Toenail Clippers and Christmas

There is one thing that people my age can almost always agree on: the world may never know how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Pop.

Do you remember that commercial? The one with the owl? Seems like I saw it every Saturday while watching cartoons back when cartoons were, you know, good. Yes, I know there are a few good ones, like….well, there might be some good ones I haven’t seen. Anyway, knowing exactly how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Pop was seen as an impossible thing to know.

Another impossible thing to know is exactly how many toenail clippers are currently somewhere in my house.

For the past several years, I have purchase new clippers at least every other month. The common pattern is: 1) I buy clippers, 2) I use them a few times, 3) I lose clippers, 4) Repeat.

Why do my clippers go missing so frequently? I have a few ideas:

1. They go into hiding. After being used on my ugly, big toe a few times, it’s possible that they simply can’t take it any more. They might change their name and join the Toenail Protection Agency. Maybe they are huddled together in the back of the same drawer, hoping to never be found. Who knows? But it’s a possibility.

2. One of my five tax deductions loses them. You think it’s unloving for me to refer to my children as tax deductions? So be it. When you have to help do as much laundry as I have to, then we can talk about it.

3. They are abducted by aliens. Why do we think only humans are abducted by aliens? Why not squirrels, or dvd players, or toenail clipper, or my wife’s chihuahuas?

4. My wife’s chihuahuas ate them. I wouldn’t put anything past those little idiots.

Regardless of the reason, I really have no idea how many toenail clippers we have somewhere in our house.

There’s also something far more important that I don’t know: why God loves me like He does.

I know what the Bible says about God’s love for me, but it still boggles my mind. I suppose it always will.

The great thing about this is that I don’t have to know exactly why He loves me in order to enjoy His love for me.

This is what I have been thinking about this Christmas season. I encourage you to join me.

What is something you lose with stunning regularity?
What’s on your mind this Christmas season?

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Merry Christmas!

Luke 2

 1And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.

 2(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

 3And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

 4And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)

 5To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

 6And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

 7And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

 8And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

 9And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

 10And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

 11For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

 12And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

 13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

 14Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

 15And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

 16And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

 17And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

 18And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

 19But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

 20And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

A Poem About Jesus

Born
in Bethlehem,

wrapped in swaddling clothes,
laid in a manger.

Died
in Jerusalem,

wrapped in a burial cloth,
laid in a tomb.

Resurrected
in Jerusalem,

wrapped in righteousness,
ascended into Heaven.

Seated
on His throne,

wrapped in adoration,
waiting to return.

Jesus
the Christ
the Son of God

A Poem About Joseph

Shocked by the news;
his bride is
pregnant.

Convinced by what he sees;
she  has been
defiled.

Determined to be kind,
he will divorce her
quietly.

Visited in a dream,
by an angel with
good news.

The child in her womb
will be named
Jesus.

He will save
his
people from
their
sins.

Rising from sleep,
Joseph’s mind is
changed.

No matter what
he will raise the
child.

Matthew 1:18-25

Christmas Treat Bags

Does your church give out Christmas treat bags the Sunday before Christmas? If not, they should. Very few things say “It’s Christmas” to me like getting a brown paper bag filled with a candy bar, a piece of fruit, a pack of gum, some hard candy, and whatever else the folks in charge of the bags decide to throw in there.

I love Christmas treat bags. One reason I love them is that I am not in charge of them. If putting the treat bags together was my responsibility….Well, let’s just say that they would be terrible. Mostly because  I can be a little cheap at times and I would try to fill the bags with things I already have around my house.

Here are a few things that could be expected in Christmas treat bags if I was responsible for them:

1. Leftover Halloween Candy. Yes, we still have some left. It seems to be multiplying. Maybe the basket the candy is in has magic multiplying powers. Maybe I need to take the candy out and put some money in. Excuse me for a moment….

2. Toenail Clippers. I lose these all of the time and buy new ones all of the time. If I search long enough I am pretty sure that I could find enough of these lying around the house to fill up a few dozen treat bags. And who doesn’t love used toenail clippers?

3. Artwork from My Children. No really–with five kids I have plenty to go around. PLENTY!

4. Fake Chocolate-Covered Raisins. We have three goats and two sheep. They produce a lot of these.

5. McDonald’s Happy Meal Toys. My guess for how many Happy Meals I have purchased for my kids over the years is roughly 17,348. I’m ready to get rid of some of those toys.

Now can you see why no one would want me in charge of treat bags?

Thankfully God is much better at giving good things than I am.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights,
with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.
James 1:17

No one should trust me to give good gifts in treat bags. We should all trust God to provide good and perfect gifts to us.

Sometimes He gives things that surprise us, things that we don’t ask for.

But if the gift comes from His hand, we can be sure that it is what we need.

