He’s A Wonderful Life

baby jesusThis time of year you will often hear the religious folks say that “Jesus is the reason for the season” but you wouldn’t think it if you have been out in the world over the last few days.  The stores, the traffic and all of the holiday activity makes that notion a bit hazy.

Now that all the shopping, parties and rushing around is over, we have a day to catch our breath. Take a time out from the world. Some of you are enjoying watching children open their presents while you spend time with you family.  It is a day to reflect and maybe think about this day.

The excitement from watching the results of us buying gifts for others arrives and soon it will be over in a flash after weeks of anticipation.  The gifts that were open under the tree will eventually lose its excitement and our days will find its way back to the routine of our lives.  We are reminded that the gifts aren’t what makes us happy but it is the relationships with the people we care about that last.

In spite of the evidence we see, the birth of Jesus is the reason we have Christmas. No, it isn’t his actual birth date and there has been a lot of pagan rituals mixed in over the years but the birth of Jesus over 2,000 years ago was the most significant birth in the history of the world. Of course today people get so easily offended if you say anything about Him or wish someone a Merry Christmas.

That’s crazy. The birth of Jesus shouldn’t offend anyone. The problem is the people who try to sell Jesus or push their version of Him on people.

You can have a relationship with Jesus without having to be super religious. Sadly too many religious folks give Him a bad rap. Don’t be turned off by the crazies. You don’t have to act weird to have a relationship with Him.  He wants to have a relationship with us.

A relationship with Jesus Christ is the gift that many fail to open but can be the greatest gift of all. I won’t lie to you, your problems won’t be over but it will be different. I can’t possibly convince you with my words, you have to experience it yourself.

My own life has revolved around the church and being taught about Christ. It has just been the past ten years that my relationship with Him has changed and evolved into a more personal experience rather than the emotional cheerleader experience of the previous years. I have found a God that you don’t have to yell and scream (or speak in tongues) at to get His attention.  It has been a gamechanger for me.  I like this version of Jesus much better and He is more like the one I read about in the Bible.  No, my life hasn’t been perfect and I haven’t always done the right thing but life with Christ has been wonderful for me. His grace and mercy has helped me through the many ups and downs and twists and turns in my life.

The birth of Jesus is a gift to us from God.  2 Corinthians 9:15 says “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift.”

Merry Christmas Everyone!

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‘Tis Another Shopping Season

SANTAHere we are again.  We have had “Black Friday”, “Small Business Saturday” and now “Cyber Monday” as retailers urge us to do our Christmas shopping for the season.  Ready or not, it is here.  Last year Americans spent over $1 Trillion in retail purchases.

I saw a statistic this weekend that says 30% of consumers will use their credit cards for Christmas shopping.  I’m really surprised that it is not higher than that.  Just about when you pay off Christmas, it is time to charge those nasty credit cards up again.   The average U.S. household will spend about $1,536 on holiday shopping.

Where does it stop?

I’m no Scrooge here.  I love buying presents for people and I also love receiving too but I’m in the stage of life that I don’t need a gift to be valued or to value someone else.  Sometimes I wish we would do this gift thing a little differently.  I think we’ve all fallen for that “oh we aren’t doing gifts this year” thing.  I remember once a former family member had some kind of religious moment and announced that they weren’t doing Christmas but, instead, would do “just because” gifts throughout the year.  It sounded like a good idea but those “just because” times never came.

Growing up, we didn’t have much so I appreciated any gift I received.  I was never showered with gifts but I didn’t ever do without either.  I remember when the JCPenney or Sears Catalog arrived I would go through it page by page and try to find something I wanted that my parents could afford.  I would dog-ear those pages and hope that Mom could talk Dad into one of the more expensive gifts.  I might get it and I might not but I never showed my disappointment.

As I grew older I understood what the holiday stress is all about.  I got sucked into the Christmas gift arms race.  Fortunately over recent years I have scaled back and try to keep the shopping under control.

