Tag Archives: Curtis K. Shelburne

Issue 371 – Christmas Truces in 1914

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The Paregien Journal     –     Issue 371     –     December 8, 2017

A true story worth sharing . . . 

Christmas Truces in 1914:

Peace in the Trenches of World War I

 by Stan Paregien

Copyrighted Dec. 8, 2017

War and Peace - The Christmas Truce on Dec 25, 1914 During World War I - painting in the ILLUSTRATED LONDON NEWS - Jan, 1915

World War I began as a dispute between Austria-Hungary and Serbia on July 28, 1914, but soon involved many countries of the world. It pitted the “Allied Forces” such as Serbia, Belgium, France, Great Britain and Ireland, Italy, Japan and Russia against the so-called “Central Powers” such as Serbia, Germany, Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire. The United States did not officially join the Allied forces until 1917.  Many journalists and politicians billed this military struggle as “the war to end all wars.” By the end of World War I on November 11, 1918 , some 25 million people – soldiers and civilians – had been killed or serious injured. And when the smoke cleared, no one saw it as an antidote to future wars.

By November of 1914, all allusions about this war being a short one were gone. Along the Western Front, each side was dug-in to fortified, well-defended trenches and underground tunnels. This had become a war of attrition, depression and sometimes boredom.

1915--War--World War 2 -- digging trenches

War--WW 1 -- British solders on the Western Front opposite Germans - slighly damp trench -- 01

War--WW 1 -- Map of the Western Front in 1914

However, a striking example of human decency and goodwill took place mainly on the Western Front between some of the British troops and some of the opposing German troops just five months after the war had started in Europe. One hour these young soldiers were trying to kill their enemies in their trenches often less than a hundred yards away. Each army was hunkered down in their respective muddy trenches, cold and lonely and experiencing a mixture of fear and courage.

1915--War--World War 2 -- military-- medical -- shellshock

It was shortly just before midnight on Christmas Eve that a series of purely spontaneous and often unauthorized truces broke out along the long battle line. Most believe it was the German boys who started it when they stopped firing their rifles and machine guns and artillery. As that awkward peace lingered, those German troops began singing Christmas songs. In a few places, some even accompanied the singing with harmonicas or bugles.

Naturally, the leaders of the British troops were at first skeptical of this “truce” and viewed it as a trick to lull them into a false sense of security. But it wasn’t that at all. Soon, here and there along the Western Front, British troops began singing out their own Christmas carols with both pleasure and gusto. Their own musicians kicked in with whatever instruments they had at their disposal. And the Germans began yelling out in their own language or even in broken English, “Merry Christmas.” And the British troops in those spots along the war zone responded with their own shouts of “Merry Christmas to all.”

1914 -- World War 1 - German soldiers with an Xmas tree and singing carols

That kind of activity lasted through the early morning hours of Christmas Day, Dec. 25, 1914. Then just after dawn, amazingly, a handful of young German troops stood up with their arms outstretched to show they were not armed. After a few minutes they slowly walked toward the opposing troops and across “no-man’s land.” Just as bravely, a few of the British troops crawled out of their trenches and walked toward the Germans with their own arms outstretched in a sign of friendship. The two groups met in the middle ground, shook hands and even embraced in generous expressions of friendship. In a few minutes, many others from both sides joined the group standing exposed in the middle of the battlefield. They sang Christmas songs with the same melodies, but their different languages. And they laughed. A lot. A few even brought out leather-bound soccer balls and the two sides played “kick ball” or “kick about.”

1914 -- World War 1 - British and German soldiers sharing a Christmas tree

It was during these brief but enthusiastic kick ball competitions that the Germans got both an education and a chuckle or two. In one location there was a regiment of British troops from Scotland and they wore their traditional kilts on the battlefield. A German lieutenant, Johannes Niemann, years later recalled the scene this way:

1914--War--World War1 -- Scottish & German solders playing kick ball on Xmas Day

“Us Germans really roared when a gust of wind revealed that the Scots wore no drawers under their kilts—and hooted and whistled every time they caught an impudent glimpse of one posterior belonging to one of ‘yesterday’s enemies.’ But after an hour’s play, when our Commanding Officer heard about it, he sent an order that we must put a stop to it. A little later we drifted back to our trenches and the fraternization ended.”

Scottish soldiers in kilts in 1915 during WW 1

This entirely impromptu show of the brotherhood of man soon had them exchanging small gifts – perhaps a coin from their own respective currency, chocolate bars, military dress buttons, a pack of cigarettes, a can of peaches or plum pudding, a spare patch of their military unit or whatever they had at hand. In a few instances, prisoners were even exchanged and each side given time to bury their dead. This scene was repeated in many places along the Western war front as spontaneous gestures of goodwill, if only for a day.

Peace in the trenches, what a marvelous Christmas gift.

Of course, not all units of either Army participated in the truces. Some never even heard of them, since they were spontaneous and unauthorized beyond low-level officers right there in the field. Others among  both the German and the British sides actually opposed such unauthorized fraternization with the enemy. When reports of these truces and fraternization reached the higher commanders, stern rebukes were issued and penalties imposed for such unauthorized actions. One of those who stood opposed to such truces was the French military leader Charles de Gaulle, and another was a young German officer named . . . Adolph Hitler of the 16th Bavarian Reserve Infantry. 

Meanwhile, away from the actual battlefields there were pockets of anti-war protestors who saluted the spontaneous truces but protested for far more. When the United States began drafting young men into the military in 1917, it was labor leader Eugene V. Debs who opposed it and was sent to a Federal prison until 1920. Bertrand Russell, one of Britain’s leading intellectuals, spoke out against the war and spent six-months in a London jail for his efforts. Likewise, Rosa Luxemburg was an anti-war German leader who was imprisoned for two years for her protests.

Also, unfortunately, even on that Christmas day in 1914 killing and dying took place not far from some of those truce celebrations. Here are two examples.

In the darkness just before dawn, near the French village of Festubert—just a half-mile from some of the truce celebrations, several German soldiers hoisted lamps up above their trenches. “Those lamps looked like Chinese lanterns” some said. Then they called out to their British counterparts across the no man’s land. The men shouted out an offer for a day of mutual piece on this Christmas day. A British officer, thinking it was a ruse, ordered his men to shoot out those glowing lamps and they did. The German troops got the message, dismissed their generous overture to the British, and had their own short period of singing Christmas carols.

 

Huggins, Percy - British soldier killed on Dec 25, 1914 -- 02

Photo of  Private Percy Huggins

(1) So it was that later that day  a  23-year old private from England named Percy Huggins (1st Battalion Hertfordshire Regiment ) was at his assigned post.  It was business as usual on his part of the Western Front. He was stationed on the line less than a hundred  yards from a German  trench   Private Huggins peeked over the mound of dirt in front of his own trench and that is when a German sniper fired a fatal bullet through his head.

(2) The men of Huggins’ regiment were enraged by his killing on this Christmas day. Immediately, his platoon Sergeant, Tom Gregory, demanded and received permission to take his comrade’s position to give him a chance at avenging his friend’s death. Sgt. Gregory, was 36-years old and an expert marksman himself. Back home in Watford, England he had worked for the postal service. On this frigid day he lay still on the frost covered dirt and soon saw the German sniper and killed him with one shot. Instantly, he detected the movement of another sniper but before he could aim his own rifle the second sniper shot and killed him.

These two British soldiers were among  their 149 fellow soldiers who lost their lives on that Christmas day in 1914 (some who died that day had had  previously-inflicted battle wounds). And, of course, a number of German troops – like the one sniper mentioned above — were killed on that day as well.

By 1915, both sides had perfected new technologies of killing their enemies such a machine guns and tanks. One of the most frightening weapons, but not terribly efficient, was the release of poison gas, a tactic used by both the Allied Forces and the Cenral  Powers. By 1917, both sides were experiencing  sharp increases in deaths and carnage. So, not surprisingly, all sides demonized their opponents. And no more opportunities occurred for such spontaneous truces as those in 1914.

Still, those amazing displays of brotherhood and humanity between opposing troops on Christmas day in 1914 are still poignant reminders of what can happen between people of goodwill. That unique day has inspired poems like that of Carol Ann Duffy (Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom) in 2013 titled “The Christmas Truce” and songs like “Christmas in the Trenches” by John McCutcheon in 1984, as well as scores of articles like this one you’re reading and dozens of books like scholar Adam Hochschild’s volume titled To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918.

So let’s all stop for a moment, making our own truce in the middle of our busy lives. Is there a person or a group of people with whom you have had difficulties that you might take a first step of peace . . . and perhaps of reconciliation? 

The apostle Paul certainly was echoing the ministry of Jesus when he wrote in Romans 12:18, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

Maybe you could break the ice between you and an estranged relative . . . or between you and a group of people . . . or between your congregation (or club or organization) and another by handing key people a copy of this article. And say something to the effect that you’d like to stop shooting at each other and have a truce, with a view toward lasting peace.

My hope is the examples of these warring troops who reached out to each other on Christmas day in 1914 will motivate us to establish our own spontaneous truces where the influence of the Prince of Peace is desperately needed.

Sources:

Bajekal, Naina. “Silent Night: The Story of the World War I Christmas Truce of 1914.” Published online by Time magazine at: http://time.com/3643889/christmas-truce-1914/. Accessed on Dec. 7, 2017.

Brown, Malcolm and Shirley Seaton. The Christmas Truce: The Western Front December 1914. London: Papermac, 1994.

“Christmas is for Sharing.” This was a Christmas-time ad (video) which was produced in 2014 as a TV commercial by the Sainsbury’s chain of grocery stores in the eastern United State. You may view it on YouTube at:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6KHoVBK2EVE

“Christmas Truce.” Wikipedia, accessed on Dec. 1, 2017. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christmas_truce)

“Christmas truce of 1914 was broken when German snipers killed two British soldiers.”

Posted to the web site of the London Telegraph newspaper on Dec. 22, 2014 near the 100th anniversary of this event. Accessed Dec. 2, 2017 at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/history/world-war-one/11307513/Christmas-truce-of-1914-was-broken-when-German-snipers-killed-two-British-soldiers.html ]

Cleaver, Alan and Lesley Park (eds.). The Christmas Truce 1914: Operation Plum Puddings, accessed December 22, 2011.  

Dash, Mike. “The Story of the WWI Christmas Truce.” An article for the Smithsonian Museum Magazine which was published on their web site on Dec. 23, 2011. Accessed on Dec. 2, 2017 at:  https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/the-story-of-the-wwi-christmas-truce-11972213/   

Ferro, Marc and‎ Malcolm Brown and‎ Rémy Cazals and Olaf Mueller. Meetings in No Man’s Land: Christmas 1914 and Fraternization in the Great War. London: Constable & Robinson, 2007.

Cleaver, Alan and Lesley Park.  Not a Shot was Fired: Letters from the Christmas Truce 1914.  Alan Cleaver, Publisher. 2nd Edition in full color, 2008.

“Christmas Truce of 1914,” a video.  History.com   Accessed on Dec. 7, 2017 online at: http://www.history.com/topics/world-war-i/christmas-truce-of-1914

Hochschild, Adam. To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914–1918. New York: Mariner Books by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011.

Kuper, Simon. “Soccer in the trenches: Remembering the WWI Christmas Truce.”  Published on the ESPN sports web site on Dec. 25, 2015. Accessed on Dec. 7, 2017 at: http://www.espn.com/soccer/blog/espn-fc-united/68/post/2191045/christmas-truce-soccer-matches-during-world-war-one.

Rees, Simon. “The Christmas Truce.” Published online on Aug. 22, 2009 at http://firstworldwar.com/features/christmastruce.htm . Accessed on Dec. 7, 2017. “First World War.com” bills itself as “a multimedia history of World War One.”

Snow, Dan.  “What really happened in the Christmas truce of 1914?”  A presentation on the British Broadcasting Company’s TV channel. Accessed Dec. 1, 2017 online at

 http://www.bbc.co.uk/guides/zxsfyrd.

“The Christmas Truce.” A song written by John McKutcheon in 1984 about the truces in the trenches of World War I along the Western Front in Europe. See and hear him perform his song on YouTube at: https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=chords+for+the+song%2c+%22Christmas+in+the+Trenches%22&&view=detail&mid=2E284897E6744A13B6DE2E284897E6744A13B6DE&&FORM=VDRVRV

Twitter, Jon Wiener. “The Day the Troops Refused to Fight: December 25, 1914.”  Published in the online version of The Nation magazine on Dec. 23, 2014 to mark the 100th anniversary of this remarkable day. Accessed on Dec. 1, 2017 at:

https://www.thenation.com/article/day-troops-refused-fight-december-25-1914/ ]

Weintraub, Stanley. “Demystifying the Christmas truce.” The Heritage of the Great War.  __________.  Silent Night: The Remarkable Christmas Truce Of 1914. London: Simon & Schuster, 2001.

“World War I.” Wikipedia. Accessed on Dec. 1, 2017. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_I.

 

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Some Thoughts on Cats and Dogs,

Candles, and Romans 14

 By Curtis K. Shelburne

Copyrighted Dec. 4, 2017

Getting ready. That’s what Advent is about.

At church we lit the first candle of Advent this morning, and, as I write on this Sunday evening, I’m sitting in a quiet house, enfolded by the warm glow of the light from our Christmas tree.

I didn’t grow up observing Advent or, for that matter, any of the other seasons of the “Christian calendar.” I was unaware that there was such a thing, and in our non- or anti-denomination denomination, there most certainly was not. I was blessed by “our” folks and still love them, but our bunch back then wasn’t even very sure about celebrating Christmas as a “religious” holiday. We weren’t the only ones. Chalk that, and a lot of this, up to our common Puritan ancestors, I think, who tended to be suspicious of both color and celebration.  But, honestly, I need to read more history to be sure I’m being fair with them.

As I grew older, I suppose I became vaguely aware that Lent was a time preceding Easter and, I thought, seemed to have something maybe to do with eating fish on Fridays. What else? I didn’t know.

As is the case with all of us pretty much all of the time, I needed very badly to learn a little more history to be able to make more sense out of the present and plot a wise course for the future. And, as a Christian, I desperately needed to read more church history for the very same reasons.

I also needed to learn some things other members of Christ’s family could teach me if we’d just try to cross over our walls occasionally and visit a bit. Not only do we honor our Lord by doing so (he prayed poignantly for the unity of God’s people, you know, in John 17), we also put ourselves in a position to learn some things. We might or might not choose to make some changes in our own situations, but at least we might come to understand more about the decisions and practices of other folks who love and honor their Lord every bit as much as our own little group does. The guy who said that cats and dogs who try spending more time with each other often find it to be a very broadening experience was on to something.

Differences among Christians regarding the keeping—or not—of special days is nothing new. When the Holy Spirit made it clear that God wanted the doors of his church opened wide to both Jews and Gentiles (the gulf between them was vastly wider than that between, say, a Baptist and a Lutheran) well, you never saw cats and dogs have a harder time figuring out how to live under one roof.

Ironically, then it was the more conservative folks who felt duty-bound to observe special feast days, and folks on the other end of the spectrum who felt perfectly free not to. Read the amazing Romans 14 to see God’s incredible counsel to his kids about dealing with differences. Don’t stand in judgment on each other, he says. Make a decision that you believe honors Christ. In love, let your brothers and sisters do the same. And don’t you kids dare look down on each other or try to make laws for one another! You’ve got one Master. You’re not him.

By the way, it turns out that Lent has precious little to do with fish. Advent does have something to do with candles (and I like candles). But both have a lot to do with preparing our hearts to more fully receive what God is doing. Personally, I like that a lot. Personally, I need that a lot.

[Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne of Muleshoe, TX. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice. You’re invited to visit his website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com ]

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Issue 370 – Christmas Cheer

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The Paregien Journal     –     Issue 370     –     Dec. 4, 2017

Christmas Cheer

Ah, here we are. Another holiday season with both Christmas and New Years Day fast approaching. Amid the din of noisy TV and radio commerials and the ads packing each issue of our newspaper, there is still an opportunity now and then to push the pause button and reflect on what the Christmas season means to me and to our society.

Oh, sure, there are those who see Christmas as just a time for more than a “cup of cheer,” more like a keg of beer and pretzels and tacos. Their anthem is,. “Let’s party! And, oh yeah, Merry Christmas and all that stuff.”

I was reminded recently about how a great many Americans and people in other cultures around the world still pause on Christmas to speak a word of kindness or to actually do a neighborly act for someone as a way of honoring the man Jesus who outgrew that manger in Bethleham and devoted his life to doing good for everyone.

On Saturday, November 17, 2017, we were guests of our son and his wife at whole day walking around Silver Dollar City near Branson, Missouri. People were there for the amusement rides, the Christmas parade, the lights and the vast selection of food items. In addition, though, at about 1:30 pm we joined an overflow crowd (I’d guess about 500 people) who found seats in the beautiful theater there. And then we were all treated to a live play, a really fine production of Charles Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol.” Like many of you grey-haired or no-haired folks, I have seen several versions of that play. 

However, I must say that this production on that day was the best I’ve ever experienced. The actors were simply superb. The orchestra was magnificent. The sets were like candy for the eyes. And the audience, . . . well, they clapped enthusiastically at the right times and wiped their eyes, as did I, at the quiet and emotional moments. I was so glad I got to experience that production and to do so with family and friends. Despite the fridgid north wind and the occasional rain, I was overjoyed to be there. Again I was reminded that people really do enjoy good stories with good moral values — honesty, loyalty to family and friends, sacrificial love of dedicated mothers and fathers for their children, and that still wonderful bond of community between people of diverse backgrounds.

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On Sunday, Dec. 3rd, we were out kicking around with friends Michael & Penny Letichevsky. Since Peggy and I had outfitted in “Christmas colors,” we all stopped by the Desoto Mall in Bradenton for Penny to take a few photos to try to get one we could insert in a few Christmas cards.

This shot was a great one, by our standards, but it came in 2nd place.

2017--12--03 03B Bradenton, FL - Stan & Peggy Paregien by Penny Letichevsky

The “1st Place” photo was totally unexpected. Ol’ Santa himself left his station where he was available for photos with kids . . . and sneaked up behind us and got into one of our photos. We love it, because we were blissfully ignorant he was right behind us and getting in on the fun.

2017--12--03 03A Bradenton, FL - Stan & Peggy Paregien by Penny Letichevsky

Yep, as you can probably tell from the above photo, both Peggy and I have trimmed down considerably over the last four months or so. I feel better now than I have in many years. And prettier, too. Yuk-yuk.

2017--12--03 09 Bradenton, FL - Stan and Peggy Paregien - by Penny Letichevsky

And Now, . . . A Word About

Football

Sooners.

Yes, as in the University of Oklahoma Sooners football team. They sport a record of 12 wins and one loss. And on New Years Day they will play the University of Georgia Bulldogs at the one-and-only Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. Later that night, the Clemson Tigers will play the Univerity of Alabama Tide. Then the winners of those two games will play for the National Championship.

2017--10--12 Logo for the University of Oklahoma Sooners

Congratulations to the OU football players, to their coaches and to their supporters — “the Sooner Nation.” I am of the humble, unbiased opinion that the Sooners will neuter the Dogs in their semi-finals game and will finally reign as the National Champions.

2017--10--13 Logo for the University of Oklahoma Sooners

After all, we have a not-too-secret weapon in our quarterback, Baker Mayfield, likely the next Heisman Trophy winner as the best football player in America, the world and our universe.

2017--10--10 Baker Mayfield, quarterback at Oklahoma University Sooners

Go Sooners!!

