A Letter To My Best Friend ~

In March I was privileged to see my old friend Mo and his wife Nancy. We had a great time telling old stories and laughing our heads off at the crazy and ridiculous things we had done in our men made of steel years. While driving back to Mississippi I thought of another. I wrote a letter to Mo imploring one more laugh. I want to take a moment to share that with you now.

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Andy & Mo

Andy & Mo

Hey My Friend!

I am sorry I have tarried in sending you this story Mo, please forgive? It’s a short story; nonetheless it is one of those we have forgotten until something in the present triggers this old pea brain into action. Let me see if I can jar your memory a little.

The war in Viet Nam had ended and I had just returned home from the Air Force base in Minot, ND. You invited me to go hunting on the land of a farmer you knew there around Anderson. We trucked through the woods and really enjoyed seeing ABSOLUTELY nothing to hunt. It was the friendship and fellowship that was most important. With the exception of a few black birds, or sparrows or something of the like, there was really no wildlife around anywhere. I do remember we found a playground of sorts that someone had built for kids and teenagers to play on. That was pretty cool too. As I recall you said the farmer built it for his grandchildren.

As we continued to walk through the woods, running our mouths and having a good time, we came upon a tree with the prettiest nuts growing on it. They were all over the tree and the ground. Neither of us had ever seen a nut like this so we began to pick them up and study them. You decided that because it was so dad-gummed pretty it had to be edible. First you tried to break one open by crushing two nuts against each other in your hands. That didn’t work so you put one in your mouth and began trying to crack it open with your teeth. About the same time you successfully heard a crack our good lord sent you and me an angel of protection from our own ignorant stupidity.
Out of nowhere came a voice.

“What are you boys doing on my land?”

“Hunting,” I said.

“Who gave you permission to hunt on my land?

Then, rolling the nut to one side of your mouth, you gave a reply explaining that you received permission from your farmer friend.
This farmer now assured us that we had crossed on to his land. Because the fence was down we hadn’t see the property line and he asked us politely to leave. We agreed.

Before we did however you asked, with a mouth full of nut particles, “Do you know what kind of nuts these are?”

Buckeye Tree Nut Seed

Buckeye Tree Nut Seed

The farmers horizontal grin widened almost vertically. I will never forget the look on your face when he said, “That’s a Buckeye, and it’s poisonous enough to kill a bull.”

With a look of terror you began to spit Buckeye all over me and the farmer, the ground, and anything else that got in the way of you casting out Buckeye like an unwanted demon. The farmer and I laughed our heads off.

It is a fond memory and one I was reminded of a Dick’s house (my lil’ brother) when I saw a buckeye tree with prettiest little nuts on it and lying all over the ground!
You can preach this Mo! The moral is simple. We must be careful to take care of our bodies, by knowing that what we put in our mouth is not poisonous. Too, we must be careful of what we place in our hearts and our minds. Just because it is pretty does not mean it is good for us. We must be watchful that it provides life and not a slow poisonous eternal death.

Love ya Bro, Thanks for a great day of eating and wonderful fellowship with you and Nancy. I hope we don’t wait another 34 years before we meet again. If we do, be sure to bring your hearing aids and jet propelled wheel chair–we’ll race through those woods of yours!

You friend and brother,
Andy

Mo & Nancy

Mo & Nancy

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Living With Regret?

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Have you ever done anything you regret? Oh come on, you know you have; we all have. Recently, in my memoir club we challenged each other to pick one of those regrets and write about it. I want to share that with you here.

“I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail.
And when you have turned back,
strengthen your brothers.”
Luke 22:32 (NIV)

When I think of what I regret most, my first inclination is to bring all the negative aspects of my past to surface and choose one that is the most memorable in the graveyard of dishonor. I ask myself, is it good to open old wounds and slice through the scar tissue of anguish and compunction of these unfortunate decisions? If I must walk through this byproduct of life to winnow the chaff from the wheat I will do so with a contrite heart as I have learned that to dwell on these things is to once again relive them in condemned silence. I cannot bring myself to agonize and grieve over the most indelible and disheartening of regrets so I will share just one small detail of being a sixteen year old boy. To bring this account to the forefront of today I will choose to make it an affirmation and remind myself as to the good that has come from it.

If you were to ask my family they would tell you that as a teenager I was never one to think things through before acting on impulse. Like any teenager I loved to spend money. When the opportunity to leave my first job as a chicken breader at KFC and be a stock boy at Madden Drug Store came along I jumped at it.

