Undeserved Gifts

“I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.”~~Charles Dickens

Today’s word of the day, from the Oxford English Dictionary, is metagnomy, ” The acquisition of information by paranormal means; divination, clairvoyance.”

Today is Egg Nog Day! And we have Egg Nog, because I bought some at the store last Sunday. I must be sure to have some this evening, at the Christmas Eve festivities. I put a drop or two of brandy in mine. What do you put in yours?

We had the most wonderful time last night!

Oh, but wait. I have to start this story correctly. At around 9:30 or 10:00, yesterday morning, our manager got a call from our client, telling us that we were to turn away UPS and FedEx deliveries, for the rest of the year! Needless to say, we were all stunned, because there are still four more working days in this year (yesterday made five). I also received an email from the same guy instructing me to not process any more URDNs until after January 2. URDN means “Unreceivable Discrepancy Notice.” It’s what I do. I handle the “problem children.” Anyway, there we sat, suddenly with nothing to do. We were told we could go ahead and finish up anything we received on Tuesday. That took about thirty minutes. So I got approval from my manager to leave at noon. That would fulfill the minimum of four hours that I have to work in order to get paid for the holidays. I’m already scheduled off next Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, so I won’t be back until Thursday, December 31, and may only stay four hours that day.

Then I went to Arlington and had lunch with Christi. We ate at Damian’s Cajun Soul Cafe, one of the places she has discovered while working at USBC. I had fried fish, which was delicious, the best I’ve had in a very long time. Christi had a smothered pork chop, which was also quite good (she gave me a bite). The place must be doing great, because it was constantly crowded, the whole time we were there.

We had decided that we would go look at Christmas lights last night, depending on if I had to work late. Since I got to work the opposite of late, we started looking on the Interwebs to see where would be a good place to go look. It was there that we discovered that they have a huge display set up at Texas Motor Speedway, called “Gift of Lights.” It’s a drive through display with millions of lights and hundreds of different kinds of displays, ranging from the patriotic to sports themes to traditional Christmas. There were even a few Hanukkah displays. It costs $25 per car, and if you pay online and print your ticket, you get to skip a VERY long line to get in. It took about an hour to drive through. We took a few pictures, which Facebook conveniently arranged in a collage for me. I have set it for public viewing, so if you care to see it, you can click here.

Today, of course, is Christmas Eve. Christi’s family will be over, this evening, for dinner and gift exchange. That’s pretty much all I’m going to say about that, because, you know, “if you can’t say something good . . .” 🙂 I’m going to try and make it to our church’s Christmas Eve service, which will be at 5:00PM. If you’re in the area and find yourself with nothing to do around that time, come check it out. We are The Exchange Church.

On this date in:

1777–Kiritimati, also known as Christmas Island, was discovered by James Cook
1851–The Library of Congress burned (when “library” and “burned” are used in the same sentence, I am traumatized)
1865–The Ku Klux Klan was formed. On Christmas Eve??? Seriously????
1906–The first radio broadcast was transmitted by Reginald Fessenden. It consisted of a poetry reading, a violin solo, and a speech. The real questions is: Was anyone still awake when it was over?
1955–NORAD tracked Santa for the first time
1968–The crew of Apollo 8 became the first humans to orbit the moon

Today’s birthdays include:

1809–Kit Carson, American frontiersman
1880–Johnny Gruelle, American cartoonist, creator of Raggedy Ann
1893–Harry Warren, American composer/lyricist, “Chattanooga Choo Choo, I Only Have Eyes for You”
1905–Howard Hughes, American film producer and inventor
1910–Fritz Leiber, American fantasy/science fiction writer
1922–Ava Gardner, American actress
1927–Mary Higgins Clark, American author, A Stranger is Watching
1968–Doyle Bramhall II, American guitarist
1971–Ricky Martin, Puerto Rican singer
1974–Ryan Seacrest, American TV host

Harry Warren was born Salvatore Antonio Guaranga, in Brooklyn, New York. He has a list of hits that he co-wrote, which includes the above mentioned “Chattanooga Choo Choo,” “I Only Have Eyes for You,” as well as “Forty-Second Street,” “You Must Have Been A Beautiful Baby,” and this song:

Vasco da Gama, Johns Hopkins, Peter Lawford, Robert Todd Lincoln Beckwith, Bobby LaKind, Norman Vincent Peale, and Johnny Oates are among notable deaths on this date.


