents to call the doctor and tell him to meet us at the hospital.  Then I zoom back to the apartment, expecting Julie to be dressed and ready to go.  I called for her, since I didn’t see her in the living room.

“Babe?”

“Yeah.”

“Are you OK?”

“Just getting ready.”

Just getting ready?  What?  I walked down the hall to the bathroom and went in.  And there she was.  Getting ready.  By shaving her legs?

“Um…”

“Well, I’m not going to the hospital like this.”  She continued shaving.

Estrogen-based life form.  That’s all I could come up with.

Toledo Hospital

Yup; same place I was born

It turned into a very long night of induced labor and ended up with the OB taking me aside to say I needed to talk to her about a Caesarian.  Hillary was starting to show signs of distress, and things were getting ready to go south.  He wanted to get Hillary out before we got anywhere near that actually starting.

 

I knew Julie would be so disappointed after all of the time we spent in birthing classes, so I approached both her and the topic very gently.

“Honey?”

“What?!?”  There was an edge there that scared me a little.

“I was just talking to the doctor, sweetie.  This has been going on for a while now.”  Her head came around, and her face squared up to mine.  I swear I could clearly read the words “No” in her right eye and “Shit” in her left.

“Well, the doc says that maybe this isn’t going to happen the way we planned.  He’s thinking we should maybe do a Caesarean before the baby goes into distress.”  She then spoke the words that I will never forget to my dying day, the stuff of legend and cocktail party stories.

“I don’t care!  Rip it out of me!”

Estrogen-based life form.

During the whole pregnancy I had laid my head on Julie’s stomach every night and said the same thing to our unborn child:

“Hey, there!  Mommy and I can’t wait to meet you.  I hope you’re doing well in there.  We both love you very much.”

So I visit the nursery to see Hillary after she’s cleaned up, wrapped in bankies, and lying in a bassinet.  She’s fussing pretty good, so I lean over her just as if she’s still in the womb to tell her it’s Daddy, and I love her very much.

She goes immediately quiet, cocks her head to listen, and then goes right to sleep.

What can I say?  I was a classically- trained actor with great vocal skills.

Monte Carlo

Two door, not family-friendly, but a 4-barrel carb streak of lightning!

Christmas morning I get to the hospital in our ’79 Monte Carlo, secure Hillary in the car seat in back and ease Julie into the front seat.  The city is still covered in snow, so I’m driving, oh, so carefully as we both monitor Hillary as best we can from the front seats.

 

Just a few blocks from the house, neither one of us can hear her breathing anymore, and we start being crazy parents, right?  We’re thinking she suddenly died; SIBSDS – Sudden Infant Back Seat Death Syndrome.

Well, of course, she’s just fine.  We bundle her into the house, calm ourselves, and sit altogether on the sofa, this brand new family of three.  Best Christmas gift ever!

***************************

Don’t forget to check out and order your copy of my Christmas novel, The Substance Hoped For!

Substance Cover

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Christmas Memories

Christmas ShepherdsThen the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.   Luke 2:20

I started searching my memories of Christmas in childhood. I wasn’t sure what all might come to mind as I started making an effort to recall Christmases past. Here is what I came up with.

1950s Church clothes (2)

Circa 1950’s

I remember Wednesday evening Advent services. This was the 60’s when people still got dressed up to go to church. Even the Wednesday evenings Advent and Lenten services saw us making the effort to dress up to respect where we were heading. That’s one big difference! We’ve gone from Casual Fridays to Casual Always. This despite studies years ago that demonstrated that dressing down led to poorer work performance. It’s true that clothes really do make the man…or the woman as the case may be.

 

Dress up for church? That’s for Christian snobs who only come to show off. Or so they say. I was taught that it was about respect.

Wednesday attendance did not equal Sunday mornings, and that was to be expected, given people’s work schedules. Still, I remember the anticipation of every Wednesday, another candle lit on the Advent wreath, another week closer to Christmas!!

Toledo Hospital

But with a star on top

There were two ways to go home from church after an Advent service. I always begged my dad to drive straight up Parkside Boulevard coming home at night so I could see the Christmas star atop the Toledo Hospital on the far side of Ottawa Park. I was always disappointed if he decided to cut off onto Mt. Vernon, missing the sight of the star. That was always a big deal for me – seeing that star on the way home.

