Archive for ‘Traditions’

December 16, 2010

Letter To Santa

I think this might be our first letter to Santa.

November 29, 2010

Traditions

The last two days, I had two husbands ask me about developing family traditions in two completely different settings. I’m taking that que to pick up this passionate topic once again. I have made a page dedicated to traditions that gives links to past posts on the subject. In the next few weeks I will add some more thoughts to this subject and update the page as I do so. Check it out!

October 30, 2010

To Treat or Not to Treat?

Christians should be passionate about God’s holiness. Personal godly holiness means that we gladly consider our entire life. Any nook we discover that is not a reflection of God’s holiness we then willfully change to be in alignment so that our lives are a joyful representation of his glory. The result means constant evaluation and reevaluation as we consider things on a personal level. We should be asking questions such as:

Where does my belief or approach about this come from?

Is this something I always assumed is right but have no biblical foundation for it?

Is there any biblical precedence for this or against it?

Is my attitude about others who disagree with me reflective of the fruit of the Spirit or the works of the flesh? Does this attitude itself reveal an unholy thing that I am trying to hide by casting the blame on others?

These questions are natural questions of investigation into personal growth. Am I willing to be accountable to others? Do I have a valid defense that my conscience confirms? Am I seeking to privatize my decision and just cast people off because they ask me hard questions I’m not willing to consider?

A great example of this process is how we Christians determine if we should or should not celebrate in Halloween. Are you willing to consider Halloween in terms of holiness? By Halloween I mean trick or treating, dressing in costumes, going to parties. So if your church is doing a “Fall Festival” or “Trick or Trunk” my first suggestion is get over your Christianese euphemisms and own up to the fact that you are actually celebrating Halloween. The act of trying to change the reality by employing tactful and political contrived terms should not be the practice of the church. The only ones we are deceiving concerning this nonsense is ourselves. Call it a self-righteous pat on the back. You have your reward in full. Let us not get too cute for our own good.

As for Halloween , I can take it or leave it as a Christian. I am not a proponent of Christians celebrating Halloween…nor am I an antagonist against it. I neither have a desire to  “convert” Christians to participate or to abstain. I think that the guiding principle here is to recognize that anything apart from faith is sin (Rom 14.23). With this recognition in mind, I think it a worthy endeavor to consider biblical instructions that can offer us guidance and sanctuary as we seek God’s holiness while considering the issue known as Halloween.

For those opposed to celebrating Halloween I offer the following ideas to test your conscience:

  1. The issue of legalism: I say legalism because the Six Antitheses in Matthew 5 :21-48 (Sermon on the Mount) deal with what was known in Jesus’ day as the fence around the Law. The Pharisees were so concerned with NOT breaking God’s law that they built a fence around it so they wouldn’t get even close. Seems like a noble aspiration, but it is an insidious lie that gets the best Christians when we are not guarded against slavery to the sin of self righteousness. When we make flat rules such as “we are not doing Halloween so that we don’t engage in idolatry” or any similar argument we have fallen into legalism. My question here concerns the heart. Walking by faith means that we are constantly bringing the internal before God in submission and glad filled obedience. If we don’t “celebrate” Halloween due to a heart that is distant, hard, unflinching, unyielding, unavailable and doesn’t go to God asking for him to reveal our idols (that we do have) to us then we are but outwardly acting in a manner inconsistent with the Godly life.  I think that for those who abstain from Halloween this is the biggest danger.
  2. The issue of immaturity: In 1 Corinthians 8, some brothers just couldn’t get over the fact that meat slaughtered to idols didn’t mean a thing because these idols just weren’t real. Were these brothers sinning because of this? No. It just means they got stuck in their personal history. They couldn’t get past it. This is a sensitive subject because if you are the weaker brother you can’t go around holding people hostage to your issues, but if you are the mature brother you can’t beat your brother over the head with truth and call it love – it is in fact hate. The test of legalism is who are we outwardly trying to conform towards. This test of maturity asks why are we trying to look like an opposite. There are godly reasons to desire to actually be an opposite, but if we are merely trying to look like opposites so that the world knows we don’t approve then perhaps we have become our own victim.

