When my kids were young, I developed a game. I called it the “three-to-five-year game.”
It’s simple. Just imagine your child as three years older. Then do it again as five years older. Each time I would play this little game with myself, I would see the stage of life my child was in at the time in a totally different light. The toddler would transform in my mind to a second grader; the boy asking for a new bike would turn into the young man with his hand out waiting for the car keys. Even the sassy teenager would bring flashes of a young adult packing her room to leave home.
Then I would ask myself, “What do I want to instill in them, or do with them, before that happens?” It’s amazing what just a little perspective can do.
Tragedy also has that effect on us.
When given a terminal diagnosis, in essence you are given information that most of us don’t have. A more exact accounting for the number of days you have left. You are forced to play the three-to-five-year game, but someone else set the parameters, and you’re now playing for keeps.
Viktor Frankl, in his book Man’s Search for Meaning, recounts the story of two women. To the first, he asked her age. To which she answered, “Thirty.” “No, you are not thirty but instead eighty and lying on your deathbed. And now you are looking back on your life, a life which was childless but full of financial success and social prestige.” He then invited her to imagine what it would feel like in that situation.
We began this series, some months back, following Shmuley Boteach’s Kosher Jesus. You might remember the first installment Restoring Our Judeo-Christian Culture where, in earnest, I was inspired by the author’s introduction to his work with these words:
“Christianity, too has much to gain from a rediscovery of the authentic Jewishness of Jesus. American culture is less in accordance with Christian theology than many would think. Bringing a bit more Jewish influence to bear would make a great deal of sense for American Christians.
By discovering the Jewish Jesus and the Jewish understanding behind the bedrock premises of Christianity, Christians’ understanding of their own faith will be enriched and riddles will be resolved. Modern American and Judeo-Christian values will be strengthened to the benefit of both Jewish and Christian communities and our society as a whole.”
It’s hard not read the headlines and not shake my head in disbelief, if not disgust, at how far we have fallen as a society. Who doesn’t want both communities strengthened along with society as a whole? However, Boteach misses the mark–at least within the Christian community. His attempt at unity between the faiths rested in presenting Jesus as a fully Jewish man–fully Jewish but fully man.
However, there is a common thread running throughout both Kosher Jesus and Restoring the Jewishness of the Gospel. That is the misinterpretations of Jewish culture that has led to much of the antisemitism and Jewish suffering throughout history done in the name of Christianity.
Although Boteach’s intention is to bring the two faiths to a better understanding, one thing I learned from him was that there is a deep, deep wound inflicted on the Jewish people over centuries of Christianity that for many, has yet to heal.
As we finish the last of this series with David H. Stern, Ph.D’s book, Restoring the Jewishness of the Gospel: A Message For Christians, I noticed that Stern uses many of the same scripture passages that Boteach does. Although he takes it one step further. Rather than blaming unnamed antisemitic editors that have purposely (for political reasons) turned Christ and the New Testament against the Jewish people, he explains the subtle yet profound misinterpretations.
One other noticeable point, while Boteach (and myself) were focused on restoring values to the culture, Stern is focused on returning the Christian to answering the call of the Great Commission.
As we pray for our nation we often quote, 2 Chronicles 7:14:
“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” New International Version.
“My people” that are called “by my name” is that Jewish, Christian or both? Whose land?
The answers shouldn’t surprise you.
Sometimes Christmas just doesn’t turn out looking like we think it should.
In spite of thirteen weeks of planning, and even getting my Christmas cards out for the first time in about ten years, this Christmas was hard.
It wasn’t because of money; God provided plenty of work. It wasn’t because of unfulfilled Christmas wishes; I didn’t have any. In fact, in many ways it was a very sweet Christmas, filled with some of the most inexpensive, yet profoundly thoughtful, gifts I’ve ever received.
However, that’s seeing it in retrospect. After spending the bulk of Christmas Eve on the verge of tears, I finally realized what was really wrong.
Everything has changed — everything.
The Christmas stockings hanging on the mantle that I love so dearly remained empty. The little girls whose Christmas dresses they were made of were not here. All but two out of the six were miles away, busy creating Christmas for their own families. My little boys are both men now. There were no Brio Mec building sets under the tree for them, no wooden trains or slingshots.
Although we were blessed with a house full of friends and some family on Christmas Eve, and woke to the grins of six grandchildren and one thoroughly excited teenager, the house still felt empty. There were just too many faces missing. I wasn’t the only one that felt it.
I know. Children grow up.
This year, I made a decision. I’m changing everything. If I can’t have it the way it was, then fine. I’ll create a new normal.
“Are you a believer?”
If you asked me that question, my immediate response would be a resounding “yes.” I’ve been a “believer” since age 16. Although, I would have automatically assumed you were talking about believing in Christ.
But when a teacher recently asked her class of six year olds about their beliefs, she was definitely not talking about Christianity. It all started while reading a Christmas book aloud ; she posed the question of “believing” to the class.
Unfortunately, six-year-old Joy answered honestly: ”No.”
She explained that in her family they celebrate Jesus — Santa’s not real. The teacher immediately summoned the first grader for a private conference at her desk (in front of the entire class). There Joy was reprimanded and told it didn’t matter what was taught at home; there they believed in Santa.
Later that day Joy went home and told her mother, “I felt like I was going to cry. But it’s OK, I kept my smile on.”
An email soon went out to parents, presumably of both “believers and non-believers.”
Set aside any feelings of offense at this video for just a moment.
Now imagine with me. Instead of gay men in their underwear, we have the Marlboro Man out on the open prairie. With the Star of Bethlehem twinkling in the night sky, the Marlboro Man passes out cartons of cigarettes to his young cattle hands. In the background we hear a gruff old voice singing, ”Before the doctor brings a lump of coal, get enrolled, get enrolled, get enrolled…”
Then again we could have a chorus line of Biggest Loser contestants all stuffing triple-stacker hamburgers in their faces, dripping catsup down their ugly Christmas sweaters. Everyone juggling and gulping to the chorus of doctors singing, “Pre-existing conditions won’t stop ‘em…whether silver, bronze or gold… get enrolled, get enrolled, get enrolled…”
Or would you prefer prancing women, scantily clad, seducing men while their pimps holds up the mistletoe?
Out2Enroll is stereotyping gay men, stripping them down to nothing more than their sexuality in this video. A promiscuous gay lifestyle can be deadly. Most of us don’t encourage unhealthy behavior in the people we love, whether it’s risky sexual behavior or smoking. Who gives their favorite diabetic aunt a pound of chocolate and coupon for insulin for Christmas?
Then again, that’s exactly what cultural Marxism does; it destroys the very people it claims to help.
Month after month we sat in the doctor’s office, hoping he would give us our life back.
After suffering a pulmonary embolism his doctor could not in good conscience allow my husband to return to work as a police officer. She believed it too dangerous to be on blood thinners in law enforcement, citing the need to avoid blunt trauma at all cost. In her opinion, a profession that required a bulletproof vest as part of the daily uniform was no longer in his best interest.
Regardless, law enforcement was all he knew. After almost two years of recovery, the days seemed to run together and Mike began to spend more and more time in bed.
Concerned his condition had started to return, I mentioned my observation at the next office visit. With a sincere concern, the doctor asked if Mike needed a prescription. Noticing our puzzled expressions, she clarified, and offered an antidepressant.
We both desperately wanted her to write something on that little pad of hers that would make all of our troubles go away. All she had to write was, “Released to return to duty.” He would have been overjoyed.
Returning to the work in which he found meaning and provided for his own family–that is what he desperately needed. That is what the entire family needed.
Would a pill make the situation acceptable?
Does it seem odd to you that the hottest debate within the early Church was whether or not a Gentile could become a Christian without a complete conversion to Judaism?
This week’s reading of David H. Stern’s Restoring the Jewishness of the Gospel A Message for Christians has brought to mind the obvious, yet seldom acknowledged as important: Christianity is Jewish at its very core.
Stern reminds us that the atonement of sin, the need for a sacrifice to God, is rooted in the Jewish sacrificial system. He goes on to point out how other aspects we typically consider uniquely Christian are rooted in Judaism. For example, the Lord’s Supper is rooted in the Jewish Passover.
Did you know that baptism is a Jewish practice? When it comes down to it the entire New Testament is built on the Hebrew Bible’s prophecies and promises of a New Covenant.
