"I remember the days of old; I meditate on all thy works; I muse on the work of thy hands." - Psalm 143:5

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Time For a Change

newyear“The years teach much which the days never knew.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

I think, the New Year’s Eve celebration could use an upgrade. The whole drop the ball thing has never caught on with me. Does this really count as a holiday? It doesn’t even have any great holiday movies or cartoons to look forward to. Nor could you make any; “How the Grinch stole New Years” doesn’t stir up the same emotional response, He doesn’t have to steal it, I’ll gladly give it to him. As for festive music, there is none, nada. Well, maybe Auld Lang Syne, but I think that hardly qualifies as a song. Just how many people know and understand the words except for those living in the Scottish highlands? As a kid I thought people were singing “Old hanging sign” and I wasn’t sure why they wanted to remember it. Maybe if we just had one of them I could enjoy it more but there are too many of them to count. There is the Jewish New Year, the Chinese New Year, The Muslim and Ethiopian New Year. There is actually a New World Order New Year, none of which fall on the same date. Exactly when does this gig start anyway?

Now, nothing happens when the stroke of midnight occurs, its not like we shed our skin or anything (wouldn’t that be something!). Still we make a huge deal over this calendar-flipping event. We make resolutions, we try to break old bad habits and start new more positive ones. We plan, we dream, all this because of the motivation of the coming of a new year. Why?

In all seriousness, deep down all people need to know they can have a fresh start. That is the purpose of a new year in our lives. We need the hope the Father provides through a new year. He speaks and breathes life in the promise that it brings. He uses it to teach us the failures of the past year are nothing in comparison to what we can be in Him.

He changes our focus from the past to a brighter future, filled with the knowledge of Him. A new day, a new year, the way we measure our passage through time can either freeze us with fear or free us to move mountains. A new year was fashioned for us to remind us of the purpose for our lives, to help redefine with clarity our walk with Him.

It repositions our eyesight towards Kingdom things and off our temporal situations. This  fixture of time identifies a place for us, calling us on to greater things. A starting place, a remembrance place, a launching place and a place of marking, this defines a New Year for us. Speaking from this place is a declaration of trust in the new beginnings of God. When the Father calls your name throughout this New Year; I pray that you would hear Him clearer than ever before. As He builds hope in you, stirs up faith in you and brings you closer to His heart your new year will take on a greater dimension. There is purpose in us and purpose for us, just think what a New Year this can be!

“The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.”
Numbers 6:24-26

Blessings, Jay

P.S. I like New Years a lot more now, but I’m still holding out for a new song.

On a historical note:

AULD LANG SYNE

At least partially written by Robert Burns in the 1700's, it was first published in 1796 after Burns' death. An old Scotch tune, "Auld Lang Syne" literally means "old long ago," or simply, "the good old days.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Random Musings

Its time for some random, totally unrehearsed, and peculiar thoughts by
yours truly.

  • Sometimes friendships go through a season of spiritual “cootiness”.  cootie
  • Now comes the winter of our discontent” seems louder in January/March.

  • It takes courage for Superman to wear his underwear on the outside of his costume, but then again, he is Superman. 
    superman
  • Used to school my kids in Commander Keen now I can’t last more than 30 secs in playing them in HALO…sad.


  • I’m working on a visual vision map for 2010, problem is that I’m horrible with directions…hope I don’t get lost on the way.
          map_icon2

Peace,
Jay

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Home for Christmas

keyShe peered from her dingy apartment window, wiping the frost with the sleeve of her sweater so she could see more clearly. A light snow was falling making the city streets outside her old brownstone a clean carpet of white. Sally was eagerly awaiting a delivery from the local grocery store containing the simple items for her dinner tonight. It was Christmas Eve and Sally wanted to celebrate this special time, at least in a small way. Over 80 and in failing health, it was to be a bittersweet celebration for sure. A little over a year ago Samuel, her husband and best friend, grew gravely ill. To her great sorrow, he faded quickly and went home to be with the Lord on the eve of his favorite day.

Sally loved her “Sammy”, so it was hard imagining celebrating tonight alone. He was so alive around Christmas and always seemed his happiest around the holidays. Every Christmas Eve he would sing, laugh…sometimes scooping her up from her chair for a dance. He would put on a Santa hat and say, “Come on sweetie, I saved a dance for my best gal!” Afterwards they would cuddle-up on the couch, sip tea, and read the story of the Savior’s birth. When midnight came they would run to their small tree, and like giggling children, rip open all the gifts.

