Merrily We Droll Along


I’ve always liked the “holiday” season.  With the coming of winter, the festive ways people adorn their homes and hearths, the abundance of food and friends gathered to give thanks, and a few weeks later give gifts in celebration of the Best Gift… it’s a great time of year, and it is upon us.

There are those around the world who don’t feel this way at all.  Caught up in relationships where conflict and strife are abundant, tends to taint the festivities.  Facing a newly diagnosed illness or disease will pretty much put a person in a dour mood, evident to anyone who engages them.  Additionally, not everyone will have enough to eat on Thanksgiving, much less a Christmas Ham.  For each person in one of these situations finding the merriment of the “holidays” is just like finding the Panda in this picture.

Yes, there is a Panda in this picture, and once you see it, you can never un-see it again.

This paradigm is also true for those who seek the real meaning of the “holidays.”

Because Thanksgiving is not about watching football on the “big” screen, or eating from a buffet fit for kings, to feed a family of five.  Thanksgiving is about “giving thanks.”  Right? And just like the image of the Panda, being truly thankful is elusive sometimes.

Pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. [1 Thessalonians 5:17-18]

I realize you may think I’m doing the typical preacher platitude thing again.  However, by quoting this verse, I’m NOT suggesting that you give “thanks” for whatever has robbed your “holiday” spirit this year.  I’m saying this because I’m pretty sure, from personal experience, that this is not what Paul is teaching in this verse.

There is a big difference in being thankful in the middle of the stuff of life that attacks when you least expect it, versus being thankful “for the attack itself.”  I’m suggesting that you consider it a joy, when God gets you through it, and act thankfully for God’s strength and power to deliver you, redeem you, and encourage you through it all.

I don’t thank God for everything.  Not everything is “thanks” worthy.  But what I do is, I thank God in everything I face.  This verse also doesn’t say to put on your happy face, when you don’t really feel so happy.

Back to the Panda in the image for this article.  If you haven’t found it yet, I’ll give you a clue.  The Panda is the only one without a smile on its face.  Why would he smile?  The Panda is in this herd of snowmen.  He’s probably feels a little out of place.

While all the snowmen merrily droll along, the Panda is out of its element, not happy, not joyful, and not thankful.

Even James isn’t saying be “thankful” [James 1:2-3]   Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.

Joy is not necessarily a synonym for thankfulness.  Joy is a separate attitude all its own, fueled by a knowledge that nothing in our lives escapes God’s notice.  So I can be joyful in times of sorrow or loss, and in the middle of it all, I can be thankful for God’s love for me.  I can know that I am His and He is mine.

You don’t have to wear the smiling mask all the time.  You don’t have to be like the hundreds of smiling people who droll along through life, pretending everything is ok, when it isn’t.

However, we know what God’s will is for us.

  • be thankful … IN (not for) … the life issues you face
  • consider it joy … when you face these life issues
  • pray without ceasing

Pray for what exactly?

God’s glory to fill the earth?
God’s kingdom to come soon?
God’s will to be done in your life?
Daily food supplements?
To have the strength to forgive others?
Deliverance from temptation?

Sure, all that; it’s what Jesus Himself taught us to pray [Matthew 6:9-13].

And when you pray, don’t just spew meaningless spiritual verbiage in God’s general direction.

Or in some way offer droll statements in an attempt to diffuse your own pain.  Just be real, be genuine, be authentic as a true believer.  Stand out among the others around you who wear a smiling mask while they merrily droll along without hope.

If you haven’t found it yet, look hard for the Panda.  In that same way, through you prayers to God, while being thankful and joyful, look hard for God’s grace, and you will find it.  Nothing in your life escapes God’s notice.



The Cross is not a Talisman

via Luck

In 1964 General Mills food company introduced a cereal with toasted oat pieces and multi-colored marshmallow shapes, which had a leprechaun mascot named “Lucky.”  The commercials captured my ten-year old mind, so what did I ask for every time we went to the local Piggly Wiggly?  Lucky Charms!  As luck would have it, for my mom not me, I didn’t like it nearly as much as the commercials made me think I would.  The whole soggy marshmallow thing didn’t sit well with me.  I think I ate maybe 1/3 of the box before I went back to Cherrios.


Playing golf last week in my senior men’s golf association, I watched a 17 handicap make an eagle from some 40 yards of the green.  The man hit a good shot, and I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, but golf has its own trite sayings about things like this. When a shot from 40 yards runs half that distance on the ground, twisting, turning, bouncing and rolling at least a third of the way, “I’d rather be lucky than good sometimes,” is one phrase appropriately said in this case.  Or, as my uncle Wylie used to say, “Even a blind squirrel finds a nut on occasion,” also applies.  Fortune smiles on me.  Lady luck is nowhere to be found.  Karma gets you every time.  Pick your favorite “Luck” phrase.

Which brings me to the Cross.  I know people who place crosses in every room of their house, thinking it will bring them good luck.  They treat the cross like a talisman.  A talisman is an object which someone believes contains magical properties providing good luck for the one who posses it, or offers protection from evil or harm.  Whether worn around your neck or as an ankle bracelet, the cross is not a talisman.  Whether made of metal or wood, horseshoe nails wrapped in colored wire, crystal or gold, the cross is not a talisman.

Jesus never said, “after I’m gone, if you just wear a cross around your neck, or have one tattooed on your forearm, you will be good to go.”  Don’t get me wrong, I think more Christians should capture the essence of what the cross means for them personally, but I can tell you it isn’t “good luck.”  The cross represents self-sacrifice.  Self-sacrifice often involves pain, almost 100% of the time in some form.  By definition it means putting your needs last, and someone or many someone’s needs way ahead of your own.  But more specifically, in this case, the cross means DEATH.  We’ve seen the instrument of Jesus’ death desecrated or elevated in countless ways that have nothing to do with His saving grace, offered in His sacrifice for our sin.

Is it just blind or dumb luck that after this life is over we are afforded heaven? No!  Why do so many people then approach God as though He were a heavenly slot machine?  We pray for stuff we don’t need, or stuff we know God probably doesn’t want us to have, mix it all together and at the end invoke Jesus’ name, then cross ourselves… and expect God to deliver. Was this how Jesus taught us to pray?  I think that prayer goes something like this:

Our Father in heaven, Your name be honored as holy.
Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
Matthew 6:9-13   [HCSB]

This prayer has nothing to do with luck.  You can’t just say it once a day, every week in worship, or once in awhile we’re your facing doubt and darkness, using it like some incantation to bring instant prosperity or protection to your life.  The words must MEAN something.  The words must ring true to you.  So true that you base your whole life on the reality of God’s sovereignty, and trust Him implicitly to provide your every need.  Needs that He deems are needs, and not our fanciful desire for worldly possessions or successes.

I’ll say it one more time.

The Cross is not a talisman.


If you liked this blog post feel free to share it on your Facebook page. Send me a “friend” invite on my FB account or sign up by email to follow my blog!