Monday, December 31, 2007

Grumpiness or Gratitude?

Better Days Goo Goo Dolls
And you ask me what I want this year
And I try to make this kind and clear
Just a chance that maybe we'll find better days
Cuz I don't need boxes wrapped in strings
And desire and love and empty things
Just a chance that maybe we'll find better days
So take these words
And sing out loud
Cuz everyone is forgiven now
Cuz tonight's the night the world begins again
And it's someplace simple where we could live
And something only you can give
And that’s faith and trust and peace while we're alive
And the one poor child that saved this world
And there's 10 million more who probably could
If we all just stopped and said a prayer for them
So take these words
And sing out loud
Cuz everyone is forgiven now
Cuz tonight's the night the world begins again
I wish everyone was loved tonight
And somehow stop this endless fight
Just a chance that maybe we'll find better days
So take these words
And sing out loud
Cuz everyone is forgiven now
Cuz tonight's the night the world begins again
Cuz tonight's the night the world begins again

Many of us are looking for better days. Are we grumpy or grateful on the journey?

"Secret of life: giving thanks in everything."

Philippians 4
Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends!...

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

This past week I've dealt with broken glasses and the family has dealt with a very inconvenient sickness. I wanted to be grumpy instead of grateful!

"Negativity bias: incoming emotions and thoughts are more likely to be unpleasant rather than pleasant. This means that for some of us being a grouch comes naturally." Dr. Robert Emmons

Gratitude is the realization that we have everything we need, at the moment.

Philippians 4:6
“Don't worry about anything, but in all your prayers ask God for what you need, always asking him with a thankful heart.”

1 Thessalonians 5:18
Be thankful in all circumstances. This is what God wants from you in your life in union with Christ Jesus.

"I have no idea to this day what those two Italian ladies were singing about. Truth is, I don't want to know. Some things are better left unsaid. I'd like to think they were singing about something so beautiful, it can't be expressed in words, and it makes your heart ache because of it. I tell you, those voices soared higher and farther than anybody in a gray place dares to dream. It was as if some beautiful bird had flapped into our drab little cage and made these walls dissolve away, and for the briefest of moments, every last man in Shawshank felt free." Red in Shawshank Redemption

Being known by God is being loved by God. Henri Nouwen

Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it. William Arthur Ward

Philippians 1:6
Every time you cross my mind, I break out in exclamations of thanks to God. Each exclamation is a trigger to prayer. I find myself praying for you with a glad heart. I am so pleased that you have continued on in this with us, believing and proclaiming God's Message, from the day you heard it right up to the present. There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.

Psalm 100:4
“Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.”

Colossians 3:15
“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.”

1 Timothy 4:4
“For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude.”

Hebrews 12:28
“Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe.”

Colossians 4:2
“Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.”

A turtle on a fence post had some help. Gratitude.

"Everyone who walks through this door makes me happy: some when they enter the room and others when they leave."

Three questions:
“What have I received from God or others?”
“What have I given to God or others?”
“What troubles and difficulty have I caused?”

Have you ever thanked God for the troublemakers in your life? Without them, we would never mature spiritually! They thrust us out of ourselves, causing us to rely more completely upon the help of God.

Gratitude is a form of spiritual warfare, especially when it comes to healing human relationships. There are times when, for a variety of reasons, people are not open to us and they shun our initiatives for peace or reconciliation. However, if we were more genuinely appreciative of them, in time they might relax their guard and open up.

There is something like radar inside the human heart that senses the displeasure of others. Displeasure and ingratitude are like a repellant to human relationships. People think, 'If I can't measure up --- if you can't see anything good in me --- I'll go where people will accept me as I am.' Gratitude brings our loved ones closer to us rather than driving them away.

Some of us have been ungrateful, gossiping and/or grumbling. Let’s fast from ingratitude. Whenever you are tempted to complain, grumble or be ungrateful about something or someone, focus instead on things for which you are thankful. Make a list of seven people in your world that you know fairly well and write down seven things in each of their lives for which you are appreciative. Over the next two or three weeks, tell them how much you appreciate this or that quality you've observed in them.

Consider a letter of thanks to someone, even to God.

2 Timothy 3:1-5
There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power.

Gratitude isn't dependant on circumstances.

Habakkuk 3:17-19
Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.

"Feeling as if we should feel gratitude after being sermonized might produce resentment, not gratitude." Robert Emmons

Choose gratitude. Forsake grumpiness. Open your heart to the love of the good Father.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

What are you serving up?...

Colossians 1:9-12
Be assured that from the first day we heard of you, we haven't stopped praying for you, asking God to give you wise minds and spirits attuned to his will, and so acquire a thorough understanding of the ways in which God works. We pray that you'll live well for the Master, making him proud of you as you work hard in his orchard. As you learn more and more how God works, you will learn how to do your work. We pray that you'll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul—not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory-strength God gives. It is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that he has for us.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

"Christmas shatters any idea that God is some kind of vengeful tyrant bent on smiting any who fail to live up to His expectations. The image of a harsh, punishing deity is contradicted when we discover that our God was incarnated in a baby in Bethlehem’s manger." Tony Campolo

You, Lord Jesus, born for us at Bethlehem, ask respect for every person, especially the small and the weak; you ask for an end to all forms of violence — to wars, oppression, and all attacks on life. In you, only in you, is humanity offered the chance to become "a new creation." Pope John Paul II in his Christmas 2000 address

Friday, December 28, 2007

Some of the Bad Habits of God...

