Scrooge and Elf

I did a Christmas movie two-fer, also known in some circles as a marathon or a movie binge. I watched the 1951 version of A Christmas Carol and Elf.

I own 9 versions of the Dickens classic. I can’t exactly say why I’m drawn to the movies and the book other than the character of Ebenezer Scrooge.

I can think of no other character outside the Bible who transforms so dramatically from beginning to end. Scrooge goes from the most unfeeling, miserly, cold-hearted man to ever live into the patron saint of Christmas.

The 1951 movie especially captures the meanness of the pre-spirits Scrooge and the giddiness after. Alastair Sims captures all of the range of this character better than any other actor that I’ve ever seen.

And Elf. It’s such a goofy movie that I love so much. You have a grown-up kid who thinks he’s an elf because he grew up among elves. However, it’s not all candy canes and twirly swirly gum drops.

There’s actually a dramatic part of the story where Buddy the Elf doesn’t feel like he fits in anywhere– neither the world of elves or the world of humans. I think that resonates with just about every one of us at some point.

The key is when Buddy finally finds his purpose, what he’s good at, and quits trying to please everyone else and fit their ideas of what he should be.

So that’s my Christmas two-fer. I feel all warm and fuzzy inside now. So Merry Early Christmas to all and to all a good night.

Only 17 more days!

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Happy Thursday

Timehop has its uses. It shows me pictures of my old cat, who’s now deceased, and reminds me how beautiful and affectionate she was, as well as how lucky and blessed I was to have her for 17 years.

Timehop also reminds me of events in my life that I had forgotten. Or repressed from my memory. You pick.

It was exactly a year ago today that I was dropping off the Red Sled, also known as my 1997 Jeep Cherokee, for repairs on my rear bumper that had been damaged in a fender bender.

It reminded me to be thankful that 1) I have really good auto insurance through USAA that completely took care of everything, 2) the wreck and/or the damage to my car wasn’t worse than it was (because it sounded and felt way worse than it actually was), and 3) that I’m now talking about it in the past tense.

Sometimes you need reminding that the trials in your life won’t last forever. It may seem like it at the time, but every trial and test has a beginning and an end.

My trial (which is light and momentary compared with what so many others are going through) is over. My Jeep is still running and I’m closing in on 330,000 miles. I may just take the engine out of the Red Sled and drop it in the next car I buy.

So, happy Thursday and all. Stay safe out on the road, especially during rush hour traffic. And remember to always count your blessings.

 

Both Just and a Sinner

“Simul justus, et peccator, totus, totus” (Martin Luther).

In case you were wondering, this quote is Latin and can be translated as “Simultaneously both just and a sinner.”

I find out how very true that is in my own life on a daily basis. I can echo the words of Paul when he said that the good he wanted to do, he didn’t do, and the bad he didn’t want to do, he did.

I don’t think this expression is a license to indulge in sinful habits and choices. I do think that the reality is that as long as we live in the flesh in this life, we will battle the fleshly desires that still dwell within us.

The part I love is where God declares those of us who have put our faith in Christ to be just. It’s not a righteousness that comes from any part of who we are or what we do but is entirely from God and is completely the righteousness of Jesus given to us.

I see it as good reason not to get puffed up in thinking how spiritual I am simply because I’ve come to faith in Christ. I may be just in the eyes of God, but I also know that that sin nature that still dwells in me can rear its ugly head from time to time and at very inopportune moments.

The good news is that it won’t always be this way. God in Jesus has promised that He will finish the good work He started in me (and you). That’s not a wishful thinking kind of hope or a pie-in-the-sky fantasy kind of dream. Because God has said it, it’s already as good as done, as true as the God who has spoken it.

Lord Jesus, let it be done.

 

 

 

Feeling a Little Feverish

I’ll keep this short because I’m feeling a tad feverish tonight. Not in any way sick or bad, just a case of the mild chills.

Kairos was fantastic as usual. My takeaway is that the Gospel of Jesus Christ makes us secret keepers who turn into secret tellers when we pass on the hope that we have because of the death and resurrection of Jesus.

No matter how I’m feeling, good or bad or indifferent, that secret still rings true. It’s still the hope that all the world has been looking for from the very beginning until now.

All I need tonight is a couple of Ibuprofen, lots of vitamin C, a good night’s sleep, and Jesus.

 

Jonah’s Dilemma

As a volunteer for Room in the Inn, one of my favorite parts is sitting in on the Bible study with the homeless men. Not only do they get a warm place to stay, a soft bed, and a hearty meal, they also get to dive deep into the Word of God.

Tonight, the speaker talked about Jonah. The part that struck me was how Jonah’s reluctance to go when God called him to go was over how much he disliked the people of Ninevah. He knew what kind of people they had been, how merciless and cruel to their enemies– including the Israelites– and felt that they didn’t deserve the grace of God.

As I follow the social and political rhetoric on social media, it seems to me that most of us have a category of persons or people groups that we feel don’t deserve the grace of God. It could be those dastardly Republicans (or Democrats). It could be the LGBTQ community. It might very well be the Muslim peoples. Maybe it’s that Trump guy who currently holds the title of President.

I still believe that when you limit the grace of God, when you pick and choose who’s worthy of it, then you nullify the grace of God (if that were possible). It becomes about merit and earning God’s favor.

Grace by its very definition is the unmerited favor of God. No one deserves it, otherwise it would no longer be grace. Yet God still chooses to extend it to us in the person of Jesus.

Jonah actually got angry when those Ninevites repented and turned to God. The book ends with God asking Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry?”

Maybe we need to repent of our self-righteous judgmentalism and arrogant condemnation towards certain people and people groups and instead pray God’s mercy for them.

I’m not saying don’t call sin for what it is or speak out against evil in any form, but do so out of a spirit of love and gentleness, always extending the same grace that God extended you when you were His enemies.

One of my very favorite quotes is from C. S. Lewis and says that we forgive the inexcusable in others because we know that God has already forgiven the inexcusable in us.

That’s something to remember when you get ready to engage in the social media discussion on any topic.

Always choose mercy over judgment, grace over condemnation, and love over hate.

 

Advent Prayers for Monday Eve

Lately, I have difficulty keeping everything straight in mind. I guess that makes me a cotton-headed ninny muggins. Like, is this the first or second week of Advent? Or have I posted what I’m about to post already?

As to the first question, my church lit the first Advent candle today. I supposed it really doesn’t matter if you get the order exactly right as long as you are able to prepare your heart to receive the coming Christ-child and center your mind on what Christmas is truly about– God breaking into this world to redeem His people from their sins.

As to the second, who cares? This Advent prayer is worth a repeat, if that’s what it really is. It’s still a beautiful prayer that echoes the feelings and thoughts of many who will read it.

“O Lord, how hard it is to accept your way. You come to me as a small, powerless child born away from home. You live for me as a stranger in your own land. You die for me as a criminal outside the walls of the city, rejected by your own people, misunderstood by your friends, and feeling abandoned by your God.

As I prepare to celebrate your birth, I am trying to feel loved, accepted, and at home in this world, and I am trying to overcome the feelings of alienation and separation which continue to assail me. But I wonder now if my deep sense of homelessness does not bring me closer to you than my occasional feelings of belonging. Where do I truly celebrate your birth: in a cozy home or in an unfamiliar house, among welcoming friends or among unknown strangers, with feelings of well-being or with feelings of loneliness?

I do not have to run away from those experiences that are closest to yours. Just as you do not belong to this world, so I do not belong to this world. Every time I feel this way I have an occasion to be grateful and to embrace you better and taste more fully your joy and peace.
Come, Lord Jesus, and be with me where I feel poorest. I trust that this is the place where you will find your manger and bring your light. Come, Lord Jesus, come.Amen” (Henri Nouwen).

When Music Was King

I caught a Journey concert in Houston from 1981 on PBS. It was back when the band was in their prime, when Steve Perry was at his peak as a vocal performer.

But man, they weren’t exactly GQ, were they? Neil Schon had some interesting facial expressions while playing guitar, including some that looked like breathing exercises. Steve Perry had the whole head tilt to the right whenever he went for a high note. And they all looked like they were wearing Mom jeans.

But none of that mattered because the music was great.

Lately, it feels like image is everything and the music has become secondary. The result is that you get a lot of ear candy pop music that is utterly disposable and instantly forgettable.

There’s a reason why a lot of great bands in the 70’s didn’t have videos or their faces on their album covers. They weren’t exactly the prettiest people in the world, but man did they make some great and lasting music.

I still think the best decade for music was the 70’s, even though I’m a child of the 80’s. Just thought I should state that for the record, in case you were wondering.