This is my third blog post this month, though the first one was started in October. Hopefully, I won't drag this one out so long. And I actually did a normal blog post on one subject. That is pretty rare for me these days. Most of my posts are multiple subjects, like this one.
I am starting this post Saturday evening, November 9. And I have no idea when I will finish it, or where it will go.
1) The bear in the trunk
I ended my previous multiple subject post talking about the trunk in my living room. I decided to display it open, and had put one of my nautical pillows in it, but felt it needed something else. I showed the picture to the lady from my doctor's office who has given me so many patriotic/Americana decor. Her suggestion was an Americana teddy bear. Problem is, I don't have one. But I do have a white teddy bear. Now, you may be thinking "what is a guy my age doing with a teddy bear?" More on that later.....
So I took her suggestion, and really liked how it turned out. Today, I started decorating for Christmas. Yeah, I am one of "those" people. I am planning on putting my tree where the trunk is, and was going to put it in the basement for now.......but I gave it a Christmas look, and I like the look so well, I think I can fit it in the dining room.
Now back to the bear. First off, keep in mind that I am not a normal guy. I don't get into sports, hunting, and all that "manly stuff." I'm not even attracted to the right gender. But I am no sissy. And besides, who says teddy bears are only for kids and females? If a woman can watch football and rave about how wonderful the Steelers are doing, then can't I have a teddy bear?
Then there is the fact I didn't buy it. A few years ago, I did a blog post titled "I don't want to be normal." In that post, I discussed not being a normal man, and being OK with that. I listed some ways, and among them was this statement: "I have stuffed animals........for decor. Except a teddy bear - everyone needs one of them (who said it isn't normal for adult men to have a teddy bear anyway?)...a stuffed Toad from the Mario games (gift from my nieces), stuffed Angry Birds (gifts from my nieces and nephews.....)"
A very special lady from my church died back in April at the age of 59. It was sudden and unexpected. Becky Hartley exemplified love and Christianity in a way that all too few do. She was like a mother to the whole church, and to many outside of the church. She was among the first handful of people I told about my same-sex attractions, and she often checked up on me, telling me more than once she didn't want me to fall through the cracks as a lone single guy at church.
Why am I talking about this wonderful Christian lady? She read that blog post, and decided that I needed a teddy bear. I had to work this one Sunday, and when I came home, my mom handed me a gift bag. Becky Hartley had bought me a teddy bear, because she decided this single guy needed one. I will most likely think of her every time I look at it. And now, it has a prominent place sitting in my trunk, now part of a Christmas display. I had planned on putting the trunk in the basement to make room for the tree, but that isn't happening now. I need to re-think where the tree will fit in.
If more Christians were like her, this world would be a much better place.
2) Asking Jesus into your heart
It never ceases to amaze me the things that people make into a big deal. How people ask Jesus to save them is one of those things. I have read and heard many people take on this issue. They criticize the use of the "sinner's prayer", the "asking Jesus into your heart", and other methods. I have read what people have written, and comments others have made in response, and I have come to my own conclusions. I think my conclusions make sense, but then I wouldn't share them if I thought otherwise. :)
Jesus is so eager to forgive us and save us, that I cannot imagine Him being picky about how we do it or what words we say.
In the story of the prodigal son, the father in the story represents God. He was watching for his son to come back, and went running to meet him. He didn't stand and wait til his son said the proper words or groveled long enough, he embraced him and welcomed him home.
Brennan Manning in The Ragamuffiin Gospel put it this way:
While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with pity. He ran to the boy, clasped him in his arms and kissed him” (Luke 15:20). I am moved that the [prodigal son's] father didn’t cross-examine the boy, bully him, lecture him on ingratitude, or insist on any high motivation. He was so overjoyed at the sight of his son that he ignored all the canons of prudence and parental discretion and simply welcomed him home. The father took him back just as he was . . . We don’t have to sift our hearts and analyze our intentions before returning home. Abba just wants us to show up . . . we don’t have to be perfect or even very good before God will accept us . . . Even if we come back because we couldn’t make it on our own, God will welcome us. He will seek no explanations about our sudden appearance. He is glad we are there . . . [He will say, like the prodigal's father,] “Hush, child. I don’t need to know where you’ve been or what you’ve been up to.”