God is always late.

God is always unpredictable!

God does not care what people think.

God has a love that is blind.

God prefers the broken to the strong.

Thursday, December 27, 2007


Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Favorite Christmas ad...

"Would you still take your kids?" The United Church gang at the Wondercafe gets people thinking!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Advent Conspiracy IV: Love All

Love is patient,
It’s a cold harsh world.
Love is kind.
It's a dog eat dog world.
It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
You get stabbed in the back.
It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
I'm so lonely.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
And sad and angry.
Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres.

From a Christmas Party this past week: Family Feud, The Top Ten Things @ Christmas. The Nativity: NO! Buzz! The baby Jesus. NO! Buzz!

What got the top billing? How about Gingerbread houses, Santa, Christmas trees and candy canes!

The frustration with the consumer agenda at Christmas is very widespread. I came accross this blog post serendipitously yesterday:

I really really hate the way retailers put out Christmas merchandise, decorations, and other holiday paraphernalia two months (in some case—Bloomingdale’s, Crate & Barrel—three months) before the freaking holiday. I was in line today at Peet’s coffee, surrounded by gingerbread latte advertisements and peppermint bark available to purchase, and I thought, “Holy! I forgot to call my Mom on Thanksgiving! Oh wait. It didn’t happen yet.”

It so obvious that the holiday is about the promotion of consumerism and the exploitation of the unsuspecting Los Angeleno (we only have informed people here in San Francisco). Why? It's so upsetting to me. Really. I mean, truth be told, I am not immune. Already the windows on Fillmore Street with the flocked trees and cashmere scarves make me smile. But, by the time actual Christmas rolls around. I will surely be sick of it.

Have you ever been disappointed on Christmas day? I have. Typically (although maybe not this year), I go down to my Grandmother's house in Ventura County with palm trees and balmy weather. We have dinners and parties, bake and eat, shop and drink. It's a roaring good time. That is until Christmas day arrives. We wake up, not nearly as enthusiastically as we did when I was a child, then we open gifts, then we watch my uncle watch football. It seems so anticlimactic. With all the decorations everywhere, I expect a block party in front of my house to celebrate, well, not Jesus (not that I would prefer to celebrate Jesus).

Basically I'm upset because money-grubbing "retailers" are ruining my holidays. And even if you write them letters, they still won't listen to you. Because they know that some other dumb American lemming will waltz in and buy their 50-dollar glitter candles. Wes, a 25-year-old gay man in San Francisco

This is week four of our Advent Conspiracy: Restoring the scandal of Christmas by substituting compassion for consumption.

Luke 10:30-37
Jesus answered by telling a story. "There was once a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho. On the way he was attacked by robbers. They took his clothes, beat him up, and went off leaving him half-dead. Luckily, a priest was on his way down the same road, but when he saw him he angled across to the other side. Then a Levite religious man showed up; he also avoided the injured man.

"A Samaritan traveling the road came on him. When he saw the man's condition, his heart went out to him. He gave him first aid, disinfecting and bandaging his wounds. Then he lifted him onto his donkey, led him to an inn, and made him comfortable. In the morning he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, 'Take good care of him. If it costs any more, put it on my bill—I'll pay you on my way back.'

"What do you think? Which of the three became a neighbor to the man attacked by robbers?"

"The one who treated him kindly," the religion scholar responded.

Jesus said, "Go and do the same."

How do we engage, love and value people?

It all seems possible and good in our heads and then we get with people and something goes awry…

“People will regularly disappoint us. If our hearts aren’t ready for this, we’ll speak only with angry exasperation, our negative words tearing down people for their humanness, instead of using our tongues to cultivate redemptive transformation.” Gary Thomas

Our hearts have to be ready. Advent is about preparing our heart for Jesus. We really do need Him!

We all have rough days, quite often near Christmas. Here is a proven scientific stress management technique recommended in all the latest and best psychological journals. The amazing thing is that it really does work.

1. Picture yourself lying on your stomach on a warm rock that hangs out over a crystal clear stream.
2. Picture yourself with both your hands dangling in the cool running water.
3. The birds are gently singing in the cool mountain air.
4. Nobody else knows of your secret place.
5. You are in absolute total seclusion from that hectic place we call the world.
6. The soothing sound of a gentle waterfall fills the air with a cascade of serenity.
7. The water is so crystal clear that you can easily make out the face of the person you are holding underwater.

See? It really does work. You’re smiling already…

We all need the love of Jesus in our lives so that it can flow out to others that we come around.

There are two main forms of relational sin: attack & withdrawal, also known as silence & violence. The robbers were the epitome of attackers. Quite often we just use words to cut and wound instead. The Priest and the Levite were the withdrawers: I am distancing myself from you. They went by on the other side. Compassion is the opposite of attack & withdrawal.

Compassion even sees beyond social categories & societal conventions. The Jews hated the Samaritan. A Serb and a Croat. A Catholic & militant protestant in Northern Ireland.

