Thoughts of a messed up Christian saved by God's grace

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Favorite Christmas Song #25, Santa Looked a lot Like Daddy, by Brad Paisley

I'm not a big fan of Santa Claus, but I always loved this song. Garth Brooks does a great job on it, but my favorite rendition is by Brad Paisley

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas and the Gospel According to Love, guest post by Joy Burgess

This is another blog post in my series of guest blog posts I starte a while back. This one is from my friend, Joy Burgess, and she did a great one. Thanks Joy!

Christmas and the Gospel According to Love

“The Gospel can be summed up by saying that it is the tremendous, tender, compassionate, gentle, extraordinary, explosive, revolutionary revelation of Christ’s love.” - Brennan Manning

I love Christmastime. I enjoy the music: “Oh Holy Night,” “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” Mary Did You Know,” “Joy to the World,” “Silent Night” and the list could go on indefinitely. The church bells behind my home are constantly tolling out Christmas carols, ringing out the story every day. At this time of year, every Christmas light seems to shine brightly, reminding me of the light that came quietly into the world so long ago. Those wrapped packages under the tree whisper the tale of the greatest gift. Yes, so many things about the season draw me in to the incredible realization of what happened on that lonely night in a stable. If I listen close enough, the whole world is singing the timeless story of love – the love of God.

I always knew that God was love. I’m said the verse thousands of times, “For God so loved the world…” What I didn’t realize was how furiously and deeply God loved ME. I didn’t realize that His love was unconditional. I spent too long thinking that His love was dependent on my performance. Every time I made a mistake, I was sure that I had come to the end of Christ’s love for me.

That’s what is so incredible about the love that we celebrate on Christmas – it’s unending, it’s perfect, it’s unconditional, it’s compassionate and it’s reliable. His love is never based on performance, it never changes and it’s as infinite as the great I AM himself. In fact, love is God’s very identity. Everything about God is based upon his incredible love for us. In Dr. S.M. Lockridge’s sermon, “That’s My King,” he says it well: “My King is the only one of whom there are no means of measure that can define His limitless love.”

Recently, I was discussing the love of God with a friend of mine and we were struck with such a stunning thought. Before God sent Jesus, He was fully aware of all our shortcomings as humans. He already knew about every sin that each of us would commit. He realized how far we were from grace. Yet, knowing all of this, He still sent Jesus. That idea takes my breath away every time I think about it. He knew every person that would reject his gift, knew how so many of us would take so long to accept his love and how many times we’d make mistakes, and still, Jesus came.

Sometimes it’s so easy to get caught up in the craziness that seems to come with Christmas today. We all seem to have so much to do at Christmas that we often fail to take a moment like Mary to ponder these things in our hearts. I think Mary had just a little glimpse of the explosive, furious, extraordinary love of God and all that it meant for humanity. As I celebrate this year, I want to pause to ponder the greatest expression of love that we’ll ever know – the love of God made flesh, laid in a manger and sacrifice for our salvation.

Favorite Christmas song #24, Let's Make a Christmas Memory, by Jeff & Sheri Easter

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Favorite Christmas Song #23, Home for the Holidays Medley by the Talleys

Back in 1988 the original Talleys that consisted of Roger, Debra, and Kirk Talley, made what I consider the best Christmas album ever. This is one of my favorite tracks on the CD. It is a medley consisting of Home for the Holidays, I'll Be Home for Christmas, and I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas. In my personal opinion, their rendition of that last song is the prettiest I have ever heard.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Favorite Christmas Song #22, O Holy Night by David Phelps, and Colin Raye

O Holy Night has always been one of my favorite Christmas songs, and no one can do it better than David Phelps of the Gaither Vocal Band. I was blessed to hear him do it in person a couple of weeks ago, and it brought everyone to their feet.

I've also always enjoyed Colin Raye's version. Though not as dramatic as Phelp's version, it is great also, so putting it also:

Friday, December 21, 2012

Favorite Christmas song #21, New Star Shining by Mark Wills

It must be around 25 years since I first heard this song, and I loved it right away. It hasn't been recorded by a lot of people that I'm aware of. Among all of my Christmas music I have it by just 4 different artists. Three are Christian artists, but I like this one by country artist Mark Wills:

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Favorite Christmas song #20, The Reason by The Manuel Family Band

There was a Southern Gospel/Country group that had a short lived career. To my knowledge, they only did a few CDs. One of those was a Christmas CD that had some great and different songs on it. This song is my favorite from the CD. I think it would be better with more than one person singing it, but it has great words and is still a great song. The Reason, by The Manuel Family Band.

Verse 1
Going back to Bethlehem, gonna' find this Baby
Looking for a manger, where the King of Kings was laid.
But I never made it to Bethlehem, I never passed a star or three wise men
I found out Baby Jesus was real, when I was distracted at Calvary's Hill.

