Finding Floyd

HOGWASH

At the risk of sounding cynical, which I apparently fall victim to according to sources (like family), I think New Year’s Resolutions are a bunch of hogwash.

There was a time when I was a bright eyed participant in New Year’s Resolution proclamations. It seems to be a national and familial pastime to wait for the New Year to be and do what we really meant and desired to do and be year round.

Those bright eyes grew dim in the light of reality. And years of failing.

I’ve heard a lot of folks, some from my family, vow that this is the year to clean up that diet, give up the Hostess Hohos and get back in shape. I’ve heard some folks swear off fast food. They fell off that wagon faster than they could get through the drive thru…

I remember my parents make some New Year’s Resolutions to give up smoking… I just can’t recall how many times. And since the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, I had a few of my own misspeaking.

I can’t remember how many times I’ve vowed not to drive like a bat out of hell, to be kind and more gentle in traffic. I’m not sure I ever made it around the block… much less through the first day…

I did manage to go without Doritos, original flavor of course, for probably more than ten years… I had to go to the bank today, which happens to be inside the Fry’s grocery store. I did my good deed and picked up some needed bottled water… and a handy bag of Doritos… original flavor or course.

activetimes.com

None of us like to be weak, we have good intention… but alas, the flesh is indeed fallen. And not even the power and promise of a brand spankin’ New Year can change that.

I’m not suggesting that we’re a bunch of “liar, liar, pants on fires”, but we struggle to keep our vows, our contracts, or covenants.

Only God Himself has the Power to keep His covenant. To keep His vow paid for by the blood of His Son. And that’s really all we can count on for sure in the gift of another year; Him. His perfect Word.

It’s good to strive to be better. I think that desire in us is part of us “being made in His image.” But it’s only by His power that we ever succeed. And it gets easier, and possible, with Him in us and our will aligning with His.

Trying to change without the power of God, New Year or otherwise, is nonsense. Or what us old fashioned folks like to call “Hogwash”.

LET’S BE HONEST

Let’s be honest; somethings about the holidays we don’t really look forward to. In fact, I’ll bet, really just guess, I’m not much of a gambler, there are somethings about the holidays you and I downright dread.

Today, (which happens to be Sunday… so much for a day of rest), is the day the Christmas tree has to come down. I’ve been wrestling, punching, lassoing, and kneeing that obstinate fake tree back into its disintegrating boxes for fifteen years.

There will be cuts and scrapes I’ll have to nurse for the next couple weeks after we go another round this year. If I was a little more gentle with the ole tree its lights would probably still be working. And there would be less holes and little pieces of it to toss each year.

The tree is just the beginning. The lights out front are a couple stories off the ground and aren’t exactly a walk in the park either. Getting them down and putting them away is easy to dread too.

freepik.com

I had a thought early this morning; instead of another year of dread, I should be thanking my lucky stars that I have another year to fight that tree. The reality is that it has nothing to do with stars. God made the stars and is the One responsible for giving us another year.

We got word this morning that a charity we support called FAM, Fighting All Monsters, a children’s cancer charity, lost a young man that’s been fighting cancer for fifteen years. Levi was nineteen years old.

And I dread taking down a tree?

Last night I went and plugged the heat lamps in to keep the oranges from freezing on the trees. “I’m glad I’m not homeless tonight,” I said as I walked back inside.

It’s easy to take God’s love, grace, and mercy for granted. Most of us do. I’m no exception.

I’m thankful for another year. I’m thankful for the physical ability to still be able to manhandle that tree, the agility to still climb ladders. I’m thankful that my family is healthy and has first world issues, not third world ones.

I’m thankful for the gift of free will that allows me the mental capacity to choose how I react in situations… like taking down the decorations from celebrating the birth of Christ.

I’m thankful for God’s protection and provision of another year. I pray His mercy and grace would overwhelm the families that have lost and are going to lose their children this year. May they find peace in their darkest hours. May we do what we can to be the heart and hands of God.