Quite often we find our spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend is the opposite of our natural pattern. As a withdrawer we get an attacker as a partner or vice versa! This can create quite a dance!

“In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little, yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and themselves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism which is fun to write and to read, but the bitter truth we critics must face is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so”. The impossible to please food connoisseur in Ratatouille.

‘Shattered social conventions’ is a mark of the church.

Jesus taught this and he modeled it, too.

Peter the Zealot and Matthew the tax collector (Roman collaborator). Women were included. Peter was welcomed and restored by Jesus after his rejection. A doubting Thomas was invited in.

James 1:27- 2:10
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

My brothers and sisters, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don't show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, "Here's a good seat for you," but say to the poor man, "You stand there" or "Sit on the floor by my feet," have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? But you have insulted the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are slandering the noble name of him to whom you belong?

If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, "Love your neighbor as yourself," you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.

Breaking through tolerance (putting up with each other) & embracing love is what's happening. Embracing the people Christians love to hate.

Self looks out for self. Love looks out for others. Seeing God for Others is genuine love.

Love is a Discipline of Celebration. Christmas is a celebration of love because as U2 puts it, When Love Comes To Town I'm Going To Catch That Train!

1 Corinthians 13
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.

"There are two tragedies in life. One is not getting what we want. The other is getting it." Oscar Wilde

Worship More.

"The main emotion of the adult American who has had all the advantages of wealth, education, and culture is disappointment." John Cheever

Spend Less.

Give More.

"The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because generally they are the same people." G.K. Chesterton

Love All.
An experience of the heart that we can trust.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Favorite Christmas Music III...

I know- this is about Santa & not Jesus, but to a twelve-year-old youngster who didn't know Christ at the time the Boss really brought some life to Christmas!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Favorite Christmas Music II...

For many people Christmas aches of relational pain. Bono captures that with such raw honesty.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Favorite Christmas Music...

Do They Know It's Christmas? Do you?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

A Christianity Worth Believing

In early 2008 Doug Pagitt has new book coming out that sounds like a great read.

The subtitle for the book is, 'Hope-Filled, Open-Armed, Alive-and-Well Faith for the Left Out, Left Behind and Let Down in Us All.'

Doug writes, "Please don’t misunderstand me here. I love my faith. I believe that living in the way of Jesus is the way humanity will embrace peace, justice, mercy, compassion, and love. I have seen my fellow Christians graciously, selflessly caring for the least among us. I have seen Christians who have found ways to live at peace with each other and in harmony with God. I have seen Christians following Jesus’ command that we love others as we love ourselves, even when that love involves great sacrifice.

But while Christianity has given so much to the world, it too often carries with it a message, a belief system, that can be hard to believe. It too often creates a culture that is unintentionally hurtful to far too many people. I have a tendency to climb on my high horse of righteous opinion and make statements that imply (sometimes not very subtly) that Christianity is a stagnant, exclusive club for those who are satisfied with ill-fitting answers meant for issues of a different age. But when I come to my senses, I’m convinced that if I’m ever going to feel like I truly belong to this family, if I’m going to live out the faith I profess in any kind of honest way, then I have a responsibility to break the no-talk rules and say what I believe the good news has been about all along. I am as responsible as anyone for the faith I profess. If I want to be a full participant in Christianity, I need to stop complaining about the beliefs articulated by others and make my contribution instead. In doing so, I am following the true legacy of this family.

For Christianity has always been a living faith, one presented in hundreds, even thousands of different ways around the world and throughout the ages. It has always been the dynamic interplay between the Spirit of God and the lives and cultures of people. It is meant to be a real-life journey of discovering, wondering, answering, and questioning.This book is an articulation of that process. It is an expression of my desire for a Christianity that makes sense in the world in which we live, a Christianity that is not afraid of questions and will not resist answers, regardless of where they lead. It is my attempt to embrace a faith that is expansive, growing, and beautiful, one in which God is active and alive, involved in all of life. Because I believe in a Christianity where nothing is left out and no one is left behind, where humanity participates with God in the redemption of the world; where sin is more than a legal problem to be judged but a relational problem that can be healed; where we pursue harmony, centered on Jesus the Messiah, the Jew, whose life, death, and resurrection allow us to live well with God; where the Bible draws us into a story of life and healing; where we find hope for this life and life ever after; where love is alive, where love drives out fear, where love propels us toward lives lived for the betterment of all the world.The Christian family will always include people who are satisfied with the way things are and people who want to see new possibilities come to life. And we are all better off because of the mix. No one should be removed from the family simply for wanting the benefits that come with conservation, and no one should be removed for wanting to move forward as the faithful have always done.

Toward that end, this book is a call, or a re-call, for those who believe the gospel of Jesus is an invitation for all people to live a dynamic faith as full members of the family, joining in the hopes, dreams, and aspirations of God for the world no matter what kind of family we come from. Doug Pagitt, A Christianity Worth Believing, Jossey-Bass 2008

Advent Conspiracy is all about what or who we believe in. And how we'll live our life because of that. Do you have a Christianity worth believing?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Logan, the Sky Angel Cowboy

Pastor Mike Cobb of Valencia Hills Community Church played this during their church service on Sunday, Nov. 11th, 2007.

Logan is a 13 year-old boy who lives on a ranch in a very small town in Nebraska. Logan listens to Christian Radio station 89.3FM KSBJ which broadcasts from Houston, TX. Logan called the radio station distraught because he had to take down a calf. His words have wisdom beyond his years. (**Sky Angel is a family safe broadcasting service that is offered on satellite. KSBJ is a local Houston Christian music radio station.)

A Message from Logan's Mom

I am Logan’s Mom………I don’t know how many come back to read these after they have blogged but I thought it was time to thank so many of you for the love and acceptance of my son’s heart. It truly was a work of God and it has increased Logan’s faith and brought healing to his heart in more ways than one!! We appreciate your prayers so much. We praise God that this message from Him has brought hope and healing to many of you. Our God is truly an awesome God. May His works continue to go forth through KSBJ, in Jesus name.

Yes, we look forward to what God has in store for Logan. We have known for some time that God has given him a gift of communicating to people’s hearts. We saw signs of it even as a little boy. We homeschool our children and truly enjoy our time with Logan and his sister Erica who is 9.

So, thank you to all of you for your loving responses to a young man’s growing heart. Your prayers have reaped more than you know and will continue to reap heavenly power in this lost and dying world. Praise be to our everlasting Father God in all this!!

With all my love and thanks,
Tee Jay Henderson

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Chuck Brown

Monday, December 17, 2007

Advent Conspiracy III: Give More

Living With Less So We Can Give More

Philippians 2:5-7
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.

Restoring the scandal of Christmas by substituting compassion for consumption.

Live the Christmas story. Enter it. Scanning the horizon for the Messiah. Joseph. Mary. God the Father reaching out to us, you & I!

Main characters in the story. Good & bad. What’s the point? The plot line?

"For God so loved the world that He gave His one & only son..."

"Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus."

"He shall save us from our sins."

Your life this next year is a movie poster. What’s the tag line? Is it living Philippians 2?

Imagine this one: “This year Stew is going to try & get a Volvo.”

Imagine going to a movie to watch this story unfold. Not very interesting & compelling, right? The next 2 hours are all about getting the car. Very last scene Stew drives away with a Volvo. Are you weeping at this? Are you moved to give your life away in pursuit of the Volvo? If Stew can get a Volvo I can get one, too! I can help a poor salesperson meet their quota this year and get a bonus? Yahoo!

The best stories have some risk & a deep meaning or purpose. The best stories aren’t safe. Advent isn’t safe. Ask the parents of murdered babies in Bethlehem if it’s safe.

“Christianity agrees… that this universe is at war. It thinks it is a civil war, a rebellion, and that we are living in a part of the universe occupied by the rebel. Enemy-occupied territory – that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage. When you go to church you are really listening-in to the secret wireless from our friends: that is why the enemy is so anxious to prevent us from going. He does it by playing on our conceit and laziness and intellectual snobbery.” C.S. Lewis

I've never heard a sermon on the Tenth Commandment. We can't possibly preach on "Thou shall not covet thy neighbor's goods” because Western society is based on that. In our culture, people cannot feel good about themselves unless next year's vacation is more luxurious than last year's, unless everything is upgraded—while most of God's people on this earth starve. Richard Rohr

"I don't believe that God chose you and blessed you so that you could heap those blessings upon yourself. I believe God chose you because He wants to make a difference in this world. And you know what? What I think is scary about God is He didn't come up with any 'plan B.' That He left the church here, and the church is the only group of people and the church is the only institution in the world that can bring about a change." Rich Mullins

I cannot tell you anything that, in a few minutes, will tell you how to be rich. But I can tell you how to feel rich, which is far better, let me tell you firsthand, than being rich. Be grateful . . . It’s the only totally reliable get-rich-quick scheme. Ben Stein, actor, comedian, economist

Gratitude is a key in order to find yourself as a ‘giver’. The ungrateful don’t or won’t give; & if they do it’s grudgingly. The Bible says, “The Lord loves a cheerful giver.’

Secular psychologists like Dr. Robert Brooks & Dr. Sam Goldstein have written of this fact:

How best to counteract the holidays being associated primarily with receiving gifts? I believe one powerful antidote to commercialism is for families to engage in charitable activities. As Sam Goldstein and I have conveyed in our writings about resilience, an activity that contributes to a feeling of well-being, to a sense of purpose and compassion, and to resilience is when we provide assistance to others or to our community. We believe that there is an inborn need for children to help others. As parents, we must find ways to nurture and satisfy this need in our sons and daughters. The more we can become charitable families and involve our children in activities in which they are enhancing the lives of others, the more they will come to appreciate that the holiday season is not just about receiving, but, more importantly, about giving to others. There are many avenues through which a family can display its compassion and charity, such as collecting food or clothing for those less fortunate, or delivering meals for the elderly, or going to a store and purchasing and donating a toy to a charity to distribute to needy children.