For those celebrating Halloween I offer the following ideas to test your conscience:

  1. The issue of antinomianism: Antinomianism is the issue of people seeking to live a life full of a decadent heart filled with sin with little regard to the freedom that grace has given us in Jesus Christ (Gal 5:1). This freedom is the joy of obedience. To glibly throw off the discussion of Halloween because you are free in Christ means you are guilty of this abuse. Remember Jesus tells us that in order to enter the Kingdom of God your righteousness must surpass that of the scribes and pharisees (and trust me they looked way more righteous than you or I). We also know in John 14 that all Christians WILL obey God and lovingly act out God’s commandments in our lives with joy because we have  become sons and daughters of God. If you desire to be holy as God is holy than you must take a look at your heart’s motives for wanting to participate in Halloween.
  2. The issue of pride: The issue of pride also correlates to 1 Corinthians 8. We know that while there are some people out there that celebrate Halloween with pagan beliefs in view that a) these gods/goddesses don’t exist and b) most Americans do not celebrate Halloween from this perspective but actually treat it as whimsically as they do Christmas. So I know as I go from door to door with my kids that we are not giving any credence to any false pagan religion. I also know that nobody along with us thinks different. But I can be fooled to think that makes me the mature Christian who needs to go around “educating” my less mature brothers because they stumble on the issue of holiness. This is a trap of the worst kind. If this description sounds like you then the test is to ask, “If I had a Christian brother who stumbled over my family’s participation in Halloween would I give it up for his sake?” Halloween may be the best example of living 1 Corinthians 8 out in our lives today in America.
  3. The issue of cultural assimilation: Christians are called to be salt and light. We are to be that which makes the culture around us holy and pure. We are God’s purifying agents now, today. We must linger and consider the implications of all our actions in this regard. Again, Matthew 5:13-14 remind us that when we lose the ability to have a purify impact on those around us it is gone for good. So much is at stake. When we say things such as “pursue the Kingdom of God and the righteousness that goes with that kingdom” we are not merely throwing out a nice slogan. Our final test then should be one of not personal holiness bu the spread of God’s glory specifically through the furthering of his kingdom by the proclamation of the gospel. We must ask ourselves as we participate in Halloween if we can honestly make this connection.

Guidelines for all:

Having said all this, my family does participate in Halloween. Our primary attachment to it is that it has become an extended family tradition four years running. We go to Rachelle’s brother’s house. The two families all have only girls all the same ages who all dress like princesses. We only go among that neighborhood with neighbors that they have built a relationship. We are intentional about what they filter and process what they see. We are doing a pumpkin piñata this year and eat dinner as an extended family. It is a time of fellowship for us.

Having given these tests, there are guidelines we practice that are applicable to all.

