Friday, November 27, 2009

Christmas with the Kranks

Yes, it's that time of year again! Here's the first of my Christmas movie posts:

In Christmas with the Kranks, Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis play Luther and Nora Kranks, a well-to-do couple who find themselves spending their first Christmas without their daughter Blair who has joined the Peace Corps.

With the two of them feeling down, Luther offers up this suggestion to his wife,
"Why don't we skip Christmas, save the money, and spend it on ourselves for a change."
Luther's number crunching comes up with them having spent $6100 for Christmas last year, where an island cruise for the two of them would cost only $3000. Nora buys into the idea!

Luther begins his boycott of Christmas by sending out a memo to his office co-workers that he is not celebrating Christmas this year: no christmas cards, no gifts, will not attend office party.

While Nora abruptly lets her gal pals know that she and Luther won't be having their annual Christmas Eve party.

When confronted by the Cub Scouts to purchase their usual Christmas tree, Luther declines, simply stating "We're not doing Christmas this year!"

The Cub Scout leader informs the neighborhood of the Kranks dastardly selfish deed,
"Luther Kranks just stiffed the scouts on a christmas tree!"

When Dan Ankroyd, who plays the neighborhood watchdog, gets wind of this and Luther's refusal to put up the traditional Frosty the Snowman upon his rooftop, the Christmas guilt trip onslaught by the neighbors begins.
Luther and Nora become the talk of the village, even finding their picture on the front page of the town newspaper with the title "Skipping Christmas".

When Christmas Carollers are suggested to confront the Kranks home to bring them some Christmas Spirit, Luther and Nora go hide in the basement.

Luther and Nora even receive threatening phone calls from a kid named Spike, who wants them to: "Free Frosty! Free Frosty!

Suddenly things take a turn when they receive a phone call on Christmas Eve from Blair who surprises them with her returning home for Christmas with her fiance from Peru, Enrique.

Luther and Nora are now in panic mode as Blair is coming home in a few hours expecting a Christmas tree, house decorated, Frosty on the rooftop, and a Christmas Eve party with friends and neighbors who the Kranks originally made enemies with.

As Luther has trouble finding a Christmas tree, he asks his neighbor across the street if he could borrow theirs since they are leaving out of town. With the help of Spike, Luther tries moving the decorated tree across the street in a little red wagon, something I would not suggest you do for two reasons: one, might attract the neighbors, and two, will attract the police.

When the neighborhood finds out that the Kranks Christmas is back on, they pitch in to help out, but make known they are only doing this for Blair's sake. One of my favorite lines in the movie comes from Dan Ackroyd,

"Don't blame the daughter for the sins of the father!"

Many mishaps happen during the frantic pace of putting their traditional Christmas back together. But it all comes together. Blair comes home to a festive home and party as if nothing happened.

Later Nora becomes upset with Luther who's hiding in a corner of the kitchen wallowing in self pity and trying to figure out how they can still make their flight out which is tomorrow. She reminds him of what great lengths the neighborhood went to make Blair's homecoming a success and that,

"The true meaning of community is putting others before yourself."

Luther decides to give the cruise tickets away to the old man and woman who live across the street who are spending possibly their last Christmas together as the woman is dying of cancer.

Luther Kranks finally realizes one of the things Christmas is all about:
friends, family, and community.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Enter into His gates with thanksgiving,
And into His courts with praise.
Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.
For the Lord is good;
His mercy is everlasting,
And His truth endures to all generations. (Psalm 100:4,5)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Evidence He is There For You

The wind blows where it wishes. You hear the sound of it but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit. (John 3:8)

So we can't see the wind blow, but we can see objects blowing in the wind to support evidence of a wind. The same as with God. We can't physically see Him but we can see signs and wonders of Him.

Sometimes we find ourselves asking God, "Where are you?" in the midst of our struggle. How soon we forget that God didn't go anywhere, He is right there beside each of us. And He knows of our need.