Then we have the thief on the cross. Luke 23:
39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him,[a] saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
It doesn't appear it took much for him to be saved and to gain eternal life.
So pray the sinner's prayer, ask Jesus into your heart.....whatever words or method we use, I believe Jesus is waiting to forgive us and that there are no right or wrong ways to ask Him to do it.
3) A True Family Christmas
I buy at least a few new Christmas CDs every year.....which might explain why I have so many Christmas CDs. It looks like I will only be buying one new one this year, and it is the new one by the Collingsworth Family: A True Family Christmas.
The last few years I have done a blog post with a brief review of each new Christmas CD I have bought. Since that is only one this year, I will do it here.
First, a listing of the songs:
Christmas Spirit Medley
Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
Let It Snow Let It Snow Let It Snow
Sleigh Ride (piano)
We Do Christmas Like We Mean It
Home For Christmas Medley
Another Christmas Closer
I Call Him Lord
Carol Of The Bells (piano)
I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day
Isn't That Why He Came
Mary Did You Know
The Story Of The First Christmas
I was a bit disappointed in their first Christmas CD, Feels Like Christmas (2012). This CD is definitely better, and the song selection is better.
1) Christmas Spirit Medley: The Spirit of the Season, Caroling Caroling, and We Need A Little Christmas. This medley starts out the recording. They do it very well, and it is a great way to start out the CD.
2) Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas: a song that has been sung by many artists, and Phillip Jr does a great job. I always thought he should be featured more than he is, and he is featured more on this CD. One of my pet peeves has been the amount of Christian authors who sing the line "if the fates allows." There are a few who substitute "if the Lord allows", and kudos to the Collingsworths for doing that.
3) Let It Snow Let It Snow Let It Snow: not one of my favorites, but they do a great job on it
4) Sleighride: This is instrumental piano. I would have liked more instrumentation with it, but it is a great solo piano version....with one exception. There are a few times when she does something that makes it sound like she is making mistakes, but obviously is supposed to sound like that.
5) We Do Christmas Like We Mean It: The only definite "no" on the CD. It just doesn't fit at all with their style, and I skip it every time. Every time. What were they thinking?
6) Home for Christmas Medley: The best track on the CD. They do an awesome job on "There's No Christmas Like a Home Christmas" and "There's No Place Like Home for the Holidays." A very pleasing medley.
7) Another Christmas Closer: A new song that is somewhat a sad song, but is a nice addition to the CD.
8) I Call Him Lord: They do a great job on this one. It isn't technically a Christmas song, but goes well on a Christmas CD. My only complaint: it is too similar to the most recent arrangements of this song by Mark Lowery and the Whisnants.
9) Carol of the Bells: Awesome instrumental version with other orchestration.
10) I Heard the Bells: My only complaint: They skipped the last verse. They do roll out a great performance on the song though, with different family members doing a solo on the first 3 verses, then coming together for a rousing finish on the fourth verse. They own the fourth verse.
11) Isn't That Why He Came? This is a new song, and is a close second to my favorite track (Home for Christmas Medley). It is just a great song with great lyrics.
12) Mary Did You Know? Yeah, everybody and their brother has recorded this. Phillip Jr solos this, and I felt it could have used more orchestration and that the family should have joined in before the very end. That isn't to say it is bad. He does a great job on it.
13) The Story Of The First Christmas: This is over 11 minutes, and is a medley with narration between the songs. I like it, but I usually find recitations or narration gets old after you listen to it so many times, so that is likely to happen.
The CD comes in at an hour and 1 minute, longer than most CDs out there. And worth getting. And the song I don't like is also on YouTube, but I am not putting it on here. Because I don't like it. :)
4) Christmas shopping
I actually started my Christmas shopping later than normal this year, but got a lot done last week on Lakeside Collections' website. They have some pretty cool stuff, and had an offer if you bought at least 6 items, you got 15% off, and free shipping. I put together a pretty good sized order, buying for all of my family members along with the 2 nephew wannabes' (that would be the boyfriends of 2 of my nieces) :)
There were two of the same item that I was afraid would not make it intact, but they did. And most of what I ordered is boxed, which makes it great for wrapping. Something I am not too great at.
5) Christmas decorating
I did start already. I can't help it....I am excited to decorate my new place. I did decide not to do lights in all of my windows. My back windows won't be seen by many people, since they just look out on a few neighbors behind me, so I am going to concentrate on the front and side windows, and my second window in my bedroom that is in the back....just to make my room uniform.
Most of my decorating is in the living room. I took down some of my nautical decor on the walls and other places, and put Christmas decorations up in their place. I have a pencil tree that I am putting in front of the hall window.
I wanted to decorate the porch, but am not seeing a way. There is no corner to stop a tree from blowing over, and the cement posts have no way to keep lights on. If I had a park type bench, I would put it out and decorate it like my parents' do.
I love the red truck Christmas decor, and bought a couple of new things for this year. They were part of the big Lakeside Collections order.
6) John Crist
It is sad when something bad comes out on a public Christian figure. Crist is a Christian comedian. It seems he is guilty of sexual harassment and manipulation accusations coming against him, and his confession to engaging in what he terms as reckless behavior that “violated [his] own Christian beliefs, convictions and values. Article here.
I am not going to throw stones, but it should be a warning to all Christians how easy it is to get tripped up in the wrong things.
7) Christmas decorating 2
Today is November 14, and the second of two days off in a row. Since I am excited to decorate my new place.....factored in with the fact that I like to decorate early for Christmas...I did a lot of decorating on my days off. Hey, it is just me, and I enjoy looking at Christmas decorations. One of my favorite things: to lie on the couch in my living room with nothing but the Christmas tree lights and any other Christmas lights on as I listen to Christmas music.
I did work my tree in close to the front window. I have a padded bench/shoe keeper that I moved out of the living room for now. I decided the trunk needs to stay where it is. I was wanting a Christmas runner for on the black stand in my living room, and found one at the Corner Store for $3.49. I debated about it for a few minutes. It is a montage of several Christmas things: candy canes, gifts, snowmen, stockings, etc.....and Santa. I don't decorate with Santa. But I decided I liked the runner enough to overlook Mr. Try to take Christmas away from Jesus. Kind of kidding on that name.
Anyway, I think the runner looks pretty cool. As for Santa, I am pretty anti-Santa. I have a few Santa songs I listen to. My favorite is "Hey Santa" by Carly and Wendy Wilson. Don't buy the CD. The rest of the CD is blah at best.
I put up and decorated two Christmas trees this year. Two years ago, I bought a pencil tree with boring clear lights. My intent was to do like my mom, and decorate it for different seasons and holidays. That didn't happen. I tried to sell it, but didn't succeed, so I put it in the upstairs hall by the window, and decorated it for Christmas. Part of the lights don't work, so I unplugged them and put colored ones on it.
Speaking of trees, last year my youngest niece told me it looked like I threw my ornaments on my tree. I told her if she says that this year, she is going to come over and redecorate it. :)
In addition to the other decorations in the living room, I put a string of blue lights on each side of the big doorway between the living room and dining room.
The bookshelf I decorated may have books on it next year, so who knows what I'll do with what is on it this year. I took some of my nautical decor off the walls to make room for Christmas. I am happy with how it all turned out.
8) How would Jesus vote?
Ever think about stuff like that? I do. I actually find myself wondering if Jesus would even vote. I mentioned this in a previous post, but the only time I remember of Jesus getting close to politics, is when the religious leaders tried to trap Him by asking if they should pay taxes to Caesar. He of course got out of their attempted trap as He always did.
It is so easy for us to say who we should or should not vote for as Christians. In a comment on a Facebook friend's post, a man commented "voting 3rd Party is that last thing we should do as Christians". I don't comment on every stupid remark I see on social media, or I would wear my fingers out, but I did challenge him to back that up with Scripture, knowing he cannot.
I know it is about considered heresy to say this, but there is nothing in the Bible to indicate we should or should not vote. I am not saying we shouldn't, but I will say this: we would be better off to sit at home and not vote, then to act like politics has caused us to act these last few years. I do blame Donald Trump for a lot of it, but that doesn't remove the guilt from the rest of us. Just today, I had someone from the same church background as I am block me on Facebook because I am anti-Trump. And they are not the first.
If politics is going to cause us to argue, make false accusations, try to guilt or scare people into voting like us, cause us to block people and act un-Christ-like, we would be better off to avoid politics and voting and live under the rule of the worst kind of people on earth. Sound like a far out comment? Not really.
