Tag Archives: Christmas

An Ode To the Sears Wishbook

This is a great article that … well maybe … dates me. I don’t remember the catalogue too much, but I do remember it. Enjoy this article from Daniel Darling. And his Characters of Christmas and Characters of Easter are some wonderful books.


An Ode To the Sears Wishbook

If you are of a certain age, you remember that before there was Amazon there was the Sears Wish Book and it was glorious. 

It arrived every November, wrapped in cellophane, its pages filled with new possibilities. On the cover, a dreamy holiday image, pulling your heart into the season and beckoning you to indulge in hours of wish making.

It’s hard to overestimate the sheer joy the Sears Wish Book brought to my young heart. Before Amazon and Apple. Before Walmart and Black Friday. Before Facebook and Google. Every year, I waited with anticipation and longing for the day this catalog would come. (Some enterprising person collected them here on this website for hours of viewing pleasure)

A savvy wisher would ignore the advice on the front page, which warned shoppers against skipping to other sections and “missing out” on possible gems like Garfield piggy banks, board games, and Chicago Bears pajamas nestled among the cheesy sweaters, cheap jewelry, and knife sets. The gems, every child knew, were found in only one place—the toy section.

Full immersion in the Wish Book took days, not hours. A young boy had to read every caption and organize his desires. There was the practical, low-hanging fruit, ripe for the Christmas stocking: Matchbox cars, classic books, a mini Etch A Sketch. Carefully dog-earing other pages would alert parents and prepare them to consider more valuable gifts like the new Lego gas station, a baseball card collector set, a Talking Computron.

I would never have admitted this at the time, of course, but looking back on those days, it’s obvious: The anticipation surpassed even the pleasure of seeing Christmas gifts under the tree. What I realize now is, hidden in that longing there’s an innate yearning for something better—some lasting pleasure or sense of completion. Something that can’t be found in plastic and cellophane, but in the perfectly satisfying companionship of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

We long for better things because we instinctively know we were created to enjoy our life—to experience beauty, truth, and goodness as gifts of a loving Father. Yet every chase that ends in something tangible during this lifetime ultimately arrives at a less-than-satisfying conclusion. As Christians, we know that this longing—echoed in the soundtracks of our age, in the sentimental yarns we tell every Christmas, and in the constant grasping for the elusive next thing—is really a longing for God Himself.

The Bible, with its call to Spirit-filled endurance and constant warnings of suffering, is not a Wish Book. And yet in many ways, it sort of is—in how it rebukes our dreams and desires. The problem is not that we dream; it’s that we dream poorly. It’s not that we have wishes, but that our wishes are too small. Nor is it that we long for “what’s next” or “what’s better”; it’s that we can’t fathom the fullness of what’s truly next or better for those who love God and, as Romans 8:28 says, “are called according to His purpose.”

So go ahead and wish. Just remember, when God answers your desires, He may have something different in mind—something that may include hardship. But what He offers is a gift of greater beauty or wonder than you could ever ask or think.

This article was originally published by In Touch Magazine.

What Would You Change?

Christmas 2021 – Reminders for Next Year

It’s over. The ornaments have been boxed. The lights have been stored. The living room is back to normal. And the kids have returned home. All we have left are the memories and the pictures stored in our phones.

It wasn’t a white Christmas. But as I type this, I am looking out the big window behind the couch and seeing a beautiful scene of snow covered farmlands, hills with sled treks, and cars covered in inches of powder that will remain for another day or two. The snow came nine days late, but it came.

The world moves on.

Before we reach February (which is when some of you take down your outdoor Christmas lights), I think we should stop and reflect a minute. Before we completely put the Spirit of Christmas behind us, which we really never should do … before we move on, let’s reflect on what we take into next year’s Christmas. Yes it’s just over 11 months away, but let’s see what we learn from Christmas 2021 to take to Christmas 2022 …

Spend more time with family. My son and DIL came for 96 hours from Dallas. It was 2000 hours too short. It was 1 minute too short. The very second we said goodbye and they walked deeper into the airport, I missed them deeply.

Don’t put off spending time with family. My mother struggles with memory dystopia. The memories of Christmas’s gone by are slipping from her mind. She often forgets when it is and who I am. My earthly father is in heaven with my heavenly Father. I would trade every gift I received this year to spend 10 minutes with him.