In my workshops I have noted that the main vocabulary for many children involve the words, "Gimme me, gimme me, gimme me." Lecturing to them about how self-centered they are is likely to have little positive effect. Instead, we must provide them with opportunities to enrich the lives of others. I realize that even if children engage in what we call "contributory activities," they will still want things for themselves, but at least they will experience the joy of assisting others. Dr. Robert Brooks

Lets enter the story. How are we giving more?

Question the quantity and necessity of our purchases.

When you make yourself available to God to Worship More, he’ll create opportunities. When we ask him to help us Spend Less, opportunities will arise. When we ask to be able to Give More- they’ll be there.

“And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ‘till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store? What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more?” The Grinch Who Stole Christmas

The consumerism that surrounds the celebration of Jesus’ birth is particularly curious when we contrast it with his teachings on possessions.

“Don’t blame the darkness for being dark. Blame the light for not shining into it.”

Relational giving. How often do we buy stuff to show people that we love them & care about them but in reality they would prefer something from our heart? What if we took time to write a note of encouragement to them, or to spend time or to create something especially for them. Time is money so let's buy a gift card instead.

Giving is not dependent on the condition of your checkbook. Giving is dependent on the condition of your heart.

If I had wanted something easy & pain free, I would have chosen a bottle of wine over Jesus. C. S. Lewis

There are two worlds. One where people are poor. The other where people have money to buy things.

What if we spent some time this next year figuring out how we could leverage our giftedness & relational connections to help give more to those in need because Jesus first did that for us?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Christmas Eve, December 24 @ 630 PM

Come celebrate Christmas Eve on Monday night, December 24 @ 630 PM.

Enjoy some hot chocolate & egg nog by the fire before we gather to recall the true meaning of Christmas.

We'll have some great songs, some great friends & family for you to celebrate with.

Kevin may even teach us how to say 'Merry Christmas' in Cockney!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Merry Christmas from our family to yours!

Don't send a lame Holiday eCard. Try JibJab Sendables!

Friday, December 14, 2007

People are...

...gas pumps that fill us.

...sought after tickets to acceptance and fame.
...priests who have the power to make us feel clean and okay.
....terrorists. We never know when they will strike next.
...dictators whose every word is law. They are in complete control.
...the hands & feet of Jesus & are meant to do good works to show the Father's love.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

More Conspiracy Theories...

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Will God Be Enough?

“When the people we have depended on are not there anymore, will God be enough?”
The life of Jesus is sufficient to sustain us.
Psalm 23:1
The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
Hebrews 12:2-3
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Join the Conspiracy!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Advent Conspiracy II: Spend Less

"Christian Consumers Are Consumers First." Shopping for God by James B. Twitchell

Average Bible shopper has nine of them & is still looking for more!

Not just consuming goods but services too. And we are 'discerning' shoppers, too. Watching out for 'my needs' & 'my wants'. Jesus wants to change our 'wanter'!

If an alien was to come & observe our proceedings this Christmas, what would they see? What message are we embodying?

Consumerism is our competition: our God is really what our life revolves around, and for most North Americans it revolves around consuming goods & services. Most if not all people go for ‘retail therapy’ when we are hurting or in need. Look at Christmas, once celebrated as the arrival of Jesus Christ but now the occasion for the biggest shopping spree and consumptive time of the year. Yet why for so many is it so hollow? We want to be a people who’s lifes revolve around Jesus Christ and His way of life.

Jesus junk. Retail therapy. Lease busters add on radio directed obviously at men who like cars. Shopping can be an addiction, a form of acting out.

Despite concern over the negative influence of media on young people, Christian parents are likely to spend more than $1 billion on media products this Christmas season’, says a new survey.

Teen materialism linked to self-esteem
"The level of materialism in teens is directly driven by self-esteem. When self-esteem drops as children enter adolescence, materialism peaks. Then, by late adolescence, when self-esteem rebounds, their materialism drops." Deborah Roedder John, Professor of Marketing, University of Minnesota

Last week we looked at the idea of ‘Worship More’ for Advent Conspiracy. This week is, ‘Spend Less’, or ‘Trying To Cure Affluenza’.

Isn’t Christmas such a nice story? So peaceful, so full of presents…

Matthew 2:16-18
Herod, when he realized that the scholars had tricked him, flew into a rage. He commanded the murder of every little boy two years old and under who lived in Bethlehem and its surrounding hills. (He determined that age from information he'd gotten from the scholars.) That's when Jeremiah's sermon was fulfilled: A sound was heard in Ramah, weeping and much lament. Rachel weeping for her children, Rachel refusing all solace, Her children gone, dead and buried.

When Christ was born the empire was threatened and as a result Herod, who was one of the more powerful kings of the day, ordered the killing of all the boys two years old and under who were in Bethlehem. The reason for this was that he hoped to take out the child-King that posed a threat to his kingdom.

While we are not living under Herod’s reign, there is another empire of consumerism and materialism that threatens our faithfulness to Jesus. Jesus brought with him such an extraordinary Kingdom that is counter-culture to the kingdoms of this world.

