Saturday, November 8, 2014

The loss of Thanksgiving

If the Thanksgiving holiday were a person it would surely have an inferiority complex.

A couple days ago my wife and I watched the Christmas classic Holiday Inn. As the Thanksgiving scene opens, the poor holiday doesn't even have a permanent home on the calendar. Then the holiday itself doesn't get any attention at all. Instead of dancing there is depression. Instead of singing there is a recording of I've got plenty to be thankful for being refuted by the very man who wrote it. Every other holiday in the movie is celebrated in some way, and Thanksgiving's greatest competition for attention gets double billing.

Not only is the Thanksgiving scene sad, it's sad that were already giving Christmas attention on November 6th. When my wife and I were shopping for Holiday Inn, the same day we watched itthere was no problem finding the displays of Christmas movies. I'm sure there are Thanksgiving movies, it's going to take a little more effort to find them though; the same goes for songs and Christmas albums. How many Christmas songs can you name? Now, how many Thanksgiving songs can you name? How many recording artist have a Christmas album? Now, how many recording artists have a Thanksgiving album? And, how many Thanksgiving songs have multiple versions? White Christmas, the feature song of Holiday Inn, has more than 500 recorded versions.

Christmas vies for our attention for two months and gets it, a lot, during those 60 or so days -- list making, card writing, shopping, wrapping, entertaining, meals, parties, decorating, movies, music, commercials, church services, black Friday, cyber Monday, Santa Claus, baby Jesus, mangers, live nativities, trees, stars, lights, cameras, action, action, action. It's no wonder we have trouble pausing half way through to give Thanksgiving our attention. Does Thanksgiving, real thanksgiving, ever get our undivided attention? If, so for how long? Does anyone make a Thanksgiving list that isn't a shopping list for Thanksgiving dinner? Has Thanksgiving become little more than a food and football gorged halftime break for Christmas? Has it become I have plenty to be thankful for, here's my Christmas list for more?

Our go, go, go culture has left us precious little time to stop and be thankful; and Thanksgiving is now right in the middle of the busiest season of the year. I'm not yet 50 years old, but can remember when Thanksgiving wasn't overshadowed by Christmas.

Christmas is front and center from the day after Halloween and lasts until the tree comes down. That's a long time for people that Christmas is a reminder of loss for. For those people, myself included, it is crucial to go counter to the culture and give Thanksgiving and thanksgiving the double billing. Maybe your depressed because job loss has left you with no means to give as you would like. Maybe your sad because a loved one has died. Maybe you can't find any Christmas spirit within yourself. Don't let the overblown Christmas season monster our culture has created steal two months of your life. Focus on the plenty that all of us have to be thankful for. Focus on the first Christmas. Focus on Jesus all year round.

It's not recorded so it won't add to the total but here's my version of White Christmas:

I'm thankful for a while, Christmas
You can wait your turn I know
Let the treetops glisten
after Thanksgivin'
Wait until December snow

I'm thankful for a while, Christmas
With every thank you card I write
May Christmas be merry and bright
After we're all thankful for a while

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Forgiveness and other F words


No, I am not going to use the F bomb in this post for obvious reasons. Let's take off our tinsel halos for just a moment though, and admit that when it come to forgiving a major injustice the F bomb has crossed our mind, or even our lips (gasp), before we get around to forgiving it. Whew. With that out of the way, and tinsel halos back in place, what are the other F words?

The first one that comes to mind is, say it all together now, forget. Forgive and forget fans please forgive me, and forget my sarcasm, when I say forget forgive and forget; it's a fantasy.

The word beginning with the letter F that comes to my mind is fear. Both fear of needing to forgive and needing forgiveness myself. Is either side ready? When is the right time? Where is the right place? Is it worth addressing? Why can't we just forget about the whole thing? Will it make matters worse? Are they going through the same emotional turmoil I am? Maybe I can just avoid them until it blows over. *&%$! I don't know what to do, how to do it if I do decide to forgive, or even if I can genuinely forgive this. (Okay, so I lied a little. Hope you can forgive me.) The word frustration come to anyone's mind?

