Month: December 2016

Angels… Every Once In A While

Year after year I would wait anxiously for Christmas morning to wake up everyone, I always thought it to be my responsibility since it was the assumed job for the baby of the family.

Even now as I look through boxes of old Christmas decorations, I am reminded of Related imagethe Christmas of my childhood. I can remember each Christmas since I was probably 6 or 7. I remember every year, starting at Thanksgiving, my growing eager anticipation for the coming Christmas season.

 I always knew Christmas was getting close when Santa, in all his glory, would be waving to everyone from the top of the Oak Harbor Fire truck as they paraded through our little town.

Even as a child I always thought is very suspicious that “Santa” would take time out Image result for santa on firetruckof his busy schedule to ride around the little town of Oak Harbor. Considering that the only world that I knew as a child was defined by the town limit signs, it made perfect sense that he would pick Oak Harbor to start the celebrations, even if I was a little suspicious about it.

I felt bad for the kids from other places because we had Santa here in our midst and they did not. All of us kids would be lined up — pressing our noses against the cold glass of the picture window, waving at Santa as he made his trek around town.

Each child filled with visions of Christmas. Presents dancing in their heads and memories etched forever in remembrance.

christmas-oak-harbor
Photo Credit: Pineapple… XVI

It might just be my imagination, but it seems as if there were more homes with Christmas lights back in the day.  As a kid, I would always look forward to the time when we would drive through town looking at all the lights strung across Water Street in the downtown area, as well as the many neighborhoods that were lit up. I still drive around Oak Harbor sometimes just to see the lights.  It makes me feel rooted, a part of something in my past.

I remember that back then spending time “uptown” during the Christmas season was a celebration.  Long before the “Mall” killed the small-town businesses, each Image result for 1960 ice skateslocal store would display sale items in their front windows.  We would go window shopping to find items for our wish list. I can remember a year when I would stop and stare at this pair of ice skates in the Western Auto store window.

I just knew that this pair of skates would make me the fastest skater at Gleckler’s Pond. Oh, how I wanted them, but as Christmas came and went, the skates stayed in the window. We just couldn’t afford them.

Each year, especially as we get older, things change and it’s during the holiday season is when you realize them.  Most of the stores that once lined Water Street are no longer in existence. The 5 and 10 of W.R. Thomas, The Portage Store, Van Atta’s Restaurant, Lantz’s Rexall Drug Store, Western Auto, Felhaber’s Photography, Nehls Market, Faunce’s Furniture, Hutchison Jewelry and the Modernette Gift Store to name a few.

Even to this very day, it brings a pain to a place in your heart where all your hidden feelings go.  You mask it as progress but in your heart, you know that pieces of your childhood are fading into lost memories. Never to be remembered except for a picture or two.  My children and grandchildren have been cheated. They will never get that experience of window shopping the same way I did as a child.

I can always remember running down the steps on Christmas morning and looking around the tree for the biggest box. I always believed that within thepresent biggest box under the tree would be the most expensive gift and best gift.

I always hoped it would be for me.

But as time works its magic over the years on the mind and soul of a young man, I soon realized that each gift was special, unique, and meaningful.

It wasn’t about the size of the gift but rather the act of giving that brings the best feelings and memories of Christmas mornings.

In fact, the presents that I remember most are the gifts that came directly from the heart. Christmas truly is not about the gift itself, but rather the thought behind the gift.

I learned this truth on a snowy evening a few days before Christmas in 1970.  My brother and cousin died in a car-train crash in early November and it did not feel like Christmas to anyone in our family that year. My mom was trying to go through the motions of the season for us kids but as you can imagine there wasn’t a lot to be happy about.

I was nine.  It was easier for me to be distracted by the celebration of the season than it was for my parents and my older brother and sister.

But I knew. I knew that my mom was not the same. It was a struggle and she was drowning in the loss of a child. I cannot think of anything more tragic.  A parent is not supposed to outlive their child. It is something that I hope my family never has to experience again.

I could see that my mom was different.  The sparkle in her eyes that I always remembered had dimmed. I tried to think of a way where I could make her smile Related imageagain. I had never given my mother a present that I did not make on a piece of paper or a craft made at school. At that time, I really liked to color and draw and make abstract pictures.  So, I sat down and did my very best to make the best picture I have ever done in my life.  I was sure it would make all the difference in the world. 

As a father, some of the most precious gifts I have ever received were the scribblings on a piece of paper made by my children. But when your nine you start to think there is no value in that, so you want to do more.  I looked at my picture that I put all my energy and creative juices in and I just thought it would come up short of making my mom happy again.

I had $1.25 in my piggy bank and I knew what I had to do.  I had to go uptown and find her the perfect present.  Something that would make her be “happy” again.

Oh… the thoughts of a nine-year-old boy.

Somehow, I convinced someone to walk me uptown on that snowy afternoon just a few days before Christmas. I was armed with cash and I was on a mission.

The Hardware Store was my first stop.  As a child, when I would walk into the store, I would take a big whiff.  I loved the smell of the hardware store.

I was never quite sure what made those smells so intoxicating. Maybe it was the hot, oily machine parts from some of the equipment that they sold or just the decades-old hardwood floors of the store.  I can only imagine how many spills of paint, turpentine, and oils that floor has absorbed.  It’s now toxic aroma is just hanging limply in the air along with metal nail dust, shiny tools, and plastic snow shovels.  Yes, even as a child, as I walked those old hardware aisles, I soaked in memories. I remember clearly the creaking wooden floor and that jingle-jangly door clang as the door shut behind you. It was nostalgic then and even more so today.

I didn’t find anything at the Hardware store for my mom that I could afford so we moved on to the 5 & 10 store. Now one would think I could find something in that store for my mom.  I just could not decide and was overwhelmed with all the options.  I was confused and wasn’t satisfied with any of my clantzhoices.

I suddenly found myself in Lantz’s Rexall Drug Store.

I was sure I was wasting my time there. The high school girl who worked there was trying so hard to find me something in my price range to get for my mother. It simply wasn’t going to happen. I would have to go back to W. R. Thomas and sift through the options and find something back there.

It was at that moment that I now realize that angels appear every once in a while.

When you least expect it.

I hear a voice coming from the higmcbainh window where a man was always standing whenever I was in the store. I never saw him ever come out from behind that Pharmacy window.

He asked me, “Are you one of the Lee boys?”

“Yes, sir,” I said.

He came out from behind that window and walked towards me.

He said, “How can I help you, young man?”

“Well sir, I am looking for a present for my mom.”

 “How much do you have to spend?” he asked.

“All I have is $1.25,” I replied.

“What are you looking for son?

I said, “I am not sure, but I want to get her something special.”

He asked, “Does she like perfume?”

“Yes sir, but I do not have enough money to buy something that special.”

He reached up on the top shelf of the perfumes and grabbed a bottle and said, “Do you like this one?”  I nodded in approval.

He looked at me and said, “Well son, this is your lucky day.”

With a big smile, he said, “This went on sale today and it costs exactly $1.25.”

The high school girl who worked there wrapped my present and I gave the man my money and thanked him. As I walked out the door, I looked back, and I saw him still looking at me and smiling. I smile back, and he says, “Merry Christmas, son.”

As a nine-year-old, I thought it blind luck to get such an expensive gift for my mom.  It surpassed all my expectations. I have no idea how much that perfume actually cost but I know it was more than the $1.25 that I paid for it.

Almost 50 years later, I realize that Mr. Mac McBain was an angel sent to help a little boy bring some joy back into a family that had experienced tragedy.  It was all he could do.

Image result for 1970 bottle of drugstore perfumeI gave that present to my mom on Christmas Day. She smiled when she opened it.  One of the first smiles I remember from her in a long time.  Now I know it didn’t make everything ok and my mom wasn’t instantly happy again.  But as a young boy, it was all I had to offer. 

Angels… every once in a while.

I believe that God allows it to happen just enough in our lives to allow us to keep faith in a loving God and the ability to hold on to the hope for a better world.

My angel that year was Mr. McBain.  He made the difference in a little boy who just wanted to make his mother happy once again.

My thoughts are with you, sir… I will never forget you and that day.  It made December 25, 1970, feel a little bit more like Christmas.

Merry Christmas Everyone.

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tis the Season

Bah!!!!

Christmas is closing in on us.

Those of us who are Grinch’s are busy complaining about the traffic, the commercialism and Image result for Tis the seasonall the money spent on gifts.

As a person who has been a believer for most of his life this shouldn’t be a struggle… but it is.

How can a believer not be kind in this season?

I could blame it on the commercialism of Christmas.  We are constantly tempted to buy or charge what we think we need, all in the name of Christmas. We slave away for 11 months trying to pay off the Christmas debts because we can’t say “NO”.  Christmas is no longer about the Savior; it is about the savings for things we really don’t need. 

I could even blame it on Santa.

I could rant about the fact that people have lost the true meaning of what Christmas is all about. Christmas is not about the manger; it is about marketing and materialism. Image result for Peavey drum setChristmas is not about God, is about gifts and getting. The little drummer boy now has to take his no hassles credit card and charge a brand new Peavy drum system. Why? Because his little drum is not enough for the baby Jesus.

But in truth, none of those excuses are valid as to why I struggle during this season of celebration.

I am short-sighted when it comes to being the example of Christ is the season of celebrating His existence. My focus is on me and my situation. Not in ways of getting gifts.  In fact, I am not a fan of getting presents.  It’s awkward for me and I am always uncomfortable with the process. I am good giving presents but I hate to receive. 

I struggle during this season because I can overly focus on my time… my plans and my comfort.  I could live without the decorations and I just want to stay home. I am good with ordering my gifts for others through Amazon.

I acknowledge that as a Believer, I need to be active and show kindness in this time of season. To be intentional with a very simple thing- a kind word.

The easiest thing to do is be kind.

As Paul wrote to the Ephesians and said,

“Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”

It means seeing others and speaking to their heart need: encouragement.

To be kind… looks like encouragement for the cashier as she frantically tries to check you out.  It’s being aware of those around you and taking a moment to lift them up with a simple, but kind word.  It’s about paying for the person behind you at McDonalds, letting someone in line ahead of you at the store, helping another with their bags, opening a door for a frazzled mom, sending a note of encouragement to someone you haven’t talked to in a while.

The list is endless, but it begins with these simple words from Jesus who gave us the formula for how to live in this season, in fact in every season, when he said,

“Give, and you will receive. Your gift (kindness) will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.”

As I go into these last days, like everyone else, I try to reImage result for sad during christmasmember the many people for whom this is not a joyous time of the year. With themes of joyous parties, happy families and generous giving surrounding us, those who struggle with depression, estranged family and/or economic survival are often forgotten.  I don’t lift this up in order to compel feelings of guilt or to cast aspersions on folks who are living large during this time, but simply as a nod and a word to those who struggle with these times to say that you are loved.

  • You are loved by people who you might not expect.
  • You are loved by God.

And yes, I know that my words offered on a blog post will not heal your spirit, reconcile Image result for show kindnessfamilies or feed your body, but in this, I hope you know that there are many who show this love not only during the holidays or not only with words, but who are there for and with you when you need them.  I don’t know where the words and actions will come for you, but I believe there are those people for all of us: it might be your neighbor who has invited you to join them for a meal, or maybe it’s that stranger sitting at the table next to you at the cafe with whom you share a brief conversations or when it is really bad, it’s that suicide-hotline that you never would have imagined that you would ever need.

Scripture is filled with admonitions to love others, to care for the needy and show the love of Christ as we live our lives.

So, while I wish those who are struggling all of the joy, peace, hope and love that I can muster, my greatest hope is that you know deep in your soul that you are not alone.

The greatest witness you can offer to the world you walk in each day is kindness.

The kindness that invites others to smile, give someone an encouraged heart, maybe a new hope.

Make it your goal, for the rest of this year, to look for at least one person in your day to whom you can give a kind word.

You never know… you might discover an exciting new way to share the love of Christ in this crazy world we live in and after all… tis the season.

Merry Christmas to everyone… even to those of us that struggle through it.

 

The Sad Reality

The sad reality was made evident to me this week.  

I have been trying to collect all of the pictures, letters and anything else that I could find that belonged to my grandparents.  I know where most of these are in my house but I have few letters and pictures stuffed away in a few drawers.

I am shocked at the fact that all I have from them would not fill up an old shoe box. 

How do the lives of family members get reduced to a few pictures and a letter or two?

I look around my office and just about everything I see will be tossed aside at some point.  Either before I die or shortly thereafter, each of the collectibles that sit on my shelves that I held of value (because of the memory attached to it) will be bagged up and set out on the street to be collected with that weeks garbage.   

Pretty much… all of it will be whittled down to some pictures and maybe a letter or two.Image result for old Shoebox full of junk

When all is said and done everything important about us will fit in a small box.

It’s an amazing insight.  Our lives in a small box.  In it paperwork and personal effects of the sum of a life once lived.

It’s rather sad that we leave such a small footprint on the planet, but it’s true.  

Most of the things that will be kept by our children and grandchildren will fit into a small shoe box.

The rest is found in the hearts and memories of those who knew us.  

Our “Legacy” is one generation long, perhaps two at best and then our photos will be the evidence of a life once lived. Memories left in a box for others to discover. Memories fade in the next generation… the stories will blur and in time these too will fade into the past.

One memory will last a generation maybe two. Then we become a slot on our families genealogical tree. The date of our birth, the dash and then the date of our death.

Now I know this is a depressing post. But it is the truth.  It happens to all of us.

In light of this sad reality, I am glad God knows us.

God remembers us and celebrates our lives as we live with and for Him.  

Every name is remembered, every deed done for Him written down, every life important.

In this life, it may all fit in a small shoe box, but there… where God rules, every life, every name, every action and deed remembered and celebrated by a God who loves us.

Never forgotten.

Our Faith… On Ice

I’ve noticed that some who have walked with Christ, people who I know are Christians, have simply wandered off.

Sometimes done quietly. 

Sometimes done with loud, boisterous posts on social media.

Image result for walking awayAt the end of the day, they simply wandered away from things they once believed.  

Some are angry.  Some have an axe to grind.  Some have something to prove.

They want to shove their rejection of the faith, they once claimed they held, into everyone’s face.

So many excuses and self-justified reasons.     

Some aren’t angry, or even mad really. Some aren’t even discouraged.  

They have simply not seen the life of God in the community of faith and have lost interest.  

They hold to the thought that life is busy, work is hard, things are crazy, why waste time with church and church stuff when they get nothing from it?  Why invest time when no one really knows them or even cares?  They’d rather sleep in.

Yes… life is busy. Work is hard. And there is no doubt that things are crazy in this time of life.  But this is nothing new.  It has been this way since the beginning of time itself. 

When this millennial generation raises their collective heads from their smartphones and for the first time they really take a look at life, some don’t like what they see.

They see the ugly part of life. 

They see political chaos. 

They see the horror of war.

They see the senseless acts of terrorism.

They see people separated by social class and race.

The haves and the have-nots.

Yes… this world is ugly.  It has been this way since the beginning of time.  Read the history of the human race.  More importantly… read the Bible. 

All documented there… the ugliness of the human spirit.

This generation sees the reality of life and for some their first take is to reject the faith of their family and of past generations.

They believe that the church is to blame.

Surely their parents got it wrong.

They quickly head in other directions.

One direction is they dig deeper into their social media outlets and escape the realities of life.  They become naïve to this world and have no interest in dealing with this reality they see.

Now there are many “escapes” that can be found in social media. We live iImage result for Social Median a world that people have the most information at their fingertips but fail to learn and retreat to a fantasy world. Not in all cases, but I am sure that many would rather escape into the fantasy world that doesn’t exist rather than understanding their responsibility to reach a lost and dying world for Jesus Christ.

I wonder the impact on the world if they used this same passion into reaching others for Christ.

I think, in these days of craziness, the biggest enemy of the church is apathy.

Apathy is a slow chilling of our faith and interest that leaves us unfeeling and uncaring about the most important thing in life – a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  

Apathy kills the passion for the truths of Jesus Christ.  It causes us to doubt.  It causes us to question His existence. If you think that Jesus Christ wasn’t born of a virgin, if He wasn’t the Son of God, if He could not pay the price for sin and without a real belief in what He did for us on the Cross of Calvary, then why should we keep going? Why should we continue to be part of something that does nothing for us?

This is apathy.  Our faith… on ice.

Apathy kills our faith.  We get cold to things of God. It’s easy to wander, to become apathetic, to grow cold.  It’s a challenge to stay near the flames, to seek out community even when you don’t feel like it.  It’s important because the greatest weakness in our life is not outright sin… it’s apathy.

You need to know this can happen to all of us!  We all can become cold to the truth of Scripture.

The flames of our faith are something we must protect.  Your faith should not be dependent on what you see.  It is better to believe without seeing, that is why it is called FAITH.

The direction that some take, is for many to question everything about their faith. They assume that because they don’t like the world they see that the church has failed and the church belief system is wrong.

The convince themselves that the Bible is wrong or at best the Bible is allegorical.  Meaning that Bible is simply symbolic, figurative and metaphorical.  It is at best a representation of moral truths. Surly not to be taken as literal truth and that many of the stories we read in the Bible are to be taken in as allegorical.  Any truth in Scripture has to be “proven” by the scientific method. They hold that belief isn’t dependent on faith. It is based upon if it can be proven by science. I have had interesting conversations in discussing these issues, it has caused me to deepen my faith.

I still am bound by the fact that I don’t have to know everything about “how” something happened in the Bible. I am called to have “faith” to simply believe what God has said.  I cannot pick and choose what I believe in Scripture.  It is either all true or it is not. I am of the personal belief that if you choose to “not” believe something happened the way it says it did in the Bible, it becomes a slippery slope to unbelief in the whole truth of Scripture.

I have close friends that can be found in all of these directions.  I am not here to take unfair shots at them.  I have had constructive conversations with them. They know my beliefs and I will listen to hear their perspective and I will not argue with them. I don’t have to agree with them and in turn, they don’t have to agree with me.

In case you are wondering,  I clearly post my Statement of Faith on this website.  These are my truly held beliefs.

We all need to find the journey to truth.

Some journeys take a long time. Some never make it back.

 

The Well is Dry

I have always tried to write from my heart, my mind and my expImage result for welleriences in life.  

That is the well that feeds the things I write. It is the source from which I have found wonderful fulfillment.

I’m discovering, for whatever reason, my well is dry.

Some call it writer’s block but I realize that I have nothing to say right now.

The world around me continues to swirl, but words escape me.

I’ll return when I find more words and the well isn’t dry.