Saturday, December 2, 2017

A Step in the Right Direction: Stepdad's at Christmas

Mercy Me has a song called Joseph's Lullaby.

What a beautiful song of a dad who knows who his child is and whose his child is, yet still love him as his son.

Joseph has been getting a bad rap lately and not of his fault. 

In response to the accusations against Roy Moore of sexual misconduct with minors, Alabama State Auditor Jim Ziegler defended Moore saying "Also take Joseph and Mary. Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus.” “There’s just nothing immoral or illegal here. Maybe just a little bit unusual.”

So Ziegler is saying that since Joseph and Mary had sex to have Jesus, Moore isn't a bad guy. Lot's of issues, but of importance here is that Scripture is clear that Joseph was not the biological father of Jesus, nor did he had sexual relations with Mary prior to the birth of Jesus.

However, even if they had, or if the Catholic belief of Mary the Ever Virgin is incorrect, and after Mary gave birth, they had marital relations, none of that justifies Moore taking advantage of women who did not consent to his actions or that the law states are not of the age of consent.

Then at the lighting of the National Christmas Tree, President Trump had the following to say.

Newsweek got upset about him saying that Joseph was the father and had an article about people being upset about it.

I cannot say what Trump believes about the birth of Jesus. He has had some issues in the part with Biblical truths, such as not asking God for forgiveness, and the Two Corinthians incident. But here, let's look at Joseph the father.

In just about every nativity seen, there is at a minimum, a baby, a woman, and a man. From there we add in angels, shepherds, animals, wise men, etc.. But, other than perhaps icons of Mary, Mother of God holding the Christ child, just about every nativity includes a man. That man being Joseph.

Even my cheap nativity scene from LuLu has Joseph in it.

So can we call Joseph the father? 

Not biologically. Matthew and Luke both record that the child isn't biologically Joseph's. But he is the stepfather of Jesus.

Matthew records the dream that Joseph had where he is told of Jesus. Joseph is told that the child is of God and that he is to still marry Mary and to raise the child. Joseph does. Joseph takes a child that is not biologically his and raises him as his own.

How do we know he raised him as his own? Because everyone thought that Jesus was Joseph's.

Nowhere is it recorded that Jesus was referred to as "the bastard child of Mary." Instead, we find “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” and "Is not this the carpenter's son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas?". We find that everyone thought he was the son of Joseph, because Joseph raised him as his son. Jesus was raised as a son by a father. Joseph served as the earthly father of Jesus. He was a stepfather, but still a father.

With my own stepchildren, I always find joy when someone says they see the family resemblance in them or seem surprised to learn they are stepchildren. To me, it means I am raising them not as stepchildren, but as my children. Because they are my children and I am their dad.

Now Joseph had the same issue many steddad's face, not getting the title Dad.

Luke records that when Jesus was 12, they were on their annual trip to Jerusalem for the Passover. Important note here, Joseph involved his family in religious activities. I wonder if Jesus grew tired of hearing the story every year, given he was there when the exodus occurred. Perhaps he would correct them on the tone of Pharaoh's voice or what Moses sounded like. Maybe he was tempted to reenact scenes from it. Anyway, after the festival when they were returning home, Joseph and Mary both thought the other one had Jesus, so it wasn't until the next day they realize he is missing. They find him in the temple talking to the teachers. Mary gets on to Jesus and says that he has worried his mom and dad. He says back to her, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?” Now, if Joseph was anything like me, this is where he said "boy, I raised you, I put a roof over your head, food on the table..." Luke just says they didn't understand what Jesus meant. 

But do remember stepdads at Christmas. Not just because there is one in your nativity scene, but because it can be hard. Many stepdads will not have their children with them on Christmas because of custody plans. And there is always the issue of not getting the title Dad.

If you have a stepdad, you're in good company, Jesus had one too. If you are a stepdad, you're in good company, Joseph was one too. Love your children in a way that they are your children and you are their dad, because stepdads are dads and our stepchildren are our children.

Friday, December 1, 2017

May it be to me as you have said

Luke 1:26-38 tells us about the Annunciation, that is, when Gabriel announced to Mary that she would conceive and bear the Son of God, despite being a virgin.

