Sunday, December 30, 2007


Well it is almost the end of another year. I feel very blessed to be able to look back and remember all of the great moments of 2007. The thing is, I can't really think of much in the way of disappointments. I know that there were a few, but there isn't any gain by dwelling on them. I was thinking that I'm ending '07 at about the same weight as I began it so I didn't do so well on that resolution. The plus is that I made it through the year without gaining any weight!

They say (who are they? and what makes them experts on everything?) that 86% of all New Years resolutions are weight/health related. In order to keep the stats up, I'll renew my annual resolution to eat better, exercise regularly and lose some weight. They also say that 25% of resolutions are broken by the end of January so I'll avoid the rush and surrender before the year actually starts!

I picked up a few books for Christmas and I'm looking forward to getting into them. I mentioned The Dangerous Book for Boys, I also have The Magician and the Cardsharp by Karl Johnson. It is a book about Dai Vernon, one of the greatest sleight of hand artists. I'm really looking forward to reading this one! I also picked up a "self help" book, The Science of Success, because we could all use a little help with succeeding in life or any other worthwhile endeavor.

By the way, if you write a book How to Become a Failure, and you don't sell any copies...are you successful?

I'm almost finished with the Pullman trilogy His Dark Materials, and will have my review on all three books (The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass) soon.

To any one that takes the time to stop by and occasionally read the ramblings of a preacher/magician/air traffic controller, thank you. I truly wish a happy and prosperous 2008 for all of you. I have no doubts that there will be disappointments along the way--maybe even tragedy in your year. But I do hope that the blessings of life will far outweigh its curses and we'll meet here in year to share our good fortunes with one another.


Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas

It's a few minutes before midnight as I begin to write. We had a wonderful evening service at church on Christmas Eve. It is always such a joy to celebrate with some of my favorite people in the whole world. I can't say enough about my church family.

As I write, the kids are in bed (earlier than expected), the presents are wrapped and under the tree, Chris is getting ready for bed and I have a few moments to reflect on the day and look forward to tomorrow. The house smells like pumpkin pie (just came out of the oven) and the taste of chocolate chip cookies is still in my mouth. We each opened one gift tonight. Aaron and Hannah exchanged gifts--a book and Starbuck's card for Hannah and some Pyrex bowls and lids for Aaron--and Chris and I opened one from the kids. Chris got some nail stuff and long lasting lips stuff(I know that there is a girl name for "stuff" that better describes what it actually is) from Hannah and I got a book, The Dangerous Book for Boys from Aaron. I've seen it before and I know that I will enjoy adding it to my reading list. It says, "The perfect book for every boy from eight to eighty."

It's now minutes into Christmas morning. The bed awaits. For a brief few hours we'll sleep and then enjoy the blessings of the day. I truly hope that the day finds you with someone you love. Please take a moment to remember to pray for our service men and women that are away from their families.

May your Christmas Day be full of joy and hope.

To all of my blogging friends and readers: Merry Christmas.


Friday, December 21, 2007

Christmas: It's all about me (and you)

I have a teen aged daughter. (Your prayers are welcome and your condolences are accepted.) I say this as a way of introducing the "It's all about me" subject of this post. I often acquiesce to her needs/wants/desires by using her favorite line--"It's all about you." In return, she often uses the "It's all about me" line as a part of her argument or justification for her immediate situation. In any case, the attached attitude is one that we generally associate with selfishness.

This Christmas, I want for each of you to consider being selfish.

Yeah, you read that right. I said that I want you to consider being selfish...just for the day. I'm not sure where the saying came from that says it's better to give than to receive, but I'm pretty sure that I never fully bought into the idea--not as a kid and not even as an adult. Oh I know that there are great blessings and good feelings that we get from giving (check out Rich's post on that), but I still like to receive. I've managed to be much more mature about the whole giving/receiving thing as I've grown older--but deep inside, I still like to receive.

If you've ever felt the same way--even a little bit--I've got great news for you: Christmas really is all about you!

It has always been God's plan that the birth of Jesus is for you. It has always been a part of God's knowledge that you would one day need a Savior, a Redeemer. It has always been that God loves each of us so much that He sent His son to buy our freedom, to pay our debt, to accept our punishment.

