Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

I don't know these two hotties but it looks like they know how to celebrate with the best of 'em! May you ring in the new year with great anticipation for a prosperous 2010 and may this new year bring you:
  • peace,
  • good health,
  • enough (not necessarily wealth),
  • happiness,
  • contentment,
  • new friendships, and
  • a deeper relationship with the God who has already seen tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A Dose of Humility

Remember those motivational posters that we used to see in the workplace that were designed to inspire and challenge us?  There are companies that parody them and one of those companies, Despair Inc.,  allows you to create your own posters.  I took one of their sayings that I liked and created this one because I thought I needed to keep it's message in front of me.  A little dose of humility goes a long way and is a good thing.

The Apostle Paul cautions us about that BIG HEAD thing in Romans 12:3 NIV.  It's not that I have a big head because I'm one of the bizillions of bloggers out there (Site Meter and Google Analytics do a good job of keeping my head out of the clouds) but I do need to keep in mind that I've deposited only a very modest amount of real U.S. currency into my bank account this fall from my new writing career.  None of the income has come directly from my blog but this blog has most certainly served as the incubator for my writing.  Twenty-ten will be the "make or break" year for my writing career so stay tuned!

What areas of your life need a little "reality check" from time-to-time?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

"Who are her people?"

You know that you live in the South when, after announcing that your son is engaged to be married, your sister responds, "How exciting!  Who are her people?"  You have to read that quote with a slow, thick  Southern accent to really appreciate it.  In her defense, Gail does live in Montgomery (the natives pronounce it  Mun gum ree), Alabama, the original capital of the confederacy.  I'm a proud Southerner but even I shake my head at some of the things that we say.  We mean well but I can only imagine how others perceive us. 

I haven't yet decided how I will answer my sister's question because I want to come up with a witty come-back.   Her query, however, does the beg the question, "Who are your people? To whom do you belong?" 

How would you answer the question, "Who are your people?"

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Negotiating the dowry

Today is the day that our son's fiancee and her parents will come to visit for a couple of days.  I don't have much experience with this but I think this is when we negotiate the dowry.  We're hoping for a nice herd of goats. 

Friday, December 25, 2009

Shhhhhhhh . . . it's Christmas morning

It's Christmas morning.  It's quiet and I like that.  I liked it when my kids were little and Christmas morning was anything but quiet, too.  Only one of our sons is with us this year but that change is the nature of a family as it grows.  Julia and I each have a surviving parent who will be with us later today. That, too, is part of the changing of the seasons of our lives.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from our house to yours!
Christmas day is just hours away now.  We celebrate Christmas in a very traditional way here, reading Luke's account of the birth of Christ, exchanging gifts with family, and eating way too much good food!  Some of that has changed over the last couple of years as one of our sons has married and he and his wife alternate this holiday with both of their families.  That, too, may change in time.  Our other son will be married by this time next year so we will continue to see the family tradition evolve as the family expands.  I was thinking back to the first year that Julia and I told our parents that we would not be at one of their homes for Christmas.  Our older son was a year and a half old then and we wanted him to experience Santa Claus at his house from that point forward.  Our decision was a catalyst for change in each of our families' Christmas traditions.  I'm not so sure that they liked it at the time but they respected (or at least quietly tolerated) our decision to begin celebrating at our own home.  As best I remember, we've spent every Christmas of our sons' childhood at our own home.  The only time that we were away from here at Christmas was the occasion of the 50th wedding anniversary of my wife's parents and the boys were teenagers (or older) then.  The house that you see pictured at the top of this page is the house we have lived in for the past 25 years and is the only home that either of our sons remember.  It's their place of Christmas memories.  

There's nothing magic about our Christmas tradition or yours, for that matter.  I don't envy your traditions and I don't expect you to envy mine.   I only hope that all of us will be able to reflect on our Christmas memories and smile.  I hope that we will be able to remember them as good times, not stressful times. And more than anything else, I hope that all of us will remember that we celebrate this day because of a God who would rather have died than lived without us.  

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Meet our future daughter-in-law!

The Summerlins got an early Christmas present when our older son, Zack popped the BIG QUESTION on Tuesday!   

Meet our future daughter-in-law, Laura Cassels!  Zack & Laura are students at Florida State University who will graduate with Masters degrees in Social Work (different sub-specialties) this next summer.  Both of them returned to graduate school after working for a few years and met there last year.

We've enjoyed getting to know Laura and her family over this last year and the better we've gotten to know her, the more we realize that she and Zack are very well suited for one another.  Laura is funny and fun-loving and we look forward to welcoming her as part of our quirky family!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Advent Conspiracy

This year I've been re-thinking Christmas, how we celebrate it, and what that says about what I believe.  This video from The Advent Conspiracy is a good picture of what I've been thinking.

Monday, December 21, 2009

YOU are the reason for the season

Christians spend a lot of time reminding us at this time of year that "Jesus is the reason for the season."  It makes for a nice bumper sticker but the truth of the matter is that YOU are the reason for the season.  Now before you get all riled-up and threaten to burn me at the stake, hear me out.  As much as I'd like to claim credit for this statement, it's not original with me.  I heard Mark Price, Senior Pastor of Church on the Eastern Shore,  preach a message on this topic several years ago but he tells me it was not original with him, either.  Beyond that, I don't know who crafted the phrase but I do know Who crafted the idea.  (Hint: Who is capitalized.) The idea is articulated many times in scripture but no other passage is more familiar than John 3:16 which tells us that it was because of God's great love for YOU that He made a way for us to be reconciled to Him through the sacrifice of His Son.  So you see, if it weren't for God's desire for a relationship with YOU, there would have been no need for Jesus to be born, there would be no Christmas and thus YOU are the reason for the season. It all hinges on YOU.  Kinda cool, isn't it?  This whole big celebration every year is really all about YOU . . .YOU and a God who would rather have died than live without YOU.

Now that's something to celebrate!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Give this Christmas away

In yesterday's post I wrote of how receiving gifts is not my primary love language.  So as not to be misunderstood, let me say that the giving of gifts is something entirely different for me and I fully understand how meaningful a gift is to some people.  Listen to this song by Matthew West & Amy Grant from the soundtrack of the latest VeggieTales video and watch the faces of the children receiving gifts sent by people like you via Operation Christmas Child.  I think you'll see what I mean.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Why receiving Christmas gifts has little meaning to me

Lately, I've been struggling about how we celebrate Christmas and it finally came to me that at least part of the problem is that receiving gifts is not my primary love language.  If you're familiar with Gary Chapman's book, The Five Love Languages, you know that he says that there are 5 primary love languages:
  1. Words of affirmation
  2. Quality time
  3. Receiving gifts
  4. Acts of service, and
  5. Physical touch.

If receiving gifts is not your primary love language, then this whole Christmastime gift-giving bonanza is gonna be lost on you.  It's not that I don't appreciate the gesture of gift-giving at all, it's just not very important to me and it doesn't scream I LOVE YOU to me like it does to some people.  Realizing that, I began to think about what is my primary love language and concluded that it's actually acts of service. When my wife helps me tackle an unpleasant job like cleaning the basement or balancing my mother's checkbook, I hear, "I love you" loud and clear.  When my sons travel 4 hours one way to spend a Saturday helping me clean out the brush that's grown up along the fence line of the yard, haul in straw and leaves to mulch the flowerbeds, and dig holes to plant trees and shrubs, I hear, "I love you" loud and clear.  When someone presents me with a beautifully wrapped package containing an article of clothing, the latest electronic gizmo, or a book and even if it's something I will like and use, I just feel awkward.  I wish I didn't, but I do.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

My Favorite Christmas Tree

We have a large, beautifully decorated Leland Cypress Christmas tree in our house.  Our family went out together and cut the tree on the weekend following Thanksgiving and I've been faithfully watering it ever since.  It stands 9 feet tall and holds the ornaments that we've collected over the 35 years that Julia and I have been married and the ones that our two sons made through-out their childhood. This tree has colored lights strung around it and a black angel with pig-tails on top that was made by my college roommate and his wife.  It represents many good memories for us but we also have one like this one pictured to the right.  I think this is the one that's my favorite because it keeps things in perspective for me.  And this is a time of the year when it's very easy to lose focus.

How do you keep focused during the Christmas season?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Fa la la la la . . . SHUT UP!

I don't have much patience with people who fret over what their spiritual gifts are because I think they miss a lot of opportunities by doing so.  Scripture gives us a peek at what those gifts may be in 1Corinthians 12:7-11 NLT.  I've taken at least 3 spiritual gifts assessments and none of them have yielded what I would describe as enlightening results.  I'm of the school that says, "Try something.  If you're good at it and it yields a good outcome then it may just be your spiritual gift."  If you find that you're not good at, say "giving wise advice", then leave that job to someone who is and continue the search for the gift that God has given you. I'm also a believer that if you dedicate yourself to doing something on the mistaken notion that it's your spiritual gift and it's not, God will smack you down, if necessary.  That  may be one of the things illustrated in the case of the chicken in this cartoon.  Of course, another point of this cartoon was just that the chicken was going to wake up baby Jesus with all that noise.  If I were to be so tone deaf as to think that singing was my spiritual gift for building up the Body of Christ, I think God would not hesitate to send the same Angel of the Lord  to appear before me and saith unto me  . . . "SHUT UP!"  OK, I know that singing (or clucking, as the case may be) is not specifically identified as a spiritual gift but I think you get the point.  We can trust God to redirect us if we are earnestly and sincerely seeking Him but head off in the wrong direction.  We just need to consistently  listen for His voice and be willing to take a "smack-down", if necessary.

Do you sometimes struggle to identify your spiritual gifts?  If so, has God ever had to smack you down?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

It's our first anniversary!

Today is the first anniversary of this blog!  After 12 months and 122 posts, the blog and I are still together. I can't speak for the blog (or maybe I can?) but it's been a good experience for me.  I've had an opportunity to explore and write on a number of different topics but admit that I'm still trying to find my voice.  This blog has been the birthplace of articles that have subsequently been published in 3 magazines (and soon-to-be in a 4th). 

Here are some of the surprises about blogging for me:

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

"If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it . . . "

A friend invited me to be a guest on his radio show last week to talk about blogging.  I have to confess that although I agreed to do the interview, I wasn't looking forward to it because I am, by nature, an introvert.  It was a one hour segment, he did a great job as an interviewer and host, and I actually had fun!  Here's the kicker:  after the show, we discovered that there was a glitch and the show failed to stream to his website, failed to record for a later podcast and apparently failed to broadcast over the air!  When I realized this, all I could think of was, "If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?"   Here I was worrying about someone hearing me fall and there was no one in the forest to hear it!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Drops Like Stars - a book review

Even though it's a beautifully and creatively illustrated and constructed coffee table style book, at $35 suggested retail, a book that you can read in 30 minutes seems kinda pricey. However, Rob Bell's newest book, Drops Like Stars is worth every penny!  After just finishing it, I still struggle to describe what it's really about.  It's not a story, although it contains stories.  It's not a discourse on scripture, although it contains scripture.  It's not a how-to-live book, although I feel  like I know better how-to-live my life after having read it.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Season's Greetings! . . . the battle heats up

I'm taking off the gloves, but in a good way.  I don't know about you but I'm weary of the annual battle about holiday greetings this time of year and I'm ready to take off the gloves and lay them down.  I'm a Christian and I celebrate Christmas but here's a news flash for you:  Not everybody is and not everybody does.  While I will continue to affirm my beliefs by wishing people a Merry Christmas, I think that as Christians, we undermine our own cause by practically insisting that all others use the same greeting and insinuating that anything other than Merry Christmas is an insult to Christianity.  It's as though Happy Holidays have become fightin' words!  In this season of the year, many other faiths also celebrate significant spiritual events and they have that right as do I.  If my Jewish friends want to wish me a Happy Hanukkah, I will graciously accept that greeting.  If the Seinfeld  groupies want to wish me a Happy Festivus for the Rest of Us, so be it.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The 13 Best Things About the Recession of 2009

Who said that this recession is all bad?  Not me!  There's an upside to the effects of the recession that we've been experiencing of late and, as a casualty of that recession, here's my personal take on a few of them:
  1. After 35 years, I get a break from working a 40-50 hour/week job. Not a permanent break, mind you, but a much-appreciated temporary break.
  2. My wife has an excellent new housekeeper (me) who already knows where everything is in the house because I've lived in this house with her for the past 25 years (and I work cheap!)
  3. I don't have a 64 mile round-trip daily commute to get to work. The distance to work is the distance from the bed to the floor, roughly 25 inches.