Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Bovine of Bethlehem

(Reprinted from today's Times and News-Star..)


Since one of his two massive, unduly large yard snow globes deflated – dog bite -- and since he has three children age 6 or less, Dr. Pickles had to make an emergency run to the Christmas ornaments store. All they had left in the blow-up department was a Christmas cow.

(Yeah, I didn’t know they made those either.)

The cow was immediately throw into the mix, joining the surviving snow globe, the bursting snow flakes, the lighted icicles, the shrub netting, the plastic Santa, blinking deer, and a partridge in a pear tree.

Looks like the NBC Holiday Special.

So the next night Dr. Pickles had to bring supper home. He called and asked if Wendy’s would be OK. This not only confused his oldest son, it genuinely hurt him.

“But dad,” he said over the phone, “we just got the Christmas cow. You want us to eat hamburgers, and we just got the Christmas cow? What are you, some kind of …”

Dad hung up. They had pizza with olives.

Dr. Pickles has already promised his children that the family won’t eat lamb, ox or ass, at least not until the Christmas cow is stolen, stored for the off-season, or felled by a hunter with an inflatable gun.

God bless us, everyone!

Much like Dr. Pickles’ yard ornament, “cattle lowing” was as high up the food chain as I made it in any of the Christmas pageants I was privileged to be in. Never got to be an angel or Joseph or a wise guy. Not even a shepherd. My dad, our pastor, said I just didn’t have the build for it. And you wonder why I’ve had problems…

Being both from the South and Baptist, I’ve hit the daily double on Christmas pageants. Sometimes two and three a Yuletide season. Talk to me about physics or punk rock or fiber optics. But don’t talk to me about Christmas pageants. I know about Christmas pageants.

(Except I don’t know why they call them “pageants” instead of the more workmanlike “play” or “presentation.” Pageant? Will Mary show up in an evening gown instead of maternity wear? An angel in a two-piece? Will Little Drummer Boy play while our judges tabulate final scores? We’ve got our hands full with the virgin birth, don’t you think?; let’s keep the rest of this thing simple.)

Christmas plays are not immune to fumbles. If you can’t think on your feet, go stand over there with the lowing cattle.

Case in point: a play last week that Dr. Pat attended. His young granddaughter Kate was narrating. In the dark. A voice in the wilderness. With only a pen light.

Kate was steady and Mary was solid, unlike the shepherds and wise men, who started shuffling almost immediately. Girls are glue. Boys are shufflers. Note this in your next Christmas play.

The best part came when Kate’s pen light died. Without missing a beat, she turned on her cell phone and read by its light. As her granddad said, “Talk about a light in Bethlehem!”

A Christmas miracle. She gets this year’s “Hark!” Award.

My favorite Christmas play moment: The first-grade couple was coming up the aisle, having rehearsed all week with the narrator reading, “Mary, who was great with child….” The translations were switched on game night. The narrator read, “Joseph went with Mary, his fiancĂ©e, who was pregnant.”

Joseph stopped and, to Mary, his betrothed, screamed, very hurt and very unrehearsed, “Pregnant? You’re PREGNANT?!”


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

(2nd of a 3 part series) The Joys of the Season: No Matter What You Are Facing


(My notes from Sunday, Dr. Chris at FBC Ruston presiding, if you trust my note taking.)

Matthew 1:18-20 -- "Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit."

Luke 1

God Can See Me Through The Impossible

I. You Will Face Situations That Seem Impossible

Mat 1:18-19 .. Joseph's problem was a pregnant fiance who said she was a virgin.
Luke 1:26 -- Mary had the same problem! (Luke 1:34 ... Mary to the angel, "How can this be?"

II. Give Everything To God

Mt 1: 19-20 ... Joseph stays calm and listens
Luke 1:34 ... Mary questions the angel for help

Mt 1:24 .. Joseph does as the angel says
Luke 1:38 -- Mary says she is the Lord's servant

Prov 3: 5-6 ... Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths

1 Peter 5:7 ... 1 Peter 5:7 - "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you."

III God Will Come Through For You
John 8:41 ... ("We are not illegitimate children," they protested. "The only Father we have is God himself.") ... the Pharisees might be 'picking on' Jesus here, reminding him that he is 'illegitimate'
John 8:48 -- (The Jews answered him, "Aren't we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?") ... Samaritans were 'half-bred' Jews ...

There are major bumps in the road for all of us, especially for Jesus

Luke 1:37 -- "For nothing is impossible with God."
Luke 18:27 -- "What's impossible with men is possible with God."

God WILL see me through the impossible -- IF I will let Him...


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Always A Quiet December at Pearl Harbor

Reprinted from today's Times and News-Star

On these chilly mornings, my friend Mrs. Jan at the U-Pack-It Coffee & Such reminds us to break out our “fur-lined under-yonders” – or else risk a freeze-up in the tender nether regions.

Either that, or wear double underdrawers.

I prefer the heat, which I was surely in this summer when I found myself honeymooning, of all things, in Hawaii, of all places. I know: sounds bigshot-ish. But to be truthful, we will never forget this experience because we are reminded of it daily in our photo album and monthly in our credit card statement.

Priceless? Whatever.

It’s a long story, how I got to Hawaii and back. To be precise, it’s about 24 hours, counting layovers. If you plan Pacific travel, you’d better know where you’re going, is all I can say. Or be a really, really good swimmer. I’d suggest bringing a sandwich.

The thing is, when I was a small man, I loved reading the “We Were There” book series, written for the upper elementary and junior high crowd. I was a Bookmobile junkie of the first order, and if a “We Were There” book was available, I was an easy sell.

If I remember correctly, it was always a boy and girl who just happened to be in the middle of some serious action. “We Were There With Lewis & Clark.” “We Were There When Grant Met Lee At Appomattox.” “We Were There When Liz Married Dick.” And on like that.

But my favorite in a long line of winners was “We Were There At Pearl Harbor.” I’d just thought I’d read good books before. But once I closed the cover on this baby, I knew that everything before had been just child’s play. Thank you for writing it, Felix Sutton, wherever you are. You made a difference for me.

And so, in May, a lifelong dream came true: We Were There At Pearl Harbor. “There” there. It was not a disappointment.

I am writing this early on Tuesday, the 69th anniversary of Japan’s attack on the United States at Pearl Harbor. It is still several hours before the official beginning of the attack, just before 8 a.m. Hawaii time. At approximately 8:06 a.m., the USS Arizona, hit by a 1,760-pound armor-piercing bomb that ignited its forward ammunition magazine, exploded. It sank in less than nine minutes and with 1,177 of its crew. The iconic photograph of that day is the shattered battleship burning and falling to port.

To stand on the USS Arizona Memorial above the clearly visible sunken battleship is a privilege. Architect and Memorial designer Alfred Preis had in mind, he wrote, an overall effect of “serenity. Overtones of sadness have been omitted to permit the individual to contemplate his own personal responses…his innermost feelings.”

That sounds “deep,” but I will tell you that standing on the Memorial, watching oil still seep from the Arizona’s hull and imagining waves of Japanese aircraft coming from the west over the unchanged Waianae Mountains, is a moment fascinating to contemplate…

The American flag still flies above the USS Arizona from a pole attached to the severed mainmast of the battleship. And a few hundred feet away is the USS Missouri, on whose deck the Empire of Japan signed papers of unconditional surrender to end World War II.

Pearl Harbor at “see” level. As a stocking stuffer, it’s a bit pricey. But if you ever get the chance, please go.

Friday, December 10, 2010

1st of a 3-Part Series: 'The Joys of the Season -- No Matter Who You Are'

(My notes from Sunday's effort by Dr Chris at FBC Ruston...)

God Can Do Great Things Through You
Matthew 1
1. No Matter What Your Bloodline Is
v 1-3
Tamar (check out Gen 39 for this part of the 'scandal' of Jesus' bloodline)
Rahab, prostitute
Ruth, non-Jewish woman whose people were enemies of the Jews
Uriah's wife (David's adultry)
Manasseh, sacrificed some of his own children to his pagan god

2. No Matter What Your Past Is
Mt 1:5
Rahab got things right with God
David paid a huge price for his adultry but was forgiven and used by God
Thru Bathsheba's repentance came Solomom
Manessah's repentance came after God smashed him like a grape

3. No Matter Who You Are Today
Mt 1:18
'his mother Mary, and Joseph'... God uses common people

Luke 1:48 "God has been mindful of the humble state of his servant (Mary)."
It is 'funny' that the shepherds were scared when they saw the angels on the night of Jesus' birth but when Mary saw the angel in his passage, she was calm.

Luk 2:10 Jesus' birth was announced through shepherds, who were second-class citizens of the day.

