Archive for December, 2011

Come Know Me Better Man–A Christmas Carol

December 31, 2011

Once again, I feel the need to pinch myself, because of the quality production rolled out by the new Berkshire Theatre Group at The Colonial in downtown Pittsfield.

The buzz of the crowd, not just because of the elephant in the room…I’ll get to that later, but due to the anticipation of seeing one of the greatest Christmas stories ever told–Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.

The troupe did not disappoint.

Just as the Young Turkey Boy, played by Henry Taylor, said to Mr. Scrooge–“Surely you know what today is sir…It’s Christmas Day”– so too did the audience know that Henry’s father James was to play Bob Cratchit.

And play him he did.

As is the music of James, even-tempered, mellow and unwavering, just like a steamroller baby, he nailed the part.

Along with James, the entire cast, including his wife Kim as his stage-wife Mrs. Cratchit, churned out a sweet finale to their two-week run.

I could go on about the directing, set design, lighting, sound and flawless stage managing, but, since this is not my lane per se, permit me to wax…you know–philosophical.

Here’s the bottom line.

All of us have a bit of fame or prestige to some degree or another.

For me, I’m “uncle sea monster” to my great nephews and nieces in Lanesboro and Dalton.

That’s a reference to a game we play in their pool.

On Christmas Eve, instead of parking my rear-end in front of an NFL contest, I played a card game of War with them.

They had never played it before–we old folks have a few games up our sleeve that aren’t connected to a smart phone.

I want to know my nephews better and because I was willing to give them some of my time, now I do.

That’s kind of like how God was with His son Jesus, allowing Him to become everyone’s Christmas present.

The Almighty could have just as easily redeemed the world with far less hassle to Him and His only Son.

But, He wanted us to know Him.

James’s gift to Berkshire County Theater go-ers pales in comparison to the gift of time and memories he gave his two sons Rufus and Henry, both of whom were in the production.

For Christians, the most heart wrenching line in the Christmas Carol has to be when Bob Cratchit tells his family how Tiny Tim was glad to be at church to remind those there of Who it was that has the power to heal the lame and the crippled.

Handkerchief please.

Congratulations to all, especially to you Mr. Dickens (also Mr. Scrooge and Director Eric Hill).

You’ve taught us that no matter how wild our dreams might be, as long as we don’t ignore them, the possibilities to do good are endless.


The Two Kinds of Promises and Advice for Singles

December 30, 2011

Every time we make a promise to someone, like, “I promise I’ll visit you,” or, “I promise to help you with that dinner you’re making,” the committment has a conclusion.

Once we fulfill that offer, then our obligation is complete and we feel a sense of accomplishment.

When we look at the life of Abraham, we see that the Father makes a promise that his descendants will be greater than the stars in the sky.

In spite of the fact that we cannot see all the stars and since God cannot lie, there will come a time when the actual descendents of Abraham will exceed the number of stars.

It may have happened already, but, since Abraham’s numbers continue to grow, there’s a good chance they haven’t exceeded the star population.

Promises that God makes really don’t have an end.

In fact they’re a beginning.

Like a vow we make to our spouse in marriage, God’s promises are sacred and everlasting.

Sure, we have the right to re-marry if our spouse passes on, but the vow comes from above and the blessings that come forth from any holy marriage have the potential to impact the world near and far.

As we seek God, especially single people, and enjoy His promises, it’s imperative that we trust Him to guide us to the right person who can be a mirror into which we can see our weaknesses and our strengths.

A person who we may admire, who constantly criticizes, is one who has less capacity to edify and more ability to take than give.

Don’t freak out over what I’m about to say, but this is what I believe–the person you fall in love with, must believe you are superior to them in many ways….and vice versa.

I know my wife is superior in the area of making our house a home.

I know she believes I’m superior in managing finances.

These are just a few small examples.

Meditate on the promises God gave you and then, carefully and daily pray for your spouse-to-be–no matter where they are.

The stars you want are the ones in the sky, not the ones from a swinging frying pan.

Passing the Time by Singing

December 29, 2011

Ever since my daughter became friends with a tiny village in Haiti, I’ve never tired of the way I see visitors from DeSable pass the time.

Last night, two of the islanders were over for dinner.

Just leftovers from Christmas, but to them it was a luxury.

After dinner daughter Marisa encouraged them to sing.

With no prodding at all, they launched into several uplifting songs, in Creole, but close enough to my college level French, that I knew the gist of each piece.

Even though I’m still a bit hung over from my evil kibbee meat experiment, I found myself in need to make a musical contribution.