  1. We must have guidelines and boundaries – not created out of a legalistic heart, but a desire for holiness.
  2. We should not let our kids dress up as anything nefarious. I would not let any of my kids dress up as a priest of Ra, Ashtoreth, or Baal nor will I let them dress up as a witch, or anything like a demon, Dracula, zombie, etc. These characters celebrates evil and darkness. I would argue this is one way we are different in how we enjoy Halloween.
  3. We must dialogue with our kids. Since I have all girls they don’t want to be Dracula, but they know they can’t be a witch because we DISCUSS these issues. Also, I don’t think Halloween is a clean ticket to dress your child as a whore. As my youngest constantly laments since I won’t let her go as the Little Mermaid, who is her “favorite princess – even though my daddy says she is scandalous.” We parents need to recognized that our children are exposed to the nefarious things of Halloween to some degree no matter how much we would like to prevent it. And no doubt they will have some scares and maybe even some nightmares based on what they come across. I think no matter what you decide on celebrating Halloween or not, one thing you definitely do is talk to them about the evil these things represent and help them start to filter these things now. Sometimes our silence on such things make them even more scary and powerful from the perspective of a child. It is like Harry Potter . He says the name of He-who-must-not-be-named aka Voldemort because Voldemort held no power over him (or translation – he wasn’t afraid, even though of course he was at times). Children need safe environments to wrestle with fear as we seek to protect their innocence. And even the best stories you’ll read to them have scary characters such as the White Witch from Chronicles of Narnia. For children, who still have the strength of imagination these characters can be just as scary as anything they come across on the street. Not even considering some of the frightful characters (such as Satan) we come across in Holy Writ. Some of the best lessons you can start teaching your children right now is how to handle fear in a godly manner. Not that we expose our kids on Halloween night for this reason, because we don’t, but it is indeed a good opportunity for the lesson. Remember, they are exposed to this stuff already – like when you are driving down your neighborhood street and they are looking out and seeing all the ghastly decorations people have put out.
  4. Holy Day versus special day: Halloween is not a Holy Day, but a special day (or a take it/leave it day). We would do well as Christians not to confuse the two. The two groups  who view Halloween as a pagan holiday are first, actual pagans who actively engage in specific worship that night. My understanding is that pagans do not view anything anyone else does as any sort of tribute to their gods/goddesses. In fact, they view what everyone else does as silly and trivial and totally missing their point and why they worship. The other group consists of devoted monotheists – typically Christians, who don’t believe in the pagan religions, but don’t want to give credence to them. Only they will do nothing on that night that a pagan would recognize as credence. It is akin to thinking that reading A Night Before Christmas gives credence to Jesus as the Messiah because we are reading about Santa with our kids making cookies for Santa and then waiting up for him with no tribute or reference to Jesus. Christians look at that, shake their head and say “My, my – how everyone misses the true meaning of Christmas.” So it is with Pagans and Halloween. Everyone else treats it as a fun night for bringing the stories of our children alive – mostly.
  5. Blood – I have to admit that I have a real issue with blood and so it has its own point. Some of my Christian siblings would agree on not dressing up as a priestess of Aphrodite because those people existed, but not concerning vampires, werewolves, zombies and other modern-day fictional horror characters. My issue with these characters has to do with blood. I think we don’t take blood seriously enough today in our church culture. We are too quick to forget that Hebrews 9:22  “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” (Heb 9:22). This is a two pronged concern. First, I think that it is hard enough to get people in American culture to recognize the need for the spilling of Jesus’ blood in order for our sins to be forgiven. It is hard because we struggle connecting justice and holiness together meaning we don’t understand why blood must be spilled. Secondly, we as Christians have become a little whimsical on this most sacred idea. We should learn well the Israelites’ lesson in Judges. Each extending circle of repetition in sin and ignorance became greater and greater. Will our cavalier attitude of the spilling of blood today result in our children’s denial of its requirement tomorrow? And I can think of no other example in which Christians make blood and its spilling a thing of small consequence than on Halloween.
June 18, 2010

Father’s Day for Dummies

Loooovvveee Father’s Day! Don’t you? Breakfast in bed. Cards from smiling ladies as we shuffle out to church. Come home to find a little lady bringing me my slippers. Watch something sporty – even if the only thing on is NASCAR. Fall asleep in my lazy boy recliner while someone tucks me in as another someone lifts my head and gently puts a pillow underneath. Wake up two hours later to discover four wrapped presents right there before my eyes. I tear up as I rip through the first one and discover a miter saw hidden below. I turn to the second one, which is a box of Romeo y Julieta Reserve Maduros. I flick a match and puff on its wonderful earthiness as billowing smoke envelopes everyone in the room. I shred the third one to discover a collection  of my most coveted books on my wish list. As I sigh in great pleasure a nice toasty cup of chicory coffee is placed in my hand (that’s the fourth present) as I begin to read. Not a peep I hear until “I love you” is gently whispered in my ear as the call to dinner. Beef tenderloin and cheesecake wrap up a delightful evening with the children tucking themselves into bed as they blow kisses to me from down the hall. Soooo relaxing.