(From Daily Guideposts 2015)

“For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”
John 4:37-38

Writer Mark Collins writes of a tradition in Pittsburgh, known as “the Pittsburgh parking chair.” This tradition is not well known down here, in Texas, because, well, snow. Enough snow that shoveling out parking places is necessary. You see, in this Pittsburgh (and other northern states) tradition, if a person shovels out a parking space for their car, they reserve it by placing an object, usually a folding chair, in that space. It’s not a “legal” thing, but it is respected. If you find a parking space and something odd is sitting in it, a folding chair, a vacuum cleaner, a garbage can, sawhorse, or anything else, you don’t park there.

While it might seem selfish, especially in the season of gift-giving, Collins reminds us of the difference between gifts and things that are earned. If you do the hard, back-breaking work of shoveling out a parking space, you have earned that, it is rightfully yours. Therefore, it is most definitely not selfish to place a chair in it to reserve it for your car.

Gifts, however, are undeserved. That’s the whole point of a “gift,” isn’t it? Perhaps we are more selfish by expecting gifts at Christmas time. But the fact that gifts (and grace) are undeserved is what makes them special. What we truly deserve is a stocking full of coal. But what we got was forgiven. The greatest gift of all: all of our sins washed away forever.

I know I don’t deserve that.

Christmas is tomorrow. I wish that, for just one day, we could all set aside what we think we deserve and revel in the gift of grace that we have received that we did not deserve. We celebrate the birth of Christ, something that we are not told in Scripture to do. Nevertheless, it has become a tradition. Let us, along with that, celebrate the undeserved gift of forgiveness.

Father, let me not forget this gift, this undeserved grace that has been lavished upon me and my brothers and sisters in Christ. As we gather together this evening to exchange physical, material gifts, may we remember the intangible, the non-material gift that we have all been given. The one we deserve the least.

Come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

“I Done It For Love”

Good morning. It is Wednesday, December 24, 2014. Christmas Eve!

Today’s Word of the Day is “pfeffernuss.” Pfeffernuss is, “A small, round, sweet biscuit flavoured with spices such as ginger, cardamom, cloves, black pepper, etc., and typically eaten during the Christmas season.”

Today, fittingly, is Egg Nog Day! I had some last night, but I will most certainly have some more today. The linked article encourages making your own. I won’t be trying that. There is too much other stuff to cook/make today. Do you drink Egg Nog? If so, do you “nog” it, and with what? As of last year, I pour a spot of brandy in mine. It’s quite delicious!

Yesterday was crazy! It started out for me with a rainy trip to work, which made traffic interesting, to say the least. It didn’t slow me down too much, but it was stressful. There was a combination of things that pretty much made me miserable on this trip to work, one of which was the aforementioned rain. The other was the prospect of working late, and not knowing how late we would be working, since we would have to stay and finish all the work that came in. We are on a 24 hour clock for receiving, so if we are going to be on holiday during the week, we must finish everything the evening before. It turned out that we only got 108 packages from UPS, which was rather light. The mood of the entire team lifted tremendously when that happened. We wound up only having to stay about 30 minutes over (well, it was 30 minutes for me . . . some of the people came in earlier).

While I was working, Christi was running around with Rachel and Justin, shopping for a new car. It took somewhere in the neighborhood of seven to eight hours, and Christi didn’t get home until long after I did. They were successful, though, and landed a 2013 VW Passat, and the payments are actually going to be lower than the payments for the Elantra that was totaled. So that’s a bonus.

Today, there is cooking, cleaning, and family for dinner. Wait. That sounds wrong. We aren’t eating family for dinner. There will be family at the house for Christmas Eve dinner, which is Christ’s family’s tradition. I’m making some cookies that I’ve never tried before, so that will be interesting. There will also be ham, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole (because you have to have green bean casserole!!), pumpkin pie, and I’m not sure what else.

Tomorrow, after we have our Christmas, we will take pretty much the same meal over to my parents’ house in Mineral Wells, to celebrate Christmas with them.

(Source: Christian History Institute)

On this date in 1223, Francis of Assisi put together what is, as far as we know, the first recorded “live” manger scene. In the village of Greccio, Italy, Francis resided in a hermitage built by Giovanni da Vellita. The hermitage was located in front of some caves. On Christmas Eve, Francis invited the villagers to a Christmas Eve mass. The people came with torches in hand, singing Christmas songs. As they climbed the steep path to the cave, they were surprised by a manger scene in one of the caves. It included an ox and a donkey, as well as a man and woman in costume. Francis chanted the Gospel account of the birth of Christ and preached a sermon about the birth. “He promised his listeners changed lives if they would place their faith in Christ, the babe of Bethlehem.”

