Thursday, November 29, 2007
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Now the point of this blog is to go back to the hard-working wife, doing all the hours she could get in order to buy Christmas presents for her grandson, whose mum, incidentally, didn't work 'cos she had a problem sleeping. So Grandmother was the only wage-earner in the home --- well officially, at least!). Up until she talked about the presents she was getting I used to feel sorry for her, but when she told me that she would spend in the region of £650 on the 3-year old that Christmas, (and remember this was about 20 years ago), all I could do was gasp open-mouthed,
All these years later I still see people running up huge debts in order to provide their children with the latest, the newest, the most expensive, the designer labelled, whatnots. If only they realised that they are doing their children and grandchildren NO FAVOURS at all. What sort of lessons are they dishing up? This is one area of 'Home-Schooling' that certainly falls short when it comes to the teachers, don't you think? Isn't it better to dish out oodles of love and teach the kids about the real values in life, you know, the ones that money can't even come close to buying?
What do you think, dear reader? How much do you feel is the right sort of ceiling to set when it comes to buying for the kids? Let me know.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
All this and it's still NOVEMBER!
When you talk to so many people about Christmas, the last thing that they either do or want to talk about is the real reason for it, generally speaking. When I was growing up the Christmas Nativity story was central to our Christmas. We heard about it in Sunday School of course, but we also heard about it at school and in our home. Yet somehow, with all the talk about presents and food and --- when you get older --- drink, the real message is lost a little. Sure, not all at once, but just as surely it gets chipped away at year by year until it's pigeon-holed into being a small part of Christmas rather than the story of what Christmas is really about.
Each of us has the opportunity to change that. If we return to making the birth of Jesus the centre of our Christmas, sharing that with others whenever we get the opportunity, then the pendulum will start to swing back somewhat. It won't be an easy task because it has rapidly become politically incorrect to state that Jesus is the Reason behind the Season, but then, do you really want to be politically correct? I'm certainly not interested in political correctness when it comes to fabricating things in order to hide or even abolish the truth. I lived in Zimbabwe at a time when the government was conniving with so-called 'liberal' governments such as Sweden, in order to re-write history, so I do know how evil political correctness can be.
But back to the real reason behind Christmas. It's simple isn't it? It's all about the miracle of God's love and the birth of the baby Jesus, a child that was wholly human and yet wholly divine at one and the same time. His birth is the beginning of a story of reconciliation --- the opportunity for sinful humanity to be forgiven of their sinful state and reconciled to God the Creator.
Now that was easy, wasn't it! Make sure your cards tell that story this year and you'll be helping to do your bit to spread the Word.
- A large hole, all ready for planting a tree in.
- A coaster that warns you when your glass needs refilling.
- A mirror that always makes you look GREAT!
- A hangover cure that you take before the party.
- A new lawn that needs cutting only once in 20 years.
- An OPPORTUNITY.
- An Exercise Machine that does it all for you --- without any effort.
- Some great lingerie (To give to his wife or girlfriend)
- A velvet bag to keep his ego safe.
Monday, November 26, 2007
Molehills are, of course, simply a by-product of the moles' industrious nature as he (or she) tunnels away underneath your lush, green sward. I remember sitting up one night, many years ago, in the garden of a country inn where I was living at the time, intent on actually seeing a mole break the surface as it was building a molehill. When I set out on the task I expected it to happen during the evening, but in the end it was about 5 o'clock in the cold, misty morning when I saw a movement. It was a long cold night, but my reward was to have witnessed something that most folk, tucked sensibly up in their warm, cosy beds, would never see. Mind you, probably most of them will not mind having missed out on the long cold wait to see something that will probably be shown one day on a nature programme!
Moles are fascinating creatures, much-loved by all except the owners of the beautiful stretch of green, especially the groundsmen who look after bowling greens, cricket pitches and golf courses. They have been immortalised for the many people who have read about ‘Moley’ in The Wind in the Willows. Molehill activity tends to be greatest between autumn and spring, and some parts of the country can be riddled with molehills and tunnels. On racecourses, grass airstrips and sports fields, molehills could conceivably present risk of injury to pilots, horses, riders, and others participating in sport.
