February 27, 2013

Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood

"It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood
A beautiful day for a neighbor...
Would you be mine?"
For years as a kid, I remember turning on the local PBS affiliate, and there were a few shows I always liked to watch: Reading Rainbow, Sesame Street... and Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. My favorite at the time was probably Sesame Street, but I loved all three. Eventually, of course, I grew up and began to feel like I grew out of those shows, and I haven't watched any of them in ages. But looking back, I think I have more happy memories of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood than any of the others.

I remember a few of the educational segments, I remember the trolley ride into the "Neighborhood of Make-Believe", and some of the fun characters there. I remember the sweaters, feeding the fish, and fun songs like "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" and "It's Such a Good Feeling". But most of all, I remember how Mr. Rogers seemed to genuinely care about the children watching his show. He spoke in a way that would be easily understood - in a calm, clear tone. He talked about things that were important to us as kids - about hopes and fears of all kinds. And his messages were always reassuring and uplifting.

"You are special."          
          "You are loved." 
"I like you, and I hope you like you, too!"

February 14, 2013

God's Valentine

I thought it was interesting that Ash Wednesday and Valentine's Day are back to back this year.

Ash Wednesday, of course, marks more than just foreheads - it marks the beginning of Lent, which is the 40-day period (minus Sundays) that leads up to Easter. It's a time to consider our own mortality, and to focus on repentance and spiritual discipline as we meditate on the truth that Jesus died to save us from our sins and rose from the dead to offer us the gift of eternal life. Many people practice fasting or other forms of self-denial during this season as a way of honoring Christ's sacrifice and remembering that the Gospel message ought to change every part of our lives. The tradition dates back to the early church.

While St. Valentine's Day has become a day for couples to celebrate their love, this day also has roots in the early church. Originally, it was a day to remember a couple men who were so transformed by the Gospel that they were eventually martyred for their faith. People didn't start sending flowers and cards on this day until sometime in the Middle Ages.

Because these two holidays are so close together this year, I've been meditating on the fact that what Jesus endured on the cross was the ultimate example of God's love.

February 5, 2013

Unexpected Crosses

Recently, I talked about the controversy in Jackson, OH, over the display of a portrait of Jesus in a middle school. This is only one in a long list of cases where groups have been trying for some time to remove Christian symbols from public spaces. At the end of my comments on the Jackson situation, though, I talked about the blessing of remembering that - even if all our symbols were somehow taken away - no one can ever take Christ away!

As the hymn says...     "He lives within my heart!"    

That said, I don't believe there will ever come a time when - just as I did here with the examples of sunlight and snowflakes, or as I do on my other blog with popular music, movies and TV - a discerning Christian won't be able to see symbols of God's love wherever he goes.

"For since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities
 - his eternal power and divine nature - 
have been clearly seen,  
being understood from what has been made, 
so that men are without excuse."
            - Romans 1:20 (NIV)

If you expect it and look for it, God will reveal himself even in some of the most unexpected places. Here are four places where I've seen the cross on public display, and neither the ACLU nor anyone else can do anything about it!

February 1, 2013


It snowed at our house today.

I hate having to go out in it, but I love to sit and look at it from a nice warm place in the house!

Have you ever looked closely at a snowflake?

No two (paper) snowflakes are alike!
From a distance, they all look the same - just a bunch of little white dots - but up close, a snowflake can be an interesting thing to see. I had a snowflake land on my nose one time, and I just kinda stood there and stared at it, and it was neat to see how there seemed to be so much detail in such a tiny thing!

I would have taken my snowflake home and kept it, but - sadly - when I tried to pick it up, I crushed it, and it melted right on my nose. A single snowflake by itself is a delicate thing... but look outside when it's been snowing, and see what happens when they all stick together!

Similarly, there are a lot of Christians in this world, and from a distance, maybe we all look alike, but when you get up close, there can be some big differences from person to person! But I'm not just talking about differences in physical appearance or what denomination you belong to...