Thoughts Released

Holidays On a Runaway Rampage

I walked into my favorite bakery. It’s a small shop, but the pastries can be relied on not to disappoint! But I had a surprise.

Every year they display a white, artificial Christmas tree. I have nothing against artificial Christmas trees. I have one in my basement ready to be brought up a week or two before Christmas where it can be decorated to boost the holiday feeling.

But the date was September 24. That happens to be my birthday, but I’ve never had a tree to celebrate the occasion. Sure enough, no birthday candles nor balloons. I looked at it to see what baubles were hanging from it this year. I didn’t want the bakery staff to see me staring, but it needed a closer look-see.

There among the tiny manger scenes, angels, etc., were strange things that required further examination. Tiny, tin, orange buckets had black pictures of Halloween cats and witches wearing pointy hats. Tiny brooms were fastened among the branches. Next, I could pick out Thanksgiving symbols: small turkey carcasses, cornucopias, figures of the early pilgrims. The bakery owners were pointing to the holidays we recognize coming up in the last three months of the year.

Halloween is a party time for the young and the young at heart. Thanksgiving is a time for family and being thankful (and eating too much). Christmas is a gift-giving time to remember the Greatest Gift ever given.

As Christmastime approaches, it may be that the bakery owners will remove all the extraneous items, so that the celebration of Christmas won’t be watered down. (And it might boost the sale of their fruitcakes!)

I didn’t know whether censorship or congratulations were in order. I guess if you become too busy to slow down to enjoy each holiday, this is a way to bundle. But it might not be attractive to sing Christmas carols, wearing Halloween costumes with turkey grease on our lips.

Thoughts Released

What’s In Your Tackle Box?

Jesus went down to the seashore and invited some rough, unlearned fishermen to follow Him, and he’d make them ‘fishers of men’. He looked at their nets and the bait in their tackle boxes but beckoned them anyway. Jesus saw people swimming out of their depths in an ocean of confusion. “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself,” (John 12:32 NRSV). The people needed guides: The guides needed preparation.

Our younger son, Chuck, has always loved to fish. As an adult, this interest grew into collecting and selling antique lures. He scavenged around for old, dirty baits which he could repair, clean, and make like new. He has his own collection showcasing on his website store–the favorites that he won’t sell. But for those he will sell E-Bay has become the best outlet for his product.

Chuck lives on Guntersville Lake. One morning he went to the dumpster to dispose of his trash. When he lifted the lid, he saw a tackle box. It was obvious that it had been in the water for a long time before someone threw it into the trash receptacle, thinking the baits were no longer of any account. He took it out and opened the lid. Inside were 22 lures covered with the film of age and abuse.

He patiently cleaned and restored 21 of these lures to like-new condition and immediately got bids on them from buyers on E-Bay.

Numbers 1-21
Number 22 (before cleanup)

When he recovered the lures, they looked similar to the side picture. However, number 22 would need more patience and polish. Perhaps this one was found in Peter’s tackle box.

Jesus lived side by side with his disciples for three-and-a-half years, demonstrating the power of the Gospel Story, reshaping the enticements in their tackle boxes: indifference to compassion; hate to love; selfishness to generosity; restrictive law to grace; fear to trust. “A new commandment I give unto you. That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another,” (John 13:34 KJV).

Then He set them loose into the world to witness to hungry seekers with their testimonies. Those ‘outside’ looked on and said, “See how they love one another!”  (1 Peter 1:22-23). Not all will be saved, but “whosoever believeth in Him shall have eternal life”, (John 3:16). We can’t predict their outcomes. That is not our task. But the care of the tackle in our boxes is our responsibility.

Number 22 (after cleanup)

Lure #22, which we said might have come from Peter’s tackle box, may have been more dirt-encrusted and had more rough edges but it, too, became useful.

Thoughts Released

How Do You Say ‘Good-bye’?

What do you say or hear when you leave your friends? It may be bye, bye-bye, ta-ta, adieu, adios, aloha, later alligator, afterwhile crocodile, have-a-good-one, or it may be no more than a smile and a wave.

I now live in Middle Tennessee. Nestled in a nearby small community, there is a term used upon departure that I think must be a special colloquialism used by people born and reared in this small pocket area. When you say ‘good-bye’, many times they will respond with ‘have a good rest of the day’.

It’s not a term that I will adopt because it doesn’t roll off of my tongue easily, but it is encouraging that someone ignores the first part of my day, whether good or bad, and gives me a wish that the rest of my day will be good.

I’m going to interpret this phrase not only as a ‘good-bye’, but I’m going to accept it as being sent out with their blessing. It sounds a little like ‘may God be with you’.

Thoughts Released

Christmas Visitors

A visitor came Christmas morning, and he is staying. He’s nearly six feet tall, wooden, purchased from an antique shop. No, not alive, but he is definitely a presence. He provides accommodation upon his shelves for those of lesser stature. Pretty nifty, huh?

It isn’t large enough to hold my entire collection of nutcrackers, but it shows off a few to the best advantage. He makes me smile.

We had other visitors on Christmas Eve: Three of them. No, they weren’t The Three Kings, but they were three trekkers. They were traveling on a mercy mission, and we were glad to invite them to our table. For a brief time, we could offer them shelter, food, and fellowship. We couldn’t share their entire burden, but they left with a lighter load. They went on their journey with a smile.

The Lord says whatsoever you do for the least of your brothers and sisters, you do it unto me. Even the least you can do for those you come in contact with may be exactly right.

Thoughts Released

Christmas For Real

Our eyes grow bleary viewing the same-old, same-old TV Christmas offerings, starting in July. The scripts are mostly boiler plate with new hometowns, characters with differing careers, each seeking fulfillment through the holiday festivals, new-found romance, and iced with a touch of nostalgia. You may yearn to discover such a place. But at the end, the film’s denouement may be unsatisfying, leaving unanswered questions.

I find myself looking for the children’s cartoon favorites: Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, Santa Clause Is Coming to Town–you know the genre. These stories seem to be saved for the Christmas Season, not appearing in July.

To me, Christmas actually comes when I’m privileged to see the children’s Christmas presentation at church. I’ve witnessed the chaos at the practices when the spirit of Christmas anticipation enlivens the kids to the point of mob mania. But put on the costumes, and a miracle happens. Mary and Joseph eye the doll in the manger differently. The little girls clothed in white dresses and fluffy wings almost become angelic. The Magi stand tall and stately, proudly holding their shiny gifts.

It wasn’t perfect. One shepherd strayed away with his sheep. One shepherd opted to stay off-stage. One wiseman didn’t want to give up his present to the baby Jesus. But these minor flaws simply added the spice of childhood.

Now, for me, Christmas can come.