– Spend more time thinking about what to give your loved ones. Yes, gift cards are easy and even appreciated, but make sure you put thought into each and every gift. Start early too. The whole transportation log jams of 2021 might get worse in 2022. My adult kid may want a new iPhone, but those custom slides for a retro View-Finder that pictures his dating, engagement and wedding to our new DIL is so cool.

Give something to someone who is not in your circle. Help the homeless, pack a shoebox, donate to missions, visit a shut-in, help a single parent, volunteer at the local school, surprise a first responder. This makes the spirit of giving so much more precious. And don’t do it for the recognition. Our Father in heaven sees it.

Watch the kids. There is something about the joy and magic of seeing Christmas through the eyes of children. See the excitement. See the marvel.

Get out and go see the lights. From small town (after all, my little corner of the world has about 102 residents and we had The Lights of Evergreen) to the big city, there are always a few lights to take in.

Read the Christmas Story. Okay, you know it. But when did you last read it … aloud? Not ’Twas the Night Before Christmas … not A Christmas Carol ….not Frosty, or Rudolph, or any other story. Read THE CHRISTMAS STORY found in Matthew 1:18-23, Luke 1:26-56, 2:1-38.

Go to a Christmas worship service. Worship, celebrate, remember the joy, peace, love, hope and true meaning of Christmas. A corporate gathering adds to the warmth and synergy of the season. Whether Christmas Sunday, Christmas Eve or a Kids’ program – go to one you wouldn’t normally attend – make the effort.

Stop everything. Take a deep breath and remember the gift of Jesus. Nothing else really matters.

What else would you add to the list? Comment and let us know.

It’s over. The ornaments have been boxed. The lights have been stored. The living room is back to normal. And the kids have returned home. All we have left are the memories and the pictures stored in our phones. But we have next year. Let’s make that one even better.

Lessons From A Train Window

A few weeks ago, I took a day to go into Washington DC to enjoy some of what our nation’s capitol has to offer. The weather was sunny yet a bit chilly. The crowds were minimum. And the day was great as I … Enjoyed the Smithsonian Museums to the National Zoo. Perused the gardens and the National Mall. Stared up the sides of the obelisk that pierces the landscape in the center of it all. And, savored a wonderful gourmet burger and chocolate beverage from the local Shake Shack. A good respite for just a day away from the norm.

To get around the wearisome I-95 traffic, I took Amtrak. I travelled on the 98 Silver Meteor line into Union station. And though they had a delay for over an hour just outside Fredericksburg, it was still better than being in my car sitting or snailing (yes a new word I just invented = driving at a snail’s pace.) While in the train riding to and fro, I sat in a booth in the dining car where I enjoyed my beverage, watched a movie on my iPad, relaxed with some reading and even wrote a few letters.

I enjoyed the atmosphere of a train as I observed the diverse personalities and characters of fellow riders – sleepers, snugglers, squirmiers, stragglers and snackers. The steward kept singing, which was just a grand way of entertaining the few of us in the dining car.

On this leg of my journey, an epiphany occurred to me. An interesting and applicable truth was revealed. I was reading and studying some about the narrative of the Angels appearing around Bethlehem some 2000 years ago (the first Christmas). The Angels declared “Peace on Earth!” But yet, it doesn’t seem like there really is much peace. Russia mounting troops near Ukraine. Iran hacking Israeli media outlets. Americans fighting over political power. And that doesn’t even breach the personal agonies of people facing health issues, elderly parents struggling, families divided, crime escalating, etc. And don’t forget recent natural (and man made) disasters like the Midwest tornadoes, the Colorado fires, or the northwest freaky snow storms to name a few. The Angels declared “Peace on Earth!” It seemed questionable.

The Angels declared “Peace on Earth!” But yet, it doesn’t seem like there really is much peace.

Okay, let me connect this … on the train, I was looking out the window. America has such a diverse and beautiful landscape. I saw rivers, forests, beaches, diverse architecture, a sunrise over the Potomac, and more. But looking straight out the window, all I really saw was a blur. The view I had was of me going through the world so fast, I only was seeing streaks of madness. And to honest, it produced quite a headache.

But … and this is a huge but … when I looked a little forward, taking the vision in from a ‘where we are headed’ point of view, I saw the landscape, the sights, the diverse beauty. It was quite a change of perspective. It was calming and delightful. We were headed forward – along the path intended – and we will get there.

