Thinking Out Loud

December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas from Paul and Ruth and Thinking Out Loud

Filed under: Christianity, Christmas — Tags: , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 1:04 pm




December 22, 2016

Christmas Alone

cd-on-cd-editedI’ve mentioned elsewhere on the blog that each Christmas Day our family has assisted, in varying degrees, with a project started here over a decade ago, the Christmas Dinner on Christmas Day.

The December 25th noontime meal — a full turkey-and-all-the-trimmings dinner — originated in a community that my wife co-founded, the purpose of which was to serve people on the margins, people living on welfare, or working people unable to have good, nutritious, tasty food.

But as we engaged people in conversation, we realized that many people attending were people of means. There was a donation box if people cared to help out, and some of these people had no hesitation in dropping a $20 bill or even $50. The reason is simple: They just didn’t want to be alone on Christmas Day. They wanted to feel part of a community.

Many of these accomplished this by serving as volunteers. There was no shortage of people willing to help in the kitchen — where my oldest son served as lead cook — or as table hosts. If pressed however, they would confess that their need to be with other people on the 25th was equal or greater to the poor people we were serving, but it was social, not financial.

cd-on-cd-generic

Alone on Christmas Day.

That’s something I can’t imagine. In her later years, transporting my mom to our place simply got too complicated. As I stated, my wife had been a co-founder of the organization from which the Christmas Dinner was a spinoff, but we hadn’t attended the earlier iterations of it because of my mother staying with us. But when that ceased to be an option — we then visited her on the 26th — she told us how the seniors’ home pretty much cleared out on the 25th, with only a core staff and a handful of residents. I would imagine some of her fellow residents felt rather melancholy. At least my mom got a couple of phone calls and knew we’d be there the next day.

Well…all that to say this…

I came across something on social media that arrested me in my tracks earlier today. A group of people for whom the holidays means loneliness and isolation, because they can’t go home. The writer posted:

A shout-out and lots of love and good wishes to LGBTQ members who can’t go home for the holidays because of hate and misunderstanding

Wow.

So…told not to come home, or choosing a self-imposed exile?

In the former case, I can’t imagine saying to one of my kids, “We don’t want you here.” But it happens. I’ll bet it happens many times with Christian parents, too.

In the latter case, I can’t imagine one of my kids feeling so unwanted — feeling so strongly that going home is not an option — that they would prefer to stay away. Sad to say, I’ll bet some of those are Christian homes as well.

But this isn’t an issue in my family. That’s why the social media post shocked me, I guess.

Thankfully, another group in a nearby community is doing the Christmas Dinner this year. It’s actually the town where the first one started, but then the event was split into two locations. While I don’t know the serving team — and we’ve opted to stay home this year — I’m glad there is a place for people to go on the 25th.

Clearly, the above example illustrates we don’t always know why people show up for something like this, and in the case of a younger person who simply isn’t welcome with the rest of their family, they’re not likely to want to share the whole story.

But we can be thankful that people organize events like the Christmas Dinner. If there’s one in your community, contact them and ask if they’re in need of any last-minute food donations or kitchen help. Sometimes it’s just a matter of peeling potatoes the day before and you can still do your own Christmas thing on the day.

It will bless you as much as it blesses them.

 


A disclaimer: Sadly, among readers here will be those who have no sympathy for this situation at all, and others who may assume that by posting this I have strong gay sympathies. I hope instead you will reconsider the teachings of Jesus in general and in particular the Parable of the Prodigal Son and realize that our only response in a situation like this is love and acceptance. Heck, even countries at war will announce a cease-fire for Christmas Day. How can we not do the same?

December 13, 2016

The Christmas Gift Exchange Game

christmas-gifts-tiled

You know this game.

Everyone brings a wrapped gift and places it under the Christmas tree. Everyone gets a number. The first person picks a gift from the tree and unwraps it for all to see. The second person has a choice, they can pick a gift as well, or steal the item the first person has. The person who just lost their gift now picks another gift from the tree. The third person can steal something, from the first or second person, who then can steal something or pick a gift from the tree.

And on it goes.

My wife is not a particular fan of this game. The game is a trigger. Of what, I do not comprehend. Myself, I like Christmas parties to contain two elements, food and conversation. When someone says, “Now we’re going to play a game;” I take off to the spare bedroom for a prolonged conversation with the family cat.

But last night, at the staff party we hosted, of our own volition, we played the game.

But with some differences.

First of all, everybody got four numbers. There were eight of us, so 36 gifts in total.

Second, we (my wife and I) bought all the gifts ourselves.

Third, you couldn’t really tell what anything was by the way it was wrapped.

Fourth, it just so happened that every single gift had exactly the same monetary value.

In case you’re wondering how we did this, the gifts were from Dollar Tree. Each item had a retail value of $1.25 CAD, and everybody knew this.

…and yet…

First, there was just as much emotion over the acquisition of and the loss of various objects as there are in the traditional version of the game where more value is at stake. There’s a lesson there somewhere.

Second, the game still played to our sense of personal property. One particular item that someone had held onto for most of the game was stolen at the last minute. It takes only minutes for something to be ours. There’s a lesson there, too.

Third, all the items were practical and usable by the average participant. There wasn’t anyone going home with something that couldn’t be used at some point over the next few months. Normally, when you say giftware, you’re including so many things that no one specifically needs.

Fourth, everyone’s take consisted of more than one item. Their loot wasn’t entirely consisting of one single item which they may have chosen, or simply ended up with by the luck of the draw.

Fifth, there was complete equity in terms of the dollar value of the gifts. No one can seriously complain that anyone got more. (And anyone who feels they missed out on something can go to Dollar Tree and simply buy the thing for pocket change.)

I think we had just as much fun as when we’ve played the game with $25 items. Maybe more. No, definitely more.

One thing I learned doing this was that Dollar Tree carries great merchandise. Several people were surprised that we had obtained the items at such a low price.

One thing I regret is that we didn’t do all this buying for a low-income family. Or even a refugee family.

Anyway, if you’re looking for a version of the game that solves some issues associated with it, may I suggest just buying everything yourself at a dollar store.


Sidebar: To my many UK readers, what do you call the equivalent of “the dollar store” there? Or do you have them?


The rest of the rules:

  • If someone steals your gift, you can steal someone else’s gift or choose and open a wrapped one.
  • Continue until everyone has had a turn for a gift. A turn is ended when an unopened gift has been opened.
  • A gift can only be “stolen” once during a turn. If a gift is taken from someone during one round, she cannot take it back during that same round. She can, however, take it back in a later round if she is in a position to select a gift.
  • Once a gift has had 3 “owners”, the 3rd owner of a gift gets to keep it – it is retired and can’t be stolen again.*
  • The gift exchange ends when the last wrapped gift is chosen and opened.

* We forgot that rule last night; that’s the problem with a game you only play once a year.


This game is also played as the White Elephant Gift Exchange, but in that case people bring gifts “…defined by something of dubious or limited value or an object no longer of value to its owner but of value to others. Thus, in its basic form the game calls for people to bring ‘gag’ gifts or gifts they received that they have no use for.” [source] The version we would play at a friend’s annual party started out as gag gifts but morphed into higher quality merchandise. Unfortunately, for a couple of years we didn’t get the memo; we just thought a few people were being extravagant or very generous.

December 26, 2015

Heaven Came Down

Filed under: Christmas, music — Tags: — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:01 am

Enjoy some music by the band Life Wide Open that’s become my favorite Christmas song over the past few years:

December 25, 2015

Christmas in a Small Town

Filed under: Christmas, family — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:58 am

I’ve reblogged this today from Diane Lindstrom at Nice One Nana. Send her some link love by clicking the title below to read at source and leave comments.

Small Town, Big Connection

I couldn’t figure out how to get my [reward card] points at the local gas station pumps so I decided to ask the lady working inside about the procedure. I mean, free groceries are free groceries, right?

The lady who was working behind the counter had very kind eyes and a gentleness in her ways. She greeted me with a smile and as I fished around my purse for my wallet, she asked me, “So, are you ready for Christmas?”

I told her, “I’m ready. These days have been a quiet countdown to Christmas day. I’m not running around at all. Feels good. How about you? You enjoying the season?”

I was really taken back with the woman’s response.

“Usually, I love this time of the year but my daughter’s husband has been mad at me for the past four months and he won’t let my husband and I see our two grand-kids.” I’m just heartbroken about it.”

I was about to express my sadness about her situation but she began to cry and continued to talk.

“Why do people have to win? Why do they have to be stronger and more powerful and more right? Why can’t people just love each other?

I offered the woman a Kleenex and I just stood with her for a few seconds.

Neither of us talked.

I could see that the woman was embarrassed and as she wiped her eyes, she joked, “This is what happens when you come to a small town gas station!”

I smiled and asked her, “Are you and your husband alone on Christmas Day? Would you like to come to our place?”  I also joked back with, ” An invitation for Christmas dinner at a stranger’s house is also what happens when you serve customers at a small town gas station.”

“Oh, you’re so kind but no…we’re not alone. We have nine children and a handful of grand-kids. We’re going to be eating so many turkeys this Christmas, my husband and I are going to start gobbling. I just can’t understand why people don’t choose love. Not just at Christmas. All the time.” 

I nodded. I couldn’t have said it better.

“Thank you for blessing me with your words. I hope you and your son-in-law reconcile.”

She smiled, handed me a candy cane and said, “Merry Christmas.”

I leaned over the counter and gave her a big hug.

“And to you.”

The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these. Mark 12.31


Diane Lindstrom lives in a small town in Ontario, Canada and is the author of Sisters in the Son: Reconnecting Older and Younger Women.

December 22, 2015

Test Your Christmas Music Knowledge

Filed under: Christmas, music — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:02 am

Once again, InterVarsity’s twentyonehundred Productions, the multi-media division of IVCF outdid themselves:

Christmas Music and Movies Visualized

December 7, 2015

Building Margin into Your Schedule

About five years ago in a Sunday morning service our pastor was talking about the importance of having margin in your life. Margin to hear from God, to wait before Him and to expect miracles. That’s vital at a time of year when margin is slim because of the busy-ness of the season.

But then he picked up his Bible and talked about the margin that exists on each page of the book; space to add your own notes and record observations. I’ve thought of margin on several levels but never from a printing or graphic arts perspective, a field in which I have some familiarity.

In printing, margin is necessary because sometimes the paper gets trimmed a little off center, just like the time runs out on some days (and weeks, and months, and years) a little unexpectedly. Without some white space, there is the risk the text would simply get cut off.

But if your house is like mine, you probably got flyers, circulars, brochures or whatever they call them where you live delivered to your door or mailbox; and if you examine different types of printed matter, you see that in many cases there is no margin at all because the photo or background color is meant to look like it runs right to the edge. In fact it runs a good inch (2 cm) over the edge and is then trimmed back.

In graphic arts, this is called a bleed, and the designer will markup the text with the word ‘bleed’ to tell the printing people that the background gradient or pattern should overrun the page to be cut to size in the trim process.

And that, is my message to my readers for this Christmas, straight from the graphic art and design industry: If you don’t have margin, you bleed.

[Yes, it’s pithy remarks like that which keep readers coming back!]

If we don’t (literally) take the time to build margin into the busyness of the holiday season, we pay the price for it. If we try to do too much, there’s pain. If we fail to accomplish essentials we should have prioritized, there’s tears.

no vacancyWhich is odd considering the potentially frantic story of incarnation — in a crowded village that has run out of hotel accommodation because of a census registration — begins on what we regard as such a peaceful, silent, holy night. Christmas card images look so tranquil, but if you’ve ever driven into a town as we have only to learn that every motel and hotel is booked because of a sports tournament or a convention, you know that for Mary and Joseph, it was a very, very stressful day.

The celebration of the birth of Christ was never intended to drive us crazy on an annual basis. We’re celebrating the coming of Christ, not reliving the search for lodging that led up to it. Slow down — you might just hear from God — and take a cue from the printing industry: If there’s no margin, you bleed.

November 24, 2015

(Re) Introducing David Wesley

Filed under: Christmas, music — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:12 am

David Wesley Simply ChristmasSeveral months ago we took a day here to introduce you to David Wesley and his first  album, Basement Praise.  Now just three months later, David is back with Simply Christmas.

It’s not every day that I meet someone with 30,000+ YouTube subscribers who is also closing in on 4.8 million views. The music channel has flown him to the west coast twice in recognition of his song stats. David lives in the same part of the world as I, where he is mild-mannered reporter by day and video superstar by night. (Well, not the reporter part, but he has another life.)

On the first album he sings multiple parts which are also recorded for the videos. Offering the latter for sale is prohibitive because of the royalty structure, but many fans — including people who already own the album — would be willing to buy the visual versions if they could. On the new album, one song (see below) is also filmed that way, while the others have embedded links for purchasing individual songs or the entire album.

And this is where you come in. After listening to a few songs below, you can probably think of someone who would appreciate David’s unique sound, and there are links where you can download his music. (Physical CDs also exist for retailers or quantity buyers.)

Or you might just want to keep it all for yourself! Sit back and enjoy some early Christmas music:

 

 

YouTube: DavidWesley on YouTube

Facebook: David Wesley Music

Physical CDs / Retailers: Collide Media


Physical CD: http://www.collidemedia.ca/…
iTunes:  https://itunes.apple.com/ca…
CDBaby: http://www.cdbaby.com/CD/da…
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Simpl…
Google Play: http://play.google.com/stor…

November 24, 2014

The Original Nativity Scene Probably Looked More Like This

Filed under: Christmas, music — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:14 am

This was composed and recorded by a very good friend of mine. Kick back for five minutes and consider what the scene at the back of the Bethlehem Inn really looked like those first few nights.

I have a little manger scene I unpack every year,
I put it on the mantle way up high
Safe from puppy dogs, little hands and wrestling adolescents,
Who might break a piece and make me want to cry.

I’ve had that little manger scene of china and of glaze,
Since I was just a kid of 4 or 5
For years and years I looked at it believing every line,
Cause it made the ancient story come alive

It makes me sentimental, Though I know it didn’t happen quite that way
A little poetic license is OK.

In my little manger scene Mary’s got blue eyes,
she’s dressed in silk and satin like a queen
Joseph’s beard is neat and trim, just like his fingernails,
And everybody’s handsome and serene

The swaddled baby’s smiling up at three wise men standing guard,
So noble, not a sunburn neath their crowns
They’re hanging with the shepherds who are kneeling squeaky clean
on golden straw carpeting the ground

It’s all sleek and smooth and shining,
Tho’ I know it wasn’t quite like that, don’t you?
The truth is not quite so pretty, but it’s true

I bet Mary, she was saddle sore and Joseph couldn’t sleep
The wise men smelled like camels and the shepherds smelled like sheep
And the stable smelled like cattle and the things that cattle do
The baby woke up hungry every morning, half past two
And the straw got into everything, your shoes and in your hair
In the food and in the beds and on your nerves and everywhere

But our Mary, she’s no china doll, she’s a fighter through and through,
Joseph knows he has a job to do
There isn’t any stopping them, there isn’t any doubt,
Together they will see this journey through.

‘Cause she, she was a warrior, he was her strong right arm,
In a battle that they couldn’t comprehend
That baby was a treasure who would ransom all the world,
They’d carry him until he took his stand.

Even though Mary, she was saddle sore and Joseph couldn’t sleep
The wise men smelled like camels and the shepherds smelled like sheep
And the stable smelled like cattle and the things that cattle do
The baby woke up hungry every morning, half past two
And the straw got into everything, your shoes and in your hair
In the food and in the beds and on your nerves and everywhere

So if in my little manger scene, they look a little glazed
A little poetic license is OK.
Though I know it didn’t happen quite that way.

©2011 Ruth Wilkinson

November 21, 2014

The Hardest Days

Filed under: Christmas, Church, Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:59 am

Doug and Gary were always the last to leave the office.  Doug always turned off the lights as Gary set the alarm, and on Fridays, Gary always asked Doug if he wanted to join him for church that weekend.

“Actually, I’m going to church with my wife on Sunday,” Doug replied.

“Oh right. I forgot you’re a CEO,” Gary said smiling.

“A CEO?”

“Christmas and Easter only.” They both laughed, and Gary continued, “You know it’s good that you’re going, but you always pick the two hardest days.”

image 211114“I know,” returned Doug, “The parking at that church is miserable at Christmas.”

“No, that’s not what I mean; you always choose incarnation and atonement. They’re the toughest ones to grasp.”

“Wait a minute, I thought you wanted me to attend church.”

“I do, but think about it; if you show up for The Good Samaritan, the message is ‘love your neighbor,’ that’s easy!  And if you show up for ‘husbands love your wives,’ well two minutes in and you’ve got that one. But incarnation –“

“Do you mean the flower or the canned milk?”

“No it’s the idea of God becoming man, God becoming one of us. See, God is like those triplicate materials requisition forms we send to head office. The kind where what you write on the top part goes through to all three. But then God Himself rips out one of the pages — let’s call it the middle one — and then the letter to the Philippians tells us that that part of God took on the role of a servant and entered into the human condition even to the point of experiencing human death, and a rather excruciating one at that.”

“So you’re talking about Jesus. You’re saying he was 50 percent man and 50 percent God. Like a centaur?”

“No it’s not 50/50, more like 100/100.”

“So that’s gotta hurt. Why would he do that?”

“Well that’s the Easter part, the atonement part. In another letter, to a young disciple named Timothy, the same writer wrote that ‘Christ came into the world to save sinners, of which I’m the worst.'”

“The guy who wrote part of the Bible said he was the worst?”

“Jesus himself said he ‘came into the world to look for and save people who were lost.’ In another part he said that he came into the world to give his life as a ransom payment for many; and in yet another written account of his life we read that he didn’t come to condemn — which is what a lot of people think church is all about lately — but that through him everybody could have eternal life.”

“So you’re talking about going to heaven when you die?”

“Well, actually, eternal life starts now.”

“How come I never heard that at a Christmas service before?”

“You did, but you probably weren’t tuned in to it. You heard the carols, but missed the connection between incarnation and atonement, and you can’t have the one without the other. Ultimately, Jesus — the baby in the manger — came to die for the world, for me, for you.”

“Wow;” Doug said, “I never heard it like that.”

 

 

 

Phil 2, I Tim 1:15, Luke 19:10, Matthew 20:28, John 3:17

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