Is Our Christmas Celebration “Up to Snuff?”

It’s not uncommon to wonder whether an advertiser’s claims about a product can really be trusted. In a discussion about whether a product was likely to be as effective as the advertisers claimed, I had made a comment that went something like, “Well, it sounds good, but you won’t know until you try it yourself whether it’s going to perform up to snuff.” The comment came to mind again recently, and it occurred to me that I’ve used that expression at various points for as long as I can remember and never once questioned why I would choose such a phrase or what it really meant. I had heard about “snuff,” of course, but I never tried it myself. On the subject of snuff, I was woefully Continue reading

Posted in Christmas, Devotional, Faith, Family, and Culture, Forgiveness, Insights, Right Side Up, Wake Up Calls | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

When Your Firecracker Fizzles . . .

As we left church, someone in our group remarked, “Wow… that was powerful.” The assessment was met almost immediately with affirmative nods and a chorus of verbal “amens.” That kind of response after a worship service is not unusual, and similar comments are doubtlessly replicated from time to time in some form wherever groups of Christians gather. People who experience a significant internal reaction to something they have seen or heard tend to share their reaction with others, especially if it felt unusually compelling and touched them on an emotional and/or spiritual level, so a comment like the one above is not unusual.

The word “powerful” is, well… “powerful,” or at least it purports itself to be. Whether it’s used to report a reaction to an event or to predict the impact of an upcoming one, it conveys the image of something outside the normal range. We hear the word used around church gatherings a lot, but rarely does anyone Continue reading

Posted in Devotional, Faith, Family, and Culture, Insights, Right Side Up, Wake Up Calls | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Christmas ~ If It Ain’t Broke …

It’s that time of year again when it seems like everyone is wishing for something. Personally, I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve watched a repeat of some cheesy, predictable movie scene. For instance, there’s the one in so many Christmas movies where one of the lead characters became Christmas-avoidant and Grinch-like because of something awful that happened on Christmas Eve. Maybe he hates Christmas because in the midst of proposing to the love of his life on Christmas Eve, a rabid skunk leaped out of the shrubbery and sprayed her, causing her to Continue reading

Posted in Christmas, Devotional, Faith, Family, and Culture, Insights, Right Side Up, Wake Up Calls | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The “Heart” of Thanksgiving

It’s time to join the millions of Americans engaging in another annual reflection on things we’re thankful for, and this year I find myself feeling grateful for things I haven’t thought about before. That’s not to say that I am ignoring the usual categories of benefits, blessings, and privileges, but sometimes, focusing on the things that are comfortably familiar can rob us of Continue reading

Posted in Devotional, Faith, Family, and Culture, Insights, Right Side Up, Thanksgiving | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

A Thanksgiving Primer ~ Dancing in the Hard Times

As we approach the Thanksgiving season, I’ve been going through some medical challenges recently that have reminded me that there’s an extensive list of things that I’ve taken for granted and never thanked God for because they seemed insignificant and ordinary. For instance, last night my sweet wife, who has doubled lately as my wonderful nurse and caretaker, leaned over and kissed me goodnight. It occurred to me that one the many things I’ve never really thanked God for is that He not only gave us lips, but He also gave us the capacity to pucker. If we couldn’t pucker, the whole kissing thing would be Continue reading

Posted in Devotional, Faith, Family, and Culture, Insights, Right Side Up, Thanksgiving | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

Your Vote ~ The “Amen” That Really Matters

I was sitting in a Baptist church–not a place I was accustomed to be at that point, to say the least. I was a new follower of Jesus, but my moment of surrender and commitment to Him didn’t take place in the context of a church service, and it was largely unfamiliar territory to me. It wasn’t my first visit to a Baptist church, but it was the first time that I felt like I was somehow a part of who they were and what they did. It was a great feeling, and I relished in the sense of connectedness to these people sitting all around me. Then, someone leading a prayer closed it out by declaring, “And all God’s people said…” and just left it. I thought, “OK, I’m one of ‘God’s people’ now, and apparently all of us have something we’re supposed to say, but I have no idea what it is.” In that brief moment I felt left out somehow, because I desperately wanted to be included, and to say whatever it was “all God’s people” were supposed to say. My dilemma was short-lived, of course, because the answer reverberated around the room pretty quickly as a loud chorus of “Amen” filled the room.

A Wonderful Church Word ~
In spite of my minimal exposure to church in my early years, “amen” was a word I recognized. I learned about “amen” during those awful hours trapped on torturous wooden seats between adults who seemed to derive some strange pleasure from inflicting pain on helpless kids. I discovered that just when the inescapable barrage of other church words being hurled at us was about to squeeze the last gasp of air right out of my lungs and alert the death angel to Continue reading

Posted in Faith and Politics, Faith, Family, and Culture, In the News, Insights, Right Side Up, Wake Up Calls | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments