The picture is from Bizarre Christmas Bible Stories, unfortunately not being released till 2019. It’s our take on a Magi, and has nothing to do with 2 thoughts from 2 very different writers.
The first, from Caleb Cooley
This day we celebrate the Lord of creation taking on flesh without division, separation, confusion, or change. This day we celebrate the Logos, who willingly and vulnerably enters into the creation that He Himself spoke into being. This day we celebrate the very purpose and end of the whole cosmos, intimacy with God our father. We worship a good and powerful God. “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” This is a Merry Christmas indeed.
The second, a poem from Meredith at AnchorPoint Church,
And the Word Became Flesh
And the Word became flesh showing us what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy He did this so we could see and could know and could dwell upon these things
And the Word became flesh leaving a realm that was free from the limits of time He entered our time in a cursed world that He did not cause, to free us from the worries of tomorrow
And the Word became flesh, blessing us with each new day as a gift to enjoy everything good from Him Lavishing us with gift upon gift and the ability to enjoy each perfect gift from above
And the Word became flesh to take upon sin and know us in every way Therefor hearing every prayer and petition, working everything for our good, the Good, causing thanksgiving for each redemption
And the Word became flesh, to overcome death for us, to restore us to Him For we do not need to be afraid or discouraged, we are strong and courageous, for You are with us always
And the Word became flesh because what was once glorious and perfect was broken He came to remake it anew for He who began a good work in us will surely carry it on to completion
The Canadians have it right, and celebrate Thanksgiving on the second Monday of OCTOBER, as the Pilgrims intended. President Lincoln got many things right, but was allowed by God to make this one glaring error to prove to the world that even he wasn’t omniscient.
Now you know the truth. The stores have it right.
Besides, there just isn’t enough time to enjoy the season if all your shopping, decorating, family meals, traveling, college exams, parties, and Christmas movie watching have to be done in a few weeks. That’s no fun. Start today and enjoy a slow, mellow, long, shockingly long Christmas season, as Costco intended.
The music is better, so you can enjoy it longer
OK, it isn’t all better
music, Frosty the Snowman could gag a Shepherd. Still, after 10 months of Country divorces, Rap killings, Pop romance and Hillsongs oceans, aren’t you ready for a change?
It’s easier on the budget, so you can ret
ire 10 years early.
If you wait to shop till December, when you are also paying for travel and party gifts and eating out, you will still be paying it off in July. Buying now will help keep you out of debt, allowing you to retire years early. Maybe.
The life you save may be your own
How many kids are in danger of a tripping injury because they can’t find the way from the street to your house on Halloween? Could you be sued? GET THOSE CHRISTMAS LIGHTS UP NOW. Besides, better for kids to see an early Christmas tree than a pumpkin carved like a wormy skull with a spider crawling out.
The decorations are better, so let’s just go with Christmas and skip the rest.
Easter has pastel colors. Yuck. Halloween is black and orange, great if you work for UHaul. The best Thanksgiving table will have a centerpiece of plastic pilgrims standing around vegetables you can’t eat. But Christmas? Christmas is deep red, green, gold, nativity scenes, camels, and reindeer. How does a plastic pilgrim compete?
The food is best.
Thanksgiving has turkey. The reason we don’t eat it the rest of the year is that it isn’t that good. Christmas has eggnog, cookies, and Chex party mix. It’s no competition, really.
Because putting lights on your snow-covered roof on November 30 is foolish.
And the only thing worse is NOT having lights on your roof for Christmas. That’s just wrong.
If you are shopping early, Bizarre Christmas Bible Stories comes out in November.
What do you do when your kids are grown and gone, but you still hope to speak into their lives?
Clay Holderman, a dad from our church came up with this cool idea. He would get a question from one of his adulting kids. Then he would ask the dads in his small group Bible study to record their honest thoughts. Then he would ask a pastor to get a Biblical perspective.
After recording, he would cut and paste and edit the mess into a thoughtful, helpful, 15-minute DadCast, and send it back to his kids.
Or it will be if any of our kids listen to it.
The first question came from his oldest son, Cole. Could he ever become someone his parents couldn’t love? What if he became the worst of the worst of humanity?
Listen to the first DadCast on an app below and sign up or share if you like it.
In July of 2012 I was speaking at a 5th – 6th grade summer camp. The first night I asked all the kids to write down a question for God and to hand it in. One girl, Kristina Rae Barrett wrote, “Dear God, Why did you give me cancer?”
I knew Kristina’s dad since he was in my youth group back in ’85. Kristina inherited his spunk, love of life, and incomprehensibly deep faith. Actually, I think she passed dad up, telling him at one point, “If this is God’s plan for me, then I accept it.”
Kristina Rae Barrett, May 30, 2002 – June 21, 2014.
There are endless names connected to childhood cancer, but I can’t leave this blog without also mentioning Macen Holderman, who went to be with Jesus on September 27, 2016, at the age of 17. He was a ton of fun, I am sure he still is, but one of my favorite stories is when he was waiting in the hospital. One of his legs had been amputated, and as usual he was playing with his prosthetic. A shocked younger kid came up and asked him what happened. Macen answered something like, “I can’t tell you. But I can tell you, NEVER disobey your parents.”
Why Cancer? I don’t know. I do know the attack on children and their parents seems to be especially brutal. I know it is the result of sin, and as such we need to fight it. I hope you can help.
Last week Ryan Prieb, our Youth Guru drew this illustration for me.
We go to a football game, a play, a concert, and there is a director, the participants playing on the field or on stage, and us in the stands.
So, we go to worship, and we feel like we are the audience, the people on stage the performers, and God, of course is the director.
But what if we are wrong?
What is God is real the audience?
Then it would look like this.
That makes us in the congregation the participants.
Then the music is no longer picked for me to enjoy, but for God. The sermon length isn’t about my convenience, but about His glory. The parking space size and service time may no longer be the determining factor of a church that God loves.
It reminds me of a friend who was a worship leader at a small church in another town. She told me about the end of service one week, when someone leaving told her, “I got nothing out of that worship today.”
She shot back with, “That’s alright. We weren’t worshiping you today.”
He had the wrong chart. Sometimes I do too.
Hey – we were under 90 degrees here in New Mexico this week. It must be almost Christmas! If God is gracious, our below book comes out in October.
I recently received this email from someone and thought it could be helpful.
Hello, I thought I would tell you that we got Bizarre Bible Stories,and I started doing our family devotions with it yesterday morning. The first story was about Balaam and the donkey, and after we read the devotion the kids asked if they could act it out. Our son Luke played the part of Balaam, and the girls took turns being the Angel of the Lord and the donkey. (Both girls wanted to be the donkey, so we did our little skit twice.) Luke enjoyed telling the girls that they would be supper if they didn’t straighten up, and the girls enjoyed playing the part of the donkey that talks. As a mom who sometimes gets the deer in the headlights look, when I am trying to do family Bible time with my young children, I wanted to share that I appreciate this resource…
Skit time for devotions, not a bad idea!
Harry the Angel below for the upcoming Christmas book. I love the artwork, hope they print it in color!
Culture Matters. I grew up and went to college in the Southwest USA, got married in Dallas, and later moved to Winnipeg Canada with four kids and stayed for seven winters. Things were different there.
Winnipeg is a tad cooler than Tucson. Actually, Tucson may have hellish heat, but January in Winnipeg makes a Tucson summer seem like heaven. The politicians in the US take turns when they debate, in Canada they rudely interrupt, making it way more fun to watch. In the Southwest, we speak two languages but claim only English. In Winnipeg we claimed two languages but spoke only English. The countries have different movie rating systems – but we were shocked as to what offends and doesn’t in Canada. One night we rented the equivalent to a PG movie in Winnipeg, and suddenly saw WAY more than we bargained for. Seeing more skin doesn’t seem to offend much north of the 49th parallel. However kill a few people and an “adult” rating is imminent. One culture is squeamish about skin, the other about blood.
But nothing is as different between Canada and the USA as playing pastor.
When I was new in Winnipeg I used the illustration of a friend of mine, who was trying out for the police department in Tucson, who took me target shooting. After using that illustration I was met at the door after church by a young man, who said, “I think I will have to leave this church. I just don’t think I can follow a pastor who would shoot a handgun.”
We now live in New Mexico, and I was reminded of what happened in Winnipeg today. A friend from church took me out to show me what he does at work – in defense of our country. He let me pull the trigger on stuff way more fun than a handgun.
Southwest American fun, not Canadian fun. That would have been mauling people in a hockey rink.
All this to say, culture matters. I quit using gun illustrations in Winnipeg, and the young man stayed and became a good friend. Our family learned about Parliament, a 5-party political system, and became dual citizens. I went from helping to bring in DC Talk and Newsboys for concerts in Tucson to learning to appreciate a pipe organ, stained glass, and a church with 100-year history in Winnipeg. I got rid of my gun before moving North, and got a 100-lb possessed dog to take it’s place. He was way more scary anyway.
But one thing about me didn’t change and never would no matter how long I had lived in Winnipeg. I’d still be squeamish about skin.
This week I got a 100-word email after my sermon that had an 8-word line in it I’d like to memorize. Our sermon topic was Awkward Church, which got this individual thinking. I hope you like his email as much as I did.
When I was about 11, we stayed with my grandparents for about a month when we were between homes. My father liked a glass of bourbon before dinner. Although he never drank himself, my grandfather kept a bottle of bourbon in a cabinet in his living room and invited my dad to have a drink each evening.
A couple of years later, I asked my grandfather why he did this, believing as he did in abstinence from alcohol. His answer was short and concise: “Abstinence is a choice, hospitality is a commandment.”
It’s important for us to make sure we don’t treat our preferences like commandments.
What is your dream church? What kind of music, kids program, messages do you most like?
If we found our dream church, would it be good for us–or would it limit us?
I know what my dad would have liked. His dream would have been the Blackwood Brothers leading hymns, George Beverly Shea singing the special music, and fire-and-brimstone Billy Sunday doing the message.
I’m still more of a DC Talk, Josh Garrels, and Tony Evans kind of guy.
But, is getting what we want best for any of us? Does God divide Heaven up into contemporary and traditional services, Gregorian chants and hip hop? Will the Anglicans have a different service than the Baptists, or are all of us going to have to learn when to stand, sit, and repeat?
Let’s admit it. We are all somewhat selfish consumers when we choose a church. Maybe it is because of my job, but every time I attend another church, I can’t help but evaluate it. I end up asking myself deep theological questions like…
Do they have close visitors parking? Surely if they cared about the unsaved and lazy visitors like me, they would provide guest parking.
Is it going to be good coffee; or church coffee?
After sitting down, I look at the stage. That way I know if I need hearing aids, earplugs, or if it gets my eternal approval and hitting that perfect balance between the two.
Please no “greet the visitor” time. I’m shy already. Let me hide.
After the service, what are they giving away? Coffee doesn’t count. I want a hat, a mug, a new iPad might even bring me back next week.
OK, I’m not that bad. But this week, as I look at what Scripture says about church, I have started to wonder…
Was growing up in a church not my style more healthy for me than if it had been one of my making? This study made me glad our church combined with Wellspring Anglican on Good Friday. It was awkward, I never knew if I was suppose to be sitting or standing, but a picture of Heaven nonetheless.
Here’s my thesis: I believe God made church awkward on purpose – so that we would mature.
Now that I think of it, Dad is in his dream church now. I wonder if learning when to stand and sit in Heaven was awkward.
Thanks to so many who supported our trip to Haiti this year. I went early with a few, and here are 3 things that pretty much could only happen there…
1: Up to my armpits.
We had a couple of toilets we couldn’t get to flush correctly. One was the toilet the 96 too-young-to-aim preschoolers used. We really wanted that one working. The other was in the guys room where we stored the plunger for constant use even when the toilet works well. Anyhow, after removing one toilet with my coworker Jeff, a massive centipede came climbing up the pipe. It was amazing, as the pipe went straight down over 2 feet. I suppose the poop on the sides of the plastic gave him grip. The other one just had those 2” roaches flying out of it.
Anyhow, we killed it when it reached the top, and that’s when I dropped the drill end tool I was using. The one I needed. The irreplaceable tool I needed, I dropped down the toilet hole of death. I didn’t want to think about what I needed to do – too much thinking leads to wisdom, otherwise called wimping out. So, I dove my hand down in there, felt around, grabbed it and yanked it out as fast as possible.
Had something, anything, crawled onto my hand, there would have been another brown spot on the floor.
2: Trash That Wasn’t
After replacing the two unfixable toilets, the trash people came. This isn’t like trash pickup here, it’s a couple guys in a flat bed truck that you pay to come. There is no trash pickup, people end up burning or burying it if they have a house, or just dropping it where they are if not. You have to pay someone to pick up your trash, and few have the money for that. It’s not safe to go to the dump without being somehow connected to the gang there. Anyhow the trash guys asked about the toilets, we said to take them. Suddenly two women working at our house said they wanted them.
We said OK.
We also had a busted suitcase when we arrived – one of the wheels and corners was totally missing. This wasn’t a big deal, we pick them up at garage sales for 5 bucks, and trash them when they get broken due to the harsh treatment. I had put that one in the trash pile the day before. Later I walked behind a building and saw another female worker washing it off with a hose and rag. It looked spotless.
My trashing it was a mistake.