None of this may be new or shocking revelations to most Christians. We understand on a cursory level that these are our roots in general but we have little interest in understanding the culture and heritage of the one we call our Savior.
It has cost us.
My daughter hung our Christmas stockings on the mantle this week.
Sitting in the living room, watching the fire and enjoying its beauty made me rethink Christmas.
What is Christmas really about?
I know the right answer. The right answer is that it is about Luke 2:11, the birth of Christ.
“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”
And yet, most will agree that December 25th is not the day of Jesus’ actual birth. When you take into consideration that it holds many pagan traditions, it draws lawsuits like bees to honey, and was almost trampled to death on Black Friday — it leaves precious little to embrace.
In spite of it all, it is a holiday that still holds deep meaning.
Years ago a Jewish girlfriend told me that they celebrated Christmas. Although they were capable of buying their children the best of everything this family had a strong work ethic and taught their children to work and save for what they wanted. “Christmas,” she confided “is the one day of the year I can spoil them. I can buy them the things I want to give them.” For their family, it had absolutely nothing to do with Christianity. However, they embraced the holiday to celebrate one another.
Before you head to the comments to accuse them of only using Christmas to indulge materialism, that’s not it at all. Face it, good parents want to give good gifts to their children. It’s just built into us. However, good parents don’t routinely indulge their own need to give. They understand the harm overindulgence brings. Christmas allows us to celebrate those we love through gifts both material and giving of ourselves.
When my daughters were little, and money was tight, I would buy them each a “Christmas dress.” They were usually collected throughout the year at garage sales. We would spend hours the night before putting their hair in curls. Then on Christmas Eve dress up in their pretty new dresses. Later that night they could unwrap “one” gift. The rule being, Mom picked which gift they could open. It was always a new pair of pajamas.
Truth is that both the Christmas dresses and new pajamas was all a set up. I was staging them for pictures then and in the morning. Don’t get me wrong, they loved getting all dressed up, and looked forward to the new PJs. But, for me it was all about creating and capturing the memories of their childhood.
It wasn’t long until they outgrew velvet and bows. So one day I tore all their Christmas dresses into shreds.
It was my daughter who first noticed it.
“You have a moral reason behind everything you do, Mom,” she said flatly.
To this day, I’m not sure if that was an accusation or a compliment. Considering she was in her early 20s at the time, it could have gone either way.
Until she made that statement, however, I never really thought of it like that. But she was right.
What she was referring to was not my piety or any virtue at all. It was the fact that I’m always on the hunt for “teachable” moments for my children. I’m the mom that turned a Disney vacation into a 10-day homeschool field trip.
It’s a good parent’s natural instinct to shield her child from harsh, cruel, and immoral influences. But it’s a wise parent that can discern the maturity level of a child and then expose these elements from the safety of observation.
Living in a culture steeped in evil and deception gives us plenty of opportunities to provoke conversations with our teenagers. Teaching kids to navigate popular culture by using it is an extremely powerful and influential tool for explaining destructive ideologies.
If you have impressionable teens, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is a great place to start. Before we get into some examples, let’s clear something up first.
Catching Fire is not for young children. Nor is it another Twilight with an audience full of fantasizing adolescents.
There is an element of violence. While not particularly graphic by today’s standards, the reason for the cruelty is beyond the comprehension of the under-10 crowd. My advice here is to wait until the movie comes to DVD, watch it first, and then decide if your child can handle the issues presented.
If a child is old enough to read the books, it’s always best to start there.
Understanding the reason behind the violence takes the movie to another level. Which is exactly what makes this movie an excellent place to start.
In spite of getting a 13-week jump-start on Christmas with this series, my shopping just began this week. Not because of procrastination in the usual sense, there’s just not enough Christmas spirit in me to shop before Thanksgiving no matter how hard I try.
So far, I’ve done all my best shopping online–on Black Friday. (FYI- There is no such thing as Cyber Monday sales. Stick to Black Friday online if you really want to save money.)
But I digress.
This week, I’m spending the bulk of my shopping time making my Christmas list. For a lot of parents and grandparents, this is where things go terribly wrong.
Before we get into that, did you take a minute to watch the above video? If not, go ahead–take a look.
What’s wrong with this picture?
