Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ category

Longing for a Silent Night

December 15, 2017

by Dr. Steven J. Callis

I love to sing the carol, though I am uncertain as to the accuracy of the title.  Nothing about the night itself was holy; except that God chose that time to enter the world with the ultimate solution to the sin and degradation that had disrupted the peace it was created to enjoy.  He brought holy to the ordinary.  The real questionable word in the title is that first word: Silent.

First, Scripture tells us that the town of Bethlehem was filled to overflowing with people.  It was toe-to-heal traffic walking through the marketplace.  There were no vacancies to be found in any of the hotels.  Crowds of people scurrying here and there will make noise!

Add to that the reason they were there in the first place.  As we might imagine, many people were disgruntled at the necessity of travel and a government-mandated enrollment.  Rome was the political center of the world at that time, and the ‘census’ was ordered, in part, to force universal allegiance to Emperor Augustus.  People traveled long distances to fulfill this decree; a pleasure trip it was not.

Mary and Joseph found a resting place in a dwelling meant for animals.  Animals are sometimes noisy, and often smelly.  This certainly was not the ideal atmosphere for bringing a baby into the world.  Further, most of our Christmas hymns highlight the role of the angels announcing the birth of the Christ; at one point, a multitude of angels, singing loud and strong in grand celebration.

No, God probably did not enter the world on a silent night.  In fact, it makes more sense that the One bringing peace to the world would do so at a time when peace was absent.  He came to a world in need of something it could not find or produce on its own.

People who are famous in the public eye have lived under the proverbial microscope for centuries, so it is nothing new.  With the significant and rapid development of our technological world, however, I cannot remember in my lifetime when nearly every action and every statement made by influential people – including those on both sides of the political aisle – is judged, criticized, and protested in a public, widespread forum.  Our society has become more selfish, spoiled, and vocal when they are not rewarded, which leads to a divided, restless, frustrated nation.  We are in a mess, and levels of tolerance are quickly diminishing.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow voiced our perplexity in the third stanza of his poem, I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day:  “And in despair I bowed my head.  ‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said, ‘for hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men.’ ”

But the next stanza rings out with hope, “Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: God is not dead, nor doth He sleep; the wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth, good will to men.”

No, our world is not silent.  It is still a dark place much of the time.  There is sadness, fear, pain, and loneliness.  Just as God’s pure love could shine brightly on that first Christmas night, so He continues to come into our darkness, bringing peace and joy for all people.  No matter who you are, or where you have been, or what you have done, God’s redeeming grace is available for you.  Jesus, our Savior, the Prince of Peace, is born.

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Things to Do while You Wait

December 11, 2017

by Dr. Steven J. Callis

WAIT! …So, how did you do?  Generally speaking, our society performs poorly when it comes to waiting.  During the summers of my college days, most of the correspondence with my girlfriend (the lady I eventually married!) was by written letter; addressed, stamped, and mailed via USPS.  By the time it reached her two or three days later, any news it contained was past news!

The amazing development of electronic mail made it possible to for people communicate more quickly.  Then along came cell phones and text messaging, and e-mail became the new snail mail!  If we do not receive a response to our text within a couple of minutes, we become antsy.  We do not like to wait!

Nevertheless, we are forced do it several times everyday.  Shopping lines, traffic lights, health facilities, restaurants, medical test results, television commercials that interrupt our favorite shows…as much time as we spend waiting, one would think we might be better at it than we are.

In fact, it has been estimated that the average person spends seven years of life waiting!  Can you imagine that?  So, what do you do while you wait?

Many people go to their trusty, handy cell phone.  In a doctor’s office waiting room this morning I noticed that more than one half of those waiting for their name to be called were using their electronic devices.  Were they playing games, sending messages, or maybe searching the internet?

I often take something with me to read, but today I decided to leaf through a magazine that was provided by the doctor’s office.  I have never really looked closely at a People’s Magazine, so this was an opportunity to do so.  After several pages I realized that I was already familiar with most of the information I was seeing.  I glanced back at the cover and saw the date:  December 4, 2007!

And most of us have waited patiently (or not!) at a green traffic light for the person in front of us to look up and see that the red light had changed. It causes me to wonder if the field of chiropractic will become much more lucrative and in demand in the near future because of how much time we spend looking down or hunched over peering into that small handheld screen.

The Christmas season – Advent – is a time of anticipation, of expectant waiting for the coming of Christ.  It is a time to prepare for the spiritual side of the vastly celebrated holiday.  It is a time that we seek to draw closer to Jesus and invite Him to draw nearer to us.

At the birth of Jesus that first Christmas, the religious world had been waiting for 800 years from the time it was prophesied that Messiah would come.  We can understand, then, why Magi would travel nearly 1,000 miles to worship the newborn King, shepherds would leave their posts, and angels would joyfully declare, “Glory to God in the highest…peace to all people.”  The waiting was over.

God still comes to His creation.  No, not as a baby; but He chooses to be involved in the lives of humankind.  Those who seek Him find that He comes every day to make Himself known, to extend His mercy and grace, and to express His love.

This is Advent.  What will you do while you wait?  Certainly you will do some shopping and gift wrapping and eating – but will you take time to truly seek the God of our salvation?  Will you endeavor to make room for Him in the busyness of the season?  Will you notice it when He comes to you?

Who’s On First?

September 22, 2017
Just Thinking:  Once again, I read it on the ‘net,’ so it must be true.  On this date in 1982 Scott Fahlman became the first person to use 🙂 in an online message. With the www being world-wide, verifying this fact must have been quite a challenge.  I wonder who was first to use “FYI,” “BTW,” and “lol.”
 
Copyrights and patents supposedly protect “firsts” in our society.  And while I am uncertain about Scott Fahlman, I can say with bold assurance that God loved you first.  Not only did He love you before you loved Him (1 John 4:19), He also loved you before anyone else loved you (Jeremiah 1:5).  The reason you love Him is because His love drew you to Him (John 12:32).  AND HIS LOVE NEVER FAILS.

Grandparent’s Day: Treating Loneliness

September 11, 2017

by Dr. Steven J.Callis

Comedian Bill Dana related a story as Jose Jimenez, deep sea diver.  He was on the ocean floor all alone, and coming at him from one direction was a huge shark, a large octopus from another direction, and a barracuda from yet another.  “And then, something terrible happened:  they went away, and I was all alone again.”

            We do not relish thinking about it, but the Beatles did not want us to forget, with their 1966 song, Eleanor Rigby:  Ah, look at all those lonely people.  Where do they come from, where do they belong?  Bobby Vinton sang about Mr. Lonely who has nobody to call his own.  America’s Dan Peek wrote a song “for all the lonely people.”  Songs abound on the topic of loneliness.

            Grandparents Day has been celebrated on the Sunday following Labor Day ever since 1978 when President Jimmy Carter declared that day a national holiday.  We jokingly suspect that a grandparent came up with the idea, but the actual founder of Grandparents Day was a West Virginia mother of 15 children.

            Marian McQuade had much more in mind than a mere celebration.  Her purpose was to raise awareness for elderly nursing home residents, fearing that they were missing out on important family bonding due to their need for intensive care.  Her campaign was grounded on the fact that we can learn much from our entire elderly community.

            In 2003, McQuade confessed that she never intended Grandparents Day to be about any one particular form of celebration.  In a word, she wanted to “alleviate some loneliness.”

            A couple of weeks ago I was invited to an appreciation dinner for volunteers who serve at an assisted living facility.  My heart was warmed to see approximately 30 individuals attending the dinner, because it helped me realize how many people invest themselves in the lives of those who can no longer live independently.

            Many grandparents are physically able to lift their grandchildren, play with them, bake with them, take them to the zoo or the lake, or attend their ball games and school plays and other special events.  It is a good thing to honor grandparents on a specific day – their day.

            We would do well to remember, however, those grand persons who are no longer physically or emotionally able to fill their role as they might desire.  They still know how to love, and how it feels to be loved.  They still need to know that somebody cares.

            Maybe one day this week you could take time to visit a nursing home or another type of care facility and brighten someone’s day by relieving their loneliness for a few minutes.  You may even decide to “adopt” one person and gift them with a weekly visit.  Happy Grandparents Day everyone, and let’s continue the campaign that Marian McQuade began 40 years ago to honor our elders.        

Playing the Part

July 18, 2017
JUST THINKING:  It is fun to temporarily assume a new identity or culture, like we do for our Cowboy Chowdown, and entering Medieval times like we are this week  At VBS (Over the Moat).  We dress the part, assume the vernacular, and step into character for a short time.  Then we return to our true nature and character, feeling much more comfortable at home.
Jesus left His heavenly throne and all that made Him ‘God,” took on the form of a servant in humility, and for a brief time walked this earth as a human being.  He dressed the part, assumed our vernacular, and made Himself nothing for a short time.  In fact, while in character He laid down His life for you and me; and it was effective because the one characteristic He did not assume UNTIL HE HUNG ON THE CROSS was sin, and even then it was ours, not His.  The spotless One became our sacrifice.
THANKS BE TO GOD FOR HIS INDESCRIBIBLE GIFT.

What’s Behind Old Glory?

June 29, 2017

by Dr.. Steven J. Callis

Last week I had the privilege of attending our church’s global quadrennial conference held in Indianapolis.  With organized churches in 162 world areas, nearly 20,000 representatives gathered from around the world for times of worship, fellowship, and administrative decisions that will guide the denomination for the next four years.

            One of the highlights was the opening session which featured the march of flags.  It was awe-inspiring to watch as 162 national flags paraded up and down the aisles to a rousing anthem.  Every person in the auditorium swelled with as much pride for their country’s flag as you and I do for ours.  I am blessed to be part of a global church.

            The oldest national flag still in use has represented Denmark since 1478.  Its cross design has been used on the flags of many other countries. 

            The flag of the Netherlands is the oldest tri-color flag.  Its three colors of red, white, and blue trace back to the days of Charlemagne in the 9th century.

            Our American flag, also bearing the red, white, and blue, has been modified 26 times throughout its existence.  The current design was introduced in 1960, and it is the longest-used version of the American flag in our history. 

            The flag is more than a mere piece of cloth.  It is a symbol, and a symbol never shines its own light – it always points to a greater object beyond itself.  When we see our American flag, what we really envision is a nation of unity, freedom, courage, and strength. 

            When that flag is abused, then, it strikes at the heart of our emotions because of what it represents.  Our outrage is not about the flag itself; it can be replaced.  We are offended because we take it personally.  The perpetrators are denouncing our liberties and national pride.  Their intent may have more to do with making a political statement, but to us they scorn our very lives.  Whether it is by burning, or stomping, or refusing to honor it, we who pledge our allegiance to the symbol of our nation take offense.

            As we celebrate our nation on July 4, we not only celebrate our declaration of independence, but we also declare our unity, tenacity, and strength.  We too often demonstrate our ability (and freedom!) to focus on divisiveness.  However, the greater exhibition of courage and strength is found in creating unity.  It often requires more work, resourcefulness, and concession to agree than it does to divide.

            I recently saw a placard which read simply (in the context of marriage), “Unity over Preference.” If we could adopt that idea as a nation, life for us all would truly change.  Unfortunately, we are too headstrong promoting and fighting for our own personal agendas to even consider such an ideal.

            Nevertheless, you and I can do our part everyday.  Let’s give thanks for our blessings and privileges.  Let’s show our colors on July 4.  Let’s strive as one for the sake of our country.  Let’s pray for God to bless the USA.    

When Almost Clean is not Enough

June 9, 2017

by Dr. Steven J. Callis

Washing cars to raise money is an idea that has been around for many decades.  You have seen people, usually teenagers, holding hand painted signs and trying to capture the attention of passersby.  Somewhere near their location is another group busily soaping and rinsing cars, and occasionally soaking each other.

                Often the price for a car wash is largely emblazoned on the homemade sign, maybe $3 or $5.  Some organizations simply ask for a donation which, in my mind, easily could exceed the standard rate.  From time to time there may be an organization such as a church youth group advertising a “Free, No Gimmicks” car wash.  Thoughtful youth leaders are teaching their students to give back to the community, and this event serves as their community project or ministry event.

                I distinctly remember a car wash our church youth group held when I was a teen.  We gained permission to use the parking lot at Third National Bank on Murfreesboro Road in Nashville, Tennessee.  This busy 4-lane road was a great location, and the bank was situated on the corner of two busy streets.

                Our 40-voice youth choir was planning a tour through the southeast all the way to Florida and back, singing in local churches each night and enjoying a few day trips for fun and exercise.  I was among the younger of the team members, and this would be my first big tour and my first car wash fundraiser.

                Somewhat late in the day a nice, large conversion van pulled in for a wash.  It was comical to watch the older teens try to reach the roof of the vehicle with their soapy sponges.  There were several students surrounding this van in hopes to finish it quickly.  Once it was washed and dried, our youth leader came over to inform us that the driver was unhappy with the job that was done, and that we were to do the entire vehicle again.

                After a more careful going over, the driver complained again that there still remained a couple of spots that needed washing.  Dutifully striving to make the customer happy, I suspect that there were murmurings amongst us that were out of the earshot of the owner.  Once satisfied, he laid out the cash – – a twenty dollar bill, probably 5 times what we were charging other vehicles.

                Of course, we suddenly loved that big van and its generous owner.  That’s when our youth leader informed us that the driver had planned all along to create that scenario.  He was impressed by the attitude of the kids who did what they were asked to do, yet with no glaring looks or smirks at the owner throughout the task.

                That day we learned that even though most customers were stopping simply to support the youth group, they should be able to expect a job well done.  Further, we learned that our behavior reflected on the entire group, in fact the entire church, and ultimately Jesus himself.

                Well, it is car wash season.  I hope you will find it in your heart to support youth organizations whose causes are worthy of your generosity.  After all, don’t you deserve to be driving the streets of your town in a shiny, clean vehicle?!