Two blocks from the store was a Pentecostal Bible College. Men dressed very nice and the ladies wore long dresses and piled their hair on top of their heads. I could not, for the life me, understand why a woman would wear no makeup and have such a heavy head of hair. I was about to find out.

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One of the ladies came to work with me and we hit it off pretty well including joking around with each other. One day I asked about her makeup and, why she didn’t wear any. She told me that her faith did not allow her to wear it. So, I took the opportunity to ask about her hair. She informed me that it has never been cut or even trimmed and, yes, it did become quite heavy sometimes as well as hot in the summers, and that it, too, was a part of her faith.

I was puzzled but accepted her explanation and went about stocking. One day we were behind the counter moving some things around when she bent over. I had a pair of scissors in my hand and when I saw her long hair the impulse to cut a piece of it was irresistible, so I did.
She snapped around and I handed her a lock of hair with a smile. Her eyes filled with the mercury of naked despair. Fear blended with a deep, red flushed face and merged with the anguish in her eyes.

“What have you done?” She shouted.

The grin on my face turned to confused melancholy. I couldn’t answer as I really did not believe it was that big of a deal. It was only a joke. She ran to the back of the store in tears, talked with the pharmacist and left. Several days passed before we worked together again. This separation gave me time to reflect on what I had done. I determined that I was not only stupid, but inconsiderate. I put my funny antics ahead of her personal and spiritual welfare. I had really hurt someone deeply without consideration of her faith. I felt like a jerk! I was a jerk!

When she returned to work I walked up to her and apologized to her. You know what? She hugged my neck. Tears rolled down her face. She looked me in the eyes and smiled. “I have prayed for you Andy, and I forgive you.” (Luke 22:32)

WoW! There is a profound lesson here. It is found in Christ forgiveness of Peter. He prayed for Peter. He strengthened Peter through that prayer. He taught Peter a lesson through that prayer—through that forgiveness. He taught Peter to turn back to what he had been taught and move on from that mistake and not hold on to the regret. He taught Peter to encourage others and strengthen them, “…And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

You see, this young college student did the same thing. She prayed for me. She forgave me. She strengthened me. While I am human and remember such stories as this one, I have moved on—strengthened.

Though so long ago, this regret follows my every step and has become a thorn in my side. Each time I see a Pentecostal woman with no makeup and long hair, I am reminded of my apathy for someone who did not deserve my ignorance and careless actions. For even though our faith is different we serve the same loving God.

“There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord”
(1 Corinthians 12:5).

I could go on and on about regrets and what we as Christians should or could do to handle them. I want to leave this message with you however and just ask a simple question.

Can you move on?

God has made the way for you today if you will follow His path. Turn back and when you do strengthen your brothers!

Blessings!

Farewell MS Jane

Ken & Keli Oldham with their precious children Grace, Zeke, and Titus

Ken & Keli Oldham with their precious children Grace, Zeke, and Titus

I am taking a moment to present an important part of my family to you this morning. Ken Oldham is my nephew. His wife Keli and their three children, Grace, Zeke, and Titus are all missionaries in Egypt. Not only do they serve in Egypt but all over the Middle East.  God has not only protected them but has greatly blessed them. His grandfather, and my Dad, was a beacon for Ken’s direction in the ministry. While Dad was alive he taught so much to Ken and Keli about ministry. The result was that when Ken turned 39 he went on the Mission Field at God’s calling. The really neat thing is that it was the same age my Dad took us to British Guiana on his first missionary assignment.

One of Ken’s most recent blog post blessed me beyond measure. I had to stop and think about the legacy I was leaving for my children and grandchildren. Her name was MS Jane. She never went to Egypt. No her ministry was right here, at home. As you read Ken and Keli’s farewell letter you will begin to understand what a minister she was. Take the time to reflect on your own heart and ministry  as you read it. Remember that when we are able we all can retire from earthly toils–we NEVER retire from God’s work and His plan for our life. Let me know your thoughts.

Farewell Ms Jane

Posted: 14 Mar 2014 03:03 PM PDT

Moments ago, i learned of Ms Jane Bradford’s passing from this life to the next.  I can’t help but take a moment to reflect on our relationship.

Ms Jane was like no other.  

I am sure we met at some state event before, probably initiated by her to, no doubt, discern my proximity to the Doug and Dale Oldham whom she knew well and greatly admired.  But I remember her first greeting of me at the Ryan’s Steakhouse in Decatur at a Caleb Club lunch held there with the intent of meeting Keli and I who were candidating at the Sixth Avenue Church of God that weekend.  She was enthusiastic to meet me and eager to make sure we knew her.

