Category Archives: Holidays

Easter Reflections 2017

I began Easter by posting the following message to FaithInspires’ Facebook page, and to my Facebook and Twitter accounts.

” Today we celebrate the fact that Christ went to Calvary, also known as Golgotha (Hill of Skulls.) He went there to be executed in the most demeaning, inhumane way the Romans had at their disposal, crucifixion ! As the Son of God he could have avoided it all without an once of effort. Yet he willingly submitted to what was about to happen.

He did so for a very good reason. He did so so that EACH one of us could be freed from death, and from our sins. For only the Son of God could die for each person who lived, or would ever live.He was born, lived a sinless life only to spill his own blood for each person. To claim his victory and eternal life we need only to claim his sacrifice and believe in it.

What would seem like a sad tragic day is actually a happy one of great victory ! The cost of Easter has nothing to do with the price of candy. The price of Easter is beyond calculation and was paid for each of us on that far away hill, long ago. Happy Easter !”

 

After what seemed like a very successful Easter Sunday service I returned and posted this, about what I am sure will become a treasured Easter memory.

” I just got back from preaching Easter service at the nursing home. One of my regulars from among the residents got a rare treat, which played out in a way which blessed me mightily.

His daughter who lives out of town came to get him because the family had gathered locally for Easter. She actually apologized to me because with the preparations involved in getting him ready to go out etc. he was going to miss my service. She made a point of telling me how much she enjoyed my service and sermons when she was in town.

I actually got to speak for a moment with the resident as they were leaving. The man was practically in tears at missing my service and literally kissed my hand. I told him that he should go and enjoy his family because they are precious gifts from God.

I know many appreciate my ministry and preaching. But I was touched by the appreciation this man and his family made a point of showing me today. I wish more people understood how much a word or small gesture of appreciation means to those of us in pastoral ministry. Especially those of us who are bi-vocational. Sometimes a simple act such as this one is all that keeps us going when we want to just give up.

This frail, old nursing home resident, and his family gave me a gift of kindness today that will endure as one of my favorite Easter memories.”

 

It has for me been a mostly quiet Easter. I have had the opportunity to get some much needed rest and relaxation. However Christ and his sacrifice have been very much in my thoughts as they are most days. Having the opportunity to  contemplate what our savior did for us on Calvary is a blessing in itself.

Feelings of Grief and Loss can be Heightened During the Holidays

ALEXANDRIA, Va., Dec. 14, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Many people are greatly affected by ongoing media coverage of national and international tragedies that have played out in recent weeks, just ahead of the holidays. And for those individuals who are grieving the death of a loved one, the holiday season can also be a particularly painful time.

Hospice professionals, who are experts in helping people deal with feelings of loss and grief, recognize how difficult the holidays can be for some and offer helpful suggestions as the holiday season moves forward.

“Our spirits can be adversely affected by negative coverage from current events that seems to be coming at us from all angles, whether it’s via television, newspapers, radio, or the Internet. Our emotional reactions can be heightened during this time of year,” says J. Donald Schumacher, a licensed psychologist and president/CEO of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. “Situations that stress danger and uncertainty in the world around us are particularly discordant during the holidays when we traditionally think of a period of ‘peace on Earth.'”

Added Schumacher, “And for those mourning a loved one – whether a recent death or one long ago – the holiday season which is customarily marked by celebrations and family gatherings can be full of painful reminders that heighten  the sense of loss.”

Often, friends and family members of those affected by a loss are unsure how to act or what to say to support someone struggling during the holidays.

Here are some tips from the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization:

  1. Be understanding and supportive if someone wants to do things differently this holiday season.  Some people find strength in long established traditions while others may choose to avoid customs of the past and do something new. It’s okay to do things differently.
  2. Offer to help with decorating or holiday cooking. Both tasks can be overwhelming for someone who is grieving or overwhelmed by events going on in the world around us. Lending a hand can be a great way to let someone know you’re thinking about them and their wellbeing.
  3. Invite someone to join you or your family during the holidays.  If someone you know seems down or depressed, consider inviting them to join you for a holiday concert, religious service or a holiday meal where they are a guest. You might even offer to accompany them on a holiday shopping trip where a friend and extra set of hands can be helpful.
  4. Ask the person if he or she is interested in volunteering with you during the holidays. Doing something for someone else, such as helping at a soup kitchen, staffing a coat drive, or working with children, may lift your spirits and help everyone feel better about the holidays.
  5. Never tell someone that he or she should get ‘over it.’  It can be important to acknowledge that a friend or loved one is struggling. Don’t discount their emotions, but give the person hope that, eventually, he or she will enjoy the holidays again.
  6. Be willing to listen.  Don’t avoid someone because you don’t know what to say. Active listening from friends and family is an important step to helping someone coping with grief or overwhelming feelings of loss. Letting them share their feelings can help healing.
  7. Don’t be afraid to remember someone who has died.  When someone is grieving, it is okay to let them know that you are thinking of the loved one who died. Cards, phone calls and visits are great ways to stay in touch.
  8. Follow up after the holidays to check in.  Given the activity of the season, some people may make it through the holidays without any issues but they might find the post-holiday period to be more difficult. So circling back after the holidays to see how he or she is doing can help.

