Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Joyeux Noel (Merry Christmas)

It's that time of year again for some more of my Christmas movie reviews. I thought I would start off with some obscure but important Christmas films that should be viewed by everyone at least once. First up is one of my favorites Joyeux Noel:

Aside from the various stories about the real meaning of Christmas,the birth of Christ, there is probably no other more powerful Christmas film than Joyeux Noel. If you don't mind a foreign film with sub titles, this is definitely a must see movie.

This film is about the World War 1 truce on Christmas Eve 1914, depicted through the eyes of French, Scottish, and German soldiers along the Western Front.

The one fact that you come to grip with throughout this film is that we are all one people. It doesn't matter which side you are on, what religion you are, nor what race you are, we are all one people. And through each of these soldiers we see:

1. They share the same emotions of war and the battle to survive.

2. They each carry with them the desire to be home for Christmas.

3. They all have someone back home that they so desperately love and want to be with.

4. They all share that same dream, one of peace.

On one of the battle fields on the Western front on Christmas Eve we see: the French in their trenches preparing to celebrate Christmas with champagne, the Scottish playing Christmas carols with their bagpipes, and the Germans in their trenches with Christmas trees and the voice of one Nikolaus Sprink, the famous German Tenor. Now mind you, each side is still leary of a surprise attack from one another.

Once the sound of the bagpipes in the cold desolate air begins, emotions begin to swirl amongst all three sides. The German Tenor grabs a Christmas tree and gallantly makes his way to the center of the battlefield singing Oh Come All Ye Faithful.

The leaders of the French, Scottish, and German armies boldly come out and agree on a cease-fire for the evening. All three platoons would then acquaint themselves with one another and share: chocolate, champagne, photos of wives, girlfriends and family, and stories of their past.

At the stroke of midnight a British priest delivers a brief mass in which all the troops respond in unison and are deeply moved.

"Tonight, these men were drawn to that altar like it was a fire in the middle of winter. Even those who aren't devout came to warm themselves. Maybe just to be together. Maybe to forget the war", exclaims Palmer,the British priest.

And so one night of peace drew all men together.

On Christmas Day these soldiers who were once enemies do the unthinkable and shelter each other during an artillery barrage from another unit. The leaders of these respective regiments then decide to have their units break away from the Western Front, so they won't have to fight one another.

The Germans are scolded by the Crown Prince of Prussia and are shipped by train to the Eastern front to fight the Russians. As the train departs, they start singing a Scottish carol they learned from the enemies they had befriended,
I'm Dreaming of Home.

May we all continue to pray for: peace on earth,
and goodwill toward men.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

I Beg to Differ on Thanksgiving

A conversation with a couple of friends at work on whether football or any other sport should be played on Christmas Day because it is such a spiritual holiday, led to this great debate: Is Christmas the more spiritual holiday rather than Thanksgiving Day?

The most obvious answer would be Christmas Day, the day we celebrate Jesus birth.
But, I beg to differ if we are talking about those of us who are consistently faithful in our walk with Christ. Then the obvious choice should be Thanksgiving Day.

If you are walking straight with God then you are already celebrating His birth every single day you wake up and breathe; otherwise you wouldn't choose the lifestyle you lead.

Thanksgiving is a time to give thanks to God for all that He has provided us with in the past year."

I, for one, love Thanksgiving better than Christmas. Perhaps it is because I have grown to where the basic necessities in life play a more important role for me than wanting something extravagant.

I know you are probably asking yourself," Thanksgiving better than Christmas,Dave?Your kidding, right? You don't get any gifts for Thanksgiving, but at Christmas time you can really rake in the presents!"

But, that's just it, there aren't any gifts that I really want. I have everything I need. I feel that I am already blessed. And there are so many more people out there who are less fortunate than I am. Isn't that what Thanksgiving really is all about; being grateful for the things we have and also being able to give to those who are in need?

Sure, I could use a new car, a vacation, an increase in salary, but who wouldn't desire any of those things?

I've been blessed to hop on a plane and take a vacation every six months for the last 3 years. So, I am eternally grateful for that and the things I have.

I remember having this true story relayed to me by someone, a story on gratefulness:

A gentleman came up to the preacher one Sunday after church and asked him to pray for him. The man felt like he was struggling in his faith and felt that everything in his life wasn't going right.

The preacher worked with the gentleman on making a list of pro's and con's in his life at that moment.

The preacher starts with a list of cons:

"So, I heard both you and your wife lost your jobs?"

"No, we still have our jobs,Pastor."

"I also heard that your house is up for foreclosure."

"No, Pastor, our house is paid for!" exclaimed the man.

"Someone had also mentioned that your son is stricken with cancer."

"No, our son is perfectly healthy, Pastor."

"Then, what in the world do you have to fret about,son?"

Sometimes it is the simple things in life that get forgotten.

Even if you may be struggling, I pray that this Thanksgiving will be a most blessed one for you and that you may find at least one thing to be grateful for.
I know I can.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

I Was Here

I wanna do somethin' that matters
Say somethin' different
Somethin' that sets the whole world on it's ear.

I wanna do somethin' better with the time I've been given
and I want to try to touch a few hearts in this life.

To leave nothing less than something that says
I was here
- Lady Antebellum's "I Was Here"

Lately I've been thinking about these three words "leaving a legacy",and it might just be because of the scandal at Penn State and the legacy of Joe Paterno being tarnished. Yep, sports figures and Hollywood icons are prone to leave us disappointed.

When you think of Penn State you automatically associate it with the football coach Joe Paterno and his over 46 years of service to the school and community. His stern politics of academics before athletics is what he built his reputation on. His players graduated at a rate of 74 percent, that is 19 points above the national average.

His athletic achievements also included: most victories by a coach (409),
35 Bowl Games,2 National Championships, and 5 undefeated seasons.

But his legacy and all of the accolades and achievements no longer matter. All because of one mistake. One Huge Mistake. Nine years ago he should have alerted police of an alleged misconduct by one of his assistants. He did tell the athletic director of the school, but should have pursued this much further, rather than cover it up.

This is the second university in recent months to have it's football program and head coach in the media for all the wrong reasons, and legacies were tarnished.

Perhaps leaving a legacy should be left to the so-called "little people" of the world,the common everyday folks like you and I.

As for me, I intend to just continue to keep doing the best that I can with the time I have and:

I will leave nothing less than something that says: I was here.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Better than Words

An old man is sitting on his porch one day despondent over losing his wife. A neighbor's young son comes over and sits on his lap. Later that day at dinner the boy's mother asks her son what did he say to the old man. His reply,

"I didn't say anything. I just helped him cry."

Sometimes there are moments when no words are needed.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Stolen Innocence Within a Community

The streets are bordered with Elm trees, Ash trees, some Oak, and even some Willow trees. On most days just after 3pm you'll see grade school children walking home with smiles on their faces, filled with laughter, and much chatter. And on the other side of the street you see a white haired lady walking her Beagle, some days it's an older gentleman walking his German Shepherd. On each of the corners of the major intersection of this small town are volunteer Safety Patrol Officers, stopping traffic so the children may cross safely.

In the summer months you can drive by and see children running and splashing their way through the sprinklers and slip-n-slides that engulf their neighborhood park. It is a quiet, peaceful town that I drive through on my way home from work everyday.

But today it is different. I can no longer drive through this tiny community and see, taste, and feel the presence of peace. All of the trees are wrapped with white bows, the faces of the children are no longer filled with joy, but of sorrow and fear; and the overwhelming presence of anger fills the air.

All of the marquee signs at churches and businesses in the town and it's neighboring communities read 3 simple words: God Bless Kelli. Just another reminder of how fragile life can be, even at the tender age of 14.

Kelly came home from school one day a couple of weeks ago and walked into a burglary that was in progress inside her home and was murdered. It was the first murder in this small town's over 50 years of existence. A senseless crime that ripped the heart out of this tight knit community of less than 3,500 folks.

The other day I had noticed the neighboring communities around this town of stolen innocence had wrapped white bows around their trees; a symbol of solidarity for one of their own.

Marianne Williamson, an American author, once wrote:

In every community, there is work to be done. In every nation, there are wounds to heal. In every heart, there is power to do it.

May the peace of God be with the family of Kelli and in the hearts of her hometown community.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Scared to Death or Scared with Flaws?

Every year I find it amusing when we pull out an old scary movie to watch during trick-or-treat season and find it to not be so scary after all. As we grow older the films we watched in our preteens and teens that once frightened us we now see as humorous. And after a few more viewings we can pick out the many flaws that the directors so carelessly missed.

A girl who's trying to escape the clutches of a monster, retreats to the getaway car only to find it locked and she doesn't have the keys. So she makes a mad dash for the house, gets the keys, resumes her get-away-position with the fast and furious get-away car, only to nonchalantly open the car door without even using those same keys that once were not in her possession.

This past weekend I was setting up my booth at an Art Fair and found myself in a conversation with someone about sharks. This gentleman and his wife had been snorkling off the coast of the Dominican and were swimming with stingrays and a shark, only this shark was toothless. Hard to imagine that,right?

This couple were on a guided swim in a cove that was managed by humans. The water was about 8 to 10 feet deep and the young shark they were to swim with had been rescued somewhere in the Gulf. Marine Biologists had removed its teeth for certain health reasons.

The couple were obviously made aware ahead of time that this shark could not harm them since it had no teeth. But, as the shark swam up close to them, the woman panicked and had to be removed from the water. Even though the shark had no teeth to harm the woman, her panicked reaction was a natural one. The obvious presence of a shark, toothless or not, scared the wits out of her.

F.D.R. once said, "The only thing to fear is fear itself."

But, I have to imagine that if it were any one of us coming up against that toothless shark, our first initial reaction would be the same as the woman swimming in the cove; one of panic.

One of the character flaws in each of us humans is the ability to be fearful of something, no matter how great or small it may be. But those of us who are followers of Christ have been taught not be fearful of anything. Timothy actually teaches us that God has not given us a Spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

So, I guess it is a matter of how we approach those things that may frighten us: either look at it in a fleshly manner or tackle it head on with the Name of Jesus, having no fear but resembling one of power.

In Natalie Grant's new worship song Your Great Name she gives us this powerful message:

Every fear has no place
At the sound of Your great Name

The enemy has to leave
At the sound of Your great Name

Some great words to live by, approach that which frightens you with the simple name of Jesus.