Moles have been famously (and falsely) implicated in the death of a king. In popular folklore William III is supposed to have died after his horse tripped over a molehill. The incident for years after allowed Jacobites to toast the vanquishing creature as 'the little gentleman in black velvet'. Sadly for romance, the story is only partly true. Certainly William's horse stumbled on 21 February 1702 and the king broke a collarbone in the fall. However, he made a steady recovery from his injuries in the next couple of weeks, and was soon back conducting business, if not appearing in public. It was only on 5 March that the true cause of death-a pulmonary fever-became evident." (From the Dictionary of National Biography - William III).
If you decide to participate in this hobby you will need a good camera, a stout note-book (one of those with a pen or pencil attached by a chain is ideal) and plenty of patience. As a means of helping your concentration and yet allowing time for meditation and contemplation it's wonderful, and is to be highly commended. The main problem for the average participant is going to be the extreme cold that sometimes has to be endured in the pursuit of this hobby!
Sunday, November 25, 2007
We belong to Him and
He cares what happens to each of us.
In the storms of life
He has us safe in His hands.
He's carrying us.
He is our Father. He loves us and cares for us, for we are all His children.
Saturday, November 24, 2007
- I shall think about the people that I care about and the things about them that that make me care.
- I shall think about the people who care about me and be thankful for them all.I shall think about all the blessings of life, thinking of the POSITIVE and not the NEGATIVE.
- I will reflect on how my life has been changed in the years since I placed Jesus in the centre of it, remembering the times when I tried to take over the centre position and fell over my own feet.
- I will think about the beauty that is in the world, despite the ugliness of the things that try to destroy it.
- I will praise God for the talents that I've been blessed with and for the opportunities to give Him the glory as I share those talents with others.
- Even if it's a wet day I shall remember days of sunshine and keep that warmth my life.
- I shall share my day with the Lord, thanking Him for His ongoing provision for my life.
- I will consider myself blessed in the knowledge that I am Christ's man rather than my own.
- I will look forward to my wife returning from work so that we can share some quality time together.
- I will reflect on the blessings that I get from you, dear reader, through your reading of my blog and through your prayers.
If all of that doesn't guarantee that it will be a GREAT DAY then I don't know what will!
She would resemble you.
You leave me with the same impression.
Of something beautiful,
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
- At lunch time, sit in your parked car with sunglasses on and point a hair dryer at passing cars. See if they slow down.
- Page yourself over the Intercom. Don't try to disguise your voice.
- Every time someone asks you to do something, ask if they want fries with that.
- Put your garbage can on your desk and label it "In."
- Put Decaf in the coffee maker for 3 weeks. Once everyone has got over their caffeine addictions, switch to Espresso.
- In the memo field of all your cheques, write 'For smuggling diamonds.'
- Finish all your sentences with 'In accordance with the prophecy.'
- Don t use any punctuation
- As often as possible, skip rather than walk.
- Order a 'Diet Water' whenever you go out to eat with a serious face.
- Specify that your Drive-through order is 'To Go.'
- Sing along at the Opera
- Go to a Poetry Recital and ask why the poems don't rhyme
- Put mosquito netting around your work area and play tropical sounds all day.
- Five days in advance, tell your friends you can't attend their party because you're not in the mood.
- Have your co-workers address you by your wrestling name, 'Rock Bottom.'
- When the money comes out the ATM, scream "I Won!, I Won!"
- When leaving the Zoo, start running towards the car park yelling "Run for your lives, they're loose!!
- Tell your children over dinner. "Due to the economy, we're going to have to let one of you go.
- And the final way to keep a healthy level of insanity --- share this with someone else to make them SMILE!
It's Called! Therapy!
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Monday, November 19, 2007
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Saturday, November 17, 2007
As a beginner, the best thing to start with is something really easy likeclothing with large spots.
Very soon the accomplished Spot Spotter will be able to graduate to far more difficult tasks such as small evenly spaced spots on umbrellas.
The real benefit of the hobby can only be really appreciated when you progress to a moving target, and what could be better than trying to count the spots on a basketful of spotted puppies? It's probable that only the most expert Spot Spotter will manage this task successfully, but it does allow you the opportunity to (waste) sorry, I meant to say spend several hours enjoying your hobby.
Does it make you a more interesting person? Well, only you can guess at the answer. Certainly you will be able to hold a long conversation on the benefits of spots over no spots, or what size spots are your favourites. Of course I can't promise you that you'll exactly hold your audience and enthrall them beyond belief, but you will certainly create a definite impression about yourself in their minds. If you want to avoid boring them then I suggest that you might consider spotting square spots as well as round ones, and even limiting your hobby to spots of certain colours.Another thing you could do is write about the hobby, much as I am here. Will it hold your readers enthralled? Only they know, and --- most of them at least --- will be far too kind and/or polite to tell you the innermost thoughts that they share about your interesting hobby. Perhaps, after all, that's the best thing anyway!