I think she called me “son” in that first meeting, and apologized for it then as she would often do.  Ms Jane never married and had no children; though she claimed she used the term “son” because I was so much younger than she, there really couldn’t be a higher term of honor from her to me.

Ms Jane could scold and confront me like a mother.  For dressing inappropriately as a pastor, and pointing out how much better the more respectable pastors would dress.  For challenging risky decisions that were sure to ruffle feathers.  Or for dozens of other unique conversations we would have.  She would later admit that it would drive her nuts that I really did have a good reason for everything that I did or didn’t do and that it just wasn’t a matter of youthful carelessness that needed elder wisdom and correction.

She would always compliment me in some backhanded way; “you might become a preacher yet,” she would say after a sermon she would like, perhaps to prevent me from getting a big head.  

Ms Jane was quite the musician and passionate about the organ and hymns.  Changes in church music were always a source of discussion and controversy between her and me.  I truly loved to watch Ms Jane play the organ because it was like watching a person on a time machine–every melody seemed to transport her to another time and place, and the smile on her face told me she was home, wherever & whenever that time and place was located.

Now with these previous comments, you may think I disliked Ms Jane, which couldn’t be farther from the truth.  I loved and sincerely liked Ms Jane, though no one was really sure why. 

It wasn’t because we both loved the Church of God because we loved it for different reasons; she loved it for what it was, often lamenting over all that was lost in either the passing of friends or great preachers, and saddened over any change from the historical.  I love the Church of God for what it can be, not denying the good of the past but rather hopeful that positive changes can be made to make for an even better future.  We would talk about these different perspectives, even occasionally agreeing.

I liked Ms Jane because she was passionate in her conviction and willing to be a risk-taker.  She didn’t just believe something, she would share it I a letter to the editor, speak up in a town meeting or at city hall, or even make a homemade sandwich sign and stand at a busy intersection to get her message out there.  I didn’t often agree with her messages, but I admired her passion to take the risks to share her belief.

I liked Ms Jane because she was a servant.  She served neighbors, the church, and strangers.  She volunteered to clean bathrooms when funding for janitors was low; she was a regular in the Angel Food program, she’d fund-raise or network for any cause, and she would do whatever was asked.  She and I served together as regulars in leading a worship service for a local nursing home.  She tried so hard to relate in the children’s outreach program though she couldn’t have been more different in background to most of those kids.  She knew those kids needed Jesus, and if she could contribute, she would do it.

I liked Ms Jane because even though she disagreed with me, she respected me enough not to be disagreeable in attitude, to affirm the relationship before and after each confrontation, and to always confront me directly instead of through some manipulation, power play, or word-of-mouth gossip trail.  I never wondered where I stood with Ms Jane.

If she didn’t tell me first, she typed it first and requested a meeting–yes, Ms Jane had and used an old type-writer for her correspondence.  She had an aversion to technology and may have never sat at a computer nor held a smart phone.  Emails would be sent to the Maples and they would graciously print her a copy.  She often said that some of these new ideas that used these “gizmos” were a part of the greater things that Jesus said we would one day do in His name.

I liked Ms Jane because the honesty led to great vulnerability with me.  Because she knew I patiently loved her even in the midst of our controversies, she respected me.  She even trusted me: with feelings of hope and sadness, question and doubts, and allowed me the opportunity to serve her in times of embarrassing need.

Ms Jane couldn’t be prouder of us than when we announced the end of our pastorate to serve the Church globally.  She lamented losing her relationship with us, but she rejoiced with our opportunity to serve in Egypt.  Having traveled to Egypt, she shared several pictures with us from her journey, as well as her memories.  She prayed for us, of that I have no doubt.  She gave to us when she could and she wouldn’t let us refuse the gift no matter how much we knew she needed it.  Truth be told, at a moment when I was uncertain that she would be able to make it any longer, I confessed that we were likely to be leaving the church for Egypt–that’s right 6th Ave, outside of family, Ms Jane knew at least 6 months in advance.  

In this latest wave of difficulty, we had to keep informed from afar; we couldn’t walk these steps with her, not this time.  We had hoped to see her again this summer, hoping one more miraculous recovery would lead to a happy reunion on this side of heaven.  But it was not to be.

Ms Jane’s faith has been made sight today.

