Why you should go easy on the Santa thing

mean-santaSome kids think Santa is a totally unfair jerk.

Over the years Robin and I have worked with hundreds of kids as their teachers and coaches and some of them really dislike Santa. Why?

Because Santa doesn’t like them.

Relax. We love Santa in our house. I’m even one of his official helpers. I have a suit, the hair, boots and a big bag. So, no. This isn’t a Santa rant.

But, consider this for just a minute as though you are in second grade. Why would Santa bring the kid next to you a $500 Xbox One and only bring you a hat and a pair of mittens? Why did he bring Shelly a giant Barbie Dream House and you a used remote control car that doesn’t work?

Clearly, Santa doesn’t like you as much as he does the other kids at school. What other reason could there be for the disparity in the level of his gift giving?  From a poor kid’s point of view, the whole Santa thing can get pretty complicated.

Santa can be pretty tough on low income kids at Christmas while showering the kids who already have way more than they need.

Have you ever given Santa’s gift-giving pattern a second thought? Kids do. Low-income kids do.

In our house, as our children were growing up, we asked Santa to limit things and just bring one or two small things. His gifts were always unwrapped and under the tree. Sometimes he brought an inflatable sled or new toy snow shovels. Our kids were always excited to see what Santa brought but Santa’s gifts were never their focus. He stuffed their stockings with things like toothpaste, favorite candies and trinkets but nothing major.

When they got to the age of questioning, Santa transitioned into part of the fun of Christmas and even recruited them to join in with the fun of surprise gift giving.

We never had a Santa crisis in our family because Santa, though fun, was never the center of Christmas. When they got larger gifts, our children expressed thanks to us or their grandparents. Their understanding of Santa meant they never even asked him for the huge gifts.

One of our children’s fondest memories came during a time when we were working with a struggling teen ministry and totally dependent on donations. Our cupboards were empty and our mortgage was unpaid. A minivan pulled up in front of the house with every square inch packed with brightly wrapped gifts from the people of the little Pleasant Hill Baptist Church nearby. Robin and I were humbled and so very grateful watching our children open both practical and fun gifts that were not from Santa, but from Jesus followers. We hadn’t signed up on any list for services or gifts and hadn’t broadcast our needs. Somehow we had our own Christmas miracle, complete with boxes of food to restock our pantry.

Please, do me a favor and think about it if Santa goes overboard at your house. I encourage you to take the time to get in touch with him and ask him to limit it. I’m not saying do less or even give less. I’m just asking that you let Santa off the hook so that when the child from a struggling family who sits next to your child at school asks what Santa brought, it isn’t big deal.

What about your child? Will he think Santa loves him less because he brings less? Ours didn’t. I think that’s because we were fortunate enough to always have much more than was ever needed under our tree. Santa just wasn’t a huge deal because they were so excited by what Nana and Grampa gave them or what Robin and I had wrapped for them. If Santa got snowed out or stuck somewhere, Christmas in our house wouldn’t be ruined like all the Christmas TV specials claimed.

We love Santa in our house. We love listening for the reindeer, watching the weatherman track him on the radar, and leaving cookies and milk for his snack. We love dumping out the bobbles he leaves in our stockings and seeing what he left under the tree. But, in our house, the focus quickly changes to thanking one another, grateful hugs for thoughtful gifts and sharing Christmas joy together.

Please, just think about it? How about helping Santa shift from the center of Christmas day to just a fun part of your celebration?

By Scott Linscott
http://www.scottlinscott.com

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Too dang comfortable eating cheese curls

Yalu, Guatemala. Children sitting at home.

Yalu, Guatemala. Children sitting at home.

Comfort dulls me and makes me complacent. I have a tough time paying close attention when using cruise control.

In 2010, we left the church we were serving in for eleven years because I felt way too comfortable. The pay was good, the benefits were great and we loved the people. But, I was bored with being so dang comfortable. Same old, same old … week after week.

And then we spent May 2011 through probably May 2013 being very, very uncomfortable. It was when that whole liver transplant thing happened. Holy cow, that was way too uncomfortable for me! But, my faith grew and the intimacy in my relationship with God multiplied.

Now, it’s about to become 2017 and I’m feeling pretty darn comfy again. I’m in an awesome church that my God has brought back to life, I’ve got fantastic friends and today is a lot like yesterday and much like tomorrow will be.  Can I admit that I’m a little bit antsy?

las-vistas-3898Maybe I am an adrenaline junkie. Or, maybe I’m a builder/creator personality.

No worries, family and friends, I’m not about to throw in the towel and head for a third-world country to dig wells or give vaccines to goats. My physical limitations make that impossible now. Something about this suppressed immune system makes that unwise. God has me right where He wants me.

So, what do I do about it? The ancient book I like to read that is full of stories of men and women affecting change by serving God says I’m to be am “ambassador” for Jesus Christ. Ambassadors are not in charge of a whole lot. Instead, they simply represent the person or government they work for.

I need to represent and reflect the heart of Jesus. What’s important to Him needs to be important to me. I must decrease and He must increase.

So, here where our first-world problems focus on smartphones that drain too quickly and satellite television that drops signal during a storm forcing us to miss our show on our 55″ 4k tv, I need to focus on being an ambassador for Christ by helping us remember to love others.

The best mentor I ever had, Dr. Arthur Evans Gay, ended every message imploring his listeners to”remember the poor.” I have a much better understanding of that now.

Yes, I will continue to fly off to wherever God allows, whenever He allows. Yes, it’s dangerous. Yes, there are risks. But the risk to my soul and spirit that comes from just sitting on my comfortable couch waiting for Survivor to come on, is too great. I need to answer the call He has put on my life to be actively involved in bringing Hope to people who are suffering.

It’s my calling. Please understand that it does not have to be yours. If you are a Jesus follower, God calls you to be an ambassador wherever you are – work, school, community…

I’m thankful for the local church family I have and am thankful for the team attitude. I’m thankful that they are willing to take a risk or two and head into the mess if that’s where the Lord calls us.

And, I am thankful that they smile and nod whenever I present another crazy, impossible, dangerous idea demonstrating active Faith.

I'm dreaming of a roof for Oratorio

I’m dreaming of a roof for Oratorio

I’ve got a couple crazy ideas stirring right now that I’m praying about. One will take about $300,000 to accomplish and the other is $10,000 – $12,000. I just need God to direct me to the resources.

The largest project will replace all the roofs at an AMG school that serves around 1,000 children, many who live in the Guatemala city dump searching for food and recyclables. The little project (yes, little! haha) will put a roof over the play area at the sister school our little church partners with in Oratorio, Guatemala giving the kids a place to play during both the rainy and heat seasons.

Crazy, right? Perhaps. Impossible? NO!

In fact, maybe you, the company you work for or a philanthropic board you sit on, is looking for ways to make a significant impact? Email me at scott@linscottphoto.com and I can give you information, proposals and spec sheets.

I love the fact that AMG is focused on what it calls a Bridge to Life approach rather than simply providing handouts. Its programs are designed to break the cycle of poverty by equipping children and families with marketable skills to provide income.

I’m home for awhile. I don’t know for how long or what my God might present next. I just pray it’s not too long of a wait.

I’m not made for lying on a couch, eating cheese curls and sucking the orange coating off my fingers.

If you would like to give a tax-deductible, year-end gift to help meet needs in Guatemala, visit www.easytithe.com/fbcwestbrook and choose “AMG.” Our church family will add it to others and forward it along.

 

 

 

 

 

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Change takes more than updating your Facebook status

Serving a meal together.

Serving a community meal together.

The bumper sticker on the car in front of me, the car that I watched come up behind me weaving in and out of highway traffic at about 90 miles an hour, read, “Be the change you want to see.”

“Well, isn’t that nice,” I thought, watching him cut off the third lane and go on his way while brake lights flashed and horns honked. I’m not sure what change he wants to see unless he’s saying that the world needs more self-absorbed jerks. Maybe it’s just me, but I think we already have too many.

“Be the change you want to see.”

Over the last couple weeks, that bumper message flashed in my mind quite a few times. I saw it while watching clips of unhappy voters marching, shouting, waving signs and even breaking windows to protest the outcome of the national election. I could not help but wonder what the impact would be if all those thousands of angry marchers were actively involved in their communities either in government, working with immigrants or meeting needs around them.

Maybe many of them are involved but it seems like much of activism today has been reduced to people wearing bracelets, writing on their arms and changing Facebook profile pictures to show how much we care.

Bundles of Love

More than $2000 given so far.

The ancient book I like to read puts it this way:

15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. James 2

Thankfully, I see a lot of people around me doing more than yelling, “Somebody should do something!” I get to see people seeing needs and taking action.

Operation Christmas Child

Operation Christmas Child

Saturday morning I spent time with a family packing up Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes that get sent to children all over the world who have little to look forward to at Christmas. Their faith community gathered 74 boxes to add to more than a million others from all across the country.

Saturday night, I watched a group of close to 30 people serve a free turkey dinner spread to almost 200 people. Many of the guests were elderly people excited to have a great dinner and night out. Some of the guests had special needs. Others were people enjoying a chance to connect with others in their community.

A couple of weeks ago I watched the same faith community pull together boots, coats, hats and other warm clothing to meet the needs of an immigrant family unprepared for the approaching Maine winter.

In just a couple of weeks I will return to Guatemala to work with AMG International. I’ll be doing photography work to help communicate how AMG is helping more than 8000 children there. It was just 7 months ago when I made my first trip to Guatemala and experienced overwhelming poverty and thought, “somebody needs to do something!” The good news is that I met a lot of people who are doing plenty to help. It wasn’t too long before I knew I had to join them in their efforts.  My friends, neighbors, church & family are sending me with more than $2000 to purchase Bundles of Love to meet the greatest needs of more than 100 children. (contribute here – BUNDLES TEAM)

Most of us get paralyzed when we’re faced with something that is so much bigger than us. What can I do? I can’t end poverty. I can’t end racism. I can’t stop misogyny, injustice, homelessness or any of a myriad of other problems. That’s true but we are not powerless.

You are not powerless.

Each year our church family puts together gift baskets to thank all the people who serve the public.

Each year our church family puts together gift baskets to thank all the people who serve the public.

What if each of us did for one what we wish could be done for all? If a million individuals choose to sponsor just one child trapped in third world poverty, a million children would eat and be educated.  If 100 families in each of our communities welcomed just one immigrant family, imagine the impact. What would happen if just one person in each neighborhood went door to door collecting unused winter clothing out of jam-packed closets to donate to the community center, homeless shelter or veterans services?

One person cannot change the world for everyone but one person can change the world for one other person.

Maybe it’s time we put down our signs, stop writing on our arms and come out from behind our Facebook pages to actually love.

Real solutions require more than social media “awareness.”

You are not powerless to affect change.

Don’t just stand there. Do something!

A few ideas:

  • thinkSponsor a child in poverty. AMG is one option.  Compassion International is another.
  • See an immigrant? Smile and say hello.
  • In 2017, commit to THINK before speaking, posting or sharing. True? Helpful? Inspiring? Necessary? Kind?
  • Volunteer to help a teacher, a youth league, a rec program, a church youth program.
  • Bring your toddler and visit someone who has no one.
  • Lend a hand at your community center.
  • Buy an extra canned good to donate each time you grocery shop.
  • Teach your sons to respect, honor and value women.
  • Run for office.
  • Send a Bundle of Love to Guatemala with me Dec. 3.
  • Host a neighborhood gathering.
  • Give some time to Habitat for Humanity
  • Set another place at your table for someone who is alone.
  • Drop off a thank you card at the police or fire station.
  • Help your church help others by giving of your time, treasure and talent.
  • Forgive a grudge you’ve been holding onto.
  • Give blood. Register to be an organ donor.

 

 

 

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Time for an update on liver, life and love…

It’s been awhile since I’ve written a blog post. Someone nudged me just last week. So, here goes!

First, in liver news, my liver is still behaving fine. I’ll go for blood labs soon to do all the normal AST/ALT /INR/Creatinine reports to give me a measure. I still have some normal side effects from my meds but they are nothing to spend too much time complaining about because I am alive. 🙂

Second, in life news. I’m loving life and enjoying my two new grandchildren. They are 7 and 9 months old and now hold out their arms for me to take them. Is there anything better than that? My little church where I am now pastor is way cool and full of people I love a lot. My photography stuff is going well and always introducing me to new people. I had surgery on the veins in my legs back in May and that crushed my summer cycling goals but I am planning to ride in this weekend’s autism ride to get back at it.

Third, love. What do you love? Where do you invest your life? I think, before transplant, being successful at what I did was really my top priority. Doing things well and winning accolades and praise was what drove me. Now, after transplant, it’s relationships. Relationships ran a close second before but now the success stuff has dropped down quite a bit. I love being with others, investing in others, building new relationships and sharing life. I’m spending my time on loving others a lot more now. In December I will head back to Guatemala for the second time this year to shoot marketing photos for AMG. AMG works to help about 8,000 children trapped in third world poverty. It’s amazing that I have a life to poor into stuff like that now. I look forward to Sundays, family days and sitting on my lawn with others. I always knew that my God wanted me to love him and love others more than anything else, but now I think I understand why. Life is so much more fulfilling.

Life is good. I am so very thankful that I get to live it!

Here are a few pictures from my life of late…applepicking-6242 applepicking-6284 applepicking-6358 applepicking-6517 applepicking-6522 applepicking-6592maineprophoto-5997

13691091_997826183666750_4702734953875002345_ofreeport-maine-4785 freeport-maine-4861 maineprophoto-5531

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When the good part of life hits you hard

What do you do when good stuff hits you hard? Have you ever had moments when you just sit back and think, “holy smokes, I have it good?”

There are piles of crap pulling for my attention. Gross, right? Crass, huh? I’m sorry but it’s true. It yells at me from my television, blares across my radio, tweets at me and scrolls down my Facebook newsfeed. Someone shot a bunch of people, this guy is promising to build a giant wall, that woman is up to her eyeballs in half-truths at best, “share this if you agree” posts, hateful messages left around a housing complex …  It’s easy to get cynical, negative and fatalistic.

An old guy outside a store in Pennsylvania gave me an earful last week while we sat on a bench waiting for our shopping wives. “This world is going to hell in a hand-basket,” he told me.

I took note of his Marine cap declaring his Korean War service and asked him if life was easier back then. He stayed silent for a while. It looked to me like he was processing some painful memories.

“No, it wasn’t easier,” he finally answered. “We’ve been going to hell in a hand-basket for a very long time.”

Nero lit up his courtyard with human torches in 64 AD. People have been hating people, killing people, torturing people and abusing people for nearly as long as there have been people. Is it worse today than during than Hitler’s Germany? Worse than the Rwandan genocide? Worse than Colonial times?

If I put my hope in mankind I will always be disappointed, so, I choose not to. I choose instead to put my hope in Jesus Christ and try to live like he lived. My hope is in him. My perspective goes beyond this temporal plain.

I look for the good. When you train your eyes to see it, it isn’t hard to find. Last week it was all around me every day. Somehow a family vacation came together and we had all three of our kids, their three spouses and both of our grandchildren with us for a whole week.

My favorite times were the down times. Yes, we shopped, we went to a water park, we hit up restaurants, did touristy things and we swam in the pool but it was the nothing times that I loved most. It was the boring, do-nothing, small-talk, together times that made me most thankful for this life I’ve been given.

  • My granddaughter, Emma, six months old, went from her “oh no, that guy” face of terror when she saw me to a “Yay! There’s Grampa!” with her little arms reaching for me.
  • My grandson, Calvin, 8 months old, started doing the army crawl and is now on the move. He looks at me with a big smile that says, “my Grampa is a goof ball.”
  • I saw my kids’ marriages, full of affection and the playfulness they grew up experiencing in Robin’s and my marriage.
  • Aunties and uncles read books and played with their nephew and niece.

14054985_10100884581983017_7297639365903704106_nI don’t think anyone noticed my moment when it all came down on me in a wave of emotion.  I was sitting in a chair to the side, Calvin and Emma were lying on their stomachs on the floor while Shara read a book to them with Kristen sitting nearby. “Holy smokes, I have it good.”

It’s been 4 years and 3 months since my liver transplant.  It’s been 4 years and 5 months since they took me off the transplant list and I was sure my life was coming to an end. But, my God, had other plans. I’ve been given bonus days.

I’m not going to waste my days worrying about Democrats or Republicans. I’m not going to believe that there’s a bomb around every corner or live my life in fear. I’m not going to fear my black neighbor, my tattooed neighbor, my Muslim neighbor, my gay neighbor … I’m going to choose to love and serve because that’s what Jesus did. I refuse to let CNN and FOX shape my outlook and attitudes.

I’m determined to live out these bonus days recognizing my God’s Grace in this very messy world.

The world may well be going to hell in a hand basket but I jumped out of that basket a long time ago.

2 Corinthians 4:18
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

 

 

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4 years today. A good, good Father.

13063276_10100808819571497_2039199937063596310_o

Calvin James

My eyes opened for the day just before 4:00 AM. I listened to the birds coming awake in the trees just outside our bedroom window and thought “how blessed I am.”

I spent some time talking to God about the names He brought to mind. There were three new names that came in the last 4 months: Calvin, Emma and Tanya.

As my mind grew sharper, I began to think of my day ahead and my calendar note that said “PLAN NOTHING – REST” in bold red print across this whole weekend. I was up making my coffee by 5:00 AM and watching my little dog search for the perfect spot on our freshly-mowed lawn.

A quick text to my son and daughter-in-law, “I’m up if Calvin is awake and chatty and you’d like more time to sleep.” No response made me a little bit disappointed.

I settled in to write a bit, turned on Pandora heard Chris Tomlin,
“You’re a Good, Good Father
It’s who you are, it’s who you are, it’s who you are”

A quick check of my social media shortly after I woke reminded me of today’s date, May 7.

“And I’m loved by you
It’s who I am, it’s who I am, it’s who I am.”

It was four years ago at this very time when my son Josh and I were in hospital beds at Lahey Hospital in Burlington, Massachusetts. They were wheeling him down the hall to the operating theater to remove 60% of his liver to transplant in me to replace my diseased organ right at about this time.

“You’re a Good, Good Father
It’s who you are, it’s who you are, it’s who you are”

Four years ago people joined in prayer all over the world for us and waited for my sister, Gloria, to post updates through the day.

“And I’m loved by you
It’s who I am, it’s who I am, it’s who I am

13076892_10154173424263928_2165838123442856519_n

Emma Hazel

Cause you are perfect in all of your ways
You are perfect in all of your ways
You are perfect in all of your ways to us”

I wrote my last blog post before transplant the night before. Rereading it this morning is surreal:

“As I write this, I’ve got to tell you I’m that I’m scared. I’m not afraid of the outcome… I’m scared of the process … I have no fear that Josh and I will be preserved … we were preserved years ago and rest in the hands of our Father no matter what … I’m at peace with the surgery and that’s weird for me … Jesus holds us. He loves you like crazy!”

“You are perfect in all of your ways
You are perfect in all of your ways
You are perfect in all of your ways to us”

Those three names on my mind this morning … Calvin, Emma, Tanya … three precious children, two my grandchildren, one my newly newly sponsored child in Guatemala, will grow up different because my God has chosen to restore and heal me.

“Oh, it’s love so undeniable
I, I can hardly speak
Peace so unexplainable
I, I can hardly think”

Tanya scott goodbye 2

Tanya

These words on my screen are blurred again through the tears that come so frequently in these bonus days of the last four years. The graduations, the weddings, the family times, the new friendships … new life came when life was about gone … abundant life more than I could ever ask or imagine

“You’re a Good, Good Father
(You are perfect in all of your ways)
It’s who you are, it’s who you are, it’s who you are
And I’m loved by you
(You are perfect in all of your ways)
It’s who I am, it’s who I am it’s who I am.”

Loved by You. Yes, it is who I am and I will never again take that for granted.

Thanks for this bonus day, Lord, and for any you choose to grant me from this day forward.

By the way, Calvin and I are now hanging out listening to the toddler station on Pandora while the rest of the house sleeps.

“B-I-N-G-O, B-I-N-G-O, B-I-N-G-O,  and Bingo was his name-O.”

Can it ever get any better than this?

Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. Psalm 139:16

Listen to “Good, Good, Father” here.
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Weird coincidences?

By Scott Linscott

We’ve been back from Guatemala for almost two weeks now. Today, our sponsor kit with a photo of Tanya’s smiling, 7 year old face looking at me. The first thing I notic…

Source: Weird coincidences?

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