If you’re stressed about shopping, here are some good tips that can help:

  1. Don’t Wait Until The Last Minute – 62% of Americans buy their gifts the week before Christmas.  Try to get it done early if you can.  Shop online to avoid the stores if possible and get it done.
  2. When in Doubt, Buy Gift Cards – If you know of a place someone shops or a site such as iTUNES or Amazon, get them a gift card for it.  Of course, you can also give cash.  Someone once told me that he always loved getting cash because it was always the right size and right color.
  3. Do Your Shopping When Everyone Else Isn’t –  This is good one if you have to get out there to the stores.  The absolute worst time is on weekends or evenings after work.  Try picking a random day like Tuesday or Thursday during the week and do your store shopping then.

Here are some other interesting stats about holiday shopping:

  • Over 27 million real Christmas trees will be sold this year.
  • Nearly half of American’s don’t buy Christmas decorations.
  • 46% lie about liking a gift they receive.
  • 47% of women want jewelry for Christmas.
  • 32% of men want gift vouchers.
  • Americans spend an average of $123 on their spouses
  • 14% will sell some of their own possessions to fund their Christmas spending.

Whatever we do, let’s not stress about it.  Try to enjoy these season and know that the gift is in the relationship you have with people.

Saved By A Baby

star-movie-review-mangerA baby can change your life. Just ask any new parent.

Life after the arrival of a baby is vastly different than before he or she is born. The baby creates change in the home. Priorities change. Lifestyles change. Diapers change. The focus goes from your own life to the new life. Although I have never been a parent myself, I have noticed this change in others. It isn’t anything I can really describe except there is a joy that I can see in their eyes and in their faces that wasn’t there before the baby’s arrival.

There is another baby who was born in a Bethlehem stable over 2,000 years ago, that can have an even greater impact in our lives. Throughout the course of human history since His birth, He has changed the lives of people of all ages, all races and all nations. This baby brought salvation to mankind. There was never a doubt about His “Purpose Driven Life”. Matthew 1:21 tells us “and she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for He shall save His people from their sins.”

His birth and His purpose was to save us from our sins. To repair the separation between God and man. The law which instituted the method of animal sacrifice for the redemption of sin was replaced by a baby who would begin His journey to the cross from His humble beginnings in a stable. All this to save us.

How is it possible that we can be saved by a Jewish baby born in a smelly stable for animals in Israel a long time ago before any of us were born ourselves? How can this baby save us?

This baby was God in a human body. He wasn’t a super hero like Superman. He didn’t come from another planet with powers and abilities but He came to empower us with the indwelling of His Spirit. This baby was born from thousands of years of prophecy. He fulfilled everything that had been said by the prophets about Him.

His own people didn’t understand the significance of His birth. They were looking for an earthly king to save them from the tyranny of Rome but this baby didn’t come to save from an earthly kingdom but to establish a heavenly kingdom. The little baby in the manger didn’t save us. It was the innocent Christ who freely gave His life on the cross which brought salvation to us all. Each Christmas we have cute little Christmas plays to tell us of the miraculous birth but His birth was shadowed by the cross which was His destiny. What we celebrate on Christmas is the wonderful gift that God gave to us. Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift. (1 Corinthians 9:15)

Are you saved? *cringe* *cringe*

When I hear this question, due to my Pentecostal background, I get the image of some zealous religious fanatic on a busy street corner asking people who walk by if they are saved. People who are unfamiliar with this Christian cliché would respond to this zealous street corner preacher: “Am I saved? Saved from what?”

In the Charles Dickens classic, A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by ghosts from the past, present and future. In our existence as God’s created beings, we are also confronted by each ghost but encouraged by the gift of salvation to deal with each one.

SAVED FROM THE PAST
We all have a past. Who hasn’t done things in the past that they regret? We have all said things that we shouldn’t have said and done things that we wished we hadn’t done. Sometimes the ghosts from our past still haunt us today. We can be assured that we all came from the same place; we all have sinned. (Romans 3:23) No one has been born without sin. Sin is the default condition when we are born into this world. A child does not have to be taught to do wrong. Due to the sinful condition of the world, we are born in sin. There are many times I think about the stupid things I have done in my life. I wish I had a time machine where I could go back and change some of the things that I have done. In reality, the problem with the past is that none of us can go back to change anything. The past is done. We can’t have a “do over” but we can have an “extreme makeover” through the power of salvation.