If you want to know how to forgive go to scripture. If you want to know how we typically forgive turn on the radio. "We bury the hatchet but leave the handle stickin' out" says it really well. This Garth Brooks song was released in 1991 and I still remember it. And I'm not a country music fan. Anyone still think you can forget a major injustice?

There are so many questions when it comes to forgiveness. There are divisions among godly christian leaders regarding the who, what, where, when, why, and how of if all. I'm not going to claim to have all the answer by any stretch of the imagination. There are a few more words I'd like to add to the discussion though.

Who - From easiest to hardest: friends, family, and foes. Or should foes come before family? Hmmm.

What - Others failures and our own. Again, forgiving ourselves being the harder of the two.

Where - Fair territory (AKA neutral ground)

When - ASAP but feel out the facts and follow the leading of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit on this one.

Why - The fortification of the relationship or simply the future of it. Lack of forgiveness could end it.

How - Fully and fairly; easier said than done.

One last word - Fend (AKA defend or protect) Put one of these in place of forget in the old forgive and forget adage and it becomes much easier to do. Oh, and don't forget the forgiveness and protection is for them as much as it is for yourself.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Why Bother?

Life sometimes feels like the children's game Snakes and Ladders. Little by little you make your way HOME for the win. You occasionally get to climb a small ladder and minor setback are expected, so these are taken pretty much in stride. Emotions kick into high gear when we, or others, are on and near the giant "game" changers. You work your way toward a life goal and as you near it a huge snake strikes without warning. One or two big setbacks tend to make you more determined; three, four, and five lead to a "why bother?" mentality. A word of warning here, when the snakes keep on setting you back, do not compare your life to someone you think has a life of one ladder after another. This leads only to anger, bitterness, and resentment. In a word, it leads to sin. You sin not only against a person, but against God. In essence, you tell God that He is unjust when you claim that He is against you and for others.

My wife and I have had many big snakes in our lives. At four we thought, okay we have to have met our start over quota by now. We had not. We still may have not. And, yes, the "why bother?" frustration has made both of us want to raise the white flag of surrender and give up trying at times.

The day had barely begun and a co-worker was already saying "some days make you wonder why you even bother." All I could do that morning was agree with her. That statement has stuck in my head ever since though. Why should we bother? Is it worth the struggle and the frustration of setback after setback, disappointment after disappointment?

If we have entered into a personal relationship with God the Father, through His Son Jesus, the answer is a resounding YES! This relationship changes everything! Our lives are no longer about who we are, what we have, what status we attain, or how we compare to others. We can join with Paul and say to this life "for me to live is Christ and to die is gain." With Him, this life has nothing to offer me that compares to what I already have. All life on this earth has to offer is temporary satisfaction that leaves me wanting more, and it can so easily get taken away. With Jesus life is no longer about the "Snakes and Ladders" of this world. With Jesus the last is the first, little is much, and weakness is strength. Best of all God never loses; with Him even defeat, in our eyes, is victory.

Calvary is the ultimate example of this. To human minds death had conquered Jesus; when all the while God knew Calvary was Jesus eternally conquering death.

To make the victory even sweeter, He also conquered sin on Calvary making a way for us to stand before God clothed in Jesus righteousness; our sin atoned for by His blood.

O victory in Jesus,
My Savior, forever.
He sought me and bought me
With His redeeming blood;
He loved me ere I knew Him
And all my love is due Him,
He plunged me to victory,
Beneath the cleansing flood.
Victory in Jesus - Eugene M. Bartlett - 1939

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A Taste of Success: Redefined

Success Redefined: Abundant Life After Loss is not published. I hope it is soon, but if not (see prior post) God know the reason(s) he had me write it and I did my part by following His prompting to write, not necessarily publish, it.

I feel it is a book for our time. Men and women are losing jobs, due to circumstances beyond their control, in droves. When a job loss occurs much more than a job is lost. It negatively impacts finances, relationships, and simply messes up life in general. The greatest loss, especially for men, is the loss of identity. Far too many men, and to a smaller degree women, get their identity from their occupation. When the job is gone they are left without purpose, direction, and meaning. 
I now know that defining who is was by what I did for a living is what left me so empty that I nearly took my life. 

Over a period of 13 years I had risen from a part-time janitor position to a respected, well paying  position for a large utility company. Then, with a single executive decision, it was gone. I tried to hold on but one year later there was nowhere left to go. This is where the following excerpt from Success Redefined: Abundant Life After Loss picks up my story.

Many of my co-workers at the utility company call center were shocked when I left with a positive attitude. My faith that God had something better for me made no sense to them. They thought I should be bitter and angry. After all my years of dedicated service, this was the second job this company had pulled out from under me. The company's decision makers didn't care about me. Why should I care about leaving on good terms? I was positive that it would only be a few weeks or, at the longest, a few months before God led me to a job I would enjoy, which paid just as well. Instead, God led me into a desert, as He did Moses, to prepare me to lead others out of their desert. There He changed me from the inside out. Humility replaced Pride. Openness to my need for others replaced independence. The creation of my career path gave way to acceptance of God’s will, regardless of where He placed me. God engaged me in the lives of others in ways only He could orchestrate.                  Humbled
                                         Engaged      I found a lasting HOPE in Jesus and Him alone. The process of His transforming work in my life was about to begin. 

Six years later God lead me to a job that I enjoyed that paid much less than than I made at the end of my time with the big utility company. During that 6 years in the desert God changed me so drastically that I no longer cared anything about the job except for His will that I have it. It is now over a decade later and I still make less than I did then. I still don't care. My identity is no longer in what I do or how much I make. My identity is now found in Christ who never changes and never leaves me wondering who I am. 


Tuesday, January 7, 2014


I was ready to write this post immediately after I finished the last one. I thought so anyway. Instead, God wanted me to write something that was the furthest from my mind and he knew I wasn't ready. So as God does so well, as documented time and again in the Bible, he prepared me. Thankfully, it was not as long as many Biblical preparations. Still having it take twice as long to sit down and knock out a blog and having this unpopular topic drilled into me, over and over, in a relatively short amount of time didn't exactly make for a great way to end or begin the year.

Fall, the Thanksgiving season, the Christmas season, closing out the old year, and bring in the new year all had on thing in common for my immediate and extended family. November, December, and ,yes, even January brought bad news; some in forms we could have never imagined. We have had major illness fraught with complications, job loss, a major relationship issue, a legal issue, and other income loss. This was, and still is, far from how any of us wanted this celebratory time of year to unfold. I'm sure we have all grown and learned during this time. It will do me good to ask my family what this time has taught them. For now, I will share what it has taught me.

First, events like these either draws a family closer or rips it to shreds. It's not the event itself that does the pulling together or apart though; it's the responses of the family members to the events. Ours was drawn closer together. Heard of any miracles lately? How about the one two sentences back? All I can say is thank you to my loving Heavenly Father for that. It was none of our doing; especially mine.

Second, because one bad event after another is happening to a family does not mean God has lost control of their situation or abandoned them. To me, it was as if God was saying, "Do you still love and trust me?", "How about after another setback?", "Will your faith in Me hold after I allow this to happen too?", "What if I let the bad news keep coming?". And what came to my mind was how bad God let things get for His early followers before He intervened. Sometimes there was no intervention. God walked beside them to the bitter end and then commended them in the faith chapter.

All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. Hebrews 11:13

"All these people" gets my attention. God knows their names. The Bible is not lacking for lists of long unpronounceable names. Why "all these people" in a chapter naming people of faith? When God doesn't list "these people" - You know there are a lot of people! Before and after there are names. Here they are a mass of faithful followers with one thing in common. They all knew God could rescue them and when He didn't they still proclaimed BUT IF NOT OUR FAITH IN YOU WILL NOT CHANGE until they drew their final breath.