 

Betts, Don -- Wagging a Yuletide Dogs Tale -- 2017-12-25 Page 1 of 3

[Don Betts’ poem, Wagging a Yuletide Dogs Tale]

Betts, Don -- Wagging a Yuletide Dogs Tale -- 2017-12-25 Page 2 of 3

 

Betts, Don -- Wagging a Yuletide Dogs Tale -- 2017-12-25 Page 3 of 3

Bravo, Mr. Betts. Another amazingly creative and always linguistically challenging poem. Keep up the fine work, my dear friend.

2012--Christmas--tree--Blondie Cartoon--Dagwood trims the new tree--2012--12--16

[“Blondie” cartoon about an ugly Christmas tree and how Dagwood made it uglier.]

Christmas Trees Don’t Have To Be Perfect

To Be Beautiful

 By Curtis K. Shelburne

My earliest Christmas memories are mostly wrapped around our family’s Christmas trees.

 I remember Mom making creamy hot chocolate and my sister stacking the spindle of the old record player with an inch-high pile of vintage vinyl Christmas music by Nat King Cole, Perry Como, Tennessee Ernie Ford, and the Norman Luboff Choir.

 Most years the tree had already been bought at (where else?) Amarillo’s Boy Scout Troop 80 Christmas tree lot. I was a member of Troop 80 and thus expected to help sell trees each year. My younger brother was not, but he was a wheeler-dealer sort who liked selling trees and often, as I recall, managed to pawn off more trees than most of the bona fide boy scouts. Jacob (I mean, Jim) always felt Jacob of old settled for far too little when he sold his hungry brother Esau that bowl of stew and only got a birthright for it. Jim would’ve held out for hard cash and then the birthright at the end as a balloon payment.

Christmas Tree-- imperfect trees are okay

[photo of a not-too perfect tree]

We’d lean the tree in the garage for a day or a few on its amputation-site stump in a bucket of water while it waited to be lit and glorified. Anchoring the tree in the stand was a chore. Jim and I would crawl under the scratchy boughs and slide around on our wood floor to turn each screw just the right amount. It was never straight the first time.

Then my 15-years-older sister, the unquestioned head honcho of the process, would ascend to perform the task of highest honor as she put on the lights (bubble lights, snowball lights, and all), a job in later years graciously bequeathed to me.

 Then we would hang the ornaments, a tedious task but nothing like as bad as the final stage in the process: hanging the icicles.

I don’t see those long, thin, silvery strands of foil or plastic, those “icicles,” on trees much anymore. I hope never again to have to put them on one of mine.

1940s Christmas tree - with lots of tinsels

[ photo of a 1940s style Christmas tree with lots of icicles]

According to my sister, they had to be hung with great care, one at a time. Ten million or so came in a box. You’d drag one out of the box and carefully place it over a tree branch. It was essential, my sister assured us, to start at the back near the trunk and make sure the icicle hung straight down on both sides of the branch. Straight down. No clumps. Which is why Jim’s preferred method of grabbing a paw-full of icicles and launching the whole wad in the general direction of the tree was sternly forbidden. No. One at a time. Until you froze there, died there, decayed there, and Christmas never came, and it was spring and you were still hanging icicles. One at a time.

 I don’t know what we thought would happen—apart from sure death—if we didn’t hang the icicles exactly right. Would Santa’s sleigh suddenly crash in flight and the FAA later determine and publish for the whole world full of weeping giftless children to see that the cause was icing—not on the sleigh but improper tree icicling by two Shelburne boys at 125 N. Goliad, Amarillo, Texas, whose wanton and reckless disregard had killed Santa?

I’m sure we never did it “right.” But I remember wandering into the living room as a little lad clad in those great PJs that came complete with feet, lying down almost under the tree, looking up through its branches, and drinking in the beauty.

By God’s grace, Christmas trees don’t have to be perfect to be beautiful. Neither do lives.

[Copyright 2011 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.]

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an-christmas tree

Christmastree-dog

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Poem 139 - The Truth About Santa Claus -- copyrighted by Stan Paregien on Feb 1, 1992

[ Stan Paregien’s poem, “The Truth About Santa” ]

Poem 393 -- A Holiday Greeting -- copyrighted by Stan Paregien on Oct 13, 2014

[Stan Paregien’s poem, “A Holliday Greeting” ]

Poem 402 Christmas Time in Florida - by Stan Paregien Nov 14, 2014

[ Stan Paregien’s poem, “Christmas Time in Florida” ]Poem by S Omar Barker - One Snowy Christmas Eve - in THE ROUNDUP for Dec, 1978, page 7
[ S. Omar Barker’s poem, “One Snowy Christmas Eve” ]S Omar Barker, 'The Cowboy's Christmas Prayer'
[ S. Omar Barker’s poem, “A Cowboy’s Christmas Prayer” ]

2017--12--03 06 Bradenton, FL - Be still and know that I am God - Psalm 46 v10

[ “Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10 ]

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Honor Roll of Visitors

to The Paregien Journal

http://www.paregienjournal.com

I enjoy writing, as all of you can attest. My first published article was in the student newspaper at the first college I attended, back in the fall of 1961. Since then I have had hundreds of articles appear in scores of different newspapers and magazines. And three hardback books, two paperback books and 15 eBooks later, I haven’t lost that drive to find ideas worthy of sharing with all of you.

There is something singularly satisfying about my little blogs published as the title of THE PAREGIEN JOURNAL at http://www.paregienjournal.com. That satisfaction comes from knowing that on any given day there may be people visiting my site from all over the world. Instantly. Amazing.

I am pleased and thankful that – just since January 1, 2017 — people from 72 nations visited this web page. Heck, I don’t even know where many of them are on a map of the world. But here is that list as of Nov. 10, 2017:

Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Denmark, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Estonia, European Union, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong SAR China, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Latvia, Lebanon, Malaysia, Mexico, Moldova, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Romania, Russia, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland,Thailand, Trinidad & Tobago, Turkey, Taiwan, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Venezuela, Vietnam, and Zimbabwe.

Thanks to all those who live in other nations and have honored us with a visit to this site. We appreciate it very much. Please feel free to leave a comment.

I’m giving some serious thought to doing a series of profiles next year about each of the nations listed above. I’m start with the first three — Albania, Algeria, Andorra — and see how that goes. If you are from one of those nations  or can put me in touch with a knowledgeable person with first-hand, recent information, I’d appreciate a note to me at:  paregien@gmx.com . Thanks.

an-christmas-fiveCats

A very merry Christmas to each and every one of you. And if you haven’t done so as yet, why not take a small gift or a dish of food to someone who is sick or lonely? You could certainly cheer them up. Then that person would be blessed and so would you, especially if you warmly and graciously offer to pick that person up in your car and spend maybe just an hour driving around looking at all the Christmas lights.

Until next year, Lord willing.

— Stan Paregien

2017--12--03 04 Bradenton, FL - Stan & Peggy Paregien by Penny Letichevsky

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Issue 343 – ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas

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Issue 343 – ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas – December 10, 2016

Lest I forget, let me say to all of you that Peggy and I wish for our family and our friends, as well as our followers around the world, a blessed Christmas Day. 

In this issue, I just want to share some Christmas-related poems, essays and cartoons. Happy reading.

 

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas

(aka “A Visit from St. Nicholas “)

[A copy of the first publication of this poetic account of a child’s happy visit from St. Nicholas in the Troy (NY) Sentinel (1823) is reprinted and analyzed by English literature scholar MacDonald P. Jackson on the InterMedia Enterprises website. While authorship credit is debatable, some experts agree that the original poem was the work of a Mr. Henry Livingston (according to the Huffington Post).

[A later publication attributes the poem to writer Clement Clark Moore, who claimed to have written it in 1822. Unbeknownst to Moore, the poem was published anonymously in a newspaper in upstate New York in December 1823. Additionally, Moore, who was a professor of Oriental and Greek literature at General Theological Seminary in New York City, is thought to have written “A Visit from St. Nicholas” for his children, without any intention of publishing it. He first published it under his name in 1844 after others tried to take credit for it. So . . . the true authorship is debatable.

[Note: the following version is a modern English version, whereas the original was written in somewhat archaic English.]

 

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house

 Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;

 The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,

 In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

 

 The children were nestled all snug in their beds,

 While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;

 And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,

 Had just settled down for a long winter’s nap,

 

 When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,

 I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.

 Away to the window I flew like a flash,

 Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

 

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow

 Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,

 When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,

 But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,

 

 With a little old driver, so lively and quick,

 I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.

 More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,

 And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;

 

 “Now, DASHER! now, DANCER! now, PRANCER and VIXEN!

 On, COMET! on CUPID! on, DONDER and BLITZEN!

 To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!

 Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”

 

 As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,

 When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,

 So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,

 With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too.

 

 And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof

 The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.

 As I drew in my hand, and was turning around,

 Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

 

 He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,

 And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;

 A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,

 And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.

 

 His eyes — how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!

 His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!

 His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,

 And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;

  

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,

And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;

He had a broad face and a little round belly,

That shook when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly.

 

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,

And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;

A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,

Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;

 

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,

And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,

And laying his finger aside of his nose,

And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;

 

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,

And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.

But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,

“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!”

 

Santa Claus: Man or Myth?

by Stan Paregien Sr.

 

Here is the story of one man’s answer to be the classic childhood question as to whether Santa Claus is real or not. It is not the only answer, of course, and there are some who raise legitimate concerns about problems an answer like this might cause to children as they grow older. However, those issues are for another occasion. Right now we go back more than 100 years in time to see how one man dealt with the issue.

In September of 1897, a little girl wrote a letter to Mr. Francis P. Church, the editor of the New York Sun newspaper. She asked him to please answer an important question for her. And, after considering her dilemma for some time, on September 21, 1897, Mr. Church published the little girl’s question and gave his answer.

