Welcoming 2014

Today my son dropped by and helped remove the Christmas décor from my home. With the New Year a day away, I wanted to be sure all of 2013 had been cleared before allowing its replacement to invade.

I’ve always thought it fitting that Christmas arrives in December—like a giant party at the end of a long workday—God’s reward for our labors.  As if He knew after sending us the Christ child to refresh our souls, He planned the advent of a New Year to refresh our outlook.

The year 2014 arrives full of promise. A chance to start over and try each month again. An opportunity to get it right this time. New beginnings, big changes, and hope for another 365 days of adventure-filled living.

What will mark your 2014? A different job? A change of location? A new set of friends? Whatever comes your way make it count.

In Colossians 3:23-24 God tell us, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance.  It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.”

Thanks for joining me as I blogged my way through 2013. Stick around and see what new experiences God leads me to tell you about. After all, He runs a mighty big world out there.

And now a last look back at Christmas 2013–from my house to yours.








Hope in a Christmas Card Photograph

The baby’s picture I hold in my hand makes me smile. Tucked in a Christmas card sent by a friend I’ve known more than twenty years, the photo is of her first grandson at three months of age. His grin is contagious, the hint of mischief forming his lips. His brown eyes study the camera as if he is already figuring out the strange contraption pointed at him isn’t attached to the cooing person behind it.

My friend signed her card with the usual wishes for Christmas and the New Year. But by sending the photo, she told me more about her life than if she’d penned an entire page. Here in this picture lay her heart. The center of her world has shifted. Her hopes and dreams for the future have taken on a new form—a wriggly baby boy. Capturing her love and stealing her focus, he represents tomorrows she might not have conceived before his arrival.

More than two thousand years ago, God sent hope and promise to a dying world, becoming one of us through His son Jesus Christ. In a manger filled with straw, He paved mankind’s avenue to eternity, entrusting the baby to a human mother and father. In that tiny life lay the secret to heaven.

He knew this child would grow to be a man—a leader who would challenge scoffers and confront hypocrites. Betrayed by one of his followers, that same man would carry a cross to Calvary and be crucified there. Three days later he would rise from death, and after being seen by more than five hundred witnesses, would ascend back to glory in heaven. Through all of this, God would watch.

Imagine the ache in the heart of our heavenly Father, His love divided between a world spiraling out of control and sacrificing His only Son. His loving gift meant people like you and I could be adopted as sons and daughters into His kingdom for all eternity.

“John 3:16 (NKJV) “For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believes in him, should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

Merry Christmas.












Joy to the World Isn’t Christmas?

In keeping with the Christmas season, my family attended a “Joy to the World” concert at our local performing arts theater last weekend. Anticipating lively carols and jingling bells, we were surprised when our idea of a holiday performance and those making the evening’s musical decisions didn’t match. 

 The featured contralto warmed us with her rendition of the carol about the three kings before proceeding to sing us around the globe. We ventured as far east as Japan, followed her north into Russia, and then landed somewhere that sounded like it could be a Latin American cocktail lounge. Tunes in Farsi, Japanese, and Russian were performed with pitch perfect precision, but any reference to Bethlehem was skirted. God’s ground zero for Christmas didn’t make the tour, other than a brief stop to encourage a number from the drummer boy. 

The orchestra played with spirited enthusiasm and the featured instrumentalists were at the top of their game, but all semblance of  Christmas music got lost in translation. Not the performance I’d expected, but the experience would teach me not to make assumptions.

The next morning we enjoyed a  musical at our church sung by a complement of  more than fifty children’s voices. The melodies were much simpler and the delivery less polished than what we’d heard the night before, but the message rang clear. A loving God visited a tiny town more than two thousand years ago to offer salvation through His son.

 Not one person leaving that auditorium could have any doubt that Jesus’ birth fulfilled the scriptures. All people, regardless of their age, ethnicity, or abode could know eternal life through God’s precious gift at Christmas.  The children’s global tour ended in a Bethlehem stable under a star. Whether it was imparted through their innocence or their enthusiasm, I left the building glad I came, eager to return.

My wish for you is that the true meaning of Christmas will bless your life this season no matter where you may live on this planet we all call earth. Merry Christmas.

Luke 2:11 (NKJV) “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

Postponing Tradition–The Oldest and Coldest Christmas Parade

Since 1953, on the first Saturday of December, our small community of Springfield, Oregon has hosted a Christmas parade to usher in the holiday season. Merchants, parents, and children together anticipate the arrival of the hustle and bustle of Christmas, riding into town with the parade floats.

Decorated horses, fancy cars, and marching bands trek their way down the three-mile parade route. My church, which is located on the way, hands out hot chocolate and snacks along with  invitations to Christmas Eve services. Touted as the “oldest and coldest” Christmas parade around, the affair has never known to have been cancelled.

Until today—December 7, 2013—when the parade’s organizing committee chairwoman made the tradition-breaking decision to postpone, and for a very good reason.

Late in the week, a blast of cold Arctic air hit the Willamette Valley, bringing with it record snowfall and icy temperatures dropping into the single digits—something practically unheard of in this temperate, forested climate. Last night the thermometer sank to 12° with temperatures tonight and tomorrow night expected to hit 5°. Sounds more like Chicago weather than western Oregon.

Guessing how much work must be involved in planning this event, my heart went out to the woman, to be the first to cancel an ongoing tradition. But when the snow flurries began to arrive Thursday night, she is quoted in our local paper as saying that keeping the parade scheduled was too much to ask of the volunteers and too risky for the participants. Especially since this parade, coinciding with Pearl Harbor Day, would honor WWII veterans.  Considering how old those servicemen might be, her decision to cancel made good sense.

And so the tradition will carry on next Saturday, a week late, but still early enough to generate the Christmas spirit—perhaps more so because the well-being of all involved took priority over the reputation of the parade.  The WWII veterans will be warmer, the streets will be safer,  and the hot chocolate will taste just as good.