Michael T. Powers
On a cold winter night who of us is not tempted to go to the living room and stoke up
a fire in the fireplace and read a book in front of the crackling hearth? You may be
thinking "I am doing myself a favor by supplementing the furnace with additional heat".
But the dark secret about your fireplace is, you are making your house colder, and making
your heating bill rise. Using a fireplace each night can actually raise your monthly heating
bill by about 20%.*
The air action that a fireplace starts in your home is wasteful. The second the damper is
opened, heated air from your homes interior begins pouring out of the top of the chimney.
As the fire in the hearth accelerates, the combustion process grabs more heated air from
your home and burns the oxygen and combustible gasses in it and tosses it up the
chimney. While the fire burns and exhausts most of the heat straight up the chimney, the
home is drawing in cold outside air from other places (i.e. windows, light sockets, doors,
etc) to replace the air that is escaping the home. Hearth professionals refer to this as the
Even while the fireplace is not being used, the traditional metal dampers tend to leak air
since they warp and degrade rapidly in the extreme heat and corrosive soot environment.
The cold draft that comes out of a fireplace is an indicator that the damper is not sealing
well. To correct this problem, I recommend a removable and reusable fireplace accessory
called a Chimney Balloon fireplace damper. The Chimney Balloon inflates into place in the
flue and seals it off to stop heat loss, cold drafts, and chimney odors. They come in
hundreds of standard and custom size combinations that can fit any fireplace flue or
Wood burning fireplaces are wonderful nostalgic centerpieces for many American homes.
But a homeowner should be aware of the issues associated with fireplace use and keep
them from being a home energy drain.
*Statistic gathered from WP&L Energy informational newsletter.
Chimney Balloon USA
(608) 467-0229 Order Hotline
The Same Old Story
by Michael T. Powers
In the twenty-two years that my wife and I have been doing youth ministry, we have
dealt with a lot of teens who have gotten themselves into some dire straits. In fact,
I thought there was nothing that could possibly surprise us anymore.
I was wrong.
There is one teenage girl that we know that I had to tell you about. However,
before I do, I want you to understand that in our youth ministry, we always strive
for confidentiality, to protect both the teen and the teen's family. So it is with great
trepidation that I share this with you for I know that some of you will figure out who
this girl is. But I am hoping that by the end of these few pages, you will understand
why I had to share what I am about to tell you.
But before you rush to judgment, I want you to hang with me here. In fact, more
than anything else, I want you to put yourself in this teen's shoes. Try and feel
what she must be feeling.
This young girl is 14 years old and she comes to the stark realization that she
is pregnant. Not only does she realize that her life is going to drastically change,
but to make matters worse, she is afraid to tell her boyfriend. Normally she can go
to her boyfriend with any problem. He is a pretty stable, understanding and
dependable guy. But this time it's different. You see, the baby is not his.
She lays awake that first night thinking about all the people she has to face that next day.
She has always been worthy of the trust her parents have put in her. In fact other
families have remarked to her parents how they wish their daughters were more like
her. But now she has to stand before them and explain how she got pregnant. And if
that is not bad enough, she is going to have to explain to them that the father of the
baby is not the young man that her parents think she should marry.
She loves her boyfriend more than anyone! Well, almost more than anyone. How is
she going to face him? Where is she going to get the courage? It would almost be
easier if she could tell him that it was just a big mistake and that she is oh, so sorry
for it. But she can't lie to him. She will have to look into his trusting eyes and tell
him that she willfully chose the path that led to this little life growing inside of her.
She knows deep down inside, that if she had to do it all over again, she would make
the same decision, and end up in the same precarious situation. "Please God!
Please let him understand and not abandon me. I need him so much right now!"
Right or wrong, they have always put her on a pedestal. Always looked to her for
answers. Always modeled their life after hers. But she knows instinctively that they
will not understand. In fact she knows that she may never be able to explain to them
what made her do what she did.
So she lays there in bed, afraid, overwhelmed, and reaching out to God for strength
to face what is ahead of her.
The next day she finally gets up the courage to tell her boyfriend. He reacts just as
she feared he would react. He is going to leave her.
She becomes distraught and questions God: "Why God? Why? I know that I am in
this situation because of a decision I made, but please don't take my boyfriend away
from me! I desperately need him now!"
This unnamed teen goes to bed that night more afraid than ever, feeling every bit the
young child that she is.
Her name? Normally I wouldn't give that to you. But in this case she asked that her
name be known so that others will understand what she has gone through and
Her name is Mary and she lived 2000 years ago.
Have you ever thought of the Christmas story in this way before?
Think about it! You are a 14-year old girl and an angel appears to you and says,
"I'm going to place a baby inside of your womb." Most 14-year old girls I know
would say, "I'm sorry, but that doesn't fit in with my plans for my life. I have my
whole life ahead of me and I can't be held back by a baby! How am I going to go
to prom now!?"
How does Mary tell Joseph? Have you ever thought of that? She has to go to her
future husband and say, "I'm pregnant and the baby is not yours."
The conversation may have gone something like this:
Mary: "Joe, before you get angry at me I want you to know that I didn't cheat on you."