“Hospice and palliative care professionals have always recognized the need to provide emotional and spiritual support to those who are dealing with loss,” added Schumacher. “Hospices often offer support to community members struggling with grief or loss so it might be useful to check with your community hospice to see if support is available.”

To learn more about grief or coping with loss, visit NHPCO’s CaringInfo website, www.caringinfo.org.

Non-Traditional Christmas Decorations Now Preferred by More than Half of Consumers

ATLANTA, Dec. 11, 2015 /PRNewswire/ — More than 2,000 people from across the U.S. participated in a nationwide survey to identify the latest Christmas decorating trends, including preferences on style, lights and color themes. Only 47% of consumers chose decorating styles considered traditional, which means the majority of consumers are now exploring new ways to decorate for the holidays.

“Outdoor Christmas decorations and lights are seeing a resurgence of themed color combinations like red and white candy cane styles and new decorating options like laser Christmas lights are very popular in red and green themes,” says Frank Skinner, Director of Marketing for Christmas Lights, Etc.  “Indoor Christmas decorations are using more LED Christmas lights with newer whites and bolder colors and a large percentage of consumers are doing theme-specific styles based on fashion and home decor trends.”

The “Consumer Views of Christmas Lights, Trees and Decorating Report” also identified the top Christmas colors and the top color may surprise many because it’s not actually red. 78% of consumers incorporate white in their Christmas decorating ideas with red coming in a close second at 77%. Green was selected by 69% of consumers followed by blue at 53%. Gold and silver came in at 35% and 28%, which reinforces their use as accent decorating colors only.

“We’re seeing a renaissance in Christmas decorating styles,” says Skinner. “More people are experimenting with different ways to express their holiday creativity. They have access to more Christmas decorating ideas than ever before and they’re incorporating them into newer design styles to make their holidays unique and memorable.”

Over 14% of consumers say they’ve decorated using a whimsical/fun style for Christmas. Just under 5% self-identified their style as American rustic while 7% chose styles like patriotic, coastal/beach or Southern chic. Notably, nearly 17% of consumers say they have their own style, which illustrates that decorating for the holidays can showcase people sharing their Christmas spirit as well as their individual creativity.

Christmas Lights, Etc is the most shopped online Christmas lights store in America and routinely engages in customer research nationwide. Highlight findings from the Christmas trends report are available for free at: http://www.christmaslightsetc.com/christmas-trends-report.htm

 

Christmas Lights, Etc was founded in 2000 and is the most shopped online Christmas lights store in America featuring thousands of quality lights, trees, greenery and decor. Christmas Lights, Etc is a three-time INC. 5000 company and an ENERGY STAR partner. www.ChristmasLightsEtc.com

SOURCE Christmas Lights, Etc

U.S. Census Bureau Facts for Features: Thanksgiving Day: Nov. 26, 2015

In typical movement fashion this article by the U. S. Census Bureau talks at length about the upcoming Thanksgiving Holiday, without ever mentioning the obvious role that the Christian faith of the early Christian Pilgrims played in its beginning.

They do mention President Abraham Lincoln’s proclamation of October 1863 where it was first officially established. In that proclamation Lincoln said in part, ” No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.” So Lincoln himself made clear that the object of this national day of thanksgiving, was and is to give thanks to God.

This having been said the following article does contain some interesting statistics to think about as we approach the day we make a point to show our gratitude to Almighty God.- Pastor Robert A. Crutchfield

 

WASHINGTON, Nov. 17, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — In the fall of 1621, the Pilgrims — early settlers of Plymouth Colony — held a three-day feast to celebrate a bountiful harvest. This event is regarded by many as the nation’s first Thanksgiving. The Wampanoag Indians in attendance played a key role. Historians have recorded ceremonies of thanks among other groups of European settlers in North America. These include the British colonists in Virginia as early as 1619.

