Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

I’ve posted this before and find myself returning to it every year at Christmas time. We just celebrated the birth of our Savior, and it is reminder of the real “new beginning” in our lives. There are two times during the year that I really focus back on God’s word; now and at Easter. We can get so wrapped up (no pun intended) in the hustle and bustle on “holiday season” that we can easily forget about our celebration. We forget about Love and Forgiveness as God promised to all of us. We rush from event to event that we miss the best present of all time. So again, I thought that I would let the word of God stand alone and reach everyone in its own way. Please have a safe New Year’s Eve and may God bless your 2022.

God’s Love and Ours 

7Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. 13We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. 16And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.” 1John 4:7-16

A Great Loss

Last Sunday, the Mayor of our city passed away after a short fall injury and illness. As a city, we have mourned the loss of Georgia Lord but certainly not to the degree that her family is. I heard from several people who expressed their grief at her sudden passing, and we held a short public event in which each Council Member was able to speak about how Georgia had impacted each of us. It was truly touching. I said that she treated all of us like extended family and that her and I would often disagree, much like a son and mother would, but in the end, we cared and respected each other deeply. I looked at her daughters on Monday and saw the same sadness that I observed in my sibling’s eyes just four years ago. While we are sad for what we lost, I know that we should be celebrating the joys that she brought to us as well.

Our mayor, my friend, had expressed such peace in her final days that it was hard to be sad for her. I am sad for your family, her friends, and supporters, we lost a real special person last Sunday and our grief will be present for some time. Georgia’s assurance of peace and trust in God’s promises were truly inspiring. This time of year can be very sad for some people; a look back over the year that’s past and see what did and did not get done on top of the losses we experienced in the second year of a pandemic. I like to use this analogy: during our life, we cannot see the path that we are on but when we finish a segment of it, God sometimes gives us a satellite view of where we’ve been. We mourn the loss of another great friend, but we should celebrate that we had Georgia Lord in our lives at all in the first place.

6But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.  1 Timothy 6:6-7

I am comforted by the faith I have in God’s promises and can see His hand in my life; sometimes by the people He put there and sometimes by the experiences He gives me. Georgia did a lot in her lifetime, raised great kids, had a large extended family but most importantly, she was a woman of great faith. She was very content with her life and was at peace when she passed. This verse from Timothy reminds me about the story of the DASH whose premise is what have you done with the time represented by the dash between the year you were born and the year you die. We bring nothing into this world, and we take nothing out; its what we do with our time that counts. 

God has given us the tools to do great things, we just need to slow down and read the instructions found in the bible. Sometimes we even have examples placed in our lives. Jesus lived as the ultimate example for us but God also gives us examples like Georgia Lord in our lives today. Slow down to see them and be content with the things in your life; it ends suddenly. We will never know the impact we will have on others. We all have a life that contains a DASH; fill it with contentment, love, kindness, and worship to God who made it all possible. 

Rest in Peace Georgia Lord, you earned it!

Who’s Responsible?

“Who’s responsible for this?” Most everyone shivers when they hear those words. Responsibility can often be a huge burden. We are given it through our job/position and sometimes we just take it upon ourselves. If you are the boss then you are always responsible for the things that happen in your area. If you are a parent, you too are responsible for everything that happens around your house. We all have responsibilities to something or someone and these responsibilities usually weigh us down. There are days when we don’t feel like being in charge or always being responsible, it’s natural. As a leader, you are always leading your people. You don’t get to say “I’m not feeling it today” or give away your responsibilities; we just can’t do it. 

No matter what you do or what position you hold; people count on you. Think about the people that you count on every day, in every setting or circumstance. You are one of those people to someone else. We are responsible to each other; the key is also being accountable to them. There’s an old saying that one “oh no!” wipes out ten “atta boys”. Go out and make this a great week for yourself and those that you are responsible to and those that you are responsible for. See how contagious a little responsibility can be and demonstrate what accountability looks like. Own your actions, your promises and your words.

