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Monday, January 16, 2023

Epiphany 2023

Wow, time flies! January 6th was over a week ago... we had our little traditional home-grown Epiphany celebration, and I haven't talked about what my family received. I try to talk about this every year, not because I want to have something to talk about, but because I hope to inspire others to do something similar for their families. I've seen it become very meaningful to my wife and kids.

This year I gave my daughter a mustard seed coin similar to the one on the right. She is in 9th grade this year, just starting high school, and she is also a pretty fantastic musician, able to play several instruments at performance level and noodle around on several more. I felt like she needed to know not only that faith in God is a seed that can cause great things to grow, but that the seed of practice and hard work that you put into school assignments and practicing music can grow into something amazing as well! It's difficult to see in the picture, but there is an actual mustard seed in the middle of the coin. The one I gave her is I believe something like an inch in diameter, and it came with a card something like this one. (It may actually be the same one, but I didn't get it from Amazon.)

I did, however, give my son something I found on Amazon! This spring, after a short break, he's getting back into college to finish up a degree in biological sciences. I got him this keychain to remind him that he has great things in his future, and his family is always behind him as he works toward his goals. You can see the keychain has several charms that are science related. Interestingly, one of my wife's nephews gave him a gift of a keychain several days later - this keychain is music-themed (it may be this one). My son is also a terrific musician, a trumpet player and he is also teaching himself to play electric bass. I told him it seems like God is telling him that there are two sides to his personality, the scientific and the artistic, and he needs to nourish both of them to grow into the person God has made and called him to be!

I'm a big book guy. If you ever need to give me a gift, a book is a pretty good bet (in fact, my wife got me this book by Bono of U2 for Christmas, and I've been loving reading it!) She, on the other hand, is not much of a book reader. Fortunately, the book I gave her is not a book to read... it's a book to write! Last year she started writing a memoir, telling stories of her life that she has told over and over to friends. When she told me she was doing that, immediately I knew she needed to do it and finish it. It's in her mental DNA to talk about her past, and when she told me she was writing a biography I knew that anointing was for that purpose. You know, when God has a nail that needs striking, He makes a hammer - I believe the thing you gravitate to naturally (outside of sin, of course!) is the thing you do well because it's the purpose God created you for. She worked pretty hard on it for a while, but then she lost her way a little bit. This book has page after blank, lined page, and at the top of every page is a question to answer about your life. It's the perfect inspiration to get juices flowing to write! I'm hoping she'll use it to get back on track and create a book that will be meaningful and help people!

If you're inspired and you read this in the middle of January when I'm writing it, or in the middle of July or any other time that's nowhere near Epiphany, you have two choices. You can wait for Three Kings Day to roll back around and start a new tradition for your loved ones. OR: you can start your tradition right now! Ask God for ideas of things to give to people that will "stir them up to good works" as it says in Hebrews 10:24. Do it now! Why wait? Then mark your calendar, and do it again next January 6th! Join me in a new take on an old traditional holiday!

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

It's the Eleventh!

Guess what today is? RIGHT, it's the eleventh day of Christmas! And you know what that means! NO, not that a bunch of pipers are going to show up on your doorstep piping away! That's just a song, silly!

BUT: the twelve days of Christmas are not just a song. In many church traditions, the Christmas season is indeed celebrated over a twelve day stretch starting on December 25th and ending on January 5th.

January 6th, then, is the real day after Christmas. In those church traditions, it is a holiday named "Epiphany" or "Three Kings Day". For those who have lost their scorecard: Bible scholars tell us that the "three kings" or the "magi" that came to give their gifts to Jesus almost certainly did not arrive when Jesus was a newborn lying in a manger. In fact, Jesus was likely a year or two old by the time they made it there. The most clear evidence of this is that in the Gospel of Matthew, King Herod (who wanted to eliminate the competition of a new king) questioned the magi about when they had seen the sign of the birth of the Messiah, and then he tried to kill Jesus by killing every baby under the age of two years.

Anyway, in recognition of the fact that the three kings (there were almost certainly a lot more than three of them, too, but that's a different blog post!) showed up some time after Jesus' birth, Three Kings Day comes some time after Christmas Day.

There is a lot of significance to the appearance of the magi for those of us who are not Jewish by birth. They are the first Gentiles recorded to have recognized Jesus as the Messiah. They brought Him gifts that not only financed His family's flight to Egypt (fulfilling prophecy in the process) but recognized that His death one day would be significant (frankincense was used during embalming).

Regular readers will know that years ago, I had the idea to adopt Epiphany as a special tradition in my little family, and I invite you to do the same. As a Christian father, I believe that I have a special responsibility as a priest in my household. My tradition is to spend some time in prayer and ask God to give me ideas for special small gifts for each family member that will have a prophetic significance to them. The gift should be something that will carry them through the upcoming year, hopefully help each of them grow in their faith and grow personally into the kind of person God has made them to one day be.

So, what are you doing still reading this? It's two days until Epiphany! There's still time to join my family in our annual tradition of seeking God for the next year! If you want some inspiration, take a look at the kinds of gifts I've given in past years, and then seek God for what to do for the people God has placed in your life!

Monday, January 2, 2023

Copy And Paste This!

This is true! Try it! Mark this entire status update with your mouse, select copy, and paste it into a new post. When you do, the following will happen: you will have a new post on your wall that looks exactly like this one, and everyone you know will realize that you are good at following instructions, even when they are nonsense.