 

Christmas Eve was a bigger deal than Christmas Day, really. That’s when the church pulled out all the stops. We had a great music director, so there was the choir, trumpets, hand bells,…the whole shmeer!

There were the Christmas carols sung as we held candles in the lights-out sanctuary and tried not to flinch as the hot wax dripped on our hands. It was a spiritual event! I never felt so alive!

milk-and-cookies-for-santa-elena-elisseevaI remember a bona fide visit from Santa when I was very young. After Christmas Eve worship, my mom put out a few cookies on a paper plate with a glass of milk for the Big Man himself! I was astounded beyond measure the following morning to see an empty glass and crumbs of cookies on the paper plate. In addition to that, scrawled on the plate with a crayon, was “Thank you!”

Santa was really there, and I had the proof!

Santa faded over the years, but the majesty of a Christmas Service remained. Attendance went down. It went from having to show up early to avoid the folding metal chairs in the narthex to plenty of room in the sanctuary with space to spare.

Christmas morning never has held the spectacle of Christmas Eve, but I always enjoyed it.

I stopped going to most Christmas services quite a number of years ago. I know we’re supposed to welcome visitors with open arms and hearts, but the rudeness eventually outweighed the glory of it all. The last Christmas Eve I attended for several years was because a visitor walked across the very front of the sanctuary and cursed, loud as could be! With a huge smile he yelled, ”J**** Chr***, Bob! How the hell ya been?!?” Right in front of the alter. That was the pinnacle of rudeness and disrespect that had grown year after year.

Yeah, I’m a Christian snob, I guess, but I think guests or the twice-a-year crowd should at least act like guests and show a little respect for the place and the service. So, that was the last Christmas Eve service I went to for many years.

The first church I went to in Memphis actually voted to stop having Christmas morning services, since no one felt like going to church when there were so many presents to unwrap, so much food to eat.  *sigh*

christmastreeThis year I’m trying to make every Advent service. I plan to attend the Christmas Eve Festival Worship as well as Christmas morning. There are too many good memories to let the bad ruin it for me. It’s time to recapture the joy of what it’s all about. It’s time to…return, to rekindle the fonder memories and make a few new ones before any more time escapes me.

christmaseveservice

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

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

Chocolate Love

And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 23 “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, ‘This is the way you shall bless the children of Israel. Say to them:

24 “The Lord bless you and keep you; 25 The Lord make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; 26 The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace.”’   Numbers 6:22-26

BenedictionWhen I used to conduct the liturgy at my home church back in Toledo, this benediction was my favorite part. It really is a thing of beauty, if you say it thoughtfully and slowly instead of ripping through it as so many pastors do.

Familiarity breeds, well, carelessness if not contempt.

So. How does God bless us, love us?

When I order a dessert, which is more often than my doctor approves of, it’s almost always something chocolate. Why? Pay close attention, because this is important!

FW0906FLB01Chocolate is one of the many ways God says, “I love you!”

I don’t have a copyright on that, so feel free to use it any time you want.

dark-choco-e2aChocolate SquaresIf God loves us so much that He gave us chocolate, who am I to turn away such a gift from my Lord and Saviour?

That isn’t the only thing, of course. There’s creation, which is a pretty awesome thing too.

Mind you, I don’t usually say something is awesome. The word is criminally overused and misapplied. Nail polish is not awesome. Cars are not awesome. What is awesome? The Grand Canyon, the Aurora Borealis, the Milky Way…

…and chocolate.

Milky Way

Isn’t there a constellation, The Chocolate Dipper?

God created everything just for us! That is not human pride or arrogance speaking. That’s humble surprise and gratitude. He made Eden for Adam and Eve to live in, the earth to put it on, the solar system for the earth, and all of the stars to tell times and seasons.

Now, I know that there are a handful of degenerates who are all part of some Commie plot and don’t like chocolate. God, however, tells us to pray for our enemies. I’m sure they have some sort of chocolate substitute, however substandard it might be. God loves even them!

Whether you are in harmony with the universe and love chocolate or are at least a bit deluded and don’t, please remember God loves all of us and has countless ways of showing it. What are the ways God loves you?

What wonderful, and perhaps wonderfully simple joys has God slipped into your life to say “I love you?”

Just remember that, running second only to salvation, is…

Chocolate Love!

Chocolate Assortment

…so little time

Sad. And Frustrated.

It’s been a rough week on a few fronts, and I’m feeling pretty upset.  I don’t usually vent here, but today I don’t think I can help myself.

