Friday, December 24, 2010

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Sometimes I Hate the Christmas Season

If you've read any of my posts for the past couple of weeks you might sense a theme about me not liking Christmas. Before you get all in a huff (because I know that some of you are very big "huff-get-inners"), note that I didn't say I hate Christmas, because I don't. I love Christmas.  I sometimes hate the Christmas season...

December is always a hectic month for a church. There are roughly 3400 different things going on. If you ask any pastor what it's like in December you'll most likely get a sigh or a shudder. A lot of work goes into the Christmas season. It is mentally draining for almost every pastor.

Then there is the whole buying presents thing.  That's a lot of pressure. I mean have you ever bought stuff for a woman? Ladies have it easy. All you have to do is buy a guy food, a video game, or a tool. Pick one. We're happy with each of them. Buying for a woman is much harder. I once bought a complete outfit for my wife (then girlfriend) for Christmas. Dress, shoes, jewelry. Every single piece of it went back. I have not bought her clothes since. There's a lot of pressure in getting just the right gift. Putting enough thought into it. Making sure she doesn't already own it. Making sure that it doesn't somehow insult her. (hello cooking/cleaning/x-large items)....I mean it seriously seemed like a good idea.  Just a lot more stress in December.

Then there is visiting with family. Don't get me wrong, I love visiting my family. In fact one of the best parts of November-December is that I get to see my family more than usual which is awesome. But you then have to add packing and traveling. More time and more stress (again worth it to see my family!).

Don't forget about traffic everywhere! Since people are out of work and school they are out and about which means that there is traffic. It doesn't matter if you are in your car, at the mall, or even going to get a bite to eat. People are out and about and it adds waiting time and noise to everywhere you go.

That's where it bugs me the most. Noise. Noise everywhere. Distractions. Traffic. Parties. Services. Traveling.

It's all noise.

And all of that noise blocks out one thing. Jesus.

Isn't it ironic that the reason that we do all of this extra stuff in December is blocked out by the stuff that we are doing?

Some people say that Santa Claus takes Christ away from Christmas. I'd challenge that notion. I think that Christmas itself has started to take Christ away.

With everything that goes on in the month of December, I hear people say this: "I can't believe it's Christmas Eve already!"  "I feel like I've been running non-stop."  "I'm exhausted."  "I can't wait for Christmas to be over."  I've heard all of those, multiple times.

Is this what God wants of us?  To work so hard at shopping, and decorating, and socializing that we are exhausted when it comes time to celebrate the birth of our Savior?

I mean if I were God (and let's all thank God that I'm not!), I would have to respond, "Wow, I'm so sorry that the birth of my son, who ultimately died for you, is an inconvenience to you."  I'd be a sarcastic God (again, we're glad that I'm just Jon).

I write all this because every year I get to Christmas Eve and realize that I haven't really given much thought to Christ. So I take a little time and get by myself and sit and think through the fact that God came to Earth as a baby just to save a sinner like me. It's really a humbling thought if you think about it. But it re-centers me on what this celebration is all about. It's about God stooping down to rescue his children.

It's about Peace. Joy. Love. Hope.

Do yourself a favor this week. Take some time to be by yourself and think through Christmas. It might be the best thing you do all year.

Merry Christmas, everyone.


Friday, December 17, 2010

Tis the Season pt 3 - Elf on the Shelf

So a couple of weeks ago I went to a Christmas party for my Sunday school class. I was standing around enjoying a plate full of deliciousness when I felt someone watching me. I looked to the left. Nothing. I looked to the right. Nothing. I continued my conversation but I couldn't shake that feeling that someone was watching me. 

Then I saw him. 

The Elf.....on the Shelf.  (or more accurately, on the refrigerator)

I'm just finding out about the new Christmas phenomena called "Elf on the Shelf." You might be saying, "Jon, I know not of what you speak."  That's not surprising. Elf on the Shelf is something that is gaining momentum every year. If you have never heard of this growing trend let me explain it to you. Let's go way back.

You know the song "Santa Claus is Coming to Town"? (not the Bruce Springsteen version, shudder.) What are the lyrics to that song? "He sees you when you're sleeping, he knows when you're awake. He knows when you've been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake..."

But how does Santa see you and know when you've been bad or good? Enter the Elf on the Shelf. The Elf hangs out at your house and watches you. Then every night he flies back to the North Pole to tell Santa what you've been up to. Then he flies back every morning and lands in a new place in your house. Each morning you are supposed to go on a search to find where the Elf has landed.

As you might have guessed I have some thoughts about this...

1.  Does anyone find this creepy? - I mean the idea that there is an elf watching my every move is a bit alarming.  I mean what happens if the Elf inadvertently flies and lands on the shelf in the bathroom. That's just awkward.

2. What's considered naughty? - We all know that presents are what are driving this whole naughty/nice thing. If we're naughty we get less. But what is considered naughty? I'm sure hitting my sister when I was a kid was naughty, but what if it's something less.  What if I had a problem picking my nose and flicking it on the carpet? (uh... hypothetically, of course) Is that considered naughty? What if I picked the lock to my sister's diary? (again... hypothetically)  I mean the Elf on the Shelf wouldn't report that, would he?

3. Is Santa part of the CIA? - When did Santa get into the surveillance world? I thought he kept eyes on us through some sort of Christmas magic. It turns out he has a whole host of agent elves reporting back to him. I feel like the elves should all be wearing black suits with those little ear pieces like CIA agents wear in the movies. I think that this might be the next step in fighting the war on terror. I mean who can resist the little elf sitting there and staring at them....nope, not even terrorists. 

4. I just had a flashback to 1984 - Not the year. No one wants to flashback to the actual 1984. Besides, I was 3 and couldn't remember anything. I'm talking about the book "1984." If you haven't read it, pretty much the government watches EVERY part of your life. If you say or do anything contrary to the government you are "brought in" to be re-educated. I can just see it now.

Kid -"You know this whole Santa thing is a joke. I'm not sure if I believe anymore."
Elf- "That's it, you're coming with me kid. No one calls the big man a 'joke!'"
Kid - "I didn't mean it, I'm sorry!"
Elf - "It's too late. Repeat after me. "I love BIG SANTA"  
(If you haven't read 1984, this whole reference is lost on you. I'm sorry)

5. We tend to see God like Elf on the Shelf. - I'll be writing on this early next week. Then I'll link to it so you can see what I mean.

So what are your thoughts when it comes to Elf on the Shelf?
Good? Creepy?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Tis the Season pt 2 - More of the Worst Christmas Songs Ever.

Ok, so these posts are never as popular as the original. In fact, the first post in the Tis The Season series was the most popular post on this blog...ever

But the fact is that after last Friday, almost every conversation I had included the phrase..."you know what other song is terrible??"  So I thought I would include some more of the worst Christmas songs ever.

1. Baby It's Cold Outside- Now I hate that this song made the list because I love it. In fact whenever I hear it I think of the movie "Elf" which is hilarious.  But the truth of the matter is that this song is just a guys attempt to get a girl to spend the night. She's all like, " I gotta go, my mom and dad are gonna be freaking out." Does he care? No. His response, "It's cold outside." I mean really, I have heard some lame lines from guys but, "it's cold outside?" I mean how cold does it have to be to keep her from going home? this isn't Antarctica. And her car should have anti-freeze. Of course she probably can't drive because he's already spiked her drink in the song....So help me I'm already talking Kate through this one....but I digress.

2. All I want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth-  I was at a restaurant the other day and the original version of this song came on. You know it's sung by a little boy (or by some 43 year old guy named Carl who can make little kid voices.) ...And he whistles every time he says Merry Christmas. It was the most annoying thing I've ever heard. I've never wanted to punch a little kid in the face so badly. Can I say that? I think that might be in the pastor handbook somewhere. Anyways, that song is terrible....I bet he got his teeth knocked out in the first place.

3. Little Saint Nick-  I love the beach boys. My first two tapes (remember tapes?) were the Beach Boys. Before that we owned the records (Remember records?...for my students, records existed before 8 track.....which existed before....nevermind) It would otherwise be an ok song....except for one line. "Christmas Comes this Time Each Year"  What??? Christmas comes this time each year? What is the purpose of that line? Were people forgetting? Were people saying, "Hey it's the winter solstice time, something else happens this time of year, yet I can't remember what it is....OH IT'S CHRISTMAS! Thanks Beach Boys!

4. Dominic The Italian Christmas Donkey -  Never heard of this song? Yeah I hadn't either. It's only been around roughly 50 years.  Apparently in Italy, Santa uses a donkey to pull his sled instead of reign deer. I'm not trying to be mean, but this song sounds like something someone would write when they are with a group of friend and under the influence of.....certain substances. On the lighter side, a friend of mine's sister heard the song on the radio and thought it said "it's time to kiss the donkey". That would make for an interesting tradition.

5. Blue Christmas by Porky Pig - Call me Captain Sensitive but I don't like laughing at people with speech impediments.  When someone suggested this song I looked it up on Youtube. While poor Porky Pig (say that 5 times fast) was singing there was someone laughing in the background. I mean really, can't you have some decency? First off this poor Pig is butchering a classic song and you're laughing at his stutter! Don't be surprised if we find you on Karaoke Night and laugh at your rendition of Tiffany's "I Think We're Alone Now"...

6. Feels Like Christmas - Cyndi Lauper - I had never heard of this song either. (mostly because I blocked out the 80's.) So I checked it out on Youtube and found a live version from a talk show performance. I can safely say the only words I understood where "feels like Christmas". For all I know, the rest of the song consist of Cyndi singing the recipe for making fruit cake. No one knows.

Honorable Mention -
  Wonderful Christmastime - Paul McCartney - horrible display of 80's synthesizers and repetition.
  I Want A Hippopotamus for Christmas - I want a group of songs that don't ask for random stuff.

Well that's that. I realized afterward that I was a bit more cynical and mean in this version. It's probably because I spent half the night with my hand down a garbage disposal, but that's another story.

Join us next week when we take a look at the Elf on The Shelf.


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

God told me to.

A friend of mine posted a status on Facebook that caught my attention. It was a conversation between her and her daughter.

Mom: What made you think to make a sand angel last night?
Daughter: God. He told me to, he thought it would be funny. He laughed. 
Mom: Being 3 is so awesome!
This is such a cute conversation. There is something about a little kid's innocence that adds a layer of sweet to everything. 
But this little conversation got me thinking about people who say, "God told me to."
 In fact my first comment on her post was..."It's not so cute when they are 13, is it?" 
Yeah I know, I totally killed the moment.  There reaches an age when hearing someone say the phrase "God told me to." causes you to first think, "Wait a minute, is this person crazy?" 
 I think that happens after puberty. Puberty screws a lot of things up. 
But have you ever heard someone say that phrase? You can't tell me that you haven't thought in the back of your mind, "I wonder where the closest exit is."
Why is that?  Why do we get so weirded out by the thought that God has told someone to do that? I have a couple of ideas.
1. Crazy people really do exist- Last month an actor from the t.v show Ugly Betty killed his mother with a samurai sword because God told him to kill the demon inside her......oooookkkkk that's creepy. In fact it seems that the only time God gets major publicity for something is when someone crazy says it. Sidenote:  Why do crazy people get so much publicity?
2. It's hard to prove otherwise.- I mean anyone can say "God told me" about anything and you can't really argue with them. Why did you buy a Justin Bieber cd?  God told me to....really? I mean in my imagination I picture God having much better musical talent than a 12 year old with the same hair as Tom Brady, but who am I to say that it didn't happen? I know that God won't tell you to sin so that limits things. Is buying a Justin Bieber cd a sin?
"I need more product!"
3. Because T.V. preachers say that God is telling you to give them money- Let's be honest. It cost a lot to have this hair. It takes a ton of product to defy the laws of physics and have this stay in place...but really, televangelists have been giving God a bad name for a long time. I've heard multiple televangelists say that God is calling people to give them money for His glory only to later learn that the money was spent on an airplane. If you want to glorify God, you can fly coach with the rest of us. Although I might hope that God tells my 7 month old to throw up on you.
4. If you hear from God, there's a chance He wants to talk to me too- I think that this is a fear of a lot of people. If God told you to do something, then He might tell me to do something too. What if He tells me I have to give up my stuff? What if He tells me I have to move to Africa? What if He tells me to take up my cross and follow Him? That's hard. Really hard. I think a lot of people don't want to admit that others hear from God because they fear that God might tell them something they don't want to hear. 
 Have you ever heard from God? 
Did people think you were crazy?
Drop a comment below. (I turned off moderation so it should appear immediately!) 

Friday, December 3, 2010

Tis the Season pt 1 (worst Christmas songs ever)

Since it's  December we can now turn our attention to Christmas. You're welcome Pilgrims. So each week I'll be writing a post about Christmas called "Tis The Season".

If there is anything that drives me nuts it's listening to Christmas music before Thanksgiving. In fact we I have a rule in our house that you can't listen until Turkey Day is over. (Mollie listens to it all day on Black Friday. I think it's to get back to me.)

