Christmas tips

Yesterday I recalled how great our parents were at doing Christmas. Today I saw an article called “16 Daddy Christmas Tips” by Pastor Mark Driscoll on Dec 19, 2011 in Parenting.  I though I would take what he suggested and twist it to my own strange views. 

It’s only a couple of days before Christmas and likely your good intentions of Keeping Christ this year are faded.  Maybe it’s not too late. Here are some thoughts. 

We need a plan for the holidays to ensure family is loved and memories are made. What’s your plan?

Check local guides for fun holiday stuff. My grandson and I went to a basketball game. Not your traditional Christmas fare but we had a great time together. That’s a very Christmas thing. 

Mark time for sacred events and experiences to build family traditions that are fun and point to Jesus. Go to a Christmas eve service at a different church from yours. Expand your holiday horizons. 

Give as a family. One great way to do this is to serve and love a hungry family through Food for the Hungry.

Schedule a big Christmas date with someone special?

Help mom. Nicky and I are hitting the supermarket with a shopping list from Rose. Help for her and fun for us. 

Turn off the TV and out on some Christmas music.

Okay so your tired of the music, snuggle up and watch some fun shows with the kids, especially the little ones.

Take the family on a drive to see Christmas lights while listening to music and sipping cider.

Read about Jesus and pray over the kids.

Repent of being lazy, selfish, grumpy, or just dumping the holidays on Mom. Are you a servant like Jesus to your family?

It’s not too late to make this Christmas special and to be blessed. 


Getting Christmas Right

This will be my sixty-second Christmas. Anything you do 62 times, you should get right. But I still seem to have trouble getting Christmas right. Maybe I have improved in my approach. For many of my initial Christmases I focused on what I was going to get. As the oldest of nine children, looking back, I didn’t get much. My folks were poor. We didn’t have a car until after I graduated for high school. For years we lived in “the projects.”
I will never forget spending hours looking through the Sears “Big Book” for the one thing I could ask for. I remember plotting with my siblings to make sure we didn’t make the mistake of asking for the same thing. I guess I’m way past that. In fact, this year I haven’t given any thought to what I might get for Christmas. I understand from those who love me that I am terrible to buy for. I like to think it’s because I’m a wonderfully complex person. My wife says it’s because I just go out and buy anything I want. Maybe that’s a product of growing up poor.
I do spend a lot of time and energy on Christmas shopping.  But regretfully, most Christmas mornings I get the feeling I missed the boat with most of my gifts.  I guess that will happen again this year. I bought one gift really early. I have spent the last month trying to decide who to give it to. The gift I got for my wife is something I have been told she has wanted for years and I never took the hint. Wow, what a great Christmas guy I am. Another gift I bought for one person, only to be told that she wouldn’t like that at all. I realized later that someone else would love it. So another redirected gift. 
In recent years we’ve adopted “rules” to try to minimize the costs involved. This year the “adults” pulled names. We are also playing “dirty Santa” for the first time. If you don’t know what that is, it’s not as bad as it sounds.
I am notorious for breaking the rules both as to the “limit” for each gift and the rule that we only give a gift to the person whose name we pulled. Sue me. I’m a lawyer. I can handle the costs of defense.
I guess what I try to accomplish each year is the thing that my poverty stricken parents were so good at, making Christmas wonderful. My memories of those early Christmases are filled with wonder and joy. They managed to put just the right amount of Jesus in Christmas without being preachy. They were too poor to spoil us, but we never felt deprived. I have tried giving gifts that convey the message of Christmas, but they often come off wrong. 
I guess if I could have one thing this Christmas it would be to have my poor parents back for just long enough for them to explain to me how they did such a great job of getting Christmas right.
I googled “Christmas” and got pages of images and only one image that included the Savior of the World. Maybe I’m not the only one whose having trouble getting Christmas right.
Merry Christmas and good luck at getting it right in your life.

Loving honesty

How often when asked how things are going have you responded “fine” when life was anything but fine. It’s easier to be nice than to be honest. Frankly, when we ask how things are going, we often really don’t want to know. We certainly aren’t looking for a detailed response. Much of our conversation is so superficial. That’s probably acceptable in general, but in our special relationships, it just won’t do.
In the fourth chapter of Ephesians, while discussing Christian maturity and growing up into Christ, Paul uses the phrase, “speaking truth in love.” That phrase expresses the balance we need to strive for in our serious conversation. While we need to be honest, the truth can be painful. It must be delivered “in love.” Loving honesty is a trait of the mature Christian.
It’s not enough just to say, “I’m telling you that you are a worthless, ugly person, but I’m doing it in love.” Describing our intentions doesn’t make it so. There are elements of loving honesty.
First, there needs to be a loving relationship. For there to be loving honesty, there needs to be love. We can’t expect to dive into stark honesty with strangers and expect to be well received. There first needs to be relationship.
There needs to be privacy. In the military, I learned, “Praise in public, critique in private.” It’s inappropriate to spout out brutal honesty to someone in front of an audience. Our goal is to convey needed truth, not to conduct a public trial.
There needs to be Spirit guidance. Lovingly honesty requires the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Only the Spirit knows the best time and the most fertile ground for the reception of honest communication. In serious conversation, pray before you speak.
We need to be prepared to receive as well as give. One natural response to a perceived criticism is to respond in kind. The response is usually not well thought out and often unloving and untrue. We need to be prepared to field such responses. 
We need to be ready to be unappreciated. When we speak the truth in love, we don’t always receive love in return. In fact, we may lose a relationship. If we have misjudged the strength of the relationship or failed to properly hear from the Holy Spirit, a word spoken in love to a friend, may be our last communication with that person. We need to love the person enough and have a word important enough to give to be prepared to lose the relationship.
Spend some time reading the conversations of Jesus. Consider how honest He was in the words He spoke. You will likely feel uncomfortable in listening to many of His conversations. Words spoken in love are not what we are use to hearing, but we need to learn to make them a part of every important relationship. If we are going to love like Jesus loved, we need to converse like Jesus did.

