A Fair, Unbiased, and Slightly Grumpy Review Of Christmas Songs

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It is no secret that I can be a bit of grump when it comes to getting in the “Christmas spirit”. Maybe it’s because my heart is two times too small. Maybe it’s because I’m traumatized from the time our Christmas tree fell over when we were out doing festive things. Maybe it’s because going to the mall during the Christmas season is like getting caught up in a wildebeest stampede (I feel for you Simba).

Or maybe it has to do with Christmas music. Let me explain.

Little Drummer Boy

I honestly can’t figure out how this song, written in 1941, got accepted into the canon of acceptable Christmas songs. What does newborn baby Jesus need most? Sleep? Food? A warm, peaceful environment? Nope! A loud drum solo! What does Mary need after spending hours in labor? A drum line! I’m pretty sure Mary would have taken the drum and smashed it over the head of the little drummer boy if he had really tried to pull off a drum solo in the stable. And don’t get me started on the ox and lamb “keeping time” with the drums. What is this? Narnia? I’m surprised a centaur didn’t play a harmonica solo.

White Christmas

I like this song, especially when it’s sung by Bing Crosby. And I too used to yearn for a white, snowy Christmas. Then the Polar Freakin’ Vortex happened, and we had an Antarctic Christmas. At one point I actually had to cut open a camel and sleep in it, much like Han Solo had to do in The Empire Strikes Back. Now I live in Florida and am looking forward to a 70 degree, flip-flops and shorts Christmas.

Baby It’s Cold Outside

Can we all just agree that this is the creepiest Christmas song ever written? At one point the woman says, “What’s in this drink?” Enough said.

Joy To The World

This is probably my favorite Christmas song, even though it’s actually about the return of Christ, not the birth of Christ. Don’t believe me? Take a closer look at the lyrics. No more let sins and sorrows reign. When does this actually happen? When Christ returns. Nor thorns infest the ground. When God cursed the earth, part of the curse involved thorns infesting the ground, making the ground hard to work. When Christ returns, all effects of sin will finally be removed, including the thorns that infest the ground. He comes to make his blessings flow, far as the curse is found. The curse of sin is over the entire earth. Only when Christ returns will he make his blessings flow as far as the curse is found. I can’t wait for Christ to return and bring his joy to all the earth.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

The moral of this song is that the way to beat bullies is to make friends with the boss, be a suck-up, and then get promoted. That seems about right to me.

The Christmas Shoes

Take this sharp stick. Now, please ram that stick into my eye. Repeatedly.

Santa Claus Is Coming To Town

He sees me when I’m sleeping, he knows when I’m awake. Apparently Santa has invested some serious cash into surveillance technology. Either that or Santa works for the CIA. Perhaps Santa should have worked with Sarah Koenig on the Serial podcast. Then we’d actually know what happened. Back off Santa. We’ve got privacy laws in this country, and even you’re not above the law. Creeper.

Feliz Navidad

Americans are often accused of only caring about America. This song is proof that we are actually very multi-cultural. Not only do we sing our songs in English, we also sing them in Mexican.

Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer

Props to this song for at least being honest. We all love being with our families on Christmas day, but there are times when we wish one of our family members would get run over by a reindeer. Surely I’m not the only who feels this way? Right? RIGHT?!?!

Egg Nog

While not technically a Christmas song, egg nog is often associated with Christmas. Whoever created egg nog must also have a serious propaganda team working for him. Because honestly, it tastes like blended play-doh. Or, as Barnabas said, like nutmeg flavored mucus.

Okay, now that I’ve officially ruined Christmas for everyone, have a merry Christmas!

Fresh Friday Quote

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Each Friday I will share a quote I appreciate. It might be long or short. It might be funny or thought provoking.

Oh! But he was a tight- fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self- contained, and solitary as an oyster. The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shrivelled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyes red, his thin lips blue; and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice.

A frosty rime was on his head, and on his eyebrows, and his wiry chin. He carried his own low temperature always about with him; he iced his office in the dog- days; and didn’t thaw it one degree at Christmas. External heat and cold had little influence on Scrooge. No warmth could warm, no wintry weather chill him. No wind that blew was bitterer than he, no falling snow was more intent upon its purpose, no pelting rain less open to entreaty. Foul weather didn’t know where to have him. The heaviest rain, and snow, and hail, and sleet, could boast of the advantage over him in only one respect. They often “came down” handsomely, and Scrooge never did.

Charles DickensA Christmas Carol

Is Worry Always A Sin?

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Is worry always a sin? Perhaps that seems like an obvious question. “Do not be anxious about anything” (Phil 4:6). Next question?

But wait. Is that all the Bible teaches on worry: just stop it? That’s a simple answer, but it doesn’t map well onto the complexities of life. If your spouse is seriously ill and you’re not concerned, or if your child’s salvation means no more to you than tomorrow’s weather forecast, something is wrong. Worry goes right along with compassion and genuine love. The same Paul who wrote “Do not be anxious” also said of he faced “the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches” (2 Cor. 11:28). He loved his churches, and that love carried with it the pressure of anxiety for their welfare. And in Philippians, before he commands us not to be anxious, Paul commends Timothy because he is “genuinely concerned” for the welfare of the Philippians (Phil. 2:20), using the same word for concern/anxiety that he uses in 4:6. So which is it: a sin, or something commendable?

Let’s go back to 2 Cor. for the answer. In 11:28 Paul mentions his daily anxiety, but it’s not the first time he describes this experience. Back in chapter 1 he’s already alluded to something similar: “For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead” (1:8-9). That last line is crucial: being burdened was meant to make Paul rely not on himself but on God. And there’s our answer. Sinful worry is a care that you carry instead of casting on God. “Godly worry,” if we can call it that, is running to your Heavenly Father with all the things that are beyond your abilities.

You can’t live in a sinful world without facing worrisome things. And you especially cannot love without being genuinely concerned with the real needs of real people. Those worries, burdens, and cares are meant to lead you to God. When you turn instead to your own resources – planning, scheming, fretting, attempting to control – you’re sinning. When you turn to God, worries and cares become opportunities to rest in your Heavenly Father’s care.

Photo by Evil Erin

Facing The Impossible? A Christmas Reminder For You…

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Christmas reminds us of many things about God. It reminds us of his love for us and the lengths he went to in sending his Son to save us. Christmas also reminds us of how God chooses the lowly. It also reminds us that God is faithful to keep his promises. But one of the greatest reminders at Christmas is that nothing is impossible with God.

The angel Gabriel told Mary that she would experience the impossible. She would miraculously conceive and bear a child while still a virgin.

And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” LK 1:31-33

To conceive a child without a man’s involvement is impossible. But God created the laws of nature and he can circumvent them if he chooses. Not only would Mary miraculously conceive a child, but he would be God – “the Son of the Most High.” But wait, there’s more:

“And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” (36-37)

Elizabeth had conceived a son “in her old age”. She was “advanced in years” (Luke 1:7), well past the time anyone could get pregnant. But she was. Because God is the God of the impossible.

Nothing will be impossible with God.

Not only is it physically impossible for a virgin or an elderly woman to conceive a child, but it is completely impossible for us to come to God on their own. Unless God changes our hearts, we’ll never come to him. For we are born in sin, at enmity with God, hostile to him. We have no interest in him, no taste or desire for him.  It is also impossible on God’s end for sinners to come to him, unless something happens. For he is infinitely holy and will not tolerate sin in his presence. No one can stand in the presence of the Consuming Fire unless they are sinless and perfectly righteous. He is high and lifted up and dwells in the holy of holies, where no one stained by sin can possibly enter.

But nothing is impossible with God. He changes the hearts of those who despise him and gives saving faith to those who don’t believe in him. He causes those who love sin to hunger and thirst for righteousness. He makes the proud humble. He washes filthy sinners clean and clothes them with the righteousness of Christ. He makes those who disdain him long for him with a pure and holy passion.

“For nothing will be impossible with God.”

Are you facing an impossible situation? Do you see no earthly way it can change? Maybe it’s a family member who seems too far gone to save. Or an impossible financial situation. Remember Jesus fed 5000 and 7000 from a few fish and loaves of bread. He spoke to typhoons and calmed winds and waves. When he needed money for the temple tax he sent Peter fishing and he caught a fish with a coin in its mouth.

Maybe you’re ensnared by sin and can’t quit.  Maybe you’ve been sick for years. Keep asking, knocking seeking. Don’t give up! Nothing is too hard for our God. Nothing is impossible to him. Who knows, this may be the Christmas he answers your prayers.

The 5 Best Books I Read in 2014

These are the books I enjoyed most in the last year. Each of them has had left deeper grooves on my brain and life than any others I read in the same time span. And I enjoyed them all immensely for various reasons.

In no particular order:

4443801) The Princess and Curdie
by George MacDonald

This is actually the sequel to The Princess And The Goblin, but I liked it more. Macdonald is a story teller who influenced Tolkien, Lewis, and Sayers. If you can do that you very clearly can weave a tale worth reading.

 

 

 

Steve_Jobs_by_Walter_Isaacson2) Steve Jobs
by Walter Isaacson

Good biographies are hard to write, as evidenced by how many boring ones there are. Isaacson managed to keep my attention for all 800 (or however many) pages. It helps that Jobs is one of the most fascinating and influential people of the past century. He is not a man to emulate, but he is one we can learn from.

 

 

 

A1nWrSmfRNL._SL1500_3) Facing Leviathan
by Mark Sayers

Leadership books usually aren’t very artful. More often they’re pithy statements connected by chains of principles and lists of to-dos. Sayers turns that on its head with remarkable tapestry of culture, history, theology, personal testimony, and leadership lessons. It is actually a captivating read.

 

 

 

914gSQJSwGL._SL1500_4) The Man Called Cash
by Steve Turner

Johnny Cash is simply one of the most interesting, complex people I have ever read about. This book wasn’t the best written, but the subject was so interesting it kept me turning pages. I became interested in Cash because I love his music and the more I learned of his life, struggles, and faith the more interested I became.

 

 

 

51Ebr46zn0L5) The Effective Executive
by Peter Drucker

When I read Drucker’s classic book I realized where so many other leadership and management books got their ideas. In fact, Driuckers principles are ingrained into leadership literature today most people couldn’t pick them out as his. I recommend this book to anyone – pastor, CEO, entrepreneur, inner aspiring to lead, mid level manager – who has or seeks responsibility over others. Wonderful resource.

 

Athletes and Influence: What Is Their Responsibility?

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From my latest post at WorldMag.com:

“I’m not a role model . . . Just because I can dunk a basketball doesn’t mean I should raise your kids.”

Charles Barkley, known for his bluntness and candor, famously said the above during his NBA playing days. And he was absolutely right—at least his sentiment was. His skill on the hardwood should make no difference as to how he is viewed as a person and should have no influence on anyone. He should be recognized for his playing ability and appreciated as such. It’s that simple.

Except that it’s not.

In reality, athletes (and all celebrities) carry great influence into many areas of life. They popularize fashions, normalize language, and exemplify ethical and moral standards. While we’d be wise to downplay this influence in our own lives there’s no denying its cultural power. But it does raise the question: Do athletes have a responsibility to use their position to change culture?

The short answer is “No,” at least not explicitly. Professional athletes are famous for their performance in competitions and are primarily focused on their work, just as you and I are focused on our vocations. Most people expect nothing more than that for them to be decent. But that does ignore the tacit influence they do hold. Just by being decent people, by wearing a pinstriped vest, or by playing certain music, they make a difference. No, celebrities do not have a responsibility to do or be any more than anyone else. But when they choose to do so, the impact is massive.

. . . intentional, clear statements turn an athlete’s platform into a mighty tool. They reach more people with a message in less time than just about anyone. The media takes notice. Fans watch. And they raise awareness and kick-start conversations. The ripple effect is enormous.

. . .

Read the full post HERE.

photo credit: Dave Malkoff via photopin cc

Encouragement From Seekers Who Found Something Greater Than They Could Imagine

seek and you will findGod promises that if we seek him with all our heart we will find him. I believe this message will encourage you to keep seeking God. God seeks us first and desires to bless us more than we desire to be blessed. So keep asking, seeking and knocking.

You can listen to this message here:

http://www.sgcindianapa.org/media.php?pageID=6