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him    1 John 2:15

Bad DriverI had a lot of driving time this week; well over 1000 miles.  Some days aren’t too bad, but Wednesday was horrible!  I had to get off the road before dinner time and call it a day.  Speed limits?  No one seems to have ever heard of them.  Tail-gating?  Standard operating procedure.  Cutting people off or simply swerving right into them…including two semi’s who were in the process of passing me?  Perfectly acceptable.  And I mean they still had a couple car lengths to go before being clear of me!

“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.    Matthew 10:16

I try to conduct my life in a moral and legal fashion.  I’m not perfect, but I really do try.  I’m supposed to be Jesus’ representative on earth and witness to him in word and deed.

LAAAWWWD, give me stren’th!!!”

White Collar Crimeand the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.    Mark 4:19

Have I mentioned how thievery, dishonesty, and brazen extortion are now acceptable business practices?  No?  Well, they are!  Just get some behind the scenes exposure to the automotive aftermarket business and get back to me.

And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.    John 3:19

And they still love the darkness!  Love it?  The revel in it!!  There is no shame.

As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.    John 9:5

So when Jesus left, His light left with Him.  We are to be the light for Him now, but, oh, my if there isn’t a lot of darkness here!

satan BI will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in Me.    John 14:30

Coming?  He’s here.  Satan has been doing his thing since right after The Beginning.  He’s been steadily ramping up his game.  The state of things now are such that we wouldn’t have believed things would be like this if we had been told 20 years ago.

Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy.    John 16:20

Well, I guess He told me this was gonna happen.  I am just frustrated and sorrowful beyond all expectations.  I’m looking forward to that joy thing.

Jesus SmilingThese things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”    John 16:33

I definitely needed that reminder.  I also need a break from the world, just as Jesus headed off across the lake once or twice to get away.  My batteries are getting low.  It’s getting to the point where I’m getting afraid to go outside.  There was a shooting last night in Memphis over road rage.  One in the hospital, one in jail.  The way some people drive can be lethal to others, so I understand pulling a gun.  I DON’T agree with it or condone it, but I understand it.

that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world    Philippians 2:15

I’m feeling like the dimmest bulb in the pack right about now.  I don’t want to answer any more emails or phone calls from customers demanding things they don’t deserve.  I don’t want to go out into traffic and risk getting run over or shot at.  I’m about sick of being a light in such a messed up world right now.  When I’m jeered and abused for trying to do things that are moral and just, it gets hard to take.

I need a break.  I need a recharge; church, friends,…anything or anyone who is also a friend of Christ.

That’s enough of that. So I either have been sounding pathetic or I’ve done you a service by letting you know you’re not the only one who’s tired of how crazy things have gotten.

One good point: if I’m upset over all of this, I guess it means I’m still on the right side.

Prayer

Praying StruggleThen Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought.And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’

“For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”

And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”    Luke 18:1-8

Portals of PrayerI pray.  Not as often or as regularly as I should, but I do.  In the early ‘80’s I started using a daily devotional called Portals of Prayer by Concordia Publishing.  I started keeping a list of people and issues to pray about.  I still use Portals of Prayer, and I still keep a prayer list.  There are people on that list I haven’t seen in years.  Terrence, for example.  I only met him once, but he had a huge impact on me, and I continue to pray for him.  I came to understand that God orchestrated our meeting through an Elaborate Plan; of that there is no doubt.  That was in 2015.  I still pray for Terrence.

I pray for America and our deliverance from the continuing slide away from God and our founding principles.  I pray for the faithful remnant of Christians that have not relinquished their faith, that they are protected and strengthened.  Meanwhile, the discrimination against us grows.

I pray for people who are sick and not likely to recover.  I hold out prayerful hope that the cancer will be vanquished, that damaged minds will be recovered, that a more merciful death be given since death must come at some point.  I don’t see that ground has been gained so far, but I keep praying.

Am I a fool?  No.  Clearly, we are to continue to “bother” God with our prayers.  Many cases exist of prayers answered, of cancers and diseases being healed in this age.  I’ve gone from extreme loss back to a good life, not too unlike Job.  Things do get better sometimes.  Other times the dark side wins.

Jesus healed hundreds if not thousands of people.  They’re all dead now, but His mercy shone as a glimpse of a greater mercy to come.