And you can't get to His manger, without looking past His cross
A "No vacancy" sign at the Bethlehem Inn
But He made room for the lost.
And on your journey to find three wise men
You'll pass a crowd crying "Crucify Him"
There's just a lot whole lot more to Baby Jesus
There's the reason why He came.

Verse 2
I don't come to condemn the excitement the season brings
I'd just like to leave with you this very important thing
He's not in a manger. You won't find Him there anymore.
But if you listen closely, you'll hear a full-grown Jesus
Knocking at your heart's door.

The reason He came was to give life
He came to set the captive free
To bind up the broken-hearted
And give a chance to a loser like me
So while you're making memories during the holiday
Don't forget the reason Jesus came.



Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Favorite Christmas song #19, Christmas In Dixie by Kenny Chesney, and Alabama

This song has practially became a classic by Alabama. I heard it for years and loved it. Kenny Chesney recorded it more recently with the one guy from Alabama as guest vocalist. I actually like this newer version, though Alabama's is still awesome too, so here is both.

Kenny Chesney:


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Favorite Christmas song #18, Christmastime by Michael W Smith

I've never been a big Michael W Smith fan. Not sure why. His music just doesn't appeal to me, including his Christmas music. This song is one exception. I really like it.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Poinsettias for my friends

My church started a neat tradition several years back. To help decorate the church, anyone can buy potted poinsettias for a friend or family member. They can be done in honor of, or in memory of. The front of the church is filled with the flowers and an insert is put in the church bulletin saying who bought them for and why. I don't have the money to buy poinsettias for all of my friends, but decided to give some "virtual" poinsettias here. Some of the people will never see this blog post, but that is OK.

Church is more than a building. It is people, therefore no church is perfect, including mine. There are things I would like to change about mine, but there have been things I would have liked to change about any church I have attended, but people make up a church, not services or how we do things. I attend church with some great people. Some I know well, and others not so much. Some I interact with regularly, and some I do not. So here are your virtual poinsettias. And I appreciate others also, but these are the ones who stand out to me, in church, and out of church. And my family is a given, so not listing them here :-)

1) Stan & Sandra: You are the best pastors I have ever had. It takes a lot to run a church our size without a bunch of assistants, but you do it, and do it well. You are more than my pastors, you are great friends. I will never forget the time, effort, and prayers you have put forth on my behalf. We are blessed to have you.

2) Steve Goodenow: You are a great Sunday School teacher. I am amazed at how easy it is for you to pull a topic together and teach a great lesson on it. I appreciate your life and your friendship, and your family. Our church and school are lucky to have you guys. Thanks for your prayers and friendship.

3) Denise: In spite of the fact that you are very outspoken with your opinion of my choice of a haircut, I appreciate you a lot. I enjoy our occasional sparring. Thanks for your Christian example and for all you do for our church and school.

4) Jim and Lydia: Your musical talents add so much to our services. I wish I could play as well as you, and will never forget the times you complimented me on my own playing. It meant a lot coming from someone's playing I hold in such regard. I have to admit, I almost enjoy it when you make a mistake, Jim.... makes you seem more human ;-)

5) Burton & Becky: I was so happy when your family began attending our church. Your family has added so much to our church over the years. I appreciate you both, and your friendship. Your family has been through a lot, but you still shine through it all and are a tremendous encouragement and example to us all.

6) Brad: Thanks for always taking time to say hi to me. I admire you a lot and wish I was more like you. You're a great guy and are raising a great family. Thanks for your service to our country.

7) Victor and Ruth: You are another family that has added so much to our church in the years you have attended since you left the mission field. Thanks Ruth for always giving a cheery greeting, and Victor, you are doing a great job as Sunday School superintendent. You both are great examples to everyone in the church.

8) The Dyes: I am sorry for the circumstances that led to your retirement as pastors, but am glad you picked Salem to move to. I appreciate and love you guys, and Mrs. Dye as much as I tease you, I appreciate you a lot. Thanks for being such a great sport and giving back as good as you take it. May God bless you for the blessing you are to others.

9) Brant: You are by far the best song leader I have ever been around. I can tell you put a lot of time and prayer into what songs you pick. I appreciate your life and your family. Keep up the great work, and don't go away so much. We miss you when you aren't there.

10) Lori: I appreciate your life and the example  you give to the kids you teach. I appreciate your comments in Sunday School class and wish I were half as good at expressing my thoughts as well as you do. I am very happy for you on your upcoming marriage. Nate is a lucky guy, and you deserve happiness. Thanks for your friendship.

11) Rodney: Thanks for being my seat buddy in Sunday School class and for making me laugh.

12) Ken & Carol: I appreciate your friendship over the years. You are the kind of friends who would do anything to help others. Our church is blessed indeed to have you guys as part of our congregation. You both are great examples to us all. And I love to hear you guys sing.

13) Arnie & Pam: You are great folks and I appreciate you both. Pam, you are a shining example through your physical problems.

