Hardships

The word hardship came from England back in the 1200s, and it described sturdy ships that endured the brutal storms of the North Atlantic.

Today it’s defined as a condition that is difficult to endure. It refers to suffering, deprivation, and oppression: something hard to bear, lack of comfort, constant toil or danger.

As we think about hardship, we need to remember that life is not supposed to be about us. Life, including eternal life, is about Jesus and our relationship with Him. However, although Jesus should be the center of all human existence, most people put Him on the sidelines, or not in their life at all.

Then, generating our own hardships, people get all limp and wishy-washy about life, or get hard and bitter. We have a difficult time doing things God’s way because we don’t spend time getting to know our heavenly Father.

But God has been saying all along: Please give me the reins. I can tame this team of horses, but you need to cooperate.

A young woman who didn’t know how to cooperate with the Lord told her mother about how life was so hard for her. There seemed to be no end to her problems, and she wanted to give up. She couldn’t understand that she was creating most of the hardships for herself.

Her mother sent up a silent prayer, then took her daughter to the kitchen. Filling three pots with water, she placed them on the stove and turned the heat to high. In the first pot she placed carrots; in the second, she placed a couple of eggs; and in the last, she poured a cup of coffee grounds.

Without saying a word, she let them boil for about twenty minutes, then turned off the burners. She fished the carrots and eggs out and placed them in separate bowls. Then she ladled the coffee grounds out and placed them in a bowl.

Turning to her daughter, she said, “Tell me what you see.”

“Carrots, eggs, and coffee grounds.”

Her mother brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots and peel an egg. The daughter noted that the carrots were soft and the eggs were hard boiled.

“Now, check the coffee grounds and water.”

The daughter smiled. “The coffee grounds look the same but wet. But the water was now … coffee, and I think I’ll have some. Mother, what are you getting at?”

Her mother explained that each of these objects had faced the very same adversity: 212-degree boiling water for twenty minutes. Each reacted differently. The carrots went in strong, hard, and stiff, but after sitting in boiling water, they softened and became weak. Inside the shell, the eggs had been fragile. Their thin outer shell had protected the liquid interior, but after bumping around in the boiling water, the insides became hardened. The ground coffee was unique. The oppressive adversity (boiling water) released color and flavor.

“Which are you?” she asked her daughter. “When hardship knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg … or … coffee?”

The daughter, drinking her coffee, understood the lesson.

So I ask you, dear reader: Are you the carrot that is strong when there are no problems, but with pain and adversity you wilt and lose your strength?

Are you the egg that starts with a malleable attitude, but becomes hardened with the heat? Did you have a fluid spirit, but after a death, a break-up, a financial hardship, or some other trial, you became cynical? Does your shell look the same, but on the inside are you inflexible?

Or are you like the coffee? Do you change the circumstances that bring the pain? When things are at their worst, do you cave in or help change the situation around you?

When the hour is the darkest and trials are their greatest, how do you handle adversity?

Remembering that hot water releases the fragrance and flavor of the coffee grounds, perhaps you can remember to sincerely turn to God for guidance. He is always willing to help us. God tells us in Isaiah 43:2-3, “When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”

That is true if we cooperate with God. How do you respond to hardships?

Walking with God

Several people have asked the question, “What does it mean to walk with God” and everyone in the world should be interested in knowing the answer. I’ll start with Billy Graham’s response. The following Q & A is from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association “Answers” blog, February 13, 2017.

Question: “I’ve heard preachers say that we need to learn to walk with God, but what exactly does this mean? I’d like to walk with God, but I don’t know how. And anyway, how would I know if God was actually with me?”

Answer: “I’m thankful you want to walk with God—because He wants to walk with you! He wants to assure you that He is always with you, and He also wants to talk with you—and you with Him.

“Look at it this way. By nature, we are cut off from God, because we have sinned and turned our backs on Him. But when we come to Christ and commit our lives to Him, God cleanses us of all our sins, and we are no longer separated from Him. Instead, He makes us part of His family, and we become his children forever. The Bible says, “Now if we are [God’s] children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17).