In Kosher Jesus, author Shmuley Boteach writes to both Jews and Christians alike. However, as I mentioned before in What Has Christianity Lost?, his complete dismissal of the New Testament (while understandable) leaves his argument for unity of the faiths a bit one-sided and more than a little disheartening. At least, it does on the Christian side of the family tree.
In our new series Restoring the Jewishness of the Gospel: A Message For Christians, the author David H. Stern, Ph.D is Jewish. He is also a follower of Christ or a Messianic Jew. If your first thought to that statement is, “Doesn’t that make him a Christian?” you might find his book a worthwhile read as we explore this, and many other aspects of our Judeo-Christian heritage.
It’s important to emphasize Restoring the Jewishness of the Gospel: A Message For Christians is intended, as the name implies, primarily for non-Jewish Christians and for Jewish believers in Yeshua (Jesus). The author begins with three presuppositions:
- Christianity is Jewish
- Antisemitism is un-Christian
- Refusing or neglecting to evangelize Jews is antisemitic
The author further assumes,”Yeshua is indeed Israel’s Messiah, and that the New Testament and the Tanakh (Old Testament) constitute God’s word to humanity.”
“Yeshua’s “Great Commission” to the Church was to make disciples from every nation. But as soon as the early Messianic Jews began reaching out to Gentiles, it was necessary to separate the Gospel from its cultural context, so that its essential message would not be encumbered with cultural baggage unnecessary for salvation.
Learning that the New Covenant did not require Gentiles to become Jews in order to be saved was a traumatic process for the Jewish believers in Yeshua.”
Paul spent much of his ministry bringing Gentile believers into the faith, without compelling them to adopt Jewish culture. Doesn’t it seem odd, or just plain wrong, that now that we Gentile believers/Christians are the majority within the church, that we have insisted that Jewish believers do the very same that Paul preached against–adopting Christian culture and leaving Judaism as a condition of salvation?
No wonder, it doesn’t look like God’s plan to either side.
So what is?
That all of Israel be saved.
My fingernails still carry splashes of color.
The nail polish, once so meticulously applied by six-year-old Pearl, is now worn and chipped. I hope the memory stays as vivid as this awful color. Note to self: Before agreeing to a free manicure always have plenty of nail polish remover on hand.
When I finally do get around to scrubbing the polish off, it will be the last physical reminders of our dress-up tea party and our short time together.
Pearl requested, immediately upon arrival, that we have a tea party. Although she was only three at the time, apparently we had one the last time she came for a visit, which she remembers astonishingly well. So we spent a few hours painting nails, rolling hair and trying on gowns and dresses.
Yes gowns– little girl tea parties are a formal affair, in case you didn’t know.
Without realizing it I created a tradition. Apparently, in my granddaughter’s mind, going to my house is synonymous with going to a tea party. Traditions can crop up without realizing it when you’re dealing with children. The kid that can’t remember to brush his teeth every night will remember that hot chocolate you made three years ago. Moms may hate that, but that really works in grandparents’ favor.
This week I was reminded of a tradition that I started when my children were young, then, somewhere along the way I lost it. It was really just as much for me, as it was for the children.
Every year (at least for several years) I would hunt down the best Children’s Christmas book I could find. It had to have a great story, and even better artwork. Not your usual Santa stuff. I always found something that I enjoyed reading as much as the kids loved listening to. The idea was to collect these treasures over the years. Then, when my children are grown I would have a wonderful collection of Christmas stories to pull out each year and share with the grandchildren.
Somewhere along the line, I dropped the ball. All but a few books are left. So this year, I’m starting over.
So, I thought I would share a few of my old favorites.
Remember my oldest son, the one that nailed his Christmas tree to the floor? A few years ago I received a victorious phone call from him the day after Thanksgiving.
He was so proud of himself, he had to call the entire family to brag. He just won the Superbowl. The Superbowl of Christmas shopping, that is — Black Friday.
Mom! I conquered Christmas. We are off to eat breakfast. All of our shopping is done and we saved a ton of money. I’m telling you, I got this Christmas thing down.
That phone call inspired a new tradition that his sisters have perfected over the years.
Here’s how it’s done Robinson style.
Traces of pain were embedded in his voice.
