Missing This Year

As I’ve written before, I love Christmas.  I love the sights, the sounds, the happiness I see in some people – the same people who don’t usually show it.  But for almost every one of us, not far beneath the surface of our emotions, there is a shadow.  It defies the laws of physics, for it is cast by something that isn’t there.  Actually, it isn’t something, it is someone.  Sometimes, more than one.  For it is at this time of year, more than any other time, that we miss those cherished friends and family members who are no longer with us.

I write a poetic piece or two every year at Christmas.  Sometimes I put them on here, sometimes I don’t, but I almost always write them.  Last year was an exception.  The loss of a cherished loved one, just before the holiday season, really took the poetic wind from my sails.

When I started praying about, and reflecting upon this years verse, God taught me a lesson.  I began to realize, He knows all about losing a loved one.  It is really what Christmas is all about.  The babe of Bethlehem is the Christ of Calvary.  It was the life of God’s only son that bought our redemption.  When I considered these things, “Missing This Year” was easy to write.

Merry Christmas!

 

Missing This Year

 

The carols are playing in radio land,

As we gingerly center the Christmas tree stand.

An empty chair whispers as gaiety nears.

Someone is missing at Christmas this year.

 

They were our constant, so solid and true,

Loving and guiding us all the year through.

Now, all is prepared, as when they were here,

Still someone is missing at Christmas this year.

 

But, Lord, as we gather with eyes fixed above,

Basking below in your eternal love,

Then we understand, as you hold us near,

You’re all that we need at Christmas this year.

Isaiah 40:11

 

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Home Again

I usually don’t write but one Christmas piece each year.  This year our son is home from the Navy for a few days.  Yesterday I was sitting here pecking away at the keyboard as I normally do.  It was then the thought came to me, there is a part of us that always longs for home.  But, there is a greater spiritual truth there as well.

I hope you enjoy the second Christmas offering this year.  Merry Christmas!

 

Home

 

Once again it’s Christmas,

No more listening on the phone.

After a long year of waiting,

A sailor has come home.

The truth we learn is priceless,

That no matter where we roam,

There is a part deep inside us

That always longs for home.

As we journey back to Bethlehem,

The road so rugged and long,

The star drawing them ever onward,

Far from the warmth of home.

Only to find a stable,

Away from the tax-paying throng,

As God steps down from His glory

To give us a heavenly home.

Entered He there in a manger;

A cross instead of a throne,

To put the great gift within us

That makes us long for home.

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Christmas This Year

It is that time of year again.  And, every year, someone will always ask the question: “What do you want for Christmas?”

For this year’s Christmas poem, I decided to make that the theme.  The older I get and the longer I live, I realize God’s love, mercy and grace is really all I want or need.

Merry Christmas!

Christmas This Year

 

What do you want

For Christmas this time?

Will it shimmer and shine?

Will it be hard to find?

 

The answer is simple.

Please, don’t rack your brain.

The answer I give

Is always the same.

 

For year after year

It’s the same precious one,

His unfailing love

And the gift of His Son

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Christmas

This is an excerpt from a book a wrote for family and friends.  It tells a few stories from childhood and how the Christmas season became so precious to me.  I hope you enjoy it.  Take the time to read it.  I have a feeling most of you have memories that are just as special.

 

Christmas

 

 

I love Christmas. I’d like to be able to tell you it is a purely spiritual thing, but it isn’t. Oh, the fact that we celebrate the birth of our Lord during this time adds to the experience, but that isn’t the reason I love it so much. It is one of those things that are hard to put your finger on, for some reason the logic escapes me. Maybe it is escape after all. Maybe it’s simply the sights and the sounds. Maybe it is the prospect of good tidings and good will. I’m really not sure.

 

When we were kids, my brother would long for summertime with its long days free of schoolwork and responsibility. I, on the other hand, with the end of each yuletide season would begin to long for the next. I still do.

 

In the movie Ernest Saves Christmas, Ernest P. Worrell proclaims, “You know, I don’t tell many people this, but Christmas is just about my favorite time. Ever since I was a little kid, I always felt like it was my own personal holiday.”

 

Now, that is about as close as I can come to explaining how I feel about Christmas. All I know is some of my happiest moments in life have centered on this time of year.

 

The first Christmas I really remember vividly, I was five years old. We would never wait until daylight to get up on Christmas morning. The moment we thought Santa had finished his chores; we would be wide awake and asking if we could please check the living room. This particular Christmas morning Santa had outdone himself. There was a record player, the kind that looked like a cardboard box. It was accompanied by the two latest recordings of a controversial character called Elvis. My brother received a bike so large my dad had to get Santa to arrange an exchange at Western Auto.