“How, then, do we walk with God and grow closer to Him? Just as we do with our children, the most important way is by spending time with Him—listening to Him as He speaks to us in the Bible and talking with Him in prayer. Just as human friendships wither and die if we never spend time together, so our relationship with God will grow cold if we never spend time with Him. Set aside time every day—even if it’s only a few minutes at first—to be alone with God.

“But Christ is also with you every moment of the day! Even when you’re busy, you can still talk with Him and follow Him. Jesus said, “I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

I like Billy’s response. My prayers are often short, to the point, and I receive answers. I don’t play church, and I am not super-spiritual. But I know that walking with God is a vital reality and is a necessary part of life if we are to be an active child of God. But we have to reduce the noise and busyness in our lives and pay attention to God in order to hear Him!

God in heaven doesn’t play church, and neither did Jesus on earth. And no one ever walked with Father God as closely as Jesus did. Enoch came close.

Genesis 5:21-24 says: “Enoch lived sixty-five years, and begot Methuselah. After he begot Methuselah, Enoch walked with God 300 years, and had sons and daughters. So all the days of Enoch were 365 years. And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him” (NKJV).

Enoch being “taken” is another story for another time, but what made Enoch different, or special? What set him apart from the rest of humanity? He purposely lived a Godly life in the middle of a corrupt and perverse culture. He didn’t water-down or modify his ethics, morals, and faith in order to win the world or to be relevant to the world. Enoch had set his mind to know—really KNOW—the God who walked in the Garden with Adam.

And in case you haven’t noticed, we live in a corrupt and perverse world just like Enoch did. Sadly, many Christians are immersed in their own lifestyle, they have deleted consecration to God from worship, and are oblivious to the idea of walking with God. A great many Christians desire God’s favor and ask God to bless them, but their lifestyles do not reflect the nature or the character of Jesus. Many Christians are so busy living for themselves that they cannot hear the Lord’s voice when He speaks to them.

To boil the answer down to a few words: Walking with God requires knowing how and what He thinks, what He wants of us, and obeying Him. It’s that simple. The emphasis is on learning to know Him and obeying Him.

When we learn to know the Lord by studying His thoughts as found in Holy Scripture, First Corinthians 2:16b becomes reality: “We have the mind [thoughts] of Christ.”

Are you one of those who wants God to care for you, to help you, to bless you? I can almost hear the Lord say, “You quit asking Me to bless you, and you start walking with Me and obeying Me. That’s when I’ll do something with your life.”

God is waiting for you to truly turn to Him.

Enjoying Life

When we lived in the hills in northern New Mexico, we had two dogs and a cat. Both dogs were larger than the cat, but the cat was still in charge. They grew up together and had no traditional cat-dog animosity. In fact, they loved each other. The dogs were Flicka and Tyke (Flicka was Tyke’s mama), and the cat was Tiggy. The family called her Tig. I called her Critter, but today we’ll go with the family name.

One day when I returned home from work, I saw Tig stalking something – or someone. I slowly got out of the car and crept up to look over the white picket fence.

The cat’s eyes were intensely focused, her belly was barely touching the ground, and her tail was twitching as she ever-so-slowly inched her way forward. Her target? A hapless Tyke, taking a nap about 22 feet away.

I almost held my breath, waiting to see what Tig would do.

Suddenly, like an F/A 18 Super Hornet being catapulted from the deck of the USS Reagan, Tig bolted toward Tyke! Reaching the sleeping victim in a second, she leapt over him, smacking him on the rump with her right front paw as she flew over. As she touched down, Tyke, jerked out of sleep, was up and after her. He instinctively knew the game.

But Tig had it all figured out. Her attack was not intended to include a chase this time, but to show superiority. By the time Tyke could get out an obligatory bark, but before he could generate any momentum, Tig was up the tree that was five feet away.

I can still see it: Tyke standing on his hind legs with his front paws against the tree, vociferously discussing things with the cat; while Tig, hanging onto the tree by her needle-sharp talons about eight feet off the ground, looked down and issued a gentle hiss at the dog. The hiss is translated as, “I win – again.”

 In a few minutes the game was over. Tyke asked for his evening dinner while Tig enjoyed a few minutes in the arms of her adoring owner: our daughter, Rebecca.