If you have an interest in supporting FAM it would be appreciated by a lot of suffering folks. Click here to get to FAM. More importantly, your prayers for the children and families are appreciated.

Let’s be honest; we have been blessed. And “to whom much is given much is required.” May God bless you and yours with a healthy and wise 2020 and beyond.

LAUGHTER AND TEARS

We learned early on that “dreaming of a white Christmas” in Arizona was exactly that; a dream. Probably better described in these parts as a “pipe dream”. While we couldn’t count on snow, we could count on other things, things, depending on the year, like toys, Levi’s, some flannel shirts, socks, and piles of turkey, stuffing, fruit salad, ham, baked beans and pumpkin pie. But the most relied upon Christmas Day ingredients, year after year, were laughter and tears.

When you stack onto everyday life’s obligations of Christmas time “to do lists” tempers can get short. Now kids are dumb, and I speak as an expert on the subject on behalf of me and my ‘less dumb now’ siblings, but kids feel the stress of their parents. Even if they can’t explain it.

There were some years, lean ones, that our parents stretched their dollars as far as they could, stretched to the point of snapping. The years after my dad’s back surgeries were tough, beans for dinner was the most common meal in those days. Christmases were lean. While we may not have had massive amounts of gifts, we had more than our fair share of laughter and tears.

There was one year my parents went in hawk to buy us a storybook Christmas. We scored. Well, most of us scored. Bobby, Sheral, and I all got new bicycles. Dean, the oldest, got a typewriter.

Kids can sometimes fool their parents, but they can never fool their siblings. Dean sat there pecking away on his Smith Corona, trying to pretend he liked it so he wouldn’t hurt my mom and dad’s feelings, but we knew better. We waited till we were outside, riding our new bikes, to laugh at our older brother’s predicament. We laughed so hard we cried… That’s what you call killing two birds with one stone.

image courtesy of CynthiaMorton.com

Sometimes when my dad read the Christmas story from Luke, our family tradition, my mom would have tears in her eyes. I knew she wasn’t completely sad, they were a mixture of thanks and knowing that it was a fallen and fleeting world.

My two grandsons got to open a gift yesterday. Their grandma got them some plastic hand extension contraptions. They’re about thirty inches long with a handle and grip trigger that makes the “U” on the end of the thing-a-ma-jig clamp together into an “O” in order to pick up things.

They laughed with delight… Eventually they turned into swords and they set about to inadvertently, in a dishonest way, beat the holy moly out of one another. Even their grandpa got a few whacks…

The cries soon faded and turned to laughing as I chased them through the house, armed with their gifts, one in each of my hands, as I pinched them lightly with their Christmas presents.

Come Christmas Eve there will be laughter. The foundations of memories will begin to build up and another gift of time and Christmas will come and go. I’ll fight back tears into watery eyes as I savor the moment and the gifts of God, namely the last perfect sacrifice of His Son.

I pray for my family and yours. May you be blessed, as we are, with years of laughter and tears this Christmas season. God bless.

BETTER DAYS

The big ole Christmas tree that is around fifteen years old has seen its better days.

I’m not sure if it’s gravity, grandsons, or my physical abuse fighting the sections back into the tattered boxes that have caused the metal arms to fall past level when opened. When you grow up in lean times you learn early and often how to rig things.

I grabbed the sagging metal branches, right fist width, against the trunk, grabbed the middle of the branches with my left and bent the metal arms about six to eight inches up. Viola, the unnatural looking holes vanished like magic.

About eight or ten years ago the lights strands started to go south. Every year since then I’ve had to buy more and more additional strands to fill in the dead spots on the tree.

This year the prongs on the second to the lowest section’s plug fell out like and old beagle chewing on a Christmas hambone. So much for doctoring the ancient tree. This year would entail a complete light overhaul.

After the fifth trip to the local overpriced Ace Hardware, ’cause only a sadistic person would attempt Home Depot, I arrived back at the house with six twenty five foot rolls of new tree light. I broke with tradition and went with the bright white LED’s.

I thought I was going to have extra lights. Turns out there’s really not enough. It’s a budget tree now. Not to mention that no one else in the family likes the bright white contemporary lights. The grandsons love the tree and are awestruck by it… So I added them to “my side” of the bright white light debate.

We talk each year about this one being the last one for the ole Christmas tree, but after all these years with it I hate to turn it out to pasture.

That tree has stood proud over the years for the majority of the kids lives and now their kids lives. I know it’s just a tree, but I love what it stands for.

There are trees all over the world, more real than fake, and while I appreciate their beauty, it’s this tree, our old tree, that stands in tradition yearly as we celebrate the birth of our Savior.

That tree is like me in a lot of ways; it’s patched and repaired. It still stands, but not as tall and straight as it once did. We’ve both seen our better days.

As I look back, the ole Christmas tree reminds me that although a lot of us have seen our better days, the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ means that we have better days ahead… we have perfect days ahead.

A FALLEN WORLD

It’s that time of year when my mind can’t help but roll back in time to the long gone days of childhood. Maybe it’s because we put the tree up yesterday. Or maybe it’s because I ponder the memories of my children and now my grandchildren here. And that fake tree is a little more broken every year… like all of us with time, I suppose. It is a fallen world after all.

The pale yellow church with the white steeple located on Ramsey had a simple white sign with black letters that read, “First Southern Baptist Church”. That’s where I was baptized and learned John 3:16. Being that it was the late sixties, and violence was alive and well in Southern California, it didn’t take long to learn that they were spot on about it being a “Fallen world”.

image courtesy of churchproducts.com

When you grow up in a setting like that, old hymnals become part of your roots. They get memorized as easy as John 11:35; “Jesus wept”. We learned the words to Amazing Grace and Silent Night with ease. It would be decades before we actually listened and grasped them though. Music was part of church, along with the solos.

My brothers, who were about seven and four years older than me, respectively, my sister only had a year and a half on me, had a theory, or what might be better described as a suspicion or notion. They believed that Mrs. Buchanan was on a sorta pay to sing basis.

Mrs. Buchanan was responsible for more than a couple death stares, thumps on the head, and even some whippings from our dad when we’d laugh at how poorly Mrs. Buchanan sang. My brother Bobby still swears that trying not to laugh during her solos is how he learned to speed read.

That’s when my sister and I learned that if there was any hope of not laughing during a Mrs. Buchanan solo we couldn’t even glimpse at each other. My sister squeezing her mouth so that the sides of her lips touched, trying not to laugh, made me laugh out loud, then and just now. Memories are peculiar like that.

The Buchanan’s lived on top of a mountain north of town that overlooked the entire town. They drove a blue Lincoln Continental that had electric windows. From our perspective they were rich and could very well have paid enough in tithes to get her to sing whenever she wanted. It was, after all, a fallen world.

The Buchanan’s adopted three kids, all siblings, Donald was the oldest and according to him, Mrs. Buchanan was beyond a task master. She treated them like slaves. They were responsible for the maintenance and cleaning of their mini mansion on top of the hill that overlooked the rest of us.

Mrs. Buchanan’s solos came to and end… at the hands of her adopted oldest, Donald. He shot her in the head with a shotgun…

You can’t hide that kind of stuff from kids. Even when they’re in single digit years of age. We learn early in life that this is indeed a fallen world.

This time of year isn’t special for some folks. In this fallen world children will go hungry and be abused. There will be tears for some as they endure the season we cherish. This is the season for us to try and make a difference in this fallen world. And none of us have to look too far to find those in need.

Although my kids have had a life less exposed to the harsh realities of it at a young age, they too have learned that it’s a fallen world. But they, like we did, learned that despite the fallenness of this world, we have hope.

We have hope, or what is translated as “confidence”, in the Creator of life to keep His perfect Word this Christmas season. It’s in that knowledge we celebrate His perfect Gift and look ahead to perfection… from this fallen world.