Posted tagged ‘gifts’

The Quandary: When Your Wife Says She Wants Nothing For Christmas

November 29, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                     November 29, 2017

        

I’m married to a woman from Italian descent filtered through North Dakota. It’s an odd mixture of passion and stoicism that emphasizes the importance of family and the simple things of life. Translated that means our grandkids make out like bandits at Christmas time while Grammy and Granddad enjoy the gifts of watching and laughing. Snapshots developed in our minds of family Christmas scenes are the greatest gifts we enjoy.

That being said, Carol tells me each year “Don’t buy me anything!” It’s a problem! Christmas Day comes exactly seventeen days after her birthday. For her birthday she says…you guessed it!…”Don’t buy me anything!”

So what do you do when your wife tells you to “go x-nay on the presents-nay”?

For Mother’s Day I usually give her a gift card to Lowe’s or Home Depot so she can go and pick out plants and flowers to re-create her garden each spring. She loves that! But a gift card to Lowe’s in December would be greeted with a North Dakota blank look.

We could always use a new frying pan or broom. How exciting would that be to open up a wrapped frying pan?

She’s not a jewelry person. In fact, she has about four pseudo-wedding rings that sit on the counter. It took half a dozen boxes of Cracker Jacks to create the collection.

Her vision has not been good since before we got married. Some would sarcastically say that’s why she married me- she didn’t get a good look before the wedding! Actually, Carol had a cornea transplant about thirty years ago. She reads the newspaper from about an inch away. But what do you give someone who can’t see well? She’s already got five pairs of sunglasses to help her on sunny days. She has an e-reader that expands the type.

We’re at that stage in life when neither of us really needs anything. Like I said, we’re simple people. Years ago I went to the Holy Land with a group of people from American Baptist churches in Michigan. My roommate for the trip, Rev. Tom Bayes, bought his wife a diamond necklace while we were in Tiberias. What did I bring home to Carol? A roll of Israeli caramel candies! Why? You guessed it! Because she told me not to buy her anything!

So, what to do? A Lowe’s gift card stuck to the side of a box of Cracker Jacks with a ring inside? I’m envisioning a gift such as that bringing her passionate Italian side to the surface. When she opens up that box of Cracker Jacks and discovers that new ring she’s going to grab me and smother me with passionate kisses…in my dreams!

Hand Me Down Life

November 19, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                      November 19, 2017

                                

Yesterday the freshmen boys basketball team I coach had their team picture day. The varsity and junior varsity squads also had their pictures taken. A few of the varsity players were looking at the uniforms that the freshmen were wearing and remembered that they had worn those same uniforms two years before when they were playing junior varsity. If a former player three years older than them had been there he could have said that he remembered wearing the same uniforms when he was on the varsity.

Hand me downs. The freshmen uniforms for this year had been handed down through the years. The life of a freshman basketball player is saturated with “hand me downs!”

Being the youngest of three meant that a good part of what I had growing up had been handed down to me. Thank God that I was always the original wearer of my underwear…Towncraft “tightie whities” from J.C. Penney’s. Most everything else had been worn or used by my brother or sister. My bike had the dings and dents from two previous people learning how to ride it. My baseball glove was about as big as the rest of my body because Charlie had used it, and was still using it.

Some of my toys were hand me downs. The plastic cups I drank from had my siblings teeth marks on them. Most of my tee shirts and coats had my brother’s body scent still attached. It was a day when garments lasted longer, not necessarily because they were better made, but because they had to endure.

At some point in my life, however, the purpose of the hand me downs shifted. Several books that are a part of my personal library had been handed down to me by Dr. Floyd Norton while I was the Assistant Pastor of the First Baptist Church in Lansing, Michigan. Floyd was a fan of Elton Trueblood and believed his writings would benefit my calling as a pastor.

And then there was the hand me down wisdom and learnings that Chuck Landon, senior pastor of that church, passed on to me. Things to do and not do, how to work with boards and committees, effective visits to some of the elderly folk, how to plan a sermon…all these and more he passed on to me.