I instantly recognized the man as one of my long-time favorite recording artists, Steven Curtis Chapman. The woman sitting next to him was obviously his wife. Although I’d never seen her before, I knew the look on her face as well as my own. It was the blank stare of a grieving mother.
Then I heard her say to Robin Roberts on Good Morning America,
“I’ve said, you know, somewhat coldly, ‘I don’t care whose lives are touched by this story and whose lives are changed or what good comes of it.’ As the heart of a mom, I want Maria back.”
“And that’s — you know, that’s what I want people to know is I want Maria back.”
There’s just not enough good that can be done, to ease the pain of losing a child.
The Chapmans’ five-year-old daughter had died just a few months before that interview in 2008– the pain was still visibly raw. Little Maria died after being hit by a car in her own driveway. It was a tragic accident to say the least.
People often try to comfort grieving parents by trying to show them some good. Their attempts usually compound the pain rather than relieve it.
In the Chapmans’ case the “lives touched,” by their daughter’s death, are real not just a Hallmark sentiment. The Chapmans expanded their charity to add Maria’s Big House of Hope for special needs orphans. They have carved an immense amount of good out of their sorrow.
However, there are people who commit crimes of destruction and violence in the name of injustice on a daily basis. We’ve all seen them captured on film. What about rioting in the streets over issues as trivial as a lost sporting event? There seems to be an air of justification in too many of those instances.
If circumstances such as these can be justified in the least, what of the liberated prisoners of Auschwitz?
“We have to consider that a man who has been under such enormous mental pressure for such a long time is naturally in some danger after his liberation, especially since the pressure was released quite suddenly…the psychological counterpart of the bends.”
They now had a choice on how they would use their new freedom.
Who still shops at Kmart?
This advertisement is a pathetic cry for help. It’s even less effective than an 8 year old “acting out” to get his parents’ attention and then ending up with a time-out in the corner.
Kmart is the commercial version of that kid. Once the darling of the American family, it fell into obscurity after its bout with porn a couple of decades ago.
In the early 1990s, Kmart, through their Walden books stores, was one of the largest retailers of pornography in America. Kmart refused to take porn out of their bookstores. Walden then sued the American Family Association (AFA) for meddling in their backdoor profits. So AFA let the rest of us in on Kmart’s dirty little secret and called for a boycott.
It only took a few months for Kmart to feel the heat. By 1994, while Walmart and Target sales saw healthy gains, Kmart had suffered consistent and continuing profit decline and announced plans to close 110 stores.
This year a new boycott is being threatened after Kmart announced that its stores will remain open from 6 a.m. on Thanksgiving through Black Friday. The uproar is over the company’s apparent lack of concern for its employees’ ability to spend time with their families over the holidays.
Perverting Christmas by showing men tinkling their testicles in public is one thing, but perceived corporate greed is the unforgivable sin of our new Marxist economy.
In blogging Shmuley Boteach’s Kosher Jesus I hoped the rabbi’s insights would bring the two faiths a little closer with a deeper understanding of one another. If successful, it would strengthen both Christian and Jewish faiths and in turn strengthen the fabric of American culture.
Whether that happened for his readers or mine, can only be answered within each individual. Only the One that searches the hearts of men, can know the collective good.
For me personally, it opened my eyes to some harsh realities. It inadvertently answered one question I had hidden in my heart for years, “Why do so many Jews hate, or at least mistrust, Christianity and by default Christians?” I get that we part ways at the cross, but why such a deep, unbridgeable divide?
Boteach presented the answer to my question from a historical Jewish perspective. His accounts of the antisemitism instituted in the name of Christianity left me deeply saddened and more aware of the barriers that divide us beyond theology.
In Kosher Jesus Boteach lays much of the blame at feet of unnamed “editors of the New Testament” which stripped Jesus of his Jewishness, and painted him as a traitor to his people. The author declares this misrepresentation is the worst character assassination in history. While Boteach believes Jesus should not be worshiped as the Son of God who died for our sin, but rather as a devout Jew, martyred while attempting to free his people from the cruelty of Roman rule.
I can honestly say, I deeply respect his point of view and appreciate his ability to open the door for discussion of a potentially explosive topic. As a rabbi, what Boteach brought to the table is an understanding of Jesus as a Jewish man.
Where Boteach fell short, however, was his lack of understanding of Christianity beyond the level of Wikipedia.