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” 
And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
Mary's response amazes me. At first she asks how can it be, since she hasn't done anything to get pregnant. Seems like a logical question. Gabriel's response calms his heart, For nothing will be impossible with God. Mary responds with a simple declaration, but one that is so hard for us to say. Behold, I am a servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.

I struggle with the easy things. When God says to talk to someone I might not normally talk to, to give money to certain cause, or maybe just give a little more in the plate on Sunday, perhaps to serve as a Sunday school teacher for children. Those things I struggle with saying yes. I want to be more like Zechariah (Luke 1:5-23) Oh yeah, God? If you really want me to do that, prove it. Well, He proved it to Zechariah, made him mute until the child was born. We should be careful what we ask for!

Instead I desire the faith that Mary demonstrates. That though it makes no sense, though it seems impossible, though she isn't equipped to do what is asked of her, though what God asks me to do might make no sense, it might seem impossible, it might be something I'm not equipped to do, Behold, I am a servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

The Christmas Story

Several years ago I went to an a cappella showcase. One of the groups that performed was the Atlanta Vocal Project. I ended up buying their The Sounds of Christmastime album.

I really liked the album. The songs were great, but the format of the album was inspiring. It started with secular Christmas music, then transitioned into traditional Christmas songs. Between the traditional songs they recited verses and passages about Christmas and Jesus. The entire album is a great Christmas performance, the 2nd half is amazing with the play between scripture and readings and the songs.

I always wanted to do something similar. A few years ago, my daughter introduced me Pentatonix. I fell in love with their O Come, O Come Emmanuel. So I am going to use Pentatonix for the music.

This is my attempt at making a Christmas show.

I will greatly rejoice in the Lord,
my whole being shall exult in my God;
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation,
he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
For as the earth brings forth its shoots,
and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up,
so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise
to spring up before all the nations. 

For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent,
and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest,
until her vindication shines out like the dawn,
and her salvation like a burning torch.
The nations shall see your vindication,
and all the kings your glory;
and you shall be called by a new name
that the mouth of the Lord will give.
You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord,
and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
-Isaiah 61:10-62:3

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of mygroaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
and by night, but I find no rest.

Yet you are holy,
enthroned on the praises of Israel.
In you our fathers trusted;
they trusted, and you delivered them.
To you they cried and were rescued;
in you they trusted and were not put to shame.

But I am a worm and not a man,
scorned by mankind and despised by the people.
All who see me mock me;
they make mouths at me; they wag their heads;
“He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him;
let him rescue him, for he delights in him!”

Yet you are he who took me from the womb;
you made me trust you at my mother's breasts.
On you was I cast from my birth,
and from my mother's womb you have been my God.
Be not far from me,
for trouble is near,
and there is none to help.

Many bulls encompass me;
strong bulls of Bashan surround me;
they open wide their mouths at me,
like a ravening and roaring lion.

I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
it is melted within my breast;
my strength is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
you lay me in the dust of death.

For dogs encompass me;
a company of evildoers encircles me;
they have pierced my hands and feet—
I can count all my bones—
they stare and gloat over me;
they divide my garments among them,
and for my clothing they cast lots.

But you, O Lord, do not be far off!
O you my help, come quickly to my aid!
Deliver my soul from the sword,
my precious life from the power of the dog!
Save me from the mouth of the lion!
You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen!

I will tell of your name to my brothers;
in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
You who fear the Lord, praise him!
All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him,
and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
For he has not despised or abhorred
the affliction of the afflicted,
and he has not hidden his face from him,
but has heard, when he cried to him.

From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
my vows I will perform before those who fear him.
The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied;
those who seek him shall praise the Lord!
May your hearts live forever!

All the ends of the earth shall remember
and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations
shall worship before you.
For kingship belongs to the Lord,
and he rules over the nations.

