Last Post of the Year! A message from Leonardo the Duck!

This is NOT serious…but this gives you a taste of the "other" part of my life.  As I say above, I have the blessing of wearing a number of "hats" in life – I'm a husband to a wonderful and lovely lady, Vicky; I'm the dad to four great kids and grand-dad to five wonderful girls.  In addition, I'm honored to lead a faith community in Monroe (Peace @ Monroe), be an Adjunct Professor for awesome universities and colleges (Azusa Pacific University, Concordia University, and Trinity Lutheran College).  I get the opportunity to play music in many different settings and besides that, I walk in life and in Kingdom living as a Jesus follower with awesome friends around the world!

Yet, one of my favorite things to do is puppetry…it goes back over 35 years to when I was working with Lutheran Youth Alive and assisting my friend Kevin Murphy with training teams for youth ministry. I've been playing around with puppets ever since.  Leonardo USED TO BE a lion…then Leo was permenantly buried accidently…so he morphed into a duck.  Anyway, this is the greeting the Leonardo gave to our faith community via our email blast system.  I thought I would end my blogging year with a special Christmas greeting to you! Merry Christmas – see ya in 2013.  

Leonardo the Duck greeting for Christmas 2012 from Robin Dugall on Vimeo.

What to do when the World seems so bleak!

Bleak-world-of-absent-law-web-1084883_500x335What to do when the world seems 
so bleak

I've scoured the web for encouragement just like you have.  Tragedies seem to bring out the "best" of our emotional makeup and God-given "wiring."  You and I are not robots…we are not "unfeeling machines."  The best I can see it is that our collective mourning and anger at these type of events that happened in a small town on the east coast of our country show us just one more reason why we were created by a loving God and how our hearts have been designed to feel at peace in a world where justice, love and right-ness prevail and are the norm.  It is also proof why all of us have a knee-jerk reaction to events where it is obvious that something is broken – humanity is broken, the world is shattered…everyone and everything (as Paul said in the New Testament) is yearning for redemption.  But for now, we look for answers…we search for justification…we seek comfort and some sort of "heavenly hug" of assurance that the life is going to be OK when it is obvious that it is not.  Every person feels that…every person goes through the same reactions.  We live in shock and we try to make sense of that which is senseless.  We attempt to wrestle with evil and come up, like most who have done so throughout history, walking with a limp because evil is powerful and touches everyone's life in some degree large or small.  

So, what I've done for today is share with you some thoughts I've seen throughout the blogs and articles that I've read.  I love the fact that we can seek for truth together.  And remember, when we seek truth in any and all situations, we are seeking Jesus.  Jesus is LIVING truth and He promises that those who seek Him will find Him.  You look for anger, you'll find it.  You look for devastation you will find that too.  You seek peace and truth and comfort, guess what?  Jesus is there! 

So, listen and pray…in my book, that's the best we can do together in the face of any evil, pain or tragedy that we cannot understand:

From my friend, Kirsten Carlson - "How do we proceed? Again, I have no answers, but this I vow: I will not allow evil to control me or take all hope from my soul. I will continue to wake every morning and go out into this world with the mission of loving those around me. I will not hide in shadows or barricade myself behind locked doors, hoping to make it through this life unharmed and unnoticed. No, I will go forth and try my best to shine with the light of love, and as much as it terrifies me at times, I will teach my children to do the same, because God does not call us to live sheltered lives, instead He calls us to go OUT into the world and be His light in the darkness."

From Holly Gerth's blog – "What you can tell your heart when the world seems dark…"The only way to get rid of darkness is to add more light.  And God, you are the light of the world.  We need you to shine, especially now."

From Anne Voscamp - "The answer to our suffering is so incomprehensible that it has to be incarnated – the Word must come to us as flesh."

Kurt Onken -  "…it takes time for the clouds of grief to break and to see the light of Christ clearly through tears and sadness."

From Brenna Phillips - "Dear God, Please protect these families. Comfort these families. Place your healing hand on these people in the town and surrounding areas. May You speak to their hearts like You've never spoken before. May they all feel Your warmth and glory.  In the precious name of Jesus, Amen." 

Brian Walsh - "We just can't find the right words to give voice to our deepest longings. We find ourselves reduced to inarticulate groans, moaning, sighing, weeping, and sometimes sitting before God in silence - and often a frustrated silence - because we just don't know what to say. We find ourselves at a loss for words.And if you find yourself inarticulate before God, if you find yourself unable to find the words to say, then weep, sigh, mutter, moan, and maybe even, sit in silence."

Rachel Held Evans - "God can be wherever God wants to be. God needs no formal invitation. We couldn't "systematically remove" God if we tried. 

If the incarnation teaches us anything, it's that God can be found everywhere: in a cattle trough, on a throne, among the poor, with the sick, on a donkey, in a fishing boat, with the junkie, with the prostitute, with the hypocrite, with the forgotten, in places of power, in places of oppression, in poverty, in wealth, where God's name is known, where it is unknown, with our friends, with our enemies, in our convictions, in our doubts, in life, in death, at the table, on the cross, and in every kindergarten classroom from Sandy Hook to Shanghai.  

God cannot be kept out. And although my doubt and anger make it hard for me to believe today, I will keep lighting those little Advent candles like a religious fool until they help me in my unbelief. May their flames be a reminder to all of us that we don't have to know why God let this happen to know that God was there…. and here, and in those swaddling clothes, and on that cross, and in that grave, and on the throne.  For no amount of darkness can overcome the light. I think it's important to recognize that we all grieve in different ways. We find ourselves in different stages and manifestations of that grief-disbelief, anger, stunned silence, the need to do something, the need to exert some kind of control in a world that seems so desperately out of control-and so we have to be patient with one another, gracious when our grief takes different forms.   When someone very close to me died a few years ago, I remember my dad telling me that it's important to allow people to grieve in ways that don't necessarily make sense to me. It's important not to correct people whose grief takes a different form than my own, he said. So let's grieve together. And let's give one another the space to be shocked, to be pissed, to appeal to God, to be angry with God, to find peace in God, to question God, to want to take action, to want to wait, to blame, to pray, to be afraid, to be speechless, to vent, to lament, to speak up, to be silent, to pull our families close to us, to need some time alone.


Peter Enns - "But, at times like this three disconnected thoughts come to my mind.  

(1) There are many wonderful and beautiful things about the world we live in, but things are also seriously and undeniably [feel free to use the predicate adjective of your choice].  

(2) If you believe in God, there will always come a point-and sooner than we tend to think-where our understanding hits a wall at 80 mph.  

(3) The way of sorrow and pain is built into the Christian story, particularly the suffering of innocents: the Gospel claims that God himself took part in suffering and death."


Nothing but the facts…

Ajust_the_factsSome Facts about Christmas

It’s amazing to me how
little people really know about Christmas. 
Yes, we should know that it is all about Jesus and his birth.  That’s really the only truth that really
matters.  But there are many other things
that are fun to know.  Consider the

The word “Christmas” comes from the Old English,
“Cristes maesse”, which means "Christ's mass." From the very
beginning of the use of the word, it meant “worship”.  The Christ-mass was a festival service of
worship held on December 25 to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ. While
most of us accept that Jesus was born in the small town of Bethlehem a few
miles south of Jerusalem, we really don’t know information about the exact date
of his birth or even of the specific year.  Calendars differed at the time when Jesus was

Or how about the infamous, “Xmas”?  Some people get offended when they see others
call 'Christmas' xmas.  However, the X in Xmas, still stands for
Christ.  The X comes from the first Greek letter in the word, “Xristos”
(which translated is Christ).  Hence came the word Xmas.  It was not
intended to take Christ out of Christmas…just to be able to be a bit shorter to
write in notes and letters.  In fact, many
people use the Greek “X” for many other things…Xn (Christian), Xnity
(Christianity), etc.

