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Some Thoughts about Dying and People Who Died in 2006

James Brown. Gerald Ford. Saddam Hussein. What do they have in common with my mother? The same thing we all have in common with each other. Mortality.

They all died in 2006.

Here are my thoughts about 10 people who passed from time to eternity in 2006. Some stepped into an eternity with Christ, some without Christ. All went into eternity – forever.

Gerald Ford – The man who never wanted to be president and never tried to be president, but became the 38th president of the USA anyway. I guess it is not all about vision, effort and desire after all.        

James Brown – The Godfather of Soul. I hope he knew God as his Father, so it will be well with his soul.

Saddam Hussein – I sometimes think that anyone with a cross-cultural degree from ATS or Fuller could give better advice than the White House seems to get on foreign affairs. Did they really think that  removing Saddam and having an election would fix Iraq?

Slobodan Milosevic – Remember him? The "Butcher of the Balkans" seemed so powerful at one time, now reduced to a "vapor, a mist, a mere phantom."

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi – Al Qaeda hero who specialized in suicide attacks on random civilians as well as kidnapping and video be-headings. The world is a better place without him, although I doubt he is in a better place.

PW Botha – World-class racist who led the South African Apartheid government during its most violent times.

Coretta Scott King – Continued her late husband's aggressive but non-violent fight for civil rights in America. I wonder if she will meet Botha on the other side. Would be an interesting conversation.

Barney Fife (Actor, Don Knotts) – I think there may be a little Barney Fife lurking in all of us, that tendency to take ourselves a bit too seriously.  

Steve Irwin – I hope there is a bit of Steve Irwin in all of us, that ability to get overly excited about life.

Betsy Tiblier Murrell – My Mom. The kindest person in the world. First person who ever told me about having a personal relationship with Jesus and a personal encounter with the Holy Spirit. For more info, I wrote several blogs in January 2006 about her last week in the ICU.

James called life a "mist" (James 4:14). David described life as "fleeting…but a breath…a mere phantom." (Psalm 139:4,5,6). Sometimes we live as if we will never die. While death is not exactly my Peter Pan "happy thought," it is healthy to occasionally think about dying and the fact that earth is only temporary.

Remember the Poor

Last night I made a Christmas memory I hope I never forget. I went with my 18 and 16 year old sons to a Christmas party for about 400 "at risk youth" and their families. It was sponsored by Nashville's Youth Life Learning Center and included kids and staff from all five Life Centers in Nashville. We were there, along with Bethel pastors, staff and volunteers to serve the Life Center kids and their families.

After the meal, it was gift time. Youth Life Learning Center director, Pastor James Lowe, was better than Santa in the gift giving department. I wish you could have seen the smiles on the faces of these kids when they were given brand new bicycles, skate boards and other gifts. One little boy even received a flat screen TV. When I asked James how he decided what gift to give to each child, James told me he gave them exactly what they asked for. When I asked him how he paid for all these gifts, he pointed to the people serving the food and said, "Bethel church members."

These people went home with much more than nice gifts and a great meal. Pastor James told one of the best Christmas stories I have ever heard, with Jesus in His rightful place right in the center. I am so impressed with James and his team of staff and volunteers who selflessly serve "the least" as if they were serving Jesus Himself. The best part was knowing that this was not just a one-time-shot, but there is ongoing ministry to these kids, their families and their communities through the Life Center staff and Bethel volunteers.

Last night with the Life Center kids made me think of one my favorite Christmas traditions back in Manila. For as long as I can remember, our church, Victory Christian Fellowship , has received a Christmas Eve offering for the poor. In past years our Christmas Eve offering has funded orphanages, typhoon victims, tsunami victims, and other worthy projects. This year the whole offering will help students through our Life Scholarship fund. Please give as generously as you can this Christmas Eve. I am proud of the fact that the Christmas Eve offering is usually our largest offering of the year, and 100% goes to the needy.

Proverbs 28:27 He who gives to the poor will lack nothing, but he who closes his eyes to them receives many curses.

Thanks for Voting

On November 30 I mentioned a short film that was produced by  members of our Every Nation church in Richmond, VA. Here is the follow up  email from Pastor Charles Payne about that film. Read and be encouraged.  

I want to give God the Praise!  Lucas and Al Krost produced a short  documentary called “One Nation Under Guard” and entered it into the  Current TV “Seeds of Tolerance Contest”. We just found out that they won the grand prize and the Richmond Youth Life Center will be  receiving a grant for $15,000!
Our Every Nation Family was instrumental in seeing this happen.  The running was neck and neck until I contacted you, and then votes for the film surged forward!  God’s favor and blessing and your response were what caused this victory and we are grateful to God and to our Every Nation Family.
The Richmond Youth Life Foundation and Lucas and Al Krost send their heartfelt thanks!


Top 10 Christmas Movie List

I posted something like this last year, but bumped a movie to make room for Elf in this year's list.

1. It's a Wonderful Life – We usually save this one 'til New Year's Eve.
2. Miracle on 34th Street – The 1947 black and white edition.
3. Christmas in Connecticut – Another black and white classic that never gets old.
4. White Christmas – Not too many of these where we live, unless we go to the beach.
5. Home Alone I or II – The "Wet Bandits" are great bad guys.
6. Santa Clause II – We love the Easter Bunny scene.
7. House Guest – This qualifies because Sinbad and Phil Hartman sang Christmas carols during the closing credits.
8. Jingle All the Way – Sinbad goes postal.
9. Die Hard I -The whole movie took place during an office Christmas party.
10. Elf – Opening scene with Sr Elf, Bob Newhart, reading the intro story is worth the price of the DVD.

Christmas TV Guide

Last year I presented the Murrell all-time favorite Christmas movie list. (I'll re-post it tomorrow for those who missed it last year.) This year I am giving you our top TV specials. Here it goes.

1. Newheart – Larry, his brother Darryl and his other brother Darryl are classic dumb guys. This is the one when there is no room in the inn and the 3 Wiseman brothers show up looking for a room.

2. The Andy Griffith Show – Barny as Santa on Atkins.

3. The Office – Painful and awkward humor. The 2005 "Yankee Swap" version was better than the 2006, but both are destined to become comedy classics. Gets funnier the more you watch it. I suspect we all have an inner Michael who struggles with rejection and is a bit full of himself, and I fear we all have an inner Dwight who is sometimes completely clueless.

4. The Beverly Hillbillies – There might also be an inner Jethro lurking in some of us, especially those of us in Middle Tennessee.

Christmas in September

We arrived in Manila late Thursday night, September 7th, after several months in the States. The next day, Friday, September 8th, I drove to Market-Market Mall to meet Joey B for lunch at Teriyaki Boy (literally "Young Fat Boy" according to Scott D).

As I pulled my dirt-covered white Suzuki into the mall parking lot, I was met by Manila's ubiquitous car wash boys – those guys in the blue and green uniforms who patrol parking lots armed with squeegees and soap. Despite my jetlag, I knew I was back in Manila when the car wash boy smiled at me and said, "MERRY CHRISTMAS, SIR." It was September 8th! Only in Manila.

For all my non-Filipino readers, you must understand that the Philippines has the longest Christmas season in the world, covering all the "ber" months (SeptemBER, OctoBER, NovemBER and DecemBER). As soon as September hits, all malls, elevators, and waiting-on-hold-machines begin playing your favorite Christmas tunes. By October fake spray-on snow magically appears. By the end of November the parties start and continue until early-January when our church starts the year with a week of corporate prayer and fasting.

More Christmas thoughts tomorrow…

© 2012 Steve Murrell

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