Decorations – Now or Ever?

I don’t know what the stores are like where you live, but the ones at the mall down the road from us started decorating for Christmas before Halloween.

And not just decorating. Penny’s has a number of Christmas-themed products occupying prominent places on major aisles. Presents for pets. Santa-themed sleepwear. You name it, they’ve probably got it.

          

I suppose I shouldn’t be shocked at seeing the decorating starting so early. Not when it’s been this way longer than I can remember.

The decorating is really ramping up now. The mall has placed two trees at the ends of mostly empty hallways. Soon they’ll hang the huge fresh-looking wreaths that require special equipment to reach high enough to put them in place. Santa’s chair and the related setting just appeared a day or two ago.

With “Black Friday” coming this week, I can understand the need to get everything ready for all the Christmas shoppers. This is the one time of year our mall doesn’t look dead.

I can recall helping decorate the Christmas tree when I was still living at home. My parents were very particular. I wasn’t to simply throw the icicles over the branches, but to drape them carefully, one by one. How tedious!

But also how effective. The extra care showed.

And that was in the days when the Christmas tree lights were a real pain. Some of you may recall the times when a strand wouldn’t light if one bulb had burned out. Think National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.

I’m not interested in doing much decorating now. Fortunately, neither is my wife.

Back when we had two cats–even when we got down to one–there was no way to safely have a Christmas tree on the floor. So we downsized from a nice pre-decorated tree to one we could put on the dining room table. We tried a Norfolk Island pine several years, but since we always managed to kill them eventually, we switched to a reusable tabletop-sized artificial tree.

It got in the way. Too many presents, I suppose. So now we don’t have  a tree at all. Kathleen puts up a few decorations every year, but nothing elaborate.

People might accuse us of being Scrooges, but I say, “Bah! Humbug!” to that accusation.

Christmas is the celebration of Christ’s birth. That’s the only thing that matters. And we don’t need decorations to do that.

Besides that, nothing can ever begin to match the original Bethlehem star.

Your comments are welcome.

I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

          

Links you might be interested in:

 

Advertisements

A Gift of Music

Being a Christian isn’t a very popular thing to admit to these days. In fact, in various parts of the world, it’s downright dangerous. And even here in the United States Christians are being persecuted in numerous ways. How ironic that the people who should be known for their love–not just of one another, but of their enemies–are being treated as if we’re the most vicious and hateful people in the world.

I’m not someone who goes around hitting people over the head with my Bible, and I’m able to share my faith verbally only when I feel led to do so. That doesn’t happen very often. It’s not because I’m afraid to share, but because I tend to get really tongue-tied unless the circumstances are right.

Nonetheless, we’re supposed to be salt and light to the world.

As you already know if you’ve been following this blog, I like to walk at the mall. I’ve developed a special relationship with most of my fellow walkers, the custodians, the security folks, and some of the other employees. While I can’t say that we’re friends in the true meaning of the word, we are not just associates or casual acquaintances, either.

I care about them, and I pray for them while I’m walking. But seldom am I walking with anyone, and only twice that I can recall has the subject of church, which is not the same as Christianity, come up. So, even while praying for them, I’m praying for a way to share my faith–in a way that is helpful, honest, but non-pushy.

Some months ago a thought came to mind that I couldn’t shake. An inspiration I believe came from God.

Over the past fifty years, I’ve written over two hundred Christian songs. (Only one secular song, and that’s a love song.) Although I’ve recorded most of them at home on an increasingly better variety of multi-track recorders, sometime within the last year I bought a new recorder and began making better recordings of the songs I consider my best ones.

The inspiration was to make CDs to give to these folks I might never have just the right opportunity to verbally share my faith with. At that stage I’d recorded twenty-five songs on the new recorder. I soon realized people might listen to a dozen songs, but only those who were really interested would listen to twenty-five.

So I asked my wife, Kathleen, to pick out her favorites, and I started making copies–one at a time. I created an insert that explained my background as a lifelong amateur musician and song writer and cut out dozens of copies. You can see a copy of it here. ) Kathleen helped with handwriting basic information on the CDs themselves and I stuffed them, the liners, and business cards (I didn’t want to take a chance people might not realize the CD was of–as well as from–me) into paper CD sleeves.