Christmas Eve birthdays include Ryan Seacrest, Ava Gardner, Howard Hughes, Kit Carson, Mary Higgins Clark, Emanuel Lasker, Johnny Gruelle, Harry Warren, Fritz Lieber, Lee Dorsey, and Doyle Bramhall II.

Harry Warren was an American songwriter and lyricist. According to Wikipedia, he was the first “major American songwriter to write primarily for film.” Among his credits are “Jeepers Creepers,” “Chattanooga Choo Choo,” “You Must Have Been A Beautiful Baby,” and “I Only Have Eyes For You.” Harry was born on Christmas Eve, 1893, and passed away on September 22, 1981. Here are The Flamingos, performing “I Only Have Eyes For You.”

Just for kicks, here is Art Garfunkel’s version.


(From The Divine Hours)

Fourth Week of Advent

Praise God from whom all blessings flow;
praise him, all creatures here below;
praise him above, you heavenly hosts;
praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling!
Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God.

Psalm 43:3-4
For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
Psalm 84:10
And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
Luke 1:30-38
The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein,
for he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers.
Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD? And who shall stand in his holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully.
He will receive blessing from the LORD and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob. Selah.

Psalm 24:1-6
The Prayer Appointed for the Week
Purify my conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ,
at his coming, may find in me a mansion prepared for himself;
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Today’s Gospel Reading

And when he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” Jesus answered them, “I also will ask you one question, and if you tell me the answer, then I also will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?” And they discussed it among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From man,’ we are afraid of the crowd, for they all hold that John was a prophet.” So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.
Matthew 21:23-27

I have always been fond of this little encounter. It conjures up an almost Monty Python-esque scenario as the chief priests and elders murmur among themselves. Once again, Jesus has them stuck, and they know it. Jesus will continue raking them over the coals in tomorrow’s reading.

Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “The Meaning of Christmas.”

I have to say that one of my favorite things about this book has been that almost the entire month of December has been devoted to readings that, in one way or another, are related to Christmas. Brennan has brought more meaning to my Christmas this year than I have had in many years past.

In today’s reading, Brennan tells a story of a young Richard Ballenger, whose mother was wrapping packages on Christmas Eve. She asked her son to shine her shoes for her. The seven-year-old soon presented the shoes, along with a proud smile. “His mother was so pleased that she gave him a quarter.”

As she went to put on her shoes on Christmas morning, she noticed something in one of them. Inside the shoe was a quarter wrapped in a piece of paper, on which was written, “I done it for love.”

“When the final curtain falls, each of us will be the sum of our choices throughout life, the sum of the appointments we kept and the appointments we didn’t keep. The glory of the shipwrecked will be that they habitually failed to turn up for duty. In their defense they claim they were detained by a baby in swaddling clothes. When interrogated as to why they hung out at the stable, they answer, ‘We done it for love.'”

We, the shipwrecked, preserve the meaning of Christmas as “the birthday of the Savior and the eruption of the messianic era into history.”

We love because he first loved us.
1 John 4:19

Father, as we live through this Christmas Eve day, I pray for the masses who don’t know this Savior, this baby in swaddling clothes. I pray for the shipwrecked who do not even realize that they are shipwrecked. I pray that we, your children, can be effectively about our business of sharing your Kingdom in such a way that will convince people of the need to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. I pray that we will realize that this might mean not being so defensive about how people wish us happy holidays, or whether they do so at all. I pray that we will realize that this means seeking peace for all people all over the world, even those who would cross our borders illegally. I pray that we realize that this means taking care of whose who are closest to your heart, the widows and orphans, those who truly have no family on earth. We are all broken, Father, but not irreparably! Not irreparably, because you have provided the means of fixing us! May the star of Jesus Christ shine brightly through his disciples this Christmas!

I pray for this day, that all the preparations and festivities will go smoothly. May we celebrate the birth of Christ this evening in a completely stress-free environment, and may the message of the Gospel be clear as we celebrate.

Thank you for the event which we are celebrating today and tomorrow. May it be a celebration in our hearts all year long.

May your shipwrecked soul find rest in the harbor of this baby wrapped in swaddling clothes.

He did it for love.

Grace and peace, friends.