What is something weird that you might put in a Christmas Treat Bag?
What good gift have you received recently?

The Tom Petty of Christmas Tree Ornaments (a Re-post)

Here is a re-post of a post that nearly no one read from last year. Hope you enjoy it.

The Tom Petty of Christmas Tree Ornaments

The epic, multi-year battle of wills began with a Christmas tree ornament.  A very ugly Christmas tree ornament.

When I was very young I heard a comedian call Tom Petty the butt-ugliest human being ever born.  At the time I didn’t even know who Tom Petty was, but that description stayed with me.  I guess I thought it was funny.  When I finally discovered who the object of the comment was, I didn’t quite think that it was true; I had seen people much uglier before and I definitely have since.  For instance, I once worked with a woman who looked like Ernest Borgnine in drag.  And for the record, I know that I’m not much to look at either.  But what I lack in quality, I make up for in quantity.  I’m ugly, but there’s a lot of me.

Because of that statement from the comedian, I thought of the ornament that started the battle of wills as the Tom Petty of Christmas tree ornaments. 

I made the ornament in Kindergarten out of different colors of a clay-like substance that the teacher placed in front of us.  We were told to use whatever colors of the substance we wanted and to make anything that we wanted.  I decided to make Santa Claus’s face.  I started with a blob of white that I pressed down flat.  Then, I used the black substance to form a mouth, nose, and eyes and pressed these down into the blob of white.  I finished my masterpiece by making a Santa hat out of the red substance and pressing that into the top of the white substance.  After it dried, we put a whole through the ornament and put a string through the hole so that it could be hung on a Christmas tree.

I knew it was ugliest ornament in the classroom and probably even in the entire history of mankind.  My classmates knew it was ugly, too.  So did the teacher.  She told me that it was nice, but I knew that she was lying.  But for some reason, I was proud of it anyway. 

When I got home, I showed it to my mom.  She smiled her beautiful smile, patted me on the head, and told me that we would have to put in on the tree once we actually put the tree up. 

A few days later, after I had forgotten all about my ugly ornament, we put up our Christmas tree.  As we were putting the finishing touches on the tree, I remembered my ornament.  I raced to my room, found the hideous thing, ran back to the living room, and put the ornament on the tree in the only place I could imagine it being–on the very front, right in the middle.  I took a step back and admired my ugly ornament on our beautiful tree.  Then I went to bed.

Sometime during the night, my ornament went from the front of the tree to the back, where no one could see it.  But it wasn’t a Christmas Miracle that moved my ornament.  It was my mom. 

When I saw what she had done, I didn’t become mad, sad, or angry.  I became determined.  My ornament was going to be on the front of the tree no matter what it took.  What it ended up taking was me moving the ornament from the back of the tree to the front of the tree every day.  Sometimes several times every day.  I think that my dad and ugly brother became a part of the battle of wills, as well.  It was kind of fun.  And it sort of went on like this during the Christmas season for several years, until one day the ornament was gone for good.

Mom says that it broke; I say she threw it away.  I only say this to keep the fun going; I really don’t think she threw it away.

That ornament holds a special place in my memory because I have thought about it often since then.  Especially whenever I begin to think negatively about myself. 

There have been days when I have felt particularly ugly and worthless that I have imagined being one of God’s Christmas Tree ornaments, one that He made with His very own hands.  I picture Him taking me out of a box, looking at me with all of my flaws, and placing me on the front of His tree.  I imagine it being awfully crowded there. 

Because if we were all ornaments and God had a Christmas tree, He would find a way for all of us to be on the very front for everyone to see. 

We are flawed, yet God loves us.

And He always will.

Do you have a favorite ornament, past or present? 
How do you feel about how much God loves you?

An Ode to Sausage Balls

Sausage balls, O sausage balls
how I love thee,
though for most of the year
you stay away from me.

Christmas-time is
when you appear,
to cheer up fat guys
both far and near.

While it’s true you show
up during other seasons,
it’s around the Holidays
that you do the most pleasin’.

At every Christmas party
you are there to please.
I enjoy you more than
a mouse enjoys cheese.

As a winter snack you
are simply the best.
I shed tears when you
depart, that I confess.

But for now you are here
to bring us such pleasure.
Thank you, sausage balls, for
being a true Christmas treasure.

What is your favorite Christmas-time treat?

Learning from Linus

Something happened last night while my kids and I were watching A Charlie Brown Christmas. Right after Linus quotes Luke 2:8-14, I tweeted “I love Linus! #CharlieBrownChristmas.”

And then a fight broke out in my living room.

Matthew (7 years old) decided to pinch Bradley (8 years old). This started a chain reaction of kids getting flung off of the couch and ottoman where they had been sitting and lying quietly up until that point.

