From the Ranch

From the Ranch

Saturday, November 30, 2013

It is Christmas Time Again, and the Story is an Old One

An article on the origin of Christmas
Written by: Brian LeCompte


                I am writing this article so that all who read it might understand the meaning of Christmas and its’ origin.  It will become evident if it hasn’t been already that I am writing this article from a Christian perspective.  I will document the story of the birth of Christ as it is recorded in the Gospels of the New Testament and explain various aspects and historical context of the story which are often misinterpreted or overlooked.  I will then explain that how the holiday celebration arose for different purposes but during the same time out of an earlier pagan tradition and explain how this in no way harms the truthfulness of the Biblical account.  My hope is that all who read this will learn the true scholarly Christian viewpoint of the history and significance of Christmas and will benefit from this knowledge in the same manner that I have after learning it. 

                The purpose for traditional holiday of Christmas is to celebrate the birth of a man named Jesus Christ.  According to the Old Testament the world would one day receive a savior to come and rid the world of all injustice and He would be the Lord of all the people,  establish a kingdom that is nothing but eternal peace and love, sorrow, pain, and death would be no more.  In some of the Old Testament prophetic accounts the man is spoken of as a servant that is beaten and crushed for the sins that are committed by others and in essence takes the penalty for that sin (cf. Isaiah 53:5).  In other scriptures he is spoken of as an Anointed one that would free the people from oppression (cf. Psalm 2).  This word anointed is referencing  a king because it was understood by the audience that the Old Testament was written for, the Hebrew people, or Jews of Israel, that the Spirit of God anointed men that He would make king over this nation of people.  At the time of Jesus’ birth the Jewish people had been under the oppression of Roman rule for centuries and the prophetic Spirit of God had not been among the people for 400 years (This is also known as the Intertestamental Period.)  The Israelites were” groaning” for their savior to come and free them from this oppression and set them up as His priestly nation once more.  However, the Jewish people were looking for a warrior king to lead an army against their earthly oppressors not the defeated servant spoken of in Isaiah. 
                The New Testament scriptures affirm for us what was meant by those Old Testament prophecies.  According to the four Gospels of the New Testament (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) Jesus was both of these iconic figures spoken of in the Old Testament.  Matthew’s Gospel is primarily focused on the kingdom that Jesus spent his life preaching about and initiating, Mark’s Gospel is the most concise of the 4 and has a pivotal moment in the center of the text when the apostle Peter acknowledges that Jesus is the Christ sent from God to save mankind, Luke’s Gospel is primarily focused on the blessing of salvation, and John’s Gospel seeks to prove that Jesus was not a mere man but was also God who took on the form of man and performed “signs” or miracles, to prove his identity  then paid the price for all of mankind that would lead all of those who believe in what he did to glory.  Most of this study will be in the book of Luke, as this book contains the most elaborate narrative of the birth of Christ, and is where the nativity scene, which has become the most popular Christmas decoration and theme for many Christmas plays and traditions,  originated.