Life gets messy. Shoes get muddy. And if all we look at is the blur straight out the window, madness is all we will see. You may be in a hard part of your life journey right now. Things may seem crazy and harsh and hopeless. And looking out the window, all you see is a blur of circumstances overwhelming you. And you question the proclamation of peace on earth. But if we look ahead, we get a better point of view, we see things in a clearer perspective. We realize God doesn’t take us out of the storms but gets us through them. It’s not that all things are good, but that all things work together for the good (Romans 8:28). We are headed forward. There is a path He has for us. Just keep your eyes ahead (Hebrews 12:1-2). And the One who started working in your life will complete it (Philippians 1:6).

And so, when the Angels declared “Peace on Earth” we need to look a little past the craziness of Christmas then and now. We see God has a plan. And that statement, the proclamation, that promise … Peace on Earth … it’s real.

Tomorrow, I’ll share a little more on the peace of which the the Angels spoke. Till then … Stop looking at the blur … there is a much better view if you look ahead.

………

Romans 8:28, Hebrews 12:1-2, Colossians 1:19-20, Philippians 1:6

Letter to a Santa – the Day after Christmas

Dear Santa,

Well, it’s me. Yes it’s been awhile. And more years than others I’ve probably been on the naughty list not the nice. I know I blow it … anger, pride, unkind remarks, doubts, thoughtless actions, just to scratch the surface. But I thank you for giving me some slack.

This letter is not to ask for anything. Well, maybe that 2021 won’t be like 2020. Nope, this letter is to say thank you. Do you get many of those? I know you get lots of requests and wishes and dreams. But do you get thank you letters? I hope this is one of many.

Yesterday, I stayed home with my wife. We relaxed and watched the Santa Clause trilogy. The second is my favorite by the way. Tim Allen does you justice. And the third one does make me squeamish when ‘hugging’ is what saves the day and thaws Jack Frost. It was a day in which I did hardly anything, and I say thank you for allowing me to have one of those days.

Also, thank you for technology. I got to call my mother. She didn’t remember it was Christmas, but she did remember me. It was a tough conversation but I thank you for the technology that allows it. I can’t imagine the loneliness and isolation she is feeling. Her tears flowed but I hope I cheered her up a little. My wife called her father too. 1400 miles apart seems so close with technology.

And especially I am thankful I got to talk to my son and daughter-in-law. The distance is oh so hard. But they were surrounded by her family and friends, and I am glad he has that powerful and loving support group. I do hope to see him in April, and his mother may get there before then. Thank you for his wife, my new daughter. Thank you for their love.

He called a while back and said, “Marriage is hard.” Duh. But anything of value is worth the work, worth the effort. And the perks are pretty special. Thank you for them being … them.

Thank you for the gifts. They seem pale in comparison to the love I have from and for my wife. But the gestures just show a glimpse of how we care for each other. It’s not the dollar value or number of gifts … it’s the precious nature of the one who gave them.

Christmas brings up so many fond and unique memories. Next year I’ll write about those. But this year, I just want to say thank you one more time.

Thank you,

From the child inside Todd


PS … okay, two more requests for 2021. First, can I get to the mountains more this year. And second, I would love to spend more time with my son.

That’s all, I promise. (For now at least)

Christmas in 2 … Looking Back to Look Forward

Part 3 of 4 … Two days to Christmas. We look back to that original Christmas Day with such celebration. But for centuries, they looked forward to it.

This week, each day, we will see something from the Hebrew Scriptures, the Old Testament text, that points to the event for which they longed.

The Point in Time …

We’ve seen the place (Bethlehem) and the presents (Magi/treasures presented), but another aspect is the timing. The very words of Daniel 9 point to the clear truth that God is the author, keeper, and controller of history and of future events alike. Basically, we are on his timetable and he is not on our timeline.

We are God’s timetable – not the other way around!

Tucked in chapter 9 of Daniel is the seventy sevens – a passage that has caused head scratching for centuries. But looked at in depth, seeing the events of the next 450 or so years, many see this passage pointing to the coming of the Messiah who would …

  • Finish transgressions
  • Make an end to sins
  • Make reconciliation for iniquity
  • Bring in everlasting righteousness
  • Be anointed as the Most Holy

Paul writes in Galatians 4 about when the fullness of time has come … just the right time. This uses a concept of the glass is full, ready to overflow. That’s the timing of Jesus bursting in on the scene. Perfect timing.

