The trouble with Santa

“You better watch out, you better not cry, better not pout I’m telling you why, Santa Clause is coming to town. He’s making a list, checking it twice, gonna find out whose naughty and nice…He sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake. He knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake!”

Santa, the all-seeing god-like character we see so much of this time of year. Unfortunately some people get their view of God from Santa. He is a pale comparison. Here are some important differences.

We are told Santa keeps track and will only bring presents to the good. Contrast that to “…You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” God sending the gift of His son didn’t depend on us being good, but was sent because we were sinners. Good people don’t need a Savior. Sinners need a Savior.

Santa’s list keeping implies that he will not deliver gifts intended for us if we are naughty. Romans 11:29 tells us “the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable” God’s gift of salvation isn’t taken back if we are unworthy. Truth be told we are all unworthy. Again, that was the point of God sending His son.

Santa shows love to those who show themselves to be good. God loves those who understand that it depends not on their own goodness, but on God’s grace. II Timothy 1:9 says “who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity,”

Santa visits one day a year…while we are sleeping, just long enough to leave a pile of presents.

Jesus came to be with us. His name Immanuel means “God with us.” The most important gift we can get is His presence, not his presents. Things get old and wear out. They lose their appeal, but the very real presence of God Himself is a gift beyond compare.

So what is our response? The wisemen had the right idea. They journeyed to a foreign country to find this king and when they found him…”They rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.” Upon meeting the child they “fell down and worshiped him.” They didn’t come expecting to receive, but to offer what they had. So we too can offer what we have. A heart yearning to know this God who stoops down to be with us.

Praying you each find the peace only God can give in this troubled world.

…a Time to Laugh

“For everything there is a season…a time to weep and a time to laugh.” Ecclesiastes 3:1a, 4a ESV

My father was an honest man. He took great pains to do the right thing, say the right thing. He avoided anything that looked bad. When we went in a store he would remind us not to touch anything we weren’t going to buy.

He also loved to laugh. He loved to hear and tell jokes as long as they were clean. He was a little challenged as far as telling jokes. His timing was often a little off. Sometimes he missed the punchline or told the punchline before he had told some crucial information. When we would pause and say… “I don’t get it.” He would start again, inserting the forgotten part and wait for us to laugh, but the moment was gone. It wasn’t funny anymore. I think that is partly why puns became his favorite humor. It is pretty hard to mess up a pun.

One day when I was about 8 my Dad and I were in the local Woolworth’s dime store. I asked if we could go down the toy aisle and he agreed. We had spent a few minutes looking over the selection when we came across a small white drawstring bag with the words “Laughing Bag” printed in big black letters. He wondered out loud what it could be and reached out his hand. Something was triggered and a big contagious laugh filled the aisle. My father turned a little pale, looked at me and in a desperate voice, of one who has been caught, said “Let’s get out of here!” I grabbed his hand and we high tailed it to the front door without looking back. We didn’t stop until we reached our car. I think we laughed all the way home.

I’ve thought of that “laughing bag” often. I wish I could have found one again and given it to him for his birthday. For a man who loved to laugh it would have been the perfect gift.

I miss hearing his laugh, but suspect one of the things he is learning to do is to tell a flawless joke. One that will make God’s heaven shake with laughter.

“Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.” Luke 6:21b NASB

Psalm 23 – American Plains Indian Version

In my Wisconsin wanderings I came across a path beside a river.

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It led to this covered bridge which led to…

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This tiny chapel which was only big enough for about 20 people. (I apologize for the blurry picture.)

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We followed the path that led behind the chapel and found a series of small frames set on posts.

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Not all of the plaques were still readable so I have typed a copy below. I hope you enjoy reading Psalm 23 in this Plains Indian Version.

 

The GREAT FATHER above a SHEPHERD CHIEF is.

I am His and with Him I want not. 

He throws out to me a rope

and  the name of the rope is love

and  He draws me to where the grass is green 

and the water is not dangerous, 

and I eat and lie down and am satisfied. 

Sometimes my heart is very weak and falls down

but He lifts me up again and draws me into a good road. 

His name is WONDERFUL. 

Sometime,

it may be very soon,  it may be a long, long time. 

He will draw me into a valley. 

It is dark there, but I’ll be afraid not, 

for it is in between those mountains 

that the SHEPHERD CHIEF will meet me 

and the hunger that I have in my heart  all through life will be satisfied.

He gives me a staff to lean upon.  

He spreads a table before me  with all kinds of foods. 

He puts His hand upon my head  and all the “tired” is gone. 

My cup He fills till it runs over. 

What I tell is true.

I lie not. 

These roads that are “away ahead”  will stay with me

through this life and after;

and afterwards I will go to live  in the great house

and sit down  with the SHEPHERD CHIEF forever.

~Isabel Crawford (Missionary to the Indians of the plains)

 

Wisconsin – Part III

I have lived in Wisconsin close to 40 years. Most of that time has been spent in whatever local town we were living in at the time. Often we went to Lake Michigan or another smaller inland lake. Door County was also a popular destination. We have driven by Wisconsin Dells and through the town a few times, but had never gotten off the beaten path to discover why it was famous…why it had become a tourist trap. We were pleasantly surprised by what we found.

The only way to see the Dells is on the Wisconsin river. Since we weren’t about to rent a canoe the five of us decided to splurge on a boat tour. My sister, Jill and her husband Dennis were along for the adventure.

My granddaughter, Arianna snapped this picture of the boat. We chose to sit in the open air on top.

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At first the scenery reminded us of the hike in Devil’s Lake we had been on the day before.

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But then it got more and more interesting.

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Twice the boat docked to allow us to follow the trails that wound between the rocks.

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There are no words…

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My advice in all of this? Look for the hidden things. The things right under your nose. There is always beauty and good hiding somewhere close.

“Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” Revelation 4:11

 

 

Wisconsin – Part II

The journey continues. Tomorrow we will be in Wisconsin Dells, today it is…

DEVIL’S LAKE STATE PARK

Here is the beginning of the trail and a picture of what we will be climbing on.

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The steps went on forever much to Arianna’s dismay.

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Arianna found a stick to help get her up the steps.

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At last we made it to the top where we could look down on the lake below. (Remember the first picture?)

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After making our way down through more trees we wound through boulders and rocks.

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Finally leaving them behind to reach level ground that led us back to the beach where we started.

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(Most of the photography by Bill Pickering)

“For by Him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, … all things were created by Him and for Him. And He is before all things and by Him all things consist.”  Colossians 1:16-17

 

 

 

 

 

A Weekend in Wisconsin

A Weekend in Wisconsin

We spent a long weekend in a home on the Wisconsin river near Portage. The next few days I will put up some pictures of various hikes we took. Today we visit Mirror Lake and Parfrey’s Glen. Enjoy.

MIRROR LAKE

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PARFREY’S GLEN

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There was a short hike through woods that led to a stream that we crossed a few times.

 

The end of the hike we were rewarded with a small waterfall.

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And then it was the hike back to the car through a magical forest.

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“O Lord, how many are Your works. In wisdom You have made them all; the earth is full of Your possessions.” Psalm 104:24

Broken Things

I seem to accumulate broken things. Things I have purchased for next to nothing because they were broken. There is the ceramic tile of poppies that I bought while on vacation. I loved it from across the room and was delighted to find a price tag of $5.00 on it. It had two hairline cracks running through it, but they don’t show and I’m the only one who knows, (until now).

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There is the ancient rocker I picked up for $2 at an auction. The seat was shredded and it was missing one of the slats from the curved back, but I thought I could make it presentable again. I think the missing slat looks like it was part of the design and I have recovered the seat. It is one of my favorite chairs.

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There is another rocker with a missing seat that waits patiently in the basement for me to make it functional again. I mended the broken cross piece and gave it a fresh coat of paint.

If you’ve followed me for any length of time you know about my grandmother’s chair that I rescued from certain destruction. You can read about it here.

There are the wooden chairs with missing seats that I painted and have used year after year to put summer flowers in.IMG_0864_edited-1

 

My father’s violin had some cracks that needed repairing. When I took it to John Hawkins, a man skilled in such things, I also bought a violin for my son that John had saved from being thrown in the trash. A junior high boy had stepped on it in his haste to get somewhere quickly. It was basically in splinters, but he was determined to bring it back from the dead. My son played it until he outgrew it. Now it is waiting for his daughter to use once her fingers are big enough.

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We live in a society that throws things away. We want new and perfect. Fewer and fewer people repair things anymore.

Unfortunately our insisting on perfection spreads to not just things, but circumstances and people.

We want the perfect job, perfect church, perfect house, perfect parents, perfect husband, perfect children, and perfect friends. It they aren’t perfect we look for a different one. What we fail to see in our search for perfection is the beauty that lies in the broken things. They are still useful, they have lived through hard circumstances, and the scars they have acquired make them more beautiful, not less.

Living through imperfect circumstances makes us better people. Living with difficult people makes us kinder. Living with things that need attention and care make us more thankful for what we have. Going to a church with other sinners reminds us of our own lack and makes us grateful that they don’t ask us to leave, since we are far from perfect, ourselves.

God uses these imperfect things in our lives to help knock off the things in our own lives that need sanding down. (Sandblasting might be a better term.) Thankfully he doesn’t just give us a coat of paint or some glue, He works on us from the inside out. He works on our very heart.

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials; knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4

Did you catch that? “that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” We are all a work in progress. We don’t always like the “construction” that is going on, but it has a good purpose in our lives.

Remember that the next time you want to give up on someone who is difficult to be around. Give them the grace we have been given. Learn from them. Love them like our Father loves us. Treat them like the treasure they are.

“And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.” I John 4:32-5:1