Having grown up in the Catholic Church and gone to Catholic school there was little doubt in my mind about who Jesus was (is). As a young adult, I knew that Jesus is the Son of God. I believed that His death was to pay the price for the sins of mankind and I believed that in His resurrection is our hope for everlasting life. This was the odd case of having the big picture and yet missing the detail of my world. You see, in the little picture of my world, Jesus comes for me. And in the detailed picture of your world, He comes for you. I had learned about the big picture and missed the most important detail--God loves me!

His birth; His death; His resurrection was for me.

Here is some more good news: God loves you, too.

And His birth; His death; His resurrection is for you.

Better to give than to receive? Not in this case. The best thing that you can do this Christmas season is accept the gift of God's great love. Receive His love. Hold it close. Know that He came for you.

I know that you will enjoy giving gifts over the next few days. I know that watching others receive your gifts will bring you joy. But I hope that somewhere deep inside, you will get a wonderful, warm feeling because this year you know that Christmas really is all about you!

Merry Christmas

"For unto you is born this day, in the City of David, a Savior which is Christ the Lord."
An angel to the shepherds near Bethlehem

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Golden Compass

I picked up a copy of the Philip Pullman's trilogy yesterday. I know that I'm asking for it (whatever that may be) from some of my Christian brothers and sisters. There has been much said about Mr. Pullman and his books (now a movie) within the Christian community.

I have not seen the movie. As with most movies, I'll probably wait until the DVD hits the $5 discount bin at the local Wal-mart or borrow it from somebody that pays the full price for it in a month or so. I haven't spent much time on fiction books lately but have set aside my other reading to read The Golden Compass so that I can decide for myself if this is more than a fantasy and if it is an atheist' attack on God and religion. I have to admit that I'm pretty bad about taking somebody else's word on this type of thing and I realize that there are people in the Christian world that are somewhat over zealous when it comes to boycotting what they deem to be offensive for the rest of us.

I suspect that I'll end up believing that Mr. Pullman has woven his personal beliefs into a work of literature--and what's wrong with that? Isn't that the same thing that C. S. Lewis did in The Chronicles of Narnia? I fail to understand why some would choose to boycott the Harry Potter books and movies and at the same time embrace Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. Fantasy is fantasy. I think that I can choose to disagree with any theological beliefs that Mr. Pullman may or may not have and still enjoy the art of his literature...or not.

I know that is has been sometime since I've read the Narnia books, but so far the Compass reminds me of Lewis' work. I'm sure that I'll have more to write when I finish reading it.
In the mean time, the target is squarely on my fire away.


Thursday, December 13, 2007

I Really Don't Get It

On December 11, the House of Representatives passed a resolution acknowledging the significance of Christmas and Christianity. The vote was 372-9 with 10 members voting "present" and 40 members not voting.

I serve on the Constitution committee of our union, (NATCA) and recognize that these resolutions are really nothing more that feel good resolutions. They take no funding; they provide no service; they merely make a statement.

Here's what I don't get:

In October, two similar resolutions passed without opposition. The first recognized Islam and the month long fasting of Ramadan. The vote was 376-0 with 42 members that voted "present" and 14 that didn't vote. The second resolution was for the Indian Festival of Lights (Diwali) and is a feast celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains. The vote was 358-0 with 8 voting "present" and 66 not voting.

So why the 9 "no" votes on the Christmas resolution? Seven of the nine no votes voted yes on each of the other resolutions. Has it just become sporting to bash Christians? I am grateful to Congressman King of Iowa that wrote the Christmas resolution and I am happy that it passed. Perhaps this is the part where I turn the other cheek and get ready for the next slap in the face from a government that talks about religious freedom but only means it when their talking about other religions.

For anybody interested, the nine "no" votes came from Reps. Gary Ackerman and Yvette Clarke, both of New York; Diana DeGette of Colorado; Jim McDermott of Washington; Bobby Scott of Virginia; and Pete Stark and Lynn Woolsey, both of California. These seven voted yes on both of the October resolutions. Not voting on the Diwali measure was Rep. Alcee Hastings of Florida. Not voting on the Islam resolution but also voting "no" on the Christmas resolution was Rep. Barbara Lee of California.

Maybe it was just a case of nine Democrats that didn't want to support a resolution that was written by a Republican. If that's the case...Grow up!

In any case, I'd bet that all nine of them will enjoy their Christmas recess and await the arrival of Santa Claus. Maybe this year he'll leave them a lump of coal!


