Category Archives: Holidays

Generations

We went to a fantastic fireworks display this year, and for once we had great seats.  Not only that, but just a couple cars down was a family with several little boys who really made the show for us.  When the first round of fireworks went off, I think the gasps and shrieks and look-at-thats lasted longer than the gold sparks drifting through the sky.  A few minutes later, after a gigantic blue explosion, one yelled, “Hey, it’s my favorite color!”  The highlight came later, though, when there was about a ten-second pause in the show and the entire parking lot was quiet.  Over the hush, one screamed, “Get with the fireworks already!”  We pretty much died laughing, but they were still going strong.  As the finale started to build, we heard one more shout, “Yeah, baby!”  Way to end your show, boys. 

We talked and laughed and oohed and ahhed.  We laughed at the little boys and thought about how different and simple and exciting things were when we were younger.  All of us “old” teenagers and twenty-somethings got a little bit nostalgic about being so little.  We had a grand time. 

Of course, I also did a little bit of people watching.  About halfway through the show, I noticed something about the couple sitting on the other side of us.  Thing is, they were watching us the same way we were watching those little boys.  We were the young people, carelessly enjoying ourselves. 

I was recently arguing with someone (actually, I had the same debate with several people) about which Superhero is the best embodiment of the American ideal. Yes, I’m a geek. The debate always seemed to come to a question of when rather than who. At a time in our history, Superman was the American dream realized. Later, Captain America was the perfect poster boy. Now, well, one guy argued it should be Iron Man and I sort of agree. Because America has changed, because America is changing, it’s hard to pin one down. America is not the same country it was, and that can be a little scary. Some things are the same, though. Each generation can look down on the next, seeing the same laughter and hope that they experienced when they were younger and think that, maybe, we’ll be okay.

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“Heal Our Land”

Well, my mind has been rather scattered of late. So that’s my excuse for the sparseness of posts. And today, my mind is just as disorganized, so I’m not going to put you through anything I might write. Instead, I wanted to share the lyrics of a song I discovered recently. It was actually written for the National Day of Prayer a while ago, but it seems to fit for today as well. This is Heal Our Land by Michael Card.

Forgive, oh Lord, and heal our land
And give us eyes to seek Your face, and hearts to understand
That You alone make all things new
That the blessings of the land we love are really gifts from You

If My people will humbly pray
And seek My face and turn away from all their wicked ways
Then I will hear them and move My hand
Freely then will I forgive, and I will heal their land

Unite our hearts in one accord
And make us hungry for Your peace, and burdened for the poor
Grant us hope, that we may see
A future for the land we love, our life, our liberty

If My people will humbly pray
And seek My face and turn away from all their wicked ways
Then I will hear them and move My hand
Freely then will I forgive, and I will heal their land

Pray for our nation, its leaders, its people. Pray for revival, that our beautiful country might have a bright future again.

Happy Independence Day!


He Is Risen!

Yes, I know I’m a day late. That said, I will say that I had a wonderful Resurrection Day, and I hope all of you did as well. Like I do every other Sunday, I taught a class of three to five year olds yesterday morning. For Easter, I have a special lesson I like to do. It’s a story of a little boy who lived in Jerusalem back in New Testament times. The story follows him through Holy Week. One of the things he does is collect mementos of everything that happened and puts them in a little wooden box. For my lesson, I have a box filled with the same things he collected that I let the kids look at. There are things like a clump of donkey fur that came off in the boy’s hand when he tried to get close to Jesus on Palm Sunday, a broken cup found after the Last Supper, and a strip of leather and a thorn from when Jesus was being tortured.

One of the last items is a spike from the site of the crucifixion. I was able to get an old rail road spike for my box, which is big, heavy, and scary looking. That always gets the kids’ attention. When we talked about how they put that through His wrists and His feet, the kids seemed to really understand that more than before. I thought one little girl was seriously going to start crying. A little boy asked me why I was reading them such a bad story, where all these sad things happened. All of the kids were so indignant and saddened that they would do those things to Jesus. They wanted to know why Jesus would let that happen, which led into a beautiful chance to remind them all of the gospel story.

But the whole thing left me feeling very convicted. How easily I take for granted the great price He paid for me! How many times I had coldly taken that spike in my hand, without one thought of the agony it represents! How often do put the gold cross around my neck just as part of preparing for the day without stopping to truly realize what it means! Our culture is permeated with the cross… bumper stickers, church signs, jewelry, t-shirts… everywhere we look we find the symbol of Christ’s bloody death for us. Yet of all the times our eyes fall on that image, how often do we stop to think of His overpowering love and torturous death for us? I fear not nearly often enough. As the hymn says:

May I never lose the wonder, the wonder of the cross
May I see it like the first time, standing as a sinner lost
Undone by mercy and left speechless, watching wide-eyed at the cost
May I never lose the wonder, the wonder of the cross

 He lived a life of poverty. He was betrayed by a friend. He was tried unfairly. He was found guilty though He had committed no crime. He was beaten, mocked, and tortured. He was killed in the most agonizing, drawn out, brutal manner of the day. He died in desolation, crying out that God Himself had forsaken Him. Like the little boy in my class said, it would be a sad, bad story, if that was the end. Thank God it’s not!

He rose! He loved us enough to die the most horrible of deaths, but He didn’t stay in the grave. What greater message of hope could we find? The grave has been defeated! Death, the last and greatest of enemies has been conquered! Praise God! He is risen indeed!


Happy Purim!

Well, today is the Purim, the feast of Esther. I’m sure most of you are familiar with the story, but if you’ve not read it recently, what better excuse to reread the book of Esther? It’s an easy read, and well worth the time. In the mean time, though, here’s some information about this holiday.

In Israel, the celebration of Purim is two days long, and a very big event. For those two days, everyone gorges themselves and the adults, primarily the men, drink. A lot. They say that by the end of the feast, they want to be so drunk that they “can’t tell Mordecai from Haman.” Purim is perhaps one of the most joyous of the Jewish holidays. Here in this country, however, it is observed a bit differently. While some household still hold big celebrations, for many it’s a much smaller party. For my family, the Jewish holidays are like any other, a time to celebrate our heritage, some great day in history, or what God has done. Here is an example of what we often do for the feast of Esther.

The children (this is actually the first year I wasn’t really involved) act through the Megillah, a play of the Esther story. The Megillah is often interactive. When the name of Ahasuerus is mentioned, the audience replies with “Huh?” The king in the story isn’t exactly always on top of things. When the name of Mordecai is spoken, the gives a dignified round of applause. They show appreciation without drowning out the name. When Esther is mentioned, everyone says “Aww” because of her youth and beauty. The roots of this tradition lie with Haman, though. Whenever his name is said, the audience boos and shouts. Some sort of small, handheld noisemaker is generally provided as well. The goal is to drown out the name of the wicked Haman.

Like any Jewish holiday, food is a big part of Purim. One Purim tradition is to send treats to friends, family, and neighbors. These gifts often include fruit, hamantaschen, and Haman’s ears. Hamantaschen are shortbread-like cookies folded into triangles with filling, often fruit, in the center. The word hamantaschen means “Haman’s hat,” the cookies get their name from the tradition that Haman wore a tricorn hat. Haman’s ears are strips of dough twisted to look like ears and fried, then rolled in sugar.

Of course this holiday is nothing to be legalistic about. Like any other festival commanded by God, it is a time for remembrance, and a time for joy. For me, Purim is a time to celebrate the hope that God can do something great with any one of us. Think about it. He used a little Jewish orphan girl living in a foreign land to save His people from destruction. If she could trust Him and do something like that, why shouldn’t we do great things through Him?