 

As my mind drifts back I’m five again. I smell the cedar tree. I see the light reflect from the mirrors on the bike of all bikes. I hear my mother’s voice, silent now for years and it comes to me. It wasn’t the gifts. It wasn’t Santa Claus. It was a feeling. It was closeness. As well spoken as I am to explain it completely still eludes me. I’ll give it a try. Maybe it is that God puts into each one of us a special season of the year to give our soul a pat on the head.

 

My dad would always take several days of vacation just before Christmas. I think, deep down, he loved it as much as I did. A couple of days before Christmas in 1962, Daddy came through the door with the most amazing device we had ever seen. It was a reel to reel tape recorder. Today our kids only know them from a museum, but in 1962 it was a wonder. Suddenly, we were recording stars and newsmen. Whenever someone entered the room, they were interviewed or recorded anonymously for later review.

 

Allow me to step aside for a second. In my younger days, I didn’t attach much importance to capturing memories. Maybe you are the same way. But, you would change your mind, if you could have seen my dad when he heard his mother’s voice on those old recordings. He had to leave the room. Storing away memories is important, they ground us to reality, and they remind us of who we are and where we came from.

 

My favorite Christmas memory came from that same year of 1962. There is a truth in that memory that should shake us all to our core, especially when we view it in the light of the materialistic binge that accompanies the holiday season today. You see, my favorite memory didn’t cost a dime.

 

Mama always cooked the holiday ham on Christmas Eve. We were having an early sampling for lunch, when, with an air of little interest, my dad said, “Boys, it’s snowing.” Now, white Christmases don’t happen very often in Middle Tennessee, but this time it opened up for a good one. After he had waited for the roads to become slick and treacherous, Daddy told my mom, “I think I’ll take the boys and go pick up the boiled custard your mama made.”

 

It took me years and kids of my own to realize boiled custard wasn’t the important thing, it was spending that time creating a memory that would last a lifetime.

 

As I sit and write these words, I wipe away the tears. It’s not just because of that special memory, it’s because I realize how many I’ve missed. I realize how many times I’ve failed as a dad and a husband. But, you know what? Christmas is right around the corner. I can almost see the snowflakes and taste homemade boiled custard.

 

  

 

 

 

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Nativity’s Cross

Christmas 2014 006

My wife and I are repurposers.  I found the old chalkwork nativity figures in a box of junk at a yard sale.  I’m a Christmas junkie, so I immediately made plans to use them.  As I worked building the stable God impressed upon me the true meaning of Christmas.  You’ll notice the star shines forth from the cross.  Since I always write a poetic piece for Christmas, I wanted it to convey these truths.  I hope you enjoy it.

Merry Christmas!

Nativity’s Cross

 

The wise men pursuing

The birth of a king,

But it’s bittersweet sorrow

That Calvary would bring.

 

A new mom and dad

Proud as could be,

But the babe lying still

Is destined for Calvary.

 

In Bethlehem’s heart

Joy bells are ringing.

To shepherds close by

Angels are singing.

 

Good tidings for all

Who traverse earth’s sod,

But it’s the old rugged cross

In the heart of our God.

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Mary’s Thoughts

It’s the Christmas season again.  I’m always amazed at how much can happen in a years time.  There have been times of joy and sadness.  My son became a United States Navy Sailor, but we also lost some friends and family members who were very precious to us.  But, through it all, I never cease to marvel at the grace and goodness of our God.

The poetic piece I write at Christmas came to me this year while I was studying the birth of our Lord in the book of Luke.  I began thinking, I wonder what Mary’s thoughts were as these events unfolded?  Mary’s Thoughts is a result of that study.

Merry Christmas to each and all.

Mary’s Thoughts 

I know what I heard.

I know what I saw.

I know what he said,

As I still ponder it all.

I’m but a young girl.

No husband I know.

Joseph will take me.

The command was to go.

I struggle through travel;

The road, rough and far,

But, the sweet gentle donkey

Sees a yet unseen star.

As we rest in the stable,

Filled with honor and pride,

My son, God, and Savior

Nestles closes to my side.

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December 14, 2013 · 8:16 am

Peace Be Still

I hesitated to write this post.  If any of you have read this blog or any of my other meanderings, you know I usually write a cheerful poetic piece for the Christmas season.

This year has been a little different, though.  In our family we’ve experienced the loss of my dad, as well as other loved ones.  It was necessary to sell the family home where we experienced so many wonderful Christmas memories.  Then, just a few days ago, our nation was shaken by the shooting of twenty school children ages six through seven in a senseless act of violence.

So, I just don’t feel like writing the normal verse about tinsel, packages, shining stars and the like.  Just like everyone else I’ve been asking why, why, why?