Honestly, I don't really like Christmas music. I like some songs but by the time Christmas rolls around I've heard each of them roughly 47,000 times. Lately as we've been listening to the holiday station on XM radio something unspeakable happens. The channel plays a series of terrible songs consecutively. That's right. It's a block of crappy Christmas music. So today I present to you the 10 worst Christmas Songs ever. (at least in my opinion)

1. Last Christmas - So last Christmas a guy gave his heart to a girl and she dumped him after a day. I'm still trying to figure out how this one night stand relates to Christmas other than the time of year that it happened. I just know we've heard this sung by the cast of Glee, Ashley Tisdale, and Taylor Swift already this year...ugh.

2. Little Drummer Boy(mollie's choice)- I asked Mollie why this was on the list. "It's stupid. Pa rum pa pum pum??? There wasn't even a drummer there. It's dumb...and it's annoying...and I didn't get any sleep last night. (perhaps I asked her at a bad time)

3. Christmas Shoes- I understand that this song is liked by a lot of people. It's sweet that the boy wants to buy a gift for his mom before she dies, but it's sooo stinking depressing. Somehow this song is always played right after Holly Jolly Christmas. It's like going from 60mph to Zero on the Jollyness scale.

4. Santa Claus Is Coming to Town - The Bruce Springsteen Version - It's live so I'll give him credit for that but it sounds like he drank an entire bottle of drain-o before singing it. It almost sounds like a warning as if Santa coming to town was similar to the redcoats advancing on the colonies.

5.  Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer- I mean really, who dislikes their grandma enough to enjoy this song. You should be ashamed.

6. I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus -  Imagine a kid who actually saw his mom kissing Santa Claus. That kid is definitely going to have some issues when he grows up. Two words: Emotional Therapy.

7. Santa Baby - Essentially a spoiled woman flirts with Santa in order to get whatever she wants. I heard that the Madonna version was particularly bad. I'm going to look it up on YouTube...... I can't even think of words to describe that.

8.  Feliz Navidad -  I get a lot of complaints about including this one. My question to those people is always, have you listened to the full version at just over 7 minutes?  it goes through the verse and chorus about 97 times.

9. All I Want for Christmas is You -  If a woman said that to me, I probably wouldn't believe it. Really? that's all you want? As a guy that puts us in an awkward place. I mean I should really say it back to you but I really want a Xbox too.  I guess that "All I want for Christmas is a Xbox and You" is not a catchy title. And there is a good chance that if you say that to a woman you probably won't be getting either for Christmas.

10. Oh Holy Night - The Bad Version -  I love the song Oh Holy Night but the following version is terrible. I mean TERRIBLE. I once played it in a church office and the secretaries came running because they thought that someone was hurt. Check it out. You'll see what I mean. (props if you can sit through the whole thing)

Do you agree with any of my choices?
Do you have any choices you would like to add?
Comment Below.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

You're a Jerk......I'm Just Sayin'

Seriously, you're a jerk. I think you are a terrible person. In fact I would rather have dental surgery while listening to Brittany Spears cover music from the 80's (shudder).....You're a jerk......I'm just sayin'.

If you aren't familiar with the phrase "I'm just sayin' " (there is no G at the end), it's something that has crept into the vernacular of teenagers and young adults over the past couple of years.  The phrase acts as a disclaimer. Here's an example:
"You smell like my feet....I'm just sayin' "  Let me translate.  "I think you smell bad but it's not socially acceptable to say such a horrible thing to your face. So I will say it and add these three words to the end and it will absolve me of any wrong doing."

You see what I did there?  By adding the phrase, '" I'm just sayin' " to the end of a sentence I can say anything. I can be as mean as I want but because of my disclaimer it's all ok.

I can destroy your feelings and your self worth. I can tell you that I haven't liked you since the 3rd grade when you sat next to that girl Samantha whom I liked. Seriously man, you knew I LIKED HER! But that's ok, because now I can publicly humiliate you and not worry about it thanks to 3 little words.

Man life is freeing now. I don't have to worry about anything. In fact I think I might go tell my boss what I think of him....I'm just sayin'.

I can tell the slow woman at Chick Fil A that she needs to order a number one and move along....I'm just sayin'.

I can tell the police officer who pulled me over for speeding that he looked fat in his uniform...I'm just sayin'.

I can tell the judge that he bangs his gavel like a little girl...I'm just sayin'.

I can tell my cell mate that his tattoo looks like a blind man did it....I'm just sayin'.

Ok so that's a little much but the truth is that I've seen people say things that they would never say otherwise and mask it with the phrase I'm just sayin'. 

How is it that we've gotten to the point where we can openly be so mean to each other. Take a few minutes and think about your interaction with others. How do you treat people with your words?

Here's the deal. If you are someone who is recklessly mean to others......

You're a jerk....I'm just sayin'

Think about it.