You’re Only Old Once

YOure only Old OnceTheodor Geisel—better known as Dr. Seuss—published You’re Only Old Once! in honor of his 82nd birthday on March 2, 1986. It was one of the last books he wrote before his death in 1991.

The subtitle of the book reads: A Book for Obsolete Children. It is a poignant yet humorous examination of aging. The book’s dust jacket asks:

Is this a children’s book? Well . . . not immediately.

You buy a copy for your child now and give it to him on his 70th birthday!

Children of ALL ages will enjoy the book. It provokes both laughter and tears. While turning the pages, Dr. Seuss teaches us some important lessons about growing older.

I will let you define when “old” occurs. Like those warnings on car mirrors, however, it’s closer than it appears! One person told me, “I knew I was going to get old—I just didn’t realize it happened so young!” Inside every old person is a young person wondering what happened!

I’m not sure who first said it, but growing older is NOT for sissies! However, we believe that our Lord is with us in every age and stage of life. Too often we look forward to the future or reminisce about the past rather than living for God in the present. The only time we can serve God is TODAY.

The Bible also challenges older adults to continue a life of fidelity and service. There is no earthly retirement plan for Christians. But the benefits are out of this world!

Psalm 92 declares:

They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming,

‘The Lord is upright; he is my Rock, and there is not wickedness in him.’

I like another version of this Psalm that says the mature person of God is ever full of sap and green! An older man or woman of God is green and sappy—not a bad combination!

We are called to serve God in every age and stage of life. We honor those who are older than us for their wisdom and example. As pioneers of faith, they blaze the path into a future. In turn, we are pioneers for others.

You’re only old once—make the most of it while you can.

 

All In, Part 2

All In 1Our January worship series at Northside United Methodist Church is entitled All In! We are exploring what it means to love God with ALL of our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:28-31).

Consider these questions: What would our lives, families, church, and community look like if we went All In for God? What changes would we have to make in our lives? What would we need to start doing? What would we need to stop doing?

John Wesley believed that God raised up the people called Methodists to spread scriptural holiness throughout the land. He emphasized the call to Christian perfection in each disciple’s life.

To this day, United Methodist clergy are asked the following questions at ordination:

  • Have you faith in Christ?
  • Are you going on to perfection?
  • Do you expect to be made perfect in love in this life?
  • Are you earnestly striving after it?
  • Are you resolved to devote yourself wholly to God and his work?

After thirty-five years of ministry, I must confess my commitment to these standards varies on a regular basis. On my best days, I come close to approximating an affirmative response to Wesley’s questions. On my worst days, I fail abysmally.

I appreciate the apostle John’s words which reflect both the goal and reality of Christian discipleship. He begins by writing: My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. Then the prophet turns pastor as he continues: But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ the Righteous One (1 John 2:1-2).

The goal is to become perfect in loving God and others. The reality is our daily lives. However, the latter never excuses us from pursuing the former with our entire being.

After asking if ordinands were going on to perfection, Bishop William Cannon would pause and add: If you’re not moving towards perfection, then which direction are you headed?

The Holy Spirit woos, calls, nags, and challenges us to go ALL IN for God.

All In, Part 1

All In 1Our January worship series at Northside United Methodist Church is entitled All In! We are exploring what it means to love God with ALL of our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:28-31).

I invite you to consider these questions: What would our lives, families, church, and community look like if we went All In for God? What changes would we have to make in our lives? What would we need to start doing? What would we need to stop doing?

One of the books I read in preparation for the series is entitled All In by Mark Batterson. Mark is the founding pastor of National Community Church in Washington, D. C. The multi-campus congregation reaches tens of thousands weekly at our nation’s capital.

Here are some quotes from All In that have continued to challenge me as a Christian and pastor:

  • When did we start believing that God wants to send us to safe places to do easy things?
  • Jesus didn’t die to keep us safe. He died to make us dangerous.
  • Faithfulness is not holding the fort. It’s storming the gates of hell.
  • The complete surrender of your life to the cause of Christ isn’t radical. It’s normal.
  • It’s time to quit living as if the purpose of life is to arrive safely at death.
  • It’s time to go all in and all out for the All in All!

In the coming weeks, we will explore what it means to go All In as we Know, Grow, and Go as God’s people. Join us at Northside each Sunday for Traditional Worship at 8:30 and 11:00 in the Sanctuary along with Contemporary Worship at 9:45 in the Faith and Arts Center.

Let’s go All In for Jesus Christ!

The Day after Christmas

Dec 26

Each year I share my one attempt at poetry entitled “The Day after Christmas.” It reminds us that Christmas is not only a day or a season but also a lifestyle. May we celebrate the good news of Christ coming into the world year-round. 

‘Twas the day after Christmas and all were asleep

The twenty-fifth had left them all tired and beat.

The stockings were slung carelessly on the floor

Stripped of their contents and of interest no more.

The children were exhausted, collapsed in their beds,

With visions of sleeping-in fixed in their heads.

And mama in her flannel and me with my mate,

Were in hopes that we too might get to sleep late.

When out in the front there arose such a racket

I sprang from my bed like a frightened jackrabbit.

I stubbed my big toe on the way to the door,

And set off the alarm system on the first floor.

The early sun’s light shone bright on the toys

Left in the front yard yesterday by my boys.

Then I saw a car splashing right through the muck,

A red, white and blue delivery truck.

My head was aching and my stomach felt ill,

As the postman delivered a hand full of bills!

The charges were listed in dollars and cents,

Payment would empty the United States’ mints.

Now, Visa! Now, Penney’s! Now, Macy’s and Rich’s!

On, Walmart! On, K-Mart! On Abercrombie and Fitch’s!

November and December we had a great ball,

Come January, we owe something to all.