The legacy of thanks and the feast have survived the centuries, as the event became a national holiday 152 years ago (Oct. 3, 1863) when President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday of November as a national day of thanksgiving. Later, President Franklin Roosevelt clarified that Thanksgiving should always be celebrated on the fourth Thursday of the month to encourage earlier holiday shopping, never on the occasional fifth Thursday.

Where to Feast

117 million
Number of occupied housing units across the nation in the second quarter of 2015 — all potential stops for Thanksgiving dinner.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Housing Vacancies and Homeownership, Table 8 http://www.census.gov/housing/hvs/data/histtabs.html

4.5 million
Number of multigenerational households in the U.S. in 2014. It is possible these households, consisting of three or more generations, will have to purchase large quantities of food to accommodate all the family members sitting around the table for the holiday feast — even if there are no guests!
Source: 2014 American Community Survey, Table B11017
http://factfinder.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?pid=ACS_14_1YR_B11017&prodType=table

4
Number of places in the United States named after the holiday’s traditional main course. Turkey Creek Village, La., was the most populous in 2014, with 443 residents, followed by Turkey Creek, Ariz. (412), Turkey City, Texas (396) and Turkey Town, N.C. (296). There are also 11 townships in the U.S. with “Turkey” in the name. (Please note that the Turkey Creek, Ariz., population total pertains to the 2009-2013 American Community Survey and is not statistically different from the population estimates of the other three places.)
Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, 2014 Population Estimates
http://www.census.gov/popest/data/cities/totals/2014/index.html

http://www.census.gov/geo/maps-data/data/gazetteer.html

U.S. Census Bureau, 2009-2013 American Community Survey
http://factfinder.census.gov/bkmk/table/1.0/en/ACS/13_5YR/B01003/1600000US0477415

7
Number of places and townships in the United States that are named Cranberry, a popular side dish at Thanksgiving. Cranberry township (Butler County), Pa., was the most populous of these places in 2014, with 30,170 residents. Cranberry township (Venango County), Pa., was next (6,546).
Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, 2013 Population Estimates and 2010 Census Summary File 1 http://www.census.gov/popest/data/cities/totals/2014/index.html
http://www.census.gov/geo/maps-data/data/gazetteer.html

32
Number of counties, places and townships in the United States named Plymouth, as in Plymouth Rock, the landing site of the first Pilgrims. The two counties, both named Plymouth, are in Massachusetts (507,022) and Iowa (24,874).

Plymouth, Minn., is the most populous place, with 75,057 residents in 2014. There are two places in the United States named Pilgrim: one, a township in Dade County, Mo., had a population of 129; the other, a census designated place in Michigan, had a population of 36. And then there is Mayflower, Ark., whose population was 2,345, and Mayflower Village, Calif., whose population was 5,662.

Note: Townships have been included in these counts from 12 states (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Wisconsin) where the primary governmental or administrative divisions of a county serve as general-purpose local governments that can perform the same governmental functions as incorporated places. These county subdivisions are known as minor civil divisions, and the Census Bureau presents data for these in all products for which place data are provided.

(Please note that population totals for the two places on the list that are census designated places — Pilgrim, Mich., and Mayflower Village, Calif. — pertain to the 2009-2013 American Community Survey.)

Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, Vintage 2014 Population Estimates
http://www.census.gov/popest/data/counties/asrh/2014/index.html
http://www.census.gov/popest/data/cities/totals/2014/index.html
http://www.census.gov/geo/maps-data/data/gazetteer.html

U.S. Census Bureau, 2009-2013 American Community Survey
http://factfinder.census.gov/bkmk/table/1.0/en/ACS/13_5YR/B01003/1600000US0646436

http://factfinder.census.gov/bkmk/table/1.0/en/ACS/13_5YR/B01003/1600000US2664100

Participants in the First Feast

24.4 million
Number of U.S. residents of English ancestry as of 2014. Some could very well be descendants of the Plymouth colonists who participated in the autumn feast that is widely believed to be one of the first Thanksgivings — especially the 655,000 living in Massachusetts.
Source: 2014 American Community Survey, Table B04006
http://factfinder.census.gov/bkmk/table/1.0/en/ACS/14_1YR/B04006

6,500
Number of members of the Wampanoag American Indian tribal grouping, as of 2010, roughly half of whom reside in Massachusetts. The Wampanoag, the American Indians in attendance, played a lead role in this historic encounter, and they had been essential to the survival of the colonists during the newcomers’ first year. The Wampanoag are a people with a sophisticated society who have occupied the region for thousands of years. They have their own government, their own religious and philosophical beliefs, their own knowledge system, and their own culture. They are also a people for whom giving thanks was a part of daily life.
Sources: 2010 Census American Indian and Alaska Native Summary File, Table DP-1
http://www.census.gov/population/www/cen2010/cph-t/t-6tables/TABLE%20(1).pdf

American Indian Perspectives on Thanksgiving, National Museum of the American Indian http://nmai.si.edu/sites/1/files/pdf/education/thanksgiving_poster.pdf

Preparing the Feast … Enjoying the Day … and the Aftermath

98.6%
Percentage of households in 2011 with a gas or electric stove — essential for cooking their Thanksgiving feast. Another 96.8 percent had a microwave, also helpful in preparing the meal.
Source: Extended Measures of Well-Being: Living Conditions in the United States: 2011,
Table 3 http://www.census.gov/prod/2013pubs/p70-136.pdf

98.3%
Percentage of households with a television in 2011. No doubt, many guests either before, after or perhaps even during the feast will settle in front of their TVs to watch some football.
Source: Extended Measures of Well-Being: Living Conditions in the United States: 2011,
Table 3 http://www.census.gov/prod/2013pubs/p70-136.pdf

35.8%
Percentage of households with a stand-alone food freezer in 2011, which they may want to use to preserve their Thanksgiving leftovers. Far more (99.2 percent) have a refrigerator. Once all the guests leave, it will be time to clean up. Fortunately, 69.3 percent have a dishwasher to make the task easier.
Source: Extended Measures of Well-Being: Living Conditions in the United States: 2011,
Table 3 http://www.census.gov/prod/2013pubs/p70-136.pdf

Culinary Delights

66,286
The number of supermarkets and other grocery (except convenience) stores in the United States in 2013. These establishments are expected to be extremely busy around Thanksgiving as people prepare for their delightful meals.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2013 County Business Patterns, NAICS Code 44511
http://factfinder.census.gov/bkmk/table/1.0/en/BP/2013/00A1//naics~44511

3,235
The number of baked goods stores in the United States in 2013 — a potential place to visit to purchase tasty desserts.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2013 County Business Patterns, NAICS Code 445291
http://factfinder.census.gov/bkmk/table/1.0/en/BP/2013/00A1//naics~445291

2,761
The number of fruit and vegetable markets in the United States in 2013 — a great place to find holiday side dishes.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2013 County Business Patterns, NAICS Code 445230
http://factfinder.census.gov/bkmk/table/1.0/en/BP/2013/00A1//naics~445230

228 million
The forecast for the number of turkeys the United States will raise in 2015. That is down 4 percent from the number raised during 2014.
Source: USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service http://www.nass.usda.gov/Publications/Todays_Reports/reports/tuky0915.pdf

40.0 million
The forecast for the number of turkeys Minnesota will raise in 2015. The Gopher State was tops in turkey production, followed by North Carolina (29 million), Arkansas (27 million), Indiana (19.1 million), Missouri (18 million) and Virginia (17.4 million).
Source: USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service
http://www.nass.usda.gov/Publications/Todays_Reports/reports/tuky0915.pdf

$24 million
The value of U.S. imports of live turkeys for 2014, with 100 percent of them coming from Canada. When it comes to sweet potatoes, the Dominican Republic was the source of 48.8 percent ($6.6 million) of total imports ($13.6 million). The United States ran a $16.5 million trade deficit in live turkeys during the period but had a surplus of $98.3 million in sweet potatoes.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Economic Indicators Division
https://usatrade.census.gov/

841 million pounds
The forecast for U.S. cranberry production in 2015. Wisconsin was estimated to lead all states in the production of cranberries, with 503 million pounds, followed by Massachusetts (estimated at 211 million). New Jersey, Oregon and Washington were also estimated to have substantial production, ranging from 18 million to 59 million pounds.
Source: USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service
http://www.nass.usda.gov/Statistics_by_State/New_Jersey/Publications/Current_News_Release/Cran2015.pdf

3.0 billion pounds
The total weight of sweet potatoes — another popular Thanksgiving side dish — produced by major sweet potato producing states in 2014.
Source: USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service
http://www.nass.usda.gov/Data_and_Statistics

Christian Perspectives on Veteran’s Day 2015

By Rev. Robert A. Crutchfield, Founder and Editor, FaithInspires.Org

In Acts Chapter 10 we find the story of Cornelius the centurion. A man who was not just a soldier but a man who commanded 100 soldiers in battle after battle. Verse 2 tells us, “ He and his whole household were pious,Gentle God worshipers. He gave generously to those in need among the Jewish prayed to God constantly.” Later in Verse 22 his messengers said of him, “ … a centurion and righteous man, a God worshiper who is well-respected by all Jewish people.” Acts Chapter 10 even tells us of God sending angels to talk to Cornelius. From this we can tell that God is concerned about those who serve in the military. They flourish under God’s care just as we all do.