Part of saying “yes” to Jesus means that we say “no” to over-spending. We say “no” to over-consumption. We say “no” to these things so we can create space to say “yes” to Jesus and His reign in our lives. After the Holiday we work for months to get out of debt, only to find that the presents we bought in the name of Christ furthered a consumerist mentality in our children and us and took our focus off of the greatness of Jesus. As Christ-followers, the Advent Conspiracy starts with us resisting a culture that tells us what to buy, wear and spend with no regard to bringing glory to Jesus.

Now before The Golden Compass got so many Christians up in arms there was an even more successful book & movie to rail about. Anybody remember The Da Vinci Code?

It plays on a general assumption that the church’s wealth & power have blinded it from understanding the humble reality of its founder. An agent of the Church murders a key figure because it has the most to lose if the secret is revealed. The readers of Da Vinci are split of the divinity of Jesus, but they pretty much agree that the Church would stop at nothing to maintain its place of power & wealth in society today.

Maybe our consumerism is an even bigger conspiracy. It’s just a thought…

Consumerism is the notion that the more we consume the better off we will be. It’s the supreme idolatry of our times. It places my temporal wants at the center of my own little universe. As the dominant way of deriving meaning, it is responsible for countless neuroses fed by corporations whose shareholders insist on ever-increasing profits, and it is responsible for near runaway exploitation of this earth's natural resources.

Is it possible to subvert consumerism, to inject a virus into it that causes us to slow down, consider the needs of others, and whilst at the same time redefining our place in the world?

The popular and domesticated Jesus…has become little more than a chrome-plated hood ornament on the guzzling Hummer of Western civilization…
Brian McClaren

Image acquisition. Advertising in our “cool whip culture”: banana-flavored desserts don’t have anything resembling a banana in them. But the banana flavoring tastes more like a banana than, well, a banana!

We want a beer commercial life.

People say, "Thy Kingdom come" out of one side of their mouth, but they don't, out of the other side of their mouth, say, "My kingdom go."

Matthew 6:19-21
"Don't hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or—worse!—stolen by burglars. Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it's safe from moth and rust and burglars. It's obvious, isn't it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.

Shiny Happy People by REM
Shiny happy people laughing
Meet me in the crowd
People, people
Throw your love around
Love me, love me
Take it into town
Happy, happy
Put it in the ground
Where the flowers grow
Gold and silver shine

Shiny happy people holding hands
Shiny happy people holding hands
Shiny happy people laughing

Everyone around
Love them, love them
Put it in your hands
Take it, take it
There's no time to cry
Happy, happy
Put it in your heart
Where tomorrow shines
Gold and silver shine

Our modern church is filed with many people who look pure, sound pure, and are inwardly sick of themselves, their weaknesses, their frustration and the lack of reality around them in the church. Our non-Christian friends feel either, ‘that bunch of nice untroubled people would never understand my problems’; or the more perceptive pagans who know us socially or professionally feel that we Christians are either grossly protected and ignorant about the human situation or are out-and-out hypocrites who will not confess the sins and weakness (they know intuitively) to be universal. Keith Miller

In the book of Joshua we hear what sounds like a great 'charge' to consider at Christmas:

Joshua 24:14-24
"So now: Fear God. Worship him in total commitment. Get rid of the gods your ancestors worshiped on the far side. You, worship God.

If you decide that it's a bad thing to worship God, then choose a god you'd rather serve—and do it today. Choose one of the gods your ancestors worshiped from the country you're now living. As for me and my family, we'll worship God.

The people answered, "We'd never forsake God! Never! We'd never leave God to worship other gods.

God is our God! He brought up our ancestors from Egypt and from slave conditions. He did all those great signs while we watched. He has kept his eye on us all along the roads we've traveled and among the nations we've passed through. Just for us he drove out all the nations, Amorites and all, who lived in the land.
"Count us in: We too are going to worship God. He's our God."

Then Joshua told the people: "You can't do it; you're not able to worship God. He is a holy God. He is a jealous God. He won't put up with your fooling around and sinning. When you leave God and take up the worship of foreign gods, he'll turn right around and come down on you hard. He'll put an end to you—and after all the good he has done for you!"

But the people told Joshua: "No! No! We worship God!"

And so Joshua addressed the people: "You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen God for yourselves—to worship him."
And they said, "We are witnesses."

Joshua said, "Now get rid of all the foreign gods you have with you. Say an unqualified Yes to God, the God of Israel."

The people answered Joshua, "We will worship God. What he says, we'll do."

If God says that in the Old testament what kind of things does God say in the New Testament?

1 Timothy 6:17-19
Tell those rich in this world's wealth to quit being so full of themselves and so obsessed with money, which is here today and gone tomorrow. Tell them to go after God, who piles on all the riches we could ever manage—to do good, to be rich in helping others, to be extravagantly generous. If they do that, they'll build a treasury that will last, gaining life that is truly life.

Exodus 20:17
No lusting after your neighbor's house—or wife or servant or maid or ox or donkey. Don't set your heart on anything that is your neighbor's.

God Wants Our Hearts.

Maybe we should have a 'Shopping confessional'.

The best question in Advent isn't, 'What can I get?'

To take the way of Jesus seriously is to realize the best question is, 'What can I give?'

All of us can be more generous. What can you or I give today? What can you or I give tomorrow? May we truly come to grips with how much we are blessed and the fact that you & I are rich and are capable of being very generous. Then and only then will we have life that is truly life.

