Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas Eve!

Merry Christmas everyone! I pray this Christmas would be your best one yet.

God is so faithful, isn't He? This year Christmas sneaked up on me and my family and we spend the last two weeks preparing gifts and getting out our Christmas letters. But God's been so good to us. He's been teaching me so much lately... About Christmas and other things.

Have you ever thought about how detailed the birth of Jesus is? Look back at some of the prophecies in the Old Testament, then read the Christmas story in Luke AND Matthew. So many details! For instance, did you see that the star appeared at Jesus' birth, and then again about two years later when the wise men came? And it actually MOVED so that the wise men could follow it. That's just too cool.

But what I really want to focus on is why Jesus came to earth. Do you ever think about that? That He came to earth... to die a criminal's death as payment for OUR sins. All we have to do is receive it. That little baby boy we see in manger scenes represents Immanuel, God with us! He came here to give everything good to us - eternal life, healing, peace, restoration - while He died a horrible death. We didn't deserve it. Jesus, the only perfect human who ever lived died in our place because of LOVE for us. Can you imagine? For God so LOVED the world that He gave His one and only Son... Wow. That's so hard to wrap my mind around! Did you notice that He loved us while we were still sinners? God's love is unconditional. Nothing we do will make Him love us any less... or any more.

This Christmas, take time to thank God for what He's done. Not just a little, "Thank You." But really spend time thinking about what He did for you, and thank Him. Not only with words, but with actions. Determine to spread God's love through the way you treat people all year around, and not just during the month of December.

I pray you have a wonderful Christmas and a blessed New Year!

Christmas reading suggestions:
Isaiah 9, 53, John 1, Luke 1-2; Matthew 1-2.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Sword and the Flute

It's the 21st, time for the Teen FIRST blog tour! This is the very last Teen FIRST tour as Teen FIRST has merged with FIRST Wild Card Tours. If you wish to learn more about FIRST Wild Card, please go HERE.

and his book:

Amg Publishers (January 22, 2007)


Mike Hamel is a seasoned storyteller who has honed his skill over theyears by telling tall tales to his four children. He is the author of several non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles.

Mike and his wife, Susan, live in Colorado Springs, CO. Their four children are now grown and their two grand children will soon be old enough for stories of their own.

From His Blog's About Me:

I am a professional writer with sixteen books to my credit, including a trilogy of titles dealing with faith and business: The Entrepreneur’s Creed (Broadman, 2001), Executive Influence (NavPress, 2003), and Giving Back (NavPress, 2003). I also edited Serving Two Masters: Reflections on God and Profit, by Bill Pollard (Collins, 2006).

My most enjoyable project to date has been an eight-volume juvenile fiction series called Matterhorn the Brave. It’s based on variegated yarns I used to spin for my four children. They are now grown and my two grandchildren will soon be old enough for stories of their own.

I live in Colorado Springs, Colorado with my bride of 34 years, Susan.

As you read this blog, remember that I’m a professional. Don’t try this level of writing at home. You might suffer a dangling participle or accidentally split an infinitive and the grammarians will be all over you like shoe salesmen on a centipede.

BTW – I have been diagnosed with Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma, an aggressive but treatable form of cancer.

Mike's Blog, Cells Behaving Badly, is an online diary about Wrestling with Lymphoma Cancer.

To order a signed edition of any of the 6 Matterhorn the Brave books, please visit the Matterhorn the Brave Website!

Product Details

List Price: 9.99
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 181 pages
Publisher: Amg Publishers (January 22, 2007)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0899578330
ISBN-13: 978-0899578330


Emerald Isle

Aaron the Baron hit the ground like a paratrooper, bending his knees, keeping his balance.

Matterhorn landed like a 210-pound sack of dirt.

His stomach arrived a few seconds later.

He straightened his six-foot-four frame into a sitting position. In the noonday sun he saw they were near the edge of a sloping meadow. The velvet grass was dotted with purple and yellow flowers. Azaleas bloomed in rainbows around the green expanse. The black-faced sheep mowing the far end of the field paid no attention to the new arrivals.

“Are you okay?” the Baron asked. He looked as if he’d just stepped out of a Marines’ recruiting poster. “We’ll have to work on your landing technique.”

“How about warning me when we’re going somewhere,” Matterhorn grumbled.