I pray for mercy in this life.  I pray for the healing and recovery of a number of people.  Some prayers are simply for continued well-being, for salvation, a softened heart to accept Jesus as Savoir, or whatever the need might be.  Prayers for some people have gone on for many years.  Some short term issues are added and dropped off as things change.

Do I sometimes get tired of saying the same prayers for the same people year after year?  Yes, there are some days when I look at my list and sigh.  But I gather myself, remembering the persistent widow of Jesus’ parable, and come to God yet again.

Sometimes I just name the people and picturing in my mind what I’m asking for them because I words feel inadequate.  Finally, when I reach the end of my list again, I wrap it all up with the Lord’s Prayer.  I say it as slowly as I can, stopping after each part and looking at the people’s names, praying that part for them.

Then I close my Bible with the list tucked safely in its pages and put it on the shelf for tomorrow for my next appointment with The Almighty.

“This, then, is how you should pray:

Jesus in Gethsemane

“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from the evil one.’

14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Matthew 6:9-15

You Have a Nice Smile

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.   Philippians 4:8

I have written on this sort of thing before, but this is exactly the topic that needs to be revisited in a society that is growing increasingly coarse.

Reformation

Martin Luther; Father of the reformation

Last Sunday we went to the late service at church instead the early service, as usual. We were celebrating the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation with a potluck after the late service, and Julie and I didn’t feel like sitting around.

 

Smiling GirlI’m sure we upset someone’s normal seating arrangements. We found ourselves behind a young family. Their teenage daughter and I made brief eye contact as people often do in crowds and smiled. She has one of those faces that is cute enough, but her smile really lit her up.

I passed close by her at the potluck and stopped her for a second just to tell her she has a very nice smile. She smiled, of course, said thank you, and we moved on. That was it. No conversation, no chit-chat with someone new as is often the goal of a potluck at a large church.

I like to think I made her day. I mean, who doesn’t like to be complimented on one’s appearance?

Zig ZiglarPeople complain too much. We are too much a product of Jerry Springer and his ilk. We’ve been instructed to believe that the way to getting what we want is to make a fuss, to be confrontational, but that is completely wrong! See last month’s Unforgettable. As famed motivational speaker Zig Zigler often told his audiences, “The key to getting everything you want is to help others get what they want.” Not in a selfish way, but in a self-sacrificing way that understands you might not get anything back. Don’t be nice to people to satisfy your own selfish desires. JUST BE NICE!  Over the long run, things will work out for you.

Dick Van Dyke MemoirI recently read Dick Van Dyke’s recent autobiography, My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business: A Memoir. The secret to his success was just working hard and being nice to people. I was amazed to read how often people would go to bat for him and get him huge breaks for no other reason than they liked him! He had failures too. Everyone does. But the arc of his life is one of great success.

Carl Reiner chose him to play the lead character on The Dick Van Dyke Show when he was a complete unknown. That character was based on Reiner himself, but he was told he was wrong for the part and needed to be recast. When they were searching for a series title, Sheldon Leonard said they should name it after Dick, since he’s the lead. Leonard’s reasoning was that The Danny Thomas Show started out as Make Room for Daddy. He figured they’d just “cut to the chase” and name this new series after Dick at the outset.

Co-star Rose Marie, who played Sally and was a star since childhood quipped, “What the hell’s a ‘Dick Van Dyke’??”

Such a huge break for such an unknown, but his hard work and kind nature are what carried him through.

As Christians, we shouldn’t be nice in order to get things. Hard work and kindness will not get us all our own TV shows. If they did, who’d be home to watch?!? But showing the same kindness and love that Jesus showed us will make our lives and the lives of those around us better.

So, when I can give someone a sincere compliment, I do. On rare occasions people actually get upset, thinking I’m after something or hitting on them. I won’t let that stop me from trying to spread a little of the love Jesus showed me. The times, like last Sunday, when the compliment was another winner, far outweigh the odd clinkers.

Be nice. Smile. Play well with others. And, “…if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.”

Smiley Face

Life & Death

O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?   1 Corinthians 15:55

I had a “procedure” done last week. It’s one of those things guys are supposed to do every few years once you turn 50. Let’s just say that saying “Ahhh” doesn’t always involve a tongue depressor during post-50 physicals.

Anyway…when I last went through this three years ago I had a rough time coming out of the anesthesia. I was in that twilight stage where I was becoming aware, but I couldn’t move or talk. My body started hyperventilating as I panicked. More than anything I just wanted someone there to calm my distress. I gradually went back under and came out later OK.