Could you follow the “one-for-one” rule? For every one item that comes into your home, one must go.

What about a January clean up or “spring cleaning” where anything that hasn’t been used for a year is given away.

What challenges and joys have you experienced in reducing the burden of stuff? Has it been easier to give away for a purpose for Christmas With Style or something familiar?

Some have called Christmas, 'The Orgy of Selfishness'. Worship More this Christmas. And Spend Less.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Sunday, December 9, Potluck!

This Sunday, December 9, potluck right after the service & meeting to discuss progress on membership and governance. We'll have an opportunity to pray with each other and support those in difficult times. See you there!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Isaiah 41:10
'Don't panic. I'm with you. There's no need to fear for I'm your God. I'll give you strength. I'll help you. I'll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you.'

Fears & anxieties are predictions of the future. Who or what are you trusting in?

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Consumption is the name of the game...

What is simply enough?

Proverbs 11:28
A life devoted to things is a dead life, a stump; a God-shaped life is a flourishing tree.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

God Speaks...

I found this note under the chairs & it was from a youngster last Sunday:
Dear Mom,
I know this may sound ridiculous to you but I was wondering if tomorrow at school I could ask people if they want to raise money to buy gifts to send to poor children in 3rd world countrys. After can we talk to my teacher about it?
Love, (name withheld)
The following is from Rick McKinley, whose church started Advent Conspiracy last year:
Because Christ was worshipped we worshipped the Baby in a way we never had before. The kids led the way. Everyone feared they would hate it, but it turned out that they understood it better than the adults. Some children emptied their whole piggy banks the day we took the offering. The Imago Dei Kids bought alpacas for some families in South America. (We had a llama at church that day to show them something close to an alpaca.) Our worship started on Sunday and went all week. Instead of rushing to the malls, families were hanging out at home making gifts. Because God gave us His Son, we in turn were giving of ourselves to others.
There were so many stories it was, and continues to be, somewhat overwhelming. It had a viral effect. The main factor was not the offering, or the meaningful gifts, or the hundreds of people who were helped - it was that everything we were doing pointed us back to The Story - God gave us His Son and we have never been the same.
It does appear that our children will help the lead the way for us to! After Sunday's service one of our teenage girls came forward wanting to pass along many of her old toys onto someone who could use them. Yeah God!
"And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ‘till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more." Dr. Seuss, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas

Monday, December 03, 2007

Advent Conspiracy I: Worship More

WWJD What Would Jesus Do?

WWJB What Would Jesus Buy

Christmas Jeer- What Would Jesus Buy: the movie Santa doesn’t want you to see! The Shopocalypse is coming!

Tired of the gerbil wheel of life?

Norman Robertson calls himself an 'acclaimed authority on biblical finance and biblical concepts of successful living' and is an advocate of pastors and other Christians living 'prosperous' lives. He is an 'expert who maintains that the Bible declares that God wants His people to prosper'. Robertson claims that Jesus was not poor nor were the Disciples. He begins by pointing out that Kings came to visit Jesus at the age of two and brought lavish gifts. RIDICULOUS!

Televangelists are once again facing some serious scrutiny due to their financial gains and habits that seem to mirror mainstream life. Due we behave any different from the culture as a whole, especially when it relates to Christmas consumerism and consumption?

This year for Advent we are underatking the Advent Conspiracy: Restoring the scandal of Christmas by substituting compassion for consumption.

Our weekly themes will be: Worship more; spend less; give more & love all.

Christmas was meant to change the world, not encourage more consumption and consumerism. It’s an upside down kingdom as Terry reminded us last week.

"Whose birthday is it, anyway and what’s it supposed to mean?”

Is it the birth of the son of God or of free enterprise & the invisible hand?

"According to the catalogs and TV commercials, the holidays are supposed to be filled with joy, music, laughter, and love--happy people doing happy things. For many of us, however, the holiday season is often one of stress, grief, and conflict. Instead of "Thanksgiving gratitude" and "glad tidings of great joy," we find ourselves miserable and angry over small matters ("Who spilled on the velvet tablecloth? Mrs. Critical will be here any moment--what will she think?"). And we catch ourselves pasting on a fake grin as we seethe over yet another sarcastic comment from a relative ("Oh, don't be so sensitive! I was only kidding") Tara Barthel

The more problem infects not only individuals. Consumers and businesses have collaborated to create a culture of craving.

Loneliness is acute at this time of the year. Anxiety and emptiness grip multitudes. Financial failure is magnified.

It’s like everyone is laughing, rejoicing and going places, seeing friends and family—but not them. Past memories crowd back into people’s minds. Fractured friendships, angry arguments, ruptured relationships, divorce and alienation stir up the conscience as well as regret.

People feel stuck, stranded, left behind and out of it. They mask their emotions and hide their feelings because they’ve done it for a long time. They usually hide it, stuff it, deny it and stagger on under a backpack of heaviness. But if only they had someone to open their hearts to, it would pour out like a waterfall.