The crunch of snow and the sight of a tall figure coming down the sidewalk carrying bundles snapped her back to her vigil. Sally watched the trudging shape come up the stairs and ring the bell to her apartment. Drawing her sweater around her neck to guard against the cold, she opened the door and let the familiar face inside. It was Manny, a young man in his twenties or so, who had been delivering her groceries for a few months now.

“Merry Christmas Mrs. Hamilton!” Manny said with a booming voice.

“Merry Christmas Manny, come in, come in.” Sally said excitedly.

“Shall I carry these to the kitchen?” Manny asked.

“Oh, please do, please do, I’m so wound up, I need to start cooking right away!” Sally replied.

Manny carried the bags into the narrow kitchen, where Sally began to unpack her goodies. A small ham, some potatoes, a can of green beans and a small box of Earl Grey tea.

With a hint of tears in her eyes, Sally mused, “My Sammy sure did love his spot of tea.”

Dabbing at her eyes with her apron Sally soon looked up and hesitantly asked, “Manny, would you like to have dinner with me?”

“I would love to Mrs. H, absolutely love to!” Manny replied cheerfully.

The two of them set about fixing the meal, laughing, singing, and even enjoying a silly dance to Jingle Bell Rock playing on the radio. Soon the kitchen was warm, filled with a wonderful aroma and alive with memories. During dinner Sally told story after story of her husband Sammy and the love he had for Jesus.

Sally became quiet and Manny could see the pain of loneliness in her eyes. They were sipping their tea when Sally asked, “I’m so tired Manny, will you help me to the couch?” Manny helped the weary Mrs. Hamilton to the couch, laying her head gently on a quilted pillow. Covering Sally with a blanket, Manny then pulled a small box from his jacket and said, “It’s almost midnight Mrs. H, this is for you …Merry Christmas.”

The package wrapped with golden paper and with a bow of the purest white surprised Sally; she had never seen a more beautiful package. Taking the gift from Manny, Sally was momentary speechless. She started to open the present, excited as a small child, pausing only when she saw the prize within. Inside was a golden key with a small note that looked like an invitation. On the inside it read.

To: Sally Hamilton. A key to your new home.

“Manny…what does this mean?” Sally asked.

“Mrs. H.” Manny said. “You have been such a servant all your life, giving so unselfishly, that my employer wanted to give you something special this Christmas.”

“I’m afraid I don’t understand, your employer Mr. Reynolds is giving me a house? Sally asked.

Manny, smiling now said, “No Mrs. H, I work for someone a bit higher than Mr. Reynolds. Anyway, I’m just a messenger and I’ll be announcing your arrival there soon.”

“Manny, I still don’t see…” Sally wondered out loud.

“It’s simple, you have been faithful Mrs. H, and the Lord wants you home with Him.” Manny said.

Her eyes widening a bit, Sally whispered, “You mean…I’m really going… oh, I can hardly keep my eyes open, what is happening to me Manny?” Sally asked.

Manny replied softly, “It’s time for a homecoming Mrs. H…Sammy is saving a dance for you”

They were quiet for a few minutes when Sally spoke in a hushed voice and asked, “Am I going to see my Sammy when I open my eyes Manny?’

She was already home when he answered, “Yes Sally, and so much more.”

The End

Jay Cookingham © 2002

Psa. 116:15: "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints."

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Conspiracy of Love

The end of 2009 has not been kind to the Cookingham clan. Since my wife’s heart attack in August (she doing very well now, thank you) the family economy has plummeted into its own recession with a combination of dying cars, broken furnaces, cranky dryers and other appliance melt downs. Add the medical bills, the worry of my wife’s health and my own weariness, I was/am feeling like I been through a war. Christmas seemed like a distant echo of “good tidings of great joy”…although I desperately needed some.

Then, one morning I started singing…

A thrill of hope The weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks A new and glorious morn.

A weary world rejoices…not an energized world, but a weary, tired, worn-out one. In my battle fatigued heart I could rejoice, I needed to rejoice! 2000 years ago the Father set up a beachhead in a lowly stable, invading the world with His conspiracy of love. He pushed back the veil of darkness with the light of His son Jesus, definitely a new and glorious morn.

