By Cheri Cowell
Have you ever spent time with someone who finds fault with everything and everyone? These people drain us. It’s easy if we just chime in, but tiring if we’re working hard not to join them. While walking by someone dressed inappropriately a negative comment slips, then the conversation quickly turns to the loose morals of society and how our mother never would have let us out of the house dressed that way. How easily we use our superior yardstick to judge others.
In Jesus’ day, the religious leaders were the keepers of the moral codes, and thus arbiters of who was acceptable to God. If anyone had studied the codes they would have discovered no one followed them and thus no one deserved acceptance. In order to cover this weakness, the elite created more difficult-to-track rules. Following rules—and pointing fingers when they were broken—consumed them.
Jesus came along and said, “I am setting up a new kingdom with a new way.” He knew we couldn’t keep all the rules, and that keeping rules was not the point. He wanted us to simply love others as we have been loved, and to give grace as we’ve been given grace. That doesn’t leave us much room for pointing fingers, does it?
By Ed Crumley
In the early years of my life, at least the ones I can remember, I wanted the same three things every Christmas: a horn, a drum, and a gun. Not sure why. We were in the midst of World War II, so at least the gun could’ve had something to do with the war. Maybe I wanted the musical instruments to make my war games sound more dramatic. Or, perhaps I could blame Roy Rogers, our musical cowboy hero, who always got the bad guys with his nickel-plated revolvers blazing.
During those times you couldn’t buy many toys, so Dad made Christmas presents for us. He got out his tools and built things out of wood. Big things like a rocking boat or a rocking horse complete with mane, bridal, and saddle. Those were fine secondary gifts as long as the three required items mentioned above also came in Santa’s bag.
In later years, our Christmas present requests migrated more toward clothes. My brother and I both had to have SMU football jerseys with the number 37, the number of our local hero, Doak Walker. I don’t know why Ken couldn’t have had some lesser player’s number instead. In junior high, my gift request reflected fashion. There was a cool kid at school who was the original Fonz. I had to have the same jacket and scarf that he wore. Funny, but when I put them on, I didn’t look like The Fonz.
By Don Otis
The days are short and cold. Is it any surprise that our motivation to get outside diminishes as the temperatures plummet? Only the hardiest of us wants to venture out after dark. The slick paths can lead to injury as footing and visibility become less predictable. The temptation is to sit inside, watch television, or make cookies. While there is nothing intrinsically wrong with these seasonal pursuits, they don’t help us stay in shape. The winter months can create other challenges to those of us who want to stay in shape.
A year ago I was feeling enormous fatigue. This led to one stale workout after another. At first I simply dismissed the poor results as age-related, or altitude (I live above 5,000 feet), or possibly too much stress. It is probable that each of these contributed to my malaise but I wasn’t sure. My doctor ordered a treadmill test, electrocardiogram (EKG), cardiopulmonary diagnostic test, and eventually some blood work. Other than discovering that I had a slight heart murmur, nothing explained my tiredness. Finally, I received a call after my blood work was in. My vitamin D levels were seriously low.
By Rhonda Rhea
I opened the door to the microwave to reheat my coffee a few mornings ago, and then realized I just didn’t want to put it in there. Ew. Before the coffee was going in, somebody was going to have to clean out that microwave. It looked like someone had a tiny little ticker tape parade. So much food-confetti, so little space. Worst of all, there were a couple of spaghetti sauce stalactites in there. I like my coffee with lots of sweetener and plenty of creamer. But call me picky, I like it completely without spaghetti sauce drippings. And speaking of “picky,” I thought I might actually need a pickaxe to get to the root of some of those stalactites. Do they make a microwave cleaner that has dynamite as its main component?
Life can be a little like my microwave. Anytime I’m wondering why it doesn’t taste as sweet, I really have to look at what I might be hanging onto, stalactite-style. Hanging onto self-centeredness, bitterness, laziness—any of those kinds of things—will zap the deliciousness right out of life.
By Peter Lundell
Jesus would have had a great time with this one: a website offers to have a computer with text-to-speech capability say your prayers for you, so you don’t have to. They “voice each prayer at a volume and speed equivalent to a typical person praying. Each prayer is voiced individually, with the name of the subscriber displayed on screen.” You may choose from Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, or Unaffiliated prayers. For Muslim prayers they even face the speakers toward Mecca. Isn’t that thoughtful?
Don’t laugh; these guys are serious—about making money at least. I clicked on “Protestant” and found I could have a computer say the Lord’s Prayer for me each day for only $3.95 a month. Or I could choose prayers for peace, health, financial help, my children, or get a package deal. Catholics pay 7 cents for each Hail Mary. That adds up, you know.