Wednesday, December 31, 2014

To Start A New Year:"A new year is unfolding—like a blossom with petals curled tightly concealing the beauty within. Lord, let this year be filled with the things that are truly good—with the comfort of warmth in our relationships, with the strength to help those who need our help and the humility and openness to accept help from others. As we make our resolutions for the year ahead, let us go forward with great hope that all things can be possible—with Your help and guidance." Anonymous

Good morning and welcome to my last visit with you for 2014, here on this Wednesday, New Year's Eve, December 31, 2014. We will be headed back towards the old homestead later today but will likely not be there until Saturday. We still have some stops to make. Yesterday we decided to throw caution to the wind(s), literally, and drive up to the Santa Fe Ski Park. After the little dodge ball episodes near Wichita Falls on our way over here I have attempted to be very respectful of icy roads. That winding trip up the mountain was very slow and methodical. I figured that those little signs that said 20 mph on the curves probably meant that when the weather was cooperating. I got to lead a convoy. I had maybe 10 to 12 cars behind me and it took maybe forty minutes to make it to the top. It was not as windy up there but it was cold. Very cold. It was standing room only at the ski center. All those folks were doing their thing to get ready to go up and come down, or they were in line to go up again. They did walk funny in those ski boots and after seeing the program we decided it best to get back to our car. That was about a quarter mile walk, some of it pretty steep and slippery, but, we enjoyed the calendar views, and on the way down my better half didn't have to give me too many driver instructions. That always makes for a better day.

We found the folks here in the Santa Fe area to be very cordial and friendly. We also discovered that tourists are here from all over the world, in particular, we saw many groups and families from Japan. The capitol was pretty much deserted. There were a few staff members here and there but the senate and house were out on holiday. Some blue collar workers were moving in stuff to get ready for the inauguration in the rotunda but for the most part it was pretty much empty. That is, except for this lone house member, who sat reading over some materials. He must not be of the same kind who represent folks in Washington who tell other members they need to pass the bill to find out what's in the bill. I don't know who this fellow was but he looks like someone I might vote for. Many will be celebrating the New Year with all manners of activities. Some will be with their local fellowship of believers praying the new year in. Whatever you choose, may it be safe, and accompanied by some reflection on how God has blessed us all. Amen. .....More later.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Free Advice: Bundle Up When Out In the Cold

San Miguel Mission, originally established in 1610, still in operation today.
Okay. I admit it. I asked for the cold and we have been granted that request. We had a system come through last night that has dropped the feel like to near zero. Windy today. Gusting up to 30 mph. I'm running a tad late this morning. The hotel had changed the WIFI password, therefore, I couldn't log in until I found out that little piece of information. At any rate, I am here and it is Tuesday, December 30, 2014. I have picked up some sniffles but they may have come from my last two days of playing the jolly old dude. I was at one of the new HEB stores and I can't remember dealing with that many snotty nosed kids since I've been involved in this activity. You can't really blame the kids. They were out of school. Christmas was coming and they ran to the grocery store with mom and dad. To their surprise they just happened to encounter Santa. One thing about traveling. Lots of older folks are on the roads. They also tend to be early risers, beating and banging around, slamming doors, etc. I'm right there with them but I do my best to keep the noise down.

We had planned to drive up to the ski place today, not to ski, but to do the lift deal and get some photos. We will have to check that out before we leave the premises. The wife has done really well in dealing with the cold. She was also able to find some of the same department stores all the way out here, just like the ones we have back home. Go figure. I'm slightly concerned about the travel conditions but we will wait and see how that works out. I do hope you have a wonderful day as we all anticipate the upcoming new year. I know God has something for each and every one of us to do. That includes me, myself, and I. Take care and may God be with us all. Amen. .....More later.

Monday, December 29, 2014

We arrived safely. However, we still have to return later in the week.

Today is Monday, December 29, 2014, and we are here in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the air is clear and crisp and whether you call it dry or not, most people would say it's cold. Our trip here was pretty eventful since we came in contact with a genuine snow storm near Wichita Falls, Texas. It was one of those perfect storm events, no pun intended. We had just been passed by an 18 wheeler who was driving 70 plus mph and it threw a pile of stuff onto our windshield. Suddenly we had left the fast driving pavement for ice all over the place. The wife's car is equipped with that traction drive stuff and it grabbed hold of the car and we have no idea how we didn't spin like a top but we didn't and we are thankful. About 10 minutes later a lady in the outside lane lost control and fishtailed into our lane and we somehow didn't hit her. Talk about near misses! My wife said our guardian angel was working overtime on our behalf. As we continued, we hit several stretches where the freeway was pretty much frozen over. Okay. At 68 I'm not into testing my heart anymore than those types of near catastrophes did. But, we made it here and it is oh so beautiful. Sure. It's a little on the cool side but to me it's wonderful. The wife must not have been too worried because even as my knuckles were white from holding on as we were nearly spinning out of control I could hear her clicking photos on her tablet. Maybe she was wanting to capture my last words. I do hope you have a wonderful day and may God add His blessings to it. Amen.  ....More later.

Friday, December 26, 2014

“Now, on this road trip, my mind seemed to uncrinkle, to breathe, to present to itself a cure for a disease it had not, until now, known it had.” ― Elizabeth Berg, Author

Hello fellow travelers. It's the day after, Friday, December 26, 2014. My wife retired from working in an upscale women's clothing store for years. She can tell you that while black Friday is something to behold, hang on, because immediately following Christmas Day, it is return it, exchange it, or get-your-money back day! Well, we will not be doing any of that. We are actually taking a little road trip for the next week. Maybe it could be called a getaway or even a change of pace. We are headed out to Santa Fe, New Mexico. I know. It's cold out there. But, my thought was to try and find a place where the air is clean and crisp and the views are really great. (I'm big on clean and crisp air since it is quite the novelty around these parts.) It's a road trip to commemorate our 50th year together. It will not be like the ones we made with the boys in the Karmann Ghia so many years ago. Folks used to worry about the kids ending up with slanted backs from sitting in the back of that tiny little car.

It looked like this one. 1966, bought it brand new. We put a lot of miles on that little car.
We are driving so that we can make a few stops along the way. The first will be for a short visit with my sister up in the Dallas area. She continues her battle with leukemia and we are thankful for her faith and her tenacity. It took a long time but sure enough it happened. That fellow who sicked his dogs on me in 1965, well, I saw where he had passed on to his reward. It was that time that I drove my car off into a stream expecting to be able to cross it but there had been huge rains upstream and next thing I knew I was knee deep in ice cold water inside my car. I got out and made it to the embankment and then proceeded to walk down a dark road. It was about as deserted and lonely as it gets in the Sabine River bottom. When I came to a house I hollered out for help and at first they sicked the dogs on me, but, the fellow did eventually take me down to where the wife was in Church. (A quartet singing on Friday night.) He went in and fetched her and that was one of the first of many exciting surprises we have faced over the years. I just happened to pick up his name from an obituary in the list of those who had preceded this 92 year old lady in death. That lady was his mom. I looked him up and found out that he passed on in 2006. I'm not sure whatever became of those dogs who wanted to eat me up.

I'll be checking in from time to time since we do have our little handy laptop with us. No. That's not a threat, just a factoid and a promise, if you will. Enjoy your day and may God bless each and every one. Amen.   ....More later. 

Thursday, December 25, 2014

A Prayer Poem for Christmas Day

On behalf of my family to your family, on this Thursday, December 25, 2014, we sincerely pray that you will enjoy your Christmas Day. May God richly bless us, one and all. Amen. .....More later.

"Loving God, Help us remember the birth of Jesus, that we may share in the song of the angels,the gladness of the shepherds, and worship of the wise men.

Close the door of hate and open the door of love all over the world. Let kindness come with every gift and good desires with every greeting. Deliver us from evil by the blessing which Christ brings, and teach us to be merry with clear hearts.

May the Christmas morning make us happy to be thy children, and Christmas evening bring us to our beds with grateful thoughts, forgiving and forgiven, for Jesus' sake."

-- Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894)


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

It won't be long now!

Our Great Grand, Madi-girl
Today is an important day. You know. It's Wednesday, December 24, 2014, therefore, all the final odds and ends have to be taken care of today. Yes, I am aware that Walgreens is open on Christmas Day, just in case. Believe me, over the years, in spite of all our plans and preparations, we've had to make a battery run or for something else. What did we find upon our arrival? The store filled up with folks doing the same thing. The more things change it is the more they stay the same. Given my predisposition of wanting to avoid all the shopping congestion, I do have a plan for today. Go early. Real early. So early that you surprise the folks doing the stocking at the supermarket. No doubt there will be a handful of folks out doing the same thing, but most sane people will be enjoying some extra sleep while visions of sugar plums dance in their heads. Grilling for 24 will be a challenge but I am so looking forward to it. Also, make sure you have your list. Not the naughty or nice one. The one that has all the stuff you need to get. It's the one that really does need to be checked twice. We did our great grand's Christmas last Sunday evening because she will not be able to be with us tomorrow. I heard her and her Great Grand MiMi in the hallway at the piano just singing away on some Christmas songs. That little soon-to-be five year old has a good little voice and hearing them sing together is a memory I will treasure long after the decorations have been packed away. A small blessing maybe but one that I am so thankful for. Amen.

What's that you say? It seems that it doesn't take much of anything for me to call it a blessing? I suppose it has something to do with age and reflection. And, it is true that my trend line at present would score pretty high on sentimentalism. I would also hope that God has given me a smidgen of thankfulness as I am able to appreciate all that He has done, is doing, and will do, going forward. For all that and so much more, I am thankful. Have a great day of getting it all together. If that's the objective no wonder I need to hit the ground running. Early. Happy Christmas Eve Day and may God keep us all safe as we go here and there. Amen.  ...More later.

PS: It's been pointed out and it is true that I've been prone to making a few mistakes lately. Sorry. The mind is willing but communication between it and the keystroke that hits the electronic page, well, at times that leaves something to be desired. On Monday, it should have read: "You may or may not remember the old country song, "Thank God and Greyhound, She's Gone." On Tuesday, my email really messed up the punch line to a pun. I hate that when it happens. It should have said: "Santa's bells ring too much. He will not be winning the No-Bell prize." Okay. Resume whatever it was you were doing and I'll try to do better in the future. 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

“One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas day. Don't clean it up too quickly." ~ (1919-2011), American writer, producer, humorist. ” ― Andy Rooney

Today. It's Tuesday, December 23, 2014, and when I finish today I will not be returning to my workstation here until January 5, 2015. I'm not exactly sure when I will give up on sharing additional favorite Santa photos that I've been able to capture this season. The one above was taken the day we did the birthday party for Jesus at our Church. The young man took our photo (selfie) with his I-phone. I chose to share it because it does reflect where we are headed with these handheld smart phones. It's also a great photo of a young fellow with a marvelous smile. Tomorrow is Christmas Eve and we have it on our agenda as the 'get ready' day. We have counted 24 who are planning to show up for our annual family Christmas gathering. Our plans include our traditional grilled steak cookout with all the trimmings, our time of gift exchanges, and best of all, just being with one another. It's something we so look forward to each year. Your approach may be totally different. Good! Ours is just that. Ours. One thing we have always done is to take the time to read about the coming into our world of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The reading we focus on is found in Luke Chapter 2. We use one of the easy to understand translations so that even the little ones can grasp what is being said. It's like the teaching objective of long time radio preacher, the late Dr. J. Vernon McGee. He said it was always his desire in presenting truth to put the cookies on the bottom shelf so that even the little ones can partake. Amen!

I do hope you enjoy your getting ready to get ready and I'll catch back up with you next time. Here's a poem that focuses on the Christ of Christmas:

A Christmas Carol
G.K. Chesterton (1900)
clr gif
The Christ-child lay on Mary’s lap,
His hair was like a light.
(O weary, weary were the world,
But here is all aright.)

The Christ-child lay on Mary’s breast
His hair was like a star.
(O stern and cunning are the kings,
But here the true hearts are.)

The Christ-child lay on Mary’s heart,
His hair was like a fire.
(O weary, weary is the world,
But here the world’s desire.)

The Christ-child stood on Mary’s knee,
His hair was like a crown,
And all the flowers looked up at Him,
And all the stars looked down.

May God add His blessings to our day. Amen.  ...More later.

Monday, December 22, 2014

"Being trendy is for those who follow, which explains its mass appeal." Minh Tan, Vietnamese American Poet

You may not or may not remember the old country song, "Thank God and Greyhound, She's Gone." But, I do understand a little about the sentiment being expressed, for having finished my Santa escapades for the year, well, I'm breathing up one huge sigh of relief. It's been fun but it's also good to be done. It's countdown Monday, December 22, 2014, as we continue to make our way towards Christmas Day. I'm feeling just a tad vindicated today. I still watch Duck Dynasty. I still laugh out loud when I watch. The vindication comes from a headline I saw that informed the world that the Robertson family had made Barbara Walter's least fascinating people of the year. Hip! Hip! Hooray! Sadie, who had never danced before, finished second on the TV competition show, Dancing With the Stars. The Duck Dynasty series continues to do well in their time slot on the A and E cable channel. But the world's trend expert, Ms. Walters, well, she thinks that America is so over these Louisiana country folks. Here's what I have to say about that: This Louisiana country boy is not so over the Robertson Clan because I still tune in each week and often even watch the reruns. I'm not surprised that I would be on the other side of anything Barbara Walters might think or say, but it does make me feel good to have it out in the open.

Some of you may not be keeping up with all the stuff happening with regards to the huge movie maker Sony. Here's what happened. They made a comedy about assassinating the current North Korean dictator. There are cyber terror folks affiliated with North Korea. These people hacked into the Sony information systems. They took just about everything. They began publishing very embarrassing emails that talked about everything from the President to individual movie stars. The people at Sony are supposed to be the upper echelon of the liberal politically correct crowd. The emails show them to use racial slurs and other kinds of derogatory slang when discussing those they supposedly respect so much. Now the internet terrorists have threatened movie theaters scheduled to show the film with acts of violence. Sony has been forced to withdraw the movie from distribution. More hugely embarrassing information is in the pipeline. This is the America we live in today. A radical group can hold a movie studio hostage because they don't like the subject of a movie. On the flip side, it shows these big time movie making liberals to be the hypocrites they really are. They are in the business of doing shows that parade the private lives of other people and they make millions doing so. Often without their permission. Now that they are being exposed they cannot handle it. The bottom line is that we all are exposed when our information is so easily grabbed and pirated. Some even think the company may suffer a loss so large it may be difficult for them to come back. Sure, the entire deal is loaded with poetic justice, but, it also shows how easily things can be compromised for us all. That's why this should concern us all!

I think I did 99% of our shopping online this year. Why do so many people choose to do their shopping sitting in front of their computer with their pajamas on? Think about it. In our area you will drive around for 30 minutes just looking for a parking spot. Then you must jostle your way through the mall and if, and that's a big if, you find something you want to purchase, you then stand in line to pay for it. Maybe you would like a snack. There's many choices but remember you will need to stand in a line again. Back to the answer to the question as to why someone might choose an alternative. Okay. I get it. You purists think that the hustle and bustle, the agony of the feet, and the aggravation is all part of the Christmas experience. That's why we have choices. I am a traditionalist at heart but there are some elbow rubbing that I am willing to give up. Just me. Enjoy your day and may our Great God add His blessings to us all! Amen. ....More later.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Inquiring minds want to know: Do snowmen eat Frosted Flakes for breakfast?

There's a lot of power in a blank page. It stares back at you all puffed up with its blankness. It can be intimidating and at times you want to just let it have its own way, but, that would not be today my friend, therefore, we are off and running, one more time on this Friday, December 19, 2014. I have two more Santa appearances to fulfill this weekend and then I am done for the season. I can fully appreciate the sentiment expressed by Clement C. Moore in his classic from 1822, 'The Night Before Christmas', where the jolly little dude, upon making his farewell exit, was heard to say: "Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!" What about the benefits of the sauna experience you get when you suit up? That's actually a good question but I will happily find another source of weight management. Even as I speak we are right smack dab in the middle of planning our family gathering for Christmas day along with getting ready for the road trip we hope to start the day after. Lots and lots of things happening with many new ones being added as we make our way forward. The wife is making some noises about us suiting up for photos with all our own clan since we haven't done that in years. I think I may have grunted a time or two when she mentioned it. I'll need to wait for her interpretation of my response before we see what happens.

Let me pause here to remind us all that while we do our best to make this time of year festive and enjoyable, many folks do not have that on their radar at all. It is a sad time for many as they deal with loss or maybe reflect on disappointing life experiences. Some continue to struggle with all kinds of pressures from within and without. We are very aware of the homeless and they are often mentioned at this time of year. Yet, there are so many who do have homes that are unwell and malnourished in terms of their emotional well being. The holidays do that to certain folks. I'm actually thankful for the memories I have of those near and dear to us but are now awaiting us on the other side. I think about my dad, my big brother, my baby sister, my grandparents, my in-laws, other close relatives, and so many more who were a part of my life. Thinking about them and remembering Christmases with them does bring a tear, but at the same time I'm thankful for the blessed hope that was present in their lives and how that our faith in Him will one day bring us all back together. You know, as the country song puts it, "When I get where I'm going." Amen.

The 'Home Alone' movies are running non stop at this time of year. You can watch them over and over because of one reason. They are funny, period, end of story. I remember one year we had the wife's family in for a holiday celebration. It may have been Thanksgiving. We had just purchased the first Home Alone movie on VHS. We put that tape on and I can't remember ever being in a room with that much laughter. Her folks had never seen it. The wife's dad and her brother were both pastors and most likely did not have many opportunities to participate in a laugh-a-thon. They did that day! In fact, they were doubled over. The other day the wife told me that when you think about how far fetched the premise is of that little boy being able to do all of those things it's just kind of silly. Silly or not, it is funny. To me. But, nothing will ever replace my memories of the seeing her folks laugh so hard. Now that's a good flashback to end on for today, therefore, I'll do just that. Here's my suggestion: Have a great Saturday and enjoy the last Lord's Day Sunday before Christmas. Meanwhile, I will see what I can scramble up for our next time together. May God bless each one. Amen.  ...More later.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

This is the day that the Lord has made and we are rejoicing in its significance!

Today. It's a big one for us. It is every year. It's the 18th of December, 2014 and we are reflecting on the birthday of our daughter in law Mitzi, married to our youngest son Rodney and the mom to our Kyleigh, Lexie, and Brady. Mitzi is a bright and energetic lady who is devoted to her family and friends. Our family has been blessed as a result of her being a part of our clan. We thank God for Mitzi and pray that God will continue to bless in her busy life. Happy Birthday Mitzi, love, mom and dad.

We also pause to say happy 18th to our Jimmy Don Jr. He's got so much talent and ability but he's also been handed a number of inherited challenges. These have to do with dyslexia and bi-polar conditions. Those are no small hurdles but he continues to make progress and we are so proud of him. He's our first grandson and we've poured quite a bit of our lives into him. We thank God for him and pray that God will continue to lead, guide, and direct his way. Happy Birthday Lil Jim, love, MiMi and Poppy.

Finally, the really big one. Today we mark fifty years of our marriage. That's hard to even make sense of. I've been to 50th wedding celebrations. The people were wonderful but best I could tell they were also old. Not us. It doesn't take long when I think of the wife for me to tear up because she is not only a wonderful wife, mom, grandmother, and great grand, sister, and friend, but, she is also a tremendous woman of God. There's not too much I can add. We were kids when we started out and I suppose I have to admit that we are beginning to to begin to recognize, in the early stages only, that we really are growing old(er) together. We have a little road trip planned for later in the month to celebrate but for today I can only repeat what I have said since the get go: Baby, one more time, you're the greatest! Happy 50th Sweetheart!

It is a big day folks and we are thankful. More than anything else, we are thankful. Amen and Amen.  ....More later.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Honoring a man of distinction.

LtoR: Richard, me, mom, dad, Cara, town clerk, Mayor Beebe, Jody, Operations Mgr.
We are busy busy. How about you? Our business is feverishly working towards our Christmas shutdown and we are trying to get as many projects finished as we can. Today is Wednesday, December 17, 2014, and I send out to you a hearty ho ho ho as we continue to pursue our journey and this year's holiday season. It was my great privilege to leave early on Monday to travel to Louisiana to attend the annual Hornbeck town Christmas banquet. It was a large gathering of dignitaries, employees, and guests where they served a wonderful meal and we were there because dad was being honored for his 24 years of service on the Town Council. He chose not to run for re-election for the upcoming session. No one will ever say that dad has not left his mark using the life God gave to him. He retired from the U.S. Army. He retired from Federal Civil Service. Now he has retired from being an alderman for all these years where he was very active and very instrumental in seeing the little town grow and prosper. What an example he is for us all. We could not be more proud of him and mom as they have set forth before us lives worthy of influence and distinction. I do thank our eldest Chris for taking off to drive me over there and back. That made the trip so much easier. Dad's son Richard and his son Shelton were also able to be there. That Shelton is a character and he's always been a big buddy of mine. It was a great time. In the end, I can only thank God for His provision in us having such wonderful parents. You did well dad. You did well!

Doing the Santa work has its moments. It can be intense. It can be overwhelming. For me personally, it typically is always overheated. But, we do many events and the folks pay us handsomely for showing up. We didn't start out with that in mind and that part of it has surprised us some. We also are able to do a number of events each year where we do not charge. By the very nature of these appearances, they are typically very rewarding. I am often asked what's my favorite thing about this endeavor. If a picture is worth a thousand words we have the one above to help illustrate the joy we are privileged to both bring to others as well as to enjoy ourselves. That littlest one was four days old. His big sister loves Santa and couldn't stop showing her affection. It was special as it transpired with the parents being thrilled, but, even more so to us as we are able to look back and enjoy that moment again. What's that? What about the kickers and screamers? Good question. I hear Mrs. Claus telling people all the time that those 'crying' photos will become treasures and they might even be the best of all. She actually tells people that. That one leaves Santa just a tad puzzled but she probably has some insight into those things that I missed along the way.

Of course it is hard to choose the 'one' photo that captures the essence of our work but my point is only to say there are rewards involved. At the same time we never lose sight, never, as to the opportunity we have in thinking about His coming into our world. Thinking about and thanking. Thanking God. We've been studying about this the last few Sundays and I have to tell you that it is always thrilling when we think about it being God's plan, God's purpose, and His answer to the need that we could not meet on our own. In fact, with regards to our fallen condition we were both helpless and hopeless. However, we find that God in eternity past, before He spoke the world into creation, had a plan that provided for His created human family to be made right with Him, to be His own dear children, and to spend eternity in His presence. Before the world began. No. I'm not saying I understand it, but we, like Abraham of old, can take the truth He has revealed to us and respond in faith believing. That brings honor and glory to the One who made provision for us and to the One who came that we might have life. It's a wonderful time to exalt our Savior and to worship Him. Doing that will fulfill our role in keeping The Christ in Christmas. Amen.   ....More later.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

"Then the angel said to them, Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. "And this will be the sign to you: 'You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.'" (Luke 2:10-12)

Here we go again and this time we open our eyes to find out that it's Tuesday, December 16, 2014. I know that you know that I love the Santa stuff as it relates to children. Of all ages, but, mostly the little ones. Some of the things they tell me are quite insightful. When we did the photos at the Church one six year old young lady had this analysis, "I know you are Bro. Al, and not the real Santa, however, I also know that you talk to him face to face." I do? Okay. I suppose that was to make sure I let Santa know exactly what she was expecting under her tree. One little guy at Chick-fil-A told me that he and his parents had looked for my sleigh and since it wasn't on the roof he concluded that I had appeared there by the use of my magic. I learn new things every day. Another little girl blurted out that she had seen several Santas before but I was the first real one she had ever seen. Good because that's the idea. You never know what exactly might be coming next. One middle aged lady came over with her older teenaged son. She giggly announced that she was ready to make her husband jealous. She plopped herself down in my lap and put her arms around me and the boy took the photo. She was laughing and laughing. I guess that proves the old adage: It really does take all kinds.

I do want to appreciate Mrs. Claus because she has stepped up her game this year. She is in many more photos than in prior years and she is even getting her shot at holding a few of the kickers and the screamers. Children love her. Probably the best thing she has done for me this year is to help get the second child lifted onto my knee. I can handle the first one. No problem. But having one on the knee while trying to get the other one up is a real chore and she has been good to work with me on getting this done. She also reads to the children in some venues and she has worked with tables full of kids helping them do take home crafts. I think being busy makes her feel like she is contributing but she also gets to feel pretty worn out when it's all over. One of the really neat things is when we walk to our car after leaving the restaurant for the evening. Those folks in the drive thru were not aware of Santa night and those windows come down and the kids are unbelievably excited. Seeing their faces light up and their spontaneous response really does illustrate the innocent joy of children during the holiday season.

Our pastor brought a lesson this past Wednesday evening about the shepherds that received the announcement from the angelic realm. (Luke Chapter 2) He put forth what a number of scholars have concluded about these sheep herders. They were most likely special set aside workers who took care of the animals that were to be used in Temple sacrifices. I remember reading Dr. Afred Edersheim's treatise on this subject. He is perhaps the most prolific Christian historian and theologian to have ever written on matters pertaining to our Savior. His seminal work, 'The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah' is, from my viewpoint, one of the most profound works of historic investigation I know anything about. He lived from 1825 to 1889 and I highly recommend the reading of all his books and articles, most of which exist online today. If these shepherds were those special shepherds it really is thrilling to contemplate the imagery here. They were charged with making certain there were lambs without spot or blemish for sacrifice and God sent His angelic band to call them to Bethlehem to observe the Messiah, the Christ Child, the sinless perfect Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. I don't know about you but that's an absolutely inspiring and astounding thought. So, think about it. Amen.   ....More later.

Monday, December 15, 2014

"When buying and selling are controlled by legislation, the first things to be bought and sold are legislators."~ P.J. O'Rourke, Author, humorist & satirist

It's Monday, December 15, 2014, and I say let the astuteness come out from behind curtain number three! Picking up where I left off the other day, here's the interesting takeaway from that particular hearing I watched. You have a Harvard professor carrying the distinction of a doctorate who is touted for his expertise in all matters pertaining to the healthcare design, economics, and implementation. His credentials include having helped design and implement the State of Massachusetts healthcare plan. He is a professor at Harvard which means he, without question, has high academic capabilities. He has enough experience and expertise that he was paid an estimated $2.5 million by the Federal Government along with nine states that contracted his services. The majority of those states used federal grants to pay him and that means you and I along with all federal taxpayers in the country paid his salary. When asked about all of this, the professor suddenly sees himself as being naive, unqualified, and lacking the intelligence to have spoken about things that became embarrassing to the President and his administration, and generally he more or less confessed to not being so bright when it comes to handling matters like this. Okay. Here's all I am going to say and then I promise to move on down the road. This man was under oath but yet he was compelled to offer an apology for giving all the inside information about how the dumb American public was tricked and basically duped into having to deal with this massive healthcare law. We were too dumb to deal with the truth, therefore, they had to make us believe lies in order to keep everyone quiet. However, we were not too dumb for him and countless others to feed their money grubbing appetites at the taxpayer funded feeding trough. You make your own decision but don't complain that I didn't do my best to let you know what was going on. As they say, just sayin'!

You've heard me talk about our 1976 move into the area where we continue to live. It was a wonderfully under-developed area and it had the look and feel of country living. I'm all for progress and believe me the Woodlands-Spring area has blown all predictions off the map. During our nearly 40 years here, this explosive growth has made it impossible for those charged with implementing infrastructure to even come close to keeping up. The result? We saw it on the news the other day. A rather insignificant intersection that most likely did not even exist when we came to this area now sees 45,000 cars per day. After the holidays they will begin construction of an overpass to try to alleviate some of the congestion at this spot. The news report included interviews with people who have witnessed this phenomenal expansion in homes, people, businesses, and traffic. While most people are pleased that the area has remained popular for all these years, everyone groaned as they talked about trying to get from one place to another. I do have my own solution when I can make it happen. When you get to your home, stay there. But, that's just me.

I get my fair share of up close and personal contact with the traffic jams that clog everything up. But, not in my morning commute. While there's more folks milling around at 3:30 a.m. than you might think, it's pretty much clear sailing for my 30 minute drive into work. Except for the varmints that are also trying to keep their little part of the real estate. I don't know too much about skunk behavior but I do know at the present time they are very active. I also know they stink like all get out. What's that? You would rather sit in traffic than to get up early? I know an intersection that has your name on it. Here's my take: Even with the deer, opossum, raccoons, skunks, foxes, and the occasional coyote, I would much rather play dodge ball with them than with all of those jacked up pick-up trucks and fast moving cars. Again, that's just me. Maybe you've got a better handle on things. If so, I commend you. Now it's past time for me to say goodnight Gracie, so I will do just that. Take care and may God bless each one. Amen.   .....More later.

Friday, December 12, 2014

"I've never owned a cell phone and don't plan on ever having one. If anyone needs to talk to me, they know where I live." ~ Phil Robertson, Duck Dynasty Patriarch

What's that? You hope my political ranting is under control today? I have much more to share in an astute followup but I'll hold that back for another day. How in the world are you and yours today? I am thankful to report that we are well, praise the Lord. It's Friday, December 12, 2014 and it's not only beginning to look like Christmas, well, it's nearly here. Technology is a wonderful thing. I get a kick out of hearing my mom who is 90 talk about her talking to a network technician in trying to resolve a problem with her internet connection. I bet my mom would never have dreamed that at 90 years old she would be involved in an hour long session to reset her modem and restart her computer in order to fix a problem. It also works on the little ones as well. That cartoon is an absolute fact and I should know. It wouldn't be good for you to question my authority on the subject with me checking my list and all of that. Last Tuesday evening a group showed up at the Chick-fil-A and they had their photos made with Santa while they were there. They were maybe 10 or 11 years old I suppose. Five girls and one boy. They all had their own cell phones and they all wanted photos made with each of the phones. The mom took the photos, one at a time, individual poses and then as a group. Each phone had 3 or 4 applications they wanted used to capture the shot. The mom did it! What a champion! She was as cool as a cucumber as she searched and waded through application after application to find the next photo utility. After all of that the kids later returned for each of them to make their own selfie with Santa. (That's where they hold their cell phone out in front of them and click a photo with me in the background along with any of the other kids showing up behind me to do what they call a photo bomb.) I hope you are taking notes. They were great kids but I'm exhausted just talking about it. (I refer you to exhibit A in the cartoon: Santa's expression.)

This is not necessarily a funny story but it is a true story. This lady brought her two kids in for a photo. The children were absolutely gorgeous and their photos turned out great. The lady leaned down and said, "Santa, I have a huge problem. My mother-in-law is in the hospital. We are keeping her little dog. That little dog means the world to her. The little dog wandered off this afternoon. My mother-in-law doesn't like me. You do know she will kill me if I don't get that dog back. Can you please help?" I'm not making this up and may I just tell you that she was as serious as a heart attack. Just before we left she showed up over at a table where Mrs. Claus was visiting with a friend who had dropped by. She poured out her story to them. I heard the wife tell her that she was going to pray that she would find that little dog. Like I say, I know it's not funny but you will have to admit it is somewhat bizarre. Maybe not as much as the little girl who asked for a rich husband but still pretty odd if you ask me.

Don't spend too much time worrying about my next round of astute observations. I thought the word astute might be a little over the top but perhaps I was channeling some of those who believe themselves to be a legend in their own mind. Just joking. I will tell you this, I wrote my political piece before the talking heads even put together their very predictable assessments. Leading edge and all of that stuff. But, I'll let that be a coming attraction, distraction, or maybe even a subtraction depending on what it looks like at the time. Meanwhile, we do have and I'm sure you also have other fish to fry. I've enjoyed our time together this week and hope that you will have a wonderful Saturday and Lord's Day Sunday. Most Churches are using Christmas music now and that's always thrilling to participate in and enjoy. Take care and I will do my best to see you next Monday morning, Lord willing of course. If you were to happen to see that little dog don't call me because I have no idea who that lady was. Just so you know. Thanks. May God bless each one. Amen.  ....More later.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

"A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves.” ― Edward R. Murrow, lengendary American broadcast journalist, (1908-1965)

Hello and welcome to today's fireside chat. Not really. I don't have a fire. But just like President Roosevelt, his was on radio, and you couldn't see him either. The idea was a visit inside your home. Well, in some ways that's what I am up to. A visit to wherever you happen to be as you access today's edition. It is Thursday, December 11, 2014, and I believe Tuesday turned out to be a big day in Washington, D.C. It was the day where the house committee held a hearing to grill the high profile Harvard professor, a senior adviser to the Administration on the healthcare law, who, after the smoke cleared, essentially repeatedly told audiences that the American people were tricked, lied to, and hoodwinked by the selling of Obamacare. That was a big bombshell of a hearing. What could the Administration do to try and dull the impact of this process? How about releasing a report on CIA enhanced interrogation procedures that were employed after the 9-11 attacks? It was years in the making, pursued in a very partisan manner by only the Democrats on the Senate panel that oversees national security matters. Not one Republican participated. Years in the making but Tuesday had to be the day it came out. That is what dominated the news cycle, not the Obamacare hearing. Do they think we really are that dumb? The healthcare adviser/professor said as much numerous times and we know for sure this is what the Administration thinks. I report you decide. Class assignment: Can you spot a weapon of mass distraction when you see one? I'll leave it at that.

How effective was this approach? Once that 525 page report on the CIA came out, all forms of news was concentrated on it to the exclusion of everything else. I know this because I checked. By Wednesday morning the house hearing was no longer on the list of news items worthy of reporting on. This CIA report was done despite the clear risks these revelations have on existing security operatives working in dangerous assignments all over the world. The Administration said it is important for the American people to know the truth. These are the same people who have withheld information pertaining to IRS abuse and a half dozen other investigations into potential wrongdoing. Withheld. Their claim that they are the most transparent White House in history is not only laughable but it borders on sheer mockery. Let me be clear. If our security folks overstepped their authority and if they committed wrongdoing, they should be held accountable. I would note, however, that even those involved in putting together this report have been challenged by those in charge of security during the time these actions supposedly took place. This report is not agreed to by the very people who ran our security apparatus back then, and it is disputed by the folks who currently protect our nation. My belief is that we have to be extremely careful in how we expose our men and women who are engaged in security gathering, but, it is also my opinion that this concern comes second when you have folks who are still wanting to make themselves look good by trying to make their predecessors look bad. You know, it's still blame, blame, blame. That is their game. It started that way, it has stayed that way, and it will probably conclude that way. Okay. I got myself a little wound up there, but, I wanted you to know that I'm still paying attention.

I'll leave that one and move on. I am a sucker for idyllic scenes. There's probably not any other time of the year when those are more prevalent than during the Christmas season. They provide an escape and mostly they are in the mind of the beholder. I consider myself to be a cold weather person which is easy to say since I've always lived in the deep south. I've been told many times by folks from places like Minnesota and Montana that I really don't know cold like they do. You look at that scene above. It's wonderful to me. Nice and cozy, warm and welcoming. They see it and it reminds them of the time they were forced to stay inside for more than a week because of the ice storm. They prefer to do their own dreaming when looking at images of beaches and palm trees. I get it. We all have our personal fascinations based on those memory images and experiences stored up there in that gray cell mental filing cabinet. I'll stick with warm and cozy and let you have the beach scene. Enjoy. Now it's time to get on with the rest of what I have on my plate today. (Best I can tell, it's pretty full.) You too? I thought so. May God bless each one. Amen. ....More later.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

"Everybody knows the Lord loveth a cheerful giver." ~ George Washington Cable, American Novelist, (1844-1925)

Good morning and welcome. We are a blessed people and so many times we don't even grasp just how true this is. Sure, we are living in a messed up world and there are troubles, trials, and challenges all around, but, when we consider our situation, the land we live in, the freedoms we enjoy, and the heritage we carry of faith and family, well, we are a blessed people, and I know most of you would add your Amen to that sentiment. This is what I was thinking about as I sat down to write this note today, on this Wednesday, December 10, 2014. Christmas is known as the season of giving. Last Sunday evening I brought a lesson from Acts Chapter 20 where the Apostle Paul quoted from our Lord with a statement that is not found anywhere else in the Bible. That's pretty remarkable if you ask me. Paul was reminding the folks that had come to say goodbye to him from Ephesus of his personal example. His example of giving. His example of using his own hands to make giving a reality. He was not bragging or wanting them to pat him on the back. He was talking about giving from the inside out. And, he said his example was consistent with this quote from our Lord: "And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'" (Verse 35) 

I've heard that passage distorted, and, in my opinion, misrepresented many times. Those who think it has something to do with it being better to be well off enough to give versus being poor and needy miss the point entirely. Do you know what is really being pointed out to us? It's better to have the heart that inclines itself towards loving God and loving others and demonstrating that in genuine giving. Not just money. It has to do with attitude, caring, and the desire of one's heart. The poor widow that Jesus observed giving of her offering to the Lord was an example of one who demonstrated this blessed heart of giving. Many well off folks were putting their big offerings into the collection. Many of them wanted others to notice how much they had given. Here's the assessment offered by our Savior: "Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had." (Luke 21:3-4) This tells me that one can be poor in this world's wealth and yet be rich with a heart that desires and determines to be a giver. I'm not sure altogether why but this matter of heart giving has always been convicting to me. The season also reminds us that God is a giver and He gave His one and only Son that we might have life. Amen

No. I am not asking for you to send me an offering to keep my ministry on the air. In fact, I'm just sharing something that was working on me, therefore, I thought it might just be useful to us all. I suppose at the end of the day it really is true that the matter of the heart is the heart of the matter. Charles Dickens not only wrote about the meaning of heartfelt giving in the Christmas classic, 'A Christmas Carol', but he also campaigned on behalf of the impoverished in his land. This was a consistent theme in his writing and in his life pursuits. And, what we find ourselves actually doing is the answer to what we really have in our heart. Caring is good. Caring enough to follow the Apostle Paul's example shows forth and puts into action the outcome of a caring heart. Okay. Now you know how God and His Word speaks to me, and, I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in this matter. Meanwhile, enjoy the day that the Lord has made and rejoice in it, and I will do my best to see you next time. Lord willing, of course. Amen.  ....More later.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

“My blog is a collection of answers people don’t want to hear to questions they didn’t ask.” ― Sebastyne Young, Author

Welcome to Tuesday, December 9, 2014. Hello out there. I suppose the blogosphere has become somewhat saturated but I'm glad to still be working from my little way station here at the ole blogger ranch. I came to it somewhat later than others but with about 65 more postings I will hit the 2000th episode. That number has a ring to it and if and when I get there it will give me an opportunity to consider whether this interesting and most rewarding venture has perhaps run its course. Maybe. Maybe not. I don't mind the fact that I am repetitive at times, however, it does bother me when I don't recognize it. The wife reads a little ditty and then sends me a note that says she thinks it is something I have already shared. Recently. Hello? Like I say, I don't doubt it, but, most of the time I know it when I do it. The fact that something might go up that was under my radar may have a message for me. That's still a ways off so I'll just keep on slogging my way through until that time next Spring. Whatever the case, I continue to enjoy our daily visits and I am thankful for the opportunity to share and more importantly for those who take the time to participate. Thanks so much.

Last Saturday the wife carried a big pot of her homemade stew up to the Church for the little party they did for the older ladies they minister to at the apartment complex. I went up and did my little Santa program. I could tell they had more food than you could shake a stick at so I went home and waited. I was very hungry but I felt like the wait would be worth it. What in the world was keeping that woman? I could taste that stew. I big chunk of cornbread and some of my Granny Mac's and my Mom's recipe in a big bowl, now that's what I call a flashback, a fast forward, and everything in between. Finally, I heard the garage door go up. I couldn't help myself. My mouth and my taste buds started dancing like the Rockettes do up at Radio Music Hall in New York City. She came in. She put her things down. She came over and sat down on the couch. I may have, by that time, been making some whimpering noises. I blurted out the pertinent question: "Oh my word woman, where in the world is the stew?" She casually mentioned that the ladies decided to keep everything in the refrigerator at the Church to serve for the potluck coming up on Wednesday. You did what? You are kidding? Right? No-o-o-o-o-o! And, that my friend is how life goes sometimes. I have learned over the years the little phrase 'the ladies decided' can mean trouble and it sure did this time. In fairness, she did offer to go back up to the Church and fetch me some, but, by that time the drooling had dried up. What's that? It will give me something to look forward to on Wednesday? That's a thought. And I suppose I should thank you for your observation. I'll think about it.

I'm sure that little story may have the mark of an embellishment here and there. But, it is my story, and I will have to tell you, that I am sticking to it. It has something to do with having your mouth set on something. One particularly cold day had me thinking about homemade chili. That's been a comfort food staple on cold days in our family ever since I can remember. I had that on my mind. All day. When I got home the wife had fixed a wonderful breakfast supper. I told her that I had been thinking about chili all day. She said she had thought about it also but had decided to go with the homemade biscuits, cheese omelet, hash browns, grits, and bacon served up with some homemade may haw jelly along with a tall glass of ice cold milk. I couldn't argue with that and it sure was good but nevertheless it is interesting how that chili mindset works on you. You know what I'm talking about. You get to dreaming about that hot steaming bowl of chilli with the melted cheddar on top. You can see yourself crumbling up some of that homemade cornbread into the bowl. Those images can work on you. What's that? Enough about food because I've done enough damage for one day? I do see what you mean and I agree. Enjoy the rest of your day and may our Great God bless us, one and all! Amen. ....More later.

Monday, December 8, 2014

"He lives most life whoever breathes most air." ~ Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Welcome back. I'm glad to be here once again greeting one and all as we get to take a breather and share some time together in this fleeting and fast moving month of December, and on this day, Monday, the 8th. Already? We took care of Santa Enterprise activities throughout the weekend. On Friday we were with the professional photographer, and on Friday evening we showed up for a massing of a huge subdivision Christmas party. Saturday we were able to provide some photos with a number of older and special needs folks from an apartment complex where our ladies have a weekly ministry. Talk about rewarding! Seeing the expressions on their faces was priceless. Then yesterday we had the big birthday party to honor Jesus at our local fellowship. After all the worship and special recognition to Him that He and He alone deserves, the wife and I, aka Santa and Mrs. Claus, we hung around so that families could get their photo made. Someone asked me the other day if I had even a guess of how many Christmas cards that I am a part of each year. I really don't but that is a neat part of portraying the jolly old dude. Now, it's time to get back to work and focus on other things for this week. At the same time we will try to stay mentally ready for the extracurricular plans for two three hour stints at the Chick fil A's this week, some photos for the teen lock-in party at the Church, and a breakfast appearance at a country club coming up next Saturday.

Bless his heart!
What's that? Am I a glutton for punishment? Not really. The appearances we do are actually repeats from prior years. The folks involved have been so wonderful to us, therefore, we try to honor their requests. And believe me, we do have many other requests each year and they seem to be growing. My respect is profound for those older guys who work the malls. Some of them are handling children for 10 or more hours each day. Some of them are up in their 70's or older. Haven't you heard the news? We have an obesity problem in this country. Believe me, no one knows this better than those bearded warriors at the shopping malls. People often ask me if I intend to ever do one of those mall assignments. I suppose one should never say never, but, it's not on the bucket list I don't have and it's not something I aspire to. Anyone who thinks those fellows have an easy job just sitting in a big chair all day, well, I speak with extreme authority on the subject, and my thoughts are that people who think things like that do not have a clue, period, end of story, and I, by the way, am unanimous in my own opinion.

I know you get more than your fair quota of Santa related stuff during the holiday period each year. Having a daily blog more or less tracks alongside how life unfolds and this unique activity for us does both occupy a sizable portion of our time and it also produces a lot of material. Why so much material? People. Children. Family. Christmas. Love. Joy. I could share on any given day quite a bit about the mega mess we have going on in Washington D.C. On all sides. But when I delve too frequently into political matters it is not as entertaining to some of my readers as some of the other stuff I share. Some also might think the same thing when I write about spiritual matters, or life observations, or even when I reminiscence about the past. And, to me, that's entirely okay and understandable. A fellow I know told me his wife was soon to celebrate her 39th birthday. I told him that was a pretty famous birthday number. He asked me why. I asked him had he ever heard Jack Benny talk about his age. He asked me who Jack Benny is. I rest my case. Have a great Monday and may our Great God add His blessings to us all. Amen.  ....More later.

Friday, December 5, 2014

From Weightwatchers: The First Day: "A Partridge in a Pear Tree" Partridge and quail are not Power Foods, but pears definitely are. Most fruits are free, a pear will cost you 0 PointsPlus values, and we're not going to do much to fancy it up here, especially seeing as we're going to get more exotic as the days go on. Grab a couple pears, slice them up, and pop on some old Partridge Family reruns on the First Day. It may take a few moments, but the abstract thinkers in the house will appreciate the subtle humor."

Good morning to one and all. It's Friday, December 5, 2014, and I bid you welcome as we all get ready for another day in the neighborhood, so to speak. I'll be leaving early from my regular workplace today so that I can spend some more time posing at the professional photographer and we also have a three hour session scheduled tonight with a huge group of kids where, based on past experience, the line will be long and the action will be hot, and the hot part is just that, hot and sweaty. But, it's work that we have chosen to do, therefore, we are not complaining. Much. In case you missed it someone has calculated a cost for the elements mentioned in the famous 12 Days of Christmas song. I have no idea how they came up with the pricing of each grouping but they did. I have no idea why they did it. I have no idea why anyone would want to know but obviously someone might like to know, therefore, I will give you the grand total and you can Google up the details if you want further explanation. Total amount: $27,653.00 Now you know. Feel better? It didn't do anything for me either.

A week or so ago I noticed a new addition on the crooked little road I travel each day to work. It was against a fence after a fairly sharp curve. It had a bunch of flowers and a cross. I recognized it immediately. It was a makeshift memorial for some young person who had wrecked and lost their life. Those things put a knot in my belly every time I see one. I can tell you this: There are way too many of them in and around our area. This little road has a 40 miles per hour speed limit for a reason. It can be very treacherous. You've heard plenty about the wildlife that roams here, there, and everywhere. The other afternoon I passed by that spot and saw what was likely mom and dad there at the memorial. She was on her knees wailing away and dad was bending over her and patting her on the back. It's not a scene that any parent would ever want to be a part of, but, things can change is a heartbeat, and this little roadway has proven that many times before. I immediately offered up a prayer for these folks dealing with this loss.

It's amazing how much emotion can be communicated in the time it takes to drive by. Call it a gut check but life as we know is very fragile. Yes, my friend, things can change in a heartbeat. I don't know about you but I've had myself one busy week. The other morning I was thinking about the prior day where I had been on the run all day and it suddenly hit me. I felt compelled to pause and offer up thanks to God that I am able enough to fulfill that kind of day. I know. Sixty-eight may be the new 58 or something else, but for me the bones are the ones that play the song I am hearing. I am thankful that as a high mileage vehicle I'm still able to add a few more. My point? Don't take even the small things for granted and be sure to recognize God's provisions in your life. Like the blessing of another day. That would be my little bit of advice as I end up our time together for this week. I do hope you will enjoy your Saturday and the Lord's Day coming up on Sunday. May God bless each one. Amen.  ...More later.