Me Jane, I’m sorry I wasn’t there to kiss you goodbye.  I look forward to our next talk, though starting the conversation will be harder because you won’t be able to criticize my clothes ;). We’ll have much to agree on one day soon.

I’m sure a gracious and loving Heavenly Father had a new organ waiting for her; He likely watched and listened with joy as He watched her sit down to play a classic hymn, just the way that it was written.  Except The Lord will not see what I used to see–that heavenly organ won’t be a time machine–the smile on Ms Jane’s face is no longer longing for another time and place. No, the smile on and Jane’s face today is because she arrived there, right where she belongs.

If you would like to contact Ken and Kelli and bless them with your prayers in this world of uncertain safety, here is their information:

http://oldham-servant.blogspot.com/

~ Or ~

http://chogmissions.org/oldham

 “Our dead are never dead to us, until we have forgotten them”

George Elliot

 

 

Farms Don’t Have Dinosaurs

I don't like what I am hearing!

I don’t like what I am hearing!

“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching,

 but having itching ears they will accumulate

 for themselves teachers to suit their own passions.”

(2 Timothy 4:3; ESV)

I heard a prodigious scream. It meant one of the children had been hurt, or was about to be. After dodging a yellow Tyrannosaurus rex flying into the hallway, I arrived in their room to discover that a death threat had, for the moment, not yet been executed; no blood was splattered on the wall. Whew! As with most siblings’ perpetual disagreements, this squabble had circumvented toddler-aged common sense and stuck its nose in the middle of a normally quiet Saturday morning.

Traditional Farm Animals

Traditional Farm Animals

~VS~

Non-Traditional Farm Animals

Non-Traditional Farm Animals

My youngest and more traditional son was playing farm. He had his cows, horses, and chickens lined up inside the plastic-fenced corral next to the barn.  His older brother is a bit more creative and decided he would bring a colorful array of plastic dinosaurs to the farm. So, without asking or even discussing the idea, he proceeded to place the prehistoric icons right in the middle of the corral. After all, the more animals the more fun they would have, right? It would only benefit the farm.

In revisiting this nostalgic flashback, I realized that by the time I had reached their room a great battle over right and wrong had already emerged. Delaying intervention meant an even wider division between the two. Neither was willing to compromise on their definition of playfully correct. Each child blamed the other for his ignorance of how a real farm should look. It seemed that both were really angry and bitter, ready to leave and find a new farm where they are welcome, a farm where their lil’ ol’ hearts and ears could be tickled pink with affirmation of their correctness. A teaching moment had arrived, and I’d used the opportunity to teach the boys to understand that, though new ideas do break tradition, they are not necessarily wrong, and that even though it may be a better idea, you shouldn’t force it on someone without explanation or discussion. His brother wasn’t getting rid of the farm; he just wanted to add some animals.

There are times when getting two young children to understand each others point of view requires vigorous effort. Over the years I have discovered that it’s just as hard to get adults to understand each others points of view if they are unwilling to listen.

God’s people, the Jews, had become traditionalist, handing down from each generation different ideas of how to worship. They propagated oral laws to help define God’s written Law so men could better understand how to live more righteously.

The Word said to “Remember the Sabbath, to keep it holy.”  Well, just what does keeping it holy mean? The high Priest and other leaders took it upon themselves to define ways to keep it holy. One example was that if you took over 400 steps on the Sabbath you were working, and therefore, not keeping the Sabbath holy (I don’t know who took the time to count the steps but that sounds a bit like work itself).

Though they meant well, through the centuries, they created a self-righteous pattern that led them away from God.  Now these Oral Laws became the way of salvation through ones ability to not only keep God’s revealed and written Law, but the Oral and traditional law as well.

Jesus brought a new paradigm. He came bearing good news.

 “You shall love the Lord you God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”                                                                                                     (Matt.22:37-40)

 Now, to some extent these Oral Laws sound silly, but are they really? Do we not do the same with our views on the ways things should be done today? Jesus did not propose getting rid of the farm, or the Law. He simply reemphasized what the Law always said: Love your God with your total being. In other words wrap your arms, legs, heart, soul and mind around a loving God just as tight as you can and never let go. And the new law was to love your neighbor just as much as you do yourself. Notice He placed self, last.

Jesus wasn’t telling us that when disagreements arise we need to accept others’ ideas simply as a way of saying we love each other. Neither was he saying we need to see those who disagree as unloving. In society’s new world view, I believe they call it, tolerance? But then that is polemic for another post so I’ll save it.