Many years ago I learned a song that goes like this:

I was searching in my heart

I found Christ sin had to part

God gave me a brand new start

I praise the Lord I praise Him now

The Holy Spirit Will teach me how

And tonight My knees will humbly bow

I love you Jesus–Yes

I love you Jesus

I love you with all my heart

I will worship I will sing

Souls to Christ I will bring

To the altar, where He’ll do His part.

I really don’t have a good singing voice, but if the song is sincere enough, your audience will ask for an encore.

Lenaire and Esaiie did.

Call me if you want to hear it sung over the phone.

The melody is addicting.

You’ll never forget it.

Passing the time by worshipping God is a luxury we all must find a way to afford.

The Kibbee Experiment

December 28, 2011

If you have any knowledge of the Lebanese culture, you know that eating kibbee, uncooked, like sushi, is one of our great traditions.

The place you buy your kibbee meat from, for men, is much like their barber, and women, their hair dresser.

We trust them to get it right.

There’s a lot at stake.

I made the near fatal mistake this week of buying kibbee meat from a new source.

Just a few hours before the gathering was to happen, where it would be served to family and friends, I mixed it up and tasted the batch.

To my horror, it had no flavor at all.

With little time to spare, I speed dialed my butcher, “Harry’s on Wahconah” and ordered up a replacement portion.

I rescued the main dish of the party, but not before two casualties hit.

The first, which was the loss of sizeable chunk of change for the evil kibbee meat I bought.

The second was the all night stomach cramps that this taste tester endured.

Let’s just say, thank God for Immodium AD.

The lesson I learned is fairly clear.

If we dig deeper, it’s easy to make the analogy that any time we stray from the safety and love of one we trust, like Almighty God, there’s a risk.

Some try to live without church or fellowship for years, thinking they’ll be fine.

Others simply know better, but want to tamper with the recipe God laid out and realize too late–it’s too late.

Don’t mess with your source for Truth and Grace.

There’s no spice that can cover up infected ideas.

From Poor to Rich–Pat Nichols

December 27, 2011

Pittsfield is a poorer place this week due to the loss of one of her all time favorite citizens.

Pat Nichols, writer, mother and friend to thousands, passed away on Christmas Eve.

One of our jobs in life, as Christians, is to endure hardship.

Most people I know, who said goodbye to a child, understandably, have a hard time carrying on in faith and hope.

Pat suffered the unthinkable three times, yet never did she appear to lose hope or her joy for living.

That’s the definition of a role model.

One thing I learned from my father, was how to give bear-hugs to special people.

I can still see him in my mind hugging Pat with all his might.

In fact, that’s the type of impact she had on everyone she met.

She was a person you just wanted to hug, because of her kindness and consistent sincerity and the way she made life richer.

May God bless you Pat and provide the rest and rewards so deserved for your lifetime of love and service to Arthur, your children, grandchildren, and the thousands around our community whose lives you made better.

Celebrate The Feast of Stephen

December 26, 2011

Just about every Christmas we hear a carol called Good King Wenceslas.

It’s a bit confusing, because of the old English language and syntax it uses.

The day after Christmas, at least in the western Church, is the day we commemorate St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr.

His bold confession of  Truth, in spite of threats from religious leaders and politicians of his day, resulted in his stoning.

St. Stephen knew Jesus personally.

That’s what helped make him brave.

I have nowhere near the courage or holiness of Stephen, but I can relate a bit to the stoning…not the physical kind, but the attitudes toward faith and the Church.

Help us Lord to follow in Stephen’s footsteps.

King Wenceslas lived in the 10th century.

He was a nobleman, who, much like St. Stephen, made sacrifices to help those less fortunate.

The closing verses in the famous old song where Wenceslas encourages his page goes like this;

Sire, the night is darker now

And the wind blows stronger

Fails my heart, I know not how

I can go no longer.

Mark my footsteps, my good page

Tread thou in them boldly

Thou shalt find the winter’s rage

Freeze thy blood less coldly.

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

It’s amazing how the simplest things, like the story of a Saint who refuses to lie and a Nobleman who can’t just think of himself, can still inspire thousands of years later.

Help us Lord, to walk in the footsteps of those whose life melted cold hearts they touched.

Now that Christmas day has passed, let us do good with the gifts we’ve received.

Santa’s Black Belt and Why the JW’s Hate Him

December 25, 2011

Since Christmas fell on a Sunday this year, the mission work of the deeply deceived Jehovah Witnesses fell on Christmas Eve.

In other words, they work the neighborhoods on Saturdays here in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

Yesterday was no exception.

It’s really not OK for us believers to just slam the door in their face, or pretend we’re not home.

Here’s why.

Their primary orthodoxy revolves around a heresy that started way back in the year 300, by a heretic named Arius.

His followers, the Arians, believed that Christ was created by God and therefore not divine, but just human, like us.

Wrong and from the pit of Hell.

If Christ isn’t divine then His sacrifice on the cross has no power to redeem.

Now you know what I mean by “from the pit of Hell.”

Arius and his followers, the Arians, became so popular they were able to force a seat at the Council of Nicea in A.D. 325, where Church doctrine could be decided once and for all.

Fortunately the Arian view was rejected.

But not before a few fireworks.

There was one Bishop, with a black belt–not the karate kind, at that conference of Bishops, who was so irritated by Arius and his lies, that this Bishop punched him in the nose.

That Bishop was Nicholas.

So now you know why Jehovah Witnesses hate Christmas.

It’s not the red suit of Saint Nicholas they fear, it’s that black belt.

Ho Ho Ho.

The next time your doorbell rings, read them this story.

They need to hear it.

Obedience to God–or the Wife…Which is Harder?

December 24, 2011

There’s a song about what a man must do to find happiness in marriage.

It has something to do with whether or not he chooses an unattractive woman.

Let’s just say…I can’t relate…my wife is very pretty.

Each holiday season, I strive to grow closer to God.

There’s one problem…the needs of a spouse, especially where it pertains to decorating, entertaining and financing gifts etc…tend to put me in a bit of a mood.

An in-law recently told me–flat out…he hated Christmas…then proceded to recite all the reasons.

His wife heard the whole rant–courageous.

Don’t get me wrong…he loves the baby Jesus…it’s just the trappings of the holidays that get him down.

This Christmas season, if you find yourself lacking a wee bit in the joy surrounding the big day, try this;

The next time your wife asks you to do twenty things before 11am, all related to Christmas…take  a deep breath…say a quick prayer…then boldy tell her–flat out….YES DEAR!

That’s my formula for happiness.

5 and 10 to Dollar Store…Anita Bryant to Michelle Bachmann

December 23, 2011

There’s an old saying–“the more things change…the more things stay the same.”

Some of the traditional Christmas songs like, “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” remind me of how different life is.

When Johnny Mathis croons the words “take a look at the five and ten,” do young people have any idea what that means?

Somehow changing the words to say “take a look at the dollar store,” doesn’t seem right.

I had to laugh when I read the AP article today about how the “Occupy Iowa City” crowd did everything they could to interrupt Michele Bachmann’s campaign visit to a popular diner in their city.

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) – The Hamburg Inn in Iowa City has long been a popular stop for presidential candidates, but it probably won’t be high on Rep. Michele Bachmann’s list anymore.

About two dozen activists with Occupy Iowa City packed the diner before Bachmann arrived Thursday, then loudly chanted in unison as she tried to mingle with supporters. Their chant blasted the Minnesota congresswoman’s position on gay rights, health care and taxes and ended with: “You’re not wanted here. So go, just go.”

The restaurant’s manager says the campaign blared Christmas songs over a sound system to drown out the protesters. Police arrived as tensions rose, but no one was arrested.

Bachmann seemed undeterred. Before leaving, she thanked the owner, praised the food and said it was great to be in Iowa City.

If these “occupyers” really knew what they were doing, they would’ve grabbed a pie (they’re in a Diner, there should be plenty around)  and tossed it in the face of the Congresswoman, like their ancestors did to Anita Bryant so many years ago.

But, like I said, young people have little knowledge of history…the only thing they carry forward, especially the liberal ones, is how to pretend they’re upset about one issue, (Wall Street) when in reality they’re just pushing other agendas.

Hang in there Michele, the more verbal pies they throw, the greater God will bless…especially if you can find it in your heart to forgive them…for they know not what they do.

Meditate On Holiness–Start With Your Mother

December 22, 2011

Yesterday I was talking with some co-workers about my mother.

She was the one person I knew who never cursed, drank, or spoke ill of any others.

She was Saintly…may God rest her soul.

That does not mean she didn’t suffer hardships.

When only 12-years-old, her father passed, leaving her mother and 5 young children alone–during the great depression.

Thank God they owned a grocery store and survived.

Her mother, my Sittoo, was a prayerful woman too, who never remarried after she became widowed.

Things were different.

Both had a reputation for holiness.

In today’s Scripture readings we see the story of Hannah, giving up to the Lord her only son Samuel, fulfilling a promise she made to Eli for God’s gift of life.

In the Gospel we see Mary proclaiming to the Lord her gratitude for His providence.

I like to meditate from time to time on people far holier than I  am.

They’re not hard to find.

I’ve included a video I know will bless you.

Please listen to Brother John Michael Talbot as he puts to song the same words of Mary.

Think about the sacrifices of your mother.

Ask God to help you to be the same type of blessing to those after you, as she was to you and others who knew her.