We are God’s timetable – not the other way around!

– me

So stop fretting about the future. God is in control.

Last thought – don’t look for scripture to know exactly when he is coming back again. They asked Jesus that one day and he said that was the wrong things to ask. No one knows – just keep on sharing the good news. That’s our job now.

So, joy to the world the Lord has come. At just the right time too. And until he comes back, I’ll keep on praising, keep on sharing, keep on waiting, keep on working! He’ll come in his timing, not mine!


For a great article shedding some light on the 70 sevens, look at this one by Jews for Jesus

Christmas in 3 … Looking Back to Look Forward

Part 2 of 4 … Three days to Christmas. We look back to that original Christmas Day with such celebration. But for centuries, they looked forward to it.

This week, each day, we will see something from the Hebrew Scriptures, the Old Testament text, that points to the event for which they longed.

The Presents …

They travelled from afar. We sing of three of them. We talk the significance of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And while we are not sure they were there in the early day, around the manger, they did arrive. And yet, there is a text that talks of that …

May the kings of Tarshish and of the coastlands
render him tribute;
may the kings of Sheba and Seba
bring gifts!
– Psalm 72.10 esv

A multitude of camels shall cover you,
the young camels of Midian and Ephah;
all those from Sheba shall come.
They shall bring gold and frankincense,
and shall bring good news, the praises of the Lord.
– Isaiah 60.6

Wow. Again the remarkable events all coming together to the one divine event of the first Christmas.

Never lose the awe of how God is always at work!

Christmas in 4 … Looking Back to Look Forward

Four days to Christmas. We look back to that original Christmas Day with such celebration. But for centuries, they looked forward to it.

This week, each day, we will see something from the Hebrew Scriptures, the Old Testament text, that points to the event for which they longed.

The Place …

Bethlehem wasn’t just a coincidence. It’s not like they were on a road trip and stopped for the night and … oops … we have a baby. Nope. Bethlehem was talked about almost 700 years before The baby ever arrived.

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to be ruler in Israel,
whose coming forth is from of old,
from ancient days.
– Micah 5.2

Think about this, who could’ve planned it any better. Now ponder what God put into place. Caesar had to call for a census, it had to be delegated, scheduled, notification sent out all over the empire, administration put into place,forced … all timed to Mary’s pregnancy, who had to return to Bethlehem, at just the right time!

The place … Bethlehem. Not a coincidence.

If God can plan all that around a location, He may just have you right where He want you too. Don’t feel stuck, fell stationed.

Santa Came from China, through Alaska, Memphis, and Appomattox

New Toy – Big Smile. But the add-ons have vexed me! And a lesson for all of us!

Christmas came early. I got my new MacBook Air M1 computer. I gave my request to Santa (via the Apple Store) and he supplied. He first warned me that it would be late, but he got his reindeers hooked up and delivered it to me this week.

I tracked him. He started in China, landed in Anchorage, flew to Memphis, routed through Lynchburg’s distribution center, and then the Santa truck drove right up into my driveway.

It has been such a difference. This upgrade to my ten year old Apple product is a relief. I have already saved hours in work hours because I no longer wait for the computer to finish spooling. My phones and iPads are talking to the computer again. I can get my mail on my computer again.

My wife says it’s my latest toy, and maybe she’s right.

But it hasn’t been without hiccups. The new Air doesn’t have a DVD burner. And the external one I just purchased doesn’t work with it. It works with my old MacBook but not this one. Back to Amazon it goes.

And the hub I got is a great little device (CalDigit’s SOHO hub). Since the new computer only has 2 USB-C/Thunderbolt 4 ports, I had to get this hub to connect the second monitor and any older USB devices. This hub has worked great in all its ports but one, it wouldn’t read any USB devices at all.

I called tech support, I reached out to CalDigit (they were stumped too!) The only option was to send it back. They promised to lab test another one to make sure it worked before the send the new one to me. Great service!

However, between the morning and the afternoon tech support communications, something happened. Apple updated the macOS. I went from 11 to 11.1. And wallah … the hub began to communicate. It read all the devices I connected to it. (Well, not the DVD burner … that still has to be returned.) The thumb drives, the external hard drives, everything.

What a great feeling.


Here’s the lesson. We have so many people not talking. So many politicians just hitting mute whenever the ‘the other side’ opens their mouths. So many family members carrying baggage and bitterness that it divides loved ones.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could do a simple update, a bump from 11 to 11.1 and start talking again. What would Washington look like if that happened?

Maybe you’re like my old computer, stuck in 9.3 macOS and just refuse to update. Maybe you’re new and need a simple .1 bump. Maybe your like the DVD and just need complete replacement to work. It may be hard, difficult, even seem impossible. But what’s impossible for man isn’t impossible for the Miracle Worker.

And Christmas is all about miracles.

So, the computer may have come through Shanghai, but I am thrilled with the update. What will it take to update your relationships, your attitude, your life? That’s exactly why Jesus came, to bring change! Let Him change you.

Globes of Light

They’re popping up everywhere. Round balls of lights dangling from tree limbs, patio ceilings, and anywhere high enough to hang. Solid colors of blue, green, red, purple, and white. And then there are the multicolor Christmas colors splattering out lights of warmth and holly, jolly festivity.

So I ventured into this. I YouTubed the procedure and headed to the local hardware store for everything I needed. I had lights, plenty of lights. But I learned LED was the way to go. You can string more together and it doesn’t impact the electric bill as much.

I needed chicken wire (or poultry fencing, so to be politically correct.) I needed wire clippers too. Twisty ties are optional. Some YouTube clips recommended thick gloves, but I laugh in the face of danger … ha!

And then off to home I go with visions of soft hued globes dangling in the front of my homestead.

First, measure about 30-36 inches of chicken wire. Cut the wire. Roll it to for a tube of wire. Bend the ends together to attach side A to side B. Then carefully fold one of the open ends into the center. Keep folding and do the same to the other side. Mold and form a globe, a ball of wire that looks similar to a round globe. It was here I wish I got the gloves.

I also learned there are different sizes of chicken wire, in respect to the gaps on the wire. I think the smaller gap will be better next year. Probably keep the form better.

Take the lights and wind it around the globe. Keep winding, keep overlapping, keep winding. About 150 lights to a medium size globe.

Now what I didn’t get was extensions cords. Quite a few of these, along with paracord to hang them.

This is not hard work, but it is work. But in the end, I have a few wonderful light balls with which I am quite pleased.

Next year, I am thinking bigger. Not so much in number of balls, but size of the globes themselves.

Why, oh why? In the end, I am a kid at heart. I love to decorate and be a bit different. Being different comes natural for me. Can I get an “Amen”? but I also like to make others have a small smile, a moment of warmth, and maybe a little piece of Christmas cheer.

No Grinch here. I even gave my wife one of her gifts this morning. We are in a ice storm, so I let her have her cashmere scarf from Scotland … Buffalo print and all.

I challenge you. What are you doing to spread joy today? What are you doing to bring a smile to someone? In this season, many need to be encouraged.

Be the lights of Christmas! Not the Light, but little lights that point to the Light.

Again, be the lights of Christmas!

Finding Peace

As I write this, threats of winter storm Gail is blowing into my area of the country. We are just on the edge of the storm, so I don’t expect too bad of ice and wetness. Yet, already people are freaking out. Stockpiling. Closing schools. Filling car tanks. Getting generators ready. They want to be in control and be ready. And as much as they prepare, they can’t really know what’s coming.

They want peace of mind. But will they really find it?

We search for it. We long for it. And it too often eludes us. The reason, we are looking in the wrong places and in the wrong ways. We can’t supply it or keep it. But what we can do is connect ourselves to it. Or more preciously, connect ourselves to Him.

You keep him in perfect peace
whose mind is stayed on you,
because he trusts in you.
Isaiah 26.3 esv

Some quick thoughts …

  • Peace starts in the mind. Keep it on Him and His ways.
  • Peace isn’t found in an absence of problems, cutting out chaos, muffling mayhem, stifling strife. Peace is found in the presence of God. He is our peace in and through the madness. That’s why He is the Prince of Peace.
  • The peace He gives is perfect, complete, lacking nothing.

Peace on earth, good will to men! That’s the Christmas season I want. so bring it on Gail … I’m ready!