Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Don't Forget the REAL Reason...

A couple days ago, our sweet, 9-year-old intellectual asked something akin to, "When did Christmas get hijacked by commercialization?" (my words, but I think it expresses the original gist of it). I told him I don't really know, but the above comic strip drives the point home....

We normally shy away from jokes that involve God or religion, because they are almost always irreverent of our Lord and Savior. However, in yesterday's Foxtrot (actually first printed 11 years ago; link only available for a couple weeks), the last two panels are a warning to us to keep CHRIST in Christmas, especially for the sake of our children. Presents are fun and all that, but if we make a bigger deal out of them than of the celebration of our Savior's birth, we do a serious disservice to our kids.

Another aspect is all the stress and running around that this time of year brings. At a time that's supposed to celebrate the arrival of "peace on earth and goodwill to men," isn't it ironic that we spend much of it stressed out about getting that perfect gift (while it's still on sale!!!) and trying to cram as much family time as possible, in as short a timespan as possible? Time with family and presents are great, but Satan is probably giddy with joy that those things distract from our Heavenly Father, who has given us the greatest Gift of all.

A song currently playing on Air1 asks how God's heart could not have broken on the day of Jesus' birth. For though the world celebrated the birth of a Savior, God was probably thinking of that coming day of the cross....

Some random thoughts. :) Merry Christmas, everyone! May God give you a renewed appreciation and admiration of His wonderful plan of salvation, for a world that deserves far worse. Let us spend another year celebrating Jesus' birth and gift, personifying to those around us the star that led the magi to the Savior! See you in 2010!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Hand of God: Another Christmas Memory

I think I'm going to start making a tradition of sharing memorable Christmas-time memories with you all. Last year, I shared something from the distant past (not-too-distant for some of you, I guess! Hee-hee!). This particular incident actually happened last year, on Christmas Day.

My wife's uncle had arranged for a four-day, big family Christmas retreat, at a ranch in North Idaho, a couple hours from our house. We were to drive up there several days before Christmas and come back Christmas Day, just in time to go to dinner at my parents' house.

To say that it was going to be a White Christmas is a gross understatement! A snowy front had settled in the area, and white stuff just forgot how to stop coming down. The roads were pretty bad on the way up there, and they were even worse on the way back! With our Honda Accord, equipped only with all-weather tires, I was afraid we'd get stuck and have to spend Christmas by the side of the road! But the Lord was with us all the way (isn't He always???), and we got back home in one piece. We had about an hour to drop off our bags, and then we headed back out, for dinner with my parents.

The Interstate was extremely icy; icier than I had seen it in years. We were doing about 30, when I noticed a police car, by the right side of the road, its lights twirling hypnotically. I was safe in the second lane, so I just held course. The road was straight and clear; no problem, right? WRONG! We were less than 200 feet from the cruiser, when, out of the blue, we started to fishtail! I tried to keep the front tires facing forward, as we glided all over the road, but the car was definitely no longer under my control. To our terror, we were headed straight for the police car. I could not see the officer, but I confess he was furthest from my mind. I was instead concerned with the financial and legal trouble I'd be getting into, after our two vehicles got better acquainted. Impact was imminent and unavoidable. I also had a column of cars behind me, which I imagined would quickly find my rear bumber and make us into a Honda sandwich (hold the hubcaps, please).

But then something that I can describe only as the Hand of God, pushed us around the police car and safely into the deep snow, 50 feet beyond it. When I got out, I noticed that were not the first, not the second, but the THIRD car to end up stuck by the side of the road. The policeman was making the rounds on his rollerskates, asking what size drink we wanted with our burger. Actually, I cannot imagine how he must have felt, as cars whizzed past him and into the ditch; I could have easily killed him.

In the end, God worked it all out, in His perfect way. For starters, all parties were safe and sound, as were the vehicles. Due to the first two cars already having had their fun, a tow truck was already on its way, and we got a group discount! Ever wonder how God provides for the lilies and sparrows that drive tow trucks? Well, He gets some middle-class saps to run off the road and spend $80 to get bailed out, because the daddy sparrow, even in his need, had just given his son some much-needed Christmas money.

Second, even though we were late, we still had dinner with my parents, which made us all feel a whole lot better.

And ever wonder what actually made us fishtail in the first place? Driving that same familiar stretch in the spring, it dawned on me: For about a quarter mile, trucks had made deep ruts in both lanes, which can cause sudden jerks, as the tires fall in and out. When the road was icy (and the tires not too good), that caused us to fishtail. Thankfully, they fixed the road this summer, and I got brand-new winter tires (which could almost pay the shop owner's mortgage bill!).

So the next time that you ask yourself how God could have allowed hard times or tragedies to befall you, look for the opportunity for good that He's opened up, either for yourself or someone around you. Remember that for every guy that prays for sunshine, there's a neighbor that's praying for rain. :)