We celebrate Christmas on
December 25th…do you know why?  
Because there was no knowledge about the date of
Jesus' birth, a day had to be selected. 
Early on, there was a bit of a divergence in dates.  The Eastern Orthodox wing of the Church in
the early centuries of Christianity chose January 6. That day was eventually
named Epiphany, meaning "appearance," the day of Christ's
manifestation. The Western church, based at Rome (i.e. Roman Catholic Church;
Catholic meaning universal) chose December 25. It is known from a notice in an
ancient Roman almanac that Christmas was celebrated on December 25 in Rome as
early as AD 336. The actual season of Jesus' birth is thought to be in the
spring, but when the date of Christmas was set to fall in December, it was
done at least in part to compete with ancient pagan festivals that occurred
about the same time.

Finally, what about gift
giving?  How did that become a part of
Christmas? The truth of history is that gift giving is one of the oldest traditions associated with
Christmas. Some people actually believe that it is older than the holiday
itself. The Romans, for example, celebrated the Saturnalia on December 17. It
was a winter feast of merrymaking and gift exchanging. And two weeks later, on
the Roman New Year–January 1, houses were decorated with greenery and lights,
and gifts were given to children and the poor. As the Germanic tribes of Europe
accepted Christianity and began to celebrate Christmas, they also gave gifts.
In some countries, such as Italy and Spain, children traditionally do not
receive gifts on December 25 but on January 5, the eve of Epiphany. In several
northern European nations gifts are given on December 6, which is the feast of
St. Nicholas, the patron saint of children. Yet, you have to remember, gifts
were given the moment the newborn Savior was born.  The Magi bought gold, frankisense and
myrrh.  The Shepherds brought their
hearts in prayer and praise.  The angels
gave praise to the King as well.  

Remember, Christmas is all about memories, gifts,
celebrations, and love.  Yet, isn’t it
true – if it wasn’t for Jesus, why even know the facts about Christmas?  You see, once you know about Jesus, that’s
really all the facts you need to know.

Going Deeper:

1.  What
other facts do you know about Christmas? 
What are the traditions that happen in your family?  Do you know from where they originated? 

2.  This
Christmas season, do some “research” on Christmas and see what other people
around the globe do to celebrate the birth of Jesus.  The more facts you know, the more incredible
Christmas becomes.

Further Reading: 
Luke 2 and Matthew 1:18ff

Let’s give “Culture’s Christmas/Holiday” up…

Anochristmastree1Just read an article of an atheist who doesn't want anything overtly associated with Christianity out in public display (especially Christmas stuff). Well, over the years it appears to me that many people in culture are exclaiming that they are "offended" by portrayals of Christian messages and/or religious beliefs in public space.  There have been crosses taken down from memorials, programs changed at schools because of prayers being said, etc.  Well, it is Christmas time (aka "Holiday Season").  Now, I'm not really worried about the so called, "war" on Christmas.  Some people are…not me!  Nor am I worried about how the many people in the culture want to throw out Christian imagery from the public square.  I read a great blog post this week where a friend of mine says some things that are true…the Christian message is embedded in our culture and "Christendom" (for better or for worse) has had its way in public discourse for decades (even centuries).  That's his point…you might debate his conclusions, but his thesis is correct.  

I have come to some least temporarily!  I reserve the right to change my mind. I know the downside of the relativism of culture and I see the tragedy of an amoral and unethical reality that has no sense of absolute accountability.  I get that and I wish it were different…but it is not.  So, I've given some thought to this issue and after having innumerable conversations with people in our community at large, people who sometimes do or don't have any faith basis in their lives, I think it is time to stop whatever "war" people are perceiving.  Truthfully, those who want to take Christian images out of public view are fine with me.  That's their right in a free country just as it is my right to belief and follow whom I choose.  In some way, I think it is time to say, "FINE!" " Let's take down what offends you! (if it is in the realm of the public-those who use displays of faith on their own property have the right to do so)." Trust me, I don't say this with any animosity because, in fact, it might simply be best.   Christ followers have enjoyed the "head of the table" place in culture for many years…times have and are continuing to change.  

