Songs of Christmas…

christmas-songs

I really enjoyed the November Thanksgiving series, “Pass the…” we finished today. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

This time of year we don’t hardly seem to have finished one holiday before we have another looming in front of us. We celebrated Thanksgiving just under a week ago and, as the old Christmas song says, “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…”

Because I enjoyed the Thanksgiving series so much, I decided to continue with that kind of idea for Christmas. “Songs of Christmas” will be that effort. Each day we will take one of the great songs of Christmas, songs we enjoy singing and hearing this time of year.

Most of the songs will be spiritual in nature. For me, the birth of Christ is always in the forefront of the Christmas season. But, I also like to have some fun with my writing too so we will also have a few secular songs to talk about. Those will happen primarily on Saturdays as I usually try to do something different, sometimes even funny on Saturday while at the same time sticking with my original theme. I may mix in one or two others as we go as well. I will not use a secular song on Christmas Eve (happens to be a Saturday this year). Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are reserved for Jesus!

Because this music usually carries a spiritual message with it, I probably won’t include as much Scripture as normal but what I share may well have Scripture in it.

It is my hope in this series to share with you a story or two behind the hymns. If I am unable to share a story, perhaps it will be something you maybe don’t know about the music. These stories have fascinated me for years. I look forward to what I will learn new as we go along. I invite you to join me for the journey.

Have a blessed night and we will get started tomorrow morning (December 1st with “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.”

Joy and Peace,
Keith

This page will also serve as the index for this series. See below.

Part 1: O Come, O Come Emmanuel
Part 2: O Little Town of Bethlehem
Part 3: Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer
Part 4: There’s a Song in the Air
Part 5: I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
Part 6: I’ll Be Home for Christmas
Part 7: Go Tell it on the Mountain
Part 8: Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
Part 9: It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
Part 10: Jingle Bells
Part 11: Joy to the World
Part 12: Mary Did You Know?
Part 13: What Child is This?
Part 14: O Come All Ye Faithful
Part 15: Away in a Manger
Part 16: White Christmas
Part 17: Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer
Part 18: Angels We Have Heard on High
Part 19: The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)
Part 20: Do You Hear What I Hear?
Part 21: The First Noel
Part 22: God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
Part 23: Angels From the Realms of Glory
Part 24: O Holy Night
Part 25: Silent Night
Part 26: Carol of the Bells
Part 27: Sleigh Ride
Part 28: Winter Wonderland
Part 29: We Three Kings
Part 30: The Twelve Days of Christmas
Part 31: Auld Lang Syne

Copyright 2016, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Pass Me a Pillow

The Lord is my strength and my shield. My heart trusts him. I was helped, my heart rejoiced, and I thank him with my song (Psalm 28:7, Common English Bible).

This is the 30th and last part of the November Thanksgiving series, “Pass the…” for a listing on the other posts please see the index.

Well, we have finally reached the end of our series. We started out at the beginning of the month and worked our way through an entire Thanksgiving menu (along with a few other non-food items). It has been quite a meal.

It didn’t happen to me this year, perhaps because I really paid attention to the quantity of food I ate, but most Thanksgiving afternoons come complete with nap time. Lots of people would blame it on the tryptophan from eating turkey. My limited on-line research said that it MIGHT be a contributing factor but the real factor is in the size of the meal. I always have gotten sleepy because I have always made a pig out of myself at the Thanksgiving table.*

After a meal like we have eaten over the past month, I would say that big meal is probably in order. So, would someone please pass me a pillow.

Many times, as I lay down, particularly at the end of a day I like to lay in bed, head on my pillow, and reflect on the blessings of the day and on the things where I can (and really should) give thanks. I want to live out my life with a thankful heart. I am pretty sure I have already said this (probably multiple times) over the course of this series. If I didn’t I should have. We need to be people who are not just those who remember to be thankful on the fourth Thursday of November. We need to be thankful every day because we really are blessed people.