Heart and Mouth

[33] “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit.[34] “Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.[35] “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart* brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.[36] “But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment.[37] “For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12 NKJV
I am often shocked at what comes out of my mouth. I’d like to believe in the concept of “slip of the tongue” the idea that some things we say come from . . . well, nowhere. But that’s not what Jesus said. He taught that the heart and mouth are connected. Our words reveal our hearts. 
We normally control what comes out of our mouths, pretty words  that aren’t really us.  You know how it is.  So much of what we say comes from our desire to be well thought of. It’s the words that slip out that reveal our true nature and that proclaim how much change is necessary.  
I’m reminded of that worship song. 

Change my heart oh God
Make it ever true 
Change my heart oh God
May I be like You 

You are the potter
I am the clay
Mold me and make me 
This is what I pray 

From the things we sometimes say, the lesson is obvious. There is still work to be done. Not work that we can accomplish: but work for the Potter. Change my heart, oh God. 


Simple Trust

“But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one. Matthew 5:37 NKJV 
Communication is tough but we make it harder than it needs to be. We can’t seem to just say what we mean. Sometimes it’s political correctness that muddles our speech, but mostly it’s just cowardness that keeps us from saying what we mean.  We do great damage to our relationships for fear of hurt feelings. Sadly, we have no problems telling others what we would not say directly to the one involved.  
Trust is necessary to avoid these problems. If we really trust someone, we have no fear of losing their friendship or love if we are honest with them. In fact, complete honesty builds trust and strengthens relationship.  But trust is extremely fragile. 
Years of honest communication and the trust established can be lost in an instant. A lie will do it obviously. But even a little less than a lie can hurt. We don’t think of flattery as a lie, but it is and it can kill trust. So can a broken promise. It doesn’t help that we had every intention of doing what we said, when we said it.  If we don’t follow through, we kill trust. This is a frequent mistake we make as parents. Even off hand comments can be taken as promises by the young. Be careful with promises. 
Silence can kill trust. Sometimes we need to say something and our silence can speak volumes. Words can often be misunderstood but silence is really subject to a multitude of interpretations.  
Strangest of all, we destroy trust when we say “yes” but should have said, “no.” we don’t like to disappoint so we agree to do things we should never attempt. We find ourselves I over our heads and struggling to accomplish more than we are able. We don’t do anyone a favor when we agree to do something we don’t have the time, talent or desire to accomplish. 
Trust is precious. Simple honesty can help us preserve it. 


There is one who speaks like the piercings of a sword, but the tongue of the wise promotes health. Proverbs 12:18  One out of our young people say they have never had a meaningful conversation with their father. That’s just one of many alarming statistics that could be cited. When it comes to communication most of us stink. We all “know” that communication is vital to any relationship.  We just can’t seem to accomplish it.  It seems easy enough. We can be sailing along in conversation and one wrong word slips out and suddenly we are at war. It is so frustrating, many give up on it and stop trying altogether. And without the fuel of communication, relationships wither and die.  The thing I remember most about my first date with Rosemary was how easily we talked. It may surprise you to know I wasn’t much of a ladies man. I had no experience talking up the ladies. So it was shocking how easily the words flow. We both knew from that first encounter that we were meant for each other.  We can give up on communication. It’s too important.  Have to acknowledge that it’s not easy but worth the effort.   Jesus teach is to speak and listen, to really say what’s on our hearts and listen with our whole beings.  If we don’t learn to do this right, we will wither and die.  Nick.   


 16 We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person? 1 John 3:16-17 NLT
If we want to be successful in love, we have to be willing to sacrifice. We need to live each moment of each day by the motto “It’s not about me.” This is radical thinking because the prevailing modern attitude is that it’s all about me.  There’s proof everywhere we look: our divorce rate, our crime rate, the state of our country.  All scream, “It’s all about me.” A selfish attitude is a guarantee of a life of misery. The biggest smiles on Christmas morning are on the faces of those who have learned that lesson.  Real joy comes in putting others first.  It’s the miracle of sacrifice. 
Is John telling us we need to give our lives like Jesus did because of the need of others, or because it’s the secret to joyous living? I think in some strange twist it is all about us. We need to be needed. Sacrifice is built into the renewed man just as selfishness is an essential part of the lost. The frustrations we see in church arises from the failure of the church to teach sacrifice to its members.  It, not big buildings or super programs, is the reason for church to exist: to be the giving body of Christ.
Be a great lover.  Sacrifice and be blessed. 


 7 Therefore, accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory. Romans 15:7 NLT

We seem to have a natural aversion to anything, or anyone, different. This makes our lives very boring. If we live only with those that are like us we may be more comfortable, but we are a lot less challenged and stimulated. 
We also have a problem separating the sin and the sinner. Often when we refuse to accept others, we claim it’s because of their sin. But all sin, why do we refuse to accept certain sinners. Sometimes this arises from our own experience. If we specialized in a certain sin before Christ, we are often intolerant of those who suffer from that vice after we are freed from it. There is nothing worse than an ex-anything. 
Sometimes we avoid certain classes of sinners, because we are sorely tempted in the areas in which they err. Who can forget the famous preacher who hollered about sexual sins by day while prowling prostitute infected motels at night. 
We are called to hate the sin and love the sinner. We could all do a better job of that.