14) Paul & Sue: Paul, we are complete opposites. You are good at whatever you do, and I'm not. You are an avid hunter, and it bores me, but I admire you a lot and wish I was more like you. I know just a bit of how much you talk to people about God, and if we were all like you, our church would be a much better place. You guys are doing a first rate job of raising your kids. Thanks for your friendship and example.

15) Mike & Brenda: Thanks for your friendship. You are both great people, and Brenda you are one of the friendliest and most cheerful people I know. I'm glad you guys moved back here, I missed having you at our church.

16) Barb & David: You two do a lot behind the scenes at church, but it doesn't go unnoticed. Before I even knew who you two were,  I was impressed with how friendly you guys are. I appreciate you guys and the lives you lead.

17) Stephen and Jenny: Jenny,  I've literally watched you grow up from birth to a great young woman. You have turned out great, and you two make a wonderful couple. Stephen, you are one of my favorite singers and I still wish they would have you solo more than you do, though you and Jenny sound great together also. I wish I could sing like you. I appreciate you both, and may God bless your lives and your family. And Jenny, that was a very nice thing you did giving out cards to some of the girls in church. I read my nieces' cards and thought it was awesome of you. You are a lot like your mother.

There are way too many friends on facebook to mention, but a few out who I have never met:

1) Avis: I enjoy your posts. You always have something encouraging and inspiring to say. I also love to read the funny things your grandsons say.

2) Joyce H: Ditto to everything above except the grandkids. Thanks for adding me as a friend :-)

3) Ronie: You truly are one of my favorite authors and I feel blessed to have you as a facebook friend. I love your books and its cool to be able to keep up with a favorite author in this way. I have learned a lot about the military and military war dogs from your books and posts. May God bless you for using your awesome talents for Him. And thanks to Brian for his service to our country.

4) Candace: I love your facebook posts, especially the ones about food. Wish I lived close enough to try out some of it in person ;-). You are another tremendous author. Thanks for writing for God.

5) Kathy: I have been hooked on your books since I read the first one, Tested By Fire. You have only gotten better since then. You are a great author and lady. I enjoy your facebook posts and pictures you post. Thanks for letting this guy be part of your facebook friend family. And thanks for writing Christian fiction and using your talents for God. May He richly bless you and your writing.

6) Mike: It didn't take you long to become a favorite author. God is using you through your writing and your own story of being a cancer survivor. You are an encouragement and inspiration. I hope you can find a way to keep writing and balance everything else in your life. I pray God's richest blessings on you and your family.

7) Kimberly and Kayla: You two have only written two books so far, but they are outstanding. Knowing a little about what your family has gone through with Kayla, I admire you a lot. Kayla, you seem like a terrific young lady. Keep serving God and keep writing with your mother. And thanks for letting readers like me be a small part of your lives through facebook.

8) John Myers: I've never met you, but enjoy interacting with you on facebook. I appreciate what I know of you. Thanks for adding me as a friend.

Other friends:
1) Joy: I wish we had known each other when you were at AWC. You're an awesome person and have taught me a lot whether or not you know it. Thanks for your friendship.

2) Rachel: So glad to hook up with an old college buddy after all these years. You have been and are a great encouragement to me, and I have learned a lot from you. Thanks for being my friend and for being so willing to discuss all sorts of things with me, even things we disagree on.

3) Jennifer: I'm so glad we met up at Cracker Barrel a couple of years ago and have renewed our friendship. I think you are an awesome lady and wish some of your awesomeness would rub off on me. I've enjoyed our visits and chats. Wish we could do it more often. God has used you in my life. Thanks for your example and encouragement.

4) Matt & Christina: I haven't known you guys well for very long, but have enjoyed getting to know you. Matt, I have really enjoyed and appreciated being able to talk to you about "stuff." It has been a big help to me. You two have also helped me to see some things differently and to be less judgmental about some issues I used to view as black and white. Thanks for your friendship. You are a great couple, and I'm glad you got your little one. You'll make great parents, don't worry.

5) Steven: Thanks for being my best friend. In a perfect world, we wouldn't live 400 miles apart and would see each other more often. Thanks for always being there. Even though I tease you a lot about stuff we don't agree on, you know I think you're the best.

6) Cindy and Russell: I feel blessed to have gotten to know you so well, Cindy. I enjoyed hanging out with you in Indiana and beating you all the time in Rook. You deserved a great guy, and I kept telling you that God would send you the right guy. If you hadn't married Russell, that might have happened....... ;-). Just kidding. You guys make a great couple and I'm happy you found each other. Thanks for your friendship.

7) The Matlocks: Thanks for accepting me and befriending me while I lived in Indiana. You are a great family and I count myself blessed for knowing you. Its always good to see you all when I visit and I miss you all.

8) Kimmy and Kevin: I will never forget how much you guys were there for me when I needed it most. Thanks for your friendship. I miss working with you Kimmy.