Do you enjoy life like that? No, I’m not inferring that you are an animal. Do you take time out of your busy life to have fun?

With all the stuff going on in the world – for example: one mighty nation invading a much smaller peaceful neighbor, people committing murder in the name of their religion, people manifesting intolerance while demanding tolerance from others, people insisting on political correctness while simultaneously distaining common sense, and more – it is sometimes difficult to find time to enjoy a happy moment; but it is possible, and necessary.

Some years ago dad and mom came to visit us. On the second day a gentle breeze was blowing, and dad said, “The temperature is just about right; how about a game of tennis? I’m here to take a break from my hectic schedule.”

We went to the court and began the contest. But within fifteen minutes it began raining. Not a gully-washer or a torrential downpour, but a gentle, refreshing drizzle that encourages rosebushes and lilies to blossom.

“Oh, goodnight! There goes our tennis game.”

“Why, dad? What’s wrong with playing with a wet ball? And with our new shoes, we won’t slip on the court.” Dad relented and we continued playing.

We played hard, and those balls looked like a sideways Saturn as the water spun off. After a half hour, the rain let up and the clouds parted.

“I haven’t had this much fun playing tennis in years. Where’d you learn to play in the rain?”

“You probably enjoyed it because you beat me.” I replied. “But you taught me long ago not to let little things bother me; and this rain was not a bother but a joy. We need the rain.”

“Thank you for learning and thank you for feeding it back to me. I needed the lesson, and YES! I enjoyed beating you.”

We laughed, got dried off and I treated dad to a chocolate milkshake. That was the price for losing. But spending time with dad was never a waste of time. We enjoyed being together.

Do you know that our Heavenly Father enjoys it when we spend time with Him? Hebrews 13:5 quotes Jesus saying, “I’ll never leave you.” That statement alone should give us a great sense of security.

There is nothing we can do about many problems in the world, but we can place our trust in Jesus. Then no matter what happens in the world, when we die we will be with Him forever. Rain or shine, enjoy the time with God as you study the Bible and honor Him in everything you do.

Current Actions Produce Delayed Results

The phone rang. Looking at the caller ID, I answered, “Howdy Paul.”

“Hey Eugene, what are you doing June 21 through June 24?” Paul was an army chaplain, recently retired, and is now a supporting chaplain at the Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland.

I responded, “Nothing’s on the calendar for those days – yet. What do you have in mind?”

“You want to fly to Montana with me?”

“Are you driving?”

“No, big brother. We’ll fly commercial.”

“Are you looking for grizzlies, moose, bison, or what?”

“Wrong on all counts. I want to see the shortest river in the world. You coming with me on this ‘brother’s trip’ or not?”

“Count me in!” And that started an adventure that two close brothers will never forget; and will result in a co-authored book.

Flying out of Oklahoma City, we changed planes in Salt Lake City, then made Helena, Montana home for two nights.

Over dinner, we discussed the purpose of the trip. Up near Great Falls, Montana, there is a natural phenomenon called Giant Springs from which flows what has been dubbed the shortest river in the world. Paul informed me, “Both the Springs and the River are why we are here.” The next day, we drove 75 miles to Giant Springs.

The Little Belt Mountains are sixty miles from Great Falls. As it rains and snows in those hills, water seeps into the Madison Aquifer. Most of that water flows underground into five surrounding states and up into Canada, but a portion travels to Giant Springs. There, approximately 150 million gallons push to the surface every day through openings in the limestone overlaying the Madison Aquifer. Situated on the east bank of the Missouri, some spring water flows directly into the Missouri, while the remainder enters the Missouri by way of the 201-foot-long Roe River. Fish eggs are called roe, and a portion of the short river is diverted into the fish hatchery. Therefore, the name Roe River.

As Paul and I approached the water, I incredulously asked, “That’s a river? That’s shorter than a football field.”

“Sure is. I was on a business trip in 2004, and I always wanted to come back and study it.”

