Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy Hogmanay Today.

Happy Hogmanay Today.
I would like to wish you all a very happy Hogmanay today/ tomorrow. But just in case (like me) you had no real idea what Hogmanay is, I will share with you briefly some of what the on-line dictionary says about it.
“Hog`ma*nay"\, n. The old name, in Scotland, for the last day of the year, on which children go about singing, and receive a dole of bread or cakes; also, the entertainment given on that day to a visitor, or the gift given to an applicant. [Scot.]”
Apparently, up to the 1960s, Scotland did not officially recolonise Christmas/Boxing Day as official Holidays etc, and so Hogmanay became their time of gift giving etc.
They also have their own unique way of bringing in the New Year. Whilst we tend to wait up till midnight and then having seen in the New Year, head to bed. There, Midnight is only when the celebrations Begin.
According to “” they have many customs depending on the locality but the main custom is called “first footing;” I quote: “There are many customs, both national and local, associated with Hogmanay. The most widespread national custom is the practice of 'first-footing' which starts immediately after midnight. This involves being the first person to cross the threshold of a friend or neighbour and often involves the giving of symbolic gifts such as salt (less common today), coal, shortbread, whisky, and black bun (a rich fruit cake) intended to bring different kinds of luck to the householder. Food and drink (as the gifts) are then given to the guests. This may go on throughout the early hours of the morning and well into the next day (although modern days see people visiting houses until 3 January). The first-foot is supposed to set the luck for the rest of the year, so it is important that a suitable person does the job. A tall, handsome, and dark-haired man bearing a gift is strongly preferred. According to popular folklore, a man with dark hair was welcomed because he was assumed to be a fellow Scotsman; a blond or red-haired stranger was assumed to be an unwelcome Norseman.”
Well tonight, I am going to leave the “First footing” to someone else. And if I do make it up to midnight, well then that will be enough for Me! Still, whether you party on to the 2nd or 3rd or not, I do hope a dark haired Stranger will cross your doorstep in the New Year and with good cheer too.
So as I started this Blog I close: Happy Hogmanay and also a very, very Happy New Year too!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Don’t Hint. Be specific.

This “For Better or For Worse” comic Strip by Lynn Johnston is similar to the Hagar one about the dangers of not being specific enough. This one has the mother talking on the phone to her friend saying, “ Sure I gave him some hints Anne! I said - buy me something frivolous and expensive – something I can show off to my friends…” She then says, “ I guess it was just a failure to communicate … I was thinking suede coat – while he was thinking Dish-washer.”
Again this highlights the fact that many, and men in particular, (and me, specifically), just don’t take hints very well at all, and if you really want something specific from them/us, then you just have to be very specific up front and not bemoan the fact afterwards when your ‘Hint’ was misinterpreted.
So as we face another New Year, let us all, male and female alike, resolve this New Year to drop the hints and to be more specific about what we do and don’t want. Again let there be no doubts at all as to what we require or desire, but to be plain and polite about everything. What say you?

Monday, December 29, 2008

Be More Specific Please? 29/12/2008

In this Hagar the Horrible cartoon by Chris Browne 29/12/08, Hagar is told by a monk, “You must change your sinful ways, Hagar.” Hagar has a little think about this after the monk has gone and says, “ I’d like to cooperate… But I don’t know which of my ways are sinful.”
As a preacher I could go into the whole sin thing in a big way, but for here, I would like to suggest that all of us in the coming New Year, really focus on what we say and rather than just generalise like the monk in this Cartoon, get more specific in detail and let the Hagars of this world really know exactly what it is that you are talking about.
Yes rather than talk in generalizations and expect them to understand, be specific and leave them in no doubt as to what you meant. That way, although they still might not do it, they will at least be in no doubt as to what you meant and what you really expected of them. So again as we approach this New year let us not only mean what we say, but also say exactly what we mean but as nice as we can too, hey?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Do You Have The “Authority” To Comment?

In this Garfield Cartoon, Garfield points and says, “ Here comes Santa Claus!” Then Santa comes up to him and says, “Boy, are you fat!” To which Garfield replies, “Coming from him that hurts.”
Sometimes we hear or even say comments that although true enough, do not carry any real weight or influence, because we have not earnt or gained the right to speak authoritatively on the subject. Thus the message never gets through to those who need to hear it. But when we speak with some acknowledged authority behind us, the message gets through even if not always appreciated. Yes, like with this cartoon, someone who is obviously authoritative on the subject, will be listened too with acknowledgement even if not with appreciation.
So before you try to be authoritative on subjects you don’t know or are not really authoritative on, please either keep quiet or make yourself an authority on the subject, if you really wish to be both taken seriously and to have your advice accepted by those who really need to hear it.
And while you are at it, perhaps you could be a little bit more diplomatic than this Santa and his, “Boy, are you fat!” comment. True as your comments may be, sometimes they too will be more acceptable if restated in a less offensive manner. Again, what say you?

Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas Crackers And Their Cheap Toys.

The other day, my wider family (Brothers, sisters, nieces, Nephew and Grand Nieces), were here for our turn to host the Family Christmas Dinner. We have this usually the weekend before Christmas and share the hosting around, thus allowing us all to get together at least once a year, but also leaving us all free to go/have our own actual Christmas Dinner with other family.
As part of a long held family tradition, as well as the traditional meal with the $ meats etc and Christmas Pudd, we must have Christmas Crackers with their Party hats, and also we must have Christmas Crackers with jokes and toys in them. (No matter how corny the jokes or how chintzy the toys!)
Because there were 18 of us, and the day nice, we ate outside on the patio and after the meal sat around in the shady side of the Yard, as the sun became hotter & hotter. As the day progressed the shady area got bigger, but at first it was small and people were basically sitting in two rows facing each other with less than a metre between the two rows. Not a great deal of room but enough for some one to bounce a small yellow fun ball that had come out of one of the Crackers. And as you would expect it wasn’t all that long before all the kids joined in. All the Kids from those under 10, to those over 60 that is! And all were having fun laughing at each others attempts to try and pre-empt which way the ball would bounce and catch it at their first half dozen attempts. It was quite amazing to watch all ages join in and have fun with such a simply thing as a cheap small yellow bouncy ball. It just shows that if you really want to, it doesn’t take much to have fun. Just a willingness to join it and to not be afraid that others may think that you look silly.
So today I would like to encourage you in what is left of the so called “Silly Season" to join in and have some good clean fun and be a kid at heart again, even if the Body is not young anymore. Don’t be afraid to look foolish in someone else’s eyes but enjoy the fun going around, or even make your own, and make it enjoyable for all. What do you?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Yes, Sometimes All The rotten Effort is worth it.

This “For Better or For Worse” comic Strip by Lynn Johnston has the family going through all the rigmarole and traumas of shopping for a Christmas tree, complete with young children fighting among themselves and the dog running around who knows where, and finally finding a suitable tree, having to pay more for it as it is one of the dearest ones. Then because they left the rope behind, have to carry it uncomfortably in the car with all of them. Then being told exasperatedly by the wife not to get needles all over the rug, the husband says, “Every year, we suffer through a day like this! … “And as his eyes saw the end result and the joy it brought all there, he added:” and… every year it is worth it!”
Yes just like with annually putting up and then taking down a Christmas tree, there are many things we do, that have a relatively short life, and lots of hassles involved in doing them, but then, in the long term, the benefits are well worth the extra hassles and frustrations and even short-term hardships.
Perhaps now in the business of Christmas, whether it be with the tree, or with obtaining suitable presents or even just in preparing the Christmas feast, you are feeling exasperated and frustrated by the whole thing and ready to call it quits? Well, do bear with the short-term handicaps and frustrations and remember the joy and long-term memories such a successful and happy event will muster. Some such memories last a lifetime too.
So this Christmas, don’t worry too much over the hassles and enjoy the end result. And also in all the enjoyment of the trappings of Christmas, don’t for get the main event and reason for the season. After all it isn’t called Christ-mas for nothing!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The occasional need for positive Reinforcement.

This “For Better or For Worse” comic Strip by Lynn Johnston has the mother staring into the mirror and sighing loudly and than her young son comes up and says, “ Know what mum? On parent night at preschool, I thought you were the prettiest of all the mums there.” To which she replied, “ You did?” Hugging him, she says, “Honey, that is so sweet! … What made you say that? “ To which he replies, “ I dunno …. Sometimes, you look like you need some positive reinforcement.”
Sad but true isn’t it? Yes, as much as we hate to admit it, all of us need some positive reinforcement at times don’t we? And often it is not even much but just the thought that someone else appreciates either us or what we are doing for them.
And just as we need some positive reinforcement form time to time, so do others. So if you see someone a bit down a or someone doing a good thing but getting no recognition for it, don’t be afraid to acknowledge them and their efforts, even if it just a simply verbal pat on the back like this cartoon character gave His mum.
So today, this Christmas season even, have a look around you and not into the mirror and see who else needs some positive reinforcement and then give it to them if you get the opportunity. What say you?

Friday, December 19, 2008

Christmas Cards? You get what you give!

Recently read where a Bishop (or Archbishop) in England suggested people shouldn’t spend too much on themselves for Christmas and spend more on people who have less, a sentiment I heartedly agree with. However he also went on to say that people should also cut back on sending out Christmas Cards and especially to people they hardly know or haven’t heard from for some time. A sentiment I am not quite in agreement with. I certainly would agree that we shouldn’t waste a lot of money on expensive cards, but with so many cards on the market at the moment, one can pick them up quite cheaply; especially if you buy after Christmas and save them for next year, like I try to do! If you buy the cheaper ones that way, you can get a reasonably nice card for almost the same price as it would cost to photocopy your own Christmas Letter.
Thus I find Christmas Cards not only cheap, but a cheap way of keeping in touch with people you don’t have a lot of contact with but would still like to keep in touch with, even if only once a year. Hence I/we send out a few Christmas cards each year and receive a few too!
In fact visitors occasionally remark on how many cards we have, as compared to how many they have themselves. And of course when I ask how many they personally sent out, the answer is always, "Not many!" And there is the problem, with not only Christmas Cards but also with most things in Life. We only get back a proportion of what we put in and if we put in very little, we will get even less back. Yes we get a few Christmas cards every year, but then again I probably sent out about twice what we receive back.
So today, whether it is Christmas Cards, presents or only compliments and best wishes, if you are not getting as many as you think you should, ask yourself how many you have been giving out yourself, as you really will only harvest much, if you sow much.
So this Christmas and the New Year, whether it be cards or compliments, get out there and sow much, and wait for the harvest to come in, in its due time.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

If At First You Don’t Succeed, Try A Different Angle.

This “For Better or For Worse” comic Strip by Lynn Johnston has the Visiting Uncle arrive with his suitcases. To which the Young son says, “: Which suitcase has my Present in-MMMFF?” as his mother quickly muffles his mouth.
Daunted not one bit from his desire, he proceeds with “Ok…. We’ll just help you unpack” and grabs a suitcase and proceeds to open it.
One may query his manners but not his commitment to his cause. But what about you and me? Do we have that same commitment to all our tasks and obligations? Or do we let the first little set back, knock us off of our path and deflect us from our Goal and cause us to settle for something, often far less rewarding and fulfilling?
So as we head for a New Year and all its promises and prospects for us, will we truly follow those goals and objects, even to finding alternative ways to reach our goals when the most obvious are blocked to us? Or will we falter and fall at the first obstacle in our path?
So will you be more like this cartoon character (but also like many excited real life people to), who will you not be daunted by the obstructions but look to new approaches and ways to achieve your goals for the coming New Year? Will you? It is over and up to you now!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Experiencing Both Sides.