One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest
Author Ken Kesey reveals to us the connection between freedom, sanity, and one's slavery to the consumer way of life that has become the modern day norm. The process of "nesting," or gathering a wealth of material possessions creates the "prison" in which modern society holds us all captive. According to Kesey, when one finds himself a prisoner, one should not be concerned with cursing one's captor, escape should be the ever-present goal. Kesey's novel portrays a group of men who find themselves in this exact position; conditioned by "the Combine" that is the social structure of present day life. Only they find themselves unable to break their bonds, and it takes their own personal savior, in the form of Randal P. McMurphy to show them the way out. According to Kesey, when one finds himself a prisoner, one should not be concerned with cursing one's captor, escape should be the ever-present goal.

Escape. The way of escape is to worship and recognize God. 24/7!

Worship More

There are many things in life that will catch your eyes, but only a few will catch your heart…pursue those.

Brother Lawrence was a monk who didn’t ‘excel’ at traditional monk things like regular prayer. He was active, maybe even ADD, so he served in the kitchen a great deal.

I gave up all devotions and prayer that were not required and I devote myself exclusively to remaining always in his holy presence. I keep myself in his presence by simple attentiveness and a general loving awareness of God that I call “actual presence of God” or better, a quiet and secret conversation of the soul with God that is lasting. Brother Lawrence

The holiest, most ordinary, and most necessary practice of the spiritual life is that of the presence of God. It is to take delight in and become accustomed to his divine company, speaking humbly and conversing lovingly with him all the time, at every moment, without rule or measure, especially in times of temptation, suffering, aridity, weariness, even infidelity and sin. BL

“I consider myself as the most miserable of all human beings, covered with sores, foul, and guilty of all sorts of crimes committed against my King; moved by sincere remorse I confess all my sins to him. I ask him pardon and abandon myself into his hands so he can do with me as he pleases. Far from chastising me, this King, full of goodness and mercy, lovingly embraces me, seats me at his table, waits on me himself, gives me the keys to his treasures, and treats me in all things as his favorite; he converses with me and takes delight in me in countless ways, without ever speaking of forgiveness or taking away my previous faults. Although I beg him to fashion me according to his heart, I see myself still weaker and miserable, yet ever more caressed by God. This is what I see from time to time while in his holy presence.” BL

“The times of activity are not at all different from the hours of prayer… for I possess God as peacefully in the commotion of my kitchen, where often enough several people are asking me for different things at the same time, as I do when kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament.” BL

You say grace before meals. All right.
But I say grace before the play and the opera,
And grace before the concert and pantomime,
And grace before I open a book,
And grace before sketching, painting,
Swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing;
And grace before I dip the pen in the ink.
G. K. Chesterton

We often think that church, our service, our prayer & singing is "Sacred", divorced from the reat of our life known as the "Secular". Jesus came as an infant to show us that God is in the business of wanting to be with us, to make our secular life sacred. He wants to be with us 24/7. He really does love us & He even likes us too!

Reflection (practice the presence) + engagement (do all that you do for God- Colossians 3:17)

Bart: What religion are we?
Homer: you know, the religion with all the well meaning rules that don’t really work in real life.

"God has been trying to free me from the burden of doing something spectacular for him. It has a way of distracting you from the opportunities to be salt and light where you are…I’m starting to recognize that I am immersed in a sea of hurting people every day. If I simply pay attention and follow the promptings of the Spirit in all these little ways, my life is ‘ministry.’” Jim Palmer

Lets celebrate the life and presence of Jesus together: Communion. Remember this week that that we can Worship More in the midst of our regular life.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

James 1:27-2:10
Anyone who sets himself up as "religious" by talking a good game is self-deceived. This kind of religion is hot air and only hot air. Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world.

My dear friends, don't let public opinion influence how you live out our glorious, Christ-originated faith. If a man enters your church wearing an expensive suit, and a street person wearing rags comes in right after him, and you say to the man in the suit, "Sit here, sir; this is the best seat in the house!" and either ignore the street person or say, "Better sit here in the back row," haven't you segregated God's children and proved that you are judges who can't be trusted?

Listen, dear friends. Isn't it clear by now that God operates quite differently? He chose the world's down-and-out as the kingdom's first citizens, with full rights and privileges. This kingdom is promised to anyone who loves God. And here you are abusing these same citizens! Isn't it the high and mighty who exploit you, who use the courts to rob you blind? Aren't they the ones who scorn the new name—"Christian"—used in your baptisms?

You do well when you complete the Royal Rule of the Scriptures: "Love others as you love yourself." But if you play up to these so-called important people, you go against the Rule and stand convicted by it. You can't pick and choose in these things, specializing in keeping one or two things in God's law and ignoring others. The same God who said, "Don't commit adultery," also said, "Don't murder." If you don't commit adultery but go ahead and murder, do you think your non-adultery will cancel out your murder? No, you're a murderer, period.

Saturday, December 01, 2007


"Make no mistake: There is no promise of safety in Jesus' call. As he calls us into the frightening arena, he points to the wounds in his hands and side, as if to remind us that we are afraid for good reason. It really is a dangerous world. It really does wound us. Eventually, it kills us." Mark Galli

Forget all the stories about how Jesus can make life better - by solving debt problems or helping someone overcome some relatively mild vice. The truth is, Jesus is totally messing up my life!