Well, study it, we did – and still are. Various reports say it takes the water twenty-six to fifty-six years to make the sixty-mile trek through the Madison Aquifer, flowing from the Little Belt Mountains to Giant Springs. Yet other reports say some of the water is diverted through different layers of limestone and takes 3,000 years for the journey. Why is there a diversity of opinion about how long it takes? There is an answer, and we will find it.

Another point: the water becomes impure as it seeps into the ground. It can become contaminated by animal droppings, dead animals, mold, and so forth. But as it flows through the limestone, much of the impurities are filtered out.

But what’s the point of it all? I’m glad you asked.

There is a cause and effect working here. The mountain rain and pristine snow (the cause) and the beauty and majesty of the springs (the effect) remind us of the timeline of human life. As it takes many years for the water to seep through sixty miles of limestone to the Springs, things also happen in our lives that often produce a delayed response.

As a child you may have been told, “You’re dumb; you’ll never amount to much!” Or, “You can’t do anything right!” Those are devastating blows that contaminate life; and the clock begins ticking for results to push to the surface. But as the limestone removes the impurities from the water, someone’s intervention can remove those impurities from life. Loving interactions heal wounds.

On the other hand, you might have heard, “You are GOOD at this! You will do well in life.” That, also, sets the clock ticking, and what bubbles to the surface years later can benefit both humanity and God.

The point is: events and personal interactions shape us, but it may take years for the results to show.  So be kind to others and guide them. Help shape lives in a positive manner. Love others as God loves you.

Well, after the working part of the trip, we drove to the town of Stanford, Montana, where Paul treated me to lunch. He said, “I’m taking Stanford (my first name) to Stanford for lunch in honor of your first name.” It was sixty miles out of the way, but who cares? We had a wonderful time up in Big Sky Country.

Who Are You?

I recently heard a portion of a conversation. A man named John went to a hospital to visit a bed-ridden, dying man. The name of the man in bed was Tom. (The names have been changed.)

In the early portion of the visit, Tom perceived that his visitor was troubled concerning his vocation. Not wanting to be nosey or pushy, the dying man realized, however, that John was the one who needed to be encouraged. Also, Tom noticed that John was an up-front, forthright kind of man, so Tom jumped right in. As close as I can recall, here is what I heard.

“John, who are you?”

That took John off guard. “Uh, I’m a basketball coach. Why do you ask?”

“If basketball went away, who would you be?”

John thought about it, then mentioned his other vocations, adding that he is a father, a lay-leader at church, and ….”

“John, you’re missing the point of my question. All those things are what you do or have done, and every one of those things will someday not be so any longer. I’m asking you one simple question. WHO are you? If you became an invalid, as I am, who would you be?”

John is like most of us – he never thought of that before. But Tom wasn’t through. He had one more question.

“My friend, here’s how you can figure out who you are. When you die, as I will soon, you will be none of those things you mentioned. As you enter heaven, none of those titles, jobs, and positions you filled will be part of you. None of your importance, influence, prestige, reputation, or money will go with you. Who will you be then? Think about it, John. Who are you?”

John left the hospital perplexed, and that question began rolling around the corridors of my mind. Who am I? I’ll come back to that in a minute.

Dear reader, you and I could spend several days or weeks trying to impress each other about our jobs, our accomplishments, how we’ve changed our company, church, or society. We also have a culturally imbedded idea that what we do is who we are. I am the president of this. I’m the CEO of that. I started this company. I am a pastor. I’m the chief mechanic over this operation. On and on we could go because we strongly identify with what we do.

But is any of that who we are? If we sleep in a garage, does that make us a car?

Bed-ridden, dying Tom was pointing to eternal reality. When all the temporary things in life vanish, when we breath our last, the eternal question is: who will we be? If we can answer that question, we’ll know who we are.

So, who am I? I’ve learned not to tell folks about my accomplishments because it could be considered a matter of pride. Even while I was a pastor, I truthfully said that I didn’t have a ministry. Why? The Ministry belongs to God, and He graciously allowed me to be a part of what He was doing.

Who am I? I am a King’s Kid. I am an adopted son of the Living, Loving, Eternal, Creative, Almighty God. That’s who I am. And I’ll be that forever.

I remember a 1796 song written by Charlotte Elliott. The first verse is: “Just as I am without one plea, But that thy blood was shed for me, And that thou bidst me come to thee, O Lamb of God, I come, I come.”

I asked the Lord to accept me into His family when I was five years old, and I’ve never turned my back on Jesus. Do I sin? Yes, but when I realize it, I ask the Lord to forgive me. And He does. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Today, I listened to a 1992 song written by Mosie Lister. In addition to being a song-writer, he was a great pianist. The words to the chorus are, “Beyond the Cross is a tomb that is empty, you won’t find Me there anymore. And beyond the tomb is life ever-lasting, and hope forever more.”

Jesus died for us, but He raised back to life three days later. He is alive, and I’ll be alive with Him forever. Who am I? I am an adopted son of God!

Friend, who are you?

Pray for Others

A friend sent a rather lengthy tale to me several decades ago, but I never learned the identity of the author. The story is not a historical account, but more like a parable to illustrate a moral, and the following is a portion of the narrative.

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A ship was wrecked during a storm at sea and only two of the men survived and managed to get to a small island. Not knowing what else to do, they agreed that they had no other recourse but to pray to God.

The first thing the one man prayed for was food. The next morning, he saw a fruit-bearing tree on his side of the island, but the other man’s parcel of land remained barren.

However, to find out whose prayer was more powerful, they agreed to divide the territory between them and stay on opposite sides of the island.

After a week, the first man was lonely and he decided to pray for a puppy. The next day, he found a pooch swimming to his side of the island. On the other side of the island, nothing came ashore.

Soon the first man prayed for a house, clothes, more food. Each time, somehow, the food and the material for all of these came ashore.  However, the second man still had nothing. The first man did, begrudgingly, share some of his food with him.

Finally, the first man prayed for a ship, so that he and his puppy could leave the island. By morning, the wind had blown a deserted boat to his side of the island. He boarded the boat with his puppy and decided to leave the second man on the island.

He thought the other man was unworthy to receive God’s blessings, since none of his prayers had been answered.

As he was about to leave, he heard a voice from heaven booming, “Why are you leaving your companion on the island?”

“My blessings are mine alone, since I was the one who prayed for them. His prayers were all unanswered and so he doesn’t deserve anything.”

“You are mistaken!” the voice rebuked him. “He had only one prayer, which I answered. If not for that, you wouldn’t have received any of my blessings.”

“What did he pray for that I should owe him anything?”

“His only prayer these past two months was that I would answer your prayers.”

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In the legend, both men initially understood their plight, realized that prayer was the only recourse available to them, and amicably began their experiment.

The reason this stood out so strongly to me is that I’ve seen the same qualities in people wherever I go. Some folks are humble, good-hearted, and want what’s best for others. They go out of their way, even to the point of depriving themselves of some benefits of life so they can reduce the hurt and pain others are experiencing. These people are obeying Jesus.

But I’ve also seen other folks who are out to get what they can for themselves. Not helping others in a material way, these self-centered people sometimes go out of their way to destroy reputations, mock others, and make life hard for their imagined enemies.

What those self-absorbed people don’t understand is, the people they are attempting to hurt could be cherished friends if allowed to be.

But let’s continue about the fable above, and perhaps we should reconsider the concept of prayer.

The blessings we receive might not always be the fruit of our prayers alone, but are perhaps benefits from others praying for us. I can write a book about dangerous and life-threatening situations people have faced and how they escaped or survived, but I’ll tell about only one.

My father was in the USS Yorktown during WWII, heading for what would erupt into the Battle of Midway. A terrible fear gripped dad’s mind and he couldn’t do his job. Five thousand miles away, mom had a powerful burden to pray for him … not even knowing where in the world he was. After an hour of intense prayer, mom stopped praying, and the fear suddenly lifted from dad’s mind. Unknown to dad, God answered mom’s prayers.

I encourage all you who are reading this blog: when someone comes to your mind, pray for him or her. Pray however you feel like it, but pray. You may be the “ministering angel” God uses to rescue or help someone.

It’s all about Jesus

December 25 was a special day of the year. Having said that, you might expect this to be about Christmas. But have you ever … wait a minute. Let’s start somewhere else.

 Joy to the World the Lord Has Come! Angels We Have Heard on High…. Those songs, and others, were prompted by the message given to the shepherds out in the fields with their sheep. Silent Night, It Came Upon a Midnight Clear, and many others, were written about a special baby that was born. We Three Kings, and others, were written about several Persian noblemen who visited Joseph, Mary, and the toddler Jesus about a year later in their home.

Who was this famous baby that changed the world? Or, since babies don’t change society, the question should be, Who is this Person that changed the world?

The Book of Matthew starts with Jesus’ genealogy, then verse 18 begins the detailed account of his birth. Mark starts with the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Luke starts with the history behind Luke’s Gospel, then verse 26 begins a detailed account of Jesus’ birth. But the Gospel of John starts prior to the beginning of mankind and prior to the creation of the earth.

John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Verse 3 tells us the Word created everything in the universe. Verse 14, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”

John 1:2 bounces me back to Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” By this we know that the Word, Jesus, Who had no beginning, created the cosmos.

Okay, now we can think about Christmas, December 25. Was Jesus born at this time of year? Probably not, but that’s another story and don’t worry about it. We’re celebrating the birth of the Person mentioned in John 1:1 and Genesis 1:1 – God in human form. He is the greatest dichotomy of all time. For the first – and only – time in history, a real God was born as a human.

The Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, and many others developed myths, legends, and fantasies of gods creating themselves, gods being born, gods squabbling over territorial rights, fighting and killing each other, and a whole lot more. Their pantheons of gods were memorials of either great imaginations, or possibly of demon activity within mankind’s history.

Many citizens of those nations worshipped their gods out of fear, and offered sacrifices, including their own children, to those gods to appease their anger and to gain good business ventures and harvests.

But Genesis 1:1, John 1:1, and the remainder of Scripture tell a different story. The one and only God did not create Himself, because He never had a beginning. He is The Great I Am. God didn’t come to squabble or fight with anyone. Instead, He came to give life, redeem us, give peace, forgiveness, security, and a lot more. It would cost Him His natural life to accomplish it. But He came prepared with that in mind, and nothing would deter Him from fulfilling His mission.

The angels told Mary to name the baby Jehoshua, which means Jehovah is salvation. Through time, it was shortened to Joshua, and through Latin influence, we eventually have the name Jesus.

Have you ever thought about all that? That’s what Christmas is all about. (Christ-mas: a mass or meeting about Christ.)

“In the little village of Bethlehem, there lay a Child one day, and the sky was bright with a holy light, o’er the place where Jesus lay.

“’Twas a humble birthplace, but O how much God gave to us that day, from the manger bed what a path was led, what a perfect, holy way.

“Alleluia! How the angels sang. Alleluia, how it rang! And the sky was bright with a holy light, ‘twas the birthday of a King.”  By William Harold Neidlinger; 1890.

Display your lights, give gifts, share your meals – either scrumptious or meager. Listen to concerts, sing the Hallelujah Chorus and Christmas carols. Visit family, renew friendships.

But always keep in mind why Jesus came. Even as a baby, He was God. But He came to grow up and give His life for us so that we may have eternal life with Him in heaven.

The wonderful greeting of Merry Christmas is joyful, beautiful, and fitting one month out of the year, but Praising God and blessing people is fitting all year long. Be kind to one another and help others in this difficult time in history.

Dickens and Christmas

Have you heard about the movie: The Man Who Invented Christmas?

Chris Knight, chief film critic for the National Post, said, “The movie is based on Les Standiford’s long-winded historical non-fiction from 2008, The Man Who Invented Christmas: How Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol Rescued His Career and Revived Our Holiday Spirits.” Knight also said of the movie, “By all rights, The Man Who Invented Christmas should be a humbug. Instead, it’s a humdinger.”

Charles John Huffam Dickens was a prolific writer. One article says he is regarded as the greatest novelist of the Victorian era, and that he created some of the world’s best-known fictional characters. Several of them are: Jack Dawkins, the pick-pocket in Oliver Twist; Tiny Tim, Bob Cratchit, and Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol; Mr. Pott, the editor in The Pickwick Papers; and David Copperfield in David Copperfield.

Dickens was a prolific writer. But did he invent Christmas? Humbug!

But some pagan activities did intermingle with the sacred celebration.

Another commentary is from Ronald Hutton, an historian at Bristol University in the UK. He said, “It’s a mistake to say that our modern Christmas tradition comes directly from pre-Christian paganism. However, you’d be equally wrong to believe that Christmas is a modern phenomenon. As Christians spread their religion into Europe in the first centuries A.D., they ran into people living by a variety of local and regional religious creeds.”

One report says: “A Christian holiday honoring the birth of Jesus Christ, Christmas evolved over two millennia into a worldwide religious and secular celebration, incorporating many pre-Christian, pagan traditions into the festivities along the way. Today, Christmas is a time for family and friends to get together and exchange gifts.”  (history.com/topics/christmas)

Philip Shaw, who researches early Germanic languages and Old English at Leicester University in the UK, said, “Early Christians wanted to convert pagans to Christianity, but they were also fascinated by their [pagan] traditions.”

Stephen Nissenbaum, author of “The Battle for Christmas”; Vintage, 1997) made a good case for an old Christmas celebration when he said, “If you want to show that Jesus was a real human being, not just somebody who appeared like a hologram, then what better way to think of him being born in a normal, humble human way than to celebrate his birth?”

Christmas celebrations developed independently around the world for almost 2,000 years. And why not? Jesus’ birth was probably one of the two most important events in the history of the world!

And that’s why we celebrate Christmas – God became man in order to redeem us and restore our fellowship with Himself. And he came as a baby, born in a manger.

But as mentioned previously, many of the Christmas festivities became corrupted. Instead of candlelight services or worship services, rowdy and drunken revelries became common. Therefore, many protestants rejected paganized Christmas celebrations. Early Protestants wanted to honor Jesus Christ, our Savior – not have a festivity which obscured Christ. Denouncing sin and frivolity, they gave necessities for life as gifts; avoiding superficial parties, they shared sacred meals.

But as some Protestants squelched the pagan revelry surrounding Christmas, they also put down anything associated with Christmas celebrations. They threw out the baby with the bathwater. In this case, they threw out observing the birth of Jesus with the pagan celebrations.

Enter Charles Dickens.

Noting societal debauchery, prevalent poverty, and abusive child labor in the 1840s, Dickens vowed to do something about it – and writing was what he did best. In six weeks, he wrote A Christmas Carol. If you’ve read it, you know why it became an immediate best-seller.

Dickens wanted to insert joy and gladness into a life filled with drudgery, dreariness and death. Without ignoring the seriousness of life, he portrayed the Spirit of Christmas filled with miracles and laughter. He also reminded society of the importance of blessing others by caring for those around them.

Did Dickens invent Christmas? No. But he did encourage joy and human-kindness, and inspired a positive change in society.

Jesus, who is God (John 1:1-3), came to earth to restore man’s relationship with himself. But he came as a baby (Matthew 1, Luke 1) so, as he grew, he could personally experience mankind’s trials, hardships, and joys.

Jesus loves you and desires for you to know him as he is today – God and Savior.

May the Lord bless you this Christmas season.

This is Getting Close to the End of the Year.

Sunset on November 27, 2021 in Siloam Springs, Arkansas
We feel like time travelers.

Can you believe it? This year is almost over, and 2022 is about to begin! 2021 has been a busy year for Carol and me. We’ve traveled over 29,000 miles – yes, we drove every one of them – and we feel like we’ve traveled through time. We’ve also seen a lot of beautiful scenery. 

I’ve also formatted dozens of books for folks, and written a few myself. One I’ve worked on for quite a while, and finally put in print this year, is a compilation of my Reflections on Life articles. If you want a book that is easy to read, yet is chalk-full of information on numerous topics, get this book.  It contains about 77 short articles that will let you travel through time from ancient history to now. You’ll read about topics from geology to history to Bible to astronomy, plus a whole lot more!

Now that I think about it, you might want to have your own books published, and we can do that for you for a low fee. So go to plpubandlit.com and check us out. You’ll find our prices are very hard to beat, especially when you see the quality of work we do. When you call us, you don’t get a recording very often because we enjoy talking with our clients, and giving personal service.