This “For Better or For Worse” comic Strip by Lynn Johnston has the wife talking to her friend on the phone, “ My Brother’s coming for Christmas, Connie.” “Yeah He’s still in the theatre, still playing the trumpet…” “Married? No! - He leads a crazy life of late nights, women, travelling! Somehow he still likes to visit us with our kids, dog and Mortgage.” And then she adds the closer: “ ….I think it convinces him he’s been doing the right thing!”
Yes it may be funny in a comic strip but often in real life it is not so funny is it, to be on the one side looking at the other and being wistful or wondering what it is like, but not ready or willing to commit just yet?
Yes there are times when it is good to temporarily experience what the other side has to offer. (If it is not illegal, immoral or harmful that is!) So when you get the chance to mix with people living differently to you, like as in a single person verses a married couple with children etc, such as at Christmas time weddings, funerals and another family gatherings or the like, how do you react to them? Do you go along to fully experience, even if not outright enjoy it, yet determined to make the most of it? Or do you go along mournfully and unwillingly, if you go at all, that is?
I would just like to encourage you this Christmas Season to go out and make the most of the opportunities that the Christmas season offers to see and experience what the other side has to offer, even if just as an interested observer and not an outright active participant.
So yes this Christmas enjoy yourself and view the other side objectively: either to see what you are missing out on. Or to really appreciate how lucky, even blessed, you really are with your current life style. What say you?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Are You Prepared To Take The Good With The Bad?

In an earlier cartoon from the “For Better or For Worse” comic Strip by Lynn Johnston, we find the mother, after having just been sweet talked into taking home a puppy from the neighbours much to the great delight of her young son, carrying it when it wets itself and her at the same time, much to the ladies disgust. And her husband didn’t help much by saying, “Didn’t you say you might like another baby?”
However, whether a pup or baby, or any other thing, there will always be aspects of having such things, that we would rather do with out. Having had 3 children of our own now, I can quite honestly say I could have quite happily done without all the wet and dirty nappies etc, (even if my wife did most of them ---- Sometimes working away from home can have its benefits, hey!) But anyway, dirty nappies or not, I would never have not had our kids just because of that and a few other problems associated with bringing up children.
So I would like to try and encourage you today, that if you are feeling a little discouraged by the extra dirty, messy, smelly work involved in your life though some recent addition to your life, just remember that there are many, many more better times too, and that you just need to learn to be able to take the bad times with the good. And as you are going through those bad timed to focus not on them, but on the benefits and rewards of the good times instead.
So if you are feeling down today, will you try that? Will you?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Just call me the Kilometer Kid now.

Now I know that at the time of writing this, I am (Literally) only a few days away from my 58th Birthday, but now I feel like calling myself the “Kilometer Kid” as I have just managed to swim that distance. Albeit in a 50 metre pool and not in the ocean, or in a river like my friend in Papua New Guinea had to do recently, but I did it; even with a few moments rest occasionally at the end of each lap.
Not bad considering that when I started swimming again barely 10 months ago, I couldn’t even swim 25 metres without stopping. I still can’t say my swimming style is marvellous, nor fast, but I have improved, albeit only a bit. My mate who I go swimming with once a week, is also not the fastest swimmer around and swims in the slowest slow lane, (While I swim in the Public section.) yet he used to do two laps to my one. Now, he does 3 laps to my two: so you see I still have along way to go, just to be at his low level; but at least I am getting some distance in now.
Although a couple of weeks back I had done 16 laps, my normal distance had been between 12 & 14 laps in the 50 minutes or so, we spend swimming, so I was somewhat surprised the other morning to realize that I had just done 14 laps and still had heaps of time left and was travelling well, so went out to break my 16 lap record which I did, but just after I started on my 17th lap, I was struggling so badly that I thought I would just finish it and hopefully the 18th and call it quits, but then I recovered and having done my 18th and seen that my mate was still swimming, went for the round number of 20, which I comfortably achieved in the end.
When I had finished and told my mate how many I had done, even though he had done that day (and often does 30 laps himself), he was more pleased for me than I was myself. Isn’t it great to have someone to try yourself out against without have to actually compete against them too?
So today I would just like to encourage you to learn from both myself and my mate.
1. When you first start out on something new, don’t give up too easily. Even if it is hard or difficult and seemingly impossible, hang on in there and keep plugging away.
2. If you don’t have the speed, go for endurance; just don’t give up, but look to your strengths, and finding them, work to them.
3. Set yourself mild goals and not unrealistic ones. My first goal was to swim the full length of the pool. And them to get back again! And then, when time and energy allowed, trying to beat my previous best. Even though that was not always possible each week, it was something to aim at in the back of my Mind.
And from my mate I have learnt:
1. To know your limits. Even though he has been swimming sometimes up to 3 times a week for the past couple of years, He has learnt that 30 is his limit, even if some mornings he only does 24 or so, sometimes.
2. To encourage others, rather than to compete against them.
Well that’s me and what I have learnt from my swimming experiences. What about you? What have you learnt, and what can you learn, from your own personal experiences? Even from something as mundane as swimming?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Advertising Christ Or Santa this year? 6/12/2008

In a recent “For Better or For Worse” cartoon, Lynn Johnston has the 6-year-old boy ask his mum, “ If Christmas is more about God than Santa ….. How come people talk more about Santa than God? “ His Mum replies, “ God does less advertising.”
And when you look around at all the Christmas paraphernalia on the market, at first glance, this may appear to be true. But is it? To answer that question properly, one needs to properly understand how God advertises and how that differs from the Santa and Christmas commercial advertising.
God does indeed advertise, but he does it not through some expansive and expensive advertising blitz of all the available Media outlets. No God advertises quietly but no less expansively thorough the lives and witness of ordinary everyday believers in Him. People like you and me, if you claim to be a follower of Christ!
Yes God uses word of mouth advertising and this is the best method of all, as if a person is truly happy with a product they can’t help but share that news with any that will listen and even with some who won’t listen! Should we do any less with the great News of Jesus Christ this Christmas and every day too, for that matter? So, whom are you really advertising for this Year? God or Santa?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Are you too quick to Blame too?

Another blog inspired by a “For Better or For Worse” comic Strip by Lynn Johnston and about a recently acquired pup and the joys of such ownership. This one has the mother exasperatedly looking at a puddle in the Hall and then, even worse, finding another in the kitchen and then mop in hand, finding yet another puddle elsewhere. Well this is more than she can bare, so she unceremoniously scoops up the pup and quickly bundles him into his cage. She then walks back into the kitchen, only to find her toddler quite happily squirting apple juice out of its box all over the place.
So it was not the pup at all but her daughter and apple juice! However the pup got the blame first. Do we too often operate like that? And jump at first conclusions, without checking them out first? It may just be that often our first conclusion may be right, but it may also be wrong too and great harm can come from false or incorrect conclusions too. Yes in the case of a pup being falsely or wrongly accused, there will probably be no serious repercussions, but in the home or workplace with family, friends or associates, great harm can come simple because we jumped to the wrong conclusion and then acted upon that conclusion without first seriously checking and con firming that our original conclusion was right.
So today before you jump to any conclusion, please check your facts carefully before speaking or acting. And then act appropriately and responsibly. OK?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Camera Moments are worth it.