The Bible says nothing about voting. It says nothing about America. But you know what it does say? It has a lot to say about how we treat others. Thanks to politics, we don't do too well in that area.
During Jesus' earthly ministry, He was way too busy healing and loving people to be involved in politics. Wouldn't it be awesome if Christians today were the same? Oh, I am not saying not to vote...I am saying wouldn't it be awesome if we were so busy loving people and spreading the Gospel that we didn't have time for endless political posts and arguing? Wouldn't it be awesome if Christians spent as much time spreading their political views as they do spreading the Gospel? Wouldn't it be awesome if Christians worked as hard to win people to their Savior as they do on winning people to their politician and political viewpoints? This shouldn't seem like radical ideas, but they are. Because today's American Christians aren't like that. Politics has become equal and synonymous with our Christianity. The voting booth has become as important as our place of worship. The Constitution has become as important to us as the Bible, and I fear American Christians view things through its prism before the Bible.
The devil can use anything to trip people up, to get their attention and energy off of God and spiritual things. We tend to warn against things like porn, drugs, gambling, sex, and other sins. But what if politics is a better and more useful tool for the devil? It causes division among God's people. It causes bad attitudes. It gets the focus of Christians, and definitely causes Christians to ignore or set aside what the Bible says about so much.
We are so partisan as Christians. It is bad to criticize politician A, and you must pray for him. Yet it is fine to criticize harshly politician B and any others of the same politician persuasion. A Christian should not say anything bad about A, but feel free to say anything, no matter how bad, about B. It is bad if B does it, but OK if A does it. I honestly can't see Jesus badmouthing candidates of either party, can you?
I am of course including myself in this, but I believe politics above anything else, has shown how unlike Jesus and how un-Christian we American Christians can be. Sadly, it doesn't look like that is going to change any time soon.
In conversation a while back, I mentioned this to a friend, and I'll use you in this scenario: You are a Republican who loves Trump and has the same view of Hillary and other Democrats as most of we Republicans do. You have a friend who is not a Christian, and is a big Hillary supporter. She sees what you post about Hillary, calling her Killary, posting "lock her up", and the host of other many nasty Hillary posts that are out there. What do you think your chances are of ever winning her to Jesus?
Maybe we would all be better off steering clear of so much political talk. It doesn't really do any good. All of the pro-Trump posts are not changing my mind. My anti-Trump posts are not going to change the minds of any of his supporters. And the same goes for Hillary posts.
I'll close this part with this, as it fits here: A good friend of mine has a couple of atheist friends. They were horrified and disgusted at the support of Christians for Trump in light of.......well, you know. They said they never want to hear another Christian talk about morals after supporting and voting for Trump. And I only bring that up to say if so many people had not been so vocal about voting for him and why we should overlook so much, these atheists may not have known there was so much Christian support for him and so much of a push to overlook so much. But we Christians must let everyone know our political views......
9) A favorite Christmas song
I love Christmas songs, and it is about impossible for me to pick one favorite. One of my all time top favorites would have to be Come On, Ring Those Bells by Evie Karlsson. I think she is the first to have recorded that song, which she did in 1977 when she was still Evie Tornquist. (Wow, that recording is 42 years old!) It has not been recorded as much as songs like Mary, Did You Know?, but it has still been recorded several times, and I have yet to hear anyone do it as much justice as she did 42 years ago. I have been listening to her sing it for many years now, and it still remains close to the top of my favorite Christmas songs.
Music is such an awesome part of our lives. Many people can hear a certain song, and are reminded of a certain time in their life and how they felt. There is a song by the Southern Gospel group the Nelons from their 1987 release that reminds me of a job I hated. Not sure why it is just that song, and not the whole album......but anyway, Come On Ring Those Bells by Evie remind me of good times and good things.
10) Chik fil a
I am going to try to finish this post this evening, November 18.
Chik fil a made the news today when they announced they were going to stop giving to organizations and businesses branded "anti-LGBQT". Story here. This is disappointing after the stance they have had for so long, and have been boycotted and bullied by the very intolerant left and even more intolerant LGBQT bullies.
I can't see this not hurting them. Myself included, there are many conservatives and Christians who have supported them because of their stance and the boycotts. Their sandwiches ARE good, but they are also extremely expensive. Are the same people going to support them as much with this new stance?
