Blog #552 New Years Eve / New Year – eternity!!

New Year’s Eve / New Year

https://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/months/

Here we are – the end of 2018, and the start of 2019.  

Some date and time aspects are pretty much the same throughout various cultures in history.  

Dates go back a long way.  Primitive man could see the moon go from being full to a half/quarter/new moon/quarter/half and back to a full moon – in just about one month time.  Early man noticed the seasons. Days were ‘created’ as man noticed a cycle of dark and light. So, days, months and years were created (with months being the least exact).  You could have fixed length months and then have days left over at the end of the year (which was a fixed point/time from when the sun was in a certain position to when it was in the same position).

Hours were harder and were truly man-made.  For most early societies there were days and nights – and you worked from sunrise to sunset.  In summer that would mean longer days and in winter shorter days. If hours had been developed at the time of the invention of the metric system it could be that we would have 100 hours in a day, but hours were developed in Egypt (and other places) as 24 units (or, as 24 hours).  Measuring an hour by day was somewhat easy by noticing the position of the sun on a sundial. Measuring an hour at night was harder without the sun. Water measurements came into play – as it would take about an hour to fill a bucket that would overflow into the next lower bucket.  Eventually, hours were based on hour-glasses – glass devices that would drip sand from one area into another area and take an hour.

So, time was largely set – year orbiting the sun; month for the moon to orbit the early, week made of seven days; days from sunset one day to sunset the next (or from sunrise to the next sunrise); days divided into hours, and hours into minutes and then minutes into second.

But – things were not uniform.  Noon was easy to figure – when the sun was at its peak in the sky.  But, noons were not uniform. When the sun was at its peak in town A, the sun was not quite at its peak in town B maybe an hour ride on the train west.  The trains largely needed to run on time, so it was determined that in a country at precisely X time, it was X time throughout the entire country. And if the sun was not quite at its peak in town A, and was slightly past its peak in town B, the uniformity of time was to be enforced (and train timetables could be arranged.

Now all of the above might be interesting (or not), but by international agreement (and the Gregorian Calendar) December 31st is the last day of the current year and January 1st is the first day of the next year.  (And, even that has slight variations with leap day and even leap seconds). So this is the last day of the year 2018 in the Common Era (or AD – anno domini – in the year or Our Lord – which is nice for Christians – but maybe not so for other religions).  There are still Chinese calendars, Jewish calendars and others that exist. Time is now more officially noted with atomic clocks.

So, today ends one year and tomorrow starts the next (or, if you will, at midnight, the next year will start). And, even that is not quite true as 2019 will have been in effect for several hours in countries of the eastern hemisphere before it becomes 2019 in the Central Time Zone (USA) where I live.

Man has adjusted to time, days start and end; weeks start and end; months start and end; and years start and end.  

As a boy, almost everything had a start and an end.  BUT, then (as a boy), I encountered religion with the phrase “World without End, Amen, Amen” as part of my upbringing.  God was before the world started, and God will be there after the world ends. God is eternal. Even now as I try to adjust my life, I think “So, how did God come to be – since God is eternal.  (Answer – well, Bruce, that is the way it is). But Why is that the way it is?)

Eventually, when growing up, I had to accept “that is the way it is”.  As Maria sings in the Sound of Music, “nothing comes from nothing, nothing ever could”, my mind says “Okay, at one point billions and billions and billions of years ago, there was nothing.  Then there was something. How can that be? The answer is “God”. My life is finite – I was born, I have lived and eventually will die. So, how can anything be eternal? (And still, the answer is “God”).  My finite brain can’t handle this – but so what, life goes on.

So, if tonight you are pondering the end of a year and the start of a new year, and wonder about eternity, realize that is one area that mankind cannot really solve or know, and accepting that “God” is eternal (who and whatever you might conceive “God” to be) is the only real way to go.

Hopefully, I was the only little boy that laid in bed trying to solve eternal issues with a finite mind!!

How about you?

Bruce

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Blog #551 – The Best Version of You – part III

Blog #551 the Best Version of you – part III

http://time.com/4479890/best-version-of-yourself/

We’ve been looking at the Time Magazine about the Best Version of You – leading up to New Years. Today is our third installment.

-9 Don’t count the hours!!  If you have determined that a particular activity is something you like, something in which you can become better (I’ve used golf, quilting, knitting, walking, and art) in the past), don’t count the hours.  Do the activity until your brain says “stop for today”. Sure, keeping a schedule is important, but not so important that the clock determines the lesson. As a teacher, there were times when I almost reached an important point in a lesson when the hour said ‘done’.  There were many times that I kept a class for that extra minute to make that point. We could come back tomorrow and finish that point, but I wanted that point to be in their brain.

Maybe the quilter was almost done with a quilt square – unless there is a pressing time issue, finish it.  (If you have dinner in the oven, that takes a higher priority!!). If you are knitting and just finally got the basics of a particular stitch or method, do another (or two or three or many) to get that concept in your brain.  Maybe on the golf course, you hit a ‘perfect’ nine-iron shot on the 18th hole. You could go to the practice area and hit a bucket of balls with your nine-iron to cement that thought in your brain. Learning and becoming the best version of you may take many hours – but don’t let the hours defeat your lesson.  If you are relearning to play piano, go an extra half-hour in your practice to get that tricky left-hand fingering for a piece.

-10 Accept help from others.  This ties in with the networking point from yesterday.  Get help. It might be the anonymous help of a YouTube video – or the hands-on help of a friend.  Ask somebody that you respect (and trust) to comment on your quilt, your knitting project, or your artwork.  Note, this has to be somebody you trust – and somebody ‘nice’. There are experts that will cut you down and belittle you and your work.  DON’T ASK THEM!! (Find a nice, older and gentle woman who cares about people – generalization). Turn your brain on – and learn. Your traditional learning involved lessons – and practice. You trusted your teachers (in most cases) and then did homework.

-11 The article suggests launching a personal website.  These can be free (like having a blog on Facebook). There are free blogging sites (like Blogger or Tumbler).  I have paid for http://drbrucewhite.com – worth it to me.  You can also find free websites like Wix or Webs.  For me, my blogging is getting me to think – to improve – and to become the best version of me.

-12 Likewise, this article suggests writing on Quora.  Writing is good, finding a platform is okay.

-13 Ignore social media.  People only post ‘nice’ things on Facebook (and other media).  I didn’t post about depression after my surgery a year-and-one-half ago on Facebook.  Social media is bad for beginners in something. If I want to jog, and I am in a jogging group on Facebook and they are all posting about running marathons, and about their speeds will make me want to stop.  

-14 Celebrate small victories. Again, a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.  I know a lady that has had a stroke, has diabetes and is obese, has worked on walking a few steps farther each and every day.  

How about you?  What is the best version of you that you want to be in 2019?  How are you going to get there?

Tomorrow a New Year’s Eve thought, then we will finish this in 2019!!!

Bruce

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Blog #550 the Best Version of You – part II

The Best Version of you – part II

http://time.com/4479890/best-version-of-yourself/

Today I’m continuing a series on the Best Version of you – started by Time Magazine.

-5 Network.  Hey, if you want to be the best version of you, you need to learn what to do to be the best version of you.  In my previous example, I mentioned quilting. If you want to be the best version of you as a quilter – you need to go to the quilt shops, to the quilt shows, watch quilt videos on YouTube, network with quilters.  Find somebody (initially) who won’t laugh at your early efforts and who can gently give you suggestions and positive comments. If you are going to be an artist, find an amateur artist in your gendre and network with them.  Recently I’ve been using MeetUp and finding groups. It seems like there are groups for almost anything. Maybe I need to find a ‘beginning artist group. (I’ve found hiking groups for seniors and a 60 plus for fun group that plays cards).  While I don’t think being the best Hand-and-Foot Canasta player in the world is my goal, the best version of me involved being social, getting out and meeting people, being an encourager (like I ‘always’ have been) and playing canasta with seniors will help me become a better social version of myself (and get me out of the house and involved).