I never expected to have as much fun as I did giving those out. I started out with “Merry Christmas!” and a brief explanation that these were some of the songs I’d written over the years. People were really surprised–and oh! so grateful and appreciative. Even the Muslim couple I gave one to. (If you’d like to hear these songs, go here and scroll down to the first drop down box.)

I had no idea how God might use my music. I still don’t. Several people have expressed appreciation after listening to their CD, though. I’ll probably never know who’s listened and who hasn’t. Or who has found inspiration in my songs and who has tossed them in the trash or given them to someone else.

But that’s okay. I didn’t do this for praise. I did it because I felt led to do it, and I pray daily that my efforts will have the effect God wants them to have.

What do you think? How would you have reacted to a gift like this if you’d received it from someone you saw frequently at the mall but didn’t really know? Please leave a comment.

NOTE: Various people have complained about not being able to find or leave comments. Go all the way to the bottom of this post, beneath my “Best regards, Roger.” On the very bottom line of that last section just above the previous post you’ll see “Leave a Comment” if yours will be the first or “X Comments,” where  X denotes the number of existing comments.

~*~

Links you might be interested in:

I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

A Christmas Thought

Envelope

[NOTE: Just a reminder that this post takes the place of this coming Sunday’s.]

As many of you know, I like to walk at the local mall.  I love doing that and enjoy speaking to the variety of other people who’re walking at the same time I do. But I don’t know many of them. Not even their names.

I wanted to do something this Christmas–I believe God inspired this idea–to reach out to them in a non-preachy way about what I feel is the true significance of Christmas. So I composed the following message, which fits nicely on one page, printed copies to take on my Christmas Eve walk, stuffed them in an envelope like the one pictured above, and gave them out. Not just to fellow walkers, but also to security guards and custodians I’m especially fond of.

Here’s what it says:

Merry Christmas from a fellow mall walker!!!

As we smile and say hi to one another, I frequently think about something Charles Dickens said in A Tale of Two Cities: “A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other.” Very few of us actually know one another, no matter how friendly and pleasant we seem while walking. In truth, most of us don’t even know one another’s names, much less anything more important.

Although I can’t solve that problem, I want to share something I think is important. I believe Christmas means much more than giving and receiving gifts. Not that any of us could match the Gift God gave in sending His only Son into the world for our benefit.

Although I wrote this poem almost forty years ago, I believe it’s still relevant. I not only hope you enjoy it, but that it will speak to you about the real meaning of Christmas.

I’ll bet You were some Proud Father
The day Your Son was born on Earth!

Doesn’t it seem like just yesterday
When Mary began her labor in the stable?
You were there with her through it all,
Giving comfort and encouragement
With the same Perfect Spirit of Love
That Mary was accustomed to from You.

 When she contracted, You suffered with her.

 Though You realized what trauma Your
Son was going through in being born,
You knew it wasn’t right to interfere;
You had to let things happen as if
This Babe would be like just any other.

You watched the process You had created.
But I’ll bet you never felt so involved before;
You were actually watching Part of Yourself
Be born for the very first time,
And You monitored the whole non-sterile
Situation and saw that it was good –
Good for a world that just couldn’t seem
To understand or accept You any other way.

It’s no wonder You sent Your angels out
To deliver the Birth announcements in person!

 The merriest of Christmases to you in the true spirit of the Season!

Best regards,
Roger

You know what? I don’t know much about most of my blog readers, either. But I also want you to experience the true meaning of Christmas. So let me also wish you the merriest of Christmases in the true spirit of the Season!

Please share a comment with a Christmas thought of your own.

~*~

Links you might be interested in:

I’ll be back again on Wednesday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

A Yearly Christmas Tradition

As I was typing the title for today’s post, it occurred to me that my wife and I don’t have many traditions. Eating pizza whenever it snows might qualify as one, but always having Sunday dinner out seems more like a habit than a tradition.

Even when it comes to Christmas, we have very few traditions. In fact, only one comes to mind. Opening presents when we get home from the Christmas Eve service at church. Without kids to wake us up on Christmas morning, it seems like a good practice.

A good practice? See? I didn’t even think to refer to it as a tradition.

But there’s one Christmas tradition my wife doesn’t have the opportunity to participate in, and I had the chance to enjoy it today (“today” is last Wednesday).

As many of you know, especially if you’ve been following this blog for a while or paying attention to the songs I post on my website, I participate in our church’s weekly nursing home ministry. Except on the second Wednesday of the month when a different group comes to conduct the service.

Our services consist mostly of our group singing hymns familiar to the residents and doing a brief devotional. It’s also a time for me to get to share one of my two hundred or so original songs.

Our group consists of two leaders–I think of them both as leaders, anyhow, even though Jeff is now the pastor at a different church–and three others who sing. Three more people come and mingle with the residents, help to bring them to the dining hall, and assist the residents in numerous other ways. They also help to stow our equipment away once we finish.

The other members of the team are people I have very little contact with at church or elsewhere, even though we have a very good relationship at the nursing home and I thoroughly enjoy being with them. I’m able to ignore the fact that five of them are actually older than I am!

My one Christmas tradition, the one my wife doesn’t get to participate in, is a group dinner at Cracker Barrel on the Wednesday closest to Christmas Day–or, as it worked out this year, one week before.

All but one member of our group participated–she had made other plans–and we enjoyed a special time of fellowship as well as a yummy meal. Considering some of the differences in age, interests, and life experiences, our ability to enjoy one another that way is remarkable. Wonderful.

One thing that makes this meal time together special for me is the realization that–even though all of us seem to be in good health–our celebration together next year might see drastic changes. Somebody might have died. Or have become seriously ill.

As weird as it feels to consider the possibility, one of us might even have become a resident at the nursing home and no longer able to participate actively in the ministry there.

That’s probably the main reason this tradition means so much to me. Although the practice of eating together at Cracker Barrel may continue for years to come, those participating next year may not all be the same ones who participated this year.

I love and appreciate my fellow team members, and I just want to thank them for the role they play–not only in the lives of the nursing home residents, but in mine.

Do you have a special tradition–related to Christmas or to something else? How about sharing a comment?

~*~

Links you might be interested in:

I’ll be back again on Wednesday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

Making Lists (part one)

My wife and I both maintain wish lists on Amazon, and we share them with my daughter in Orlando and my step-daughters in NYC and Las Vegas.

Having an item on the list is no guarantee we’ll get it, however. I kept a $150 multi-CD player on my list for several years before I gave up and saved enough to buy it myself. But at least my wife and the other members of the family knew I wanted it.

With Christmas coming up in just a few weeks, we’ve been busy adding last minute items to our lists and urging the “kids” to make sure their lists are up-to-date.

Then we turn to the other person’s list and do the actual shopping, knowing we won’t make any wrong decisions if we select from the wish list. Never anything to return or exchange.

Of course, some folks believe that people who love one another should know each other so well they can choose appropriate gifts without being given a list, which they see as asking for specific presents. They think it’s a step above Halloween, which they label as a day for legalized begging. Totally undesirable.

I’m glad no one who gives me presents feels that way. And no one I give presents to, either.

Not having to go shopping during this season of the year is wonderful! Black Friday? What’s that?

We just sit at home and dream of what we might want while buying confidently for others. And we don’t feel silly about putting down some of the things we’d probably never buy for ourselves.

Those wish lists have another benefit. I often come across books I’d like, but where would I keep a list of them when I can so easily add them to my wish list–and periodically check the list and get rid of anything I’ve bought for myself or changed my mind about? Sometimes the only way to identify a specific item I was once interested in is to look at my wish list.

I think you can see why we’re sold on using wish lists, but we take another kind of list quite seriously. Come back again on Wednesday if you want to learn what it is and why it matters.

Do you use wish lists? How about leaving a comment?

~*~

Links you might be interested in:

I’ll be back again on Wednesday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger