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26 December 2009

For What It's Worth

When you think of groups in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the term "one-hit wonder" is not what comes to mind. For the sixties group Buffalo Springfield, however, that is indeed the case. Their 1966 hit "For What It's Worth", written by Stephen Stills, is the only song ever to hit the top 40 charts. This group was only together for just over two years, released three albums, and served as the springboard for such talent as Stephen Stills, Neil Young, and Jim Messina. Strangely enough, the title is nowhere to be found in the song's lyrics!

Originally written as a statement referring to conflict between protestors and police on the Sunset Strip in 1966, the words of this classic song reverberate rather tellingly today. Stills wrote:

There's battle lines being drawn
Nobody's right if everybody's wrong
Young people speaking their minds
Getting so much resistance from behind

Does this strike a chord? Sound remarkably like political events of today? Listen a little further and you hear:

I think it's time we stop, hey
What's that sound
Everybody look what's going down

Look around you. What is going down these days? Not only political upheaval and massive changes, but take a good look at our society as a whole. It amazes me that the greater majority of Americans profess a belief in Jesus, and yet cannot proclaim that in a public venue because the minority that disagree are so blatantly vocal about it. Because it offended one person, high school football teams and graduation ceremonies have had to stop prayers. What about the 99% of people that it didn't offend? If you disagree with my right to pray in a public place, don't listen. If I disagree with what's on tv, I don't push for a ban of all television shows ... I simply turn it off. What do we have to do to get our rights as Christians back? How do we turn this vocal minority off??

Everybody needs to look what's "going down" in our society. Quite simply, we are! The majority has been silent for far too long, and has managed to let the very vocal minority change the way we do things. I do not intend in any way to offend, however, my opinion is simply that ... my opinion. You may or may not agree, and you are entitled to that. You are not, however, entitled to tell me what I can and cannot believe, think, or say. If I choose to pray and it offends you, don't listen. If I profess a belief different from your own, that is my right. If you don't like the fact that this is a Christian nation, you are certainly entitled to leave and live elsewhere. I think we need to stand up and be heard!! For what it's worth, that's what I believe.

God, today is a time of struggle and change. Help to keep me strong in my faith, and unwavering in my beliefs. Give me the strength and the words that I need to spread the message as far as I possibly can!

"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." Hebrews 11:1 NIV

24 December 2009

The Reason for the Season

Three things I remember most about Christmas growing up are food, music, and family. I'd have to think really hard to remember a specific gift, but the memories of Christmas itself blend together as a time of happiness spent with those who meant the most to me. Grandmother and Granddaddy (Hall) were married on Christmas Eve, and for years we celebrated Christmas eve dinner at our house. Looking back at the few pictures that I have never fails to bring a smile ... the hairstyles, the clothes ... but what shines through? Family and love.

It was Christmas time when the Johnny Mathis album made its way out of the bottom of the stereo and onto the spindle. Mama started making candy: Martha Washington candy, peanut butter balls (also known as "buckeyes"), and peanut brittle. Sausage balls were rolled, baked and frozen. We always had a live tree, fragile glass ornaments, tinsel, and icicles. One year daddy had bought a model Goodyear blimp, and his message was "Merry Christmas Y'all!"

Shortly after lunchtime on Christmas eve, we started looking for family to arrive. Keep in mind that we usually didn't eat until probably 5 or 6 pm, but we were so anxious to see our aunts, uncles, and cousins that we wanted them to hurry up and get there! Uncle Jimmy usually brought bottle rockets and sparklers for the kids (of all ages). This dinner was an anniversary celebration, but a family celebration as well. It wasn't about the presents, but about the presence.

Sitting at my table today wrapping presents, I started thinking about Christmas and what it really meant to me. It's not about the gifts you receive as much as it is about spending time with those you love. Food has always played a big part in my life; one of our favorite gifts as kids was the box of cookies that came from daddy's mama. Grandma Abel made Johnny cake cookies with either pink or blue frosting, and sent us a box every year. We were SO excited when that box came! No "bought" cookie comes close to what those tasted like. I started thinking about those cookies today while I was wrapping those gifts, so much so that I picked up the phone and called Cheryl just to tell her that!

Tomorrow morning, I will wish my children Merry Christmas over the phone instead of in person, and that makes me a little bit sad. Rob and I will celebrate with our moms, and our friend Chance will be over to share Christmas day and dinner. What matters most this year? It isn't the gifts under the tree, it's the love and thought that went into them. It isn't the "holiday," it's the season. What is the reason? As Christians, we celebrate the birth of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ. Because He was born and later died, we all have the chance at eternity with Him. As you unwrap those gifts and share those special moments, don't forget to thank the most important one of all!

God, I thank you for your many blessings that you have chosen to bestow on me throughout this year, and through the years of my life. Because you sent Jesus to us, we can share eternity with you. As we celebrate, may we never lose sight of what is most important: your love and grace! Thank you for the greatest gift of all!! They may try to take CHRIST out of Christmas, but they will never take CHRIST out of ME!!

"But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord."~Luke 2:10-11 NIV

19 December 2009

Owner of A Lonely Heart

The British rock group Yes released its first album in 1969, but flew under the US radar during its early years. It wasn't until 1971 that their albums "Fragile" and "The Yes Album" appeared on US charts. Over the next twelve years, Yes placed an album on the charts eleven times, and had singles hit the US Hot 100 only four times. It wasn't until the 1983 release of "Owner of A Lonely Heart" that this band managed to have a number one hit on the US Singles charts.

Written by Trevor Rabin, these lyrics tend to echo in your mind. At this time of year, the song's title brings you to wonder just who this song applies to! Spending the holidays alone can certainly fit under that mantel. As we move into the final days before the celebration of Christmas, walk a little slower and take a good look at those around you.

The song invites you to take a good look at yourself, not always the most comfortable thing to do. Are you more focused on self than you should be? As Rabin wrote:

Move yourself, you've always lived your life, never thinking of the future.Prove yourself, you are the move you make, take your chances win or loser. See yourself, you are the steps you take, you and you and that's the only way. Shake, shake yourself, you're every move you make, so the story goes.

What does that mean to me? Look deep within. You've lived your life for the moment, not caring or concerned about the future, selfishly thinking only of yourself. This could be a spot on definition of the overused phrase of the past "it's all about ME!".

The chorus is repeated often throughout this song, and seems to remind you that it's much better to be alone and happy than to suffer the pain of a broken heart. How do we know if our neighbor, friend, or the person down the street has a broken heart? We don't, as a general rule. Most of us don't tend to have a neon sign flashing on our forehead that screams "Broken Heart Inside!!", but it can sometimes show in our actions, demeanor, and even dress.

This economy and these trying times are causing us all to take a closer look within, and around. Contrary to popular belief, it's not all about money this time of year. Small things mean so much, and can do more to lift a spirit than most big things.

Here's a test. For the next two hours, smile at every person you come into contact with, whether you know them or not. To do this, you have to do one more thing ... make eye contact! Don't look at the ground (at the floor, at your shopping cart or list, the ceiling ... ), but look at the faces of those around you and make a sincere effort to make eye contact and SMILE. What will you have accomplished? You may never know. For the "owner" of a lonely (or broken) heart, you may be the single spark of happiness that gets injected into their day. What an amazing idea! An individuals, we do not always have the ability to effect great change. Together with God we can do anything, for He gives us great strength. Let the God in your heart show on your face, and share a smile today!

God, I ask that you lay your hands on the broken and lonely hearts and give them comfort. Please lay your hands on me and allow me to shine as your messenger. Help me to spread the joy that knowing you brings, and to bring a smile to someone's heart.

"Praise be to the LORD, for he has heard my cry for mercy. The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy, and I will give thanks to him in song."~Psalms 28:6-7 NIV

12 December 2009

The Real Winner

In 1935, the Downtown Athletic Club awarded a trophy to a University of Chicago football player named Jay Berwanger. In 1936, this award was renamed the Heisman Trophy in honor of one of the club's founders (and former football coach) John Heisman. This evening, for the first time in its 75 year history, a player from the University of Alabama was announced as the winner. Mark Ingram, Jr. is a sophomore running back for the Crimson Tide, and joins 2007 winner Tim Tebow (Florida) and 2008 winner Sam Bradford (Oklahoma) as the third of only three sophomores to ever win the prestigious award.

I don't claim, by any stretch of the imagination, to be an expert on college football. I do love the game, and love watching a good game regardless of who's playing. Being a southern Alabama girl, of course, until last year my favoritism leaned very heavily in favor of Alabama's Crimson Tide. When I met Rob, he managed to place a few cracks in that Alabama armor. With the rapidly approaching BCS National Championship game in Pasadena, my house will be divided ... sort of. My two favorite teams are playing each other! #1 ranked Alabama will play #2 Texas for the college football national championship. I'm torn, because I have reasons for wanting both teams to win. Obviously, there will only be one winner. I guess the end of this story will be written on January 7!

What do I find most refreshing about college football? The players. Unlike the brouhaha that seems to surround professional sportsmen, college players for the most part appear far more humble. They thank God, their parents, their coaches, their teammates ... and all this without screaming or posturing.

Turn the thought process around and think about those who think that professing their faith means screaming and posturing. I know you know one (or two or more). Just because I disagree with their method of delivery doesn't mean they are wrong. I just happen to believe that my faith shines more by the person that I am than by me screaming my views at the top of my lungs. If I can live in such a way that someone comes to know and believe in Jesus as their Lord and Savior, then I'm doing ok. God knows me. It is up to me to make sure that others see Him in me.

Another football season is winding to a close, the holidays are fast approaching and the start of another new year is just a few short weeks away. The awards are being given, careers are winding down for some, and new lives will be beginning. Forget the trophies: if you don't have Jesus, what do you have?

Jesus, I thank you for the many blessings I continue to receive. May I in turn share those blessings each and every day. Help me continue to live for you, in every way.

"If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen."~ 1 Peter 4:11 NIV

11 December 2009

Change For The Better

Eighty years ago today, the citizens of Enterprise erected what is sometimes referred to as the only monument in the world that is dedicated to an agricultural pest ... otherwise known as the Boll Weevil Monument. It sits right smack in the middle of the road in downtown Enterprise, drawing its share of gawkers and tourists. The story behind the monument is a simple one. The pest known as the boll weevil migrated north from Mexico and found itself in Alabama around 1915. Woohoo! Cotton! The boll weevil was delighted ... and area farmers were devastated. Losing whole crops was disastrous, so area farmers decided to diversify. This diversification was a boon to the area, leading town leaders to decide that a monument needed to be put in place so that everyone would be able to remember that sometimes it takes something bad for people to make a change for the better.

There are as many definitions of change as there are people to define it. The hard thing to comprehend is that sometimes change (good and bad) must happen to put us where we need to be. We need to remember the quote "If God brings you to it, He will bring you through it!" What may seem devastating today will not always seem so debilitating in the future. How we view those stumbling blocks depends on us as individuals, and in some cases, the size of the block. Another hard thing to swallow is that sometimes our idea of change and God's idea of change are not always the same. We don't always, and may never in this life, know why God does what He does. It is not necessarily ours to know right now. Knowing that, and emotionally accepting that, however, are two entirely different things!!

Sometimes its hard to seek God when we have questions. There are times I find myself sounding like a whiny child (I'm relatively certain God thinks so too!) when talking to God. Sometimes God probably says to himself "because I said so Denise, just deal with it." After all, He gives me the tools I need to handle the changes in my life ... even though I sometimes am unable (or unwilling) to see them. He will never leave me, He won't forsake me. He brings change to my life, good and bad, because that is what He determines that I need.

Like those farmers in the early 1900s, sometimes change has to happen to clear the way for future blessings. Even though it might be difficult to accept, befuddling to try and comprehend, or painful to let go, have faith in God. He will not steer us wrong. He's never going to switch the track and cause a collision, He will stand beside us (carry us if necessary) all the way.

God, I ask for clear ears so that I may better hear your direction, clear eyes so that I may see the path you have laid for me, and an open heart so that I may better receive you. Help me to understand, and to help others understand.

"for giving prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the young - let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance -" ~ Proverbs 1:4-5 NIV

10 December 2009

So This Is Christmas

As I sit here, having just completed my last test for World Lit I followed by putting the finishing touches on a scholarship essay, I feel a slight chill in the air and am a little amazed to realize that it is December 10th. Just two weeks and one day and we celebrate Christmas. What IS Christmas?

Contrary to what retailers worldwide would have us believe, Christmas is NOT about shopping, spending outrageous sums of money, having the newest/best/most expensive item to hit the market. Christmas is not about trees and presents, nor is it decorations and food. For the Christian, Christmas is a celebration of the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Many years ago, there was a book subtitled "What Would Jesus Do?" written by Charles Sheldon (the actual title of the book is "In His Steps", and was written in 1896!!). If you've not read the book, I recommend it. Taking that phrase into consideration, what do you think Jesus would do with the commercialized insanity that Christmas has become for so many? I read an article the other day (and I am sorry to say that I do not remember where nor do I remember who wrote it) that made me stop and think. How much money do you plan to spend on Christmas this year? Why? Are you buying things that you NEED (or others need) or things that you WANT? When did we get away from the true meaning that is Christmas, celebrating the birth of Jesus, and morph into a bunch of .. well, consumers?

Instead of buying one more toy for a child that has too many, donate a new toy to Toys for Tots or whatever organization in your area provides toys for those who might otherwise have none. Instead of spending hundreds of dollars on a dinner that will be eaten, digested and well, you know the rest, spend half the amount on your dinner and use the other half to provide more than one meal for those who are not sure where their next meal is coming from. Think it doesn't apply here? Think again. We may live in a smaller community, but there are those in our area who have no home to call their own and will have little to celebrate. Contact the Dothan Rescue Mission or the Salvation Army and see what you can do to help. Many area churches distribute food baskets during the holiday seasons. The Dothan Rescue Mission is located at 216 E Crawford Street, 794-4637. The Salvation Army is located at 761 S Oates Street, 794-9304.

I believe it is in giving that we truly receive. Lord, help us to open our hearts to giving, and to rejoice in sharing with others. May we never forget the true meaning of Christmas!

"Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!"~Luke 1:45 NIV