The Baron helped him up and checked his pack to make sure nothing was damaged. He scanned the landscape in all directions from beneath the brim of his red corduroy baseball cap. “It makes no difference which way we go,” he said at last. “The horses will find us.”

“What horses?”

“The horses that will take us to the one we came to see,” the Baron answered.

“Are you always this vague or do you just not know what you’re doing?”

“I don’t know much, but I suspect this is somebody’s field. We don’t want to be caught trespassing. Let’s go.”

They left the meadow, walking single file through the tall azaleas up a narrow valley. Thorny bushes with loud yellow blossoms crowded the trail next to a clear brook. Pushing one of the prickly plants away, Matterhorn asked, “Do you know what these are?”

“Gorse, of course,” the Baron said without turning.

“Never heard of it.”

“Then I guess you haven’t been to Ireland before.”

“Ireland,” Matterhorn repeated. “My great-grandfather came from Ireland.”

“Your great-grandfather won’t be born for centuries yet.”

Matterhorn stepped over a tangle of exposed roots and said, “What do you mean?”

“I mean we’re in medieval Ireland, not modern Ireland.”

“How can that be!” Matterhorn cried, stopping in his tracks. “How can I be alive before my great-grandfather?”

The Baron shrugged. “That’s one of the paradoxes of time travel. No one’s been able to figure them all out. You’re welcome to try, but while you’re at it, keep a lookout for the horses.”

Matterhorn soon gave up on paradoxes and became absorbed in the paradise around him. The colors were so alive they hurt his eyes. He wished for a pair of sunglasses. Above the garish gorse he saw broom bushes and pine trees growing to the ridge where spectacular golden oaks crowned the slopes. Birdsongs whistled from their massive branches into the warm air. Small animals whispered in the underbrush while larger game watched the strangers from a distance.

The country flattened out and, at times, they glimpsed stone houses over the tops of hedgerows. They steered clear of these and any other signs of civilization. In a few hours, they reached the spring that fed the brook they had been following. They stopped to rest and wash up.

That’s where the horses found them.

There were five strikingly handsome animals. The leader of the pack was from ancient and noble stock. He stood a proud seventeen hands high—five-foot-eight-inches—at the shoulders. He had a classic Roman face with a white star on his wide forehead that matched the white socks on his forelegs. His straight back, sturdy body, and broad hindquarters suggested both power and speed. A rich coppery mane and tail complemented his sleek, chestnut coat.

The Baron held out an apple to the magnificent animal, but the horse showed no interest in the fruit or the man. Neither did the second horse. The third, a dappled stallion, took the apple and let the Baron pet his nose.

“These horses are free,” the Baron said as he stroked the stallion’s neck. “They choose their riders, which is as it should be. Grab an apple and find your mount.”

While Matterhorn searched for some fruit, the leader sauntered over and tried to stick his big nose into Matterhorn’s pack. When Matterhorn produced an apple, the horse pushed it aside and kept sniffing.

Did he want carrots, Matterhorn wondered? How about the peanut butter sandwich? Not until he produced a pocket-size Snickers bar did the horse whinny and nod his approval.

The Baron chuckled as Matterhorn peeled the bar and watched it disappear in a loud slurp. “That one’s got a sweet tooth,” he said.

The three other horses wandered off while the Baron and Matterhorn figured out how to secure their packs to the two that remained. “I take it we’re riding without saddles or bridles,” Matterhorn said. This made him nervous, as he had been on horseback only once before.

“Bridles aren’t necessary,” Aaron the Baron explained. “Just hold on to his mane and stay centered.” He boosted Matterhorn onto his mount. “The horses have been sent for us. They’ll make sure we get where we need to go.”

As they set off, Matterhorn grabbed two handfuls of long mane from the crest of the horse’s neck. He relaxed when he realized the horse was carrying him as carefully as if a carton of eggs was balanced on his back. Sitting upright, he patted the animal’s neck. “Hey, Baron; check out this birthmark.” He rubbed a dark knot of tufted hair on the chestnut’s right shoulder. “It looks like a piece of broccoli. I’m going to call him Broc.”

“Call him what you want,” the Baron said, “but you can’t name him. The Maker gives the animals their names. A name is like a label; it tells you what’s on the inside. Only the Maker knows that.”

Much later, and miles farther into the gentle hills, they made camp in a lea near a tangle of beech trees. “You get some wood,” Aaron the Baron said, “while I make a fire pit.” He loosened a piece of hollow tubing from the side of his pack and gave it a sharp twirl. Two flanges unrolled outward and clicked into place to form the blade of a short spade. Next, he pulled off the top section and stuck it back on at a ninety-degree angle to make a handle.

Matterhorn whistled. “Cool!”

“Cool is what we’ll be if you don’t get going.”

Matterhorn hurried into the forest. He was thankful to be alone for the first time since becoming an adult, something that happened in an instant earlier that day. Seizing a branch, he did a dozen chin-ups; then dropped and did fifty push-ups and a hundred sit-ups.

Afterward he rested against a tree trunk and encircled his right thigh with both hands. His fingertips didn’t touch. Reaching farther down, he squeezed a rock-hard calf muscle.

All this bulk was new to him, yet it didn’t feel strange. This was his body, grown up and fully developed. Flesh of his flesh; bone of his bone. Even hair of his hair, he thought, as he combed his fingers through the thick red ponytail.

He took the Sword hilt from his hip. The diamond blade extended and caught the late afternoon sun in a dazzling flash. This mysterious weapon was the reason he was looking for firewood in an Irish forest instead of sitting in the library at David R. Sanford Middle School.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Christmas Carols and Orchestra Concert

Last night was my very first concert in the orchestra, which I joined last August. I'll try to tell you what happened without boring you with too many details. ;-)

Dressed in a floor length black skirt, white blouse, and black shoes that hurt my feet, I walked up to the performing arts center with my violin case in my right hand and my music folder in the other. I was able to find the room in which I was supposed to be fairly easily... but not without worrying beforehand that I wouldn't find the right place in time. But God is so faithful, isn't He? Almost as soon as I had walked in the PAC, a violinist who had been in the orchestra last year showed me where to go. I had no need to worry.

Sometime after I got my violin tuned and ready, we went through our songs one last time before the final performance. I was slightly flustered, but after knocking my shoulder rest off my instrument and struggling to get my music in order with one hand, things went pretty smoothly. :-) Once we finished rehearsing, we went to another room and waited for when we were to perform. After several minutes of waiting talking with friends, we were summoned on stage.

I took my seat - first violin section, fourth row - and after a few moments, watched the conductor come on stage and raise his baton for us to ready our instruments. Once he saw we were all ready, he gave us the cue to begin playing. Despite my nervousness, I was able to play the songs well. I think it was one of the best times I've played them, in fact! How faithful God is!

After we had finished our performance and put our instruments away, we crept into the auditorium to watch another, more advanced orchestra play. Their music was so beautiful! It was neat to be able to watch an orchestra play after I had been a part of one. Once they had played a few songs, a large choir came out and sang a medley of Christmas carols while the orchestra played. That was one of the highlights of the whole night, I think. The sounds in that auditorium were beyond beautiful. I don't think words can describe how lovely it all was. I was tremendously blessed by songs such as "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" and "O Come, All Ye Faithful" which were played and sung with the utmost skill and excellence.

As I've attended rehearsals week after week, it struck me how similar an orchestra is to the body of Christ. Both have a conductor to set the pace and correct us when we're wrong. We can either follow or ignore him. If we choose to go our own way, things will fall apart. You won't be in sync with the rest of the orchestra, and you'll end up looking really foolish in the end. But if you follow the conductor and put into practice the things he tells you, everything will work out well.
Secondly, both have a body with many different gifts and talents. Each person is unique in their talents and abilities, even as each instrument is different. Yet if we work together to follow the Conductor, the result will be beautiful. When I practice with the whole orchestra, I find out things that I've been doing wrong in my practicing at home, which motivates me to practice harder so I can sound better than ever. Sometimes we discover faults about ourselves when we're around other people. But when we repent and obey God, things work out and you become a better person.
Lastly, both have an instruction booklet - sheet music, and the Bible! If we don't study it and do what it says, we won't get very far.
I'm sure there are other analogies, but those are the ones I thought of. :-)

(Wow, this blog post is way longer than I expected it to be. Hope I didn't bore you!)

One last thing before I finish:
I pray that none of us will be so caught up in the Christmas rush that we forget the whole meaning behind it all. Because God loved us, He gave His only Son for us while we were still sinners so that any and all who believe on Him will not perish but have everlasting life. (see John 3:16 and Romans 5:8). Let us never think lightly of the great love of God - that He would send the world His own Son Jesus to die the horrible death on the cross. May you all have a very blessed Christmas!