In our journey most of us become thankful for what was passed on to us, and, after we realize the value, we long for the day that we can pass on our hand me downs to others. A couple of years ago I passed on to Bill Hale the portable communion set that Rev. Elmer Boyd’s widow had handed down to me. Bill was entering a late-in-life career as a pastor. And the clerical robe that Dr. Ben Dickerson’s widow, Alice, had passed on to me I in turn passed on to Rev. Rich Blanchette as he entered the ministry.

We go from being blessed to being the blesser, and whereas I wasn’t that keen on having my brother’s sweatshirts relocated to my dresser drawers I was especially thankful for the gifts from some saints that encouraged me to press on.

Elton Trueblood still has a section in my library, but Rich and Bill have received a number of other books from me to assist them in the fulfillment of their calling. Some day I’m sure they will do the same. The older I get the more precious are the things passed on to me.

Three Moms

May 8, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                            May 8, 2016

                                         

It’s Mother’s Day, a day where we gloat over our moms and tell them how wonderful they are. Let’s be honest! Moms don’t get the credit or appreciation they deserve. We load up the applaud one day a year for them even though they took care of loaded-up diapers many, many days for many, many years.

I’ve had many unofficial moms through the years who have encouraged me, fed me, and hugged on me, but I’d like to pay tribute to three moms for different reasons.

The first mom would be my own…Virginia Wolfe! Yes, that was my mom’s name! She was possessed by stubbornness and gifted with compassion. Stubborn compassion, quite a mix. If there was someone in need that she could take care of she would do what needed to be done in spite of protests. With Mom there were no questions to be asked. If she decided to take a pot of chicken soup to Mrs. Swallow, our eighty-something next door neighbor widow in Williamstown, West Virginia, she did it. Our neighbors through the years were cared for. Growing up on a farm in Eastern Kentucky, my mom was used to having neighbors who took care of one another, no questions asked.

She was loyal. Her patronage of businesses was not based on who had the lowest price, but rather on friendship, being treated with respect, and loyalty. For years, she traveled forty-five minutes to have the same man do her hair, because that’s what you did.

She raised three children, all with vey different personalities, and, although we frequently didn’t agree with her, we respected and loved her deeply. She’s been gone now for two and a half years. I’ll visit her grave site next month and cherish the memories once again.

The second mom is my wife, Carol. What an incredible woman! In many ways she is like her own mom, Barbara Faletti. Fairly conservative, not prone to extravagance when it involved herself, but very giving when it involves others. The Mother’s Day card I give her today will cause her to scold me a little bit for spending the four dollars. The attached chocolate to it will simmer the scold a bit.

Even harder than being a pastor is being a pastor’s spouse. For thirty-six years, until this past December 31, that’s who she was. The number of evenings where she shared a meal with three kids but no husband can not be calculated. In the valleys and mountains of ministry she walked beside me.

Carol is a champion for those who are afflicted with diminished capacities of various kinds. She works with special needs middle school students. She hung out with a six year old autistic boy at Awana Club this year. She walks alongside a few of her friends who have suffered serious health crises. Although she enjoys watching some of the reality TV shows that I gag on, we’re on the same page in most of our preferences and likes. She loves her grandkids deeply. If you checked her cell phone you would find a video library of “grandkid clips” that include one year old Corin walking across the room, Jesse playing soccer or hurling himself at the player he’s defending in basketball, and Reagan singing, dancing, or just looking gosh darn cute!

Our three children love and respect her deeply. They know that the greatest gifts they can give her are the relationships they already have with her. She is a special woman who gets me to “wise up” in various ways. She’s the “clue” in my “cluelessness.”

The third mom is my oldest daughter, Kecia. Just as my mom had three children, and Carol has three children, Kecia is now the mom to a trio. She is the steady influence to the three. I see my mom in her in terms of keeping her kids on task, and I see Carol in her in regards to her compassionate side. I stopped by her fourth grade classroom for a few moments this past week and it was evident how much her students admire and love her. She’s like their “teacher-mom”, concerned for each one of them, thrilled with their progress, saddened by their heartaches.

Just as my mom and Carol have been steady influences and engaged parents, Kecia is that steady influence in a culture that often teeters on the the edge of chaos.