Have a great day!
Friday, November 16, 2007
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
There are probably three schools of thought on the matter:
- I think it's OK and they look lovely!
- It's all a bit of a Pagan thing!
- Bah! Humbug!
Some people have traced the Christmas tree back to the time of the Old Testament Prophet Jeremiah, although the decorated Christmas tree that we all know today only caught on in the mid-19th century, and is largely a Victorian creation. The Prophet Jeremiah condemned as Pagan the ancient Middle Eastern practice of cutting down trees, bringing them into the home and decorating them. Of course, these were not really Christmas trees, because Jesus was not born until centuries later, and the use of Christmas trees was not introduced for many centuries after his birth. Apparently, in Jeremiah's time the "heathen" would cut down trees, carve or decorate them in the form of a god or goddess, and overlay it with precious metals. Some Christians feel that this Pagan practice was similar enough to our present use of Christmas trees that this passage from Jeremiah can be used to condemn both: Jeremiah 10:2-4: "Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them. For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not." (KJV).
Opposition to the Christmas tree was strong in past centuries. In the 3rd Century, the early Christian Church strictly prohibited the decoration of their houses with evergreen boughs. Modern-day opposition continues: some condemn the Christmas tree because they believe it to be a Christian symbol; others condemn it because they believe -- quite wrongly as it happens -- that the custom of cutting down a tree, erecting it in the home and decorating it is a Pagan custom. In Europe, Pagans in the past did not cut down evergreen trees, bring them into their homes and decorate them. That would have been far too destructive of nature. But during the Roman celebration of the feast of Saturnalia, Pagans did decorate their houses with clippings of evergreen shrubs. They also decorated living trees with bits of metal and replicas of their God, Bacchus. Tertullian (circa 160 - 230), an early Christian leader and a prolific writer, complained that too many fellow-Christians had copied the Pagan practice of adorning their houses with lamps and with wreathes of laurel at Christmas time. For many people today, it's primarily seen as a secular symbol of hope for the New Year and the future return of warmth to the earth. Nevertheless, however the tree is viewed by some, its future is assured in spite of opposition.
The English Puritans condemned a number of customs associated with Christmas, such as the use of the Yule log, holly, mistletoe, etc. Oliver Cromwell preached against "the heathen traditions" of Christmas carols, decorated trees and any joyful expression that desecrated "that sacred event."
In America, the Pilgrim's second governor, William Bradford, a Puritan, tried hard to stamp out all "pagan mockery" at Christmas time. Christmas trees were not used by Puritans in colonial times, and would certainly have been forbidden had the practise been considered. In 1851, Pastor Henry Schwan of Cleveland, Ohio, is believed to have been the person responsible for decorating the first Christmas tree in an American church. His parishioners condemned the idea as a Pagan practice; some even threatened the pastor with harm. But objections soon dissipated.
Although many people think that the Christmas tree is out of place in churches, I think that it serves a good purpose apart from being great to look at. We all know that many more people attend church services over the Christmas period, and it's a recognised fact that many of those people only attend one such service, and that in all probability it's the only service that they attend all year --- apart, that is, from occasions such as baptisms, weddings or funerals. One of the things that gets these people into our churches is the manner in which the church is decorated, and that includes a really pretty tree, of course.
So, is it justified to decorate the church and have a tree in order to attract large numbers of people to a service? Of course it is! The reason they come to the service in the first place is not really important, after all; it's what they hear and the impressions they gain once they are there that really matter. It's up to the regular congregation members to be living witnesses, showing warmth and friendship to the visitors, and it's up to the Church Leaders to ensure that the Gospel message is preached, strongly and in love.
So what about the 'Bah! Humbug!' people? How easy it would be to just ignore them and hope that they'll go away and not come back, but the real answer lies in the Christian love and fellowship that every Christian is called on to demonstrate. Even the worst 'Scrooge' is a nut that, however tough a shell, can ultimately be broken!
At Christmas 2000, the city manager of Eugene OR ordered that Christmas trees could not be erected on city properties because he considered them Christian religious symbols. He felt that their presence would violate the principle of church and state. This is just one of countless conflicts that have surfaced at Christmas time over religious and quasi-religious observances. Some religious sects oppose the use of Christmas trees and even the celebration of Christmas for their members. These include the Jehovah's Witnesses (The Watchtower Society), and until recently, the Worldwide Church of God. Part of the opposition is because the custom of decorated trees originated in Paganism, but they also oppose the use of the trees because of a literal interpretation of the quotation from Jeremiah.
We shall have a tall tree in our church once again, decorated with baubles, tinsel and tree-lights, and the congregation will view it, along with all the other Seasonal decoration, and give a satisfied sigh or a contented murmur of appreciation. What we'll achieve is a bit of a 'feel-good' factor, and that cannot be bad. As for the Christmas Message, well we shall have our Christingle Service, our Nativity Service, our Carol Service with it's Nine Lessons, and of course a midnight Communion on Christmas Eve. We shall have our Advent Wreath and light the candles as the weeks go by, culminating on the lighting of the central candle at the Christmas morning service, representing Christ's birth. And through all of this we shall proclaim to all and sundry what it's all about as we share both the story of our Lord's humble yet wonderful entry into the world and the important message of New Life and Salvation that He came to deliver.
Below is a picture of the Christmas Tree at First Baptist Church, LaFayette. Why not check out their site for pictures from previous years.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Monday, November 12, 2007
This is one time of the year when ministers and pastors, and priests and vicars --- in fact church leaders of all shapes and sizes --- are so busy planning the various Advent programme. Mind you, for some it's made easier by the fact that there are certain things that people like to remain the same, year after year. Things like this are labelled 'Tradition'. But is tradition always a good thing? Is there not a chance that the familiarity of the event in question will prevent people from really taking the message to heart? It's a difficult thing to do, but sometimes tradition has to be massaged a little, adding something new to the old in order to make people sit up and take notice.
Just imagine if we never did that! Why, the little girl who played the fairy in the Christmas Pageant and looked so cute when she was a when 5-year-old would not look quite so cute forty years down the line!
One of the things that I love about the Nativity narrative is that even though it's probably the oldest story that most of us remember, and of course goes back a little more than two thousand years, nevertheless there is always the opportunity for a new approach to the way that it's done. So we see a wide variety of styles which vary from the simplest approach by many Sunday Schools as they act the timeless story out in the Sunday Service, to the adventurous approach of taking the whole thing outside, using real animals gathered around a real manger. Some will even use a real baby.
The important thing is not the style of the nativity play but the sincerity with which it's performed and the Scriptural accuracy given to the whole event. In my Bible, which obviously differs from many a School Bible, there is no mention of Batman, Spiderman or the Ninja Turtles, when it comes to the Nativity story, yet all of these have featured somewhere in previous years ---and a lot of other characters too!
The problem for me is quite simple in all of this. You see, I believe the account in the Bible is an accurate record of the birth of our Lord, not simply a nice story, and so as soon as you start to add fictional characters to the Nativity play then it creates confusion in the minds of the children who fail to differentiate between the historical characters and facts, and the fantasy characters and fiction.
So I guess the whole issue comes down to this. Tell your children what the Bible says about our Lord's birth without adding to it. It's a beautiful and simple story as it is! As for Batman and Robin, well, of course they have their place in the storytelling world as well, but not as part of the record of Jesus' birth.
What do you think? Let me know!
Sunday, November 11, 2007
Throughout the land there will be Services of Remembrance held at War Memorials such as the Cenotaph shown here, where wreaths in memory of the fallen will be laid by their comrades and by local dignitaries and representatives. Each service will be special, evoking many memories, painful, sad and proud, of friends and relatives who paid the ultimate sacrifice. Whenever I see such memorials I find myself checking out the names, and connecting with the sacrifice represented. I wonder in what circumstances did those concerned lay down their lives?
Today we also ask ourselves whether war is a justified response to potential threat, in order to pre-empt aggression. The question focuses especially on the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the potential threat implied by Iran, although perhaps it’s an inevitable part of globalisation. What are our responses when alien ideologies and atrocities in other places seem to threaten here?
How we justify war has a direct impact on how we view the sacrifices we ask of people in military service. How do we justify the sacrifice we ask of such individuals and their families if we’re unsure of the basis of that sacrifice? It seems self-evident that if we devalue the moral principles which hold us back from war then we devalue the sacrifices which are made, and subsequently we devalue human society as a whole. This is not something which Christians, or indeed anyone else in our society, should easily ignore.
We had a buffet in the evening and enjoyed the eats that were arrayed for our delight! All in all, a great day for us all.