The Birth
            The Bible asserts that Jesus’ mother was betrothed (engaged to be married,) to a man named Joseph.  Many have interpreted this to mean that they were already married which would indicate that the Bible is wrong when it records that Mary was a  virgin.  However, word used in the original text simply means that they were “to be married” or close to engagement in our culture.  The difference between the two is that engagement is a public statement that you intend to be married with someone and focusing on the planning of the wedding while a betrothal, which is what this couple had entered into, is a public statement that you are preparing for marriage.  In this case the couple focuses on a commitment to each other, God, and the community without a physical commitment of sex for each which is to be saved until after the marriage.  This correct understanding of the word gives credence to the Bible’s message that Mary was in fact a virgin when Christ was born.  The purpose for mentioning her virginity is to highlight her purity and also to give no credence to any argument that could be made that Christ was the son of any man.  Rather the text affirms that Jesus is the “Son of God.”  In an OT context this would have been recognition of his Kingship because to be called a “Son of God” in that context would insinuate that you were a King.  However, in the context of the birth narrative it literally means that Jesus was not born by the seed of Man in the manner that all people alive today are, but that he was born directly from God.  This is important to understand because the apostle Paul informs us in Romans 5:12 that death entered the world and was passed to all men because the sin of the first man Adam spread into the nature of all men by birth.  It is easier to understand sin as a gene in this instance that is passed down from the father of any given child.  I am not at all trying to say that sin is literally genetic but it is a way to understand what the scripture is communicating, and that is this sin is passed to all men and therefore every person in the world sins.  The significance of Christ’s divine birth is that he is not from that same line of sin, Christ still took on the flesh of man and so was forced to undergo the same temptations as you and I, but he did not descend from that same sinful line as humanity.  This is a brand new chance for a man to accomplish his original purpose to rule over God’s creation rightly and bear God’s image to the world for all to see and praise.  This new gift of the offering of atonement from sin repairs what went wrong and was given to Man by God and it was done by God as he took on the form of a mere man! 
            Next is the focus on the location of Jesus’ birth.  The prophet Micah foretold approximately 700 years before the birth of Christ that he would be born in the town of Bethlehem (Micah 5:2).  Luke’s Gospel explains that Mary and Joseph traveled to Bethlehem because Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census of the known world should be taken for a myriad of reasons, the most likely probably for taxation purposes.  Joseph was the son of a man named Heli and was born in Bethlehem and so according to Caesar’s decree he had to return to his homeland to be properly registered and so he traveled to Bethlehem with Mary and his unborn “step-son.”  The Gospel account reads as follows concerning the birth, “And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth.  And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger; because there was no place for them in the inn.” Luke 2:6 & 7 ESV.  In the next few sections I will perform a thorough exegesis of this scripture. 
The text is clear that the baby was laid in a manger because they had nowhere else to go.  The place that rejected them is translated as “the inn” for most English versions of the Bible.  However, the word that is being translated is a Koine (meaning common) Greek word kataluma.  The Bible was originally written in Koine Greek, which was a form of Greek that was used by the common people at the time.  This word kataluma has until recently best understood as an inn, but it has for some time been ambiguous.  After newly uncovered Greek texts and letters furthered our understanding of the language, this word would be best interpreted to mean “guest room.”  So with this understanding it would be better to say that there was no room for them in the guest room, but which guest room?  Joseph was returning to Bethlehem because it was where he was born and so he would have had family living in Bethlehem most likely, and would have chosen to stay with them.  This would have been very common because the Jewish culture has always been a very collectivistic culture, in which the primary focus is on the family as opposed to the needs and desires of the individual that comprises the culture of America today.  Also it would be peculiar if there were an inn inside the city because in the first century most inns were found on the road between cities because showing hospitality to guests was extremely important in that setting.  So with this understanding it is appropriate to assume that Joseph would seek to stay with his family but was not allowed to.  Also, it is understandable that probably in their culture, his family would not allow them to stay because Mary was pregnant with a child and the couple was not married yet.  To them the child was illegitimate, and in the 1st century context it was a very shameful thing.  We read already that Jesus is being rejected by his own family before he is born, but rejection was an ordained part of Christ’s life,  and was necessary to fulfill the prophecy made in Daniel 9:24-26.   Every detail of prophecy is fulfilled many times in the New Testament, and the academic, or scientific sturdy of God’s Word reveals the validity of its’ message.
After the baby has been rejected and so born outside of appropriate shelter the text says that Mary wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger.  A manger is simply a feeding trough for an animal cut out of stone and typically found in small caves called sukkah.  The geography surrounding Bethlehem is riddled even today with these small caves that the ancient Jewish people living in that area would have used to shelter their livestock during times of harsh weather.  Swaddling cloths were the same type of cloth that was used to wrap the bodies of the deceased in the Jewish burial tradition.  So the picture is quite clear; the baby is born in a shallow cave structure similar in appearance to the type of tomb he was to be buried in at his death on the cross, wrapped up in swaddling cloth the same as he would be at his death, and laid in stone feeding trough which also resembles the tomb his body would have been placed in.  

This is an image of a garden tomb.  One side of the tomb has been cut away for display purposes.

Seen above is first a picture of a manger and below it a 1st century tomb that is most likely the kind of tomb Jesus was buried in.  It is not mere coincidence that these two look similar and that the description given for the scene of Jesus’ birth is similar to that of his death.  After all Jesus himself said to his disciples that his purpose while he was here on Earth was to die (Matthew 16:21).  It seems that even at his birth God is showing the World his plan. 