The woman with the suitcase was taking it home to store things out of the dirt. It would become her dresser. I don’t know what will happen to the toilets, almost no one has running water. But, the problem was, I let people take stuff without asking the missionaries that run the place, Byron and Shelley, first. They know who got something last, who is in the greatest need, who would most benefit. When the first to speak up get something, the others can become bitter. Ignorance can cause issues.
After 12 trips, I’m still ignorant. And how humbling to see folks fighting over our trash. It’s confusing, the inequity of it all.
3: Haitian Realities and God’s Sovereignty
Fritz Boyle, who is an intern with Maranatha Ministries again this summer, wrote this last story for the Maranatha Newsletter. It is the reason we go – so that things like this have the opportunity to happen through the real missionaries on sight. I thought she could tell it better than me.
A few weeks ago, Maranatha became involved with distributing food for another orphanage in Port-au-Prince. The full story of why we became involved is wholly corrupt. Funds were being stolen, food and supplies were being mismanaged, children were starving to death. Once what was happening became evident to us, we involved our staff in buying and preparing food to feed these children.
A couple weeks after we became involved with food distribution at this orphanage, my parents came to visit. Shelley suggested (almost on a whim) that we all go on a field trip to the orphanage, so that my Dad (who is an ER doctor) could give the kids a medical examination and so that we could tell the kids the Easter story and how much Jesus loves them.
During the medical examinations, my Dad discovered that one of the younger boys in the orphanage had congestive heart failure and vocal cord paralysis. If these symptoms were due to malnutrition, then the condition of the boy was fatal; if we didn’t address it within a few weeks, he would die. His problem had to do with a severe deficiency in vitamin B1.
Vitamin B1 can be taken orally or in a liquid shot. The boy’s deficiency was so severe that in order for him to survive, he needed a concentrated shot of vitamin B1 as soon as possible. At that point, if he had taken it orally, his body wouldn’t be able to absorb it and he still would have died.
And, here’s the thing. A concentrated vitamin B1 shot might not be an easy thing to find in Haiti. It’s just not as common to take it in a liquid form. And never in a thousand years would my parents have just randomly packed liquid vitamin B1 for their beach vacation with their daughters, EXCEPT THAT, Shelley and I have been wanting to take vitamin B12 shots (which are supposed to give you more energy if you’re exhausted all of the time) since October. You don’t mix the vitamin B1 with the other liquid vitamin until you’re ready to take the shot (for reasons that I am unaware of.) Normally, you can buy these shots in a dual chambered syringe that will mix the chemicals right before injection. Dad found it cheaper to buy bottles of the concentrated vitamins separately, though, and had intended to put together a whole bunch of shots once he landed in Haiti for Shelley and I. HOWEVER, by the glorious grace of God, even though the second vitamin had been packed tightly in a small box with bubble wrap so it wouldn’t break, it shattered on the way here. Dad was unable to mix the concentrated vitamin B1 with the other vitamins to make our shots.
He was able to inject this young boy with the concentrated vitamin B1 his body so desperately needed the very day after we discovered the deficiency, and we had enough to last us until my sister left to visit her friend in Florida and was able to bring us back more.
But that’s just half of it. The symptoms of a vitamin B1 deficiency don’t present themselves in malnourished people until after they’ve been eating for a few weeks. Following WWII, they found that many holocaust survivors died after being rescued, even though they had started eating, because they had undiagnosed vitamin B1 deficiencies. A team of nurse practitioners spent two days trying to sort out the health issues with these children at the time that the plight of these starving kids was brought to our attention. They had examined every single one of those kids and didn’t notice any congestive heart failure or vocal cord paralysis.
What I’m saying is that if my parents had come a few weeks earlier, the vitamin B1 deficiency would have gone undetected. And if they had come a few weeks later, the kid would already be dead. God in His perfect, glorious, good will, brought these children’s condition to Shelley and Byron’s attention so they could start feeding them a few weeks before my parents visited, shattered the glass containing our other liquid vitamin on the way here, and then brought us on a spontaneous trip to the orphanage to save a life.
Coincidences aren’t really coincidences. A volunteer/supporter of this orphanage has been faithfully praying for this orphanage and these children every single night with her kids. I am confident that her prayers and our God saved that boy’s life. I have no words except that our God is a God of grace and miracles. I was not involved in saving this boy’s life, but I was humbled and filled with joy to witness the work of our God.
We continue to need direction and miracles for that orphanage. Pray with confidence of the sovereignty and goodness of our God.
Thanks for your support of us going for another year!