-6 Don’t sweat the details.  If the best version of you is to be a better golfer, get out and play the game.  Find a three-some on the first tee and ask to join them. As you play, you can ask for help (“Which club should I use”). The idea here is to start in the right direction.  The old Chinese proverb is “A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step”. If you want to be a better knitter, start knitting. Find some books and challenge yourself to try slightly bigger things.  If you want to be more physically fit, you don’t have to buy the top-of-the-line marathon shoes, but get some reasonable, comfortable shoes (you probably have some in your closet for walking a couple of miles). As your journey continues and you get to be a better you, you can work on the details.

-7 Get free help.  Yes, free (and frequently great) help is available at the click of a button (and typing “YouTube”) into the search engine.  You want to be a better golfer, quilter, walker, jogger, knitter, cook, whatever – you can watch videos. Another alternative is Pinterest.  You want to find a better way to clean the bathroom (hey, that can be part of being a better version of you) you can find hundreds of suggestions on Pinterest.

-8 Write.  The article suggests writing on Medium.  I’ve looked at Medium some, but haven’t written anything (and for a person who loves to write, maybe I need to branch out and put some of these blog idea together.  Writing does cause a person to reflect and to organize one’s thoughts. I’d suggest writing a blog or a journal. In this past year of writing almost every day, I think I’ve gotten to be a better version of myself as a coach, mentor, encourager.  Sometimes that comes as I need to use item #7 (get free help) from Google and other places (like this source today.

I’m sure we will get farther in the next few days, but I want to add a thought.  Your attitude determines almost everything. If you think you can’t write and do even try writing, you will not become a better writer.  Even if you watch every video and follow every link about being a great writer and blogger, but you don’t actually write, you haven’t done much to be the best version of you.

I can remember my first teaching job and coaching.  We could have spend the whole pre-season time in the classroom diagramming basketball plays, and watching videos.  But, if that was the concept, when we put on the jerseys for the first time and walked onto the basketball court, we would have no clue as to what to do.  Theory and practice go hand-in-hand.

More tomorrow!!!

Bruce

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Blog Post #549 Becoming the best version of you!!

Blog #549 Becoming the Best Version of you – part I

http://time.com/4479890/best-version-of-yourself/

Who are you?  Why am I here?  What is the purpose of my life?

Tough questions and important questions.  

Over time in this blog, I have tried to explore this topic.  We looked at Simon Sinek and “Getting to Why” (see: https://startwithwhy.com)

Today’s blog doesn’t go that deep into “Why”.  With a New Year (2019) around the corner, we are looking at Time Magazine’s “Becoming the Best Version of you”

So, let’s look at the Best Version of you!!

-1 Show up.  Would you like to eventually run a marathon? Or a 5K? Or enter a quilt (or other item) in the county fair?  SHOW UP.
If you want to do the marathon or 5K – show up, lace your shoes and start.  Maybe in that first run, you only get a half-a-mile; but that is farther than nothing.  I once did a 20K (about 12.5 miles). I came in about 8 people before the last runner (after about 2000 people).  BUT I DID IT. It took me all summer to do it. I started with three miles, then worked up to five miles, then to eight miles and finally to the full 12.5 miles.  It took me about five months from adopting this plan to executing it. AND … I was ahead of millions of people who never tried!!!

-2 Start from the beginning.  Let’s say you want to play golf.  You buy some clubs and go to a golf course.  You might have watched some videos, watched golf on TV and headed out.  In your brain, you are going to shoot 72 for your first eighteen holes. But, you probably will end up with a score over 100 (maybe closer to 150).  You have to start at the beginning. If you want to knit an afghan, you might start with knitting some simple squares. But – starting is something.  Take your time. (I’m going to be an artist – I have my first ‘major’ item on my table now!! Check back with me next year at this time!!!)

-3 This is YOUR BEST VERSION of YOU – not somebody else’s version.  Again, if you want to play golf, don’t compare yourself to Tiger Woods – compare to you.  Over time you should get better. If you can take one stroke off your score each month, in five years you will have taken SIXTY strokes off your score.  And if you started at a score of 150, you are now down to 80!!! Don’t compare to others – this is the best version of YOU!!!
Aside.  I have a friend that had the opportunity to retire at 50.  He had three best selling books in his academic field. His parents had died and left him with wealth.  Each year (or every-other-year), he would update the textbooks with some new material), and the books still sell – I see on Amazon that one of his texts is in the 12th edition.  He decided to play golf – every day (he lived in San Diego at the time). He took lessons, he got relatively good. For probably four years, he played almost daily and worked weekly with a golf pro.  His scores were in the mid-eighties – which was good for his age. At some point, he decided that he had become the BEST VERSION of a golfer he could become – and went back into education (and he, was a good professor). Lesson- you don’t have to do an activity forever!!

Maybe your quilt will never win “The Best Quilt” at the county fair; maybe your apple pie won’t win the pie contest, but you reach the “Best Version” of you.  

-4 Don’t expect a miracle and don’t expect shortcuts. If you want to be YOUR best version of a blogger (one of my goals), you have to write (and write, and write). This past year, I have written this blog something like 348 days (okay, I missed a few days).  You can judge if these blogs are ‘good’; but for me, it is part of being the best version of ME!!

What do you want to be in 2019?  How can you work at being the best version of YOU in 2019?

(To be continued)

Bruce

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Blog Post #548

Blog Post #548 The “Non-Christmas Carol”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Good_King_Wenceslas

https://www.carols.org.uk/good_king_wenceslas.htm

This time of year, we hear the “Christmas Carol” Good King Wenceslas on the radio.  

The lyrics go:

Good King Wenceslas looked out
On the feast of Stephen
When the snow lay round about
Deep and crisp and even
Brightly shone the moon that night
Though the frost was cruel
When a poor man came in sight
Gath’ring winter fuel

“Bring me flesh and bring me wine
Bring me pine logs hither
Thou and I will see him dine
When we bear him thither.”
Page and monarch forth they went
Forth they went together
Through the rude wind’s wild lament
And the bitter weather

In his master’s steps he trod
Where the snow lay dinted
Heat was in the very sod
Which the Saint had printed
Therefore, Christian men, be sure
Wealth or rank possessing
Ye who now will bless the poor
Shall yourselves find blessing

So, we see the King and his page looked out of the castle on December 26 (the feast of Stephen).  The snow is deep. It was cold (“the frost was cruel”). The moon was full (or near full). The wind was fierce (“the rude wind’s wild lament”).  We might call the evening a blizzard, although the snow was not currently falling (the moon was out). And, into those conditions, a poor man is gathering wood.  

One can surmise that the poor man (probably a peasant) had used all of his fuel on this bitterly cold night and needed to have more wood for his fireplace – or possibly die.  

I have lived in South Dakota where our actual temperature was occasionally in the minus twenty range.  If you factor in the wind chill (across the Great Plains of the United States, there is little to stop the wind), it was probably in the minus thirty to minus 40 range.  The record lows for parts of South Dakota are in the minus 50 range. The wind can blow ‘right through you’.

This poor man was very needful to gather wood on such a night.

Wikipedia indicates that Wenceslas lived in the 10th century, but the song was written in 1853!  Wenceslas was considered as an ideal monarch (that is a ‘good’ king). In Wikipedia, we see this: “Several centuries later the legend was claimed as fact by Pope Pius II, who himself also walked ten miles barefoot in the ice and snow as an act of pious thanksgiving.  [I think I might be able to walk ten miles – but barefoot in the ice and snow – no way!!!] The song seems to indicate that where Wenceslas walked, his footprints melted the snow – so many he could walk ten miles in the ice and snow!!  Wenceslas was assassinated by his wicked brother, Boleslaw the Bad.

But the moral of the song is in the third stanza:

Therefore, Christian men, be sure
Wealth or rank possessing
Ye who now will bless the poor
Shall yourselves find blessing

If you are rich or have a high rank – take care of the poor; with that, you too shall be blessed.

So, here we have a “Christmas” song, not talking of the birth of Jesus, taking place on the day after Christmas, about a good king, written maybe 700 years after Wenceslas lived, with no angels, no shepherds, and no baby in a manger – telling us to help the poor.  

I’m embarrassed writing this blog.  I walked past a Salvation Army Red Kettle bell ringer the other day and didn’t put anything in the kettle.  I know in the past my wife (who handles most of our finances) has made contributions to the Salvation Army and I should have checked with her.  [By-the-way, my personal opinion is that the Salvation Army is a solid, well-run charity with close to 100% of the income given for services to the poor.]  I also past a homeless man (or I assume he was) on a street corner with a sign asking for “Anything will help”.

Lesson for me (and maybe for you) – take care of the poor, the needy!!  Have you done that?  (I haven’t and need to) And … there is a promise there too – if you help the poor, you too shall have a blessing!!!

Bruce

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Blog post #547 Boxing Day

Boxing Day!!

https://www.thespruce.com/what-is-boxing-day-435060

It is BOXING DAY!!!  (It is a national holiday in the United Kingdom and in Ireland.  The article states one traditional reason for boxing day:

“The name is a reference to holiday gifts. A ‘Christmas Box’ in Britain is a name for a Christmas present. Boxing Day was traditionally a day off for servants and the day when they received a ‘Christmas Box’ from the master. The servants would also go home on Boxing Day to give ‘Christmas Boxes’ to their families.”

It is NOT a day to box (as in sparring or fighting), but boxes (as in gift boxes).  

It is not a day (at least in the UK and Ireland) to return boxes to the stores.  I worked as a Customer Service Rep for one Holiday Season at Kohl’s and yes, December 26th was “returning boxes to the store” (with statements like “this isn’t my size”, ”I don’t like the color”, etc.)  I do realize that presents/gifts may not be what the recipient wanted!!!

So, how might we make this an American “Boxing Day”?  

A second tradition according to the article is a ‘poor box’ concept: “The name is a reference to charity drives. A box to collect money for the poor traditionally and placed in Churches on Christmas day and opened the next day – Boxing Day.

How about a boxing day for friends – not quite close enough for gifts, but still special.  I never lived in New York City, but I know during the Holiday Season many people received special tips and gifts – like doormen, trashmen, cleaning ‘ladies’, others.  

How about boxes of goodies for the homeless (in the Austin area, there are many).  Include a few homemade cookies plus small gift cards to McDonald’s or other locations.  How about boxes of goodies to our neighbors – to have good neighbors, you have to BE a good neighbor.  (We say ‘hi’ to our neighbors to the north of our house – but really don’t interact with them – maybe this is our time to really be friendly and neighborly?)  How about thoughtful gifts to others – people in our workplaces; pastors, priests, rabbis, others; even people at our banks, salons, doctor’s offices? We might even put in a little note that says how much we appreciate them (and, appreciating somebody is really ‘kind of loving them’).  

There is also a box from Greek Mythology – Pandora’s box.  Seemingly that box held all the evil in the world, but when Pandora opened it a second time, HOPE came out of the box.

I’d like to give a box to all my friends, and to the whole world – a box that has hope; a box that has peace – both internally and worldwide/externally; a box that has joy; and a box that has love.  Maybe 2019 can be a year of hope, peace, joy, and love!!!

Happy Boxing Day 2018!!!

Bruce

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Blog #546 Christmas – I heard the Bells on Christmas Day

Christmas Reflection – part II Peace on Earth, Good will to Men.

Yesterday I wrote of Handel’s Messiah – King of Kings and Lord of Lords – today is a bit more somber.

But, sometimes I’m like Henry W. Longfellow’s lyrics “I heard the bells on Christmas Day”

  • I heard the bells on Christmas day
    Their old familiar carols play;
    In music sweet the tones repeat,
    “There’s peace on earth, good will to men.”

  • I thought how, as the day had come,
    The belfries of all Christendom
    Had rolled along th’ unbroken song
    Of peace on earth, good will to men.

  • And in despair I bowed my head:
    “There is no peace on earth,” I said,
    “For hate is strong, and mocks the song
    Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

  • Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
    “God is not dead, nor does He sleep,
    For Christ is here; His Spirit near
    Brings peace on earth, good will to men.”

Now, I hear strident voices screaming at me from all sides.  “We are right; you are wrong”; Christianity is divided / The country is divided politically.
– Evangelicals drawing boundaries – who is good and who is not – (who is going to be ‘saved’ because they are the only true Christians out there);
– Traditional Protestants trying hard to remain relevant and in that process antagonizing the Evangelicals by accepting ‘sinners’ into the midst (like Lesbians, Gays, Transgender);
– Catholics also standing by also trying to be relevant (but saying, “We really do go back to Jesus and the first Pope was Peter, all the rest of you broke off from US – plus we have the true miracle of John chapter 6 as Jesus says my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink);

-And even my Jewish friends trying to balance their traditions and beliefs against eating bacon.  (Okay, oversimplification on almost all of this.)

With some knowledge of history, some of our ancestors had slaves (and viewed them as less than humans); some said “no alcohol’ and even get a constitutional amendment passed to ban alcohol; others were on the ‘wet’ side.  Humans/mankind are pretty much able to hate very well and not good at loving and forgiving!!

Longfellow was correct as he wrote, “For Hate is strong and mocks the song of Peace on Earth and Goodwill to Men”. 

As I get more into my senior years, I find I “hate” hate – I don’t want to ‘hate’ anybody; I don’t want to judge anybody – after all, who am I to “play” God?  I don’t know how God is going to handle Heaven. All I ‘know’ (and I really will not truly ‘know’) is that He is in charge, not me.

Let me throw in one last verse: “When you look for me, you will find me. Yes, when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13)

I am 71, I am retired – and someday in the future, I am going to die.  I firmly believe there is (a) an omnipotent being behind everything, and (b) He (or She) is in charge – and definitely not me.  Maybe I’m crazy but, I need to seek for Him. And … above all, I am definitely NOT perfect (not even close) and not worthy for heaven (whatever that is).  (All I know about heaven, is that there is as much ice cream and peanut butter as anybody could want!!!)

Merry Christmas

Bruce

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Blog #545 Handel’s Messiah/Christmas theme

Christmas Reflections in the Judeo-Christian viewpoint and Handel’s Messiah

We live in a fragmented world.  There are so many worldviews screaming for out attention.  

When I grew up, it seemed to me I heard from the Judeo-Christian viewpoint.  To me, that was one viewpoint. Yes, I was on the Christian side – but Christianity was really more of a Jewish sect – or (excuse me), a fulfillment of Judaism.  There were two ‘testaments’ – the Old Testament – the history of our ancestors in faith (that is – the Hebrews, the Jews), and the New Testament – the history and teaching of a Jewish carpenter called Jewish.  That Jewish carpenter said some interesting things – like “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, no one comes to the Father except through me”, and even “The Father and I are one” (John 10:30).

Growing up it seemed like society (in Cedar Rapids Iowa) was pretty much uniform.  Yes, in school there were some blacks, maybe even some other diverse groups, but as a whole, we were pretty uniform.  In High School, we had four television options – ABC, CBS, NBC and PBS. We didn’t have many options in radio – country, big band/oldies/cooking/talk, and rock-and-roll.  