I reacted by getting up, turning the TV off and ordering all of them to go to bed. I didn’t yell or spank, I simply made them go to bed without watching the last 6 minutes of the best Christmas special ever.

Immediately there were tears shed. My four older kids (a 10-year-old girl, an 8-year-old boy, and two 7-year-old boys) all slumped their shoulders and trudged toward their bedrooms, saying “We’re sorry! We’re sorry!” over and over. Mary Hope (three years old) just stood there, watching the whole thing with inquisitive eyes.

After they got into their beds, I turned their lights off and listened to them cry. I walked back into the living room, sat in my chair and pondered a little bit.

My wife wasn’t with us because she has class on Monday nights, but we have recently had conversations about how to best show grace to the children God has given us. I pondered that some. I also pondered how much I loved each of them. And I pondered the words Linus quoted as he expounded on the true meaning of Christmas. Then I grabbed the case that holds our meager DVD collection.

Finding my very own copy of A Charlie Brown Christmas, I put it into my laptop and fast-forwarded it to the spot where my kids decided to engage in a little Christmas combat. Then I called them back into the living room. They came back in, still crying, and sat on the couch.

After they calmed down I talked to them a little bit about grace, about how God’s grace was shown to us by Jesus coming into our world, living a perfect life and dying on the cross for our sins. I talked about the good tidings of great joy that has been and is being proclaimed to all people. I told them how much I loved them and wanted them to have a better understanding of grace.

Then I sat my laptop on the ottoman and pressed play. Their eyes lit up as they watch Charlie Brown take his sorry-looking tree back home, give up on it and then sing along with his friends after they made a beautiful tree together.

When it was over my kids had a few questions about Jesus being born and laid in a manger, about Heaven, and about why some people think Christmas is about presents when it is really about Jesus.

After our Q&A, I hugged each of them and walked with them to their bedrooms. Their eyes weren’t filled with tear this time; this time they looked to be filled with love, joy, and even a little peace.

Our good night fell apart because of a fight, but it was redeemed and became a great night–all because of grace.

What is your favorite Christmas special?
How have you experienced God’s grace recently?

Five Reasons to Pepper Spray Someone

My wife and oldest daughter went “Black Friday” shopping. They left the house a little before 10pm on Thursday night and got home around 7am Friday morning. Thankfully they did not spend a great deal of money. Also, they did not get pepper sprayed.

When I first heard about a woman pepper spraying 20 people to get an Xbox 360 I was incredulous. Okay, let me be honest. I’m not exactly sure what incredulous means. But that is still how I felt. I couldn’t believe that someone would use pepper spray on people just to get a video gaming system.

Then I pondered it a little bit more and now I have a confession to make. Given the right set of circumstances I can think of a few reasons why I would pepper spray someone.

1. Having my heel rammed by a grocery cart. Normally I would forgive this quickly, but I can see me snapping after a long day while making one of my far-too-frequent late-night trips to Food City. Getting dog food at 11pm makes me cranky. Beware!

2. Hearing someone say that Jar Jar Binks is the best Star Wars character ever. If yousa be sayin’ that heesa the besta, meesa be sprayin’ yousa.

3. Going through the drive-thru at Krispy Kreme and being told that they are out of doughnuts. This really happened to me once. I did not have any pepper spray. That time.

4. Finding out that anyone has bad-mouthed A Charlie Brown Christmas. Because it is the best Christmas special ever made this will probably never happen. But if it does and I find out about it, whoever is the offending party better hope that I have just listened to Linus expound on the true meaning of Christmas. Otherwise it will be on like Donkey Kong. Or whatever the kids are saying these days.

5. Having Dick Vitale do play by play of my life. “He hears the alarm go off and he does a reach-a-roo-snooze-aroo, baby! It goes off again and he’s up. He pours cereal in his bowl, but doesn’t realize that he’s out of milk. That’s a big mistake that will cost the big fella, baby!” This will never happen, but if it did someone would get pepper sprayed, baby!

In case you are wondering, I don’t really plan on pepper spraying anyone for any of the reasons listed above. I can see people using it if they were in imminent physical danger.

But for an Xbox 360? No.

People are created in the image of God. Xbox 360s are created by people for entertainment. One matters immensely; the other doesn’t really matter at all. I shouldn’t be too hard on the lady, though. People have been caring more about stuff than about others for a long time.

Hopefully during this Christmas season those of us who follow Jesus can keep Christ in Christmas not by fussing over the words people use concerning the Holiday, but by being Christlike in how we love and care for our neighbors.

And by not pepper spraying anyone. Unless they really, really deserve it.

What are some other not-so-serious reasons to pepper spray someone?
How are you planning to show love to others this Christmas season?