To have cities and towns and businesses displaying holiday stuff is neither important nor critical to maintaining what I beleive.  So taking down PUBLICLY sponsored displays of Christmas doesn't threaten what I believe…it doesn't cause my devotion to Kingdom living to waver one moment. Actually, it it were to happen, the contrast could be advantagious over time.  The bible is clear that Kingdom people are to expect and anticipate clashes in worldviews.  There is a "prince of the power of the air" (odd but powerful verse in Ephesians) that is a stark contrast to living and following Jesus.  

So, here's a few ideas – why don't we just drop Christmas from the overtly public…let Jesus followers celebrate it like the Jewish people do with Hanukkah.  Let those followers decorate their lawns, places of worship or whatever they want in their spheres of living and influence.  You see, I don't really care if the "public square/culture" were to cancel the Xmas season.  You see, I think the only people who would really suffer by that would not be people of faith…it would be the retailers and others who make $$ off Christmas.  They would hit the ceiling. It actually feels better to me if the culture gets off the Christmas bandwagon. I know it's tradition in the USA.  Yet, if people in culture want it to be taken off the public radar because they don't "get it", then let's do! Let's cancel the Santa thing, the gift giving and all the trappings. Let those of us who do trust in the Christchild to do our own thing…which we can do with or without the culture's permission.  Jesus followers don't need the culture to affirm what we believe. We will give gifts because of the gift we have been given through Jesus.  We will celebrate because the incarnation was a universal game-changer.  We will sacrifice and proclaim, "peace and good will toward humanity" because of the dedication of Christ-followers throughout history (one of which is the "patron saint" of Christmas, St. Nicholas).  

But, like I said, there are a lot of people who depend on Christmas economically and socially…they like the time off and the rest if the trappings. If they really want to pull Christmas out of pop culture, like I said, fine! We can actually proclaim the power and meaning of Christmas better if it wasn't mixed up in cultural nonsense. If Christmas is so contentious, let's drop the contentiousness…stop the Holiday season (ironically, those in the culture who want to drop Christmas don't really understand that the only reason we have a Holiday season is specifically because of Christmas).

You know, think about it…follow me here – If you think about it, what would be the reason to have a "holiday season" if it wasn't for the Christian tradition. Pull Christmas out of the holidays and see what it "means" over time.  Winter Solstice?  As most of us know, the Holidays without Christmas would be hollow and mean nothing…zip…nada!  Then the Holidays would simply be a time for the adoration of consumerism and narcissism…another reason to party.  Sadly, it has become a lot like that already. Have you noticed the movement of Jesus followers who are attemtping to re-vision Christmas into a simpler, holier, mellower and less consumeristically driven time?  It's there and growing…why? Because there are people who really do know the reason for the season.  For those who don't, that's OK.  I don't want to force anything on anyone..God didn't force me into His love.  Christmas should be invitational…it should invite us to kneel at the foot of the manger bed not because the manger is lite and in front of city hall but because WE chose to follow "a star" that led us to that which is Holy and oozing with love.  

So, let's give it up…let the holidays be what they are and let's not force anything on anybody. Christmas then can continue to be what it is for people of faith.  No one, then, has to get all hot and bothered because they see three wise men in front of the mall or hear of a school doing the "Charlie Brown's Christmas Play."  I'm tired of hearing about those battles when the REAL battles for who God is and what it means to follow Jesus and be His disciple is fought more on a daily basis, relationship to relationship, conversation to conversation.  As long as we are "fighting" over trees, carols, creches, or even the speaking of the words, "Merry Christmas", we are waging the wrong war….or at least, a misguided one!  

Oh well…enough of that!  On to preparing for Christmas!