Sunday, December 09, 2007

It's Beginning to Feel Like Christmas

I've been waiting for that magical moment when I start to get that Christmas Spirit. I think that last night was the beginning. Our church choir, along with the choir from the First Baptist Church of Ozark, presented An Evening in December. Last night, Hopedale was the host for the Christmas concert, tonight First Ozark will host the concert. The combined choirs sounded magnificent! I really enjoyed the accompanying videos, the wonderful solos and the sharing of the telling of the Christmas story in the music of the season.

The promise; the story of Christmas is truly a mind boggling story. I think that it is important to remember that the story of Christmas is as much a story of the cross and resurrection (Easter) as it is a story of the manger and the birth of the Christ-child. As a matter of fact, we so often talk of the great sacrifice that Jesus made at the cross and I truly believe that the sacrifice that was made at the manger, the sacrifice made at Christmas was a greater sacrifice.

We see the sacrifice of the crucifixion through the pain and suffering of human emotion, of human feelings. In the manger we see a baby and hear the stories of angels, shepherds and wise men. We feel peace and joy and celebrate the birth of the Savior and again we look through the eyes, through the heart of our humanness.

It is only when we try to see the promise of God through the eyes of God that we are able to see the great Gift, the great sacrifice of the manger. In his letter to the Philippians, Paul writes that Jesus set aside the very characteristics that made Him God to become man. We think of God as all knowing (omniscient), all powerful (omnipotent), and able to be everywhere (omnipresent). Jesus gave all of that up to humble Himself and become human. Think of it--this once omnipresent being now finds Himself bound in the flesh of humanity. Though He was once omniscient, the Bible says that as a boy He grew in wisdom and stature before God and man. And the very God that spoke the universe into existence, is now as helpless and as powerless as a new born baby. It is hard to grasp the idea that even though He was still God, he surrendered His godly characteristics to become man and this once all powerful being now has to cry if he gets hungry and wants to be fed, if he's cold and wants to be held or if he's soiled himself and needs to be changed. I don't know about you, but I have a hard time thinking of God with a poopy diaper. Talk about humility!

For thirty some years He was bound by His humanity. He was tempted by the lusts of the flesh and yet He lived a sinless life. He was perfect and pure and became the sacrificial lamb. He took on the sin of mankind to pay the price and to offer us hope; to offer us salvation.

I have to ask--Why do you celebrate Christmas?
I'm not asking about another winter holiday...I'm asking about Christmas. Do you celebrate it with gifts? Do you hang stockings by the fireplace and wait for Santa? I hope so. We do at our house (although not so much with the Santa these days). But at some point this holiday season, I want to encourage you to look at the name--CHRISTmas. Yeah, Christ is in there for a reason. Christmas is a celebration of the promise of God being fulfilled in that baby, born of a Virgin, lying in a manger. The proclamation of heaven is for peace on earth to men of goodwill.

It is my hope and prayer that you, dear reader, find hope, peace and joy this Christmas. It is my hope and prayer that you will, with me, celebrate the Promise of God fulfilled in Jesus.

It's Beginning to Feel Like Christmas!


Thursday, December 06, 2007

Politics and Religion

Yesterday Mitt Romney made his speech about his faith and his candidacy for President of the US. I want to post my own beliefs on the subject and will forewarn those of you that think that every conservative or every evangelical has to be a Republican and every liberal or every heathen has to be a Democrat...I make little connection between faith and political party ties.

I do think that you can tell a lot about a person's character by their faith. I think that it is important to know what things are important (personally) to a candidate, knowing that it is hard to separate personal beliefs from political agendas. As a matter of fact, ones faith ought to be reflected in their actions. Inconsistencies between the two(faith and actions) will probably also lead to inconsistencies between pre-election promises and post-election actions.

Until the late '70's there was very little that tied religion and political parties to each other. It was largely Jerry Falwell's moral majority that began the notion that the Republican Party was the party of the moral people in America. The initial endeavor was to elect presidents that would appoint conservative justices to the Supreme Court to overturn the Roe vs. Wade decision on abortion. Since that time, pro-life and pro-choice platforms have dominated much of the debate surrounding elections for House, Senate and Presidential candidates. For voters that choose to use this as a litmus test on whether or not to support a candidate for office, I have some bad news for you...they lie. That's right, they'll tell you anything to get your vote.

