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Isn't it ironic?

Not to make light of the tragedy, but doesn't this sound like something from an Alanis Morisette song?

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Mary responded, "Oh, how I praise the Lord. [47] How I rejoice in God my Savior! [48] For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and now generation after generation will call me blessed. [49] For he, the Mighty One, is holy, and he has done great things for me. [50] His mercy goes on from generation to generation, to all who fear him. [51] His mighty arm does tremendous things! How he scatters the proud and haughty ones! [52] He has taken princes from their thrones and exalted the lowly. [53] He has satisfied the hungry with good things and sent the rich away with empty hands. [54] And how he has helped his servant Israel! He has not forgotten his promise to be merciful. [55] For he promised our ancestors—Abraham and his children—to be merciful to them forever."
Luke 1:46-55

“In the days of Herod, king of Judea…” the story begins. Herod was the local ruler of Israel under Caesar Augustus. He was a brutal ruler. He had one of his sons drowned because he became suspicious that his son wanted his throne. He had his wife executed. He ordered a mass slaughter of many religious leaders over a political disagreement.

Meanwhile, the people of Israel were being heavily taxed to support the Roman army, and people were going into severe debt, losing land and homes. A sense of despair was all over the Jewish people. “If God is so good, why this?” “How long is this going to go on?”

And then an angel comes to a little Jewish teenage girl. “You will have a son, and He will be King and will rule forever.” Her response this muscular, politically charged, beautiful poem claiming a trust in the promise of God’s unfailing love for His people.

Famine, cancer, shame, broken relationships, poverty. May you no longer ask “Why this?” or “How much longer?” May you see that the “Herods” of this world don’t have the last word, but that God is the Good King who is ruling forever.

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[15]When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, "Come on, let's go to Bethlehem! Let's see this wonderful thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."
[16] They ran to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. [17] Then the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. [18] All who heard the shepherds' story were astonished, [19] but Mary quietly treasured these things in her heart and thought about them often. [20] The shepherds went back to their fields and flocks, glorifying and praising God for what the angels had told them, and because they had seen the child, just as the angel had said.

Luke 2:15-20

It must have been a wonderful sort of night. Really let yourself step into the story of that first Christmas night.

Think about a group of shepherds watching a flock of sheep in a field when, suddenly, the night sky is lit up by angels, speaking to them and singing about the birth of the Messiah. Think about a young pregnant girl giving birth to her first child in a small stable with the sheep and cows sitting nearby. Think about the concern of that girl’s new husband, helping to deliver the child he knew wasn’t his, trusting an angel’s message and God’s promise.

“But Mary quietly treasured these things in her heart and thought about them often.” That line gets me every time I read the Christmas story.

It just hangs there for me.

It seems easy for us to get caught up in the rush of the holiday season, with gifts and parties and family gatherings. I’m sure it would have been easy to get caught up in the rush of that first Christmas. But Mary treasured the moments, soaking in all that God was doing.

May you make time to step away from the rush. May you see what God is doing around you. May you treasure God’s activity in your life and think about it often.

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What about receiving?

What about receiving?It’s no secret that lots of people think Christmas has become too much about presents and gifts. We hear all the time about how commercialized Christmas has become and stories about Christmas shopping; the long lines, fights in the aisles, people trampled at those mid-night sales the day after Thanksgiving, the stress induced by having to find the ‘right’ gift for people… You know the stories.

Most have heard the phrase, “It’s better to give than to receive.”

Go with me for a minute here.

Yeah, I understand the idea of generosity and giving. I get being unselfish and I am excited to be giving gifts to folks this Christmas.

What occurred to me the other day, though, was that for someone to ‘give’, someone else has to ‘receive’. In order for giving to take place, there has to be someone receiving. For a mailman, there’s a mailbox. For a Peyton Manning, there’s a Marvin Harrison (or Montana/Rice if you’re older). There’s someone who’s going to take that wrapping paper off the box.

That old bit about “it’s better to give than to receive” seems to vilify receiving. If it’s better to give, then by receiving, you’re choosing the lesser of the two.

I don’t think people ‘receive’ well.

A compliment on someone’s appearance is often met with an excuse or a deflection; “It’s just an old shirt I haven’t worn in a while, but thanks anyway.” Or a person offers their thanks for some thing you did; “Oh, don’t worry about it. It was nothing.” It’s passed off rather than simply received.

It’s a blanket overstatement to say this always happens, but I do think this mentality has crept into the fabric of American society. I imagine this plays out in all sorts of ways behind the scenes for each of us. Do we simply receive love given by others, parents or friends? Do we simply receive the gift of grace offered in Christ? Do we simply receive that?

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What if church wasn’t what you thought?

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Are students losing their religion on campus?

I was directected to this ABC article via Rhett Smith's site.

The article caught my attention quickly because the intro talked about a girl and her boyfriend who attend UGA, a school several teens I work with have or want to go to. It's disappointing and frustrating to see guys and girls struggle with their faith in God when you've invested so much time and effort into helping them along, but I suppose it's only through their own struggle they can genuinely own their beliefs.

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[1]Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and sympathetic? [2] Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one heart and purpose.
[3] Don't be selfish; don't live to make a good impression on others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourself. [4] Don't think only about your own affairs, but be interested in others, too, and what they are doing.
[5] Your attitude should be the same that Christ Jesus had. [6] Though he was God, he did not demand and cling to his rights as God. [7] He made himself nothing; he took the humble position of a slave and appeared in human form. [8] And in human form he obediently humbled himself even further by dying a criminal's death on a cross.

Philip. 2:1-8

Welcome to the reason for the season!The tradition of giving Christmas gifts has become so infused with the celebration of the holiday that many think of the gifts as the reason for Christmas. Thanksgiving is followed by the biggest retail day of the year. So big in fact, they have given the shopping day it's own name: Black Friday. Stores hold midnight sales, people flock to malls and outlet stores, and Wal-Mart is even crazier than it usually is!

Why do people wait in lines like this?Each year hundreds of thousands of letters are mailed to Santa Clause. The USPS even has a web page dedicated to addressing letters to Santa! Most of us have our wish-list all picked out and are hoping for this thing or that thing. We wrap box after box and stack them under the Christmas tree in the living room. The excitement and anticipation build as the gifts accumulate and December 25 gets closer and closer. There is such a relief when the shopping is done and everyone’s name is marked off our shopping list.

I don’t think there is anything wrong with giving gifts at Christmas time. I actually think it is a good idea. There were even gifts given at the very first Christmas; gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. But I think we need to constantly be reminded that Christmas isn’t about what we give one another. Christmas is ultimately about what God has given us. Christmas is about what Jesus gave when He took on human form and made a reconciliation between God and man.

With every gift you wrap, with every gift you give, and with every gift you receive this Christmas, may you be reminded of God’s gift of Jesus.

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What if ... ?

Hey, you's guys have some wicked cool glow-in-the-dark stuff!

If the Vikings were around today, they would probably be amazed at how much glow-in-the-dark stuff we have, and how we take so much of it for granted.

(a deep thought by Jack Handy)

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[22] The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; [23] they are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness. [24]“The Lord is all I need,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” [25] The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him. [26] It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.
Lamentations 3:22-26

There was a priest named Zechariah serving in the Temple. He and his wife, Elizabeth, followed God, but they had no children. And they were getting old. When he was in the Temple to burn incense, an angel of God appeared and told him he and Elizabeth would have a son, and they should name him John. John would prepare God’s people for His coming. Zechariah, surprised at the message, questioned the angel. “How can this be? We’re old!” From then until the birth of their son, the angel did not permit Zechariah to speak because of his disbelief.

The Jewish people of Israel had been waiting for the Messiah to come for centuries. They had looked forward to the fulfillment of God’s promise to His people. Now Zechariah was given the news that his child would be the one to prepare God’s people for His coming, and he had nine months to wait.

In silence.

Excited and eagerly expecting the promise of the Messiah.


In silence.

May you, in the midst of the excitement of the holiday season, make time for silence. May you break away from the busyness and rush of Christmas, and wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.

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Just for the record…

I don’t think there are necessarily any particular ground rules for web-logs other than what a particular writer imposes on themselves, so some of this might seem ridiculous to anybody reading. But I’m feeling new to this. (My virgin blogging experiences happened over this past summer when I was introduced to the nexus of the universe, and then somehow stumbled into rhett smith’s site a short while later.)

So I want to say some things and get some stuff off my chest:

I’m not real good at writing as I think. I am much more comfortable with thinking out loud, which I do often as I sit alone in front of my computer screen, but it’s tough recording those thoughts by typing as fast as I tend to talk. I thought of recording myself and then typing it, but that would be too much work and I’m lazy. In fact, I had one of those hand held voice recorders, but it was recently lost in a house fire (yeah, that’s a post I’ve been putting off writing about). And I have seen there’s a way to ‘audio-blog’, but it looks like long distance phone charges apply and I’m cheap. This new way of thinking through my thoughts, writing rather than just talking, is tough for me sometimes and leads to short, empty posts, but is something that helps me really nail down what I’m thinking and so is probably a good area of growth for me.

This is site a dumping ground for things I’m thinking about and wondering about, so I may seem back and forth in some opinions or may seem way out in left field with some of the things I write about sometimes. If you don’t like it, just write a little comment and tell me where I’m screwed up or quit reading.

I work in the church in youth ministry, so some of the stuff may only be interesting to you if that sort of stuff is interesting to you.

I’m interested in playing around with the look of this webpage, as I don’t want is to look stupid or cheesy (do people still use the phrase “cheesy”?). I’ve spent some time doing this lately (on a separate experimental site – and, no, that one isn’t suppose to look good) which is why I haven’t posted here this week. By the way, notice the cool new archives menu! I hope you won’t ever find animated clipart or hyper-color backgrounds on here. If you do, please, please, make me stop! I don’t care if it looks ‘hip’ or ‘edge-y’, but I hope it looks like a place I would want to look at and read sometimes.

I started with asking questions all the time. This will still happen often (maybe. hopefully.), but I’m going to wonder in statement titles sometimes, too. (Meanwhile, keep going, Luke. Stick to your guns with the song titles. You’re the man!)

Anyhow… I don’t think this was necessary for anyone except me, but hopefully I’ll be able to write a little more freely.

ps. This was too funny not to pass on. Take a look.