Sure, there are times in all our lives where we have difficulty and being thankful can seem difficult. Think about someone who has been sick for a period of time? What is there for which to be thankful Well, we could be thankful for medication that prevents us from being even worse.

What about the person who lives in an abusive situation? We can be thankful for the strength that will not succumb, that will not allow us to stay down.

What about those who have lost a loved one. I am one of those this year having lost my dad just over a month ago. But, I can be thankful that I had 58 years with him. I can be thankful that he lived 85 years and had a good life. I can be thankful that he taught me to be a good man, a man of faith.

The thing is, no matter our situation, there is always, always a reason to be thankful. What I think it boils down to most is, we have to have a thankful heart. A thankful heart will always look for the reason to be thankful, for the glimmer of light that is reason to have hope in even the most difficult times life presents to us.

So, when I lay down with my pillow for that post-meal nap or at the end of the day, I choose to have a thankful heart. I choose to have a heart that will proclaim the goodness and blessings of God each day. I don’t want to be someone who waits for Thanksgiving Day or even the month of November each year to thank God for my blessings. And make no mistake, I am a very blessed man.

So my heart is thankful, and even for that I am thankful. I think I am ready for that pillow. I have come to understand that when I have a thankful heart, I just rest better. So, pass me a pillow. It’s nap time.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy and Peace,
Keith

Copyright 2016, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

*http://www.livescience.com/41543-thanksgiving-myth-busted-eating-turkey-won-t-make-you-sleepy.html

 

Pass the… Pecan Pie

“Don’t be troubled. Trust in God. Trust also in me. My Father’s house has room to spare. If that weren’t the case, would I have told you that I’m going to prepare a place for you.  When I go to prepare a place for you, I will return and take you to be with me so that where I am you will be too. You know the way to the place I’m going.” Thomas asked, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going. How can we know the way?”  Jesus answered, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you have really known me, you will also know the Father. From now on you know him and have seen him (John 14:1-7, Common English Bible).

This is part 29 in the November Thanksgiving series, “Pass the…” for a listing on the other posts please see the index.

We have almost reached the end of our Thanksgiving series for November titled “Pass the…” So, would someone please pass the pecan pie? I told you several days ago how much I like cranberry sauce. Well, I think I love pecan pie even more. I don’t eat it very often. It really isn’t compatible with either my blood sugar or weight issues. It is loaded with sugar and carbohydrates. I know I just don’t need all that sugar.

My problem is, I love pecan pie. At one time in my life I would rather have had peach, cherry or apple, all of which can have, and often do have sugar free versions. I am not sure if it is even possible to make a sugar free pecan pie that actually tastes like pecan pie. Today, while I still eat more fruit pies than pecan pie, pecan pie is my favorite.

I am sure you must be thinking that today’s blog, by the title is going to be an analogy for the Church. The thought would go something like this, “The church is really sweet but full of nuts.” While that is funny, and often true, that wasn’t my plan at all. I already talked about the Church when we talked about cranberry sauce. Besides, it isn’t my fault you don’t like cranberry sauce and so you ignored the post about cranberry sauce and the Church.

As I have given thought to this, and the post a couple of days ago about chocolate cake, the thought occurred to me that some of us love something sweet at the end of our meals. And, pecan pie qualifies as really sweet. After all, it has like a gallon of Karo Syrup in it. There isn’t much sweeter than that. And, isn’t sweet the whole point behind pecan pie?

Yes, most of us do like something sweet at the end of a meal. There are exceptions of course. A former secretary of mine always wanted something sweet but she would save a few bites of savory because she didn’t want to get up from the table with the sweet taste in her mouth.

In our lesson, Jesus begins saying, “My Father’s house has room to spare.” In the King James it says, “In my Father’s house there are many mansions.” Then Jesus goes on to say he is going ahead to prepare a place for us.

This particular text is one of the most requested lessons at funerals because it speaks of the idea that our little spot of heaven isn’t ready for those of us who are still walking and talking and breathing and eating pecan pie. Yet for the deceased, the end has come, there place in heaven is now ready and they go now to join Jesus. There mansion, their room, is now ready. It has reached an end and now something sweeter is coming their way. It is the fulfillment of a promise God is making to each of us.