For the LORD is our judge, the LORD is our lawgiver, the LORD is our king; it is he who will save us.” Isaiah 33:22

Today’s verse is from the Old Testament, a time before Jesus Christ. Think about how the world was during that time period and the chaos that consumed everyone. I imagine it to be a very scary time to live in: between the wars, slavery, punishments, Kings and Rulers not to mention that God was not very happy with His people. No one was taking responsibility for themselves or their actions. Isaiah was trying to tell the people who really was in charge of their lives. 

No one but the Lord was responsible for all of these things; not a single King was in control, the Lord was. Yet still, no one was listening, and people continued to ignore their responsibilities. The Lord is our Judge, our lawgiver and our King and He saved us through His Son Jesus Christ. It was God who took responsibility for our salvation and sent His Son to us. It was Jesus who took the responsibility to live a perfect life, to teach us how to live and even accepted the responsibility of paying for our sins. God gave us the laws but Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection took away our failures to follow the laws (sin). It was God who held Jesus accountable for our sins and yet, He granted each of us eternal life through faith in Him. We can count on Him to be with us in our journey here on earth; He’ll never say “I’m not felling it today”.

Frosty the Snow Man

I don’t think that at any time in the last 10 plus year that I’ve been writing this weekly devotional that I’ve shared someone else’s work. I have been following The River Walk for almost as long as I’ve been writing. Given that many of us have recently put up our Christmas trees and decorated our homes, I thought that this “story” of a modern-day radio interview was a good start to the month of December. While it is a little long, it is certainly is worth the time. Please note the link below and check out what they are doing at the River Walk. 

http://theriverwalk.org/2021/12/03/frosty-the-snowman-2/

December 3 – At a radio station in modern day America

Frosty – People just don’t get me. I get way too much attention, and I don’t want it. Any of it.

Rudolph – Yo man, I know just what you’re saying.

Host – Hello, ladies and gentlemen. We’re here at Straight Talk with a round table of some of the biggest legends of Christmas. To my right, I have Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph the Reindeer. On my left, I am joined by the infamous Grinch and George Bailey, and across from me is none other than Mr. Santa Claus himself. I would like to thank you all for coming and joining us tonight.

Grinch – Hmmm.

Santa – It’s our pleasure.

George – Yes, yes. It’s just wonderful to be here.

Host – Thank you. Now, before we got going, Frosty, you said that you don’t really feel like you belong here. Could you run with that thought and explain to our audience what you were telling us before the cameras started rolling?

Frosty – Sure thing. In fact, your introduction inadvertently underlined the very problem I was talking about. You called us legends. It sounds like I’m some sort of superhero. You’ve got Batman and Flash, Wonder Woman and… frosty? You have the Justice League for eleven months of the year, but come December, the Christmas League takes over?

Rudolph – Word. Is my superpower supposed to be having a red nose?

Santa – You can fly.

Grinch – Heh. and you’ve got a nasty cold of radioactive proportions.

Host – So Frosty, are you saying you feel like you are getting too much attention?

Frosty – That’s it exactly. I mean, all over the world, when snow begins to fall. As soon as it starts to pile up, kids start rolling it into balls and making snowmen. Then one day, one of those things came alive, and here I am. Did I do anything special? I didn’t will myself into existence, and it certainly wasn’t some magic hat.

Host – So, how did you come alive?

Frosty – You tell me, sir. How does the gospel of John’s Christmas story start out? “All things were made by Him, and without Him, nothing was made that has been made.”

Host – The “him” being…

Rudolph – Jesus, man. It’s all about Jesus.

Frosty – Exactly. I came into this world when nobody expected it, just like Jesus. My arrival brought joy to everyone in the world I met. That’s Jesus. When the weather turned, I left this earth but not before promising to return. Who does that sound like?

George – Just a minute, just a minute. Now hold on, Mr. Frosty. You’re here today and tomorrow and the day after that. Then you will be back next year and the following year and every single year to come. But Jesus, He’s coming back one time, then he’s shaking the dust off this crummy little world. He’s gonna build new things. He’s building big things. How does that fit into your little analogy there?

Frosty – That’s a good question. It isn’t one I really have an answer for.

Rudolph – Yo, check this. It’s all about the faithfulness of God. You will faithfully show up the first time the snow falls. Every year my nose starts glowing at the same time. God gives us just what we need precisely when we need it. He’s faithful like that.