The Magi
            If the words before these haven’t already upset someone by changing their entire nativity scene already, then I hope that they do not get angry after this section.  So far if our nativity scene were to be accurate then we would have to ditch the wooden lean to shack and replace it with a shallow cave, then get rid of the nice wooden cot that is coated with hay and replace it with a cold stone box where the baby Jesus would have been placed after being wrapped in cloth giving him the appearance of a corpse lying in a tomb.  However, even more must be done to the nativity scene in order to be accurate. 
Magi or “Wise men” were educated scholars of the day who were from the lands East of Canaan.  Many respected their wisdom and intellect and so one of their main contributions was to council the people about their next King.  Magi were effectively king makers because in that day they would judge the abilities of those eligible for the throne and make a decision as to which man would be the better leader.  The Magi traveled in packs of 20, 50, or even 100 people since the threat of bandits was ever present.  Being from the East their steed of choice was a horse as opposed to the popular imagery of a camel.  They are typically depicted as being three men (because there are three gifts) who were led by a star in the night sky and were present on the night of Christ’s birth.  However, the text makes no assertion that this is true. 
The text says that the Magi came looking for the King of the Jews and asked Herod, the Roman appointed King of the Jews at the time, where he was because they had seen His “star.”  The word that is used here in the original Greek for star is astera.  Generally speaking nativity scenes depict the Northern Star, the brightest star in our sky, as being the star that the Magi are speaking of, but this interpretation places our modern scientific understanding of a star in the minds of the ancients and this is simply not appropriate.  When we see a star in our sky we understand it to be a giant ball of flaming gas somewhere in the universe that is big enough that we can see it but due to our scientific understanding we can tell the difference between a nearby planet and a star or a comet and a star.  However, the ancients only knew stars to be lights and so any bright light in the sky to them would have been called astera.  So the next question is can a star in the sky really lead you to a specific location on the Earth?  If you were to point yourself towards a star in the sky and start walking would you ever reach a destination?  No, of course not you would only walk forever or until you decided it was time to quit because you could never reach the star; but then why does the text assert that “the Magi followed this light until it rested over the house that Mary and the boy Jesus were in” (paraphrased from Matthew 2:10 & 11)?  Well, let me present another hypothesis to you.  One of the names that was given to Jesus was Immanuel which means “God with us” (Matt. 1:23).   To the ancient Israelites when God’s presence was among the people he would manifest himself in the form of a bright light called the Shekinah.  The Shekinah hovered above the Ark of the Covenant (seen below) in the Holy of Holies, the most sacred room of the temple where God manifested his presence on the Earth.    

If we are to understand that the Shekinah rested over the location where God dwelt on Earth and that Christ is the Son of the Living God and therefore also God himself and is called Immanuel which means “God with us” then it is reasonable to assume that the astera or bright light the Magi witnessed resting over the house Jesus was in was actually the Shekinah of God.  This would explain how the Magi were able to follow the star directly to the location that Jesus was at. 
            Next is the timing of the Magi’s arrival.  If you remember the text from earlier concerning how the Magi found Jesus then you know that the text says they found him in a house with his mother.  We already know that Jesus was born in a cave with the livestock so if the Magi actually found Jesus on the night he was born then how did they find him in a house?  Also, the word that is translated as child in Matthew 2:11 is a word that is actually used to describe a baby not a newborn.  We also know that Herod, fearing that his throne might be in danger, sent men to kill all the young boys in the town that were two years of age or younger, but if the Magi had arrived on the night of Christ’s birth then why would he need to kill babies that were 2 years of age?  With this information it is more likely then that the Magi arrived maybe as late as a year after the birth of Jesus and gave the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the young King.  These gifts would soon be an example of God’s provision because the family was forced to flee to Egypt after an angel warns them of Herod’s plot to kill all the boys in an attempt to kill Jesus. 

The Purpose of Christmas
            We now know that Jesus was born for the purpose of dying and that God illustrated this to the world even in the scene of His birth.  So you might be thinking to yourself that it sounds awful to celebrate the birth of a King when the message conveyed by his birth was the message of death, and that this King would die in one of the most shameful manners by which to die, crucifiction.  However, the Christian understands that the birth of Christ signifies that the promise of God made to his people was kept and that salvation from the death that is brought on by sin that we all experience has come through Jesus Christ.  So it is not His death that we are celebrating for we know that the grave could not hold Him and He is risen, but it is the fact that God had mercy enough that he would save us from our sin.  He keeps His promises and shows that He is a father to the fatherless and a leader to the lost.