Can you think of anything any sweeter than what is still to come for all of us who still walk around in what Paul calls a used clay jar? As sweet as pecan pie may be, this would be sweeter still.

Several years ago there was an email that made the rounds of just about everyone’s inbox. It speaks to this idea as well. It is titled, “The Fork.”

There was a young woman who had been diagnosed with a terminal illness and had been given three months to live. So as she was getting her things in order, she contacted her Pastor and had him come to her house to discuss certain aspects of her final wishes.

She told him which songs she wanted sung at the service, what scriptures she would like read, and what outfit she wanted to be buried in. Everything was in order and the Pastor was preparing to leave when the young woman suddenly remembered something very important to her.

“There’s one more thing,” she said excitedly.

“What’s that?” came the Pastor’s reply.

“This is very important,” the young woman continued. “I want to be buried with a fork in my right hand.”

The Pastor stood looking at the young woman, not knowing quite what to say.

“That surprises you, doesn’t it?” the young woman asked.

“Well, to be honest, I’m puzzled by the request,” said the Pastor.

The young woman explained. “My grandmother once told me this story, and from that time on I have always tried to pass along its message to those I love and those who are in need of encouragement. In all my years of attending socials and dinners, I always remember that when the dishes of the main course were being cleared, someone would inevitably lean over and say, ‘Keep your fork.’ It was my favorite part because I knew that something better was coming…like velvety chocolate cake or deep-dish apple pie. Something wonderful, and with substance!”

So, I just want people to see me there in that casket with a fork in my hand and I want them to wonder “What’s with the fork?” Then I want you to tell them: “Keep your fork ..the best is yet to come.”

The Pastor’s eyes welled up with tears of joy as he hugged the young woman goodbye. He knew this would be one of the last times he would see her before her death. But he also knew that the young woman had a better grasp of heaven than he did. She had a better grasp of what heaven would be like than many people twice her age, with twice as much experience and knowledge. She knew that something better was coming.

At the funeral people were walking by the young woman’s casket and they saw the cloak she was wearing and the fork placed in her right hand. Over and over, the Pastor heard the question, “What’s with the fork?” And over and over he smiled.

During his message, the Pastor told the people of the conversation he had with the young woman shortly before she died. He also told them about the fork and about what it symbolized to her. He told the people how he could not stop thinking about the fork and told them that they probably would not be able to stop thinking about it either.

He was right. So the next time you reach down for your fork let it remind you, ever so gently, that the best is yet to come.*

The pecan pie, the sweet that comes at the end of our Thanksgiving meal. The Kingdom that is to come, the sweet that comes at the end of a faithful life. I don’t think there is much more we can ask.

So, would someone please pass me a nice piece of pecan pie?

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy and Peace,
Keith

Copyright 2016, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

*https://www.guideposts.org/comfort-hope/why-do-people-say-keep-your-fork

Pass the… Leftovers

He said, “Bring them here to me.” He ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. He took the five loaves of bread and the two fish, looked up to heaven, blessed them and broke the loaves apart and gave them to his disciples. Then the disciples gave them to the crowds. Everyone ate until they were full, and they filled twelve baskets with the leftovers. About five thousand men plus women and children had eaten (Matthew 14:18-21, Common English Bible).

This is part 28 in the November Thanksgiving series, “Pass the…” for a listing on the other posts please see the index.

One of my favorite parts of Thanksgiving has always been the Turkey sandwich for my evening meal after having eaten the turkey as the main course at lunchtime. I also enjoy the leftover pecan pie (I promise, we will pass that tomorrow), cranberry sauce and several other things that might be found in the refrigerator following the biggest meal of the year. There is nothing quite like a good turkey sandwich while watching the Thanksgiving night football game.

This year I actually tried something new. Cindy made my sandwich and she put both turkey and cranberry sauce on it. I have had both of them, separately, for as long as I can remember. This was the first time I ate both together on a sandwich. In fact, it was the first time I had cranberry sauce on a sandwich.

I talked to my friend Paul later in the day. He told me he was going to eat a dressing sandwich for supper. It sounded both gross and redundant to me. Gross because, well, its dressing and we already went there in this series. It sounds redundant because dressing is cornbread and a sandwich, by definition has bread. So, Paul was going to have a bread sandwich. Oh, yum!!!! (well maybe not).

When I started thinking about this particular day there was only one place to go for the Scripture for the day, Jesus feeding of the five thousand. Think about it, there were twelve baskets of leftovers after the end of a meal where he used five loaves of bread and two fish. I know there is nothing that says how big the bread or fish might have been but considering it was a boy’s lunch, it is a good possibility they were pretty normal in size.

The story tells us how God doesn’t just meet the need, God is so often extravagant in supplying our needs. Jesus fed over 5000 people (the scriptures say 5000 men plus women and children, it could be they fed 15,000 people or even more) with five loaves of bread and two fish. Then, as if that isn’t extravagant enough, there were twelve baskets of leftovers. That at least makes it sound like Jesus and the disciples ended up with more food leftover than there was in the beginning. WOW!!!! That is providing in an extravagant way.

While we didn’t feed 5000 last Thursday, we fed ten, and I don’t think there were more leftovers than there was food at the beginning, there is still no question, we were blessed beyond measure. Then, the blessings continued with that great turkey and cranberry sauce sandwich (and I can’t ever forget the pecan pie).

Isn’t that the way God always seems to be? We are blessed with what God does for us. We are blessed beyond measure and then God blesses us again, and again, and again.

So with that, pass me those leftovers. I think I could use another turkey and cranberry sauce sandwich!

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy and Peace,
Keith

Copyright 2016, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Pass the… Chocolate Cake

But the Lord’s faithful love is from forever ago to forever from now for those who honor him. And God’s righteousness reaches to the grandchildren (Psalm 103:17, Common English Bible).

This is part 27 in the November Thanksgiving series, “Pass the…” for a listing on the other posts please see the index.

OK, I confess, cake is not one of my downfalls. I have many downfalls, but cake is not generally one of them. I don’t necessarily dislike cake, it just isn’t something I generally get real excited about either.

That being said, one of my downfalls is my mother-in-law’s chocolate cake. Well, more specifically the chocolate icing on my mother-in-law’s chocolate cake. The cake itself, it’s chocolate cake but the icing, she adds something to it. I’m not sure if its a longtime family secret of not, but I like being part of that family so I won’t disclose the ingredient on this thread, and no, it isn’t alcohol. But, when my mother-in-law makes that cake, my blood sugar jumps 50 points just hearing about it.

I am not the only one who loves her chocolate cake. Of course my wife loves her mother’s chocolate cake. When Cindy makes a chocolate cake she follows her mother’s icing recipe to the letter. There are others too.

Several years ago we were at a family gathering with a lot of extended family, it was the birthday of Cindy’s paternal grandfather. There was a store bought and decorated cake there. And, there were several people who took a share or two. I was not one of them. Neither was one of Cindy’s uncles. I heard Ricky say words to the effect, “If I am going to give up calories on a piece of cake it won’t be for that store bought cake, it will be for that chocolate cake.” I concur.

As I think of my, now more than 40 years with Cindy’s family as either a guy who came around dating their daughter or the almost 40 years as a married-in member of the family, I cannot recall my mother-in-law making that cake unless it was for a family gathering. But, you also have to understand, Cindy’s family is huge. Cindy’s mother had four siblings. Cindy’s father had three siblings. Each had multiple children and Cindy is one of four children in her immediate family and all of them have at least two kids and the biggest number of them have multiple grandkids. All that is to say, it doesn’t take much to have a family gathering around there. And when a family gathering happened, far more often than not, that divine chocolate cake make its way onto the table.