In considering the responsibility of a member of the military from a Christian faith perspective we look at Ezekiel 33:6 where it says “But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet to warn the people and the sword comes and takes someone’s life, that person’s life will be taken because of their sin, but I will hold the watchman accountable for their blood.” What we learn here is that while God hates war, he understands that in this imperfect world war happens. Knowing this he provides us with men and women endowed with the necessary gifts to defend us when needed. God holds those charged with our defense accountable for our safety. This same need is echoed from our American History in the words of George Washington, “To be prepared for war is one of the most effective means of preserving peace.” God not only prepares us for war when it must happen, He also prepares those who defend us, through his relationship with them. We saw this with Cornelius where scripture tells us he “prayed to God constantly.” I know first hand that many of our military members do this even today. So while we very much be very grateful to every individual who has ever worn our nations uniform, as Christians we should also be grateful to God for providing us with such amazing unique individuals for our defense in the first place.

I served in the Texas State Guard many years ago. I also served in the Coast Guard Auxiliary along active and reserve Coast Guard members. I am a life member of the Navy League of the United States, and a former local board member with the U.S. Selective Service System. So I have been lucky to observe and be around members of our military from a variety of perspectives. So when I tell you that on Veteran’s Day that those who serve to protect us deserve our enduring gratitude. I speak from first hand experience, up close. One of the best ways we as Christians can thank our veterans is to pray for them. Many bear emotional scars years after the battle that the rest of us cannot even imagine. Some of them have suffered financially because of their service. Some have lost arms or legs, or have suffered head injuries that have caused many difficulties. The cost of our defense can be high to those who are charged with our defense. God’s comfort, strength, and companionship can be critical to them. You may not think you even know any veterans. As in all things, this does not restrict your prayer. God knows the names, God knows the needs. No sincere prayer will ever go unneeded or unheeded..

When I was in uniform I was blessed to not see combat. But I served, and as one who served I want to extend my prayers, and my enduring gratitude to every single person who has ever honorably worn our nation’s uniform. Thank you for giving me the right, and opportunity to say Happy Veteran’s Day, and God bless you for your service !

A Christian Reflection on Labor Day

By Rev. Robert A. Crutchfield
Editor, FaithInspires.Org

God loves, and respects those who work hard. The argument could be made that our willingness to work hard proves the depth and sincerity of our faith. Consider what James Eckman of Crosswalk.com had to say when discussing Labor Day, “By working we resemble God. Like God, you have the ability to work, make plans, implement them, and be creative.” As Christians we should always be seeking to be more Christ-like, and we were after all created in God’s own image. As Eckman points out in our work just in all things we should follow God’s own pattern

Next we turn to what scripture itself has to say. The Bible teaches us that working to support ourselves and our families is a necessary function of our time here on Earth. We see this in the words of 2 Thessalonians 3:10 which states plainly “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.” So God expects us to work in order to acquire the things of this world that we and our families need. God expects us to depend on what we are able to earn to meet our needs.

But is it enough to just work ? Just do enough to get by ? No, for the mature Christian it certainly shouldn’t be. Paul tells us this in his letter to the Ephesians, “Work hard, but not just to please your masters when they are watching. As slaves of Christ, do the will of God with all your heart. Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.” Ephesians 6:6-7. Paul isn’t saying that we shouldn’t do as our bosses say, scripture in other places tells us that we should. He speaks instead of the motivation we put behind the work that we do. Our work, whatever work it is we have to do should be done because of what God expects. It should also be done to please him, and to his standards not those coming from anyone of this world. This same thought is echoed in the words of Martin Luther King Jr. when he said, “All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.”

So while there are some jobs that pay better, and other jobs that are seen to have more prestige, none of that matters in God’s eyes. God is more interested in our effort and the enthusiasm that we put to the tasks that we are given. He doesn’t care about job titles, or where we fall on the organizational chart. His expectation is that we will strive to meet his own cheerful, tireless example. Labor day is not usually thought of as a religious holiday. But that does not, and should not prevent us from using the day to remind ourselves of what our faith has to say about the value of our work, and the value of the work done by others. God values the worker, and so should we !