In the Jefferson High School choir, we sang spirituals and religious based music.  We knew our choir director was Lutheran and the students in the choir all (or that was my assumption) went to Christian Churches.  We had Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, Baptist, Nazarene, and whatever else Christian. And, we seemed to get along quite well.
This time of year, we heard the Messiah lyrics:

  • Ev’ry valley shall be exalted, and ev’ry mountain and hill made low; the crooked straight and the rough  places plain. (Isaiah 40:4)
  • For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulder; and His name shall be called, Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)
  • And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken It. (Isaiah 40:5)
  • Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Emmanuel, God with us.
  • (Isaiah 7:14; St. Matthew 1:23)
  • He shall feed His flock like a shepherd; and He shall gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those that are with young. (Isaiah 40:11)
  • All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way. And the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.(Isaiah 53:6)
  • Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows! He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him.
  • (Isaiah 53:4-5)
  • And ending:
  • Hallelujah: for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth (Revelation 19:6)
    The kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ and he shall reign for ever and ever.  (Revelation 11:15)
  • King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Revelation 19:16)

To my ears, it was perfect – And his name shall be called Wonderful Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

Can it get better than that – a wonderful counselor, the mighty God, the everlasting father – and definitely The Prince of Peace.  HALLELUJAH

Are you singing HALLELUJAH this year (at least in your heart)?

Continued tomorrow on Christmas Day!!!

Bruce

 

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Blog #544 Innkeeper

Christmas Season Blog – The Innkeeper

She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn.  Luke 2:7

There you go.  The mean innkeeper didn’t find Mary, Joseph and Jesus a room.  Couldn’t that innkeeper see that Mary was pregnant and about ready to give birth?  Assuming it was a man, how cruel could he be – to put aside this young couple ready to give birth.

We really don’t know more.  This is the only verse (that I know of anyway) that mentions there was no room in the inn.  

Not so much lately with all the hotels.com/priceline.com/hotwire.com/expedia.com/ booking.com and so many more websites and apps, but in the past, we have tried to find a hotel/motel later at night and were sent away.  I don’t remember the town – someplace in Tennessee or Virginia. We were driving back to Connecticut from Texas after visiting our daughter. Every mile on the road was a mile closer to home. Yes, we could have stopped at 6:00 after 10 hours of driving, but if we could drive ‘just a little farther’ the next day’s drive would be less.  If we could get to 9:00 that would be three hours less on the next day (and maybe 200 miles farther). Finally – about at the end of our patience, we got off the interstate and into a medium-sized town (that is, a town where there should be more than three options for a hotel/motel. We stopped at probably four places – that were full.  “No room in the inn” for us. In those days before cell phones (at least for us) and before being able to find hotels quickly while in the car. After the fourth place, the ‘innkeeper’ volunteered to make a few calls for us – and on the third call found a suitable place for us for the night.

Yes, it is possible to have ‘no room in the inn’.  

Of course, ‘no room in the inn’ – doesn’t always mean ‘no room’.  Some chains are required to keep a handicapped room for last minute handicap visitors  It might be that stopping at a motel at 10:30 p.m. the might be able to release that saved room to non-handicapped visitors.  

Hotels / motels / inns are businesses.  If they can rent all of their rooms out – great.  If the demand exceeds the number of rooms – great.  That might balance help balance out the nights where there are only about 40% of the rooms rented.

Back to the Christmas story.  In Luke 2:1 we have: In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled.  I bet that innkeepers (and hotel/motel managers) would love to have that decree – EVERYBODY is legally required to go to their hometown and get a room.  People couldn’t be ‘enrolled’ just by going online and filling in verification of citizenship – they had to travel.

We sing “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem” – and seemingly Bethlehem is a little town.  But it is where King David (and Jesse and even back to Ruth and Boaz) lived. If we remember King David had lots of wives and lots of children.  So, when Caesar Augustus required the enrollment, there would be plenty of people that were traveling to Bethlehem.

The innkeeper did his best to find them a place to stay.  It wasn’t perfect – it was in the barn for horses and donkeys that people used in their travel.  Like the shepherds, the barn probably wasn’t pretty and probably was smelly. But, the innkeeper could make a place for the family.  

What about us?  Can we make a place for this special (holy) family?  (Of course, we’d be glad to put Joseph, Mary and Jesus up in our house.  We would sleep on the floor or on the coach). Can we make a place for an immigrant family?  Can we make a place for our estranged brother or uncle or niece that we haven’t seen eye-to-eye with for many years?  Can we make a place for the homeless this year? Can we make a place for the lonely widow in the nursing home that nobody ever comes to visit?  

The innkeeper could have said ‘no’.  He could have justified that in many ways – like he needed that space for the horses – the straw he would need for animal bedding – the manger was for putting in food for the animals – not to put a baby in.  Plus – a birth in the stables and a baby crying might keep the animals awake and that would not be good.

How do we justify being unneighborly?  Maybe we need to think about that.

Bruce

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Blog #543 Shepherds

A random Christmas Thought (part 1)

Yes, I am a romantic.  The glass is not half-full, it is FULL and RUNNING OVER!!!

This is a time for “Peace on Earth; Good Will to Mankind”!

So, I’m thinking of the Christmas story today. SHEPHERDS

From Luke 2

“Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear.  So they went in haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger.”

Come on God – you sent angels to shepherds?  Really? Do you know about shepherds? You even called Jesus “The Good Shepherd”.  Really?
Who are the shepherds?  Well – (doh) – they keep the sheep.  Now the city person says ‘ah, the cute little lambs, with the pretty white fleece’.  But, have you ever walked through a sheepfold (or sheep pasture)? Those cute little lambs and their parents are nasty!!  They need diapers!! So, if you have walked through these areas your shoes are (well) – smelly with sheep droppings. And, at least at that time, they needed to be watched 24/7.  There were predators (I’m not quite sure what predators might have been native to Israel in those days – coyotes, wolves, lions, puma, mountain lions, cougars, and maybe others). Sheep are just not good at defending themselves.  Maybe some of the rams have horns – but a slow, fat ram going up against a mountain lion? My money is on the mountain lion – every time! And, sheep are not known for being really smart. They needed somebody to watch them. We are told that good shepherds know their sheep.  

And, the shepherds – well – in terms of Jewish society – were not all that well respected.  They probably didn’t go to the synagogue regularly as they needed to watch the sheep, and even if they did go to the synagogue nobody would want to sit very close to them because of the clothes and smell.   And, yet, God sent the angels to shepherds!!!

Did anyone else see the angels?  Not in the Biblical narrative – not the Priests, the Levites, not the Innkeeper – just the shepherds.

And … then what happened?  Something that our modern hospitals would never allow!!!  These dirty, smelly, shepherds went into Bethlehem to see the baby.  Yes, they went into the inn and to wherever the innkeeper had put the family to see the baby.  I somehow doubt that the shepherds used Purell to sanitize their hands before they held Jesus (assuming they did hold him).

And, then, after this encounter, the shepherds returned to the sheep.  

So, what might these mean to us?  With a lot of guesswork, we can suggest that God even loves shepherds (and other smelly and down-and-out people); that God wants the down-and-out to come and see the baby; and that even after the encounter they returned to their sheep (Luke 2:20) “Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as it had been told to them.”

Are we like sheep?  The Messiah scriptures say “All we like sheep have gone astray”.  Do we need angels to ‘wake us up’ to love others, to forgive others, to keep from going astray?

Would you like shepherds to come to your baby’s birth?  Would you like homeless, alienated, socially unacceptable to come to your house to see you (and/or your child)?

And, are you expecting an angel choir to sing to you to tell you of the Messiah’s birth?  Is it a matter of “earning” the respect of God?

Things to think about!!

Bruce

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