That alone makes me thankful for family. If it weren’t for those family gatherings I might never have tried one of the best chocolate cakes in the world! When I see chocolate cake, I am thankful for family.

Especially since becoming a pastor, I have also learned that many of us have family members who really aren’t family at all. I have found another chocolate cake that is up there with my mother-in-law’s cake. It is a person who is part of the Sweeny church family. Again, I think it is the icing that makes the cake. Out of self-preservation I will refrain from whose I think is best. On the one hand I still have to be pastor for one person while on the other, I still have to be part of Cindy’s family. There is no way to win in that situation.

But regardless of whether it is at church or with my family or walking through the line at Luby’s (and no, I don’t eat the chocolate cake there), when I see chocolate cake I think of family and I am immediately grateful.

I don’t know how far back the family recipe for either of these chocolate cakes go back. But, knowing it could be a good long while, I am also reminded of our lesson for today, from forever ago to forever from now, God’s faithful love is for those who honor him. I am blessed with a wonderful church family. I am even more blessed with a believing, worshiping family in both my in-laws and in my own family. As long as I can remember, my parents were active parts of church life. My sister and her husband are as well. When I married I fell into the same kind of family. It is the way I tried to raise my own kids and I know my sister and Cindy’s siblings worked to do the same. All that reminds me that God will continue to bless our families, all faithful families, through the grandkids and beyond. For that, I am thankful. I am thankful for chocolate cake because it reminds how blessed I am in my family and at church

So pass me a hunk of chocolate cake. I have come to know, that is some pretty good stuff.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy and Peace,
Keith

Copyright 2016, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved.

Pass the… Wishbone

Those who give generously receive more, but those who are stingy with what is appropriate will grow needy. Generous persons will prosper; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed (Proverbs 11:24-25, Common English Bible).

This is part 26 in the November Thanksgiving series, “Pass the…” for a listing on the other posts please see the index.

From the day they discover the Thanksgiving tradition of making a wish and breaking the wishbone, I think the wishbone might be every child’s favorite part of the Thanksgiving table.

I did some research about the wishbone. Even though Thanksgiving is an American holiday the tradition of two people making a wish and then breaking a wishbone to see who got the bigger half and their wish granted actually goes all the way back to the Roman Empire. The Romans would dry out the chicken wishbones believing they held great power. Later, when wishbones started to become more scarce, they began breaking them. It makes little sense really. If you think it has power why would you break it?*

Irregardless, most of us know the wishbone has no real power. Still, getting to break the wishbone with your favorite cousin is a tradition that just can’t be beat. It is just a lot of fun.

I also know that breaking a wishbone from a freshly cooked bird, whether it be a turkey, chicken, duck or goose, is difficult if not impossible. The wishbone needs to sit outside the bird and dry out for a bit before it will break cleanly.

For me and my cousins, it didn’t matter. When we could get our hands on that odd bone, we were going to give it a try. I really don’t remember how many times I won or lost on the breaking of the bone (that in our rush NEVER broke cleanly).

Here is the thing about the wishbone, it isn’t something you can do by yourself. Sure, you might be able to break the bone, but breaking the bone isn’t what makes the tradition fun. It is making that wish and someone else making their wish and the two of you breaking the bone. The tradition, of necessity is a shared event.

These days, when I see a wishbone that’s what I think of. I think of the things I am blessed to share. I am blessed to share of the finances God has blessed me with. I am blessed to share God’s word from the pulpit each week and from this blog most every day. I am blessed to share a home and family with my wife. I have been blessed to share this holiday with Cindy, my mother, sister and brother-in-law, my niece, her boyfriend and his family. I was able to share an hour or so today at the nursing home visiting with my grandmother. I am blessed to share…… Boy, am I blessed to share……

I know God has blessed me in so many ways. I believe God calls on me to share what I have in just about that many ways too. As I share with others in the ways God has blessed me, I continue to see that God blesses me even further. What I have never seems to run out. I’ve always tried to be generous.