Here's a few points I wanted to make:
**And, yeah, I deal personally with the whole same-sex attractions/gay issue myself....but I believe giving in is wrong, and I believe what the Bible says about it. That said, onto my points:
a) The LGBQT crowd has raged about bullying and intolerance for years. And yes, both exist...but they have proven they excel better than anyone with their bullying and intolerance. They can't handle anyone disagreeing or saying they are wrong or sinning. They want 100% capitulation and they want dissenters silence and shut down.
b) After years of boycotts and hate from the left and LGBQT, it seems counter productive to suddenly give into the bullies.
c) The organizations labeled "anti-LGBQT" are not necessarily so. One is the Salvation Army. They do a lot of good, but to make the bullies happy, Chik fil a is suddenly stopping donations to this wonderful organization. Here's the thing: anyone who dares disagree is anti-LGBQT. Don't agree with gay marriage? You are anti-LGBQT...and so forth. I fear it will get worse, until we are one day fined or jailed for daring to speak out against anything gay.
(And don't sit on your laurels, Trump supporters. When he was running for president, he promised to further gay rights, was for genderless bathrooms, and appeared at a LGBQT for Trump rally with a rainbow flag saying "LGBQT for Trump." Don't think he'd take the part of Christians over the LGBQT mob.)
d) I have been reading a lot about the decision, and reading comments from both sides. There are already gay people saying things like "They are 15 years too late." "They waited 15 years, I am going to wait 15 years before I buy anything there." "I'm not eating there til they apologize and admit their wrongdoing." If Chik fil a thinks giving into the bullies will make them happy, that isn't necessarily true.
e) What is crazy, is all this hate came because the founder of Chik fil a said be believes in traditional marriage. Wow. Obama said the same before he became president, and they didn't hold it against him.
f) I do see this hurting them. I doubt there will be boycotts by Christians, but I can see these things happening:
A slow down of Christians and conservatives eating there.
Churches and Christian organizations pulling back from advertising them and using them for functions
Positive feedback from the Christian community.
Chik fil a may have cooked their goose. And those going there don't want goose. They want chicken.
Don't worry my "you're skipping Thanksgiving when you decorate early for Christmas" friends....I am still celebrating Thanksgiving, even with my early Christmas decorations up. I think it is great we set aside a time each year to focus on being thankful, but it is sad that we don't focus more on it the rest of the year. It is so easy to focus on the bad and what we don't have, while most of us are rich and have much compared to many in other areas of the world....even compared to some here in our own country. I am that way. Depression robs you of a lot, and that is one thing it robs you of: seeing what you have, and how good you truly have it.
Other years, I have done 30 days of thankfulness for the month of November, but I really dropped the ball on that this year. So I shall do that here. It will be a good way to end this post that needs a stopping place.
Every other year, my sister Vicki has to go to her in-laws, but this is a year that our whole gang will be together. My mom is worried we won't have enough stuffing, as it is a big hit. She still does it in the bird, and we haven't died yet.
By the way, what is up with some people calling it "dressing"? You don't dress a turkey, though the one I pictured above IS kind of cute dressed up. You STUFF a turkey. And I challenge you to go to the store and buy Stove Top Dressing. You won't find it. I assure you. :)
12) 30 days of thankfulness crammed into one
1) My family. We aren't perfect, but we love each other, get along great together, and have fun when we are together.
3) A job I like
4) Days off (even if you like your job, days off are awesome!)
5) Books, and time to read them. And shelves to keep them on
6) The Bible.....and different translations/versions of it
7) My mom's fried chicken
9) My new place that I love
11) Christian suspense, and the authors who write it
14) Paid holidays off
15) The internet. Yeah, there is a lot of bad about it, but it is very useful also
16) My nieces and nephews. Yeah, they are included in #1, but I am very thankful for them and that they want to hang out with me. That usually costs me paying for lunch..... :)
17) Writing. I do love to write. I just struggle with what to write about.
18) Warm weather, sandals, and cooler clothing
19) Family vacations
20) A good and dependable car
21) Second (and more) chances
22) Days without snow
23) Being able to walk so many places in town
24) Thrift stores and good deals
25) Christmas, and all it means
27) Good health. Mostly
28) My bed. (It is very comfortable)
30) My sense of humor. A lot of people may think my jokes are not funny, but it helps me in my worst times of depression.