Here is what the little girl named Virginia wrote:

ohanlon-virginia-in-about-1895

“Dear Editor: I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, “If you see it in The Sun [newspaper], it’s so.” Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus? — Virginia O’Hanlon, 115 West Ninety Fifth Street”

What the editor, Mr. Church, told her has become the most widely reprinted newspaper editorial in the entire English speaking world. It is an established part of Christmas folklore in many parts of the world. Here is what he said:

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“Viginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little.

 

“In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence.

“We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The external light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

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“Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies. You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

“You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else more real and abiding.

“No Santa Claus! Thank God! He lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.”

You may be interested to learn that young Virginia O’Hanlon later earned a doctorate degree and spent her life teaching and serving as a school administrator. She died at the age of 81. Mr. Church, the newspaper editor, died in 1906 at the age of 67.

 

So far this editorial written in 1897 by Mr. Church is the only one ever set to music. That happened in 1932 when NBC radio commissioned and broadcasted a “Yes, Virginia” cantata set to classical music. On Dec. 8, 1991 a made-for-TV movie titled, “Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus” was shown. It starred actors Richard Thomas (“John Boy Walton” in the TV series “The Waltons”), Ed Asner and tough-guy Charles Bronson.

In fact, the expression “Yes, Virginia, There Is A . . . ” has become a common way of saying that a certain thing or person is real and does exist. Such as, “Yes, Virginia, there is an honest politician.” Well, okay, that may not be the best example but you catch my drift.

There remains the deeper question of how or when children should be properly educated about such “make-believe” characters as Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny Rabbit, and fairies tiptoeing through the tulips. One rather sarcastic and know-it-all eleven year old told a questioning younger child, “Aw, heck. Santa Claus is just like the Devil. He is your old man.”

That is probably not the best approach.

Here is a better one, especially when they suspect that their mom or dad is really Santa Claus. Just relax and be honest with them. Here is my general letter to kids about ol’ Santa, a letter that would be appropriate for most families:

“Dear Kids,

“You may be wondering whether Santa Claus is a real person under that red hat and long, white beard. Well, let me help you understand.

“First, your mom and dad are not Santa Claus. Oh, yes, they are the ones who shop for your gifts, pay for them, wrap them and put them under your Christmas tree. After all, a fat Santa couldn’t drag a big bag of gifts down a chimney. But when your parents do all of that it does not make them Santa Claus. And, you know what, their own parents and grandparents probably blessed them the same way with the legend about a wonderful man who was just full of love and generosity.

“The tradition of a Santa Claus is a wonderful experience for most families, but that doesn’t really make any of us Santa Claus. Playing like Santa is real, you see, is a fun way of reminding all of us — parents and children — that there are times when it is important to believe in things we cannot see with our eyes or touch with our hands or measure with a ruler. Things like love, God, trusting in others, cooperation in getting everything done, hope when life is hard, thankfulness for being together as family and friends, joy in giving to others and happiness in receiving gifts and best wishes from others.

That is really what the idea of Santa Claus is all about. Santa is an attitude, a happy and good way of thinking, rather than a person. The job of spreading cheer around the world is too big and wonderful for just one person to do. So most of us are part of “Team Santa.”

“Next year you can help us find the right gifts for other people, and you can enjoy wrapping them and giving them away. Maybe someday you will decide to bless your own children by passing on this tradition, but that choice will be entirely up to you.” 

 

Well, friends, I hope that is helpful to some of you.

Some of my Christian brothers and sisters may seriously object to “playing Santa” and putting an emphasis upon a mythical man rather than on “the reason for the season” – the birth of Jesus Christ the Son of God.

Frankly, my wife and I went through a cycle of beliefs and behaviors when our children and grandchildren were young. Early on we observed a deep appreciation for this period as a time of celebrating the birth of Jesus and we included the Santa myth as something distinct from that holy celebration.

Then at some point we decided that the “distinct” part may not have been understandable at all by our children. So, much to the dismay of both sets of our parents, we went through one or two Christmases without Santa and without gifts. Then we returned to our normal practice.

So, . . . I would suggest adding this statement to the letter above for those Christians who are struggling with what to do:

“Kids, the reason we have this Christmas season at all is because of the birth of Jesus the Christ. Notice the spelling of Christmas: “Christ-mas.” We believe in Jesus as the baby born in Bethlehem, but we also believe in him as our savior, our hope for eternal life, our helper in this life. We have to tell you, because God wants us to tell the truth and not lie (1 Peter 3:10), that Santa is not any of these things.

 

“You see, when I was a boy we would play lots of games of make believe. Cowboys. Space travelers. Kings and queens. There were always good people and bad people in those kid games. But we knew they were not real or somehow magical. They were just for fun. That is how it is with Santa, too. So you can have fun with Santa, but God is for real and wants us to love him with all our hearts.”

Maybe that will help.

 

Now, for those who might be interested in reading alternative opinions about what to tell children about Santa Claus, here are some sources:

Brown, Laura Lewis. “Is It Okay to Lie About Santa?” PBS-Parents: http://www.pbs.org/parents/holidays/is-it-okay-lie-about-santa/

 Holidays or Holy Days: Does It Matter Which Days We Observe? This is a 48-page booklet which is free upon request by writing to The United Church of God, P.O. Box 541027, Cincinnati, OH 45254-1027.

Johnson, David Kyle. “The Santa Claus Lie Debate: Answering Objections.”

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/plato-pop/201312/the-santa-claus-lie-debate-answering-objections

Strobel, Lee.  The Case for Christmas: A Journalist Investigates the Identity of the Child in the Manger.

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1 Corinthians 13

(A Christmas Version)

by an unknown author

 
If I decorate my house perfectly with plaid bows, strands of twinkling lights and shiny balls, but do not show love to my family, I’m just Another decorator.

If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas cookies, preparing gourmet meals and arranging a beautifully adorned table at mealtime, but do not show love to my family, I’m just another cook.

If I work at the soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home and give all that I have to charity, but do not show love to my family, it profits me nothing.

If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels and crocheted snowflakes, attend myriad holiday parties and sing in the choir’s cantata but do not focus on Christ, I have missed the point.

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Love stops the cooking to hug the child.

Love sets aside the decorating to kiss the husband.

Love is kind, though harried and tired.

Love doesn’t envy another’s home that has coordinated Christmas china and table linens.

Love doesn’t yell at the kids to get out of the way, but is thankful they are there to be in the way.

Love doesn’t give only to those who are able to give in return but rejoices in giving to those who can’t.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails. Video games will break, pearl necklaces will be lost, golf clubs will rust, but giving the gift of love will endure.

christmas-gifts-power-tool-for-me-and-gold-earrings-for-him-1984

Christmas Is Only As Strong

As Its Weakest Link

By Curtis K. Shelburne

I don’t usually think of Christmas and chains as going together, unless I’m reading about the ponderously-chained Ghost of Christmas Past who so terrorized old Ebenezer Scrooge! But I believe this to be true: Christmas is a “chain” which is only as strong as its weakest link.

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If Christmas deals only with lights and tinsel, egg nog and poinsettias (all of which I enjoy very much, I hope you understand), and the Yuletide joy and peace, love and good will, we sing about are just artificial twinkles and largely illusory light, then Christmas is a weak and pathetic thing which can’t possibly stand the test of life and time and which will fade a long time before the January sales (and credit card bills) end.

If Christmas has to do only with parties and good times, but nothing to do with hospital rooms and disgusting diagnoses . . . 

If Christmas has to do only with smiles and “Merry Christmases” and nothing to do with hope at a graveside . . .

If Christmas has to do only with sales and not souls, presents and not His Presence, holiday cheer but not lifelong Joy . . .

If Christmas has to do only with Jingle Bells and nothing to do with “God with us,” well, then, Christmas is not up to the task of making a real difference in our lives, and it’s just one more momentary diversion for the despairing, one more false hope for people who know no hope, and it certainly won’t make much difference in life, or in death, or in anything at all very real or substantial.

But if Christmas, and all that is best about this good season, points to real light and hope, glimmering reflections from the Father of Lights, the Giver of Joy, the Sender of the very best Gift, then the Christ of Christmas can use this time of celebration to point us to light that truly is stronger than darkness, hope that is genuinely stronger than despair, and life that is ultimately and infinitely stronger than death. 

Then we discover that the Light of Christmas is real indeed because He is real, and life is far more substantial than death.

Then Christmas means something beautiful and wonderful and real. And Christmas joy can and will last forever.

[Copyright 2013 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice. You are invited to visit his website at http://www.curtissheldburne.com. ]

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A Christmas Remembrance
By Carolyn B. Leonard

For people who are dealing with the loss of a loved one, the holidays are often a daunting and difficult time of year. The Holiday season will be not as bright for families who have lost someone or something precious. One of my writer friends who lost her husband in 2012 described it as a year of “unmitigated Hell.” 

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In my tiny rural no-stoplight hometown of Buffalo up near the Kansas border, the home-owned and operated Wilkinson funeral home is doing something to help this season. They are preparing lovely glass angel ornaments which will be personalized with the name of each person they took care of this year. In a special “Christmas In Heaven” program at a church, the personalized Guardian Angel ornaments will then be presented to the family to be placed on their own Christmas tree or otherwise displayed in remembrance of the loved one for years to come.

Not just the immediate family, but the entire town and county are invited to participate in this opportunity to remember and honor all those lost this past year — because in a community like Buffalo it really does take a village to raise a child, and each soul has played a special role in every life. This program will give them the chance to publicly acknowledge their share of the loss.

It is always better to talk about grief and deal with it directly than to ignore or suppress it. When our first grandchild was killed in a car accident just before Christmas the whole community grieved with us. It was a horrible time for our family giving up that beloved and precious toddler, but knowing our grief was shared helped ease our pain. Friends, neighbors, acquaintances – not knowing what else to do – came with tearful hugs, flowers, and casseroles. Those gifts of love, but even more their comforting presence at that time, will never be forgotten.

Everyone feels a little awkward and are unsure what to say, but I liked to hear — “I heard about what happened …I can’t imagine what this has been like for you.” Each broken-hearted person feels their grief is unimaginable, their life has been changed forever. The word ‘imagine’ implies that whatever the griever says will be accepted, not judged or criticized. And then you can do the most important and helpful thing ever … just listen.

The stages of mourning and grief are universal and are experienced by people from all walks of life. Grief is the normal and natural reaction to loss. The seven emotional stages of grief are disbelief, denial, bargaining, guilt, anger, depression, and acceptance or hope. There is no neat progression from one stage to the next and no set timetable.

The stages we must work through also apply to the loss of a job, a loved pet, a friendship, a marriage, health, or any other negative effect that changed your life. We all know about the collective grief that envelops everyone touched by tragedies such as the Murrah Bombing, the senseless 9-11 deaths, the spring tornado disaster, those life-changing events when everyone mourns. It takes a long time, but healing comes – very slowly, but it comes and you move on.

As you start to adjust to life without that part that is missing, your life becomes a little calmer and more organized. You can finally move to acceptance.


Acceptance does not imply happiness. Instead, you can now remember and think about the loved one with sadness, but without that wrenching, intense emotional pain.

Holidays and events filled with tradition can be especially hard to deal with. Death is a topic everyone wants to avoid, even tho the unfortunate truth is that at some point we will all be faced with the uncomfortable reality of loss. Cherish the memories associated with the event, and with the person who is gone. Perhaps a glass ornament Guardian Angel, inscribed with the person’s name, is just the trick you need to find some joy in a Christmas remembrance.

[ Note: The above article was written by our dear Christian friend, Carolyn B. Leonard, of Oklahoma City. Our relationship dates all the way back to about 1985. And for a time we both worked for the same company as newspaper editors, she in Buffalo, Okla., and I in Meade, Kansas. Carolyn is also the author of a helpful book on genealogy. It has the catchy title of Who’s Your Daddy? ]

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Prelude to Christmas Prayer

by Don Betts

Bradenton, FL – Dec., 2013

 Our house is your house, we wish you good cheer,

On this special day we’re glad that you’re here!

Christmas is a time of special reflection,

And to some, a day of great expectation.

 

Our thoughts are mostly of friends and family together,

Without grievous thoughts or fear of the weather.

At our house its always a beautiful day.

So we now take a moment to pray.

 

Let’s pray for peace, tranquility and accord,

And ask a special blessing as we give thanks to our Lord.

Lets be happy with His blessings.

That come in such abundance.

And rid ourselves of earthly things

That come with such redundance.

 

Lord help us to love one another

To be to each  other, sister and brother.

Help us to know, with all due reason

The true meaning of this special season.

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The Boy Who Laughed at Santa Claus

by Ogden Nash

APR 1 1959, APR 2 1959; Ogden Nash; Americans too serious.;“Frederic Ogden Nash (August 19, 1902 – May 19, 1971) was an American poet well known for his light verse. At the time of his death in 1971, The New York Times said his “droll
verse with its unconventional rhymes made him the country’s best-known producer of humorous poetry”.[1] Nash wrote over 500 pieces of comic verse. The best of his work was published in 14 volumes between 1931 and 1972.” – Wikipedia Dec. 8, 2016.

 

In Baltimore there lived a boy.

He wasn’t anybody’s joy.

Although his name was Jabez Dawes,

His character was full of flaws.

 

In school he never led his classes,

He hid old ladies’ reading glasses,

His mouth was open when he chewed,

And elbows to the table glued.

 

He stole the milk of hungry kittens,

And walked through doors marked,

“NO ADMITTANCE.”

He said he acted thus because

There wasn’t any Santa Claus.

 

Another trick that tickled Jabez

Was crying “Boo!” at little babies.

He brushed his teeth, they said in town,

Sideways instead of up and down.

 

Yet people pardoned every sin,

And viewed his antics with a grin,

Till they were told by Jabez Dawes,

“There isn’t any Santa Claus!”

 

Deploring how he did behave,

His parents swiftly sought their grave.

They hurried through the portals pearly,

And Jabez left the funeral early.

 

Like whooping cough, from child to child,

He sped to spread the rumor wild:

“Sure as my name is Jabez Dawes

There isn’t any Santa Claus!”

 

Slunk like a weasel of a marten

Through nursery and kindergarten,

Whispering low to every tot,

“There isn’t any, no there’s not!”

 

The children wept all Christmas eve

And Jabez chortled up his sleeve.

No infant dared hang up his stocking

For fear of Jabez’ ribald mocking.

 

He sprawled on his untidy bed,

Fresh malice dancing in his head,

When presently with scalp-a-tingling,

Jabez heard a distant jingling.

 

He heard the crunch of sleigh and hoof

Crisply alighting on the roof.

What good to rise and bar the door?

A shower of soot was on the floor.

 

What was beheld by Jabez Dawes?

The fireplace full of Santa Claus!

Then Jabez fell upon his knees

With cries of “Don’t,” and “Pretty Please.”

He howled, ‘I don’t know where you read it,

But anyhow, I never said it!’

 

“Jabez” replied the angry saint,

“It isn’t I, it’s you that ain’t.

Although there is a Santa Claus,

There isn’t any Jabez Dawes!”

 

Said Jabez then with impudent vim,

“Oh, yes there is, and I am him!

“Your magic don’t scare me, it doesn’t.”

And suddenly he found he wasn’t!

 

From grimy feet to grimy locks,

Jabez became a Jack-in-the-box,

An ugly toy with springs unsprung,

Forever sticking out his tongue.

 

The neighbors heard his mournful squeal;

They searched for him, but not with zeal.

No trace was found of Jabez Dawes,

Which led to thunderous applause,

And people drank a loving cup

And went and hung their stockings up.

 

All you who sneer at Santa Claus,

Beware the fate of Jabez Dawes,

The saucy boy who mocked the saint.

Donner and Blitzen licked off his paint.

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Christmas Trivia Questions

 

  1. After leaving Bethlehem, to which country did Joseph, Mary, and Jesus travel?

          Answer: Egypt

  1. Every elf has this ornament on the tip of their shoes. Which ornament are we talking about?     Answer: a bell
  1. Name the eight original Reindeer.   Answer:  Blitzen, Comet, Cupid, Dasher, Prancer,    Vixen, Dancer, and Donner
  1. How does a Mexican sheep say “Merry Christmas”? Answer: “Fe-leece Navidad”
  1. Which country is credited with the creation of the Christmas beverage, eggnog?

          Answer: Turkey

  1. Which country does St. Nicholas originally belong to? Answer: Norway
  1. Which was the first state in the United States to recognize Christmas as an official holiday?  Answer:  Alabama
  1. Here is a two-part question about the song, “White Christmas.” (1) In what movie did it first appear . . . and (2) what year did the movie appear?   

          Answers:  “Holiday Inn” in 1942

  1. James Stewart & Donna Reed starred in “It’s A Wonderful Life” in what year?

          Answer: 1946

  1. In that same movie, what was the first name of the angel? Answer:  Clarence

 

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas

(Brooklyn Version)

 The author cannot be identified because

he is in a witness protection program.

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 ‘Twas the night before Christmas,

Da whole house was mellow,

Not a creature was stirrin’,

I had a gun unda my pillow.

 

When up on da roof’

I heard somethin’ pound,

I sprung to da window,

To scream, “YO! Keep it down!”

 

When what to my Wanderin’

eyes should appear,

But dat hairy elf Vinny,

And eight friggin’ reindeer.

 

Wit’ a bad hackin’ cough,

And da stencha burped beer,

I knew in a moment

Yo, da Kringle wuz here!

 

Wit’ a slap to dere snouts,

And a yank on dere manes,

He cursed and he shouted,

And he called dem by name.

 

“Yo Tony, Yo Frankie,

Yo Sally, Yo Vito,

Ay Joey, Ay Paulie,

Ay Pepe, Ay Guido!”

 

As I drew out my gun

And hid by da bed,

Down came his boot

On da top a my head.

 

His eyes were all bloodshot,

His body odor wuz scary,

His breath wuz like sewage,

He had a mole dat wuz hairy.

 

He spit in my eye,

And he twisted my head,

He soon let me know

I should consider myself dead.

 

Den pointin’ a fat finga

Right unda my nose,

He let out some gas,

And up da chimney he rose.

 

He sprang to his sleigh,

…..screaming,

And away dey all flew,

Before he troo dem a beatin’.

 

But I heard him exclaim,

Or better yet grunt,

“Merry Christmas to all, and

Bite me, ya hump!”

Christmas Time in Florida

by Stan Paregien

Oh, the lovely plastic holly is secured in our window tonight,

And our electric fireplace, glowing reddish orange, is pretty and bright.

There’s newly sprayed artificial snow on our green plastic palm tree,

So most all of the holiday decorating is through for the Mrs. and me.

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Here in Florida at our large, gated 55-plus retirement community

We have an exciting annual Christmas parade for everyone to see.

All the high-dollar golf carts and bicycles have ribbons and lights,

And party-time reveling is done up to almost 8 pm on some nights.

 

Ah, yes, again here in sunny Florida it is obviously Christmas time.

And many of our home-grown traditions are both weird and sublime.

You see, here ol’ Santa Claus can really kick back and relax,

For no one ever phones him or sends him a text or even a fax.

 

Down here in Florida, Santa Claus is really hip and on the ball.

He has a new cellphone, a GPS and a deep southern drawl.

His staff of elves is so organized he gets presents out on time

Even to Snowbirds temporarily down here for the warm clime.

 

Santa retired from the bitter cold North Pole to right near here

And he has a nice luxury stable at the beach for his reindeer.

Santa’s elves also relocated to condos and they help him a lot,

Making sure Santa Baby quits golfing on the deadline’s dot.

 

Then they hitch the famous reindeer to his amphibious sleigh,

Equipped to land anywhere at all on that extra special day.

He flies so doggone fast the wind tugs at his beachcomber hat,

And he travels around the world delivering this and that.

 

Oh, it is absolutely true: Christmas time in Florida can’t be beat.

You can sit outside on your patio and drink a ice-cold treat.

Or you can stretch out at a warm beach and catch the sight

Of Jimmy Buffett, John Travolta or a swim suit too slight.

 

Friend, during Christmas time in Florida don’t get in a rush,

Just always go for the “Early Bird Special” to avoid a crush.

‘Cause Snowbirds clog the beaches, cafes, theaters and the like–

And they cause our living expenses here in Florida to spike.

 

Well, Christmas time in Florida is about perfect in every way:

We leave pretzels and a margarita for Santa on that special day.

In Paradise we scrape no ice and shovel not an ounce of snow,

So we’re happy here in Florida and we ain’t putting on a show.

[This poem copyrighted by Stan Paregien in 2014.]

christmas-in-florida-2016-01

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Issue 304 — Focusing on Jesus

Issue 304    —    The Paregien Journal    —    July 25, 2015

Focusing on Jesus 

by Stan Paregien Sr

I have chosen to devote this page today to some issues with our religious thinking and behavior. The articles which I have selected highlight the fact that, through Christian history, our God’s desire has been for us to focus our faith on loving Him and pleasing Him by loving others and caring for the needy and downtrodden.

Where we have all hit road bumps is in such areas as (1) erroneously equating Bible knowledge with personal knowledge of Him and His Son, Jesus; (2) creating creeds, rules and rituals and then dividing from any believer who doesn’t accept that package; and, (3) focusing our faith on our performance-based and knowledge-based religion.” That is, believing we are always “right” (and others always “wrong”) on understanding the Bible, on doctrinal clarity and correctness, and on moral perfection.

Religion  --  knowledge-based, cartoon 'You Might Be Wrong'

This evil spirit of sectarianism and arrogance has dishonored God. It also has divided believers into hundreds of narrow-minded groups who believe they, alone, are God’s people. And It has kept honest searchers for God confused and discouraged.

However, all is not lost. We must confess our failures and give up our do-it-yourself religion, and focus our faith on Jesus Christ as the only way to God’s salvation. Please keep these concepts in mind as you read the rest of this material. 

–SP

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Can Jesus Survive Religion’s Failures?

by Dr. Rubel Shelly

One of the great strengths of the Christian faith has been its ability to endure, accommodate, and use the cultural shifts across the centuries without losing its essence. Even in its most misguided forms, the Christian religion has continued to pass along its central message about Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection.

People in the most abysmal of churches in the most corrupt of cultures still have been counted among the redeemed. There were people in a church Jesus pronounced “dead” whose names were still in his Book of Life (cf. Revelation 3:1-6). They had been granted divine favor on account of God’s great love and in spite of church inadequacies or their personal failures.

Some who have been kicked out of churches became more vitally engaged in the Kingdom of God for their sufferings – whether Luther or Tyndale or myriad individuals and groups whose names are unknown to us but precious to Christ.

Over the past 500 years, a type of institutional church has functioned variously as a club, nation-state, forensic society, and irrelevance – all too frequently obscuring the presence and activity of God in the world.

It taught the gospel as laws and steps, creedal statements and confessions. There was little tolerance for leaving anything unexplained and even less tolerance for persons who did not hail the explanation offered – contrived as it might have been – as conclusive.

The Christian faith was termed a “system,” and one’s place within that system was determined by an all-or-nothing attitude toward it.

When agreement on some fine point of doctrine was not forthcoming, individuals and groups felt free to break off and further fragment the body for the sake of maintaining doctrinal purity. Thus came the formation of literally hundreds of denominations and non-denominations, with each group believing there could be unity only when others renounced their error and embraced its interpretation.

Catholics have done it, and Protestants have too. Churches of Christ have been bad at it, and so have Baptists and Pentecostals. It’s everywhere! And the marvel of it all is that God has been working through those flawed forms and incoherent formulas to reach people, save people, and transform people.

“So many people come to church with a genuine desire to hear what we have to say,” Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote of himself and his fellow-preachers, “yet they are always going back home with the uncomfortable feeling that we are making it too difficult for them to come to Jesus.”

Religion hasn’t killed what Jesus started. When we cut through the forms and failings of church history and look past our own bungling, Jesus is still there.

[Published online on July 18, 2015 at http://www.gracecentered.com/jesus-survive-religions-failures.htm%5D

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All Human Beings Worship Someone or Something

By Curtis K. Shelburne

Copyrighted on Jan. 16, 20014

 Human beings are inherently religious. We will worship someone or something.

 Of course, some folks claim to believe in no god. Truth be told, the deity they refuse to bow before and direct prayers to is rarely a god of the “to whom the universe may concern” generic variety; it’s almost always the Judeo-Christian “God.” 

 Not even the small capital “G” God of truly off-the-rails “left of left, touchy-feely” religion and aging flower children (denying that wispy cut-rate deity must be as satisfying as denying the existence of a cumulus cloud), the God most atheists deny is the large capital “G” God of Believers, Bible-lovers, Baptists and such. God with a holy name. God who is a Person and not an it. The God they can deny and feel like they’ve accomplished something. The God they can slap in the face and feel like they’ve hit Somebody.

 The God many atheists spend their lives resenting (so much that they let themselves be defined by a resentment of Someone they don’t think exists) is often the God of their parents, or their childhood church, or some other group they think has been overly strict with them, potty-trained them poorly, or otherwise ticked them off. Atheism is payback.

 The God they deny is the God whose standards and rules are as real as the law of gravity, but gravity is confining, and they’ve decided to shake it off. Never mind that ignoring gravity on a globe governed by it is uphill business fraught with bumps and bruises.

 Most atheists are unable to espouse disbelief as quietly, as, say, a person who doesn’t believe in collard greens as food. No matter how sincere he is in his conviction that collard greens are a weed and not a food, he feels no particular need to found an Anti-Collard Green Society or take out a sanctimonious ad in the paper; he just doesn’t eat them, and, if you do, he may look down his nose at you, but it’s no skin off his snout.

 Atheists tend to be testy about disbelief. Agnosticism, a more honorable position I think, may partake of these self-righteous qualities, but is often less militant. In our culture, atheism is often an “in your face,” “up yours,” full-blown religion. Agnosticism is a question; atheism is a statement that seems to require, at the least, a raised eyebrow, a gaze down the nose, a snooty sort of disbelief. 

 But gods we will have, even if we toss out God. The psalmists made unmerciful fun of folks who carved statues carefully so they wouldn’t topple over, then put them on stands and worshiped them. But the god-makers the psalmists lampooned had more sense than modern pagans in business suits who worship only themselves and their 401k’s.

 A few decades ago liberals made fun of conservatives who worshiped a God with rules; now many of the same liberals worship rules with no God. They tack up many more commandments than ten. Lacking belief in an afterlife, they center on constricting this one, all in the name of salvation; it’s just that “salvation” is mostly about saving your body (no trans fat and no cigars ever, and don’t even think about taking a Coke can into a school cafeteria) or saving the earth (you never met a Bible thumper more self-righteous or blindly believing than a devout environmentalist so green his brain has molded).

 Human beings will worship someone or something. We may be sure of that. So . . . who or what will we worship? That’s the question.

[Copyright 2014 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.Visit his web site: http://www.curtisshelburne.com ]

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Bad Religion

by Rubel Shelly

The bulk of the finest people I have ever known are devoutly religious. But some of the meanest people I’ve ever known are also among the most religious people I’ve ever encountered. I struggled for a long time to figure it out.

For example, one lady I grew to fear and avoid could quote more Scripture than just about anybody in our church. Little kids had better not touch her, though, or she would screech at them and make them cry. Her husband was a cowering little fellow who hardly ever spoke. I never wondered why.

A preacher whom I recall very distinctly had a withering wit that he turned on people to mimic, mock, or otherwise humiliate them. As I think back on it, the worst thing about that memory is that I sometimes laughed as he did it.

If you think I’m making it up that truly devout religious people can be mean-spirited and evil, just read the online comments made to stories in the New York Times or your local newspaper that speak positively about evolution or homosexuality. The invective is too harsh to reproduce here. Some of the comments even use profanity, assign the “godless evolutionist” to hell, or tell the “shameless perverts” that God will damn them at the Final Judgment.

I’ve read a few of those pieces that made me think the writer would kill somebody if he thought he could do it without getting caught. So is it his religion or his fear of the police that keeps him from doing something evil?

Nobody ever read one of those postings and thought the harsh language and judgment it contained helped them see Jesus. Understand his mission to the lost. Want to be his follower. Or give her a positive impression of his people.

So I think I’ve figured out the mystery: Religion can lead people to do hateful and wicked things to people, but loving and following Jesus never does.

Aren’t “religion” and “following Jesus” one and the same thing? Hardly! Religion is the system of beliefs and institutional loyalties one embraces, while following Jesus is the conscious imitation of the person one learns about in the Gospels. And the only people Jesus ever called names or declared in danger of hell were the most religious people of his time and place. They prayed, made pilgrimages, gave money, worshipped with pious looks on their faces, and quoted Scripture. They had no clue about the loving, compassionate nature of God.

Defending a pattern or system, proving my church is better than yours, or trumping my argument with your counter-argument breeds defensiveness. Makes tempers flare. Alienates friends. Starts wars. Makes people nasty. Breaks God’s heart. Following Jesus produces humility and keeps you from being mean.

Jesus never called us to be religious. He said, “Follow me.”

[Dr. Rubel Shelly is the chancellor of Rochester College in Rochester Hills, Michigan. He writes a weekly online devotional called, “Good News: The Fax of Life” This essay was published  for the Week of September 29, 2014. A collection of his essays and sermons may be found at:  http://www.rubelshelly.com/default.asp ]

 

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Flowers -- Lavender fields in France - copyrighted by Antony Spencer - aka 'Erasmus T'

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“I’d Like To Try Being Spiritual But Not Religious”

By Curtis K. Shelburne

I’ve thought about it, and I’m pretty sure I’d like to join the cool crowd, the growing numbers of folks in our society who are button-bustin’ proud of being “spiritual but not religious.”

A good friend who reads a lot and, consequently, thinks a lot, pointed me to an interesting book the other day. Written by Lillian Daniel, the book is entitled, When “Spiritual but Not Religious” Is Not Enough: Seeing God in Surprising Places, Even the Church.

 It’s strange, she says, that folks who are so “spiritual” they can hardly stand themselves, but proud as punch of never darkening the door of a church, nowadays feel such a burning need to “witness” to out-dated religious folks, particularly ministers, about the weaknesses of church and organized religion.

 Daniels says she’s never felt a particular need to educate every teacher she meets with the knowledge that she’s always hated math, or to inform cooks in her presence that she can’t cook, or to tell clowns she runs across that she’s always thought clowns were scary. But, for some reason, folks lock-stepping along to the popular “spiritual but not religious” tune feel a need to evangelize or poke the unenlightened old-fashioned.

 Well, except that I’d be unemployed, I might like to try joining the “spiritual but not religious” folks. I’ve long wondered if I was religious enough to be a preacher anyway. And I think I could be as practically “spiritual” as any of the popular crowd.

 I like birdies and sunsets. I like lakes and rivers (even more since ours here are all drying up.) I’m particularly fond of mountains and snow and sliding around in snow on sticks. If you want to find me looking “spiritual” and know it’s what passes for the real deal and not just intestinal gas, catch me on top of a mountain in the snow.

 I’m sure I’d like sleeping in a good bit more on Sunday mornings than I get to, which is, sadly, almost never.

 I’m certain I’d like not giving tithes and offerings. I’d be willing to try mentally assenting that all blessings come from God but never being thankful in a way that involved much painful check-writing.

 But I think I’d miss a lot.

I’d miss joining my heart and voice and prayers with others so that faith becomes a river and not just a dried up trickle.

 I’d miss being encouraged alongside others of the centrality of Christ and his cross and what his people have always held most deeply meaningful and true and dear. 

 I’d miss being a genuine part of a fellowship of folks who love me and mine as family and laugh with me, cry with me, live in hope with me.

 I’d miss being part of something bigger than me and the flavor or style I happen to like best at this moment. I’d miss the opportunity to follow a crucified Lord by at times crucifying my own desires so that others in his body might be blessed.

 I’d miss being a real part of a group called to follow an unchanging Lord and his will rather than being led around the nose by society’s latest always-changing opinion polls.

 I’d like to try being spiritual but not religious. I just have a really bad feeling that, the more folks who try it, the more we all lose. Come to think of it, it’s being religious and not just spiritual that forces me to believe a genuinely inconvenient truth: I need to care about how my decisions affect others and not just me.

[ Copyright 2013 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice. Visit his website at http://www.curtisshelburne.com ]

 

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No Mexican Jews?

Author Unknown

 

Two old Jewish men, Irv and Abe, are sitting in a Mexican restaurant one day. Irv asks Abe, “Do you know if any people of our ancestry were ever born and raised in Mexico?”

Abe replies, “I don’t know, let’s ask our waiter.” 

When the waiter arrives, Abe asks, “Are there any Mexican Jews?”

The waiter says, “I don’t know senor, I ask the cooks.” He returns from the kitchen after a few minutes and says, “No senor, the cook say no Mexican Jews.”

Abe isn’t satisfied and asks, “Are you absolutely sure?” The waiter, realizing he is dealing with “Gringos” replies, 

“I check once again, senor,” and goes back into the kitchen. While the waiter is away, Irv says, “I find it hard to believe that there are no Jews in Mexico. Our people are scattered everywhere.”

The waiter returns and says, “Senor, the head cook, Manuel, he say there is no Mexican Jews.”

“Are you certain?” Abe asks again. “I just can’t believe there are no Mexican Jews!”

“Senor, I ask EVERYONE,” replies the exasperated waiter.  “All we have is Orange Jews, Grape Jews, Prune Jews, Tomato Jews and Apple Jews, but no Mexican Jews.”

[From Johnnie Benson Ward (Bakersfield, Calif.) on Feb. 14, 2015]

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Bible Study - kids - FAMILY CIRCUS CARTOON  2015

[The copyrighted cartoon, above, is used for educational purposes, only.]

Bible Interpretation--Jesus--Listen up

Reading the Bible in Churches of Christ

 By Patrick A. Mead

 In the churches of my youth the Bible was read several times during each worship period. A passage would be read before communion (usually First Corinthians 11:23ff or a portion of Isaiah 53), another before the sermon (usually a few verses that were part of the text being used by the minister), and during Bible class where we used the text as you would a “Wordsearch” puzzle, finding answers to fill in blanks in our class workbooks.

Scripture was considered holy and perfect. It was a rule book and quite a complex rule book at that, full of hidden laws, man traps, and gotchas for those not schooled properly in how to “rightly divide the Word.” We were certain we had found the proper method of interpreting it and most of us made it through high school with a dozen or so passages etched in our minds – proof texts to keep us on the straight and narrow. All of this was done by well meaning, honest, good hearted people who devoted their lives to serving Jesus the best way they knew how and I will owe them the rest of my life.

But…there were problems, problems we never talked about and were never encouraged to ask about. For me, it all started with lasciviousness and the Moabites. But I’m getting ahead of my story…

We were told that the Bible was dictated by the Holy Spirit, word for word, to holy men who wrote it down just as they were told and then other holy people preserved those words perfectly, exactly for us in our Bibles. One illustration on how God dictated every single word – told to us by more than one preacher – was the story of Balaam and his donkey. The donkey, when beaten by Balaam, turned to the prophet and told him that there is an angel blocking the path. Balaam doesn’t seem to be surprised that his donkey is speaking to him but that isn‘t the point. The preachers told us that God made the donkey talk and gave him the very words he was to speak. “He didn’t just tell the donkey to talk to Balaam and put it in his own words” they said and we all laughed.

The problem came later when some of us read the parts of the Bible we never read in church or Bible class and when others of us studied how the Bible came to be written and then gathered in the first place. While those two items alone were enough to knock us silly and cause us to question what we’d been taught (and which may be why we lose so many of our teens once they leave the nest) we can’t fully explore either of them here. Allow me to give a few illustrations of the problem and a possible solution and then allow you and the Spirit of God to take it from there.

Remember I said that it started with lasciviousness? We were told that God condemned it but we’d never heard the word before. It’s a great word, a wonderful old King James word and we were told it was why we weren’t allowed to dance or go to our prom (even if we refrained from dancing and “just watched”). Tracts – small booklets available in racks in our foyer – told us about the dangers of dancing and each made the point that the word “lasciviousness” meant dancing and since God condemned it, we shouldn’t even want to dance.

When I was 13, I overheard some older teens doubt this wisdom from the elders and I was offended at their questioning of the faith. My father had an extensive library (I’d read over half of it by then. It was a requirement in our family) so I spent a day going through Greek and Hebrew lexicons, thesauruses, and commentaries…and was devastated at what I found. It became plain that one could dance in a lascivious manner but the word most certainly did NOT mean “dance” and, in fact, most dances in the Bible were in honor of God and He didn’t care for anyone who disapproved of them. If I was being lied to about THIS…what else was I being told that wasn’t true? I tried to ask a question about this twice and the fierce reaction I received from my father and, later, a Bible class teacher taught me to never ask questions again.

After spending time in agnosticism, I came back to God because of the intricacies in the human brain (I eventually became a psychotherapist and neuroscientist). I wanted to be a deist but I just wasn’t sure if that was a safe option… So I did something I had never done before: I read the Bible and paid attention. I wasn’t looking for rules or patterns or ways to prove other religions wrong. I just wanted to read it and see what it said.

And here’s the thing: I wasn’t alone. I have since found a very large number of Church of Christ members have been doing the same, many of them for much longer than I. Fact is, I was a bit late to the party.

As a church without a bureaucracy, we can change our direction much faster than other religious tribes. And when the younger generation came up and took its place as leaders, it brought with it an honest look at some scriptures we had never dealt with before (or swept aside with a “things were different back then. Just trust God. He must have had His reasons”). It wasn’t just the young preachers passing on a different way of viewing scripture: we had Cecil Hook, Leroy Garrett, Carl Ketcherside and many others who’d been cast out of fellowship by most of our churches but who kept writing and living lives of faith and love. We read their stuff and it changed everything. At least it did for me.

That’s why I wanted to mention the Moabites. They are merely one of a couple dozen examples I could bring up but since this is a blog and not a book…

If you carefully read the Old Testament you would be excused for being confused about God’s view of Moabites. In Deuteronomy 23:3-6 they (and the Ammonites) are expressly barred from the assembly of God. They are unsaveable and unconvertible – even to the tenth generation. If you had a single Moabite ancestor even nine generations back, you were forbidden from coming into the assembly or worshiping with the Jews. This wasn’t a temporary rule – it is recalled and enforced in Ezra 9, Nehemiah 13 and elsewhere.

God goes after the Moabites again in Isaiah 15-16, Jeremiah 48-49:6, Ezekiel 21 and 25, and Zephaniah 2:8,9.

But then we have the Book of Ruth. And she was a Moabite woman who was not only loved and protected by a Jewish man, he married her and she became the king’s grandmother and a grandmother of Jesus. Whaaa?

We have God telling the Hebrews to kill everyone in Jericho but they save a prostitute (I am interested in how they ended up at her house but that’s beside the point) who lied to protect them. Later, she married a Jew and she, too, enters the line of Jesus. Seriously? That seems to go against a lot of Deuteronomy and Leviticus…

Then we see Jonah. It isn’t about the fish/whale – it’s about God’s love for people that a lot of His followers hated. They were convinced God wanted the Ninevites and all other foreigners dead or banished. Instead, God sends them a prophet and forgives then when they repent, changing the decree He had made against them earlier.

It seems that God’s dislike/hatred of Moabites was overstated. At a minimum. And that changes the way we read scripture.

Skip to the New Testament and you find Paul saying a couple of things to the church in Corinth and Ephesus that people use to overrule other things he says about women in leadership and teaching. People ignore his conversational remarks and lists of workers, teachers, and leaders and go for what looks like rules and I understand their motivation; that was the way I was told to read scripture, too.

So how do we deal with the fact that Philip’s four daughters preached alongside him or that Junia was an apostle or that Phoebe is the only person in scripture expressly titled a deacon?

I haven’t figured it all out yet but I find one story very helpful: The Trans-figuration. Jesus is praying when Elijah and Moses show up. The apostles are overjoyed – this is their entire Marvel Comic universe showing up, their pantheon of heroes, their fearless leaders! They want to build altars to them but God’s voice thunders and indicates Jesus, NOT the representatives of the law and the prophets. “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.”

I – and a great many in the churches of Christ along with countless others in other religious traditions – now see the Bible as a narrative, not a rulebook. It is our story that points us to Jesus. When I get confused by Deuteronomy or Joshua or Paul or James I remember: go back and listen to Jesus. Hear him.

My path out of deism and into faith in Jesus had many steps but none so important as my decision to read the Gospels over and over for six months. It was easier back then to maintain an electronic-free room but I believe it is still worth the effort to do so. Go in there and read the story of Jesus again and again. Get to know his voice. As Hebrews 1 says, Jesus is what God looks like, sounds like, IS like.

The Bible is a finger pointing to Jesus. I love the Bible but I love Whom it points to even more.We are, after all, the Church of Christ – not the church of those other guys.

[November 17, 2014; from Re-examining How We Read the Bible; found at: http://wineskins.org/2014/11/17/reading-the-bible-in-churches-of-christ/    Dr. Patrick Mead preaches for the Fourth Street Church of Christ in Franklin, Tenn. A scientist by education, he holds doctorates in psychology and psychoneuroimmunology. Patrick he comes to faith by a different path and looks at scripture with a different lens than that used by most ministers. Remaining active in his field, he works with various police agencies as well as federal and international law enforcement agencies as a trainer in ethics, leadership, and avoiding burnout or PTSD. He helps several churches a year restructure their leadership, vision, and programs to better match the world in which they find themselves.]

2015  --  Christian Appeal magazine -- Part 1

To call them “The Legendary Shelburne Brothers” may sound like I’m introducing a country music band or referring to a family in the Texas Mafia. Nope. They are, in fact, highly respected ministers — B. Shelburne, Gene Shelburne, Jim Shelburne and the relative baby of the bunch, Curtis Shelburne. They are the sons of the late preacher and educator, G.B. Shelburne, Jr. I was quite fortunate to have G.B. as my Bible teacher at the Amarillo Bible Training Work over 50 years ago.

Anyway, these four have distinguished themselves in many ways and over the years their respective ministries have blessed thousands of folks around the world. Two of these men, Gene and Curtis, are particularly gifted speakers and writers. And the religious journal shown above, THE CHRISTIAN JOURNAL, is their publication. These two gentlemen, like their esteemed father, work in a very conservative wing of their denomination. Yet they have been steady voices advocating (1) the appreciation of what other belivers in other groups are doing for Christ;  (2) the need to expand our vision of who is a Christian; and (3) the command of Christ that his followers walk in unity.

So I highly recommend that you write to the address below and request your own FREE SUBSCRIPTION. Or as they say in Texas: “It don’t cost nuttin’; it’s plum freeee-ah.” Okay, okay. I exaggerated that accent just a week bit. But it really is free because other people who believe in that ministry provide support for it. Try it, you’ll like it. 

2015  --  Christian Appeal magazine -- Part 3

Oh, hey, also check out the magazine’s new and improved web site at:  http://christianappeal.com .

2015  --  Christian Appeal magazine -- Part 2

2015--03   The Christian Appeal -- Page 2

2015--01--16   Islamic reformer, lashed  -- torrorism, Saudi Arabia

One of the most thoughtful, insightful, influential and loving men I have ever known has stopped writing articles for the first time in some 76 years. Dr. Leroy Garrett, a retired university philosophy professor, is now 96 years of age and his body has just about wore complelely out. I first discovered Dr. Garrett’s soul-companion, W. Carl Ketcherside, and his “MISSION MESSENGER” magazine in 1963 as a ministerial student at Lipscomb University in Nashville. He was an outspoken advocate of Christian unity. I began to correspond with him and, then, discovered a similarly focused magazine, RESTORATION REVIEW, published by Dr. Leroy Garrett. Those two men were God’s instruments to liberate this wet-behind-the-ears, narrow-minded kid from the idea that folks in our little religious group were right and anyone who didn’t agree with us was not only wrong but on a greased slide right to hell. Yikes! Sad, but true. Anyway, I have loved those two men since that time. Carl died decades ago, and Leroy cannot be far behind. 

A mutual friend, Edward Fudge, broke the news about Leroy’s retirement from publishing this way in his email on June 17, 2015:

“LEROY GARRETT SAYS GOODBYE — After many decades of consistent written ministry, Leroy Garrett has said his last goodbye and laid down the pen. The old warrior and iconoclast for Christ, 96, mentor to many of us who came after him, announced in his bulletin for last Friday that fatigue due to “old age” required him to call his bulletin two weeks ago his last.

“‘My fatigue is often so bad that I can hardly get to my bed,’ he wrote, ‘and I feel like I must be dying. If that be the case, so be it. Our time is in His hands, the Psalmist assures us. Among my 485 essays is one on ‘the Abolition of Death,’ one of my favorites and which is a testimony of my faith. ‘I do not like goodbyes,’ Garrett wrote, ‘but I do like farewells, a meaningful felicitude. May you fare well, right into God’s tomorrow.’ Garrett said that he saved his last sentence ‘for the one that matters most: God loves you and I love you.’

Dr. Bob Lewis has put practically all Garrett’s writings online–the menu is found at http://www.leroygarrett.org

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Here is another interesting tidbit, dated June 10th, from Edward Fudge:

“A PLACE IN HISTORY — Finding their Voices: Sermons by Women in the Churches of Christ, edited by D’Esta Love (ACU Press, 2015), 254 pages. This new book not only relates history, it also makes history, preserving sermons of 29 women from Churches of Christ, a new notion during the past 100+ years among this fellowship, although its earliest days saw more than one woman evangelist on the American frontier.

“The editor was Pepperdine University’s first chaplain, and I applaud Pepperdine for leading the way in that regard. A more personal point of interest to me is that four of the 29 women who speak for God here had direct connections with Bering Drive Church of Christ in Houston, my church family now for 33 years, one of whom is my daughter. I can speak with personal experience from the inside, therefore, in saying that the motivation and rationale for welcoming the word of God from our sisters can be (and for many of us, is) based on long, thorough and prayerful study of scripture. (Perhaps more on that later.) That led us in turn to welcome preaching and teaching based on divine giftedness and not on gender.

“Read these sermons and hear–not just women speaking–but women speaking messages from God, given (as always) to build up bind up, and stir up his sons and daughters alike. To order, go to http://www.acupressbooks.com/ “

Logo  -- Stan's Footnotes from Florida  --  01

We are on our way to becoming a light on a hill here in Bradenton. Okay, that is an insider’s joke because we have no hills here or anywhere in Manatee County. Apparently our County Commissioners never saw a development they didn’t adore. They admit our city street capacity is at least ten years behind the population growth, and the best advice our Transportation Director has is “You better get used to it.” 

While we are not a light on the hill, we may be headed toward underwater lighting. Here’s the deal. A nurseryman-turned-developer is asking approval to convert his 1,300 acres of farm land in . . . the flood plain . . . of southwest Bradenton to a “mixed use community” featuring 6,500 residential units . . . and 1 million square feet of retail space . . . and 2 million square feet of commercial space (which includes the building two hotels with about 250 rooms each). 

I don’t get it on several levels. First, I don’t get in on the sea level. There is precious little “high ground” (i.e., not within flood level) in the Bradenton. We had no clue about elevations when we bought here two years ago, but our community is not within any designated flood zone. That was simply blind, dumb luck on our part. Very few areas in Manatee County are so fortunate.  Most other areas are in danger zones for potential flooding, to one degree or another. We have been here for two years and I have watched with amazement as developers have built homes and businesses on low ground. Amazing.

I also don’t get why County Commissions don’t blow the whistle on development/growth until street, water, sewer and electrical infrastructures catch up. Actually, I suspect the answer is pretty simple: more tax revenue from new homes and businesses, plus the glory of running a hot-growth county. If they would restrict growth for two or three years, and then force the developers to pay for the installation of all such future infrastructure, then it would be headed toward commonsense growth. Right now it is as crazy and wild as living in California during the 1849 gold strike. It’s nuts.

Alzheimer's Disease and Senior Sexuality -- Philadelphia Inquirer -- 2015

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And, as the rumpled police detective Columbo often said, . . . “Just one more thing.”

I also edit and publish a new web site called STORYTELLING DIGEST.COM  (http://www.storytellingdigest.com). This last week I’m been tweeking it quite a bit, dealing with some technical issues. I think I’ve got that under control. Please take a look at it. If you would like to contribute a storytelling short article, a storytelling photo or poem or video, please read the “Submissions” page and send a couple of things to me at the email address you’ll find there.

Thanks, friends, for stopping by my little virtual living room. Come back, again.

End.