Several months ago, I was approached by a couple of guys who wanted to feature me in a Podcast. I had been a guest on another’s Podcast, but had very little idea of what it involved. So I checked Wikipedia – “A podcast is a program made available in digital format for download over the Internet. . . A podcast series usually features one or more recurring hosts engaged in a discussion about a particular topic or current event.” OK, I would co-host the Podcast with Vidal Muniz, as a part of the Valley Baptist Missions Education Center and subjects would be based on my teaching sessions on Discipleship and Prayer with their Valley Baptist Theological Institute. Vidal helped my anxiety at attempting a new thing by telling me it was like the old radio programs, except some people would be able to see us. I remembered Isaiah 28:23, “Give ear and hear my voice, listen and hear my speech” and I was in. All we needed was a name. I thought of several good names, but was overruled on all of them:
“Pod for Dummies”
“Peas in a Pod”
We settled on “Discipleship Directives” with a weekly production to be shared on YouTube in my newly created YouTube account – “Dr. Dan Crawford.” It won’t replace my “Monday Morning Manna” but give us a listen, even a look, and see what you think – maybe even click on “Subscribe.”
It’s not a mega-church, nor even a large church. It’s medium-sized church, that has yet to fully recover from the effects of COVID. When the long-term Pastor retired over a year ago, some members were still wearing face masks to worship services. It is a church full of wonderful, loving people, with a great location, a challenging opportunity for growth and if I were twenty-five years younger . . . well let’s not go there. But the church had seldom set a mission’s giving goal. This past month, they set their first-in-a-long-time such goal of $1500 for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions. For several Sundays in late November and early December we hosted live missionaries, and supplemented sermons with brief video tapes of missionaries from their fields of service, made personal just for our church, as a favor to me – either as their former professor or as a friend who had visited them in their country. When the gifts had been counted, they had given $3745 – more than double their goal. No, it doesn’t match the hundreds of thousands given my mega-churches, nor the tens of thousands given by large churches, but it is a significant step for a post-COVID congregation, still searching for their next pastor. I am so proud of them.
They are not in the manger scenes of any Christmas cards, nor do we sing about them in Christmas carols, but two senior adults played a prominent role in the story of Jesus’ birth. Simeon (Luke 2:25-35), a devout Jew had prayed that he would not die until he saw the Messiah. When Jesus was brought by His parents to the Temple, according to the law, Simeon was able to hold Jesus and pronounce a prayer of blessing on Him. Anna (Luke 2:36-38) was an elderly woman who spent every day at the Temple. She too was able to pray over Jesus and share the experience with all she knew. There are several applications we can gain from the experiences of these two senior adults. (1) God still uses unknown and little-known people. Apart from the experience recorded in Luke 2, neither is mentioned again in the Bible. (2) Jesus attracts the interest from some, but not all. There were, no doubt many others in the Temple on the day Jesus was blessed, but only these two are recorded as seeing Him. (3) With God, timing is everything. Both Simeon and Anna were in the Temple at the right time, directed by the Holy Spirit. (4) One never grows too old to serve God. Both Simeon and Anna were advanced in age, yet they continued to serve God. (5) No matter one’s age, the message of Jesus is to be shared with all peoples. This is exactly what Simeon and Anna did, after they met Jesus. These two senior adults had a meaningful Christmas. How about you?
I had another birthday last week. They seem to be coming more frequently these days. To celebrate, I collected my twenty favorite quotes on birthdays and aging:
- You know you’re getting old when the candles cost more than the cake. Bob Hope
- It’s a mere moment in a man’s life between an All-Star Game and an Old-Timers Game. Vin Scully
- You can live to be a hundred if you give up all the things that make you want to live to be a hundred. Woody Allen
- The secret of staying young is to live honestly, eat slowly, and lie about your age. Lucille Ball
- Just remember, once you’re over the hill you begin to pick up speed. Charles Schulz
- Let us not fear growing old or shrink from the realities of aging; it is a privilege denied to many far better than ourselves. Unknown
- How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are? Satchel Paige
- You know you’re getting old when you get that one candle on the cake. It’s like, ‘See if you can blow this out.’Jerry Seinfeld
- And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years. Abraham Lincoln
- How did it get so late so soon? Its night before afternoon. December is here before June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon? Seuss
- Has this world been so kind to you that you leave with regret? There are better things ahead than any we leave behind. C.S. Lewis
- We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing. George Bernard Shaw
- When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced. Live your life so that when you die, the world cries and you rejoice.” Cherokee proverb
- When we’re young we want to get away; when we’re old we want to go back. And we spend our lives replacing all the things we leave behind.” Mel Tillis, “Southern Rain”
- No matter who we are, retirement presents us with two choices. Either we can use it to indulge ourselves, or we can use it to make an impact on the lives of others. Billy Graham
- Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be. Robert Browning
- I intend to live forever. So far, so good. Steven Wright
- You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream. Les Brown
- It ain’t over till its over. Yogi Berra
- Now also when I amold and gray-headed, O God, do not forsake me, Until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to everyone who is to come. Psalm 71:1
No tie, socks, or handkerchiefs for me this Christmas, but several years ago my kids gave me a beautiful Christmas tie, with a small music box inside. When one pushed the button on the lower part of the tie, it played Jungle Bells. I wore the tie on the following Sunday and preached at the church where I was serving as Interim Pastor. Approximately half-way through the sermon, I leaned into the pulpit, thus pushing on the music button. With the music box located just an inch or so from my lapel microphone, the sermon was interrupted with the playing of Jungle Bells, loud enough for the congregation to hear and enjoy. To my dismay, they enjoyed it far too much. Completing the sermon became increasingly difficult as people continued to snicker and giggle. I wondered briefly how God was reacting when I remembered Psalm 2:4, “He who sits in the heavens laughs” (NASB). I hope you enjoyed your Christmas as much as that congregation enjoyed my Christmas tie.
As I shared a prayer concern for a former colleague, a verse of Scripture came fresh to me and caused me to do some reflecting. The writer of Hebrews encouraged his readers to “Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you.” (Hebrews 13:7, NASB). This verse became especially appropriate as I remembered that today was my Dad’s birthday. Although he has been in heaven for many years, for much of my early life he was not only my Dad, he was my pastor. The many ways he “led” me were obvious, but I had to try to remember how he “spoke the word of God” to me. The sermon I remember most was one he preached every year on his church anniversary. The message was, “Let us Go On” from Mark 1:28. As he preached it, I always reflected on the past year with its ups and downs and determined to “go on.” Another favorite of mine was a sermon entitled, “Ships that Never Sailed” from 1 Kings 22:48, “Jehoshaphat made merchant ships to go to Ophir for gold; but they never sailed.” I never wanted to be a ship that stayed in the harbor. I wanted to set sail for the open waters and see what all God had for me to see and do. A third favorite was a sermon on Thomas, entitled, “The Man Who Missed Church on Sunday Evening” from John 20:24. Preached in the days when most churches had Sunday evening services, my Dad bore down on what all Thomas missed when he wasn’t with the rest of the disciples on Resurrection Sunday evening – he missed the fellowship and support of other believers as well as missed encountering Jesus. I remember when churches began to cancel Sunday evening services how big a guilt complex I had for being at home instead of at church. Who speaks the word of God to you these days?
I recently saw a news story about a North Carolina lab where scientists were trying to develop the perfect Christmas tree. I’m all for them, since I’ve never seen a perfect Christmas tree. My grandmother insisted on making all the decorations new each year for her tree – popcorn strings, blown eggs, dipped in a variety of colors, etc. The tree at my parent’s house was always purchased late in the season, because my mother was usually allergic to it. I always loved spending part of Christmas with my Aunt & Uncle because they had a large, sprayed tree with lots of gifts under it. During college days, my roommate and I actually went out in the country and cut a tree for our dorm room. Following Christmas, a discussion broke out in our room as to whether an old tree would burn. Someone lit a match to it and sure enough, it burned. Another student grabbed the tree and drug it into the shower. When the water was turned on, the smoke turned the walls of the shower black. It was not my best Christmas. Through the years, we’ve had a variety of trees for our kids, grandkids, and now, great grandkids. Thus far, all have been special, but none have been perfect. So, I’m looking forward to this North Carolina perfect tree. I did find that “the trees of the woods shall rejoice before the Lord, for He is coming to judge the earth” (1 Chronicles 16:33). I hope this North Carolina company gets their perfect trees ready by then.
Dr. Dan R. Crawford, Senior Professor, Chair of Prayer Emeritus; Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas. Former Head of Task Force for the Teaching of Prayer in Theological Education for America’s National Prayer Committee. Administrative Consultant for the Valley Baptist Missions Education Center.
It’s happening again. Neighborhoods with Christmas lights and large inflated balloons of Christmas characters. Stores advertising pre-Christmas sales. Churches having special Christmas music programs. Families planning Christmas travel to be with loved ones far away. Boxes of Christmas decorations coming out of storage. Meredith Wilson wrote it in 1951 and the first to sing it was Bing Crosby, but one can hear any number of artists, who through the years sang, “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas.” At the time of the year, I am reminded of some of my favorite Christmas quotes:
- “In God’s sight, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas whenever we rediscover the simplicity of His love and bow down in thankfulness and worship, where we are and whatever our circumstances.” David Jeremiah.
- “One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas Day. Don’t clean it up too quickly.” Andy Rooney
- “Christmas can’t be bought from a store. Maybe Christmas means a little bit more.” Dr. Seuss
- “Christmas waves a magic wand over the world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.” Norman Vincent Peale
- “When we recall Christmas past, we usually find that the simplest things — not the great occasions — give off the greatest glow of happiness.” Bob Hope
- “The way you spend Christmas is far more important than how much.” Henry David Thoreau
- “Christmas is a together-y sort of holiday.” Winnie the Pooh
- “Once in our world, a stable had something in it that was bigger than our whole world.” — C.S. Lewis
- “For untous a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6.
We recently discovered a water link under the foundation of a house that we own. Obviously, the repair cost several thousand dollars. In working with the insurance company, I received a letter from them, with the following sentence in it – Our “Claims team are working together to determine if another party is responsible for the damages to your property.” Not seeing any evidence that anyone dug under the house to destroy the water pipes, I concluded that no “other party” was responsible. Could have been a squirrel, but it would have been one tough animal. Could have been an act of God, but I don’t know why God would have wanted to destroy our water pipes. Could have been an earthquake, but we don’t actually live near earthquake territory. Could have been shifting foundation, since that often happens in our neighborhood, but who does one blame for that? So, I have concluded that there are some things that happen with no one to blame. Life goes on. Live with the good and the bad. Make the most of circumstances. Play the hand that you are dealt. Play it where it lies. I think I’ll just reply to my insurance company with a verse of scripture – “let me bear the blame forever” (Genesis 43:9).
I recently attended our Neighborhood Association’s Chili Cook-Off. That is similar to putting your life in the hands of your neighbors. The un-named ingredient that causes a specific Chile to taste so unique could be anything from Armadillo to Rattlesnake. That moist taste could come from a beverage you don’t normally (or ever) drink. But these are you’re neighbors. For many of us, the model of neighborhood came from Mr. Rogers, who sang, “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood . . .won’t you be my neighbor.” Some of us learned a neighbor quote from English writer and Christian apologist, Gilbert K. Chesterton, “We make our friends. We make our enemies. But God makes our neighbors.” And then there was this anonymous quote – “My neighbor knocked on my door at 2:30am this morning. Lucky. I was still up playing my bagpipes.” Seriously, the Bible records Jesus saying, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31). Makes one wonder if Jesus ever attend a Chili cook-off or had a neighbor who played the bagpipes?