The truth of the matter is; there isn’t but one answer.  God help me, I knew it.  I’ve known it and taught it enough years.  It is why Jesus sat down with his disciples the last time they were together before his death and he taught them where to look in times like these.   Jesus said, “In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

Now, this is advanced discipleship but learn it well.  Jesus did not come primarily to give us some Christmas carols and a manger scene.  He came to bring us salvation, to bring us life and, yes, to bring us peace in the midst of the storm.  The vehicle to get us there was the cross.  When you question God, go there first.  He knows about sorrow, tears, pain, suffering and anguish.  Every time I’ve ever questioned Him and there have been a lot of them, He has pointed me there.

I hope you find comfort that leads to joy in these verses.  Jesus isn’t just the reason for the season; He is indeed love, life and peace.

Merry Christmas.

Show Me The Cross

 

Although it’s Christmastime again,

Peace yields to death and loss.

Amidst the chaos, where were you Lord?

He simply shows me the cross.

 

I ask again and yet again,

Didn’t you see the pain, the cost?

The lives in shambles all around?

He calmly shows me the cross.

 

I need a word to lean on, Lord,

As the storm billows round me toss.

The sound I hear is “Peace be still”,

As He lovingly shows me the cross.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I Wonder

Wednesday evening I did one the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.  Oh, it probably won’t sound nearly as ominous to you.  Just a few hours ago, I listed for sale the only home I ever knew as a child and young adult.  Now, more than likely, it will become the property of strangers.

I wonder if they’ll realize it is the last place my mom, dad and sister were really happy.

I wonder if they’ll understand that to me it is not just concrete, rocks and lumber; it is so much more.

I wonder if they’ll realize I did my homework at the old kitchen table while my mom scurried about making sure we had plenty to eat and clothes to wear.

I wonder if they’ll care that the uneven ceiling in the back bedroom is there because my mom stepped through it one day on a quick trip to the attic.

I wonder if they’ll realize that the creek bank behind the house was the scene of countless Indian battles and military campaigns against hostile forces, all taking place after school and before supper.

I wonder if they’ll care that the west wall of the kitchen was once adorned with a huge chest freezer.  It was there that every child from three decades posed for pictures during Sunday dinner.

I wonder if they’ll understand the crude carpentry they are probably considering ripping out isn’t crude at all, it is character, for a man of immense pride, integrity and character built it all with his own two hands.

Maybe they’ll understand.  Maybe I’ll make it a condition of the sale that I explain it to them.  Maybe they won’t like me doing it.  Maybe…….., no definitely, I won’t care a bit.  Maybe it will make me feel better, because it rips at my heart and soul to see it go.

Maybe they’ll understand that it’s not just an old house, it is home and will always be precious to me.

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Half a Man

I don’t have great ambition in life, not anymore.  You see, I only want to be half a man. 

My dad passed away a few days ago.  Yesterday, I officiated at his funeral.  It wasn’t the first funeral service I’ve conducted, but it was the first one where I didn’t feel at all adequate.

He didn’t leave a large estate; a little money, a house and a few acres of rural property.  By the world’s standards, he wasn’t very successful.  But in the things that really count, he was a millionaire!

His heritage was one of certain faith, patriotism, integrity and honor.  He left a legacy of life lived well, freedom preserved and children who know right from wrong.  It is why Jesus said, “…a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

At his funeral, one of his oldest friends took me aside and said, “If you are ever half the man your daddy was, you will be quite a man.”

So, henceforth, that is my goal.  I want to be half a man, but I want that half to be like my dad!

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Home For Christmas

My mom passed away several years ago.  Christmas was her favorite time of year.  It is mine, as well.  A few months ago, my dad had to move to a nursing facility.  Now the home place is empty.  Often, when I’m there alone, I’ll sit and hear the precious memories.  It sounds crazy, but the scenes from days gone by are almost audible.  They hang in the air like the smell of apple pie.

Several days ago, someone at work asked a co-worker, ” Are you going home for Christmas?”  It caused me to ask myself a million questions.  Is that possible?  What is home, really?  Can we go back?  It was then I began to realize, when we know He who was born in Bethlehem, we are always close to home.

I hope you enjoy this year’s Christmas poem.

 

Home for Christmas

 

Going home for Christmas?

A simple thing to share.

But maybe not so simple,

If home’s no longer there.

 

What makes it home at Christmas?

The query plain and clear.

Just a house beside the road?

Or things that we hold dear?

 

Going home for Christmas?

Is it glitter, lights…a tree?

Or maybe precious scenes of life

Locked tight in memory.

 

What makes it truly Christmas?

Mere scenes from memory?

No, it’s the Holy gift of God

Secure inside of me.

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