4. No Matter What Your Age Is
Joseph was a teen
Mary was between 13 and 15
Luke 1:57 ... Elizabeth, mom of John the Baptist, was 'barren' and very old

If God is in the mix, great things will happen

* God Can Do Great Things Through You -- IF You Will Let Him

Mt 1:24 -- Joseph did what the angel told him to do
Luke 1:30 -- Mary says 'I am the Lord's servant.'
Luke 2:15 -- Shepherds say 'Let's go see!'

"The price of greatness is responsibility." -- Churchill

Are we willing to BE used...

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Pearl Harbor Day

Go here to see photographs and to read how journalists covered the attack.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Absent Friends ... (I am physically sick about this...)

Don Meredith dead at 72. You can read more about it here and watch video.

Dang. The Lipton Tea commercials alone were enough to make you love him. But he was a rock star when Monday Night Football started. Funny. And good buddies in retirement out in Arizona with Roger Miller. I was thinking about them yesterday; there are two guys I would have loved to have met. ...

Got a great VHS at home called "America's Game" with Don Meredith miked in a 1966 or
67 game, I believe. It's a beautiful thing. He's arguing with a referee about a holding call and his offensive lineman walks up and he points and yells, "Get back in that huddle!"

Hurts me...He was fun and funny and good at what he did. That's a hard combination to pull off; it ain't easy being easy, I would imagine. But he did and could, and I appreciate him. Sick about it...I am hoping my mother does not find this out. Who didn't love Dandy Don?


Sunday, December 5, 2010

When You're Way Past Wanting Just Your Two Front Teeth

(Reprinted from today's Times and News-Star)

We get up every morning hoping for something.

We hope to make enough money to pay the rent. Or we hope to do something fun. We hope our team wins. We hope he or she will notice us. We hope to make a difference, or we “hope to just make it through another day.”

We run on hope, whether we think about it or not. When we quit hoping, we quit living.

“If you don’t have hope, you don’t have Christmas,” the preacher told us. “If you don’t have hope, you don’t have life.”

If that’s true, hope better be standard equipment. But it’s not. Hope comes as an option only.

Good, then, that the Christmas season is about hope. No hope? No Christmas.

The lights. The tree. The Nativity scene. Symbols of hope. Pictures of hope. Even the presents are mysteries wrapped, hope in a package, hope on a small and non-eternal scale. “I hope grandma didn’t get me socks!?” Again!”

We’re told that the greatest of all things is love. Not faith or hope, each of which hit the tape at about the same time as the other. When you die, what you’ve had faith in will either be there – or it won’t. What you’ve hoped for will be realized – or it won’t. At that point, you’ll have use of neither. At that point, love has the stage to itself.

But in a world filled with “Why’s,” way down here, hope comes in handy. Sort of like air comes in handy.

We start out hoping for little things. A bike and a ball glove and my two front teeth. But you get older, and it’s a different ballgame. You hope for a better job. A better home. A home at all. Someone to love. Someone to even care.

There are days when all you want is hope. Or even a hint of it. I had a friend in that boat. His report from the doctor wasn’t good that day a couple of years ago.

But faithfully, the patient, my friend, did as he was told.

And miraculously, though the climb was steep with dips now and then, the news from the Houston hospital kept becoming more and more favorable.

Finally, one cool Saturday morning this fall, he called to say the doctor had found no cancer. The doctor even told him to come back not in three months, but in six. And after that, probably for not another year.

“A guy asked me back then, ‘What do you do when you find out you have Stage 4 cancer?’” my buddy told me. “And I said that the first thing you do is you get angry. And then you cry.

“And now I know what you do when they tell you you HAD Stage 4 cancer but you’re well now,” he said. “What you do is get really happy. And grateful. And then you cry again.”

There are different kinds of tears. Some – like the ones that come when you find out you’ve been granted more life to live – are liquid joy. They speak what we can’t say.

And there are tears of anger. Or fear. Or tears when healing doesn’t come. But Christmas means we don’t ever have to cry as those who have no hope. Because of Christmas, hope makes all the difference in the world.


Friday, December 3, 2010

Absent Friends: Ron Santo ... (hurts me...)

Former Cubs third sacker Ron Santo, 1940-2010.

Saw him lead the crowd in "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" in the seventh inning stretch at Wrigley this summer ... against the Phillies on a Sunday night ...

You can read more about it here.