9) Sandie: Looking back, I am awed that you entrusted me with Jason while I was his big brother. Thanks for your friendship and the privilege of that experience. It was supposed to help Jason, but it helped me too.

10) Shawn and Christa: I appreciate you guys, thanks for your friendship.

Thanks to all who know the worst about me and still consider me their friend and someone worthwhile. Your prayers and encouraging words are much appreciated.

I have probably missed some people, and just because your name isn't listed here doesn't mean I don't appreciate or like you, but these are some who come to mind first and have been special to me in some way or another. Merry Christmas everyone.

Favorite Christmas song #17, The Night Before Christmas by Amy Grant

A song I always loved from Amy Grant's Home for Christmas CD, her best Christmas album, in my opinion.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Favorite Christmas song #16, Immanuel by Michael Card

I'm not a Michael Card fan. I bought his Christmas CD some years back and it bored me, all except for this song and one other. I absolutely love this one, and often play it a second time when I hear it.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Guns and violence... politicians will never get it

  Yesterday,  I and every other American were saddened to hear of the school shooting in Newtown, CT, where among others, a whole Kindergarten class of innocent kids were murdered by a 20 year old lunatic wielding a gun. The thoughts of those terror stricken children and their heartbroken families just tears at the heart of anyone who has one.

   Already, the anti-gun liberals and media are stepping up the cries for more gun control, as they do any time when there is something like this that happens. Even our illustrious leader, Obama, made references to it, and his record on guns is bad.

   I am pro-gun. I don't have any, but if I had a job and steady income, I would get one. For more than one reason, one being I'd like one before they are outlawed. Our Constitution gives us the right to bear arms to protect us from the government, which our forefathers knew was very susceptible to corruption. It it any wonder that our corrupt media and government wants more gun laws?

    What if we treated alcohol and cars like they treat guns. Every time there is a bad car accident, make more car laws. Make it harder for people to buy cars. Every time alcohol is a factor in car accident fatalities or other fatalities, make better laws to regulate sale and use of alcoholic beverages. Make it harder for people to buy it. Sound insane? Well that is how the left acts with guns. It is a trite saying, but true: Guns don't kill people, people kill people. Adam Lanza didn't even have guns, from what I read and understand. He stole them, so what good did gun laws do in this case? And if he couldn't have gotten guns, he would have come up with another way. It is crazy, and just plain stupid to think more gun laws will help.

   Statistics and studies show that taking guns away doesn't solve the issue. In fact, where the gun laws are toughest, crime rises. Why wouldn't it? If you are a criminal, wouldn't it make more sense to rob places where guns aren't allowed? Makes sense to me.

  Guns aren't  the problem. People are. But if we are going to blame anyone, here are some to consider:

1) TV. How many of these killers get their ideas from watching violent shows and movies where people are constantly getting blown away. Tell me a constant diet of that to someone who is prone to this kind of behavior wouldn't be influenced by that? And yet the same actors who are in these movies are screaming for better gun laws. Really?!

2) Games. There are tons of video games on the market. Again, can you tell me you honestly don't believe kids and young people aren't influenced at all by games where they are killing all throughout the game? Get real.

3) The left. It is amazing how the media and left will jump on any small thing from conservatives and try to paint us as violent and hateful, but yet they overlook it from the left. A couple of examples:

Just recently, a liberal Democrat in Michigan warned "there will be blood" if right to work legislation is passed there.

Also in Michigan, the governor was warned by a pro-union minister, that if he passed the legislation, they would be at his church, and at his daughter's soccer game. Sounds like a threat to me.

There have been several threats made to conservatives, especially in this last election cycle, and they are overlooked. It seems the left is good at threatening and glorifying violence when it suits their needs and purposes.

4) Public schools. Kicking God out of the public schools has not made the USA a better or safer place. Keeping Him in might not eliminate all violence like this, but we didn't have this years ago when we were more of a Christian nation, when kids were allowed to pray in school, when He was allowed to be talked about and mentioned by teachers and administrators. A person would have to be an idiot or a liberal (is there a difference) to not see that there is a cause and effect. We have removed God from the schools, most of government, and they are trying to remove Him from the public eye, and our kids get more violent, people are more filled with hate and despair. We are not a better country than we were when God was acknowledged on all levels, from the schools up to the presidency and Supreme Court.

But lets throw all that aside and outlaw guns. That will make everything perfect and get rid of all violence. Yeah, right. It is typical of humans, and especially liberals, to ignore the cause. They want to blame guns, but God forbid you look at the true solution: Jesus. They could get rid of every gun on earth, and violence and killing would still go on, because guns aren't the problem. People are, people who are evil and sinful, and until they acknowledge God again and look to Him for the solution, nothing will change. But there is no way a politician will ever get it right, especially the liberals who  are anti-God. We don't need more gun laws in America. We need more God in America. We need a revival, we need to seek God as a nation and allow God back into our schools, our government, our courts, and our lives. That is what will help stop school shootings, not less guns and more gun laws.

