Has it really been two months since I’ve posted anything to this blog? I logged in this morning to put a few words on a page and was shocked to find that I haven’t posted anything since Christmas! Of course, I have had a few other outlets; other places to write and share the thoughts running through my head, but I still couldn’t believe it had been that long. I do have several things brewing and two rough drafts that will be posts soon, so you won’t have to wait much longer to read more of my musings and inspirational / inane babble.
I love puzzles of all kinds. Jigsaw puzzles, word searches, crosswords, brain teasers, child-proof lids, etc. I also love Christmas music! So I’ve put together these fun Christmas Puzzles for your enjoyment during the holiday season. They’re a great way to pass the time at your family Christmas party while you’re waiting on cousin Eddie to park his RV, or a fun group activity at this year’s church or business luncheon. You can print them out as individual sheets, or print them front and back like we did this year and use both at the same time.
This puzzle dates back to the 70’s and my version is a modification of the original. You can find out more about the origin and history of this groovy puzzle here.
Here are 25 questions based on popular Christmas songs, both secular and sacred. Have fun!!
When she found out about my little collection, a good friend sent me this 20 question quiz that she had in her files. Can you separate Christmas Fact from Christmas fiction? Some good questions here! Enjoy!!
He was forced to leave his home along with his parents because of civil unrest in his native country. The President had called for a genocide against his people and it just wasn’t safe for them any longer. His refugee family found shelter in Egypt for a few years, then returned to the Middle East after the President’s death. He worked in his dad’s shop before becoming a preacher at the age of 30. Shortly after his ministry began, he was sentenced to death by the government, even though he was completely and totally innocent.
I must admit that I am living in a tension between compassion for refugees and concern about terrorism. Knowing that Jesus himself was, at one time, a refugee, and having met several political refugees personally, it makes my heart swell with compassion… but knowing what we know about recent attacks around the world and this apparent “trojan horse” method of terrorism, it gives me pause.
I don’t have any answers. Just questions really. What is the Biblical response? To close all of our borders for good to everyone? To turn away thousands of widows and children who, through no fault of their own, have been victimized by war and violence? How do we obey a Biblical mandate to both welcome the stranger and protect our own families? This is hard.
I’ve heard the grape argument. “If one grape in the bunch was poisoned would you eat any of them?” But we’re not talking about grapes here. We’re talking about souls. Jesus looked at the whole bunch and knew ALL of them were poisoned, yet he still chose to drink of the cup and die for the love of them.
There must be a balance. I do think it’s reasonable and prudent to pause immigration to review and revamp the process of screening applicants (and yes, I’m aware that in some countries a majority of the refugees are single young men… thus the enhanced screening process). It is not anti-refugee to enforce the strictest of security standards, to ensure that our country remains safe. But we cannot slam the door and wall ourselves in, ignoring “the least of these” who have very legitimate needs for shelter and security. We cannot be controlled by fear. To borrow from an article I read earlier today…
“Fear leads to hatred; courage leads to convictional compassion. And convictional compassion means differentiating between the radical Islamists who would destroy us and peaceful neighbors who stand with us in deploring such violence.
We are in a war. An unconventional war, of course, but a war nonetheless. Wars always bring out the best and worst in humanity. When future generations look back in time, let us hope they will see that we met these challenges with courage, not fear. In doing so, we obey the most frequent command in the Bible, ‘Do not be afraid.'”
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” -1 John 4:18
Join with me in praying for the families of the men and women who lost their lives this week in Paris. Praying for the refugees who have been driven out of their homeland, just like our Lord. Praying for the terrorist who believes Satan’s lies. And most of all praying that the Gospel will be shared and shown through the hands of those that reach out in love and compassion. Jesus is the only hope for this world and the people in it.
Last night, while answering the routine ‘how-was-your-day’ questions, Evelyn (9) said, “I left my math homework at school, but I’m not worried about it right now. That’s Future Me’s problem and I can’t do anything about it. Future Me will just have to deal with it tomorrow.”
I’m still not sure if this is irresponsible or brilliant… or both! Certainly “Future Me” had to deal with some consequences today when the future collided with the present, and more consequences are pending if “Future Me” doesn’t maintain her math grades. Still, I have to admire Evelyn’s carefree attitude when it comes to circumstances beyond her control. She is an honor roll student, so please don’t get the impression that this is a common occurrence, but forgetfulness can happen to the best of us. I must admit, I would probably lose sleep over what may or may not happen when I had to face my teacher the next day, but to Evie… that was Future Me’s problem. She was just going to eat supper, play with her little brother, take a bath, and go to bed. I think we can safely assume that Future Me won’t have to deal with any stomach ulcers down the road!
Admittedly, I’ve been battling with anxiety in my own life recently. Anxiety about the future, the economy, abortion, terrorism, growing threats here in the United States and abroad, the plight of Christians around the world, the fast growing moral decay that is eating away at the foundations of our society like a cancer and spiraling faster and faster out of control. *hyperventilates into a paper bag… oo-ee-oo-ee-oo-ee*
I know 1 Peter 5:7 tells us, “cast all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you.” I know that, but it’s so easy to get overwhelmed with everything going on around us in the world and forget that God is indeed in control. I’m (still) learning to calm my fears by spending time in prayer and in God’s Word. God says “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” (Psalm 46:10) The Hebrew word for be still in this passage doesn’t mean to sit still and be quiet; it means to “let go”. Let go of the things that you can’t control and know that He is God, He is on the throne, and He is in control.
I’m reminded of a little wooden plaque that used to hang on the wall in our kitchen when I was a boy. We moved from Henagar to Rainsville when I was 12-years-old and I don’t recall seeing it since, but I remember it’s words very well. Written on this plaque was a prayer called The Serenity Prayer. You’ve probably heard it before. It’s been often used and quoted:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.
I’ve prayed those three lines many times through the years. That prayer, a memory from my childhood mingled together with memories of orange counter-tops and plaid wallpaper and my family sitting around a country kitchen. It always takes me back every time I think about that little prayer. But those three lines are actually a condensed version of a larger prayer; a wonderful, rich prayer authored by the American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr in 1937. Here is the prayer in it’s entirety:
God, give me grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.
May we live our lives with serenity, courage, and wisdom. I will not be anxious (Matthew 6:31). I will cast my cares on the Lord (1 Peter 5:7). I will not be afraid because God is with me, giving me strength. (Isaiah 41:10) The future may (or may not) be full of trouble and hardships, but I’m trying not to worry about it. That’s just something that Future Me will have to deal with.
“If the gates to Hell are wide and the way to Heaven is narrow… that means that most of the people on Earth are going to Hell. Right? It makes me sad to think about some of my friends who know about Jesus and just don’t care, but it makes me even sadder to think about all the people in the world who have never heard about Jesus.”
I assured her that her mom and I shared her sentiment. That’s the reason we pray for the nations, that’s the reason we work with Nehemiah Teams and that’s the reason I’m going to Nicaragua next week… to make the name of Jesus known. Lots of people have never heard the Gospel and it’s our responsibility as Christians to tell them.
I was moved to tears by the compassion of my child, but as I kissed her goodnight and laid down in my own bed I was deeply convicted about my own lack of concern. And so I leave you with the same questions the Holy Spirit was whispering in my ear as I drifted off to sleep…
“Hey Robert, when is the last time you told someone about what Jesus has done for you?”
“Hey Robert, have you ever lost sleep because one of your friends is on that wide road to Hell?”
“How about a stranger, Robert? How much do you care about the lost?”
“What are you doing to make the name of Jesus known?”
“Your daughter knows that more people die every day and they need to know about Jesus now, but where is your sense of urgency?”
“I love you, Robert. I made you, and I love you. You can’t change the past, but tomorrow is a new day. Get up in the morning and lead your family to do what I’ve called you to do.”
The day started out normal enough. It was stormy last night so none of us slept well. The kids were in our room by 3am asking to crawl into bed with Mom and Dad. One succeeded and the other two huddled together in the toddler’s room next door. At daybreak, we hit the snooze button a few times before tumbling out of bed. The remainder of the morning was a mad scramble to get ready and get out the door on time.
I usually drop the older kids off at school on my way to work while my wife stays at home with our youngest. We knew before we left this morning that the kids didn’t have lunch packed, but we also didn’t have time to stop at the grocery store on the way. Mandi could have taken the kids some food later in the day, but it would have been out of her way, so I decided to run to the store and pick up a Lunchable® to take back to the school after I dropped them off. Problem solved. I sent Mandi a quick text to let her know that she didn’t have to worry about the kids’ lunch.
Based on her reaction, this was the most provocative, sensual text message I’ve ever sent. I may have inadvertently stumbled upon an obscure, enigmatic form of ‘sexting’ where you message your wife a list of chores that you’ve accomplished without being asked. This message ignites the fires of passion and she texts you back a declaration of her love and unending devotion. I think I’m onto something here. I honestly think that if I had told her that I also filled up her vehicle with gas, she would have begged me to come straight home.
In Back to the Future Part II, Dr. Emmett L. Brown (Doc) tells Marty that he intends to destroy the time-traveling Delorean. He explains that, “time-traveling is just too dangerous. Better that I devote myself to study the other great mystery of the universe: women.”
I certainly haven’t unravelled the mystery of women yet, but I did learn this principle several years ago and I was reminded of it today. God has created men and women differently!
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” -Genesis 1:27
We are all created in the image of God and share so many similarities, but we cannot deny that there are some differences in the way that we are made. Some of these gender differences will always remain a mystery, just as certain aspects of our wonderfully complex Creator is a mystery. However, recognizing our differences is important because these differences affect your understanding and ability to please your spouse and create a wonderful, fulfilling marriage. In short, you will not change your spouse to think and act just like you, so learn the differences and complement one another.
I actually found out the hard way that these difference don’t work in reverse. We’ve read several excellent books over the years about how to have a successful marriage, and most of them have one chapter for men only and one chapter for women only. In his book, A Celebration of Sex, Dr. Douglas Rosenau, a Christian marriage and family therapist, was no exception. He even gave husbands and wives tips on how to arouse your spouse. To the men he suggested things like, “Clear the table and load the dishwasher after dinner, wash and dry a load of laundry, or watch the kids and give your wife some time alone for a hot bath.” I remember thinking, “Are you kidding me?! This stuff is a turn-on for women?!”
Then I flipped over to the chapter labeled “For Women Only” and read something much more interesting. In my mind, the tips Dr. Doug gave the women on arousing their husbands sounded much more compelling. One item in particular on this list caught my attention, and I thought we’d give it a try since the men’s list just sounded like alot of housework. Tip #3 read,
“Don’t wear any underwear to a social gathering, and tell your husband on the way out the door. You’ll drive him crazy all day!”
The next opportunity we had to attend a “social gathering” was on a Sunday. At a church. Where I was leading worship.
That Sunday morning while I was driving, I looked over at my beautiful bride in the passenger’s seat, lowered my voice and said, “Hey, guess what… I’m not wearing any underwear…” I probably don’t need to tell you that this statement did not achieve the intended results. When I got the car back on the road, between punches and through clenched teeth I could just make out Mandi saying, “You’re not wearing underwear?! You’ve got to lead worship!!” For the sake of the people involved, I won’t tell you when or where I was singing that day.
There really should be a warning label on marriage books like that, so consider my example before you try to reverse roles. It was a hard lesson learned, but we look back on it and laugh now. Mandi and I had the opportunity to meet Dr. Rosenau just a few weeks ago at a marriage retreat with the 10,000 Fathers Worship School and I shared our story with him over dinner. He got a kick out of it, but he also took the opportunity to say, “I told you so.”
We are created different, but we should celebrate those differences and complement one another, not try to change each other. I’m an extrovert and Mandi is an introvert so it used to drive me crazy when she would avoid calling someone on the phone. I would try to “fix” her by forcing her to make calls, even if it was something simple like ordering pizza. Now I understand more about her personality and her comfort level and I truly have her best interests at heart. I’m perfectly capable of ordering pizza and I know she really appreciates not having to speak to people over the phone. Neither is right or wrong; just different and complementary.
Become an expert on your spouse. Check out Gary Chapman’s book, The 5 Love Languages, and learn how to speak your spouse’s language. Take a personality profile together like the Myers-Briggs test to learn more about one another and how your personalities differ. Above all, God’s Word tells us to “put on a heart of compassion and patience” (Colossians 3:12). If you love your wife, then you’ll want to know her, to understand her, to have empathy for her so you can love her more. It’s what we want in marriage: to know and be known by another in the safety of unconditional love.
Now if you’ll excuse me, the dishwasher just finished a cycle and I think I hear my wife calling my name.
If you’d like to know more about some of the resources that I mentioned, click here to see a list of books that have been a tremendous help to me and Mandi in our marriage and as we raise a family. God Bless.
Here is a list of resources that have been a tremendous help in our marriage and as we raise a family (books are listed in no particular order). We sincerely hope these Christ-centered resources will help you as much as they have helped us. If you haven’t read my post about some of these resources in action, check it out here. You might enjoy a good laugh. And if we can ever be of any service to you, please feel free to contact us.
The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts
by Dr. Gary Chapman
Falling in love is easy. Staying in love-that’s the challenge! How can you keep your relationship fresh and growing amid the demands and conflicts and just plain boredom of everyday life?
In the #1 New York Times bestselling book The 5 Love Languages, you’ll discover the secret that has transformed millions of relationships worldwide. Whether your relationship is flourishing or failing, Dr. Gary Chapman’s proven approach to showing and receiving love will help you experience deeper and richer levels of intimacy with your partner-starting today.
The Act of Marriage: The Beauty of Sexual Love
by Tim and Beverly LaHaye
For engaged couples and newlyweds who want to make lovemaking a joy from the start . . . For couples who have been married for years and want to maintain the flame or rekindle the embers . . . for every husband or wife who wants to be a better lover — here are the insights into each other’s bodies, psychosexual makeup, and need for tender, unselfish affection that can help you achieve your goal. With over 2.5 million copies in print, The Act of Marriage has helped thousands of Christian couples maximize their joy in sexual union and saved countless marriages. Pastors, doctors, and psychologists alike have endorsed the frank, practical insights.
A Celebration of Sex: A Guide to Enjoying God’s Gift of Sexual Intimacy
by Dr. Douglas E. Rosenau
Dr. Douglas Rosenau is a licensed psychologist, and a Christian sex therapist who has for the past seventeen years used his training in theology and counseling to help Christian couples enrich and reclaim God’s wonderful gift of sexuality within marriage.
A Celebration of Sex answers specific, often unasked questions about sexual topics, presents married couples with detailed techniques and behavioral skills for deepening sexual pleasure and intimate companionship, and is an excellent tool for premarital education.
His Needs, Her Needs: Building an Affair-Proof Marriage
by Willard F. Jr. Harley
In the classic bestseller His Needs, Her Needs, Willard F. Harley, Jr., identifies the ten most vital needs of men and women and shows husbands and wives how to satisfy those needs in their spouses. He provides guidance for becoming irresistible to your spouse and for loving more creatively and sensitively, thereby eliminating the problems that often lead to extramarital affairs.
This revised and expanded edition has been updated throughout and includes new writing that highlights the special significance of intimate emotional needs in marriage.
Red-Hot Monogamy: Making Your Marriage Sizzle
by Bill & Pam Farrel
With their trademark insight, humor, and candid personal perspectives, Bill and Pam Farrel reveal the truths about the sexual relationship in marriage and what husbands and wives need to know to keep the embers burning.
- Sex is like fireworks!–why a little skill turns marriage into red-hot monogamy
- How sex works best emotionally, physically, and physiologically
- How to avoid the pleasure thieves that steal your chance for fulfillment
The Farrels present difficult-to-discuss topics and biblical truths in universal language with sensitivity, fun, and understanding.
Rekindling the Romance: Loving the Love of Your Life
by Dennis & Barbara Rainey
By God’s design, romance is supposed to be the flame in the fireplace of marital intimacy. Yet far too many Christian couples feel cheated because their marriage produces as much spark as a book of wet matches. Others have neglected to fan the flames of passion for so long that they have lost hope of experiencing romance.
Rekindling the Romance is organized into short, biblically-based chapters. Packed with practical insight, this tastefully candid and inviting resource provides the Christian couple with the keys to unlock their relational and sexual intimacy.
To Train Up a Child
by Michael & Debi Pearl
Three thousand years ago, a wise man said, “Train up a child in the way that he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Good training is not crisis management; it is what you do before the need of discipline arises. Most parenting is accidental rather than deliberate. Imagine building a house that way. We don’t need to reinvent training. There are child training principles and methods that have worked from antiquity. To neglect deliberate training is to shove your child into a sea of choices and passions without a boat of compass. This book is not about discipline, nor problem children. The emphasis is on the training of a child before the need to discipline arises. It is apparent that, though they expect obedience, most parents never attempt to train their child to obey. They wait until the behavior becomes unbearable and then explode. With proper training, discipline can be reduced to 5% of what many now practice. As you come to understand the difference between training and discipline, you will have a renewed vision for your family, no more raised voices, no contention, no bad attitudes, fewer spankings, a cheerful atmosphere in the home and total obedience from your children.
Orphanology: Awakening to Gospel-Centered Adoption and Orphan Care
by Tony Merida and Rick Morton
Orphanology unveils the grassroots movement that’s engaged in a comprehensive response to serve hundreds of millions of orphans and “functionally parentless” children. You’ll see a breadth of ways to care with biblical perspective and reasons why we must. Heartwarming, personal stories and vivid illustrations from a growing network of families, churches, and organizations that cross culture show how to respond to God’s mandate. The book empowers:
– churches—to plan preaching, teaching, ministering, missions, funding adoption, supporting orphans;
– individuals and families—to overcome challenges and uncertainties;
– every believer—to gain insights to help orphans in numerous ways.