Okay, so maybe "lie" is a bit strong. At the very least they imply that if they campaign as pro-life, they will vote pro-life and make an effort to overturn RvW. However, in the first six years of the current Republican Administration we had a Republican majority in both houses of Congress, a majority of Supreme Court Justices appointed by Republican Presidents and yet Republicans failed to take any significant action. At some point, somebody has to wake up and realize that they are being used to put liars into office. Perhaps I'm just really miffed that the party that I once subscribed to, has become a party that I don't even recognize. If Republicans are supposed to be the conservative party, where are the conservatives?

I say that I am a "Conservative." That means (to me) that I am morally conservative. I believe in right and wrong and those definitions can be found in the Bible. Far too many elected "conservatives" have found themselves to be the subjects of inappropriate activity; many have resigned leadership roles or have resigned from their office.

I am fiscally conservative. The recent past Republican Congress spent more money than any previous Congress and their Republican leader in the White House failed to veto a single outrageous spending bill!

I am also socially conservative. I believe in taking care of society's needy and believe that proper policing of social programs is the way to cut spending (back to the right and wrong thing). Cutting funding and letting needy children, elderly and disabled fall through the cracks is not my idea of social conservatism.

I also believe that we have an obligation to be conservative where our environment is concerned. Do I need to address logging in our National Forests or strip mining or any number of ecological issues?

It's pretty obvious to me that neither Republican nor Democrat is synonymous with "conservative." I have taken a lot of heat in the past for crossing party lines to align with the immoral heathens. I have had enough of religious leaders telling me how I should vote. I'm a big boy now and know how to research candidates on my own. Most of the "conservative" broadcasters/pastor/teachers seem to be very narrow in their focus of what they want in an elected official. That's fine. They get a vote. But please, don't tie my hands at the polls because of what you think a "good Christian" ought to do. I will research the candidates (without your input, thank you); decide how they stand on issues that are important to me and that I feel they will do something about (I guess that leaves abortion out--not because it isn't important but they won't do anything about it!); and I'll cast my own vote. While I'd be happy to explain my decision to you, perhaps even try to persuade you if you're undecided, I'll not judge you for your decision. That's all a part of what makes our country the great country that it is.

In the end, if I decide to back the former NYC Mayor (doubtful), it won't be because he's Catholic; if Huckabee, it won't be because he's a Baptist minister (yeah, me too); my decision on Romney won't be about his Mormon background; or any of the other candidates from either party. I don't think that Billy Graham would make a good President (and not because he's a Democrat!) any more than I think George W. would make a good preacher (even though he's a Republican).

How about we base our vote on a candidate's ability to be a good President of the US of A; to represent us well among the nations of the world; to take care of business at home and to uphold the Constitution?

Pardon me while I step down from my soapbox.


"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

Monday, December 03, 2007

Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, etc.

Well it is once again the time in America that we begin the cultural wars over the holidays that once brought times of celebration, joy and good will. When I was a kid living in a small Midwestern town, I didn't know about any holiday other than Christmas. I knew that not everyone that celebrated Christmas celebrated the birth of the Christ child. But everybody I knew still celebrated Christmas. Nobody was offended by a "Merry Christmas" and every retailer took full advantage of the season to make their year profitable. In my small world, everyone enjoyed the "Christmas" programs at the schools, the kids all looked forward to the "Christmas" break from school and there were no law suits over any decorations or infringement of somebody's rights.

As a young man, I spent a year in New Orleans at Tulane University. It was there that I had my first exposure to some of the Jewish holidays. Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement) and Rosh Hashanah (The Jewish New Year) were two holy days (holidays) that came in the fall. By the time Christmas rolled around, I was at home and so I still hadn't learned anything about Hanukkah. We celebrated our Christmas much as we had always done--mostly the whole secular commercial version with occasional reminders that this is really about the birth of the Christ child.

Today I can tell you that Hanukkah is a celebration of the re-dedication of the Temple. You won't find the story in the Bible (unless you're using a Catholic version). It is found in the historical books of the Maccabees. (A side note about the Apocryphal books: don't dismiss these books just because they weren't a part of the canonized 66 books. They are still great reads with much history and insight and great lessons to teach.) When the Israelites went to re-dedicate the Temple, all of the oil for the lamps had been profaned. They found a single container--enough oil to light the eternal flame for a single day. Miraculously, the flame burned for eight days--the time it took to press and consecrate new oil!

It doesn't take a theologian to tell you that our Jewish friends don't celebrate the birth of the Christ child. Having worked in a retail jewelry store (Jewish owned) at Christmas time, I can tell you that business is business. Christian, Jewish or atheist--no good businessman is going to refuse your sale based on the holiday that you choose to celebrate. It would be a bit hypocritical to take offense on the one hand while raking in the cash with the other.