Wife must be here

…and make sure my wife is here after, ’cause I’m scared

I had a heart-to-heart with my wife and the anesthesiologist prior to going in and told them I’d really like Julie to be right there when I start waking up. I mean, I’d REALLY like her to be there. A lot!  Did I mention I don’t want to be alone in Recovery?

 

Call me a sissy, but there are a couple things that really freak me out. One is not being in control of my faculties and the other is being intubated.

The latter was my big fear when I had double bypass in 2003. I was not worried about dying. After prayer and talking, we realized I’d either wake up to her or God after that surgery. There would be no bad outcome.

Paramedic intubation

OK!!!  She’s at 1918 Milburn..

The prospect of waking up still intubated in the ICU was a hell on earth I was terrified of, more so than the prospect of dying on the table. You see, I’m very fond of breathing. And of being able to control my breathing. And of being able to talk, if I so choose. But waking up intubated and with my hands tied down so I couldn’t pull it out – as I’d seen someone else once – was not something I anticipated reacting to well.

 

If you want to get information out of me, just bring in the equipment to intubate me, and I’ll give up my own mother before you even ask. Seriously.

Speaking in earthly terms here, I came to realize this past week that I am not afraid of dying. I’m afraid of living, of life here on earth and in this body. Life on earth is too full of pain and trials, some – like intubation – too horrible to contemplate.

Victoria-Arlen-DWTS-588x395

Victoria Arlen, Dancing With the Stars

There’s a young lady, Victoria Arlen, on the current season of Dancing With the Stars who contracted a nervous system disease that left her trapped in her body, unable to move or speak for years. She heard the doctors tell her parents that she wasn’t likely to live and they needed to be prepared to lose her, to let her go.

 

I guess intubation isn’t too bad…by comparison.

So let’s redefine “life’ and “death.” Real life doesn’t start until we die our way out of this world. Real life doesn’t happen until we end this earthly journey and meet our eternity with Christ in His full glory. When Adam and Eve sinned and God condemned them to earthly death, the Hebrew is literally translated as “Dying, you shall die.”

In other words, life on earth is nothing more than the process of dying. It doesn’t get better. It keeps getting worse. Being here on earth is death! After you’re done here, if you have accepted Jesus, if you’ve given Him permission to pay your debt of eternal death for you by way of His death on the cross, that’s when you truly come alive!

If you haven’t had your Come-to-Jesus moment, if you are still outside of His grace, you need to talk to Him. RIGHT NOW! Just call out to Him in sincerity; He’ll hear you any place, any time of day. Tell Him you’re sorry for all of the bad things you’ve done, all of the things you wish you could get back. Ask Him to come into your life and make it right. Tell Him you accept His payment for your sins. Ask Him to live in your heart and help you make your life one He’d be pleased with.

Then get yourself a good Bible, by which I mean a good, literal translation and not some paraphrased translation. If you’re not into the “thee” and “thou” sort of thing, get a New King James translation. I consider anything else as a bit suspect.

Then find yourself a good, Bible-based church. I go to a Missouri Synod Lutheran Church, mostly because they go back to the Bible on every issue that ever comes up. Wherever you go, it isn’t about the music. It isn’t about “Feeling Your Faith.” If you find yourself somewhere that talks about that, RUN LIKE YOU STOLE SOMETHING!! Faith happens regardless of feelings. If you run your Christian life based on your feelings, you’re going to have problems.

Jesus in Gethsemane

“Please find another way!  If not, I’ll go.”

Jesus prayed to His Father in heaven to let Him off the hook for the cross the night He was arrested by the Jews. He didn’t feel like doing what had to be done, but He did it on faith. He struggled too!  He just didn’t stumble, He stayed perfect!  He had our temptations and never gave in!

 

For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.   Hebrews 4:15

So get with a community of believers, because none of us can cross the finish line without all of us helping each other get there! Times will go well and not so well, but with your nose firmly planted in God’s Word, you’ll learn how to cope with it; God’s Way.

Enough from me. Get on your knees, fold your hands, and talk to Jesus. He’s waiting.

Unforgettable

Jesus SmilingPeace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.    John 14:27

They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.    John 17:16

We are back confronting the WIIFM (What In It For Me) issue I just pointed out in my recent article about relationships; Why Marriages Fail.  I commented on an article, which essentially tried to help people expect less from their spouses and get more from their friends.  The author was trying to give advice on how to fulfill your own needs while preserving your marriage.