Host – So you are saying you agree with Frosty?

Rudolph – Sure thing. That cool dude points to some parts of the real Christmas story, and I point to others.

Santa – Ho, ho, ho. You and Frosty think you’ve got it tough? You should try walking in my shoes.

Host – Santa, thank you, but we would like to save your story for last. Rudolph, how so?

Rudolph – It’s like this. I was rejected by others, scorned, and despised by them. Then I became the one to point the way for them. I was a light in the darkness. I understand that the connection doesn’t seem all that hot, but no doubt my whole reason for being is to light the way for others.

George – Service. Your Christmas theme is service.

Host – Could you elaborate on that, George?

George – I’d be delighted to. Each one of us highlights one aspect of what Christmas is really all about. Santa here is about the gift. Frosty is joy, and our bright little animal friend here is about service.

Host – And what would your theme be?

George – I’m about memories and regrets. There’s something about the Christmas season that makes people get to thinking. Everyone starts getting together with their family but some are heartbroken over the ones who won’t be with them this year. Others might have to be away for one reason or another, and they begin thinking maybe they won’t really be missed at all. Some people will spend the holiday and the end of the year just thinking over all the mistakes and failures of the past year. Pretty soon, they get to thinking that maybe, just maybe, the world would be a better place if they weren’t in it. I get that. I was there once. Then God sent me an angel named Clarence to help remind me that each one of us is loved and valuable to him and to others as well. It’s no small fact that despite all the joy this season is supposed to bring, the Christmas season also sees a significant increase in depression and suicide. I am here as a reminder that it doesn’t have to be like that. Each one of our lives touches so many others. If we weren’t around, we would leave an awful hole in the hearts of others, wouldn’t we? But I’m talking too much. Am I talking too much?

Santa – No, no, no.

Rudolph – You’re just spitting truth, bro.

Host – Mr. Grinch, I would love to hear your input on all this. Frosty is joy, Rudolph light or service, Santa gifts, and George memories. What about you? As the villain of this bunch, what do you have to say for yourself?

Grinch – To most people, I’m the villain. For some people out there, I’m the hero. Those who say they hate Christmas absolutely love me. I’m fine with that.

Host – I’m sorry, I don’t follow.

Grinch – When people say they hate, double hate, and loathe entirely Christmas, it isn’t really Christmas they hate. It is the busyness and the stuff. There are so many parties to attend, presents to buy, cards to write… is old Aunt Mildred even still alive? We’ve been sending her a card every year but didn’t Cousin George tell us this last Christmas that she passed on a few winters back… some accident with a reindeer. Anyways, things get so busy and hectic and cluttered with stuff that people just want to cancel everything. It would just be so much nicer to just lay in bed staring at the ceiling and slip slowly into madness.

Rudolph – Cheer up, dude, it’s Christmas.

Grinch – You’re Rudolph, a freak with a red nose. Nobody likes you.

Frosty – Hey there.

Grinch – Sorry, I just slipped into character. What was I saying? Yes. People think that Christmas is all that stuff and business, trees and decorations, and the same ten songs that loop endlessly on every radio station and in every store in the world. Is it any wonder that people just want to end it all like George was talking about? Anyway, one year, I decided I had enough. I snuck in there and did my worst to cancel Christmas.

Host – What did you do?

Grinch – The food, the decorations, the tree, the presents… I stole it all. You know what? It didn’t change a thing. Christmas still came. It came without ribbons! It came without tags! It came without packages, boxes, or bags! I thought about this and then thought some more. I pondered for three hours till my puzzler was sore. Then I thought of something I hadn’t thought of before! “Maybe Christmas,” I thought, “doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas… perhaps… means a little bit more!”

George – By George, you got it! You’re the hero for all those who hate the fact Christmas has lost its meaning amidst all the business and noise of the season.

Host – And now it is time for us to go to a commercial. Be sure to stay tuned to hear what Santa has to say about all this. Also, don’t forget to tune in next week when we will be discussing the economics of the holidays with Mr. Potter and Scrooge McDuck.