P & L Publishing and Literary Services also provides professional editing services. Look us up at P & L Publishing & Literary Services – Expert Formatting & Editing for Self-Publishing Your Book (plpubandlit.com).

If you have a book or books you’ve been thinking of writing and publishing, you’ll enjoy checking out our web site at plpubandlit.com. We’ll be glad to help your literary dreams become a reality.

Christmas is almost here, with New Year’s just around the corner. Please drive carefully, and live in such a manner that you will be safe and help others be safe.

MERRY CHRISTMAS

AND

HAPPY NEW YEAR, FRIENDS.

Down Memory Lane (pt.2)

For a couple of years, my brother, Paul, and I’ve been talking about preserving family memories. Our parents and parents-in-law are gone, two of our siblings are gone, and we don’t know what the future holds. Every time someone leaves this life, an encyclopedia of information evaporates into thin air.

How many times have you heard, or even said, “I didn’t really know him”? How many times have you thought, “How would he respond in this situation?” Or, “I know we grew up together, but what happened that gave her a different outlook on life than I have?”

It was time to start documenting Linzey family memories!

To begin, two major factors had to be considered.

1) Because everyone is so busy, the process must be simple. And

2) Because writing is seen as a chore, the process must be enjoyable.

The brainstorming session began.

Proverbs 17:22 informs us that a cheerful disposition (“a merry heart”) is good medicine to the body, but discouragement causes our health to deteriorate (“dries up the bones”).

We could let each sibling take turns choosing a topic to write about, but people’s minds sometimes go blank. Several of our siblings asked, “How do we choose a topic?” So Paul chose the Rememory Card® system. (Look up “Rememory Cards” on the web.) Nevertheless, with or without cards, here is the simple process Paul wrote.

  1. Decide how many months you would like the project to continue.
  2. Each week, take turns selecting a writing prompt and those joining the fun will write a memory on that topic. Write from a half to 2 pages per memory. Paul and I decided on one memory per week, but you can choose your own time cycle. We realized that if we waited too long, we’d lose the enjoyment and the momentum.
  3. Write whatever you want. Nobody will censor your language or stories.
  4. There is no pressure or mandate to write about every topic selected. If you don’t want to write about something, skip it.
  5. You may write about anyone in the family. Your stories don’t have to be only about yourself, however, you should be considerate of others’ feelings when writing about your family.
  6. You can draw from your whole history. Consider your whole childhood as well as your adult interaction with the family.
  7. This is a memoir project. Memory is not always accurate. In fact, it’s been demonstrated that nobody remembers perfectly. Also, we tend to interpret as we remember. We subconsciously fill in the blanks, expand, and erase some aspects of our experiences. So, we don’t challenge anyone’s memory. Memory is specific to the individual.
  8. Every family has both good and bad, painful and pleasant, positive and negative, funny and serious memories. Try to get your stories to reflect a balance and a blend of these dynamics.
  9. Not everybody will remember what you remember, so it might be a good idea to identify the year, the location, and the writer’s name after each person’s story.
  10. It’s OK if your stories focus on yourself, but, if possible, find a way to bring at least one other family member into the anecdote.
  11. This endeavor can create priceless documentation of your family history that your grandkids and great grandkids might never know otherwise.
  12. Simply take turns choosing a topic, gather the stories, and have someone compile them. If the family agrees, you may find a publishing company (expensive traditional or affordable self-publishing company) to format it and turn it into a family treasure.
  13. Keep in mind that this memory project is for your own benefit as well as for the rest of the family. And if you get brave, as my family might, you can have it published for the general public.

Our family started in January and will complete it in October. With six of us writing, we’ll have well-over 400 pages to edit and format into a family treasure.

There are ten kids in our family, with fifteen years between the oldest and youngest. Knowing that fact alone, you may understand why there’s a lot about each other that we don’t know – even coming out of the same family, same church, and same basic culture.

The fact is, we are all different and we all interpret life differently. But all six of us thoroughly enjoyed it, and, as a side benefit, this project has drawn us all closer than we’ve ever been before.

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