The whole thing was written from a selfish point of view.

So…here we go again: Scientist reveals how ANYONE can make themselves unforgettable for all the RIGHT reasons in three simple steps.

wiffleball

A WIIFM Ball?  Full of holes!

WIIFM, right? It’s all about me and how to be in control, how to be loved or at least admired.

 

Aside from the pure selfishness involved, it’s also a color-by-number approach to dealing with people, and that’s just wrong!

First, the scientist/author says you should back up your points in conversation with facts and be sure to repeat yourself three times to be sure you are heard. Should I also throw salt over my left or right shoulder, stand on one foot, and have a clove of garlic in my pocket?

Good communication should be built on facts, tis true. How about we start with making sure we are communicating something worthwhile in the first place? But let’s move on…

Second, surprise them and ask questions. OK, getting warm. This is starting to focus on them not yourself, but the motivation expressed in the article is purely selfish: How I make ME memorable! Surprise them? How about a party-popper? Squirting plastic flower on my lapel? No?

Third, “According to science, the more inspired, motivated and excited your audience feels by what you’re saying, the more likely they are to remember it – and you.”  Again, getting warm, but how do you come up with those motivating and inspiring gems?

Obnoxious PeopleFIRST – Stop trying to figure out how to make everyone like you!  There’s no way you can really inspire people without first getting to know them and their needs!  Start with being interested in them first and only!  Take yourself out of the equation completely.  Just be concerned about them!  You can make the most interesting points in the world backed by an encyclopedia of facts and repeated ad nauseum, but if you’re a manipulator and/or an insecure, egotistical jerk, no one will like you!  Period!!

SECOND – This whole step-by-step, color-by-numbers approach to relationships is bullshit!  Planning out specific, individual actions calculated to accomplish a task, a communication is BS (I’m trying to hold my cussing down to once per article)!  Instead, use what I call my Rock Method from my acting days.  Click on the link for the full article.  My essential point in The Rock Method was that having one, powerful motivation is better than having a multitude of individually choreographed choices.  Here’s an excerpt from the article, my favorite example:

I was asked to come to a modeling school to help coach young modeling hopefuls in relating to a television camera. I walked in on an exercise one of the faculty was running.  She was attempting to teach these girls how to enter a car with a dress on, being sure to keep their knees together.  Each girl took her turn, sitting onto a folding chair that represented a car seat.  Each failed as the teacher kept confusing them with multiple techniques and movements.  I asked if I could take a swing at it.  Obviously thinking I couldn’t possibly succeed where she had failed, she told me to try, if I could.

How to get out of a car in a skirt or dressI sat cross-legged on the floor about ten feet in front of the chair and cupped my chin in both hands. Staring intently at the seat, I said, “OK, ladies.  One at a time.”  Giggling, they all got it right in one round.  I dropped a rock in their stream.  They only had one conscious decision to make, not a multitude.

THIRD – While surprising and motivating people is good in itself, I personally do it for the sheer fun of it, not to make an impression so people will like me!  I do it, because I get a kick out of helping other people make their lives better!

See my article, Smart Blond.  I helped this young woman regain her life, and I never even knew it! Only after the term was over and she came to my office to say thank you did I learn what I’d done for her!

That’s it, my friends. It really is that simple; put other people first with no thought of gain for yourself.  That’s it!  Be a Christian, a Little Christ who is interested in the welfare of others first.

Zig ZiglarZig Zigler has said that the key to getting everything you want is to help others get what they want. He also cautioned that this was not some magic formula to satisfy your own selfishness.  You don’t always see a return for your efforts.  It isn’t a color-by-numbers solution to life.  It’s an attitude that succeeds over the long haul.

That’s what Christianity is, a long term approach to – not just life – but eternity. It’s the way to have a relationship with God first and foremost.  It’s also the right way to relate to the rest of His creation, our fellow created beings.

Washing FeetWhen the disciples were arguing about who would get the places of honor in heaven, Jesus simply told them that the first will be last, and the last will be first. Washing each other’s feet, literally and figuratively, is the practice of humility that He wanted them and us to follow.

Being liked by others, first of all, should not be our goal in life, let alone developing a sure-fire three step approach for it. Our goal in life should be having a great relationship with God and using that as our basis for dealing with everyone we meet.