It’s not surprising that he holds very little, if any, credibility in the New Testament. His depiction of Paul, as being intellectually dishonest at the least and a mystic opportunist with an agenda at best, leaves no common ground for Christians.
In the end, Boteach left too many unanswered questions at least for Christians. That’s why I’m introducing a new series, exploring the Gospels, as they would have known it in the early church, through messianic Jewish eyes.
The window candles are all in place. I love how their warm glow greets the dark, cool autumn air. The sound of cousins giggling is the current music playing throughout the house. The season of giving thanks and celebrating family and friends is in full swing at the Robinsons’.
The first wave of house guests arrived this week. Our daughter, along with three little grand-daughters, is visiting while their daddy is on a hunting trip.
Reminiscing, talk of creating new traditions, and plans for a dress-up tea party filled our first days together. It’s been mildly amusing over the years to watch my adult children’s early attempts at capturing the Christmas spirit those first years out on their own. At first, my oldest son Chris thought Christmas only resided at our house. So he hauled his new bride home to spend the night with us (on the couch) for Christmas. If the spirit of Christmas was in our home that year, it didn’t come within ten feet of that poor girl. That particular tradition didn’t seem to fit his family well–and died quickly.
Not willing to give up, a few years later he decided it was all about the tree.
So a new family tradition was in order, and they made an outing of the whole Christmas tree process. The best part of the afternoon was spent at a local tree farm searching for the perfect tree. They found it, the largest Christmas tree they could imagine.
Hot chocolate and Christmas music set the mood. The children learned to string popcorn while mom and dad decorated the giant tree. Then the unthinkable happened. Their beautiful fully decorated tree crashed to the floor. They all took it in stride… the first time.
The second time it hit the ground, there was little humor left. Once again the family made it whole again, then called it a night.
With everyone tuckered out, tucked in and sound asleep they heard a loud clatter. It was not the joyful sounds of reindeer hoofs, but you guessed it, falling timber and shattering glass.
As world leaders gathered to discuss the future of Israel, speculations and suspicions swirled around American Christians’ motives and commitment to Israel’s right to exist.
From Tablet’s “Why Gay Marriage–Not AIPAC–May Determine Whether Bibi Bombs Iran“:
Bibi’s possible choice of a military option would be premised in part on the assumption that Israel enjoys a strong bedrock of support in the United States—not Jews, but Christian evangelicals. The problem with the assumption that Israel can rely on its Christian supporters—and the majority of Congress that is reliant on their votes—is that some younger evangelicals are now tilting against support for the Jewish state. Oddly, the issue that may decide whether Israel can count on the United States in the future is not President Barack Obama’s foreign policy, but the evangelical schism on the issue of gay marriage.
American evangelical support for Israel is based on a fundamentalist reading of the Bible, in particular this passage from the Book of Genesis, Chapter 12, Verse 3: “And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” The political expression of the mainstream evangelical exegesis of this passage is John Hagee’s Christians United for Israel, which is the country’s largest pro-Israel organization—a fact that is hardly surprising, given that, according to the recent Pew study, more evangelicals believe that God gave Israel to the Jews than American Jews do, 82 percent to 40 percent.
Contrary to what many liberals believe, and many conservatives like to pretend, the fundamentalist movement, like Judaism, is not a unitary political or theological force. Evangelicals lack a single guiding leader, as Catholics have in the pope, and as a result schisms in their movement have played a large if often understated role in American history. One such historic schism may be opening up beneath the feet of the pro-Israel community right now.
Evoking Hollywood images of the Scopes trial to illustrate the point, author Lee Smith claims that just as evolution split fundamentalists into sides that fought over the literal interpretation of creation, leaving them them looking foolish and archaic, so too will those that believe in the out-of-touch ideal of marriage as only one man and one woman look foolish.
On my to-do list today: Order new bulbs for the window candles.
Now is the perfect time to start decorating for Christmas. You can start today too. No– I’m not talking about a blow-up snow-globe in your front yard. Please don’t do that–ever.
Decorating for Christmas doesn’t have to be just throwing tinsel and stringing lights. It really can, and should, be about a whole lot more. Decorate with the “spirit” of Christmas– not the theme of Christmas.
What do I mean by the “spirit” of Christmas?
Create an environment full of sights, sounds and aromas that provoke feelings of peace, serenity and even a bit of nostalgia. For example: A fire in the fireplace, with a warm blanket draped over the arm of a nearby chair and a stack of classic novels long forgotten, beckons a weary soul.
By creating an atmosphere, rather than a display, your houseguests, visitors and all that dwell within can find a unique peace away from the hustle and bustle of the busy season rushing past your door.
The season of hospitality officially kicks off next week at the Robinsons’. It’s the best time of the year. Soon we will have a stream of houseguests that take us through to the end of November.
It’s been our tradition for over the last decade to place the candles in the windows. When the children were small, I started to collect antique looking electric candles. It took several years for me to get one in every window ledge of that old farmhouse, but I eventually did.
At that time, its purpose was to create a warm glow in the evening throughout the house as the days grew shorter and the nights grew colder.
Now that the children are grown, it serves as a more traditional symbol of a safe place for weary travelers and family as they make their way home for the holidays.
This week, it’s time to set candles in the windows, ready the fireplace, seek out some new music and fill the house with the sent of cinnamon and cloves. Most importantly, create an environment that says, “Come sit awhile and rest, eat and laugh— the Savior has come.”
What says “peace” in your home during the holidays?
Photo Credit Shutterstock’ Andrew Koturanov
Here is the parody on Obamacare performed by Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley at the CMA Awards. Singing to the tune of George Strait’s “Amarillo by Morning,” these two country artists did what country music does best–tell a great story.
This time, they also reminded us we do still live in America, where we can hold our government up to public scrutiny and laughter.
When I entered the hospital room her eyes said she recognized me.
All through our 25-year friendship, Mary taught me about life, faith and how to be a friend. She was suffering from the effects of diabetes. The last heart attack left her heart too weak to keep good circulation in her legs. The doctors were walking a fine line. They needed to amputate the leg before gangrene poisoned her. However, Mary’s heart had to heal enough for her to survive the surgery.
Mary had her share of sorrows. She knew the human face of abandonment, betrayal and crippling pain. I couldn’t look at her in that hospital bed lined with monitors and not feel a deep sense of injustice.
She turned to me and smiled. As her liver failed, so did her ability to speak coherently. Our eyes locked, and I could tell she wanted to say something. She seemed to concentrate hard, as if it was difficult to form the words. “I…love…” she paused as she struggled to get the last word out–so I drew closer. ”Puppies!”
Then she closed her eyes and shook her head no, and giggled at herself.
She spent the rest of the afternoon in and out of reality–smiling, giggling and whispering. She was locked away deep inside herself with no escape. She was a prisoner inside her own body.
Now is the perfect time to get ready for one of our favorite Christmas traditions, the Ugly Christmas Sweater Party.
It’s never too early to start shopping for just the right sweater. In fact, if you don’t find one by the end of November then forget it. The thrift stores run out early, and face it, the only thing worse than wearing the ugliest sweater you can find is paying full retail price for it.
Although if you want to hold your head up in public wearing a Christmas montage I suggest you design your own.
A few years back this concept was an affront to my sensibilities. Why would anyone want to go to a party and meet new people wearing something tacky?
No one has ever accused me of being a slave to fashion. However, this took some real mental adjusting over a period of years just to actually enjoy it.
The first two years I bought very traditional, and very ugly, sweaters. The first one was made out of some sort of cheap fuzzy red yarn that made me look like Elmo on Sesame Street. The following year was equally as bad. A black, button-down sweater covered in snowmen made of varying sized white buttons and ribbons.
Would you believe that there are people on this planet that actually thought those sweaters were “cute”?
At the first party I was accused of not playing along.
To this day, I’m not sure if I should be offended or not. Did they really think I came dressed like Tickle-Me-Elmo thinking I was NOT participating?
The following year proved a little more embarrassing and another complete fail. Neglecting to make my own dish to bring to the party, a quick stop at the local grocery store seemed like the easiest fix. That is, until we pulled up and not one of us wanted to get out of the car in our Christmas sweaters.
Somehow, I got elected.
As I grabbed the first pie I could find and dashed to the
finish checkout line, I thought I made it undetected. Then the clerk remarked in a loud voice, “I love your sweater! That is so cute.” Apparently, it was assumed this was part of my normal Christmas attire.
I mumbled a stunned and bewildered “thanks” and hurried out of the store.
Then there was last year when my girlfriend decided I needed help…
Inspired by a dream in 1943, Philip Van Doren Stern wrote a heart-warming short story titled “The Greatest Gift.“ When he failed to find a publisher, the author sent it out as his Christmas card the following year, no doubt inspiring friends and family alike. You probably recognize the movie version of the story that came out in 1946 as It’s a Wonderful Life.
In the film, George plans on traveling the world and then dabbling in college before heading off to build skyscrapers. He offers to “lasso the moon” for his sweetheart. Then life, as it often does, gets in the way of his plans. As dilemmas and circumstances come at him from all angles, he is confronted with decisions to make. One by one, he makes the right moral choice. There is always a price to pay for doing what’s right, rather than what seems pleasurable. Bit by bit, George’s future is exchanged for the needs of the present. Until at last, there is nothing left of the future he once envisioned, and he becomes suicidal.
In spite of all that, George is extremely lucky. He lives in the world of fiction where a rosy-cheeked guardian angel can change his entire life by altering reality for him. Then, when the hard lessons are learned, he can change it back again so George can enjoy the rest of his life in the light of his newfound knowledge.
What exactly did he learn?
Each life has a profound impact on the world around him. His angel scolded,
You had the greatest gift of all conferred upon you—the gift of life, of being a part of this world and taking a part in it. Yet you denied that gift.
Viktor Frankl learned a similar lesson that very same Christmas. However, it did not come in a dream. Frankl lived in the real world, where some of life’s most profound lessons are not taught by kind men with peaceful blue eyes. Instead, they are learned at the cruel hand of fate and a reality that allows no escape from sorrow.
The death rate in the week between Christmas, 1944, and New Year’s, 1945, increased in camp beyond all previous experience…the explanation for this increase did not lie in the harder working conditions or the deterioration of our food supplies or a change of weather or new epidemics. It was simply that the majority of the prisoners had lived in the naive hope that they would be home again by Christmas.
Unlike George, these men were not denying the gift of life they had been given. They were clawing for it. For the prisoners of Auschwitz, their salvation was within their grasp once they realized what it was.
For most of our adult lives, television at the Robinson household consisted of a large antenna in the attic. We jokingly called it “farm vision.” Then we did what all old people do when their children are grown–we moved into town. I really enjoyed the luxury of cable–that is for about two years. Then I started to feel a bit cheated.
This past year forced us to reevaluate almost every aspect of our lives: our health, our lifestyle and our spending habits. When assessing the cost of cable, and the value it brings–cutting it was a no-brainer.
However, my husband and I both have favorite programs we enjoy. I’m not going to lie, as an information-junkie, my withdrawals from news and commentary hit fairly hard.
We’ve had AppleTV, and enjoyed streaming Netflix and routinely mirrored videos or live streaming church services or breaking news. But it really doesn’t offer a whole lot more than what’s on your computer or iPad.
Pronounced Row-Koo. If you’re considering Apple TV as an alternative to cable or DVD rentals checkout Roku first.
Roku is a little black device about the size of the palm of your hand and it streams Internet “channels” to your television. Roku comes loaded with access to over 1000 channels.
It’s a mixed bag of hundreds of free content and paid subscriptions. The best part about it, is you can add the channels you want and you’re not forced to weed through hundreds of channels to get to the couple you prefer. You can get Netflix, Hulu Plus, VUDU, Amazon Instant Video, PBS, The Blaze and Fox News. There are no fees connected with the device itself after the initial purchase. You will have to have wi-fi of course, as it is a streaming device.
Roku currently offers four different devices starting at $49.99. You can add a few bells and whistles at a time.
Currently, we have a yearly subscription to Amazon Prime, and are in the process of comparing Redbox (which offers four DVDs and unlimited streaming for $8.00 monthly) and Netflix. The subscriptions or combination you choose all depend on your viewing habits.
We have enjoyed the ability to watch entire seasons of television shows, watching episodes back to back without commercial interruption. Who cares if they are last year’s season–I’m no longer subjected to ED commercials or dating sites no matter how late we stay up.
You now have several options.