Joseph: "Come on Mary! You know full well that we have not known each other in the
biblical sense, so the baby can't possibly be mine!"
Mary: "Joseph, you have to believe me. I did not have sex with anyone!"
Joseph: "Please Mary, don't do this to me. You know that I love you and care for
you. But I can't listen to this."
Mary: "OK, Joseph, I won't lie to you." (She pauses, searching his eyes for the
understanding that she knows is not humanly possible.) "The baby is from God."
Joseph: "Mary! Please! This is not like you! In fact, I am beginning to think I don't
even know you any more!"
Mary: "You have to believe me Joseph!"
Joseph: (The wheels already turning in his head as to what he needs to do) "Mary,
you know that I love you. But I won't stand for this. I have every right to put you
away from me publicly, but I don't have the heart to do that to you. I won't marry
you now, but I will allow you to find some dignity and not make a big deal out of
this. But go you will."
Mary: "Please Joseph! You've got to believe me! Why would I make something like this up!"
Joseph: "Enough! I don't want to hear another word."
And he walks away, leaving Mary distraught and worrying.
You know the story. An angel appears to Joseph and verifies that what Mary says is truth.
Hopefully by now you are not thinking of the story of Jesus' birth as the same
old boring story that we read every Christmas season!
Stop your busyness and ponder with me these next few weeks.
Think of God as a fetus, leaving Heaven and all of its splendor and becoming one
of the most fragile things on Earth: a human baby. An animal baby is more able
to defend and adapt when they are born than a human is.
As a writer, I would never have written the story this way. If I'm going to write
the story of God coming to Earth, He's going to be on a white stallion when He
rides out of Heaven. Every hoof-beat will leave lightning-like sparks on the streets
of gold and peals of thunder in the air. The stars will line up as letters in every
language that will blink: "The King of Kings is Coming!" He's going to burst through
the ozone layer in a fiery explosion that will rock the foundation of the earth and
send humans and animals to a prone position on the ground. Then He's going to
circle the entire earth from east to west and the clouds will trail behind Him like a
pure white flowing robe. There'll be the deafening sound of heavenly trumpets and
the majestic pureness of millions of angels' voices hitting your ears as if they were
right next to you.
That's how I'd write it.
God says, "Nope. He's going to live inside of an unwed teenage girl and He's going
to be born in a stable." Which is a really nice word for a cave where smelly animals
live. There was manure and urine on the floor, and the stench was almost unbearable.
Priceless paintings and works of art did not hang on the walls in this nursery. No, if
you were to look on these walls you would see cobwebs.
Psalm 33:6 reads, "By the word of the LORD were the heavens made, their starry
host by the breath of his mouth." The One who breathed galaxies into existence,
now depended on an umbilical cord for His oxygen. Amazing!
In your wildest dreams, can you equate the deity of the King of Kings making
his entrance into this world through the human process we call birth.
Instead of noticing a crown of purest gold on his head, you notice the cone-shape
of his head as he was forced through the birth canal. Instead of wearing the finest
robes money can buy, he is wrapped in rags.
Instead of a finely crafted bed made by the most gifted craftsman in the land, he
is laid in a feeding trough. Don't give me this "manger" stuff. Manger sounds too
romantic. God was put in a feeding trough where cows put their tongues to lick
up food. That's where the King of the universe slept.
He who sustains the entire universe is now being sustained through the milk of a teenage girl.
If Mary could have written a book, it would be on the New York Times' Best-Selling
List. The title of the book would have been, "I Changed God's Diapers." Have you
ever thought of that? Someone had to change the God of the universe's diapers.
This gets a little gross, and I'm used to talking to youth, so forgive me, but, human
waste was next to Jesus' skin. Is it hard to imagine Jesus in such a mundane and
human way? In fact it is almost irreverent. But the God of the universe loved us so
much that he was willing to humble Himself and give us the most precious Christmas
present ever given: His Son Jesus.
May we never let ourselves say, "The same old Christmas story," ever again. And
may we never get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season to
not stop and ponder about what an amazing God we have.
May this Christmas, and every Christmas from here on out, never lose it's magic
or it's meaning.
From my family to yours,
Michael T. Powers
© 2006 by Michael T. Powers
Write Michael and let him know your thoughts on this story!
Michael T. Powers, the youth minister at Faith Community Church in Janesville, Wisconsin is also the founder of HeartTouchers.com, a popular website with over 2.7 million visitors in the last four years. He is happily married to his high school sweetheart, Kristi, and the proud father of three boys.
He is also an author with stories in 28 inspirational books including many in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series and his own entitled: Heart Touchers "Life-Changing Stories of Faith, Love, and Laughter." To preview his book or to join the thousands of world-wide readers on his inspirational e-mail list, visit: http://www.HeartTouchers.com
Most importantly, Michael believes that life is not about religion, but about a relationship -- a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Creation Q & A
Q: When a giraffe lowers its head toward the ground, wouldn't you expect the blood pressure to increase so much that its brain would explode?
The problem for evolutionists is this. How many giraffes blew their brains to pieces when bending down--how many passed out as they lifted their heads, becoming food for the lions--until the special features somehow evolved?
Click on the Bible above or visit the web site listed below!