Sometimes we forget how powerful God really is. I mean if you stop and think about it, God is literally everywhere. Just as you are reading this, somewhere around the world there is at least one baby being born who's mother elected to make the right choice. Right now someone is just coming out of critical surgery and going to live when doctors originally gave them no hope. Right now there is a fatal car accident taking place and someone is going to walk away without a scratch.

Testimonies are evidence that God exists.

A couple of my friends are missionaries so I love hearing what great things God is doing in other countries. My Pastor shared a link of a crusade in Nigeria where the average nightly crowd is 300,000. Some of the testimonies from there:

A woman with a skin infection, malaria, and a crippled hand was healed.

A 7 year old boy, dumb from birth, spoke for the first time.

A woman unable to lift her arm for 4 years now waves her arms proudly.

When you see what God is doing in the poorest and unhealthiest living conditions of other countries, our problems seem to pale in comparison. But God is concerned about your situation just as much as that 7 year old boy in Nigeria.

Nothing is too big for our God.

He is the Author and Finisher of our faith. Just as an author writes a book with a beginning and an end, God wants to take our faith from just accepting (believing) Him to fully relying(trusting)on Him.

Believing in God is easy. But trusting in God takes faith.

link to Nigeria crusade:

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Stay The Course

While out running the other day I came across a deer moving through the brush on the side of the trail. Wouldn't it be great if deer traveled on the trail like everyone else? Instead of weaving and dunking their way through branches and thicket.

I remember my high school days and participating in Cross Country. All of the races were the same as today, 3 miles. One of my favorite coaches was Coach K, who had the distinct pleasure of trying to break me of my bad habit of always looking behind, trying to see who was following or how many were following me.

My best finish throughout high school was second place in a race I should have won. No, my bad habit didn't do me in, it was not remembering where to turn on the course. What happened was I didn't pay attention during my team's warm-up to familiarize ourselves with the course. During the race I was in the lead up until about the last half mile, then I found myself coming up to some intersecting trails and didn't know which one to take. That's when I decided to non chalantly slow down hoping another runner was close behind. From what I can remember there were a few runners coming up behind me. Once they caught up I stayed with the pack, then once we got out of the woods and the finish line was in sight, it was everyman for himself, a sprint to the finish. Of course I had to save face and forget what pain I might have been experiencing and sprinted my butt off, winding up in a close second place.

Sometimes in life we have that tendency to veer off course when the path we are on isn't going the way we want it to. Or we think God is moving way too slow on our behalf. And when we take it upon ourselves and try to do it on our own that's when we get blindsided and make a mess of things. That's when we need to remind ourselves of God's Word:

As for God, His way is perfect;
the Word of the Lord is proven;
He is a shield to all who trust in Him. (Psalm 18:30)

Though you may feel your life isn't going according to plan, or should I say, "according to your plan", remember we are under the grace of a great God who can do all things to them that believe. Though He may seem silent to you and your difficulty at times, or may appear to be at a distance, He really isn't at all. God is right there beside you, every step of the way. What does He say?

"I will never leave you nor forsake you."

Here is something to carry with you on your journey down that straight and narrow path; this taken from the poem Footprints in the Sand:

When you saw only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Having That Ebenezer Moment

I recently got the chance to view the new Disney film A Christmas Carol and was surprised that Disney finally got it right. They stuck to the original classic tale by Charles Dickens only adding in some amazing 3D special effects to make this movie a sure fire Christmas classic. I was also surprised to find out my 10 year old nephew already knew the story of Scrooge before we sank ourselves into those plush seats with our new fangled 3D shades.

Ebenezer Scrooge is a callous old miser who receives some uninvited guests on Christmas Eve night: the ghosts of past, present, and future. They each remind Scrooge of how cold hearted he really was and still is. These haunting visits help Scrooge see the error of his ways as he is spooked into changing himself as a person and begins to open his heart to others.

Once in awhile it is good for each of us to have an Ebenezer moment. No, I'm not talking about being visited by the ghosts of our past. Revisiting our past does sound scary though, doesn't it? An Ebenezar moment is about being reminded of who we were and where we were and to what we've now become or at least hope to be. Some of the hardships we may have gone through in our pasts have prepared us for the future. And those mistakes we've made can be used to relate to those who may be dealing with that same issue here in the present. Our greatest testimony to others is simply sharing our past and what God may have brought you out of.

I believe God places Ebenezer moments in our life to remind us of what He did for us in the past, where He brought us from, and what He can do for us today. A couple of weeks ago I had a couple of hard core days at work where I was overwhelmed with many projects to fulfill. I was dragging myself home too tired to do any of my extra curricular projects, so I naturally became upset. Then one day at work God simply smacked me in the head with the reminder of all those less fortunate who have no job, and the times I struggled finding the right job. I then began to feel blessed and started thanking Him for being overwhelmed with work.

If an Ebenezer moment comes your way accept it with gratitude. It's only a reminder of how great God is.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

In Honor Of...

In honor of Veterans Day this week I thought I would dust off an old blog post on Leaving on a High Note:

No, not the George Costanza showmanship scheme of leaving: Make a funny comment in an office meeting, if everyone laughs exit quickly, then your assured of going out on a high note. This is more about leaving for that great mansion in the sky.

A couple of weeks ago Hall of Fame baseball announcer Harry Kallas passed away. He had been calling games for over 45 years. Harry died in the broadcast booth just a half hour before calling the Phillies game. Harry was 73 years old, loved the game, and didn't want to retire. But I think he went out the way he probably would've wanted to: in the booth at the ballpark.

Unfortunately we don't have a choice of how or when we leave, only where we leave to.

I was recently on an airplane for the first time in awhile. As the stewardess went through all the precautionary safety procedures, I, like probably so many others, didn't really pay much attention. I was aware of the drill but did not care.

There was a time in my life when I was afraid of dying, sure, I knew I was going to heaven, but somehow I still had that fear of exiting. Since my extended growth in the Lord that fear has completely disappeared.

If I had a choice of how I would like to go out, my high note would be just leaving knowing that I exemplified Jesus the best way possible.

One of my favorite holidays is Memorial Day, when we honor those who served our country in the military. All those men and women who were lost in battle, they left on a high note, doing what they were called to do.

I fondly remember a woman who would come into the music store every Friday to buy soundtracks to sing in church. She loved to sing about Jesus. Then all of a sudden she stopped coming in. Through a mutual acquantance I discovered why she stopped singing: At a Good Friday service she sang a duet with the music director. After the first verse of the song, the gentleman she was singing with fell over and died right there in front of the whole church.

The music director exited for heaven doing what he loved best and was called to do. As for the woman who stopped singing, after a few months and much prayer from many people, she came back into the store and continued on with her passion of singing unto the Lord. My guess is she would probably want to go out the same way as her music director, singing unto the Lord.

So, what's your exit strategy?

The only exit strategy any of us should be concerned with is our destination. And, did we exemplify Jesus to the fullest.

The reason we recognize and celebrate memorial holdays for our armed forces is so we never forget that freedom comes with a cost.Those that serve have taken up the oath of: life or death, I will serve and protect. And I am so thankful to those that made that honorable choice to protect our freedom, they are much more worthy of leaving on a high note than I am.
And to them I say, "Thank You."

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Are You More Than Who You Appear To Be?

This American Bison, otherwise known as a buffalo, weighs over 1300 pounds. He doesn't look like he can run as fast as a speeding bullet, but he can. Buffalo can actually reach a speed of 40 mph. I got to witness this speed first hand at the zoo last week as 2 of these big guys hoofed their way around 2 pens. They were moving so fast you could actually hear their hoofs pattering upon the ground with a thunderous sound. At first glance you would never suspect these guys to move so quickly.

I sometimes have the tendency to call my younger sister "my baby sister" only because she is small in size compared to my brothers and I. At first glance you would never suspect this 30-something gal as being someone who is strong. But looks are deceiving.

About 12 years ago my baby sister's husband left her with 2 little kids just before Christmas time. It was pretty much a huge shock to everyone as the 2 of them grew up in the same church and there were no visible signs of anything wrong. But it happened. Needless to say my parents were outraged at what he had done to their daughter, but they did what any loving parent would and should do, made the sacrifices that were needed and let her move back home with the 2 young one's. My sister was able to find a full time job during the day and my parents would watch the kids. Each of us siblings pitched in to do our part as well to help encourage her. And of course, there was a whole lot of praying.That was probably the most I ever prayed for one person up until now.

The next couple of years I watched my sister literally grow up. She tackled the challenge head on as her faith in herself and in God grew stronger. My sister eventually got an apartment close to my parents and things began to work in her favor in all areas of her life. A couple years after that she would meet her future husband, a good hard working guy who loves kids. She is now happily married with 3 kids. Yes, prayer works!

I can no longer call her my baby sister for it is I who looks up to her.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.
For our light affliction , which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,
while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen.
For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
It's those challenges in life that sharpens our faith, and helps us grow into mature individuals.
But it is up to us to find that courage within us to slay those giants in our life.

Monday, November 2, 2009

These Things I Observed....

These things I observed while attending the Chicago Bears game this past Sunday...

1. God is a Good God

My brother and I were totally surprised when we find out we were going to the game that would be commemorating Walter Payton, Chicago's favorite Bear. Plus, God gave us incredible weather along with a victory.

For the Lord God is a sun and shield;

The Lord will give grace and glory;

No good thing will He withhold

From those who walk uprightly. (Ps.84:11)

God loves to give good gifts to those who follow.


On our 2 mile trek from the train station to the stadium along with many other fans, we were followed by a fan of the opposing team, the Cleveland Browns. Two things you should know about these Browns: one, they have been a losing team for a very long time, and two, they fit in the same category as the Bears, a historic team from long ago.

A Bears fan non-chalantly asked the Cleveland fan, who was with his girlfriend in a Bears jersey,

"So, you're a Browns fan? Are you from Cleveland?"

"Yes. I moved to Chicago in 2000."

"And we haven't converted you yet? That's real loyalty!"

I love seeing loyalty with our favorite sports teams. It says alot about who we are as a person.

3. Camaraderie

On our trek back to the train station after the game (did the walking since it was nice outside)
we found ourselves following a group of about ten women and young ladies dressed in their Bears attire. Obviously coming from the game as all their accessories had Bears' logos. Yes, the demographics have changed!

I noticed this at a Bears game about three years ago, 30-35 percent who attend are indeed women. So, it was good to see not just groups of guys hanging out at the game, but now women as well.

4. Leaving a Legacy

As I mentioned earlier, throughout the game and at half time they were commemorating the 10 year anniversary of the death of Walter Payton. In case you aren't from Chicago, Walter was the beloved running back of the Bears from the mid-70's to early 80's. He played 13 seasons, all with the same team, and in that span only missed one game. They called him "Sweetness" for his gracefulness both on and off the field. Walter refused to celebrate after scoring a touchdown and disapproved of the growing practice of touchdown celebrations. Imagine what he would say to the players today.

Walter was one of those rare athletic specimen's who could do it all. His highlight reel of football moves would put you in awe. He thrived on giving 120 percent. He was a total team player.

After the game, as my brother and I were talking about the half time celebration for Payton, my brother remarked,

"I think the old guy sitting next to me cried ."

So, here was this big old burly, beer drinking, diehard Bears fan getting misty eyed. That's the effect Payton had on all of Chicago.

Walter Payton died of a rare liver disease at the young age of 45. In his final months before passing he became an advocate for organ donation. After his appeals, donations in Illinois skyrocketed. I became an organ donor the day after he passed away.

Becoming an organ donor doesn't cost you a thing: you don't need your organs after you have passed, and, if you know Christ, you are going to get a new, glorified body in heaven anyways.

Wow! The things you learn just by going to a football game. Amazing!