I know that as much as I try, at times I do fail. Even when I have been somewhat successful, I probably could have done a lot better than what I actually did. I know sometimes I thought about how little I had and not how blessed I am. I let the negative feelings influence my sharing and generosity.

Still, despite how I might have failed, God has continued to bless me. If I were to fail so badly God was to start taking the blessings away, I don’t really know how or what blessings God would take away from me. If I were to become even more stingy with what I have but our lesson makes pretty clear that such would be the case. I know there are many people in the world who seem to have it all, are stingy with what they have, and seem to always get more and more. Still, in some way, I feel certain they are missing out on some of the rich blessings that come from God.

I love the idea that through my generosity, through the blessings I share with others, God will also bless me. Help me O Lord, to be generous, to be a blessing to others. As you have blessed me, may I always be a blessing to others. And to the ways I can be even more of a blessing, open my eyes that I may see.

As I see the wishbone, may it always remind me of God’s call on my life to be generous, to be a blessing to others in the world around. So, please pass me that wishbone.

Have a blessed day in the Lord,

Joy and Peace,
Keith

Copyright 2016, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

*http://mentalfloss.com/article/31579/why-do-we-wish-turkeys-wishbone

Pass the… Casserole

I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise will always be in my mouth (Psalm 34:1, Common English Bible).

This is part 25 in the November Thanksgiving series, “Pass the…” for a listing on the other posts please see the index.

We live in a place and time where we never seemed satisfied. We always want more. We watch athletes and other entertainers fight over an extra million or two. We see corporations moving business overseas because they can make even more money by lowering the costs of production. Over and over again, we see people who have so much never seeming to be satisfied with what they had. They always seem to want even more. Sometimes I ask myself the question, “How much is enough?”

Then, on the other hand, there are those who have very little. Perhaps they have a job, but it is a job that pays minimum wage. Can you imagine trying to support yourself on $7.25 an hour? What about supporting a family on that money? I can’t. Yet when I talk to some of these people, the words I hear often are, “God has blessed me so.”

I read something the other day, even people who live below the poverty level in the United States, on the world economy, are in the top ten percent of world incomes. It is scary what some people have to live on and yet many are more thankful than those of us who have so much.

I am blessed. When I look around at all I have, I know that I am blessed. I own a condo. I have two cars. There is always food in my pantry. I have a job I enjoy, working with some great people. I am far from being rich but I am also very far from being poor. Could I use more money? Probably. Do I need more money? If I am honest with myself, I can live comfortably on what I have.

What do I truly need? I need a place to live, a roof over my head? The church provides me with a house that is quite comfortable. In planning for the future Cindy and I have also bought a condo that we will live in when we retire.

I need clothes to wear. I have a pretty large closet in the parsonage. It is pretty full, and most of the clothes belong to me. I have drawers full of other clothes and that doesn’t include the clothes that are in the condo. Yet, I need clothes but I think I’ve got it covered.

I need food and water. While we hear of problems with lead in local water systems or bacteria in the water supply, but compared to people in places like Haiti, I am blessed to have relatively clean water from a reliable supply. Could it improve? Without question. Could it be worse? Absolutely. We shouldn’t be satisfied with contaminated water, but at the same time, we need to be thankful.

I can pretty well eat whatever I want. I can go to the grocery store and buy many different foods from places all over the world. Some of it may not be real healthy, some of it may be food I don’t like so much but at least part of that is on me. There is food to eat. I am thankful.

I am not overly crazy about casseroles. I always eat at least a little when casseroles are there. I once had a co-worker who talked about the difference between fuel and food. Fuel gives us the sustenance we need to continue to live. Food is what we really enjoy. For me, casseroles are fuel. I eat them because I need to fuel to keep going. I would rater have some tasty food.

Still, I am thankful for casseroles because they give me what I really need. They make me thankful for what I have. My life isn’t always easy, but for what I have, I am thankful. God has blessed me with all I need.

So, would someone please pass the casserole? I need some fuel for the days ahead.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy and Peace,
Keith

Copyright 2016, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved