Saturday, December 19, 2020

 Come on Down!

There are some days where we wish we had just stayed in bed…for some of us…that would describe most weekdays.  I recall one given day, in late summer 1997, when I had slept through too many snooze cycles on my alarm clock and found myself running very late for work.  On this particular Monday morning, the boss was pulling me from my usual role in the cabinet shop to work in the field on a roofing job.  I jumped in my car and hit 4th gear before I was out of the driveway.  By the time I arrived to the job site, the entire crew was already on the roof pulling shingles.  This was a bummer…because it meant that I was going to have to be the ground man.  I hated being the ground man.  That is the guy who has to keep picking up all of the shingles off of the ground and collecting nails from the client’s yard.  As I was making laps around the building with a large magnet to find nails, I came across a peculiarly long rusty one as it penetrated through the bottom of my shoe and into my foot.

When The Boss arrived on site and was looking for me to find out why I was late, he was told to follow the blood trail…which he did and found me sitting in the truck tending to my punctured sole.

“Why are you not on the roof?”

“I was trying to stop the bleeding…I was just about to apply a tourniquet.”

“Forget the blood and get all of these new shingles hauled up onto the roof…by hand.”

“Yes sir.”

I began carrying bundle after bundle, first setting them on the edge of the roof…then making trips from one end of the roof to the other, carrying multiple bundles at a time.

As I was repeating these trips, I found a sudden change to the monotony, as I began to plummet through the roof after stepping on a weak board.  If it had not been for my tool belt wrapping around my armpits and breaking my fall, I may have found myself interrupting the client’s Price is Right with my own “showcase.”  I could hear Bob Barker’s voice below my feet calling, “Come on Down!,” while I was mentally begging my coworkers to “Pull me on up! Pull me on up!”

“Hey what are you doing?” The foreman gruffly demanded.

“Nothing much…just falling through the roof.”

“Well…fix it…we don’t have time for this.”

At this point, I couldn’t wait for lunch…during which time I found myself getting hammered from behind by my coworker’s car as he rear-ended me at the stop sign.

“Hey, why did you stop here?”

“Because of the stop sign!”

“Well get going!”

“But you rear-ended me!”

“How would you like me to hammer you again…only on your head with my Estwing?”

…I went.

By the end of the day…I just wanted to quit…I wanted to give up…I wanted to go home and not return…but…I didn’t

My suffering was all pretty superficial...especially when I consider how Christ suffered.  I am reminded of how he took our sin and shame…my sin and shame…and he bore it on the cross.  He “endured” it. The weight that Jesus endured is a weight that I just cannot fathom…and yet he carried it…he bore it…he endured the weight.  Why?

Because of love.

He endured it because of love.

He didn’t quit…because God is love…and love doesn’t quit.  1 Corinthians 13 speaks of this incredible love.  Vs. 7, “Love does not give up…”

May we come to know that Jesus’ love for you, will never give up, and may our love become as enduring as the love of Christ.


Saturday, December 12, 2020


When I was a child, I loved Christmas.  Now, as an adult, I still love Christmas, which I truly find intriguing considering how much I despise putting the icicle lights on the house.  Don’t misunderstand me, I love the fact that the lights are up…and lit.  They bring something festive to a relatively bleak time of the year.  I am reminded of how at “just the right time,” Jesus came…bringing “light” into a very dark world.  We need that light all the more in 2020. 

I think that stockings were my favorite part of Christmas.  No…not the kind that come in the giant Easter egg that Mom kept in her drawer…the kind that you hang by the chimney with care.  The earliest stocking experience I remember as a child, was coming down the dark brown, carpeted stairs (which incidentally still exists and is over 50 years old) and spotting my stocking hanging on a curtain rod.  We used curtain rods, nails, screws, door knobs, and may have had to resort to ceiling fan blades if we hadn’t finally had a chimney installed.  Sticking out of the top of my large colorful stocking was a new, red, toy airplane…right next to a package of “big boy pants” and some tube socks.  Had it not been for the airplane…I might have written Santa a nasty note.  I remember taking the airplane out of the stocking and thinking…“How did Santa’s elves make this?  Boy, are they good at making toys.” I then considered… “I thought elves just made toys…what’s with the underwear?”

