Category Archives: Christian thoughts

Can We Please Return to the Days of Christmas Past?

When I compare Christmas in America today, with the Christmas of my youth, I find it a very different holiday than it once was. Let me share some cherished memories to give you some perspective.

Though I did believe in Santa, I had much to help me ponder the mystery of Christmas in the divine coming of Christ to Earth. Our Town Council decorated the streets of our town, hanging large, red candles from each light pole, the candle a common symbol of Christmas that stood for Jesus as ‘the light of the world’. Everywhere you heard, “Merry Christmas!”. Carols played in every store, and children in every school sang them. There were nativity plays in schools, or school principals read aloud the biblical Christmas story, without recrimination- imagine that! It was NORMAL.

In our family life, December days were rich with Christian emphasis. We used an Advent Calendar to help us to think about the Lord’s birth, opening a tiny calendar window for each date that advanced towards Christmas Day.  Though we didn’t have a lot, our mom and all the children prepared food and presents for days to give to friends and family. Our mother taught us that, as God in Heaven freely gave Jesus to us, we were to give to others. The house rang with Christmas carols from the stereo all season long, and we were loath to stop them until after New Year’s Day. We had just three TV channels, and one of them played The Ten Commandments on the Sunday after Thanksgiving as a religious start to the Season. We had a rather large, musical family, and we enjoyed bundling up against the bitter Pennsylvania night to go caroling around our neighborhood, sharing the beauty and joy of the Season with our neighbors. We didn’t need sheets with words; we had heard the carols in church, in school, at home, in town, so often that we knew them well, and could sing most all the verses. Our Dad set up a life-size outdoor nativity silhouette in our yard on the corner at the entrance to the neighborhood, and he lit it with a large spotlight that stayed on through the night. We completed it with one of our dolls playing Baby Jesus.

Christmas Eve was the culmination of the preparations, and it remains in my mind an especially sacred time, devoted to the evening Candlelight Service in our beautiful old church. In the quiet, dimly lit sanctuary, we listened to time-honored hymns and  classical Christmas music. There followed the thoughtful, annual re-telling of “The Tale of the Innkeeper”, written and delivered by our humble minister. I looked up at the huge stained glass window behind the altar, depicting the Annunciation to the Shepherds, as I listened. We left the sanctuary with full hearts and reverent hushed voices, thinking about all that we had seen and heard. We rode home talking about it all.

Once home, the children slipped away in secret to plan our re-enactment of the Christmas story. Out came the bathrobes and bath towels for the cast of characters from shepherds and angels, to the Holy Family, to the Wise Men, amidst much giggling and whispering. The sheep, camels, and other animals of the nativity we replaced with stuffed animals, and bath salts and perfume became the gifts of the Magi. Our oldest sister was the narrator. The rest of us played multiple roles as she read from the account of Christ’s birth in the Book of Luke 2:1-18. We performed this retelling for our parents with dimmed lights and much solemnity, and an occasional slippage of halo, as an older sibling scolded in whispers a little one who missed a cue in awe of it all. Our parents were at once slyly amused and proud, and praised our rag-tag troupe. This remained a tradition until there were too few actors left to sustain the play.

There was an emphasis on Santa in our community, the hints of the takeover to come, but Jesus was still honored in our time. We never knew if anyone was incensed that we had a life-sized nativity in our yard for all to see as they passed by on the main road. We worshiped in safety, with no thought at all that someone might enter the sanctuary of the church to do us harm; this was entirely unheard of. Jesus was honored in our schools, taught and celebrated. The America of my childhood was still considered a Christian nation. Those who did not espouse the Christian faith were not the norm, but, for the most part, they were good enough to honor our choice, and not harm us or take us to court because our beliefs differed from theirs.

Yes, things are different, these memories make me yearn for the simple Christmas days of my childhood. The changes we witness in the secularization and removal of all things sacred from Christmas are symptomatic of a growing intolerance toward Christians throughout the land. Though I alone cannot change the world, I can pray to the God of heaven who sent His Son to be the Savior of the world. For my part, I can continue to be an instrument of change in my own circle of influence, determining to honor Christ with my daily contacts. As a stone causes a ripple that extends to the very edges of the pond, so my kind words and deeds and my unflinching faith can have an effect, more than I will ever know.

The greatest change will occur, the one most desperately needed, when all Christ-followers choose to live as Christ would have us to live, to humbly repent of our own sinful shortcomings, to seek to know God more, and to teach our children the same. Only then will God listen to our prayers and begin the work of healing our land.

Then once again, Jesus will be honored at Christmas, and every other day. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

“If my people, who are called by My Name, will humble themselves and pray, and seek My Face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven,  and I will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14

The people walking in darkness
    have seen a great light….

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
    there will be no end.

Isaiah 9:2, 6-7


The Prudent Response

I’ve been deeply affected by the news events of the last week. We expected the upset of the political scene, since it became clear during the weeks up to The Election that we are not one nation, but two. One side wants to move further away from the tenets of the past, towards a new progressive wave of the future. The other wants to challenge traditional politics and make America great again with less politically correct ideals, and more business-like running of this country. The tension I expected. The lawlessness and hatred I did not.

Where did we get the idea that violence and ill will wins people to our position? When did we lose ‘good sportsmanship’  that accepts, “You win some, you lose some”?  This puzzles me, and troubles me not a little.

What disturbs me most is that protesters act as though they have no hope. They act as though life as they know it has suddenly ended because their candidate didn’t win, that they will not be happy unless they can somehow force it not to be so.

In the words of  Star Trek’s The Borg, “Resistance is Futile”, it is not going to turn out that way.

Someone wisely said about this election, “Neither party ended up with what they wanted.”

I have had the privilege, no, the honor, to vote in every election since I became eligible to vote. I study the candidates to become informed, and I take my right to vote very seriously; my great-grandmothers never had that right, and I am sure it rankled their intelligent minds that they didn’t have the choice. I took my children with me into the voting booth from a very young age, and I taught them that their vote is important, that every vote counts, and that it is their duty to carry out their responsibility with prayer and careful consideration. If you don’t vote, you have no say. Those who are protesting may be surprised to know this, but there were many in their party who did not vote in this election. They were so certain of the outcome that they stayed home.

My candidate of choice didn’t always win. I had serious reservations about some whom I didn’t back. I was disturbed, but not concerned that our country would collapse. I had a ‘trust-but-verify’ view of the process, knowing that we would still carry on. And I was right; our country survived despite these officials who were not my candidate, but they were my president.

The success of our government is that it was developed by the wisdom of our Founding Fathers to ensure that whoever is elected cannot have free reign to institute his policies. The system of checks and balances ensures a right to vote against changes that are unacceptable. That means if we didn’t win, we still have a say; the members of our party  vote on our behalf in the Senate and the House. It’s a beautiful system, and has stood us well for 140 years, and there is no reason to believe that it will not work well under the new administration in 2017.

So what should we as proper citizens do?

First of all, don’t trust in a person; trust God. Have faith  our government will function as it should and you too will carry on. Second, keep your peace. Be an agent for change, but go about it legally and sensibly through proper channels. Strive for unity in all you do. Thirdly, turn from evil and do good. Repent and turn to God. Choose the path He has given for you to live. This is the only way that God will bless us as a nation. We greatly need His blessing and His favor.

Finally, respect the office of the President of the United States. Pray for the men and women of this new administration, that they will use wisdom of God, and not of man.

When all is said and done, when he is inaugurated in January, he will be our President.

And we will survive. Others in the past were saddened seeing those they backed lose, but they accepted it and moved on.

Besides, it’s the season of love and thankfulness. It’s about time we got over it.




A Question of Modern Christianity

I have found a soulmate in Søren Kierkegaard, a Christian thinker who lived in the mid-19th century. When I think of the time in which he lived, before electricity, before automation, before modern transportation, I am tempted to think it was a simpler time, easier to focus on living for Christ, not to be distracted by so many of the worldly passions that consume us today. In reading his later works, Purity of the Heart is Doing One Thing, and Works of Love, written in 1838 and 1840 respectively, I find this isn’t so.

What I find is that the distractions may be different, but it is the human condition to think that the distractions, the busyness, the Doing For God,  that all these things can be enough in the relationship with God. Kierkegaard points out that these things we are so busy doing, unless they further ours or another’s relationship with God,  are really just “fighting for something earthly” and not furthering our relationship with God at all.

How radical would it be if each of us considered each day to filter our activities in light of our relationship to God? To cut out the expedient, the wasteful, the comfortable, and embrace the long-suffering, purposeful, uncomfortable existence, and give it all to Christ?

Luke 9:23

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.

What are trials for, anyway?

I heard an interesting thought on the radio yesterday, and it set me to thinking. The author stated that we all experience trials, even Christians. What would the Christian life be worth if it meant no trials, heartache, or defeats? Wouldn’t it be a life that everyone would want? Wouldn’t that cheapen conversion because release from trials would be the appealing factor, not salvation in Christ? It has been my experience that my life was relatively rosy until I gave my life to Christ, and that’s when the trials really began.

I have wondered about that, and here’s my take: before we know Christ, we are oblivious to the wiles of Satan, and he can lead us where he wills, most often quite painlessly. He doesn’t really have to hurt us, because we are his anyway. After Christ enters our lives, the Battle for All Time begins. We are no longer his, so he must throw everything he has in his arsenal to try to get us to curse God and abandon faith in Him.

If you’ve read the book of Job, you know that Satan must ask permission from God to throw us into a tailspin (see Job 1). God sets parameters for Satan. He is not allowed to take his life. You think, now isn’t that wonderful? Then you read on and realize that if all those things happened to you, you would have wished he’d let Satan take your life. Such sorrow, such great loss. Even Job’s friends blamed him, and his wife told him to curse God and die (Nice. She must have been the original Contentious Woman). The difficulty is in understanding that everything happened with God’s permission.

Wow. That’s heavy. How could God sit back and watch such cruelty?

In my own life, I am not the person I was before Christ, before trials. I’ve had many, and with each one,  I’ve questioned less, depended on Him more, and received a stronger faith in the bargain. How is this possible, when trials can be so devastating?

The answer comes in Luke 22: 31,32. Jesus is speaking with His disciples at the Last Supper. He tells them that,”Satan has asked to sift you all as wheat, but I am praying that when you turn back, you will strengthen your brothers.

There are two things you can take away from this. First, God did not spare his own Son, so that we might be saved. Two, in times of trial, we should remember that God is always with us, always on our side, and in fact, Jesus is always praying for us. Hebrews 7:25 says, “Therefore, He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them.” That’s an awesome thought.

So when those trials come, and they will, remember that though the cost is great, God saw this coming. He is on your side. He will get you through.

John 16:33
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

The Winter of Our Discontent


This winter has been a winter for the record books. For the past 30 years, we really haven’t had very many cold winters in our area. That’s not to say we haven’t had snow; I have a photo book to prove we’ve had some real beauties. There has been a new normal for our temperature range. Al Gore and possibly two scientists have attributed it to Global Warming, others to Climate Change. All I have noticed in my little corner of the universe is that winter for the past 30 years has been much warmer than it used to be, and summers a lot hotter.

Until this summer. We barely reached 100 degrees, staying mostly in the upper 80’s and low 90’s. Compared to the previous summer, where most of July felt like living in a blast furnace, this past summer was delightful. For once, my garden was not incinerated by August, and I had the best canning season ever. Autumn arrived, and as the cool winds began to blow, I kept saying we were due for a good sock-em-in kind of winter.

Well, it came. Children across the country have spent many days out of school for snow and ice. It has been very cold as well. At our lowest, we were -4 degrees in my hometown, and I live in a southern state. Four days later we were a balmy 70 degrees. And so the weather has been all winter long. Bitter, bone-chilling spells of snow or ice, followed by unseasonal warm days.

The prevailing comment is, “I am so done with winter!” People are tired of the snow shovels, the snow blowers, the mess of snow clothes cluttering our living spaces. They are tired of not knowing how to drive in the snow, and coming to that realization in a 12-hour traffic jam.They are tired of cancelled flights, cancelled appointments, missed rendezvous. I am reminded of a commercial which stated, “We’re sick of it. Sick of it. We’re all sick of it.”The weather has been upsetting a lot of people this winter, and frankly, they will not be sorry to see it end.

There was a time that I too fumed about the weather, but my mind has changed in the maturity of life. I have come to the understanding that the weather will be whatever God sees fit to send us, and there isn’t a lot we can do about it. Griping about it only puts me in a funk, and is a useless waste of my time.

What would happen if, instead of complaining about the vagaries of the weather, we decided to simply embrace whatever comes, enjoying the sheer majesty and power of God’s display? I’m not saying to enjoy getting your town blown off the map by severe weather, but to stop the day-to-day whining about the weather that we all contribute to in conversation?

It may even change the outlook of our days.

Now, just let me put my snow shovel away. The sun is coming out.

Habits and Christ

Today our pastor spoke about habits that may be interfering with our walk with Christ. This is a serious matter. He said that 40 percent of our lives are taken up with habits. That means that nearly half of our lives are spent doing things automatically, without thinking. This should cause each of us to examine ourselves to see if there is any habit that could be in the way of true fellowship with Christ.

There are many habits that could interfere with one’s walk with Christ. Some of the obvious ones are alcoholism/substance abuse, and sexual addictions. These addictions are particularly troubling because they are sins against the body, which is the living temple of the Holy Spirit. If this is a problem for you, seek help. There are many organizations to help cope with these addictions.

There are other sins against the body that may be more acceptable in society, but just as damaging to a godly life. The first that comes to mind is food addiction. This does not have to be overeating to the extent of becoming obese. Any time we have an unhealthy relationship with food, we can self—medicate with it instead of turning to God as the source of what it is that we are searching for through food. It would be better to let Him fill us up with good things.

Another that comes to mind is not keeping our bodies physically fit. I know, this seems lame, but I have been a witness to the life-long consequences of not staying active. My own dear mother hated exercise. She loved food and yo-yo dieted her whole adult life. It became a source of pride to her that she passed her days reading and enjoying her time in her chair by the fire. At the end of her life she was morbidly obese and struggled even to walk. Her out-of-control diabetes took her life in the form of heart disease and kidney failure. I determined not to follow that lifestyle and end up dying that way. My dad, on the other hand, has been a model of restraint in eating and has exercised all his life. He is 85 and cuts and splits wood daily with a friend who is 92! When his friend cut back on getting in wood because he was experiencing vertigo, my dad thought he was becoming stiff, so he went out and got a membership at the Y to do flexibility exercises! He has many friends and is actively serving in his church. My point is this: I know that we won’t die one minute before God has planned for us, but shouldn’t we live as healthily as we can, in honor of the miraculous gift of creation that He has given us in our human bodies? How much more joy in the Lord can be had when one is not suffering the unhealthy consequences being sedentary?

Another thing that would get in the way of communion with Christ would be busyness/workaholism. This has become an item of American pride, and it is evident among the people I know. How many times have you heard, “I’ve been so busy, I just didn’t have the time.” This is not how we are to live, with each day crammed so full we don’t have time for family and friends, or even our Lord. I will be the first to admit: I am guilty of this. I love to stay busy, but I admit it cuts into relationship—building. When we read the Bible through last year as a church, I have to admit that I missed a lot by using the “catch me up” button. This year I am trying to do better so I won’t get so far behind. I am using an email reminder that comes in the morning from YouVersion online that is helping me stay on track. Also, I will try not to use busyness as an excuse to get out of social events. ( I have always hated that excuse from others, and I have been guilty of it myself.) I want to slow down and savor relationships with family and friends, as well as deepen my relationship with my Lord.

So, what habit is holding you back from a close relationship with Jesus? I would suggest that the first step is to ask God to make you aware of what it is that is holding you back. Next, hand it over to God, admitting that you are powerless alone to defeat this habit. Look to God to help you change the routine that is causing you to sin, replacing it with something that draws you away from your unhealthy habit. Lastly, choose something or someone that will help you stay accountable to your goal.

It won’t be easy, but it will most definitely be worth it.

“Come, let us reason together”, says the Lord. “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red as crimson, they shall become as wool.”Isaiah 1:18