Jesus offers an escape from our past. Although we can’t see the literal blood of Jesus today, we can be assured that His blood sacrifice is still as powerful today to wash away the affects of our past sins. The past does not have power over us! All things have passed away, behold all things are new. (2 Corinthians 5:17) Religious folks have a term called being “born again”. This term confuses the average person just as it did Nicodemus in the New Testament. Obviously, it is not physically possible to return to your mother’s womb and be born again. The rebirth is spiritual. Instead of becoming a baby on the outside, your inner being becomes new. You are no longer defined by your past. Yes, people may still hold your past over you but God will not throw it up to you. Never. We are SAVED from our past.

SAVED FROM THE PRESENT
We all have problems in this life. If you are not currently experiencing problems at this time, just be patient, here is one on the way soon. That’s just life. We deal with stress, relationship problems, financial problems, physical pain, etc. I get rather aggravated when I hear a preacher on television make it seem that if you are a believer in Christ that you will live the good life and won’t have any problems. This is not the reality we live in. It might be good television and convincing for a few more people to “sow their seeds” into those ministries but even Jesus told us that we would have problems. (John 15:18) But, it isn’t all gloom, despair and agony on us. No matter how bad things get, we can still have peace. Jesus said that we will have trouble but to be happy because He has overcome the world. (John 16:33) As believers, we may not have the material wealth as some preach but we will have God’s favor in our life. His favor comes in many ways, some that we do not even give Him credit for. Jesus is more than one that can calm the storms in our lives, He is also the one who can calm us in the middle of the storms. He SAVES us in the present.

SAVED FROM THE FUTURE
When you are saved by this baby, you never have to worry about the future. The future is secured by His eternal promise. Heaven is reserved for you. Until then, His Spirit is dwelling on this earth and guiding your path. Matthew 6:19-20 tells us to store up our treasures in heaven because it will be safe there. Recently I attended a retirement seminar where we were told that the current Social Security program will be bankrupt by the year 2018. We were forewarned not to expect Social Security when we are eligible for retirement. There is no such problem with God’s retirement plan. No one will bankrupt it, no politician will spend it for something of waste and no natural disaster or terrorist attack will destroy it. You can count on it being there because it is backed by the creator of the universe and made possible by the baby who became our Savior.

giftThe future of the world will get worse, evildoers will get more evil as the end approaches. I have grown tired of politicians and all the things they promise. Our Senators, Congressmen and President are NOT the answer. Our future is in God, not a political party. Our future is secure in the salvation of Christ. He SAVES us from the future.

Let us be wise men and women and trust in the salvation that was made possible by a baby in a manger. He has not only saved us from sin, but saves us from everything that tries to snatch us from His care. We are promised eternal life and no one can take that away from us. (John 10:28-29) God gave us a precious gift to assure our place with Him. In our search for gifts during this season, let’s pause to reflect on THE gift we were given by the birth of a baby. A baby who saves us.

Some Folks Need That Cup Of Cheer

I have been out in the “hustle and bustle” of shopping over the past two days and I have to be honest with you – there a serious need for some cups of cheer out there. Now I don’t know what is supposed to be in that cup of cheer but I’m sure it has GOT to be something to calm people down because whatever folks are doing isn’t helping.

For those of you who either live in a cave or have already done all of your shopping online, there is a lot of selfish people out there. It is rare to find someone who thinks of others. I have seen this selfish behavior repeatedly over the past 48 hours of finishing up our Christmas shopping.

Where is this “Christmas spirit” everyone wants to talk about? Real life out there resembles nothing like a Hallmark movie.

I’m not exaggerating this. I have been looking for those cheery folks and I have been hard-pressed to find them. I have seen more self-centered people than I would have expected. Here are some examples:

  • The couple walking in the middle of the road in the shopping mall parking garage. They are walking arm-in-arm forcing traffic behind them to follow behind them.
  • The clerks at the register at Michaels who are discussing their paycheck and what they are doing to do with it instead of interacting with the customers in front of them.
  • People who decided to have a conversation on their smartphone in the middle of a busy toy aisle at Target.
  • People who push you out of their way or totally oblivious to your presence.
  • The lady driving in the wrong way at Starbucks to beat the line of traffic and then saying “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year” when she is called out on it.
  • The driver who nearly plowed me over when I was in the crosswalk going to Books-A-Million.
  • The four employees of a store who were supposed to be helping customers as they entered the store but were carrying on their own private conversation instead of asking if customers needed any help.
  • The numerous people who are in a hurry or impatient to take thought of others around them.
  • I’m not trying to be a “negative Nellie” here, I’m just being honest. It can really make you wonder if people are all talk about Christmas cheer. It certainly isn’t that way in practice.
  • When I started my errands for Christmas shopping I honestly had to psych myself up before I went out. I told myself to be prepared to stand line, don’t be in a hurry and just take it slow. I knew what to expect. What was pretty overwhelming (and disappointing) was the complete selfishness of people. It was quite disturbing to witness the behaviors.
  • Why do we get so crazy? I don’t understand why things have gotten so out of control. Everybody seems to be out for themselves.
  • I wish we would all just calm down. We seem to have this ideal about Christmas and thinking everyone should be cheerful. My friend, this is not the reality of it. I have two days’ worth of being out there in the madness to verify that this isn’t the case. The cheerful has been overtaken by the selfish.
  • The buying frenzy during Christmas is just out-of-control. We go on the hunt for the perfect gift and totally ignore the true meaning of Christmas. We talk about the niceness of Christmas but we sure don’t show it. It’s good in a movie but an entirely different situation in the department stores. It really doesn’t take much effort to be nice to others. We are all in this together and if we are going to make this season work, we all have to do our part. I love the stories about people going in and paying off everyone’s layaway. That’s good but it would mean a lot more and go a lot further if we would just think of others and treat everyone with respect and not just people on our friends’ list.
  • 364 Shopping Days ’til Christmas

    Sorry, didn’t mean to ignite your anxiety again but now that we are in the midst of Christmas Day, I think most people have empty spaces under their trees now.  Wrapping paper and boxes are torn and tossed to the side.  Gifts are being looked at,  used or played with.  Candy is being eaten.  The Christmas season is now over.  All the hype and all the frenzy of the last week and now it has ended.

    I think the most important part is being with the people you care about regardless.  I don’t care how many gifts I got or what they were.  It’s just nice to be thought of.

    As we go through the day and finished the traditions of gifts, we should reflect on God’s gift to us.  His Son Jesus.  Yes, we do still remember him on this day as we should.  God really gave us a gift that keeps on giving.  

    So as we gather the torn wrapping paper and boxes and gather them for the trash pickup, take a moment to reflect about what a historic gift that God gave to us.  What he gave to us fits everyone and is perfect for everyone.  Don’t toss the thought away.  

    Merry Christmas everyone!

    12 Days Of Trial Prep

    Most litigation technology specialists who have been in this field for a number of years can identify with these “12 Days of Trial Prep”…..

    (sung to the tune of “12 Days of Christmas”)

    On the first day of trial prep
    my attorney gave to me:
    A bipolar fed-er-al judge.

    On the second day of trial prep
    my attorney gave to me:
    Two clueless agents,
    And a bipolar fed-er-al judge.

    On the third day of trial prep
    My attorney gave to me:
    Three defense attorneys,
    Two clueless agents,
    And a bipolar fed-er-al judge.

    On the fourth day of trial prep
    My attorney gave to me:
    Four students scanning,
    Three defense attorneys,
    Two clueless agents,
    And a bipolar fed-er-al judge.

    On the fifth day of trial prep
    My attorney gave to me:
    Five——–days ‘til trial,
    Four students scanning,
    Three defense attorneys,
    Two clueless agents,
    And a bipolar fed-er-al judge.

    On the sixth day of trial prep
    My attorney gave to me:
    Six screwed up hard drives,
    Five——– days ‘til trial
    Four students scanning,
    Three defense attorneys,
    Two clueless agents,
    And a bipolar fed-er-al judge.

    On the seventh day of trial prep
    My attorney gave to me:
    Seven messed up CDs,
    Six screwed up hard drives,
    Five———days ‘til trial
    Four students scanning,
    Three defense attorneys,
    Two clueless agents,
    And a bipolar fed-er-al judge.

    On the eighth day of trial prep
    My attorney gave to me:
    Eight guards a-snoring,
    Seven messed up CDs,
    Six screwed up hard drives,
    Five——- days ‘til trial
    Four students scanning,
    Three defense attorneys,
    Two clueless agents,
    And a bipolar fed-er-al judge.

    On the ninth day of trial prep
    My attorney gave to me:
    Nine gigs of emails,
    Eight guards a-snoring,
    Seven messed up CDs,
    Six screwed up hard drives,
    Five——— days ‘til trial
    Four students scanning,
    Three defense attorneys,
    Two clueless agents,
    And a bipolar fed-er-al judge.

    On the tenth day of trial prep
    My attorney gave to me:
    Ten Banker’s Boxes,
    Nine gigs of emails,
    Eight guards a-snoring,
    Seven messed up CDs,
    Six screwed up hard drives,
    Five——- days ‘til trial
    Four students scanning,
    Three defense attorneys,
    Two clueless agents,
    And a bipolar fed-er-al judge.

    On the eleventh day of trial prep
    My attorney gave to me:
    Eleven hours of video,
    Ten Banker’s Boxes,
    Nine gigs of emails,
    Eight guards a-snoring,
    Seven messed up CDs,
    Six screwed up hard drives,
    Five——- days ‘til trial
    Four students scanning,
    Three defense attorneys,
    Two clueless agents,
    And a bipolar fed-er-al judge.

    On the twelfth day of trial prep
    My attorney gave to me:
    Twelve angry jurors,
    Eleven hours of video,
    Ten Banker’s Boxes,
    Nine gigs of emails,
    Eight guards a-snoring,
    Seven messed up CDs,
    Six screwed up hard drives,
    Five——- days ‘til trial
    Four students scanning,
    Three defense attorneys,
    Two clueless agents,
    And a bipolar fed-er-al judge.

    Christmas Lights at Sunnyside

    sunnyside

    Driving around to look at Christmas lights is something most everyone likes to do this time of year.  There are some creative and spectacular displays in Middle Tennessee, but one that should be on you to-see list are located 1956 Sunnyside Drive in Brentwood.   Bill Minneci is in his 34th year of putting on the display which not only covers his front yard but also several other neighboring houses as well.   The display features over 135,000 lights and more than 300 lighted figures.

    Minneci and his son, BJ, started the display in 1982 with BJ always saying that they needed more lights.  That they did and it has grown into a fabulous display it has become today.   After BJ was tragically killed in an automobile accident in 1993, Minneci continued the display in BJ’s memory.

    The display is nicely situation at the end of the street in a cul-de-sac where you can park and walk the long drive to see the display.  The display is free but there is a donation box for the Shriner’s Hospital.  They collected over $8,000 last year.  Minneci does not make any money to pay for the lights.  He says it is his gift to the community and to the children.  He will often greet you along side Snow, his Samoyed dog.   Santa will also make a visit the week before Christmas giving out candy canes.

    Planning for the next year’s display begins the day he takes down the lights.  He begins putting the displays together in September as he checks all the lights and re-tapes the displays.  He puts the lights out in November three weeks before Thanksgiving when he turns them on for the public.

    Next year will be Minneci’s last year for the lights and this year is the last year he will be doing eight houses.  Next year it will only be the two main houses which generally account for about 70 percent  of the lights and figures.

    If you are in the Middle Tennessee area during the holidays, add a stop to see BJ’s Christmas Lights on Sunnyside.

    Lights are on every night until December 31st.