You will, in fact, be safe from Facebook charging you for your account, because when you use Facebook, Facebook uses the information you voluntarily put on your timeline to target you with ads. You already pay for Facebook by volunteering this information. Other than that hidden cost of your own privacy, you are already safe, probably forever, from paying a subscription fee to Facebook. This has exactly nothing to do with this or any timeline post.

Facebook will not take any action based on your timeline posts, including this one, unless you disagree with them politically. In that case they will censor your post and possibly soft ban you. The best thing Facebook will ever do for you based on one of your posts, including this one, is to show you an advertisement for something that you indeed do want to buy. They will not change the order of the posts you see or begin to display old friends you haven't seen posts from in a while in your timeline, based on something you copied and pasted into a new post.

When you copy and paste this post, your status picture will not change into a picture of an angel, a cute Corgi, Al Gore, or the Grinch who stole Christmas. Nothing online or offline will change in color, other than your face turning red when you realize you have been tricked. You will still have to wash your laundry and do your income tax and pay for your cheeseburgers. You will not be contacted by any celebrity or receive any kind of compensation. It is a Facebook post, not a magic incantation. Exactly nothing at all of any circumstance will happen.

Except that you will have a new post on your wall that looks exactly like this one.

MJ 12/30/2022


Friday, December 30, 2022


One year ago this new year's weekend, by chance I heard a motivational speaker I had never heard of before that day. She's a tiny little woman with a tiny little voice that sounds like it belongs in a Barbie doll instead of a grown woman with things to say, but the things she talked about that day started me on a journey that has been really good for me. She releases a YouTube video podcast every week, and I rarely miss one.

Around this time of year she always talks about vision boards. I've always been a bit lukewarm on the idea (I'm not really an artsy-crafty type - I'm a music guy) but after hearing her talk about it over and over again, I bought a whiteboard and put some stuff on it. Good stuff, that I really wanted to accomplish. Stuff that would take some effort, but that was within reach. Just enough to be a bit of a stretch. I did a pretty good job of it, I thought!

Essentially, I accomplished none of it. All year long. It's pretty much the same now as when I first set it up months ago. It's about a foot from my head every day while I work! Why didn't it do the thing? Why haven't all of my goals materialized?

This week she talked about vision boards again, but she emphasized something this time that I don't remember from before (maybe I just have poor listening skills). You can't just record goals on your vision board. You have to record your commitments. It's not enough to say "I want to get out of debt" - you have to knuckle down and make payments until it happens.

So this week I'm going to be reconfiguring my vision board. I'm not getting rid of any of the ideas, but I'm going to tweak the execution a bit. I need something that will help me remain committed to a course of action and keep moving along the path that will get me where I want to go.


Wait just a minute, Michael... I thought this was your CHRISTIAN blog! Where's the part about God in this post? Are you still even a Christian, or are you just one of those new agey motivational weirdos that show up in commercials and want to sell me a book? Hey, you know what? Psalm 37:4 says "Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart." I don't think that means that God will give you anything your heart desires... I think that means that God will actually be the source of the desires themselves! So if your heart is toward God and He is guiding your desires, all you have to do is follow what He's placed in your heart and it's pretty hard to go wrong.


Saturday, December 24, 2022

Revelation Advent Calendar - Chapter 22

He who testifies to these things says, "Surely I am coming soon." Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! (Revelation 22:20)

And finally... the last chapter of Revelation. The last chapter of the Bible. The last chapter of human history that we know anything about. What is God's last word to mankind? "Come to me, I'm coming for you!"

And the river flows from the throne of God,
Passing by the tree of life
And in this place no candle burns
For the Lamb shall be our light
See the Holy city coming down from heaven
Here, there'll be no tears, no night
We shall reign with Him in raiment shining bright
(Chorus) And we say "Come Lord!" (Jesus quickly come)
And he says "My reward is with Me."
And we say "Come Lord!" (Jesus quickly come)
And He says "I am the first and last"
The Bride crys "Even so, oh when will my Love return?"
We say "Come Lord!"
And He says "Soon!"

We will see His face, He will speak our name
And He'll wipe our tears away
He shall be our God, we shall be his own
And His love will light our way

There will be no sorrow, there will be no mourning
Death is vanquished on that day
"So come quickly Lord," the Bride and Spirit say


Friday, December 23, 2022

Revelation Advent Calendar - Chapter 21

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away." (Revelation 21:1-4)

I hope you like your songs about the afterlife beautiful and contemplative. Also, I hope you like them very loud. This song is both! (Jerusalem is one of the best Christian metal bands that never truly got a chance to make it big.)

One thousand years His reign shall be
And every eye shall be the one to see
His glory in New Jerusalem
For all eternity
Our King to be
Our hearts we swear to You

One thousand years King Jesus shall be
Our Lord for all eternity
To see His glory
In New Jerusalem
We bend our knee
We make our plea
Our hearts we swear to You

Behold the New Jerusalem
Sent down from God above
The dreams of all His Saints fulfilled
The city of His love
And all the angels sing for her
Their songs are ever heard
In the city of our Savior
The city of His Word

Life giver, live in us
Life giver, shine in us

Sorcerers and murders
And all who love a lie
They have no part within the gates
None stains the holy bride
The city has no sun or moon
No need for stars so bright
The glory of the lamb is all
Jesus is the light