Does this sound like your kind of Father’s Day? Well, then…WAKE UP! Men, here is your pep talk going into the weekend. This may come as a shocker to you but Father’s Day is not for you. Well, at least, it shouldn’t be for you. It is for your children. This Sunday is another chance for you to reevaluate the way you spend your time with your children. They need you. I’m not talking about “they need you at work bringing home money” or “they need to know you’re in the same building as them.” No, what I’m talking about is that they need to know that you care about them in a way they understand love and affection from their daddy as it is weaved into their identity. This means undistracted time doing things with them that they want to do.

Think about two possible scenarios:

Scenario #1: You have been selfish as a dad every Father’s Day as described in my opening paragraph. Twenty years from now you look back and will remember how many of them? How many gifts? How many dinners? My guess – none.

Scenario #2: You have spent real unadulterated quality time with your children. You look back in 20 years and you remember details of giggles, smiles, laughs, hugs and kisses that blur into a wholesome memory. Better yet, you realize that by changing your focus on Father’s Day you began a habit of working at communicating love to your children in a way they understood. Your relationship with them is decidedly better for it.

Now consider these two scenarios from another perspective:

Scenario #1: Your children look back after 20 years of Father’s Day with disdain. No fond memories. No real reason to celebrate having a daddy. A day when daddy took full advantage of what he did every day the rest of the year – tell them how unimportant they were by the way that he spent his free time. Specifically, they weren’t worth his time or energy. If he did spend time with them it was only doing things he wanted to do; never what they wanted to do.  They swear that when they have kids they will never make the same mistake.

Scenario #2: Your children look back with fond memories of detailed adventures and ice cream escipades where the world was conquered in a day by them and their daddy. They share stories of joy to the smallest details to their children on future Father’s Day as they relive in their own heart how their daddy loved them deeply. How thankful they are for those constant messages of affirmation.

How many children this weekend will be looking for their daddy’s love and he will be too self-absorbed to notice. Don’t be that guy.

So, come up with a plan. Figure out a way to spend the day with your children that communicates what a prize they are to you.  If you need an idea, here is what I do: I take each girl out separately during the day. They each get to pick something special that we do alone for at least an hour. This year one has asked to go to breakfast with me. We will be eating at IHOP before church. Another has requested that we go to Appleby’s for fries and ice cream – that sounds like a yummy snack. The third is still deliberating. My ladies know my stomach and heart are attached! But these things are just a medium. I have a plan on our outings. I have specific statements I’m going to make during our time together. I will tell them

  • “I love your personality” – and I will mention something about their personality I want to encourage.
  • “You are so beautiful” – and I will focus on their image.
  • “You bring joy to my life” – and I will tell them how.

and I have specific questions for them to:

  • “What makes you happy?”
  • “What do you like to think about?”
  • “What is your favorite thing about your sisters and mommy?”

and then I say to them:

  • “Don’t ever forget that daddy loves you. I’m not perfect. You know that. How many times have I said sorry to you? Too many times. But God is the perfect Daddy. I hope you take days like this and it helps you think about how God is.”

These questions are meant to take us into all sorts of interesting places. I never know where we are going to go with these questions and statements because I don’t know what they are thinking. That is why I ask and state the things I do – so I can hear how they process and where they are coming from. You are the only expert your children need when it comes to a daddy’s love. Just give it a shot.

June 16, 2010

A Commemorative Psalm

Last week as we celebrated our anniversary one of the things Rachelle and I discussed was which Bible verse had become our motto in our first nine years of marriage. We wondered what tomorrow will bring for our next chapter in life, which verses would we turn to for strength, comfort, guidance, wisdom, instruction, disciplining, rebuking, edification and the maturing process in general. It will be fun in ten years to turn again and consider the landscape. But for now I offer a psalm (which we did not discuss) that gives me great comfort as I consider the last mountain range of our life. I wonder why God doesn’t just call it “Israel & Rachelle’s biography.” Of course I know the answer. The answer is it is every Christian’s biography.

So with my precious lady primarily in mind I translated this psalm and edited it in a way that reflects the poetic nature of wisdom literature. Unfortunately, WordPress is not letting me insert all my formatting wants, but for what it is – Enjoy!

Psalm 31

1To the director, a melody of David.

2In You, O LORD, I seek refuge.
Never let me be ashamed;
in Your blameless ways deliver me.
3Turn Your ear toward me!
Quickly rescue me!
Be to me –
– a boulder of refuge
– a mountain fortress
to save me!
4For You are my rock
and my fortress so that for Your Name You lead me,
and  You  guide me.
5 You bring me out from the net they hid for me
for You are my refuge.
6Into your hand I entrust my spirit;
You ransomed me, O LORD God of truth.
7 I hate those who regard empty vanities,
But I trust in the LORD.

8I will shout
And rejoice in Your faithful love for You see my affliction
And You know the distress of my soul.
9 You have not delivered me to the hand of my enemy;
You set my feet in open spaces.
10Show me unearned favor, O LORD, for I am hard pressed;
I am weak from grief –
– my eye
– my spirit
– and my bosom.
11 For my life is spent with sorrow,
and my years in sighing,
my strength staggers because of my guilt,
and my bones waste away.

12Due to all my enemies I have become
a reproach even to my neighbor,
A great dread even to my friends,
Passersby on the street flee from me,
13 I am forgotten,
Like I am dead,
Out of thought,
I am a ruined vessel.
14For I hear the malicious whispers of many,
terror all around,
as they sit united against me.
as they purpose to take my life.

15But I, I trust in You, O LORD.
I say, “You are my God.”
16In Your hand are my times.
Snatch me from the hand of my enemies
and from my persecutors!
17 Cause Your face to shine upon your slave!
Deliver me by Your faithful love!
18O LORD, let me not be ashamed for I call upon You!
Let the wicked be ashamed!
Let them be struck silent in Sheol!
19 Let the lying lips be mute of those who speak arrogantly against the righteous in pride and contempt.
20How great is Your goodness which You stockpile for those who fear You.
And You work for the refugees who come to you,
which the children of man witness.
21 You hide them with the covering of your face from the plots of man.
You store them in shelter away from the strife of tongues.

22 Blessed be the LORD for He wondrously displays His faithful love to me while in a city under siege.
23I had said in my alarm “I am cut from Your presence.”
But you heard the sound of my supplication when I cried out to you.
24Love the LORD all you His saints!
For the LORD preserves the faithful ones
but he repays in abundance the one who acts in pride.
25 Be strong! Let your hearts be bold, all you who wait upon the LORD!

June 9, 2010

My Most Famous Recipe of All

I like to call this recipe IT HAS BEEN A GREAT NINE YEARS BEAUTIFUL LADY.

Recipe follows:

Ingredients:

3 parts princesses
1 part Hurricane Katrina
1 Part Fiasco at Festus
1 Part Job Loss
6-7 Parts Cars
1 miscarriage
2 willing servants
1 Awesome God

Cooking instructions:

Take two willing servants and bake into cohesive mold with Awesome God. Take out of oven and add two cars. While still warm add miscarriage. Continue to hold steady with Awesome God. while cooling add another car and two princesses. Mix in blender with Hurricane Katrina. Take out of blender using Awesome God. Form should still be in mold as held together by Awesome God. Add another car and another princess. Throw into food processor and dice with Fiasco at Festus. Do silly dance of praise because food processor can’t put asunder what Awesome God has put together. Add another car, mix with job loss, bake for nine years, take out of oven and add another car. Recipe calls for many more years of exciting ingredients to be added, proceed with joy.

Thanks for the wonderful years my sweet lady. Dare I say I can’t wait to see what God has in store for us next. Love you bunches.

June 1, 2010

Hallowed Grounds | PBS

A day late, but worth watching! Not sure when PBS will be showing this again, but it a great 1 hour history reminder of the heroes we should be toasting on Memorial Day. This holiday we take for granted is a testimony in itself to those who have made the greatest of sacrifices for freedom, both here and abroad.  I might have to make this part of our annual memorial day celebrations. Just a thought. Check out the trailer.

May 23, 2010

Today is Pentecost

The second most important day to commemorate in early Christianity after Resurrection Sunday was Pentecost. How I lament the loss of this celebration of the giving of the Holy Spirit to every individual believer in contemporary times. But there is nothing to stop us in our families to celebrate this day.

Here are two resources that perhaps get you thinking about the Holy Spirit.

An article on the Holy Spirit by R.C. Sproul

More developed thoughts on the Holy Spirit by John Owen.

May 8, 2010

For The Sweet Mother In My Life On This Joyous and Momentous Mother’s Day

Dear cherished lovely Lady of whose value the world cannot esteem or estimate for you are truly beyond being some mundane mathematical equation (such as 2+2=4)  but rather are more like an esoteric mathematical investigation that promises to carry on into oblivion (like Fermat’s Last Theorem, only that was solved after 300 years so maybe more like the Navier-Stokes Equation(s)),

I am glad for another Mother’s Day to be  upon us. It forces me, yet again,  to pause as I consider this stupendous day that annually commemorates your impact on my life as well as the life of others. Not that I mind taking a break of thinking about me .  You, my  dear, are such a prized treasure of great worth that the word that comes to mind is…overpriced? No, that’s not it. You know how bad with words I am. So funny.  I do have an equation I’m working on to determine your value. Basically the way it works is I subtract a little of my worth (just a bit) and viola – there you go! The problem is I can’t seem to figure out a precise value to myself since I’m so unique and precious. (Sigh) It is so hard not to talk about me, but back to you. I want to linger on that word “impact” for once second. Impact does not equate to bruising. No more – please.  Just try to take a break today; after all, it is Mother’s Day. You need to give your five favorite knuckles a rest.

I’m so glad to be celebrating your day today. It’s not as though the rest of the year isn’t dedicated to you. What’s that? Oh, right. The rest of the year IS  dedicated to you. Why am I even bothering with this crummy letter?  You’re the lucky one. Consider the evidence. (Ahem, over hear…a little farther…there! Stop.) Me – I’m talking about me.  I am the bomb. It is so hard being this good. Now that I have your attention let me tell you – Not sure how I stay humble. Did I tell you the Social Security Office contacted me to change my first name legally to Bomb kinda like what Miley Cyrus did or how all tissue paper is now called Kleenex. When being the bomb is so synonymous with your entire existence it is hard to understand why it took Social Security so long to request a hearing from my honorable presence. They even passed a law for when I go out into public. Notice how it is  against the law to proclaim my entering any location by exclaiming “Bomb!” No one wants a stampede of pandemonium as the common people push each other aside to rub shoulders with me or wipe the sweat off my brow or get a signature on a Michael Jordan Jersey (cause I’m the best – that’s why). To the Bourgeoisie, I’m here for you…and you…and you (Yes, I’m actually pointing to my imaginary fans). I love you all. You all have been so great! (Blowing kisses).

The more I think about myself the more I realize how lucky you are this mothers day.  In fact, I am such a blessing I HAVE TO broaden the scope of this lllooovvveee  letter. I’m so good, and there is too much goodness here for any  one person  so clearly my adoration is too much for one person to handle. My care and sensitivity for you prevents me from allowing the radiance of my love for you to overwhelm you or you will  lose yourself in me. The only way to prevent this danger  is for me to share me. It is the hard, but sacrificial thing.  So to all the lovely ladies in my life…What?!? I was thinking of my mother and OUR children. How could …never mind.  Just more proof that all you ladies are so lucky to have me in your life. Yes, my dear, you did well.

Now, a prize like myself has a myriad of ways to communicate my appreciation, love and affection for a precious jewel like you but there is no better present than myself. So I’ve determined this Mother’s Day we are going to celebrate your special day with a theme that constantly reminds you of me. Just think “the bomb.” I think I’ll start in the kitchen…

You are welcome to have married me my dear,

The Bomb

P.S. I’ve left a map at the bottom of the sink for you. With luck you will find your way out.

April 3, 2010

Saturdays are for Stories…Easter Style