Why December 25?
            The text informs us that shepherds received news of the birth of Christ from an angel while they were out in the fields with their livestock and went to see Jesus on the night he was born (Luke 2:8-20).  This has led  scholars to believe that Jesus was not actually born on December 25 because it would have been wintertime and so the livestock would not have been in the fields but rather in shelter.  The Bible is also unclear about the date of the birth and so there is currently no way to know exactly when Christ was born only that it would have been during one of the summer months when the shepherds would have actually had the sheep in the fields.  If this is true then why do we celebrate Christmas on December 25?  The most logical reason is one that skeptics of the Christian faith usually use as evidence that the Bible is wrong.  Before Christmas was started, pagans had a festival around the same time after the winter solstice, which is on December 21.  The Winter Solstice is the shortest day of the year and is preceded by a string of short days.  The ancients recognized this and attributed the phenomenon to the anger of the gods.  Their belief was that if the gods were not appeased then their fury would be unleashed on the world and all would perish.  So the pagans would make sacrifices in order to please the gods and if the next day were longer then it was a sign that the gods were giving them another year of life.  Skeptics like to say that Christians simply stole the holiday and so the story of Christmas is therefore a lie.  I still do not understand how the two ideas are even related, because even if Christians deliberately took the date of the holiday I don’t see how the facts of the story itself can no longer be validated. Nevertheless I like the skeptics explanation here for the date because it is logical and I believe it actually helps my argument. 
            Many of the new Christians after Jesus’ resurrection were Gentiles and so they would have been accustomed to celebrations around the time of the winter solstice and so after embracing their new faith celebrating the coming of their Savior around the same time would have been an easy transition.  Also the fact that it would come to replace the pagan tradition would be perfectly expected from what we know to be the character of God in the scriptures.  God is the ultimate Redeemer, he takes men who are fifthly and sinful and restores their heart so they can be a whole new creation who bears the image of God more fully.  If God has such redemption power for man, then why can he not do the same for a tradition?  It makes perfect sense to me that God could choose to take an earlier pagan tradition that worships false gods and redeem it to be a celebration of the One True God and therefor glorifying his name so that others may hear of his good news.  It is no mystery as to why different civilizations have gods that they worship.  Mankind can see plainly, until recently when science has become a new god, that there is a higher power that is responsible for all that he witnesses in nature.  The Gospels record Jesus performing miracles of nature that in the Roman context would have been attributed to other gods, i.e. turning water into wine which would have been attributed to Dionysus, commanding the sea which would have been attributed to Poseidon, and calming a storm which would have been attributed to Zeus.  It is as if man sees something in nature and assigns a god or gods to be the cause of that occurrence and then Jesus comes and proves that the cause man was looking for the entire time was Jesus himself.  This seems like a logical explanation for the origin of Christmas to me.  As the darkness of death was reigning over the Earth through sin and it appeared that God’s wrath had come against us, God sent his son to be the offering for us that met the requirement of sinless before Him, and so we were given new and eternal life.

            The purpose of Christmas is to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ the Savior of the world and the Lord of all.  In the image of his birth it is evident that the reason for His first visit to Earth was to die so that the price for sin could be paid and the Way to the Lord God could be opened for those who would have faith and believe that the story of God is true.  Even though there is evidence for the claims of the Bible there is still a necessity for faith.  Not all things in the Bible can be proven with concrete evidence that can be seen with the naked eye.  But then again not all of the claims made by science or any other religion can be either.  Whether one believes in the Gospel’s accounts or in the Big Bang there are still going to be gaps where there is no supporting concrete evidence and so faith must fill those gaps.  It is true that there is no way of proving here on Earth that Christ is risen and seated at the right hand of God in heaven and so as a Christian we exercise faith.  However, let it never be said that the Naturalist who believes that creation can be explained by merely natural properties and was not influenced by a divine being has no faith, but rather let him realize that he cannot prove his hypothesis for creation and so must exercise faith if he is to believe that he is right.  Let us never buy into this post-modern ideology either that states that truth is relative and so there is no absolute truth.  If whatever is true for me states that what is true to you is right as well, then this method of thinking is folly.  You and I cannot both be right, it is either one of us is right or neither of us is right.  The real truth is that there is only one truth and so the Christian believes that God is the author of that one truth and so if one’s view of what is truth does not align accurately with God’s truth in the Bible then that person is wrong. 
            If you are a Christian and you read this article my hope and prayer for you is that Spirit of God has used this information to grow you and strengthen your faith.  I hope that you can use it the next time you are witnessing to another person and that it will bear some fruit in your life.  If you are not a Christian and you read this article my hope and prayer for you that you would know that there is a God who created that universe and that he loves and cares for you more than you can imagine.  The story of Christmas would have never existed if God had chosen to keep Christ with him, but instead because he loved us so God came to Earth to do what we as humans could never do and then suffer our rejection of him until we killed him.  I pray that you know that it is no coincidence that you are reading this today, but that God has drawn you to this article so that you can know that he is reaching out to you wishing that you would step out in faith and accept his gift of salvation.    


Thursday, November 28, 2013

He Pitched a Tent for the Sun


Psalm 19

New International Version (NIV)

For the director of music. A psalm of David.

1.  The heavens declare the glory of God;
    the skies proclaim the work of his hands 
2.  Day after day they pour forth speech;
    night after night they reveal knowledge.
3.  They have no speech, they use no words;
    no sound is heard from them. 
4.  Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
    their words to the ends of the world.
    In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.
5.  It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
    like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
6.   It rises at one end of the heavens
    and makes its circuit to the other;
    nothing is deprived of its warmth.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Patti, Patti, Patti...

I have such difficulty with Patti, she is so smart, and so desirous of my attention she makes a constant pest of herself.  As soon as she saw me photographing the wild birds, she suddenly developed the urge to run at and chase all  of them.  As Randy would remark... "goof ball."

The Birds Have Migrated Down to South Texas

It is my favorite time of the year, when the leaves turn, the air cools off, and the humidity drops here at the ranch.  I have been so ill the last four or five days with kidney stones, and a rather severe kidney infection.  I was able today to get up and around a bit, and step out on the porch in the sun.  It felt so good on my face. 

The beautiful wild birds have migrated down from up North.  You know that awkward moment when you run across someone who recognizes you, and indicates you should recognize them as well, and you don't have a clue?  That is the way it is at Soldier's Heart.  

The deal with that is, every year I put out at least twelve feeders which I keep filled all the time.  The cold weather has arrived much earlier than it usually does, so the feeders are not out yet.  This little finch wants to know where they are.  As soon as he saw me photographing the robins, he flew and landed within feet of me, and flitted around in the tree next to me.

He was indicating that he wanted some grub, right now please...  The robins are just as bad...

 This little fella thinks he could use some of that easy food he doesn't have to hunt for through the winter grasses.


 I love the colors of fall!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Plan For Significance For This Day

I wake up each morning around 5am, and I am greeted by the God of my heart.  Sometimes the night has been long and seemed difficult.  Sleep, for several reasons often alludes me.  I have chronic pain, due to a lifelong illness, which has been my constant companion since childhood, and as the years pass, this disease process takes more and more.  Praise the Lord for His grace and mercy, and all the pain and suffering has taught me, and may the Holy Spirit this morning bear the petitions of my heart before the altar of my Heavenly Father, whose name I claim because of the blood sacrifice of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, which covers all my wrong doing .  The physical pain of my own lifetime has made in my heart a place of understanding and compassion for others who must go the same way as I.  In prayer this morning I think of that dear Saint of God, and my dear friend, Canon Andrew White, Vicar of Baghdad, and the daily struggle he endures to triumphantly meet each day, and take the high ground for the Lord.  Warriors come in all sizes, shapes, and forms, and many use a cane.  I lift him up this morning in prayer, asking the Father to meet the needs of his day today.  To give him strength physically and mentally to engage the enemy, minister to the flock, champion the needs of God's church in Baghdad, and to struggle for the ground of peace, and at least momentary reprise from the death, violence, and pain which mankind has brought to the Middle East.  Even so, let your will be Father, and Your plan brought to fruition as You claim the eternal victory and bring the everlasting peace.

I ask you God of my life, keeper of my soul, light which has brought me through so many times of darkness, when I did not know my way, did not understand the events around me, or see the road ahead, to take the day before me, guide and direct me, show me Your way and plan for the use of this day.  May, Father, I see and know Your will and purpose.

Be with Father God, my sweet husband, empower him for the noble and difficult task to which You have called him.  He is Your servant, from his childhood, his heart has been Yours.  As always, I think of David, Your Soldier, and one you called to lead, how he too in childhood, chose to love and serve You, and of the devotion of his lifetime to You Father.  I think of how You loved him, made provision for him, kept his life for Your purpose and use, and I ask that same love, grace, mercy, and wisdom for my own "David."  Thank You Father God for all the events, people, struggles, difficulties, trails by fire, and blessings which You have used to shape his life, and fulfill Your destiny for his life.  Keep him in the shelter, protection, wisdom, and safety of Your love this day.

I think of the names and faces of each of our children, and I thank you Father for the fulfillment of Your promise in each of their lives, I think of our Brian, how you are raising him up, your servant.  Continue Your work in his life, hold him safe, bring him home to us at Christmas.  Bless Becky this day, and her Andrew, draw them both each day to Your love and direction for their lives.

Be with William Father God, his way is dark and difficult, may it be made by Your love, that ultimate path to light, may it bring him to his knees and the realization that only Your ways, Your love, Your wisdom triumphs in the end.

Father God, be with my Jared, it staggers me God to be in the knowledge of how great Your hand of protection has been on his life.  Father, keep the hounds of heaven on his trail, make him the man You have always desired and faithfully draw him to be.  Continue to call him to his destiny.  May your hand be upon his sweet Misty, who brings strength and honor to his life. May Your Still Small Voice be ever in their hearts.  Be with their precious children, Father how I love them, how unique and special each of them are, how tender their hearts before You God.  Our Tristen, tiny Warrior, Conqueror, possessed of  such courage, be with him Lord, lead, guide, and direct his life, make him ever conscious of Your presence and help in every moment of his life.  Thank you God for my beautiful Avery, and Kenna Bear, how I love them, how precious are the moments I spend with each of them.  Be with Christopher, what a beautiful soul he is before You, what greatness lies within him.  Bring it to fruition Father, and my sweet and beautiful Jo Jo, thank you God for all you did for my heart through her this last time I was able to enjoy holding her.  I will treasure always her little gift, it meant so much to me.  Give Jared wisdom to know the way for this family, judgment to lead them in the way that is Your way, provide for them first concerning their eternal lives, and to do his part to stamp Your likeness upon their young lives.  Give him power over the words of his mouth, let them be chosen by You Father God.