Why the shepherds?

   Between seeing my nativity scene several times a day, and being in my church's live nativity as a wise man, I've been thinking a lot about the nativity/Jesus' birth. I guess that is a good thing this time of year. I got to thinking about  the shepherds last night. Of all the people to announce the birth of a Savior, the King...... God picked the shepherds.

   Oh, the wise men came too, but from what we know, they worked for it. They studied and watched the skies, and though God let them via a new star, they got no special announcement by a throng of angels, yet the shepherds did.

   Shepherds were lowly people. I doubt they were the most intelligent or clean guys. You can't be too clean if you're hanging out for days at a time with sheep, yet God chose the shepherds to announce His birth to. Why? Well, I'm glad you asked. I had some thoughts about that. Maybe its because they are the only ones who would have paid attention. Maybe they were the only ones who would believe it. A baby in a manger...... born in a place that they were familiar with, in circumstances they were familiar with.

   We saw how Herod reacted when he heard. He was afraid he would be replaced, so he had all of the baby boys up to a certain age killed. Had the angels appeared to him, he would have tried all the sooner to kill this new King.

   And why would God tell the religious leaders of the day? They didn't want a baby in a manger. They didn't want a Savior. They wanted a royal King, a warrior who would free them. Three decades later, they killed that baby, so why tell them?

   So you have royalty who wanted to kill Him, and the religious leaders who scoffed and later did kill him..... who did that leave? The lowliest people, the kind of people Jesus came for.

   Would it be any different today? We tend to do as the religious leaders of that day. We might not kill Him, but we try to put God in a box. Jesus wouldn't look like we expect. He wouldn't dress like we expect, not act like we think a King or Savior should act. I'm afraid too many of us would scoff and ignore a Jesus that would come on the scene today.

   But He is here. No, not as a baby in a manger, but He is still here, and we do act like the religious leaders of the day. We shy away from a Jesus/God who doesn't do what we expect. We put Him in a box and worship the kind of God we want. He might be the God our church or family invented. We may have gotten tired of that God and ran to another church to worship their God..... but we have just exchanged Him for someone else's God.

   The Christmas story will never be what it should be to us until we find God for ourselves. We need to find our own Jesus, not one who has been created or invented for us. And we need to find the heart of Jesus. We get so caught up in rules, traditions, in our busy lives. If Jesus were to be born into this world, would we be among those God would choose to announce the birth to? Or would we be too busy, too intent on our own ideals of what a Savior and King would be like, that God would pass us by and announce it to someone else.

  Of all the people that were part of His birth, the shepherds and Mary were the most honored. God chose Mary to carry and give birth to His Son. What greater honor could there be? We can't be Mary, but we can be the shepherds. Lowly and expectant, and obedient. They went immediately to the stable.

Favorite Christmas song #15, It's Christmas by Ronnie Milsap

I loved this song the first time I heard it, and it quickly became one of my favorites. It's Christmas by Ronnie Milsap

Friday, December 14, 2012

Favorite Christmas song #14, Light In The Window by Karen Peck and New River

This is a song I first heard on a CD by the Southern Gospel group, The Greenes, several years ago. I love their rendition of it, but also love this newer one by Karen Peck and New River. This one is already on Youtube, so it won out as the one to share.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

On being a Wise Man

    My church is doing a live nativity for the first time this year. It will be tonight and tomorrow night from 7pm-9pm. I signed up to help and am going to be a wise man. I've joked a lot about it, about being a natural for it etc., and also gotten some ribbing about it. The truth is, I will definitely be playing a part. No typecasting going on here with me. I'd be more suited to play the donkey... the KJV donkey. No need there, as we will have live animals.

    We read in the Bible that God offered a young King Solomon anything he wanted, and Solomon picked wisdom. There are examples of how wise he was, and he was renowned for being wise. You have to wonder though if he exchanged the gift for something else later in life. All joking aside, it was far from wise to take 300 wives and 700 concubines.... for more than one reason. On the serious side, he married foreign wives who brought their gods with them. O

     The Bible says a lot about wisdom: (New Living Translation)
Job 15:3 The wise don’t engage in empty chatter. What good are such words?

Job 37:24 No wonder people everywhere fear him. All who are wise show him reverence.

Psalm 19:7 The instructions of the LORD are perfect, reviving the soul. The decrees of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple.

Proverbs 19:12 If you become wise, you will be the one to benefit. If you scorn wisdom, you will be the one to suffer.

Proverbs 10:5 A wise youth harvests in the summer, but one who sleeps during harvest is a disgrace.