Do nothing from factional motives [through contentiousness,

strife, selfishness, or unworthy ends] prompted by conceit ‘and’ empty arrogance.

Instead, in the true spirit of humility (lowliness of mind) let each regard the others

as better than ‘and’ superior to himself [thinking more highly of one another that you do of yourselves].                                                                                                                                                                                                                         (Philippians 2:3; Amplified Bible)

If we look at the great and foremost commandment again, we can see that Jesus brought the paradigm back to the beginning of God’s Word. Here he simply reminds us that our very heart, soul and mind should be devoted to God first. We should have a relationship so intimate in prayer and Word that we recognize His guidance over our own. We must desire to know God better. Our soul should be so thirsty for Him we become like a ball of cotton absorbing every ounce. Our mind should hunger for His Word as if we were on the verge of death by starvation.

So, what about division between church members, family and friends?  We don’t need to go back to the time before that childish farm. As Christians, it is time to evaluate ourselves and our congregations with this new example, given by Jesus. It is not a new standard, it is the very one He taught His disciples while in their presence. Are we following that standard and not compromise it away? Maybe it’s time to ask God to point out a few good and faithful saints that will pray with us on a regular basis for an old fashion revival in our congregations. Maybe it’s time to pray until it comes!

“… Whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked                                          nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.”                                              (John 16:23 NIV)

As a member of your congregation revival begins with you. Be encouraged. Stand up, and hold your head high so that those in your congregation are also encouraged.

 

“May the God who gives endurance and encouragement

give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus.”

(Romans 15:5)

Building In the Dark

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When Satan leave the light on for you, remember that God is our light!

When Satan leave the light on for you, remember that God is our Hope!

“For You are my hope; O Lord God,

You are my trust from my youth

and the source of my confidence.”

Psalm 71:5

I was sitting in the shade one afternoon enjoying summer’s intermittent breeze flowing across my face. The cooling relief felt good for those brief seconds, but never lasted long enough to abate the sweat droplets(perspiration rivulets?) zigzagging through my facial stubble. I love to sit in a large oak tree’s shade on late afternoons, praying and praising, and just talking with myself and God about my life—where I’ve been and where I’m going. This particular day, God took advantage of my time with him to remind me of a very special moment that didn’t seem so special at the time; I don’t look forward to a wasp sting.

I love woodworking, but my workbench was outside because it couldn’t fit inside. While routing a piece of wood one day, my hand felt as if someone had driven an icepick through it. I was under attack by an army of wasps so I ran for cover. Administering first aid, I prepared for war.

Outside again, I stealthily embarked on a search-and-destroy mission, and halted when I spotted a large, inverted mushroom covered with wasps. Only extreme vigilance would keep me from being stung again.

Even with my hand starting to swell, I began spraying a pesticide mist that knocked several wasps to the ground, but I noticed other rusty-red bodies who had me in their sights. I danced like seven demons possessed me while trying to avoid more of their toxic venom. As I had become a sudden threat to their family home, they shifted altitude and direction in their profound vengeance, their fury thrusting them forward. When at last the final wasp fell to the ground I claimed victory and headed back to work.

A while later, a lone wasp buzzed around my head, probably out gathering food and whatever was needed to enlarge the nest. When he landed on the bench I placed an empty paint can over him. Then rain began falling and I retreated indoors.

Three days later I returned to my project and noticed the can. I thought, surely the wasp is dead. I raised the can and out he flew; I couldn’t believe it. He’d survived the heat and darkness, and now he disappeared into the backyard haze. I was dumbfounded, not because the wasp was alive, but because of the small, three-celled inverted mushroom I found inside. God’s creature not only survived his darkest hour, but continued the life’s work God had given him. Though he may have been afraid and unsure of the future, he never gave up. Now he claimed victory over his enemy.

This little red-tailed insect didn’t allow circumstance to keep him from accomplishing his purpose. Our enemy wants us to believe we have no purpose, and through fear, tries to intimidate us til we give up. He sprays his toxic fog of lies and trepidation over us, doing his best to stop another of God’s creatures. Like that tiny wasp, God gave us certain individual characteristics and gifts to become like Him in our Christian walk and build His kingdom, bringing honor to His name.

Jesus said, "I am the door."

Jesus said, “I am the door.”

God exhorts us in His Word to make ready for Satan’s certain attacks, providing His Word upon which to draw our strength. Yes. He provides our armor to defend against the enemy and thwart his attacks.