The truth is (and always has been) that we are at war with the enemy of our souls, I feel it and so do you. It claws at us, attempting to drag us off into the darkness of despair, worry and fear. This enemy wants us to die. He wants us dead to possibilities, dead to promise and dead to relationship with God, it is a huge battle. The enemy fears people that are truly alive.

The glory of God is man fully alive – St. Ireneus

The glory of God is man fully alive, but to be fully alive is living a life that glorifies Father God. My victory is sure, the birth, the life, the death and resurrection of Jesus has secured it forever. The thrill of hope is not always measured in feeling but in faith and that causes my heart to rejoice. Repeating these words (and their meaning) over and over in my heart embed me in the conspiracy of love.

For unto us…

For God so loved, He gave…

lo, I am with you always…

Christmas will be simpler in my home this year, with fewer gifts under the tree than seasons past. The pile of bills may just be higher than the pile of presents, still that will not quiet the truth in our hearts. Father God has given the greatest gift of all and it’s all ours. It’s all a matter of preparation and being ready.

Joy to the World, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,

And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.

Merry Christmas all!
Jay

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Signs and Wonders

An early November snow had blanketed our yard during the night and we awoke amazed to see this premature intrusion of winter. When Isaac our four-year-old son woke up and saw the surprise snowfall he had an interesting observation. Wiping the sleep from his eyes he asked; "Where are the presents?" "What presents gifthoney?" My wife replied. "The Christmas presents, it snowed, it must be Christmas!" Isaac explained. He saw a sign and fully expected wonders to follow and it spoke volumes about his childlike faith.

Christmastime is signs and wonders time. I believe there are angel songs still filling the sky with the promise of the Messiah, wishing for a human ear to receive the Good News. A grand story has swept us up in its plot and wishes for us to become more than bit players. It is an epic tale flowing from the heart of God, with a story line full of signs and wonders. A lost world, a lost people, needs redemption of cosmic proportion. Father God makes sure the world receives just that. A young woman gives birth to a child who would someday deliver her and all of humanity. Mix in angels, shepherds, wise men, an angry king, some roman soldiers, dreams and an escape to Egypt and you got a story for the ages.

Signs and wonders can fill our own story. Like Scrooge we can "keep Christmas well" and give of ourselves. The Creator eagerly invites us to share center stage with Him in the miracle of creating life changing events. By giving freely we can perform simple deeds for those in need around us, that's a guaranteed sign and wonder in my book.

Christmas is a sign, an opening to join our story with this wondrous one, to stop being an understudy and get in the play.

"You can never truly enjoy Christmas until you can look up into the Father's face and tell him you have received his Christmas gift." - John R Rice

Blessings, Jay

Monday, December 14, 2009

What Child is This?

What child is this?
With a hand so small.02babyjesus
Yet touches eternity.

What child is this?
With feet so tiny.
Yet carries truth.

What child is this?
That causes the mighty
to fall on bended knee.
And the humble to
rise in boldness.

What child is this?
Helpless with human form.
Yet changes humanity.

What child is this?
Meek breath of infancy
mingles with songs of angels.
The Word of God made flesh,
announcing miracle ways.

Jay Cookingham © November 2002

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Gifts in the Snow


There they were, packages of various sizes wrapped in Christmas paper scattered all along the snow drifts in my front yard. I looked out my window wondering how long they would last in the snow and when my father would let us retrieve them, I was only seven years old. In a fit of rage over something unknown to us, he had tossed them, along with the tree, out the door early that Christmas morning. It would be three days before he cooled down enough to let us bring them inside and several more before we could open them. I don’t even remember what I got that year, but I do remember the image of packages in the snow. For years that memory, along with other similar “holiday events”, shaped my (non) enjoyment of Christmas. That was until God gave me a Christmas experience that would change me forever.


In my early twenties I traveled with a gospel rock band and from time to time we would do other gigs besides concerts. On one of these occasions, two other band members and myself went down to the Bowery in NY city to serve in one of the many soup kitchens, this particular one was run by the Salvation Army. We got there early in the morning but the line to get a hot meal was already long and many were anxious to get inside the shelter. We met with the leaders of the shelter who filled us in on how the day would go. The setup was simple, one group would first listen to a quick Christmas message in the small chapel and afterwards move to the cafeteria to eat, this process would repeat itself until people and or food ran out.

To my surprise, I was asked to give the first message and was quickly shown the way to the chapel. As the various groups of people shuffled in from the cold air, I saw through the open door that it had begun to snow. The collection of old and young, men and women slowly found seats, many were still drunk or coming down from a night of intoxicated waste. Against the white purity of the fresh snow their filthy clothes and smell stood out in stark contrast. What could I say to move the hearts of such people? As I waited for the chapel to fill, the Lord brought back the memory of the scattered presents in the snow bank outside my home. He quietly said to me “These are my gifts…they too have been scattered and thrown away, tell them I desire to bring them home.” My heart and eyes were opened with those words, I began to feel the heart of the Father towards these “lost gifts”.

I began to speak, reading from the scriptures I told them of poor shepherds, pretty much the outcast of their day, being the first ones to hear about the Messiah’s birth and by angels no less! I related to them that this story was about God’s great love and no matter how far they had fallen, He wanted them underneath the blessing of another tree—the cross, which His son Jesus was born to bear for them. I finished my small sermon, prayed for them and release them to the hot meal waiting for them. All but one left the room, a young man my age waited and asked to speak with me. He shared his story, of how his father had thrown him out on the streets just a few months before Christmas. The message of God’s love had deeply moved him, making him realize how much he needed God in his life and how he needed to ask his father for forgiveness. As we talked and prayed God was healing much inside of me as well—from now on—Christmas would be different for both of us.

“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people.”
Luke 1:68

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

For Unto Us

It is a violent time, one of suffocating poverty and intense suffering. A nation’s identity and economic vitality has been subverted for the needs of the superpower that has conquered it. To be Jewish and living under the rule of the Roman Empire is to experience hardship beyond our comprehension, it is a most dangerous time to be alive. It is even more precarious to be born into this deeply sorrowful period. The birthrate is extremely low and many babies do not survive the birth, those who do face sickness, poverty and the unsure future of a subjugated nation.

Into this harsh, oppressed era, the Father allows the Savior to be born. The hope for the world is born into a seemingly hopeless situation. To human eyes it makes no sense for God to arrange such an event in such a wasteland of human misery. Our heavenly Father uses this impossible scenario to prove that with Him, all things are indeed possible. A lost world, a lost people will experience the unfeasible, a God infusion of himself into our world.

I think of Joseph, the man God picks to be “step-dad” for Jesus. I imagine the pressure he was under, the decisions he had to make. Should he remain bound to his betrothal contract? A marriage agreement, specifically Writings of Betrothal could only be broken by divorce. Ordinarily the marriage itself would take place a year or so after betrothal. Joseph must have been crushed to find out about Mary’s pregnancy, perhaps even angry. Talk about an impossible circumstance! A decision to stay committed to Mary could isolate him from his family and a decision to divorce could separate him from the very will of God. To help him make this critical decision he has the hard, solid evidence of a of an angel talking to him in a dream. I can envision the questions. Can it be true, that this child will be the salvation of the world? Who was he, a simple carpenter to be entrusted with the raising of such a child?

The Bible calls him a “just man” so his faith enables Joseph to believe in the impossible, an angel in a dream talking to him about the Father’s heart. When the acceptance of God’s will falls in place in his life, he is stretched again. He is forced by the occupying government to take his very pregnant wife and travel to his birthplace to be counted in a census. There is no guarantee of safety during the journey and for the birth of his child when they arrive. There is so much beyond Joseph’s control, his trust in God must have been great. Each step of their passage is a statement of belief in the Father’s faithfulness. Mary and Joseph are given completely to their “call”, there is no where to go but ahead. They choose to believe what the angel says to Mary, “Nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37). The security of man-made provision is nowhere to be found when they ride into Bethlehem and the Lord is born in little more than a cave. Mingled with the smell of barn animals, the sweetness of the Messiah’s birth fills the air.

Humble shepherds come, guided by more angels. Exotic visitors come guided by a star. They supply gifts way beyond the means of the first time parents. These very gifts may have been the supply that Joseph needed to move his family into Egypt when the threat of death reached out for his son. Another dream, another angel, but this time it is a warning and they are on the move again. An impossible time, an impossible pregnancy , an impossible marriage situation, an impossible rescue; only so through the eyes of man. Through the Father’s eyes, a vision of hope birthed to redeem the impossible (us) to Him. For God it wasn’t an impossible time for the Lord to be born …it was the perfect time. He can take us from any land, any condition, and any difficulty and bring us into His kingdom. That is the gift of Christmas, hope. In Him a weary world rejoices, for our souls had felt their worth. Have a Merry Christmas!

Blessings, Jay

It came without ribbons, It came without tags, It came without packages, boxes, or bags. Christmas can't be bought from a store... Maybe Christmas means a little bit more. - Dr.Seuss

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Yule love it!


Traditions are grand things; they encompass us with a rich blend of history and relationships. However, some can be just downright ?well, silly. I did a little research about the Yule Log and found out some interesting facts, which may just surprise you. Before I get into specifics of the Yule Log itself, it seems to me that more than a few of these legends got started in lands where cold and ice rule the landscape for months on end. I?m only suggesting that combined with the long months in darkness, the cold can play a few games with your mind. This for me explains many of the wacky Yule time folklore stories.

From Iceland comes the disturbing tale of the giant ?Yule Cat. This terrible feline was ready to make meow mix out of any and all lazy townsfolk, especially those who might have been less than ambitious in helping the town prepare for the long winter. Perhaps they were put in charge of the litter box, (a rather large litter box at that), and lost all motivation, who can blame them? However, slothful citizens in Iceland were not alone in their peril; it seems that poor people were also at risk to fall prey to this discriminating Yule Cat. For if it found you outside with old clothes on, you were a sure fire goner!

This is the real reason all grandmothers give new socks and underwear every Christmas, its anti-Yule Cat protection for their grandkids. After all, no self-respecting Nana is going to going to risk losing one of her own to some oversized Garfield because of old underwear. The Yule Cat legend may also explain why the dog became man?s best friend; the dog may eat all your food in your house but at least not members of your household.

The Yule Log originates from some ancient Scandinavian festivals and the Vikings did their bit for history by spreading it around Europe through their numerous raids. Can you imagine Eric the Red saying, ?Here ya go, we just raided your town and took all your stuff but we left you this Yule Log gig.? I think the modern day equivalent would be getting a holiday fruitcake, which I believe is flammable and could be used as a Yule log in a pinch, but I digress.

Tradition states that a log was chosen in the forest, decorated with ribbons and carried back home. On the trip homeward the custom was that anybody meeting the procession should salute the log by raising his or her hat. Why the log would require such a greeting is beyond me, but if you were a barefoot woman or had flatfeet, you were excluded from the presence of the burning chuck of wood. A 4F rating that no doubt, kept many a fine young person from serving in the Yule Log burning service corps.

Through the years the legend grew in popularity and changed a bit. It was believed to be unlucky to buy a Yule log. The real lucky ones were found on one's own land or from a neighbor's wood. This, for the neighbor trying to find his own Yule log, was not so lucky. People saved a fragment from the previous year?s log to use to ignite the new one. The homeowner would keep this under the bed to keep the house safe from fire and lightning (and perhaps Yule dust bunnies). Not lighting the log on the first try was a sign of misfortune (watch out for the Yule Cat) and touching it with dirty hands was a sign of disrespect. This early version of the Duraflame log would have to burn unattended for 12 straight hours, but at least you got to eat during this time. Although, you would be a bit distracted from eating your meal, since you had to carefully study the shadows cast upon the wall by the Yule log fire. A ?headless? shadow was not good news for the person casting the shadow. A groundhog moment like this one supposedly foretold the demise of said person within the year.

Here in America we have dispelled the myths of this long ago legend by reducing the Yule log to a video appearance on a DVD. You don?t really have to hunt for one, (except maybe at the mall), there are no wall shadows to worry about while you are chowing down and the DVD player could care less about your flat feet.

Yes, every Christmas I learn something new and surprising. The memories, the stories and traditions, collectively add to the discovery process I go through each year. It wasn?t always so, but God has faithfully showed me the right attitude to dive into at Christmas time. As fathers we have the privilege to be the one leading the celebration in our homes. That opportunity helps build memories, traditions (maybe even some silly ones, just for fun) and creates unity for the generations to come. Yet, over 2000 years ago, in a small Hebrew town, something more powerful than tradition rocked the world. Celebrating His birth does more than change the way I do Christmas, it transforms the way I am, the who I am. Because of that God injection into mankind, all the stories, memories and traditions become richer in our lives. Let's lead and enjoy the festivities with the focus on a Savior that came to give us so much more.

Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people.
Luke 1:68


Blessings,
Jay