     And there are many more. Imagine what our lives would be like if we truly practiced wisdom:

In what we say
In our spending habits
In voting (a lot of professing Christians failed majorly there last month)
In how we use our time
In choosing friends
In our worship
In how we live from day to day

     I feel far from wise. Contrary to popular belief, I do not say everything I think. If I said everything I think, I'd be friendless, kicked out of my church, and probably sitting in a prison somewhere. I definitely need wisdom in when to keep my mouth shut, but I leave a lot unsaid that I think. :-)

   James 1:5 says "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him." (NJKV) I have asked God for wisdom...... I truly have, but He either didn't give it, or it just didn't take. Maybe that is something that should be on our of our Christmas wish lists this year: wisdom, and super-size it for me. I need a lot of things. I need a good job, my own place, self confidence, money, more time in my day, a better relationship with God..... the list could go on, but wisdom should top the list. If a person is truly wise, it seems a lot of other things would fall into place. Take Solomon..... he was extremely wealthy, and it seems that was a by product of his being wise. Well, he was wealthy until he had to keep 1000 women happy. I can't help but believe that if I had been wise all along, how differently my life would have turned out. I might still be single..... what truly wise man would marry? (just kidding ladies)

   Tonight as I walk into the stable that has been built in front of my church, I will stand and gaze upon a baby doll in the manger. That baby doll is lifeless, and just a representation of the best gift this world ever received, and it would be pointless and useless, not to mention insane, to bow and ask that baby doll for anything. But we call all ask that baby who grew up to die for us, for what we all need more of: wisdom.

    I will put on my wise man outfit, complete with turban or crown this evening, and again tomorrow night, but it will not be a wise man walking up to look upon a baby doll in a manger. No my friends, it will be me, playing a part, but it will also be me wanting and seeking wisdom.

Favorite Christmas song #13, Wise Men Still Seek Him bu Paul Overstreet

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

My wish list

I'm a simple guy, and like simple things for Christmas. My family is big on wish lists, and mine usually has some books I want, a CD or two, cologne (spray kind), and clothes. But what if I could have anything I wanted? The possiblities are endless......

1) My own house, complete with a large room I could use for a library, complete with a fireplace and a lazyboy chair

2) My own bookstore with a cafe/coffee shop

3) An SUV

4) A vacation in the mountains, right after Christmas

5) A slimmer me

6) Money :-)

7) My own Keurig coffee brewer with lots of non-coffee items

8) Lots of gift cards

9) A long visit and/or vacation with my best friend

10) A vacation at the ocean (after the mountains one)

11) Peace on earth

12) A new president.... a true conservative one

13) The chance to tell Barak and Michelle just what I think of them and their policies

14) The resignations of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi... or the voting out of them

15) A laptop

16) A good job, though not necessary if I got #2 :-)

17) More energy

18) A full head of hair

19) A new bed

20) The chance to meet some of my favorite authors..... hey, this IS a wish list... all of them

21) A cure for cancer

22) Abortion banned

23) Winning Dave Ramsey's weekly $10,000 giveaway

24) More time

25) Getting all of my stuff out of storage

26) True love

27) A maid

28) Spring, 24/7, 365 days a year

29) Being more successful

30) The chance to meet and talk with George W and Laura Bush

31) The total annhilation of Obamacare and Obama's policies

32) A better and more free America

33) Stock in a chicken farm

34) Snow at Christmas, but no other time

35) And end to my personal struggle

36) That no child would ever hurt

37) God allowed back in the schools, courtrooms, and public square

38) That good would win more than evil

39) A trip to Israel

40) That everyone would be home for Christmas

Favorite Christmas song #12, Hey Santa by Wendy and Carnie Wilson

I'm not a big fan of Santa, but I always loved this song

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Favorite Christmas song #11, I Heard The Bells, two versions

I always liked the song "I Heard the Bells", but it isn't one that is recorded very much, at least not that I have run across. In recent years, I have run across two very different versions of it that I like. I couldn't decide which one to post here, so I am putting them both. First, there is the more traditional version, the Southern Gospel version by the Gaither Vocal Band. The other is by Casting Crowns. Both are worth listening to, and I love both.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Favorite Christmas song #10, Sweet Baby Jesus by the Kingsmen

Thanksgiving at Christmas... or That's what I like about Christmas

Now that I got my "12 pains of Christmas" out of the way, on to better things. I've been pretty depressed lately, I admit it. Back in August, I finally had enough one day at work and quit. Dumb? Maybe, but I needed out of there. Among other things, the job was eroding my already poor self esteem.

Thankfully, I had enough money saved up to cover my bills for a while..... but I hadn't planned on going this long without a job. I've applied several places, and even had a couple of interviews, but nothing yet. I am starting to worry. And get more depressed. Truthfully, I am wondering if I will ever get a decent enough job that I can get out on my own again. I feel incredibly stupid and to be honest - like I have failed. Fear and poor self esteem has always held me back from getting good jobs. I have few skills, and sometimes feel all I am good at is being a speed bump.

Things have been getting to me badly lately. Ever feel like the world was against you and no matter how hard you tried, it seemed you were destined to fail? Yeah, that has been me lately. I didn't figure I could even do one thing I love - buy gifts for my family. My funds will cover another couple of months of bills, but Christmas? No.