“…be strong in the Lord[be empowered

through your union with Him];

draw your strength from Him

[that strength which

His boundless might provides.]

Ephesians 6:10-18 (AMP)

We must not delay our preparation until the enemy attacks, but don our armor and take up our sword daily if we hope to claim the victory. God’s provision of prayer is a communication system unequaled by any of today’s sophisticated technology. We must be ready to receive His blessings when we pray for them. Whatever the circumstance, ask God to bring truth to light, healing to your broken heart, and His love to your soul.

Once God reveals His truth, He begins directing you to press through and beyond your circumstances, but He will provide that prayer-answering truth only when you are willing to open your heart to it and lay every hurt at his feet. Peace comes only if you allow it, and give up your fear of your circumstances, for like the wasp, it is only for a season. Continue to build in the dark and stand astonished when the cover is lifted.

“Yet amid all these things we are more
than conquerors and gain our surpassing victory
through Him Who loved us.”

Romans 8:37 (AMP)

When circumstance covers us with defeat it is time to hold our heads high and remember we are conquerors. Nothing comes against us that will prosper (Isaiah 54:17). The beauty of it all is that, as we face this circumstance, God stands behind us as our rear Guard (Isaiah 52:12).

Have you ever wanted to give up? Be encouraged, for …

Now you can get on your knees and give thanks and praise to the One who has brought you through the darkness and into the Light.

 

“After you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace who has called you
into His eternal glory in Christ Jesus will Himself complete and make you what you ought to be,
establish and ground you securely,
and strengthen and settle you.”

1 Peter 5:10 (AMP)

Peace has arrived!

Peace has arrived!

AMEN!

Thank You Father!

 

To All My Friends

My First Christmas, 1950

My First Christmas, 1950

Well, our celebration is here. If you are not ready you only have a few hours left. I wonder in my mind if we are ever truly ready to worship and celebrate the birth of our Savior. That decision is up to you and God. It is a personal walk with him. I pray that if you do not know Jesus personally you will allow him to speak to you, like HE did to the farmer through the birds in a previous post.

I want to take just a quick moment, as I know you have so many better things to do today, just to thank you for following my blog. I am the blessed one here that so many new friends are around to celebrate this great commemoration tomorrow. So I say Merry Christmas from Dixie, the best part of the world :-).   God bless you and your families. May you make joyful memories that will be cherished for generations to follow.

Your Friend,

Andy

The Gift of Giving

Old-Christmas-Photo-Card-PedalCar-GraphicsFairyI have been working on my memoirs for a little over a year now. It seems I can never catch up. My advice to you is that if you are interested in writing yours, START NOW! The longer you wait the more you have to remember.

Since it is CHRISTmas I decided to write about all the Christmas’s I have experienced. Wait! I can’t do that! There are sixty-three of them. Whoa, how many? You’ve gotta be kidding me. There is no way I am that old. Okay, okay, I will choose just one to share with you. Sit back down and turn your computer back on. Whew!

When I was a child we were fortunate to live in a modest home in Baton Rouge, LA. Dad worked for the NATB (National Automobile Theft Bureau). We were not rich by any measure yet we were not as poor as some folks. We always had a great Christmas morning with lots of presents, some we asked for and some were a nice surprise. There were even presents that had riddles on them. We had to guess what they were before we could open them.

Years later Dad gave up his job because he felt the call of God into the ministry.  After several years he was called by the denominational home office to go on the mission field. In the early 1960’s we were privileged to live in British Guiana (now Guyana), South America.  There are so many stories I could tell of those years, like the time we were in the jungle and went swimming in a creek in our underwear. We chased tropical fish and then marched out of the jungle with our undeies hanging on the pole over each of our shoulders–natives laughing. Sorry, I got off track again. Since I have you back in your chair I am going to tell you of a wonderful Christmas.

The mission home was a large two story concrete home. We lived upstairs and the business of the mission was carried out down stairs. The week of Christmas was exciting. I was twelve and not yet old enough to participate in youth functions. Since the Christmas party was held downstairs in a large classroom, I was invited to participate. About twenty-five young people arrived and were excited about the evening. Each brought a present with the name of the person they had drawn at the previous monthly meeting. There were none for me or my two brothers; we were simply excited about being there for the games and food.

As the activity and fellowship began to wind down, the time came for the opening of gifts. I remember being so excited. I wanted to see what everyone was giving each other. Each person took their seat in wooden folding chairs formed in a circle around a small Christmas tree with only a few ornaments. The first name was announced. The next name would not be called until this one had opened their present and thanked whoever gave it to them. The paper was painstakingly pulled off so as not to tear it.

What are they doing? I thought to myself. Just rip it off like I do!

 The present was opened. She got up and walked over to the man who had given it to her and gave him a great big hug and sat down crying. The paper was folded nicely and placed in her purse.

A Tooth Brush?????

A Tooth Brush?????

 I was confused. I thought this was Christmas!

The next name was called. Paper was unwrapped slowly, folded with care and placed in brown paper bag.

 What??? Soap???

What???   Three bars of soap???

 The gift exchange continued…

A Comb???

A Comb???

Not a hair brush too???

Not a hair brush too???

 Come on, where is the fun stuff???  I am totally confused now??? This is not Christmas!

No! A two pack of toilet paper??? Paleeze!!!

No! A two pack of toilet paper??? Paleeze!!!

You’ve got to be kidding me, please tell me you are.

 I watched toiletry after toiletry given out to each other. The recipients were so excited and appreciative. Me? I couldn’t believe it. I was thankful my name was not on the list.

After Christmas was over, that night was still haunting me. Why did these people give such meaningless gifts? I went to Mama and asked. She smiled and said, “Andy, the people are extremely poor here. They can’t afford luxuries and fun things. For them a new toothbrush or shoe polish or even toilet paper is an exciting gift for them.”

I had never thought of it that way. These people were happy to receive a gift they needed, not one that was a choice, or a wish. The gifts were things they needed to live a comfortable life. Each was so thankful they shed tears in excitement. The giver sacrificed much to be able to give and the one receiving was blessed by their sacrifice.

This is why, at the age of twelve, I was blessed with an experience I will never forget. The true meaning for us, in the giving of gifts, is the receiving with open hearts the gift God has given to us. That gift is His Son. He is the ultimate sacrificial Lamb and is provided to everyone who is his child.

My gift that Christmas was this lesson. God tells us it is better to give than to receive. To give is a great gift in itself. When one sacrifices to give he is blessed beyond all measure. God gave us our gift through His Son the first Christmas morning. Thank You Father!

Hope this helps you as much as it did me? :-)

Hope this helps you as much as it did me? 🙂

Merry CHTISTmas Everyone!

 

The Man and the Birds

 

One of my favorite stories of Christmas was given by Paul Harvey, a famous radio personality. I have provided you with two avenues to this story. First,  you can read it. secondly, you can listen to it. My preference is to listen. You really cant get the jest of the story unless you can hear in Paul Harvey’s voice. He was quite a story teller and  those of us who remember him really miss him at 12:00 noon every week day.

Link:
http://search.yahoo.com/search?fr=mcafee&type=A111US0&p=paul+harvey+christmas+story

Paul Harvey’s Story

The man to whom I’m going to introduce you was not a scrooge, he was a kind decent, mostly good man. Generous to his family, upright in his dealings with other men. But he just didn’t believe all that incarnation stuff which the churches proclaim at Christmas Time. It just didn’t make sense and he was too honest to pretend otherwise. He just couldn’t swallow the Jesus Story, about God coming to Earth as a man.

“I’m truly sorry to distress you,” he told his wife, “but I’m not going with you to church this Christmas Eve.” He said he’d feel like a hypocrite. That he’d much rather just stay at home, but that he would wait up for them. And so he stayed and they went to the midnight service.

Shortly after the family drove away in the car, snow began to fall. He went to the window to watch the flurries getting heavier and heavier and then went back to his fireside chair and began to read his newspaper. Minutes later he was startled by a thudding sound…Then another, and then another. Sort of a thump or a thud…At first he thought someone must be throwing snowballs against his living room window. But when he went to the front door to investigate he found a flock of birds huddled miserably in the snow. They’d been caught in the storm and, in a desperate search for shelter, had tried to fly through his large landscape window.

 Birds In Snow vmburkhardt.tumbler.com

Birds In Snow
vmburkhardt.tumbler.comWell, he couldn’t let the poor creatures lie there and freeze, so he remembered the barn where his children stabled their pony. That would provide a warm shelter, if he could direct the birds to it.

Quickly he put on a coat, galoshes, tramped through the deepening snow to the barn. He opened the doors wide and turned on a light, but the birds did not come in. He figured food would entice them in. So he hurried back to the house, fetched bread crumbs, sprinkled them on the snow, making a trail to the yellow-lighted wide open doorway of the stable. But to his dismay, the birds ignored the bread crumbs, and continued to flap around helplessly in the snow. He tried catching them…He tried shooing them into the barn by walking around them waving his arms…Instead, they scattered in every direction, except into the warm, lighted barn.

