THE MAGIC OF CHRISTMAS

My eyes popped open suddenly. It was pitch black, the dead of morning. I glanced at the clock on my nightstand with the giant red digital letters. It was hours before there would be any sign of sunlight. I had more to do than I could get done in a day, regardless of how early I got started. It’s easy to get so busy that we can’t feel the magic of Christmas. 

It’s nine days before Christmas, which doesn’t seem possible, and I haven’t sniffed the idea of getting around to Christmas shopping. We haven’t even finished decorating the Christmas tree. 

I’m long past due for a haircut and I don’t think I’ve got my truck washed but once this year… and it was a long time ago now. When you’re busy you gotta pick your priorities. 

When we get busy it’s easy to forget about the things that we should value the most. Losing sight of the finest things in life comes far too easy when life gets busy and we get distracted.

Our Christmas party was last night…  A lot of the people I haven’t seen in a year, since the last Christmas party. There are new faces. And some of the folks, like myself, are the older faces… and another year shows on most of us…

I never thought I’d have to fight to get in the Christmas spirit, to feel the “Magic of Christmas”, but with each chapter of life comes new challenges. 

One of the men at the party last night was diagnosed with cancer and the doctors gave him about three to six months to live… that was a year and a half ago. He’s beating the odds and cancer, but the fight has taken its toll. 

It’s easy to be in the Christmas spirit when you’re a kid. It’s easy to be in the spirit when your kids are young or even older but still at home, but not so easy after…

“Be still and know that I AM GOD.” 

Days like to today I’m reminded that I need to slow down and take some time to contemplate that Psalm. To count my blessings. To see that this earth does indeed declare His majesty. And to feel His spirit in me and acknowledge the sacrifice and grace in which I’m washed. 

Having done that… it’s impossible to not feel the Magic of Christmas. The beauty of age is that the magic no longer comes from the outside, It comes from within…

the magic of Christmas
image courtesy of Wikipedia

FINE LINE

It’s a fine line between passionate and crazy. Some people use words like “intense” or “obsessive” to describe the over the top types. Generally speaking, I like those type of people… Then again we all tend to be drawn to the folks with our same tendencies.

It’s Sunday morning as I tap the keypad. This will be the only few minutes I get today not going a hundred miles an hour trying to accomplish in one day what physically can’t be done. I’m sipping, well gulping, coffee as I make my list of supplies I’ll need for the day. It won’t matter. Something always comes up short or missing so I’ll make more than a couple trips to the hardware store.

It’s early and chilly outside. There’s a snapping cool breeze blowing off the Pacific, the kind that turns your cheeks cherry red in short order. It’s beautiful, captivating. It’s good to take the time to be in awe of God’s creation. Those waves are awesome and vicious.

There’s a lot of people that live by the edge of the ocean. It’s downright crowded with folks. But of all the people that live close to the salt water only a handful of them come to the beach early. But these aren’t sun bathers. This group of crazies aren’t sitting on the high tide beach in the shade of the Southern California cliffs.

These are the folks that the Beach Boys used to sing about. These are surfers.

It’s forty seven degrees right now… and these guys are surfing…

In the dead of summertime, when I’m desperately hot, I’ll wade into the ocean… slowly. The locals say it’s like bathwater. It still feels like freshly melted icebergs to me…

Crazy surfers on a chilly 47 degree morning.

As I watch this group of crazies I realize that it’s also a fine line between the best wave to choose.

Life is like that in almost every aspect of it; it’s a fine line between everything.

I didn’t eat but once till late yesterday. My guess is that when it came time to eat I crossed over that fine line of eating enough into gluttony… maybe not… only God knows.

I’m a workaholic… Got it honestly from my dad. The difference is he was doing it out of necessity. I tend to push hard, do too much, and I allow it to define me. At some point I cruise past the fine line of working to provide and begin to make it the priority… instead of honoring the One who provides it…

A lot of people with different bends and priorities have tossed the crazy word at me over the years. My guess is that they too have a crazy bend or bone too, just different, that’s all.

I think it brings God pleasure to see us do what it is that He gifted us to. The problem, of course, is when those gifts come to define us and dominate our lives.

Since that fine line can’t be found with our flesh it’s easy to miss… when we’re looking with this flesh.

 

GOALS ARE GOOD

These smart phones are, well, pretty smart. They’re so smart that often for me, and I suspect a lot folks, they’re down right aggravating. Goals are good. I’m all about setting goals and working to achieve them. My busy body smart phone is in the business of getting into my business. Its goals and my goals aren’t always the same.

I was one of the early users of cell phones. Back in the early eighties I had one in my truck. I thought it was pretty smart. The technology allowed for my truck to honk when the phone was ringing and I wasn’t inside it. I’d be on a job site and the horn would start going off like an alarm. Without fail by the time I’d sprint to the truck like a mad man, the phone would quit ringing… Before messaging…

For us old timers cell phones were first for business. I guess that’s why it’s more aggravating for those of us who lived through the evolution of cell phones.

images courtesy of bing.com

My smart Alec phone is so smart it has pre-determined the amount of steps it takes for me to remain healthy. Then, come Sunday, it gives me a summary and grades me like a coach on how my week was.

I’ve been busy lately. And when I get busy that means my smart phone is busy too. For more than a week in a row I was hitting my daily goal of steps, in my phone’s opinion, by around two o’clock in the afternoon. The smart phone goes on to let me know, as if I can’t see the sunlight, that I have plenty of day left to get more steps in. It’s the kind of annoying when someone seems to think there’s a need for them to spell their last name out for you… when it’s Smith…

That night, after being dropped off and after a long day of work and a lot more steps, the restaurant had a forty five minute wait. I was tired, aggravated, not just at my meddling phone, and starvin’. I say it like that when I’m tired and hungry too.

More steps… I miscalculated the distance to the next restaurant. If my smart phone was so smart it should have warned me to wear walking shoes, just in case. By the time I’d clicked off another thousand plus steps in my fancy go to dinner shoes my heels were bleeding.

By the time the mediocre and overpriced dinner was over we walked the rest of the way back… my smart phone wasn’t smart enough to know I was carrying my shoes…

As I was gladly putting my smart phone down for the night it told me I’d clocked almost 15,000 steps. Close to half those steps were up stairs… “But you’re not smart enough to know that,” I told my phone silently.

The next day my goal was to not achieve my daily step goal… but I did anyway.

Goals are good, worthy, but when it’s just physical, our spirit starves…

TO PONDER

It’s hard to grasp that another Thanksgiving is already upon us. It’s that time of year to ponder what we have to be thankful for. Most of us have a lot to be thankful for… starting with grace. I think it’s a wise person that takes the time to ponder and count their blessings.

I’m out of town as I struggle to type this post out. The truth is I’m pressed for time and the hankering to write something new isn’t bubbling up within me. If muses were real, mine would have disappeared like a Houdini vanishing act. But I have much to be thankful for.

I think sometimes we have to use our free will and discipline to force ourselves to ponder how much we have. And it’s too easy take our many gifts for granted.

With my family growing older and expanding we won’t be passing the turkey or stuffing around the table, although it’s usually osso buco or homemade pizza, but you get the idea. The kids will be doing their own thing and a phone call or text will have to suffice.

image courtesy of howthingswork.com

I won’t be eating any apple or pumpkin pie either, but it’s not because I can’t have any, it’s because I’ll use that free will to wait till Christmas. Pie once a year is sufficient if I’m gonna keep my waistline in check.

I’m thankful for a healthy family; the kid’s and grandkids. I’m thankful for the provision from God that keeps us with a roof over our heads and food on the table. I’m thankful for the health that allows all of us to get out and work and play.

Above all I’m thankful for that grace that comes from our Maker. I’m eternally grateful for the understanding of His Son’s sacrifice on our behalf and that acceptance that defines our final destination for eternity.

I’m thankful I get to bow my head in humility and thank our Father for His many gifts. Being grateful is a position of humility and that’s the only place we’ll find peace with our Maker in this flesh.

I pray blessings on you and yours. I hope you get a few minutes to ponder all your blessings. Happy Thanksgiving, friends. May God bless you and yours.

 

 

 

PUT TWO AND TWO TOGETHER

I remember the phone call like it was yesterday, but it was almost sixteen years ago. I thought it odd for my wife to be calling me on my cell, from hers, to talk to me about, or talk me into, getting a dog. I’m a little slow so I didn’t put two and two together. She was with the girls and they already had a puppy with them on their way home.

It would have been easier to defend myself on the merits of not getting a dog, due to all the work that goes into it, if the little guy wouldn’t have been so darn cute. Of course the kids inadvertently lied… the promises of watering, feeding, and cleaning up after the new puppy we named Larry was short lived.

About 15 years ago

Our oldest was a freshman in high school, the middle daughter was fittingly in middle school, and the youngest was five years old and in pre Kindergarten.

Larry seamlessly meshed with our lives and became part of the family, for better or worse. He was there through good times and bad. Turns out he was a better dog than I was a master…

The sixteen years between that phone call when the kids were young and yesterday seems like a lifetime in many ways. In other ways it seemed like a blink.

Our youngest doesn’t remember much of a life without Larry. And even though she didn’t have a lot to say about if we got Larry, she was the closest to him. She spent more quality time with Larry and Lola when she was still alive. She was the one that walked them and took naps on the dog bed with them.

When we’d have get togethers Larry was proud to sport his black bow tie. And if there was ever a gentleman dog, it was Lar. We even caught him a couple times sneaking treats out of the pantry and dropping one off to Lola before he’d partake on his stolen treat.

It’s a somber day without Lar. This is the first post I’ve ever done without him somewhere close by.

Yesterday… on his last day 15 years later

Larry was there growing old with us as we faced the challenges of raising children and yearning to fight the good fight in this fallen world. He got older faster… and yesterday was his last day here.

I’m reminded of many things in this process of grieving for our dog. First of all, this life is short, a breath like the Good Book says. Secondly I’m reminded that it’s good to love in all ways, it shows the heart of God. And thirdly, God can use anything, even a family pet, to teach and remind his children what their heart and action should be.

I should be so loyal, loving, and humble as Larry was… Sometimes loss can help us put two and two together…