Thanks to some great friends, the gifts will not be a worry now, but my future still seems so bleak. The job situation especially. I know from a friend who is a former co-worker and interviewed me once for a job, that I don't "sell myself well." How does one do that if you have no self-confidence?

I did my "12 pains of Christmas" for fun, but decided I needed to get serious about this depressing thoughts issue, and not have my Christmas ruined by fear and worry,  so here it is - what I am thankful for and about Christmas, and what I like about Christmas.

1) I am thankful that I know what the reason for the season is all about. I haven't always known God as I should at Christmas, but I know what its all about and every year experience that sense of awe that God became a baby, that He was born to die for the sins of the world.

2) I am thankful that I have a roof over my head and food to eat

3) I am thankful that I have a car that runs. It isn't new, it isn't in top condition, but it runs and its paid for.

4) I am thankful that I have family to buy gifts for and to spend Christmas with (and to get gifts from!)

5) I am thankful for the nativity scene. I believe every Christian should have one. Since I am living with my parents til I get a good job and can afford my own place, I hadn't been using mine, as they have one...... but I decided to dig mine out of storage and set it up in the basement, and I am glad I did. I see it more often down here, and it does help remind me of what its all about.

6) Christmas music. I love Christmas music, and have at least 120 Christmas CDs. I used to start listening earlier than I did this year, but I still started early for some people - October. They all aren't religious, but a lot of them are, and I am thankful for them. Some of the prettiest songs are Christmas. And we only listen to them a couple months of the year.

7) I am thankful for friends. I have some close by that I see often, and I have some far away (like my Indiana friends) that I see only once a year or less. I have friends who have religious beliefs similar to mine, friends who do not, and some who have none. I have friends who know the very worst about me, and still call me friend. I am thankful for them all.

8) Christmas events. I'm not big on cantatas and kids programs, but there are events this time of year I love. The Walk With Jesus a nearby church puts on, our church's candlelight service, The Christmas Carol play I try to take in every year or so (no luck this year).

9) I am thankful for my church. I don't agree with everything my church teaches and believes, yet its a good church. It isn't perfect (hey, I go there, how could it be?!) but there are a lot of great people there, and I have the best pastor.

10) Gifts. Hey, I'm a kid at heart. I still love to receive gifts, but I also love to give. I am thankful that I can give gifts to those I love at this time of year.

11) My nieces and nephews. Yeah, I covered family already, but the kids are special. No one has any idea how badly I wanted kids of my own. I'm serious...... I have cried before about it. I am thankful I have 3 great nieces and 3 great nephews in my life that are a big part of my life. I don't get to see the boys as often as I wish, as they are a few hours away, but I do get to see my nieces often. I took them to the Walk With Jesus this past Friday evening, then to McDonald's for ice cream. They loved it and have thanked me several times, and I loved it. Its the next best thing to having my own.

12) Christmas cards. I like getting them, especially the ones where someone takes time to write a personal message, like one I got today that said I was a special guy (maybe that was meant for someone else), and another card that said they hoped I got the job I was just interviewed for.

13) At this time of year, people seem to care more, be more friendly, do more for others....wish it was that way all year long, but its great we have it at this time of year.

14) I am thankful we are nearing the beginning of a new year, a year that I have the possibility of not failing at everything, but maybe succeeding, getting the right job, getting my own place, making new friends, becoming stronger, losing more weight, being a better person.... 365 days that are so far a blank canvas.

15) Colored lights. Colored everything. How boring everything would be if it were one color... and how boring Christmas decorations would be with just white lights...... :-)

16) The Christmas tree. Yeah, I know. It would still be Christmas, and would still be Jesus' birth without it, but I love to sit and gaze on a lit tree (with colored lights, of course!) There is something so peaceful about sitting in an otherwise dark room with a lit Christmas tree.

17) I am thankful this year to be able to be part of my church's festivities. Even if I liked choirs, I can't sing a part, and there isn't normally anything for me to do to be part of the Christmas activities, but this year we are doing something new: a live Nativity, and I am a wise man. I'm more excited about it than a guy my age should be, but hey I never have claimed to be mature. Seriously, it does feel good to be part of it, and I am looking forward to it, and am glad I signed up.

18) The Christmas story. I'm thankful we have a record of Jesus' birth in the Bible to read at this time of the year, and other times of the year. I like to read it in different versions. Not that it can get old, but it can help make it newer and fresher to read a different translation once in a while.

19) I'm thankful for Christmas cookies and fudge. For some weird reason, my parents only make fudge at Christmas. I could eat fudge 365 days of the year, but this family only makes it at this time of year. I love it, and the cookies that we only have this time of the year. The extra pounds are worth it.

20) I mentioned family, but I love that feeling when both of my sisters have arrived with their families. Getting hugs from the kids and watching the nieces interact with the nephews. They get along great...... my whole family does. We aren't perfect. We were until those two guys married into our family... just kidding. We get along. There is no fighting and hateful words, and I am thankful for that.

21) Calvary. You can't have one without the other. If we didn't have the birth of a Savior, we would never have had Calvary. If there had been no Calvary, His birth, this time we celebrate, would be useless and empty. We celebrate His birth because of why He came.

22) Christmas sermons. I really do have the best pastor, and get this: he preaches short messages. It is rare he goes more than 30 minutes, and its usually 25-30 minutes. He is a great preacher all through the year, but I truly enjoy and appreciate his Christmas sermons,

23) Christmas memories. My parents always made Christmas special. I have a lot of great memories associated with Christmas. I still smile when I remember how every Christmas eve we would drive around and look at decorations. It never failed when we got to the car, one of my parents would have to run back inside for something, and when we got home, there were our stockings hanging, full. My parents would feign surprise. Like we were fooled....... but it makes for good memories.

Now we make new ones. Kids make Christmas more fun, and so do gag gifts. There are usually one or two each year. We have a large stuffed hippo that gets re gifted each year. The first year I had bought it, we gave it to my dad, and just as he unwrapped it, I started playing "I Want A Hippopotamus for Christmas." Great memory,

24) I really don't enjoy wrapping presents, but I enjoy that feeling of filling out the "to" and "from" and setting the finished product under the tree. And I'm better at wrapping than I used to be. I used to be so bad, everyone could tell who the gift was from by the wrapping job.

25) Snow. Yep. But only at Christmas. I really don't like winter or snow, but at Christmas it makes it seem more magical, more beautiful. But only at Christmas.

26) Christmas stories. I have so many I can't read them all every year, but its a special part of my Christmas to read new and old Christmas stories.

27) The magic of the season. That covers a lot, but there is a lot. Just think..... the God of the universe came to earth as the most helpless of all of us, a baby. His birth was first announced to the most lowly of people, shepherds. Instead of being born where kings are typically born - a castle, He was born in a stable and had a manger for His bed. It still is the greatest story ever told.

My 12 pains of Christmas

There is a cool version of The 12 Days of Christmas I that I like, The 12 Pains of Christmas. Look it up and watch it, it is amusing. I love Christmas, and am planning on doing a post of what I love about it, but today, here are my own 12 pains of Christmas:

1) The push to do away with calling it Christmas. It really, really irritates me. And how hypocritical of stores to have sales and make so much money over the holiday they refuse to acknowledge what is all about - Jesus

2) Wrapping presents. I love to give, but man do I hate wrapping them

3) Christmas cantatas.... I don't much like choirs in the first place, then add a cantata that has weird songs, or worse - familiar songs with weird arrangements and/or tunes..... yuk. I have heard a few that were OK, but overall - not a fan

4) Kid's Christmas program. Really, unless you have kids in the annual Christmas program at church, what is enjoyable about umpteen kids saying little parts that many of them need coached on. Call me Scrooge if you will, but I am always looking toward the end. I have been in a few that were the exception, but it is not a favorite part of my Christmas. Plus, we have so many bus kids in ours who I don't even know, I just don't enjoy it all.

5) Hearing Blue Christmas by Elvis. Yuk. I cannot bear anything he sings, but especially Blue Christmas.

6) Long lines at the stores

7) The extra weight I gain during this time of year. Cookies, candy. Sigh.

8) Christmas newsletters. I rarely read them. I think what really turned me off on them was a family that bragged so much about their kids, it was sickening. Plus, they are impersonal and mass produced..... I don't care what sport your kid played, or what grade they got on their algebra test..... just wish me Merry Christmas!

9) The Christmas music that is junk, yuk, trash..... about any station you pick has to mix some stuff in that makes you cringe.... like Santa Baby, Baby It's Cold Outside,  Elvis singing Blue Christmas, etc

10) Santa Claus at the manger. I get the idea behind it, but I hate to see it, and would like to smash each one I see. Santa, though he is based on the real St. Nicholas, is make believe, and the idea of a make believe figure at the manger rubs me wrong. Why not add the tooth fairy and the Easter bunny while we're at it?!

11) White lights. I secretly think your Christmas tree is lacking if it has white lights instead of colored...... come on, what is Christmas-y about white lights? White lights are an every day thing, colored are not. Bring on the colored lights!

12) That feeling you get when the last gift is opened, the family has left, and you go back to the every day thing.

Favorite Christmas song #9, Tennessee Christmas by Point of Grace

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Favorite Christmas song #4, Come On Ring Those Bells by Evie

Maybe it is because its the version I first heard and grew up listening to, but I don't think anyone can beat Evie's version

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Favorite Christmas song #2: Mary Did You Know

One of my favorite Christmas songs is Mary Did You Know. I think the first time I heard it, it was by Kenny Rogers and Wynonna Judd. Maybe that is why is is my favorite. Of all the versions I have heard, I like theirs the best: