Christmas Review

Some highlights from the last few days:

– “It’s A Wonderful Life” was a successful start to bringing Lamplighter’s to Sumner County.   What talented actors!  I look forward to “Pride and Prejudice” in February.|

Kent Henry was a breath of fresh air for our church.   I have always been a fan of Kent’s music, but now he has become a new voice of wisdom and encouragement in my personal ministry.  I think he will have a special relationship with CIL in the future.  We had a nice conversation on the phone today as we discussed ways he can minister to our church in 2009.

– Being together on Christmas Eve is an important thing for our church family.   I know everyone can’t participate, but I was blessed to be with those who were at our Christmas Eve Service.   Penny, Malissa, Matt and Colby did an excellent job with the music!

– After Santa visited the Allison home, we drove to eastern Kentucky to have Christmas dinner with Beth’s family.  We’ll stay here for a few days.  I reflected quite a bit on the relaxing drive here, and God is already speaking to me about next year.  Some of the most significant things I have heard from the Lord have occurred while I have been here in the mountains, so I expect some great spiritual insights as I finish the year up here.

Here arluke-hiking-dec08e some pictures of me and Luke hiking.  We are on the mountain behind Beth’s childhood home in Kentucky.  Look at the last picture – at the bottom, you can barely see the reddish roof of her home through the trees.   The other homes belong to other family members.  

I was proud of Luke for being so brave!


What is your favorite Christmas Movie?

Ok, enough heavy talk this week – we need to have a little fun between now and Christmas.  I am going to start an informal poll of the best Christmas movies.   Rate yours from 1 to 3, and we’ll see who wins this thing.  Why not?

Here is mine:
1. It’s A Wonderful Life (none better . . . the classic)
2. Serendipity (don’t laugh guys! . . . the movie is way better than the Manhattan restaurant)
3. A Christmas Story

What’s your list?

Condoleezza Rice Shares Regret Over Darfur

Condoleezza Rice was on “Meet the Press” yesterday (   She was interviewed by David Gregory, and they made some remarkable statements on Sudan & Darfur:

condoleezza-1221082. . . David, one of the real regrets I’ve had is that we haven’t been able to do something about Sudan. The horrible lives that the people of Darfur are living, the horrible tragedy that is unfolding there.  Now, it’s true, we’ve been able to do a lot about the humanitarian situation.  We’ve even been able to support getting some peacekeepers onto the ground; and where there are peacekeepers, there’s less violence.  But we could’ve done so much more . . . (Condoleezza Rice)
After more dialogue, David Gregory concluded . . .
Isn’t it amazing, the last 16 years of American leadership, two presidents, two big regrets stand out:  Rwanda and Darfur.

The whole conversation about the atrocities in Africa was brief, and the subject was quickly changed.  It’s one of those news stories ignored, and another example of how an important admission from the head of our State Department is widely overlooked.

Yet, more proof that history will judge us by how we responded as a people to genocide.   I want to be part of a church who cares about genocide.

The Credit Card Culture is Cracking

My second observation about the economy . . .

The Credit Card Culture is Cracking

I hear, see and sense our culture changing their views on credit cards.  When times are good, the credit card companies are eager to give out 0 % interest, and a tote bag of your favorite sports team.  In the bad times, they are more eager to triple your APR and enforce every possible fee.

I think the whole credit system is ludicrous.  To get a loan from the bank you usually have to show good financial records and offer up collateral for a decent interest rate.  The credit card companies offer thousands of dollars of “unsecured” debt.   Let’s face it, we all knew in our hearts this was going to end up bad.   We are supposed to be held hostage by this arbitrary number – our credit rating.   I have often wandered what would happen if everyone stopped paying on their credit cards – what would the companies do?   They could take away are credit rating, but we don’t need to borrow any more money anyway.   House payments and car payments have teeth, but credit card payments really have no bite.    This is precisely why the system is destined to fail.

Now, I think we have a responsibility to pay back what we borrow, even if its owed to the evil credit card companies.  However, that is not my point.  I am trying to point out how ridiculous the credit card system is, and I hope it crumbles for good.   I see Americans emerging as much wiser, and in the future we will all look at the use of credit in a a responsible way.

Gas Prices Make A Difference

So as a small time investor, and a part of the “middle class”, here is my first unqualified observations about our economy:

Gas prices really matter.

At one time, I ugas-pricesed to shrug my shoulders at rising gas prices.   People around me stressed out at 20 to 30 cent increase in a gallon of gas, but the simple math just didn’t make that much an impact on me.   Then, 2008 happened.  Sure, it is depressing to see your 401K or IRA dwindle (yes, I lost a lost a lot in my retirement).  However, saving $20 to $30 in gas per fill up really effects the average person’s lifestyle.

Now that gas is under $2 / gallon, we need to push for alternative energy, new drilling of fossil fuels and other reachable solutions to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.  Again, our media is so short-sighted in their coverage of the issues.  Where is the talk about our energy crisis?  It still exists!  We still need to get serious about this!

We need more voices from both political perspectives continue to keep the heat on this issue.   Whether it is Newt Gingrich on the right reciting, “Drill Here, Drill Now”; or Thomas Friedman on the left calling us to “Green the Economy” – we need voices. Voices that won’t speak on the energy issue because it is “trendy”, but will champion the cause of energy independence because it is a necessity for our future.   It is amazing to me that no one seems to connect the ridiculous summer prices on gas with the collapse of our economy

I have learned during this time that energy prices really make a difference.   In the future, I will be looking for leaders who have done something in their record about energy independence, and have a clear plan on how we can improve our energy resources in the future.

Have the price of gas made a big difference in your life?

What are you learning from our economy?

I have decided to try to use my blog to be more useful to you.   I know most of you care at some level for me and my family, but you are way to busy to read each day about our activities (unless it’s very unique).   I am going to attempt to provide either useful information or a format for dialogue (my Facebook posts have been the best for dialogue).   This week, I want to give some simple observations on the economy, because our economy is something that effects each of us.

The greatest thing we will all get from this difficult financial time is wisdom.   We will get wisdom only if we take time to think, reflect, learn and respond.   I believe good times will come again, but I for one want to be much wiser when they do.

I am going to share some things I am learning during these times, but what about you?  Beat me to the punch, and let me know what you are learning.

Satellite TV Proves Less is More

A couple of weeks ago I reduced our satellite package to save a few bucks in the monthly budget.   Before we reduced our package, we evaluated all the channels we would lose.   Beth would lose her Discovery Health, and I lost my beloved Fox News.

After a few days with the reduced satellite package, I discovered something surprising.   I actually enjoyed watching TV with less options!   Instead of trying to manage all my options, I picked a channel quicker and enjoyed the shows.
This made me think of other things that less is more:
– Smaller Restaurant Menus . . . I like a few good items to choose from instead a 10 page menu.
– 3 Song releases on itunes . .. . I purchased my music for the first time in several years when Amy Stroup released three songs only through itunes.
– Shorter blogs – ha!  It’s true, the shorter the blog, the more likely I am to read it.

The same principal applies with our spiritual life.  When we keep it simple, we actually can gain more enjoyment in our relationship with Christ.  Simple and uncomplicated – isn’t that the way a good friendship should be?   Hopefully, I won’t get to0 busy or too religious to remains friend with Christ.

Why I Am Not Speaking

I haven’t spoken in the last few services for CIL.  No – I don’t have voice problems.  No – I am not on secret suspension.   I am finding great value in having other people carry the speaking load with me.  Here are some reasons why:
– We have some really good speakers at CIL (David Huff and David Stocker have opposite styles, but I love hearing both of them speak).
– We need less churches where the crowd is built around one person’s speaking.  I believe that will be an old model of church some day.
– On service days that I don’t speak, I have a great opportunity to listen to people’s stories and pray with them.  I am getting better at the listening part, but I still have a long way to go.  The point is, being a pastor isnt’ about speaking – it’s equally about being with the people I lead.   The services I don’t speak allow me to connect better.
– On Wednesdays I don’t speak, I can fit in several more counseling cases and appointments.  Again, more time with people.
– No one wants to listen to the same person twice a week, every week.  Honestly, no one speaks that good.
– I need to hear a good sermon in real time, instead of on itunes.
– According to the Bible, my job is to “equip the saints for works of service,”   When there is a gifted speaker, I am responsible to help develop this skill within them.   Plus, I just really love giving people opportunities to grow and develop.
– A speaking break invigorates me.   I miss speaking, so it causes me to have a fresh passion and focus in my talks when I have experienced a break.