Today you bring to our household a woman whose heart is broken, who is in need of Your love, care, and direction.  You bring also her child, also in need of Your love and care.  We are humbled before You God that You have brought her to us to meet her needs through use of our resources which were always Yours Heavenly Father.  Be with me this day, guide my actions, use my energies and others resources You have gifted me with.  Minister to her, make her know the welcome she has, the home she has here, the shelter from the storm.  May Your love for her shine through my actions and efforts in Your name.  

Father, time calls me to the work of the day, You know the needs of each of my children, my sweet grand-children, my dear parents, sisters, and their children and spouses.  Father, You know their lives, their standing within Your grace, call them to it.  Father, be with Vickie, call her heart to Your comfort and care.  Be with those Viking Warriors, may Your purpose and will continue to work in their lives.  May those young men, especially Tim Donley, remain servants and Warriors, whose every need is upon Your heart each day, and so I know it is.  Bathe them in the consciousness of Your love, care, and direction, give them access this day to the incomprehensible power that is Yours to give for their lives today.

Father, in the knowledge of Your love for me, where You have brought me thus far, and in the acknowledgment that without You, this day will be one of defeat, and with You, one of victory, I dedicate my steps, my heart, my energies, my love to You to use as You will.  Empower me for Your eternal purposes, Your plan for my life, and Your soon coming Kingdom.  Amen.

Friday, November 22, 2013

It is Hard to Title These Posts

You just have to see this, then you will understand... but what do you call the experience of viewing this story?  I love words, but I have none...

This is Way Worth the Read

Jose Canseco, It is Now Clear, Kinapped My Goat

You all know from  my previous blog post, that while I was gone 10 days from home, somebody put my goat, Rocket, in the house, with the dog, Patti, and the cat, Bluejay, and they were locked up in the house for about 4-5 days until the ranch hand found them.  Yep, that is obviously what has happened... see the following link.... 

See, I told you so... Jose Canseco kidnapped my goat, took her on a road trip to Florida, and like in O Henry's story, The Ransom of Red Chief, she was too much trouble so he and the girl friend brought her back and mistakenly put her inside the house...  He must be a real red neck, that doesn't know any better than putting a miniature goat in the house... 

Now try and tell me that goat in the back of that car isn't my goat Rocket!  I even know the motive for the kidnapping...  Everyone knows Rocket is the famous "Peek a Goat" of You Tube fame...  She has been on FOX News, the Red Eye Edition, and I am told she is a favorite of Ellen DeGeneres.  Canseco  just can't get famous enough...  He has to abduct the star of Soldier's Heart Ranch!  I can hear the children crying now!!!  Shame on him and that girl friend of his!  

 You know how we women love drama... so I'm making lemonade out of lemons, and now going with Canseco kidnapped my goat.... took her on a road trip to Florida, then decided she was too much trouble and brought her back... and put her in the house along with the dog and the cat...  It makes for a much more interesting story...

Yep, I can see the advantage of this story... well except with the insurance adjuster.. he's already a little skeptical about the whole thing.

Well, back to shampooing the carpets... goats gives a certain undesirable air to the formal dining room and Thanksgiving is coming, and I am going to have a lot of company... not to include Rocket, Patti, or Bluejay... but especially Rocket, the Peek a Goat...  Again, shame on you Jose...  You can't have her, get your own star goat!

When You Just Can't Believe This Happened to You

This evening I was surfing and found a cute little blog about five things that should not be in the house.  None of her picks topped mine.  I was recently out of town helping my daughter move for about ten days, on about day six I got the heart stopping news that the ranch hand had found out where our goat named Rocket, our outside dog named Patti, and our cat named Bluejay, (all of whom had been missing,) had been.  Someone had stolen the air-conditioner out of the window in the den, and let them in the house, then closed the window.  The ranch hand had gotten them out, and when I asked the condition of the house, after a long pause, he just replied, it was bad... 
real bad...

After cleaning for days now, I am ready for the professional goat odor removal man to come... It is less than a week til Thanksgiving and a house full of guests...

Evidently, they tried to make scrambled eggs... 
unsuccessfully tried to make scrambled eggs...

Bless her heart, Patti, (the dog,) only used the formal dining room as a potty.

Nothing was missing from our home, but note the 
 handgun from our gun cabinet left out on a sofa.

They really enjoyed this recliner...


 Of course it isn't a party without chips!  They seemed to have enjoyed
                       the Cool Ranch Doritos best, they ate two bags of those.

There was so much more damage, but the worst was, 
Rocket ate my favorite hat!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Find This Web Site, You Will Be Inspired


I love the scripture that says, "A three fold cord is not quickly broken," which represents God's promise that a marriage anchored in His love has an advantage.  Certainly the marriage of this young couple portrays this love anchored in His love.
My husband served 30 years, two of those years in Afghanistan and Iraq.   We have son-in-law who didn't have a wife when he was seriously wounded in Iraq in 2003, so I have some knowledge of the sacrifice this young couple has endured.  I am sure the young Soldier in this video knows the blessing that a godly wife brings to the life of a man.

To avoid his mother being upset and worried, our son-in-law didn't even tell her he had been wounded as he recovered for months at Ft. Sam Houston, about four hours from where she lived.  How lucky this young Soldier is, and how lucky my son-in-law is today, for God has gifted him with a loving wife, and her whole family's love and respect as well.  He is a hero, as is this young man, in every sense of the word.  He suffers still today the physical effects of his wounds, although they are not readily visible, but his heart long ago triumphed over them.  

My husband continues to serve in Iraq with the State Department, determined that the ground gained in Iraq and Afghanistan against terror in the world, and those who commit it, will not be lost.  Today in Afghanistan our troops are still on the ground, still in harms way, still sacrificing every day.  Keep them, and those who struggle, having paid the price for the ground thus gained, in your prayers, and look for ways which you can support them now.

From 1 Corinthians 13

New International Version (NIV)

 1.  If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 

 2.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.

 3.  If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

 4.  Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.

 5.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

 6.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

 7.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

 8.  Love never fails.  But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; whee there is knowledge, it will pass away.

 9.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part,

10. but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.

11.  When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.  When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.

12.  For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror;  then we shall see face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13.  And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love.  But the greatest of these is love. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Amie's Birthday

My daughter turned 40 on Saturday, and we had a birthday party for her.  I know the tradition for a 40th birthday is to do it in a black theme, but I love glitter and color, lots of bling, so I compromised with this theme.  She loved it!

Three of my children, and my parents, live in Sweetwater so I made the long trip, (about nine hours as often as I need to get out and stretch,) and we had the birthday party at my mother and dad's home.  They are such sweet people, and were excited as my daughter Meredith and I decorated the tables for this event.


 Since my gift to her was all the supplies to begin making jewelry, part of the table decorations included a jewelry display form with the strands of jewelry making beads hung on the display.  I used grocery store cakes, and featured her favorite desert, Oreo cream pie.  We had both white and black helium balloons tied to silver weights at each end of the table, large candles in silver glittered boxes were a part of the center piece, and a triple chocolate cake and a red velvet cake completed the setting.  Disposable clear plastic plates and glasses, along with the better clear plastic flatware ensured a dish duty free party.  White linen napkins wrapped with black glitter tulle, tied in bows, gave a more formal look to the  plastic ware.  Silver cake trays were placed on the   table as part of  table-scape.

 We are a large family, and even though not all those living out of town could attend, additional tables were required for seating.  I broke from the black white and silver in one detail, and I added a red satin tablecloth to the mix, using the same design elements as the other table.  

 On all the tables, gift bags with the same pattern as the main table cloth, were filled with different chocolates wrapped in silver papers, and tied with silver glitter bows.  Each woman also had a set of beads selected for her, so that she could make jewelry as well.  A small white bottle with bubbles for blowing during the festivities kept the children amused as the evening progressed.

The smallest table included silver tulle, and features black plates.

The guests began to arrive, and the food, served from the kitchen bar filled the plates.   Brisket, ribs, chicken wings, beans, corn, green beans with new potatoes, fruit salad, and mashed potatoes were served with hot rolls and assorted soft drinks and tea.  Along with the cakes and pie, cream puffs filled with whipped cream, and chocolate eclairs rounded out our deserts. 

My daughter, Amie, was the guest of honor, and also her husband John arrived.  John could not be persuaded to try on the black boa provided for the birthday girl, but before the evening was over, there would be a male who took the dare!

Friday, November 15, 2013

There Are Some People Who Should Never Work With Children

I read a story yesterday of a teacher in Houston, who when a child didn't have his homework, felt the best way to communicate that to his parents was to write a note on the child's forehead with a sharpie marker.  