I am blessed to have lived, and now live in a home where laughter is as frequent as dancing granddaughters, and dressed-up super hero grandsons. “The Moms” are as essential to that as Miracle Whip on my hamburger!

Thank you, Lord, for the mom who has gone before me, the mom who walks with me, and the mom who is delighting me.

The Beginning of a Story

December 2, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                  December 2, 2014

                                            

Each of us live in the midst of beginnings and endings. Our days are punctuated by both. We begin by ending the torturous sound of our alarm going off. We end the day by beginning another night of sleep. Seldom, however, do we consider that one event or one conversation could be the beginning of something God-inspired and ordained.

The gospel of Luke begins with the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth. When Zechariah went into the Court of the Priests to burn incense and offer prayers for the people he never would have considered that it was the beginning of a life-altering event. The honor of performing the priestly duties was incredible by itself, but who would have thought that an angel named Gabriel would be joining him in that inner place?

That encounter changed things! And it began things!

Zechariah receives the angelic message that he’s going to be a dad. His wife, Elizabeth, though she had not been able to have children before this and was well along in years, would get pregnant. His name would be John, though it was not a family name.

The end of Zechariah’s priestly duties was the beginning of a new story that would be echoed down through the centuries. Little did he know that the words of Gabriel carried hope and a new direction for mankind.

I was recently delighted to hear about a story that came out of La Salle Street Church in Chicago. The church had received $1.6 million dollars in a real estate transaction and decided to use $160,000 of it for the cause of good. Five hundred dollars was given to each of the 320 regular attenders to do good. The stories of what people decided to use their money for were incredible. One lady used her gift to gift other children at her daughter’s grade school with winter coats and clothing. One young man, who was from Jordan and a student at Moody Bible Institute, used his funds to contribute to the building a new skate park in Jordan.

Each gift was seed money for new beginnings. People were able to help others. It was a ripple effect of goodness filtering through a city and even into other countries.

We never quite know how our words, actions, and decisions will begin new stories in other lives, but God does!

 

Misunderstood Generosity

December 1, 2014

 

When Jerry opened the Christmas present that was from his mom and dad he was a little confused and perturbed.

He had graduated from college the previous May and had been fortunate to find a teaching position at a middle school in a rural school district about an hour away from the town he grew up in. It didn’t pay much, but he loved it. He loved seeing young minds suddenly understanding the mathematical methods that he taught.

He was thankful that he was able to be home with family for Christmas. His brother Silas, and twin sisters, Abby and Gail, were there also. Jerry was the youngest, but the only one who still lived in-state.

The box he had opened could have fit in his pocket. He reached into it and pulled out a key chain. He admitted later on that his first thought was “That’s all! A key chain!”

His siblings then each opened a present, and Jerry sat and battled with the conflicted feelings of anger and gratitude. Then his father said, “Oh Jerry! We forgot. You probably would like some keys to put on your key chain. Here’s one to get you started.”

His father reached into his pocket and pulled out a shiny key and handed it to Jerry. It had an “H” letter on the end of it. “H” for Honda.

“Merry Christmas! It’s parked in the garage.”

Jerry was speechless. He walked out into the garage to see a brand new Honda Civic. The box with the key chain had only been the beginning part of the story.

How often do we become confused by the generosity of God because we only have the first part of the story?

Zechariah was confused by God’s promise that he was to have a son. In Luke 1:7 we read that he and Elizabeth “…had no children, because Elizabeth was barren; and they were both well along in years.”

Zechariah was on priestly duty in the temple to burn incense when an angel of the Lord appeared to him and told him that Elizabeth was going to have a son and he was to be named John. Zechariah questions this proclamation and is literally rendered speechless.

Zechariah didn’t see the whole picture. Sometimes God’s greatest gifts to our lives aren’t understood until later. Zechariah sees a wife who is past childbearing years. God gives a child who will go before his Son and proclaim the coming of the Messiah.

David’s brothers saw a boy who should have stayed home and been watching the sheep. God gave a courageous leader who would slay a giant.

Sometimes we only see a key chain and God is about to give a key. God is generous in the present and also in the future.