And then, he realized that they were afraid of him. To them, he reasoned, I am a strange and terrifying creature. If only I could think of some way to let them know that they can trust me…That I am not trying to hurt them, but to help them. But how? Because any move he made tended to frighten them, confuse them. They just would not follow. They would not be led or shooed because they feared him.

If only I could be a bird,” he thought to himself, “and mingle with them and speak their language. Then I could tell them not to be afraid. Then I could show them the way to safe, warm…to the safe warm barn. But I would have to be one of them so they could see, and hear and understand.”

 Church Bells

Church Bells

At that moment the church bells began to ring. The sound reached his ears above the sounds of the wind. And he stood there listening to the bells – Adeste Fidelis – listening to the bells pealing the glad tidings of Christmas.

And he sank to his knees in the snow.

Paul Harvey ~ I hope for you…and those you love… this will be a wonderful Merry Christmas.

Good Day!                                                                                                                                       Christ IS:    The Way In A Manger

Papaw’s Lesson From The Watermelon

“You shall teach them diligently to your children,

and shall talk of them when you sit in your house,

and when you walk by the way,

and when you lie down, and when you rise.”

Deuteronomy 6:7 

           Photo By:       Mathew Steinhoff

Photo By:
Mathew Steinhoff

I was sitting on the porch swing with a close friend discussing special moments in our lives. Her Papaw grew watermelons and like many garden plants, a melon is the result of a very large and yellow bell-shaped flower. It blooms, wilts and falls off the vine. In a short time you notice a marble size ball on the end of that same stem. Don’t get excited, there is a good chance that marble may fall off as well; the survival rate is 50/50.  Once this future delicacy grows to the size of a golf ball you can begin to see how well your crop is going to produce.

When my friend was six her Papaw took her into the watermelon patch and let her pick out her own melon. She picked one that was about seven inches long. As the two knelt next to it, Papaw picked up the tiny melon and gently placed it in her hands. She leaned back on her knees and held it in her lap while he took out his pocket knife and lightly carved her name on the side of the melon.

Why is my name so small?” she asked. The name was barely visible.

“Because you are so small,” he answered. “When this melon grows up, so will you.” He smiled at her and continued, “In order for this melon to be the best melon ever, you have to nurture it. That means when you come to visit you have to pull any weeds that are nearby, so they don’t sap the nutrients and moisture the melon needs. You will also need to take this rag and wipe off any dirt and keep it clean and shiny. That will make it the bestest and sweetest melon you ever had. The greatest part is that it’s all because of the way you raised it.”

She smiled and went on just being a little girl. Every week she went with Papaw to cultivate her melon and watched it leisurely grow to maturity. As they drove the old tractor to the field and walked into the patch, there was one thing she looked forward to. You see, as the melon grew her name grew with it. Her enthusiasm grew and she could not wait to see how much her name increased in size with each visit.

 I had to try this myself. I was so excited and impatient I didn't let the watermelon fully mature.    :-(

I had to try this myself. I was so excited and impatient I didn’t let the watermelon fully mature. :-(When the time came to harvest the melon, the name was so big she could see it from several yards away. She was proud of her name standing out among all the other melons. From one end of the dark green melon to the other, her name was engraved in big bold cream-colored letters. She helped Papaw carry it and as she climbed up on seat he placed the melon on her lap. She smiled all the way to the house. The rest of the family was waiting at the picnic table in the back yard ready to chow down on sweet melon. Everyone was patting her on the back and rubbing her head saying, “Way to go!”  My friend was privileged to make the first cut and pick out the first piece, a memory she has never forgotten.

 “Train up a child in the way he should go;

even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

Proverbs 22:6

When our children are born and we scribe their name on a birth certificate the cultivation and nurturing begin. It is our duty to keep the bad weeds away so that they receive the nutrients we provide and keep those things away that sap strength and sweetness from them. The almost invisible names we engrave on their heart, when they are but marble size, stand out among others in the world and speak not only their name, but ours. Our children impart integrity, truth, honesty, sincerity, value and even God’s love to places where these virtues may not be present. When presented to the world they become an illuminating path to God’s love; an everlasting memory carried for eternity.

Someday, our family of believers will welcome us to the big table in the back yard of heaven, slapping you on the back and saying, “Way to go!”