I don't know how anyone else feels about that, but it made me mad, and I thought to myself how lucky that teacher is that I am not the parent of a child who experienced that in his classroom.  How could a teacher receive the training and education to become a teacher, and with the knowledge I know that training brings, deliberately humiliate a child, in front of the entire class? It is my understanding that the mark was made at the beginning of the day, and the child had to endure the day with the large mark on their forehead at lunch, at recess, and in the classroom itself.  Several times during the day the child cried, and other students tried to console the child. 

You know, it doesn't take that much to get a real estate license in Texas, so perhaps a career in real-estate is an option, since this individual doesn't know better than his behavior, and is so desperate to inspire his class to do their homework, that he resorts to this tactic.  Or even less desirable, what if he does understand the affect of this action, and children who don't do homework just annoy him enough that he can't resist sending a message to his class and the child that, skip your homework if you dare, but you will pay a price.

When I was in Germany last November my sweet Gabby told me something that troubled me, as we were talking about my going to visit  her school the next day.  She said that she was so glad I was going because maybe I could tell her teacher that I really did have banana trees at my house in Texas, and they really did grow bananas.  When I asked her what she was talking about, she said" when I raised my hand when we were talking about trees in my science class, and told my teacher that you had banana trees in your yard in Texas she said I was lying."  I tried suggesting to her, "now she didn't say it that way did she, she just said she didn't think you were right on that, right?"  Gabby was adamant, "no Nana, she said I was lying and to stop or she would call my mother, all of my class laughed at me, and teased me for a long time after that about it."

I must confess when, a few scenarios of remarks I could make to the teacher flashed across my mind.  Loving words as I do, and valuing communication, I reflect a trait my father has always had.  My mother would spank us when we misbehaved, not my dad, he, "talked to us."  I would rather have been beat half to death, than to have my father in his gentle and ever respectful way, point out what I had done, why the behavior had disappointed him so, and how knowing and loving me as he did, it was just difficult for him to even grasp that I had done it, as he would have "never expected it from me...."  He would go on to explain that while sometimes the rules prevented one from making "bad choices," one's character should really always be the governing factor in "making choices." He could go on for quite a while on the other possibilities and what the probabilities of those choices would have been.  Then he would begin assuring he and I both that this was just some fluke, that he knew I was better than that.  After all he had raised me to be better than that, and I was the apple of his eye, his greatest delight in life, and he would tell me of the confidence he had that next time I would not be so unwise, and that he knew I was going to watch so much more closely what I did and said.

He was right, I have always loved and admired my father deeply, and his life before me never reflected anything but strength, honor, and success.  He is 85 now, and still the shining example he has always been.  During the Great Depression, making a living so as to have enough to eat, and the other basics of life, had required that his formal education be limited to the eight grade.  His love of reading has always kept him one of the most informed and knowledgeable people I know.  He still is, and as I contemplated the conversations I could have with Gabby's teacher the next day, I knew what his council and expectations would be.  In his practical, and respectful way he would suggest that ensuring that the teacher had a humiliating experience of her own, would not result in anything positive for Gabby in her classroom.  I sighed, knowing the value of my father's advice, even though he wasn't there, and he wasn't giving it, so I did not approach the teacher.

However when I heard of the Houston teacher's behavior toward a student, I had to acknowledge to myself that some people should never be teachers, and they do harm to children.  Sometimes those individuals harm children intentionally, because they know they can, and they know they can get away with it. Everyone I know has a story to tell concerning their worst teacher, and the remembrance of some experience which has never left them.  

Maya Angelou, who wrote one of my favorite books of all time, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, put in this way:

"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."  

I realized, when I read the story of the Houston teacher, while Gabby is no longer in her classroom, some child is, whose heart is tender, and whom Mrs, Thornburg has the power over in dozens of small ways, to inflict injury without ever being held accountable.  Perhaps a small dose of her own medicine in a very polite way, might teach her a lesson, which would result in the children who are presently her students, having a better experience.  However, if as a teacher of many years experience, who doesn't have any more sensitivity than she did that day with Gabby, it is highly unlikely. 

 So Mrs. Thornburg, you really didn't know what you were talking about at all.  I live in Texas, and there are banana trees in my front yard, and they grow delicious bananas.  It was unnecessary to call Gabby a liar in front of the class, even though you mistakenly thought she was in error.  Perhaps you should extend your reading list to the works of Maya Angelou, she has a great understanding and appreciation of children.

Gabby feels better having an adult publicly acknowledge the wrong doing toward her, and we have talked with her telling her she can make this a good thing in her life.  We told her she can use this experience to teach herself to always be careful with words, and make sure that she doesn't find herself creating in another person, a hurtful memory which will last a lifetime.  So if you know Mrs. Thornburg, teaching in the DoD school, be sure to mention, I mentioned that banana trees do grow and produce bananas in Texas.