Chronologically, Hanukkah obviously predates Christmas. In fact, Christmas in December wasn't until the fourth century. Predating both of these religious celebrations are celebrations surrounding the Winter Solstice. Many cultures have watched the sunlight fade and made their appeals to whatever gods they believed would answer their pleas and bring the sun back and lengthen the days. Large fires were set and many rituals performed to appeal to the gods. The origin of the Yule Log is from these celebrations. Evergreen boughs, wreaths and trees were symbols of life in the midst of the cold darkness of winter. (So for anybody that has said, "It's not a holiday tree, it's a Christmas tree!"--it is actually a holiday tree.)

And new to the winter festivals is Kwanzaa. This one doesn't have the long traditions attached to it that other winter celebrations have as it is only entering its fifth decade of existence. It was the brain child of Ron Karenga (changed from Everett) and began in 1966. It is a celebration of the African/American culture. I'm not sure if Karenga didn't get the Christmas celebration or really felt the need for a way for the African/American to celebrate their culture and history. (I thought February was Black History Month) He is quoted as having said, " was chosen to give a Black alternative to the existing holiday and give Blacks an opportunity to celebrate themselves and history, rather than simply imitate the practice of the dominant society."

I guess I never thought of Christmas as the practice of a dominant society.

Here in Southwest Missouri, we have already had our Christmas politics. On the campus of Missouri State University a Christmas tree went up, was taken down and went up again. You can read the story here.

For myself, I am most offended by everybody that wants everything to go their way. I am not offended when somebody wishes me "Happy Holidays." Why should I be? It's a good wish for me. I would not be offended by a "Happy Hanukkah," either. Again, why should I be? I don't know if "Happy Kwanzaa" is the appropriate wish, but I can think of no reason to take offense. I hope that others will not be offended by my "Merry Christmas." It really isn't meant to offend. The first wishes of Christmas were from angels and the tidings were for peace on Earth to men of good will. Comedian Brad Stine says, "Which part do you find offensive--the peace on Earth or the men of good will?"

I would encourage you to be everyone. Make your holiday wishes with sincerity and genuine love for your fellowman. Everybody gets to decide for themselves if they will be offended.

For me, Christmas is about the birth of the Christ child. It is an amazing story of love; a story of a promise fulfilled...but a story for another day.

Merry Christmas,

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Read This Post

I have to admit that I got up today without plans to write anything post-worthy. But after reading this post from former air traffic controller John Carr, I knew that I had to share his post. Before you continue reading--stop and read his post.

You might wonder why anyone would seriously make the offer that he and Jill have made. Or you might be asking, "What makes them qualified to take on more kids?"

I first met John Carr in Tampa during the 1994 NATCA Convention. John typifies what you would expect of an air traffic controller. If you've read any of his previous posts on The Main Bang, you already know that he is passionate about promoting what is right and exposing what is wrong. By and large, air traffic controllers do what ever they do...hard. We work hard and we play hard. We take that passion with us in all aspects of our lives. We are made up of people that party and party hard; and people that don't party. There are fitness freaks that work out hard and over eaters that love to eat...hard. To be sure, we have our lazy ones that don't fit the typical mode, but for the most part we are extreme in the things that we believe in.

You only have to see John, Jill and Team Carr for a short time to know that John is extremely passionate about his family. I would trust him with my family if need be and I know that you could trust him with yours. While it may be unlikely that anybody would actually take them up on this offer, I am absolutely positive that it was not made flippantly.

If you are reading this and find yourself needing help and don't know where to turn, leave a comment and tell me. My comments are moderated and will not appear if you want confidentiality. I'll do everything I can to find you help where you are, hook you up with John or help you myself. Maybe you know somebody that needs a much needed break or something to help relieve some pressure to keep their kids safe...Help them, PLEASE.

We can all do something to help the helpless.

In the weeks ahead, there will be many parents that face depression over not being able to give gifts to their kids. If you can A gift through a charity, an anonymous gift of cash in the mail, a timely meal, an invitation to join your family, a shopping trip. There are so many ways that we can impact the lives of kids, so many ways that we may be able to save the life of a child.

Keep your eyes open; people, little people, are all around us and they need our help.

John and Jill, thanks and God bless you and the little ones.