Snow Day

Snow day today. Ice, sleet, snow coming down in Tulsa. School’s out. Three children home. Started with breakfast and the “Snow Day Talk” about how everyone’s going to get along. So far only one sister to sister confrontation that was resolved with chores and five Scriptures they picked about how they ought to treat one another.

Went outside with our seven-year-old son and ten-year-old daughter and tied the sled to the bike and rode around until the rope broke from rubbing on the tire, then we found a hill to do some sledding, but it’s bitter cold and windy so had to come in before frostbite set in.

Snow days are good times to catch up on Sports Illustrated (me) and Sudoku (anyone but me) and talking to each other (all of us) and phone calls (got a ZOE Fresno conference call and Jill’s letting her fingers do the walking and reaching out to family across the states) and rest and work.

I take a few days off during the year to write, so I better get rolling on that. I have a backlog of Wineskins articles to edit and an upcoming book project to sketch out.

By Greg Taylor Posted in Uncategorized

This week important decisions (or impulses) will be made

You are trying to get started back after Thanksgiving and your energy is low. You’re reading blogs. You are like many others who are beginning now to think about plans for Christmas. What you will purchase? How you will afford it? If you are like me, you are considering how you will run counter to the culture of consumerism and ad-driven buying and find alternatives to the “traditional” way of overextending at Christmas by buying and giving and getting too much.

So this week is an important week for many individuals and families making decisions about what to do at Christmas. Some will not decide but impluse what they will do. They will buy on credit cards and take the hit in 2007. So decisions made this week will impact debt spending for 2007.

I want to run another version of a list I posted last week. I passed this one out at Garnett yesterday after preaching about the day I began learning the teaching of our Lord that “it’s more blessed to give than to receive.” That saying of Jesus is not found in the Gospels. Luke said Paul said Jesus said this in Acts 20:35, but it’s more than a Christmas saying. It was a way that Paul was summarizing Jesus’ teaching in his farewell to the Ephesian church leaders.

May your week go well. This is a great week to plan, talk through with family members alternatives and new traditions, how you will stay out of debt, how you will say no to impulses and ads for things we don’t need, how we can begin Advent with right minds and hearts. At dinner Monday we wrote down the things we want to do for others this Christmas, and we’ll fit that into our 12 Days of Christmas tradition (see last item on the list below).

12 Christmas Alternatives
I adapted this from Alternatives for Simple Living

1. Plan ahead. Instead of going on auto-pilot the day after Thanksgiving, plan individually what you want to do during holidays, or hold a family meeting to decide what the group really wants to do and who’s going to do what.

2. If you need a symbol for giving (in addition to Jesus, Wise Men), learn about St. Nicholas, a good story.

3. Avoid debt. Refuse to be pressured by advertising to overspend.

4. Draw names rather than everyone giving something to everyone else in your giving circle. Set a ceiling for each recipient. Give children something they really want, rather than so many gifts.

5. Give appropriate gifts. Get to know the recipient. Give what they want to receive, not what you want to buy.

6. Give alternative gifts. Tithe what you spent on Christmas last year to a charity. Buy crafts and clothing from developing countries at alternative gift markets, not from commercial importers, so that the artisans receive a fair price for their work. Give of yourself, not just “stuff” – a coupon book for future services (such as baby-sitting or an “enchanted evening”); something baked, sewn, handmade, composed, etc.; or a family service project, such as working together at a soup kitchen.

7. Celebrate Advent for four weeks before Christmas (see http://www.wineskins.org for resources). Light advent candles on each Sunday before Christmas. Accompany with carols, poems, and stories.

8. Make changes slowly but persistently over several years. Don’t try to change everything and everybody all at once.

9. Visits. During supper on some particular day during the holiday season (such as Christmas Eve) think about older people who have no family around—they might be a little happier at just the sight of us. (And at this point we often can’t stand the sight of each other.) Let the dishes go, wrap up a few cookies and go!

10. Send New Year’s letters (instead of holiday cards). Relax. You don’t have to do this in December! Write out-of-town friends in the New Year.

11. Family worship. Write out songs, scripture, skits, and poems for the holiday season on 25 pieces of paper. Each day, beginning December 1, a member of the family draws a slip from a bowl and reads it as a reminder of the forthcoming holiday.

12. Twelve Days of Christmas. In order not to swamp children with gifts all at once, use the custom of one person receiving one gift on each of the 12 days before Christmas. You can also choose some of those days to serve others or give gifts to neighbors or those in need. Build in ceremony with lighting of 12 candles or another tradition. Plan alternate activities for Christmas Day so that the center of the day is not gift-giving. (A skit, hike, visiting friends, having friends in, cooking.)

10 tips for a simpler more meaningful Christmas

From one of my favorite Advent resources, Alternatives for Simple Living:

1. Plan ahead. Instead of going on auto-pilot the day after Thanksgiving, hold a family meeting to decide what the group really wants to do and who’s going to do what.

2. If you need a symbol for giving (in addition to Jesus and the Three Wise Ones), learn about St. Nicholas. Santa Claus has been completely taken over by commerce.

3. Avoid debt. Refuse to be pressured by advertising to overspend.

4. Avoid stress. Give to yourself. Don’t assume that things have to be the same way they’ve always been.

5. Draw names rather than everyone giving something to everyone else in your giving circle. Set a ceiling for each recipient. Give children ONE thing they really want, rather than so many gifts. If need be, pool funds.

6. Give appropriate gifts. Get to know the recipient. Give what they want to receive, not what you want to buy.

7. Give alternative gifts. Give 25% of what you spent last year to the needy… individuals or groups locally, nationally or internationally. Buy crafts and clothing from developing countries at alternative gift markets, not from commercial importers, so that the artisans receive a fair price for their work. Give of yourself, not just “stuff” – a coupon book for future services (such as baby-sitting or an “enchanted evening”); something baked, sewn, handmade, composed, etc.; or a family service project, such as working together at a soup kitchen.

8. Celebrate Advent for four weeks before Christmas.

9. Put the gifts under the tree shortly before opening them. Then take turns opening them around the tree, not all at once, so that each gift can be admired and each giver thanked.

10. Make changes slowly but persistently. Don’t try to change everything and everybody all at once. The resistance will make you feel defeated and lonely.

For more help and a free catalog of ideas, contact Alternatives for Simple Living at 800-821-6153.

©1997 Alternatives for Simple Living. Used by permission. (recycle paper)

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Ted Haggard: a response from Gordon MacDonald

This is a great response from Gordon MacDonald about the controversy Ted Haggard and New Life Church is going through. MacDonald’s response is very authentic and appropriate without carving off the edges of this complex dilemma facing Haggard, his church, his family, and Christians worldwide, including the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE).

When leaders implode by Gordon MacDonald

Cowboys-Redskins

What a crazy ending. Jill was so amazed she called Jacob, Anna, and I from outside playing soccer to see what was happening. Here’s the story if you didn’t see it. With less than a minute left, Redskins Nick Novak misses a long field goal. Dallas drives and Vanderjagt’s 35-yard attempt is blocked and Redskins recover but time runs out, but there’s a facemasking call. Jacob points out that the game or half can’t end on a defensive penalty. Novak kicks a 47-yarder that barely clears the right upright. Redskins win 22-19.

But the greatest Redskins-Cowboys game was in 1974. We were watching from Grandma’s and Grandpa’s TV in Caney, Kansas Thanksgiving Day. Staubach was hurt in the 3rd quarter and rookie Clint Longley rallied the Cowboys from two touchdowns behind with two sustained drives. Redskins scored again to take the lead, then with less than a minute on the clock Longley hit Drew Pearson for a touchdown to win the game. That’s when the Redskins-Cowboys rivalry was born. And that was when we started calling my cousin Clint Davis, “Longley.” Here’s Longley’s blog.

Longley and I co-hosted this past weekend United 4 Uganda, a gathering of supporters of missions in Uganda. I’ll post later about that meeting.

Autumn tears

Today, on the way to take my soon-to-turn-13-years-old daughter to school, as we were rounding a curve in the neighborhood, the sun shining across the road seemed to highlight one moment when one tree was molting its leaves, but there was no wind and no other leaves were falling; just from this one tree, and they weren’t merely fluttering one by one but pouring as if a kid were in the treetop unloading a bag full of leaves–at that I said to my daughter, “Look, leaves falling from just one tree, isn’t it great?” and she indulged her doofus dad and said, “Yes” and I smiled for only a moment because then I realized the tree was weeping.

“We know that all creation is still groaning and is in pain, like a woman about to give birth” (Romans 8:22, The Contemporary English Version).

All Saints Day and Halloween 2007

We’d just started out trick or treating last night and already my children are wondering, “What about next year.” Jill’s taught the children to figure how days fall on the calendar, and though their father still doesn’t get it and can’t explain leap year, they know, and they know that next year Halloween falls on Wednesday night, and they wondered aloud, before any candy landed in the bottom of their bags, “If we have church that night, how will we trick or treat?” And I was taken back thirty years or so ago, and if I could figure the years and account for leap year, I could tell you what year, but I can still see my mom’s watch on my sister’s arm, that stretchy silver watch that said “I’m a mom” and we twisted it so many times to see the time in various boring situations it eventually broke but tonight Debbie was wearing it because it was Wednesday night and there was church, but in those days there was no consternation about Halloween and Christians boycotting Trick or Treat and turning off their porch lights and Trunk or Treats in the church parking lots, and so we went, the three of us, my brother and sister and me in made up costumes and mom’s makeup, and we watched the time because we had to get back in time for church, and it was the most miserable trick or treat of the year and I still remember pouring out my sack of candy in the utility room and looking for the Paydays and the chocolates and beginning to sort but not having enough time and having to leave the candy in that unsorted and chaotic pile and I thought about it the whole time I was at church as did all the children.

Now I hear of churches, regardless of the night Halloween falls, who have alternative “Festivals” and “Harvests” and I have to smile because some say the whole thing started 2,000 years ago with the Celtics celebrating the time of harvest when the line between life and death is blurred and the spirits wander the world, just like our children dress up as ghosts and wander the neighborhoods, and then the church came along and said, “let’s have our own alterative for this” and they began in the early centuries of the church what is called “All Hallows Day” (Day of holy ones who’ve gone before, or All Saints Day), and the night before became “All Hallows Eve” and eventually Halloween. Through the years Christians kept shifting the emphasis because the “secular” influence kept pushing the occasion back to the spiritual world, and they wanted to make it more calm and less wild, so they began community celebrations that were more wholesome, and then in the twentieth century Christians again realized the culture that spends 2.6 billion dollars, second only to Christmas, had taken over the holiday and began alternatives such as Festivals and Harvest Celebrations, which is funny because that’s the “secular” way all this began, while the “secular” folks today go on calling it “All Hallows Eve” or Halloween, the religious name for the day before today.

Well Sunday, October 29, at Garnett, we had our Fall Festival, as this church has done for two decades, but this year was different in that we made a decision months back that for the first time we would intentionally set a bulls eye for welcoming, taking pictures of, and following up through sending that photo of the children in costume to 250 families. This is a Group Magazine curriculum called “Heroes” but the specific goal of 250 was our own contexualizing of a goal based on how many have come in past years and our desire to do more than just say, “Well, we had a great turn out” and miss the fact that more people have come to our church to visit than on 52 Sundays.

We had more than 700 and we’re currently doing a database to send the photos and tell the families more about our church, our Christmas Eve service, and Vacation Bible School, and Angel Food Program. At the same time, I told the congregation Sunday morning that the leadership of our church encourages all of us to “turn on the porch light” on Halloween, be in the neighborhood, go trick or treating with children or grandchildren, and put yourself in a place to meet and visit with your neighbors.

Halloween is one of those chances for us to experience a “thin place” where God can be present unexpectedly when we pay attention to the opportunities that our culture gives us. This is the day that people open their doors, literally wait by the door, so hungry for their neighbors to care, to ring the doorbell, and while much good is done to gather Christians at churches and it’s a conscience decision that individuals and church leaderships have to make, much is lost when Christians gather on dark nights, failing to be light when they otherwise could be.

So today is All Saints Day, a day when the martyrs are celebrated for their service and deaths for the sake of the call of Christ in their lives to stand against the prevailing culture, and so the church must continue to be light on dark days, to not retreat but advance, and stick out our necks, and in many cases martyrs I respect are ones who were killed by their fellow Christians who thought they were off track, such as anabaptist Felix Manz, who was  executed in 1527 by being tied down with weights and thrown from a bridge in Zurich into the River Limmat by the Church/Town Council.

I don’t know if I’ll die for my views on Trick or Treat, or even for what I’m about to say at the end of this post, but it’s more serious than just my childhood desire to sort candy and not go to church. We’re talking here about the loss of our voice and witness in the world today, and we’ve allowed ourselves to float in the backwaters of an insulated Christian culture, rather than seeing opportunities to be part of our cultural stream that needs light and life. So today, I encourage you to begin now–we have a year to plan: next year, let your light and the light of Christ shine.

Cancel Wednesday night church on Halloween 2007 and meet your neighbors.