In this “For Better or For Worse” comic Strip by Lynn Johnston, the mother after previously defending herself from her neighbour’s haranguing for getting her children a Pup, is now starting to have some self-doubts herself saying, “I didn’t want a puppy. Heavens knows, the last thing I need is a DOG!!. But here you are… And I’ve bought all the necessities: A cage, a fence, a bed, shampoo. Toys, food… Now I am looking after another baby! … Why in the world did I agree to this?!!! “
At this point the sight of her two little children playing extremely happily with the pup breaks her moment of doubt and self-pity. To which she exclaims, “ Whoa! … lemme get the camera!!’
Yes with every extra item we add to our routine, there will be extra costs and commitments, and yes there will also be times when we wonder, “What was I thinking when I said yes!” But there will also be many other moments when we also say, “ Whoa! … Lemme get the camera!!’
So today if you are struggling under the load of extra burdens of something that was cute at the time, but now you are wondering, think again of the “ Camera times” and other such Happy times that this extra Burden has brought. And then hopefully you too, will be able to take your eyes off of the extra work and focus on the extra benefits this extra addition has brought you. What say you?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Work Or Cute?

In this “For Better or For Worse” comic Strip by Lynn Johnston, The mother has her neighbour haranguing her for getting a puppy for her two children, saying “ A puppy!?- Elly you’re crazy!! I though you wanted more freedom. I thought you wanted less work! You’re got enough to do without adding a puppy to the list!!!”
All logical responses and arguments I believe, but what was the Mother’s (Elly) response? “But Connie…. He’s so CUTE!”
Yes sometimes some extraneous extra thing, like a pup/dog may tie up our plans for more freedom! Yes they may even make much more work, at least to start with! Yes you may already have plenty of work to do! But sometimes it is to our advantage to take on something that is cute. Something that will give us a different and even an “outside” influence (Note to dog lovers; Pun not originally intended!)
So today even if you have a heavy load already, don’t exclude something extra because it has no intrinsic meaning or purpose other than cute, but consider it anyhow, even if it is only for “Cute”. Because although Cute can be extra work, it can also have extra benefits too. Such as relaxation and happy memories. So in closing don’t just reject something out of hand just because it is only cute, but consider it because it is cute.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

How to recognize Phony things?

Recently read a comment, which said, “Counterfeit money is only recognised by those who know how to identify the real thing”. And from my time behind the counter selling newspapers where I often to late, found coins from other countries being used, either accidentally or intentionally as Australian currency, I know this is true. When things are busy and you are not watching very, very carefully the non-genuine article often slips through leaving you unaware until it is too late. I didn’t (that I know of) have any problem with counterfeit notes. Or even counterfeit coins for that matter, but every now and then foreign coins would come through passed of as “real” Australian currency.
In some cases you had to see the other side of the coin to tell the obvious differences, because often the “Heads” side was very similar as many Commonwealth countries also have the Queen of England on one side of their coins.
What is true of money is also true of many other things too. Just like there is a lot of phoney money (both coins and notes) floating around, so is there a lot of phoney things floating around being passed off as the real thing and you need to know the real thing if you wish to avoid being tricked into buying into the inferior and often dangerous alternatives being offered around as the “Genuine article”.
This is true of religions too. There are many phoney religions floating around including many phoney so-called Christian ones too! And just as with religions in general, so as with Christianity too that we have to both know and pay attention to the real thing, so as to be able to distinguish between the phoney and the real thing.
So this year as we fast approach the Christmas season, let us all keep an eye out for the phoniness of the festival, and remember the true reason for the season. And the only way we can safely do that is to know the real thing from the phoney when we see it and to take our time in analysing and checking out what we accept, so that we don’t get “fooled” in our hurriedness, like I did a few times with non-Australian coins being passed off as the real thing.
So it is my prayer that even in the busyness of the fast approaching Christmas Festival, that this year at least, you will remember the real Reason (Christ) for the 9Christmas) season and spend quality time and prayer over the word of God; and then know and show the full and whole Christ to the world. Let there be nothing phoney about you or the message of God that you share, this Christmas and beyond.