I remember talking to my friends about Christmas and stockings and such.  I was confused as to why some of my friends got presents from Santa…while others, like myself, only received a filled stocking from Santa…and still others, got nothing from Santa at all.  I came to learn a very important truth…Santa loves some kids more than others. I knew that this was much more likely than that silly “Naughty/Nice List,” because I was perpetually on the naughty list…and yet, my brothers and I, both received the same load of goods in our stockings each year.

As I have aged, so has my taste in desirable goods brought by Santa.  Now, instead of airplanes and toys…I like coffee, chocolate, tools, and fishing lures.  I still wonder how elves make all of that stuff.

Over the last few years, I have taken the liberty of “helping Santa out.” Each year, I secretly purchase things that “I” would like in my stocking…and then, when no one is looking, I stuff the items into my own stocking.  I do this mostly because I think it is funny…and, I suppose, to be fully truthful…because I am a little bit selfish.

Despite my intentions of humor...this practice paints a picture for me, of something that we read about in 1 Corinthians chapter 13.  This New Testament chapter is all about love…it speaks to what love is and what love is not.  Love is NOT self seeking. Love IS kind.  Love does NOT make things about ourselves.  Yet, let’s be honest with one another, I am NOT the only one doing this.  Perhaps I AM the only one doing this with his stocking at age 44…but we all…yes ALL…tend to make this life about ourselves.  We tend to make the love in 1 Corinthians 13 about ourselves.  In an interesting paradox…we make church about ourselves…when it is supposed to be ALL about Jesus.

As Paul writes in Philippians chapter 2, “We are to be like Christ Jesus…who was God…but He lowered himself in humility…may we learn to have the same attitude as Christ Jesus” (paraphrase). This life is all about Him…and yet…He…in an amazing act of love…made His love all about us.

Despite the fact that I will likely stuff my own stocking again with goodies this year…I pray that I can come to fill other’s stocking with love more than my own…but...I should probably make sure that there isn't a foot in them at the time.  May you be led to do likewise.

Saturday, December 5, 2020

 The Sweater

Christmas time is stressful.  It always feels like there is plenty of time to buy all of the necessary Christmas gifts, but inevitably, I end up scrambling to make all of the last minute purchases in time.  One year the final Christmas gift arrived on Christmas morning…(I gave the Creative Memories associate who personally delivered my item an extra generous tip of $1.00…doubling my standard donation).  Once I had the package in hand, I scurried the item away…wrapped it…and then watched my wife tear it open 45 seconds later. 

Last second gift purchases can be some of the most memorable…and most often returned…including the Grinch jammies given to one of my daughters last year.

I suppose I come by it honestly.  My father once gave my mother a XXXXL Sweater one year.  That’s right…you did count the correct number of X’s correctly.  That didn’t go over well.  However, it was extraordinary to see how the sweater was able to be repurposed as a portable fish house.

We have all had experiences of receiving good gifts…and some not so good gifts.  There have been a few rare occasions when I have scored on the gift giving front. Such as the year I gave Sarah some handmade picture frames from an old church pew that her parents given to us from their home church.  Yet, on another occasion, it took me 6 years and 6 attempts to get her a winter coat that she actually liked. the end, she just returned each of my poor offerings and just bought a coat for herself.

Contrarily to the whole 4X fiasco, my dad is actually a good gift giver.  He takes time and thinks about what a person likes…is interested in…and then he gives things that the person wouldn’t normally go and get themselves, but actually find delightful.  One of my favorites is a simple steel shelf that he made.  It screws into a tree…and holds my backpack and my coffee cup.  He combined my love for hunting and coffee and gave accordingly.

I am reminded of what Jesus says in Matthew 7, “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”

I know what you are thinking…”Wow! You just called your dad evil!”

You are right…I did.  But so am I, and so are you…so let’s move on.

The point is…even considering all of the best gifts that we have receive in this world…even the best gifts that we have given…out of love…are nothing compared to the incredible gift of God.  Jesus!

1 Corinthians 13 expresses the incredible nature of love…and 1 John 3, lays out the amazing picture of love, “This is how we know what love is…Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.”

May you come to see the Gift of God this Christmas…it is a Gift of Love.