Friday, December 31, 2010

Old Ways are Better?

There is nothing in the entertainment world that is more economical and fun than renting a video and ordering a pizza. This is one of the great pleasures of life for my family. Pizza is the greatest food and movies are the most fun. What a riot.

At Christmas time our family watches Christmas movies. We have some favorites that we watch every year. It's a Wonderful Life, Christmas Vacation, Holiday Inn and A Christmas Story, among others, all get an annual tour in our video player. It is one of our great family holiday traditions. But this year, there was a change in the custom.

A few weeks ago there was an ad in the paper for a special showing of White Christmas at the Riviera Theater in Three Rivers, Michigan. What a great thing. The Riviera is an old, downtown movie house on the main street of a small town. There are about 300 seats in the theater that has been lovingly restored. It is a beautiful place.

I had been wanting to see the theater anyway, but now they were going to be showing one of our annual Christmas films. BINGO! We have a winner. A classic film on the big screen is a dream come true.

So we went. It was a great time. Here are some observations.
  • Watching a movie with a crowd is way more fun than watching at home with just the family. There times that I was laughing out loud just because someone else thought something was funny. Everything was more enjoyable because there was a group response to the action on the screen.
  • Bing Crosby is creepy looking when his head is that big. His eyes are very blue, but there are wrinkles and make up that I have never been unable to see on my television at home. Additionally, Vera Ellen, who I have always thought was nice looking, is a little bit funny looking at that size as well.
  • When I watch movies at home, I get sleepy. In fact, I almost always fall asleep. There is an energy generated with a group of people that keeps me going, however. I have seen White Christmas at least once a year for 20+ years, and yet it help my interest this time as much as the first time I saw it.
So here is my verdict: Movies are more fun with a crowd in a theater. I will refuse to even argue this point.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The 4 Most Important Things

There are many people who make Christianity way too complicated. There is too much to know, believe and memorize. We are told how to dress, live, think and breathe. We must worship in certain ways and raise our children to a certain standard. All of this is exhausting and can easily defeat even the most faithful follower of Jesus.

The Christian life can be narrowed down to a few basics, however. Fundamentals- at least in terms of religion- have gotten a bad name, but it is not necessarily a bad word. There are, I propose, four essentials that all Christians may attend to so that they can continue to live and grow in the Christian life.
  • Bible study. Every person who wants to be called by the name Christian needs to be familiar with the “playbook.” The history of our faith (as well as the future), the doctrines of our belief and the pattern for our lives is all found in these 66 books. A time of daily study and reading is important for every believer.
  • Prayer. There is nothing more essential to the Christian life than prayer. Just as your relationship with your spouse will falter without regular communication, so will your relationship with God. Be sure to pray daily. Talk to God frequently, throughout the day. And be sure to listen to what he has to say to you as well.
  • Fellowship. This is the easiest of all these. Spend time with other followers of Jesus. They will help to inspire you. You will be encouraged to be faithful, to avoid temptation and to deeper levels of commitment and service. You should also be sure that you spend ample time fellowshipping with your Creator in worship.
  • Ministry. There is nothing that will accelerate your growth in faith more quickly than being involved in ministry. This could mean that you participate in a mission trip with others, that you volunteer for a new position at church, or that you share your faith with someone at work. In any case you will find that God will use you and your faith will be stretched.

Spend some time on your spiritual life this month. Do the “Four Most Important Things.”

Friday, December 17, 2010

New Year's Resolution 2011

A few weeks ago my cousin died. Monica was the same age as me. We were never very close, but we were together at all family functions because she was the closest in age to me of all the cousins. Her death caught me by surprise. To begin with, she was much too young to die. Not only that, the cancer seemed to come out of nowhere and suddenly, at least to me. Although I rarely saw Monica in the past several years, I was deeply saddened by her passing.

The reason I rarely saw Monica was because I made that choice. I have become absorbed with my own life and busy-ness. I know that my hectic lifestyle is generally positive for everyone. I am involved in doing good things- God things- for and with people. But it seems that sometimes I am too busy.

So when I got to Monica's funeral, I was a little nervous. Its a big family. My father is one of six children and they all had multiple children. And I hadn't seen any of them in a long time. I was worried that someone would be upset with me because I had not been around for a long time. I thought, "Maybe they think that I think I am too good for them." I didn't need to worry. All of my family members were gracious, loving, understanding and genuinely glad to see me. That is why I have made this resolution:

During 2011 I will spend as much time with my family as possible.

Distance and schedule will place limits on this, but as far as I am able I will attend reunions, holidays, graduations, picnics, concerts, ballgames and school programs.

Family is too important to take for granted. I have a pretty good one and I'm going to take advantage of it.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Reading Plan 2011

Each year I try to set goals for my reading in the coming year. I am a committed reader, learner and book person. (Although I must admit that I have looked lustily at the Kindle.) My greatest joys in life are reading a good book while listening to good music. While all of that is true, it is also true that for the last two years my reading has been disappointing to me. I have failed for various reasons. That does not diminish my desire to make 2011 a good reading year. My goals for the coming year are somewhat less ambition than in past years, but they are goals nonetheless.
  • I will read The Message paraphrase of the Bible.
  • I have collected many books through the years at book sales, garage sales and the like. In 2011 I will read the books that I have not already read by some of my favorite popular authors, Garrison Keillor, John Grisham and Stephen King.
  • I will read at least six books on church leadership.
  • I will do some reading to support a series of sermons on the book of Psalms.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Bible Study 2011

I have begun my planning for Bible study and work for 2011. There are several components to my plan and I will write more about them in coming days, but here is the basic outline.
  • I will be continuing my devotional project of writing the Bible. During 2011 I will be be copying, from the New King James Version, several of the Psalms.
  • I will be reading The Message during 2011. I have committed myself to read the entire Bible each year until I die, or am physically or mentally unable to do so. For the past few years I have read a different version each year. During 2011 it will be Eugene Peterson's The Message.
  • I will be reading the Bible with special attention to Jesus' healings in the gospels. I will particularly be looking for how Jesus healed everyone and every disease.
  • I want to focus on the prayers that are recorded in the Bible.
  • A corollary to that will be giving special attention to how Jesus goes off by himself to pray, and sometimes does it all night long.
  • I want to look at songs and psalms in the Old Testament.
Additionally, there are a couple of phrases that I want to look at. "Be strong and have courage" appears throughout Deuteronomy and Joshua. This is speaking to me right now in a significant way. Secondly, I am interested in learning more about Jesus' question, "What do you want me to do for you?" (Mark 10.36, 51)