I made my way through a maze of presents piled high,

Looked again at the bills and gave a great sigh.

Turkey bones roosted on the dining room table,

Yesterday we ate all we were able.

I tried to turn on the new espresso maker,

Complete with a digital, alarm clock waker.

My family stumbled slowly down the stairs

As cordial as a den of hibernating bears.

I bent down to pet our faithful dog, Carl,

But he snapped at my fingers and let out a snarl.

My wife dressed quite quickly and shouted to all,

“I’m going bargain hunting all day at the mall!”

The children slammed the door behind them as well,

Going to friends’ homes for Christmas show and tell.

And I collapsed in my brand new easy chair,

To see how my favorite football teams would fare.

I held a glass of Alka-Seltzer firmly in my fist

Regretting last night’s snack I should have missed.

During halftime I arose from the recliner,

My team was ahead and the world seemed much finer.

Wading through the wrapping paper piled knee high

Something on the mantle piece caught my eye.

Half hidden beneath discarded ribbons and bows:

The manger scene had been placed weeks ago.

Carefully clearing the bright paper away

I witnessed the reminder of that first Christmas day.

The Christ child rested in a bed simple and small

Sent by God into the world to save us all.

Nativity figures of that first silent night,

Made it quite clear what had been lost to sight.

“A Happy Christmas to all!” is because of God’s son,

On the day after, our Christmas has only begun.

  

Christmas Eve Worship

Northside United Methodist Church

2799 Northside Drive NW

Atlanta, Georgia 30305

www.northsideumc.org

11:00 a.m.       A Family Service of Candlelight & Carols                Sanctuary

2:00 p.m.         A Family Service of Candlelight & Carols                Sanctuary

4:00 p.m.         Contemporary Christmas Worship                           Faith/Arts Center

6:00 p.m.         A Service of Carols, Candles, & Communion           Sanctuary

8:30 p.m.         A Service of Carols, Candles, & Communion           Sanctuary

11:00 p.m.       A Service of Carols, Candles, & Communion           Sanctuary

Nativity Animals will be present from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. in The Wallace Garden. Children young and old are invited to visit.

Childcare for ages 6 weeks to pre-K will be available during the 11:00 a.m., 2:00 p.m., 4:00 p.m., and 6:00 p.m. services.

O, come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!

A Christmas “To Do” List

I’m a big believer in To Do lists. So during the Holy Days, I’m making my list and checking it twice. By Christmas Eve, I hope to check every To Do item Done. Here’s some things that will make my season merry and bright.

Eat and Drink

  • Egg nog (dusted with cinnamon and nutmeg)
  • Hot apple cider (stirred with a cinnamon stick)
  • Roasted pecans with butter and salt
  • Ritz crackers with peanut-butter dipped in chocolate

Don’t Eat and Drink

  • Fruit cake
  • Figgy pudding
  • Oyster dressing (my great-aunt considered this a holiday treat)
  • Haggis (non-holiday specific and rejected on general principle)

Watch

  • A Charlie Brown Christmas
  • A Christmas Story (“You’ll shoot your eye out!”)
  • Scrooged (Sue me—I like Bill Murray)
  • The Grinch Who Stole Christmas (Cartoon version—not the Jim Carrey abomination)

Turn It Up

  • Tender Tennessee Christmas by Amy Grant
  • I Need a Silent Night by Amy Grant (heck, listen to the entire holiday CD)
  • Carol of the Bells by Mannheim Steamroller
  • Christmas in Dixie by Alabama

Change the Station

  • Blue Christmas by Elvis
  • So This is Christmas by John Lennon
  • Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer by Elmo and Patsy
  • The Little Drummer Boy by Anyone

Listen to New Holiday Favorites

  • Wrapped in Red by Kelly Clarkston
  • The Christmas Can-Can by Straight No Chaser
  • Shake Up Christmas by Train

Deck the Halls

  • Christmas Tree adorned with ornaments from 32 years of marriage
  • Assorted wreathes on windows and doors
  • Garland on the mantles and banisters
  • Mangers scenes in my office displayed 24/7/365

Read

  • ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas by Clement Moore
  • The Gift of the Magi by O’Henry
  • Matthew 1:18-2:12
  • Luke 2:1-21

Sing

  • O, Come, All Ye Faithful
  • What Child is This
  • Holy Night
  • Joy to the World

Give

  • Presents to family, friends, and Sam the Yorkshire Terrier
  • The Murphy-Harpst Children’s Home
  • Salvation Army bell ringers
  • All of my heart, soul, mind, and strength

Christmas Carols

Christmas carolsDuring Advent, I am preaching a worship series entitled Christmas Carols. We are exploring the meaning of four hymns celebrating Christ’s birth.

Many songs associated with the holiday season actually have nothing to do with Christmas at all, including Jingle Bells, Deck the Halls, Sleigh Ride, Winter Wonderland, We Wish you a Merry Christmas, and Grandma Got Ran over by a Reindeer.

During sermon preparation, I actually found a web site entitled Top Ten Christmas Songs for Atheists.

Yeah, I’ll let you ponder the irony of the title for a moment.

CHRISTmas carols, on the other hand, focus on the birth of Jesus Christ.

So one day in the midst of sermon-writer’s-block, I asked myself the question, “Self, what is your favorite Christmas carol?” Then I flipped through a hymnal to make my selection.

After some internal debate, I finally chose What Child is This. William Dix published the lyrics in 1865. The verses express wonder and awe that the helpless babe of Bethlehem is also Christ the King. The hymn invites all of creation to worship the son of Mary.

Dix set the words to a 16th century English melody title Greensleeves.  The 87.87 meter tune with refrain musically reflects the call and response of the words. What child is this? This, this is Christ the King!

So . . .

What’s your favorite carol? And why?