All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship;
before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,
even the one who could not keep himself alive.
Posterity shall serve him;
it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation;
they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn,
that he has done it.
-Psalm 22 

The people who walked in darkness
    have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
    on them has light shone.
You have multiplied the nation;
    you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
    as with joy at the harvest,
    as they are glad when they divide the spoil.
For the yoke of his burden,
    and the staff for his shoulder,
    the rod of his oppressor,
    you have broken as on the day of Midian.
For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult
    and every garment rolled in blood
    will be burned as fuel for the fire.
For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
    and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
    there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
    to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
    from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
-Isaiah 9:2-7

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town.And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.  And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
-Luke 2:1-7

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
    and they shall call his name Immanuel”
(which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.
-Matthew 1:18-25

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest,
    and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
-Luke 2:8-14

When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child.
-Luke 2:15-17

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:
“‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
    are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
    who will shepherd my people Israel.’”
Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.
-Matthew 2:1-12


But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.
-Luke 2:19

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”
-John 3:16-21

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
-John 16:33

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.(John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known.
-John 1:14-18

Sunday, November 5, 2017

The Forgotten Birthday

About 4 p.m., I was on Skype with my niece being interviewed for a school project. The hotel room phone rang. I excused myself to answer. The hotel front desk was calling. "Sir, we would like to wish you a happy birthday! May we bring you a cake?" I told them thank you very much and yes, they could bring me a cake. I finished up the Skype interview after telling her and my brother's family about the call. Not even a "happy birthday," despite me telling them about the birthday cake.

About 5 p.m., there was a knock on the hotel room door. A man in a tuxedo was holding a cake box. He brought it into my room, thanked me for staying at the hotel, and left. I opened the cake and enjoyed a slice of my birthday cake.

It was a good cake. I shared it with my co-workers.

My birthday that even my family forgot. Only the hotel remembered.

My birthday, however, is in April.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Learning the Classics

The hotel I'm staying at occasionally have musicians playing in the lobby. Tonight, the pianist and clarinetist were playing a song I recognized. It took a minute to recall the song.

Yes, I knew the song from my kids watching Sesame Street.

And they say TV is bad!

Here is the original, Con te partirĂ².

Monday, October 9, 2017

Praise the Lord for XBox

The other day my boys were looking for the 2nd remote for the XBox. After much digging through couches and looking in places where it doesn't belong, they found the controller. My 5 year old said "Thank you, Jesus!"
My first reaction was to think "that's silly, it's a remote." But then the words of Paul came back. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. The will of Jesus doesn't seem to exclude giving thanks for finding XBox controllers.

Once again, my 5 year old has proven he understands theology better than I do. Thank you, Jesus, that they found the XBox remote.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Outer Banks, North Carolina

We recently spent a in Duck, North Carolina.

If you drive in on Virginia 168, there is a short toll road that can be from $3 during the week to $8 on the weekends. A short detour avoids this toll road. We had no traffic on the alternate route. Take exit 8B and follow Battlefield BLVD.


We rented a house for a week from Kitty Hawk Vacation Rentals. Things we liked was close to beach (but not on the beach due to price), had a pool and hot tub, and plenty of room for all. Pool was not heated, which didn't bother the kids. Heated pool was about $500 more. Only odd thing was while linens were provided, you had to put the sheets on the bed. Some places do not provide linens.

Food (North to South)
We brought groceries with us. We ate out just a few times, usually for donuts...

Interesting idea. They make donuts in shop, put whatever topping you want, then skewer them. You can also get ice cream. Tried the cinnamon roll, pancake, and tuxedo. Cinnamon roll was better. They do have gluten free, but a limited amount. If you get there late, they might be out for the day. You can pre-order them for the following day.

It's just popcorn, but it's really good popcorn.

Same thing as Donutz on a Stick, minus the stick. Custom made donuts. I think my kids liked these better, but they were just about the same. No gluten free donuts.

For a place that's only claim to fame is that they are powered by the wind, it's pretty good. Had one of their beers, the olsch, and enjoyed it. Ate the flounder for meal, pretty good.

Attractions (North to South)

2 trails here, we took the shorter boardwalk. About ¾ mile each way, with a viewing platform at the end overlooking the sound. Saw birds and heard frogs. Nice short walk. There is 

Currituck Heritage Park
Lots of cool things in the park. Fishing, crabbing, Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education, Whalehead, and the Currituck Lighthouse

Saw it from the Currituck Heritage Park.

Small neat museum. Has a scavenger hunt for the kids.

Some old inn. You can take tours. We did not.

A boardwalk runs along the sound side of Duck. Lots of shops and nice views of the Sound

Fishing on the Boardwalk
Fishing and crabbing is restricted to one spot, just north of the town park. 
There is a bait and tackle shop (Bob's Bait and Tackle) on the boardwalk. Picked up string and chicken necks and the kids had a blast.

Beach in Duck
There is no public access to the beach. Where ever you stay should have private access. Ours had a boardwalk over the dunes at the end of the street.

First few days we were there, a rainstorm was moving up the East Coast. The "No Swimming" flags were out. We went most days, but never were able to get into the water due to rip currents and high surf.

Spent about 2 or 3 hours here. They have Junior Ranger program. Listened to a Ranger talk, walked to the top of Kill Devil Hill where the monument is, walked to the recreated hangers/workshops, saw where the first flight took place, and checked out the recreated flier with doubles as a playground. 

National Monument to Flight

Where the first flight took off from

Came out to explore the sand dunes and fly kites. Really cool place and the kids had fun.

Drove the seashore from the north to Cape Hatteras. There is no fee to enter.

You can climb the lighthouse

Haulover Day Use Area
Because of high surf and rip tide, we decided to not go to the beach on the ocean side and instead went to the sound side. We found this day area. It was small, but good for small children. Has bathrooms and washoff showers and changing areas. Kids enjoyed playing in the water and sand.

We climbed this lighthouse. It was $8 for adults.

View from the top

Monday, February 20, 2017

That might not be the good news you were looking for

Several years ago I wrote a post called It Is Good! In it, a United Methodist bishop encouraged people to focus on good news in the world and not just the bad. He cited an example of a news commentator when he was young who opened the broadcast with "There is good news tonight!"

Yesterday, I decided to look into that line.

In World War II, there was a radio broadcaster by the name of Gabriel Heatter. One day, the United States Navy sank a Japanese destroyer. He opened his broadcast with "Good evening, everyone—there is good news tonight." It became an instant hit and his signature catch phase.

Probably not the good news the Bishop had in mind.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Following Random Trail Advice

I use to get Backpacker magazine. When I got it, it included cards for trails to hike. One was a trail called the North Skunk River for Des Moines, Iowa. I spent the summer of 2005 living in Des Moines, so I took up this random trail advice and hiked the North Skunk River trail.

I found the photos from the hike this morning. I took about 10 photos along the trail.

Being nearly 11.5 years later, I don't remember much about the hike. I remember I turned down a lunch offer (maybe it was a party on the capital grounds?) to go on the hike. I also remember it was close to I-35 and you could hear the traffic.

This is the card:

Here are the photos of the hike.

I'll caption them as they are written on the backs. I don't remember what they are of other than that.

 Skunk River and Trail

This is labeled Skunk River at Anderson Canoe Access. I believe this is at the southern end of the trail at 150th Street.

These are just labeled Skunk River Trail

These are of the bog along the bog loop the trail mentions.

Seems like it was a nice hike.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Christmas Story

Ross King has an album called The Christmas Stories which surprisingly enough contains Christmas songs. One of the songs is called Song of Gabriel.

I find the song is in the same vein as Host of Angels. A beautiful song telling the life of Christ, each event concluding with a host of Angels reacting.

The song tells the story of Christmas from the perspective of Gabriel. It captures 3 events, the annunciation of the incarnation to Mary, the birth of Jesus, and the announcement to the shepherds.

In the annunciation section, in the Bible in Luke 1:26-38, Gabriel starts with his thoughts on hearing what he is to say to Mary. It is almost as if Gabriel is saying "what? Your plan is to go to earth as a human? You trust humans to hold God in the helpless body of a baby? This plan is insane."

The birth of Jesus, in the Bible in Luke 2:1-7, Gabriel starts with the threat that Satan played while Mary and Joseph were traveling to Bethlehem. How vulnerable the Christ is, an unborn child in the womb of Mary, traveling from Nazareth to Bethlehem. The angels in the song served as escorts, protecting Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. Once in Bethlehem, the angels all gather to see the newborn child, while a song, unheard to man, is sung in Heaven.

The announcement to the shepherds, in the Bible in Luke 2:8-20, Gabriel recalls the 23rd Psalm, the LORD is my shepherd. He then tells the shepherds of the birth of Christ and how this is what we have all have been created for. All will praise the name of Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us.

What a beautiful song.