Thursday, December 30, 2010

What Does The Future Hold?

1946, Shore of Lake Michigan

Look at the picture of the little boy, playing by himself near the waters of Lake Michigan.

I wonder what became of him.  The back of the photograph says it was taken in 1946.  I suppose his mother took this picture.  Perhaps she took him to the lake for a picnic.  Maybe she and her husband were simply out for a pleasant walk by the lake and decided to take a picture of their little boy.

I wonder if the little boy grew up to have his own dreams in life---did he like sports?  Maybe he was an athlete?  Or maybe he became a dreamer---a poet, or a writer of novels, or a folk singer or such.

Did he find love in life?  Did he find a woman who understood him and made him complete?  Was he a man of God, a believer?  Did he influence others in his life?  Did he have children, and if he did, do they remember him as a good man who loved them?

I wonder if this little boy found happiness, and I wonder if he was able to pass along to others the valuable things he learned as he passed through his time on earth.

I wonder.......

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Alchemist

Yesterday afternoon I curled up in the big leather chair in our den and read Paulo Coelho's wonderful book, "The Alchemist".  My mom gave me this book for Christmas, and she was anxious for me to read it so she could discuss it with me.

I must say I do very much like this story, which has been translated from the Portugese.  It has been translated into 60 different languages and has sold many millions of copies worldwide.  I understand why---it is a story of faith, imagination, adventure, love, hope, fear, nature and spiritual conquest.  Yes, I cried.

I recommend this book to anyone who loves a great story with true meaning.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

You Never Know....

An Inexpensive Little Cross Can Make A Difference
About five years ago, I was teaching a Sunday school class in our church.  This was a class in which I am a member.  On that day, there were about 40 people in attendance.

Cindy Carries Her Little Cross In Her Purse
At the end of the class, I closed by handing out small metal crosses to each person.  These little crosses were about an inch long.  I had purchased them for a few pennies each from a local Christian market.  I asked the class members to put this little inexpensive cross somewhere where they would see it each day. I asked them to think of where they got it and what they were doing when they received it.

Of course, a few years went by and the incident of the crosses being passed out to the class was forgotten.....or, so I thought.

A couple of months ago, one of the class members who was in attendance on that day when I was the teacher remarked in front of the class that "I still have that cross that Clint gave us a few years ago.  I keep it by the sink where I shave every morning and I am always reminded of Jesus and of our class and of the day I was given the cross."

And, of course, that got me to thinking.....about how we just never really know what kind of an impact we have on other people when we interract with them---and how our actions and words may stay with others in a positive---or negative---way long after all is said and done.

Usually, we will never know the true extent of our impact on others.  Only in situations like the one I just described will we hear at a later date about what we have meant to someone.  It is a special feeling.

My Friend, Darrel
Last week, my friend Darrel, who is a member of our weekly prayer group, gave us all a cross that has been constructed of resin and designed to fit comfortably in the hand.  It is called the "Clinging Cross", and is meant to be held at any time the holder wishes to gain strength through the cross. 

The Clinging Cross
Thank you, Darrel!  I know that through the years I will always think of your thoughtfulness when my eyes fall upon your gift.

The Clinging Cross Fits Perfectly Into My Hand

Monday, December 27, 2010

My Life....

Our Home Has Been On The Market 7 Months
God has a sense of humor, and He knows exactly what He is doing in our individual lives.   Unfortunately for us mortal humanoids, we are often on the receiving end of His humor and don't have a clue as to His level of enjoyment as He observes our reactions to His challenges.

You take today, for example.  I mean, here we are, two days after Christmas, in the heart of the holiday season, with New Year's Day fast approaching, and what does He do?  He decides that He will blast our lives with a flurry of prospective home buyers as we try to enjoy our holidays.

Our home has been on the market for 7 months.  We have had lots of "showings", and several customers have been back to see the home a second time.  It is quite a chore keeping one's home in pristeen condition and appearance day in and day out, but I thought (stupid me) that the last two weeks of the year would be void of people out looking at homes.

But today---two days after Christmas, we have had three calls from realtors wanting to show the home.  Now, you gotta understand we still have wrapping paper, dirty dishes, presents, etc scattered around from Christmas.  So, we hop to it and scour the home in record time to accommodate the first realtor---then, she cancels.  Ha ha.

Then, the second realtor shows up and we leave via the back door as they enter through the front.  They stay 4 minutes.  We come back home and the third realtor arrives.  They come to the front door, look in through the window, and leave without even seeing the interior.  You can't make this stuff up. 

Of course, I am not happy.  Cindy, being the voice of reason and the moderating influence in my life (thank God), calms me down and reminds me to focus on Him and not these worldly cares.

So---I got to thinkin', as I often do, about God and His lessons for us as He presents us with challenges.  I figure He does these things to make us try to improve our attitudes---in my case, He wants me to be more patient and understanding.  If I can improve in those areas, I just know He will bring us a buyer.  In the meantime, He is getting a few heavenly laughs.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Christmas Visit

Dave and Jan's Home is Tucked Away in the Woods

The Back Porch is Rustic and Cozy
On Wednesday, December 22, Cindy and I departed our residence at 9:00 AM and headed northeast on I-30.  Destination: the friendly burg of Hot Springs, Arkansas.  It is a leisurely 5-hour drive through north Texas and south-central Arkansas.  We stopped a few times for gas and food and occasionally just to stretch our legs on the way.  We turned the usual 5-hour excursion into a 6 1/2 hour affair.
Jan's Kitchen is Beautiful and Busy
Our destination was my brother's home in Hot Springs.  We were anxiously looking forward to seeing brother David, his lovely wife, Jan, and my octogenarian mom, who was visiting from Georgia for the holidays.
Brother Dave---The Perfect Picture of A Gracious Host
Jan in Her Kitchen
We arrived at 3:30.  Their wonderful home is tucked away in the woods, and offered us a perfect escape for a joyous reunion.
Cindy and Jan
My Mom and Cindy
Jan is one of the premiere homemakers in the world, and her home was perfectly decorated and made for comfort.
Our Dinner Ham...Oh Yeah, Babe....
Her busy kitchen was humming.  My mom was holding court in the den.  David was listening to mom and at the same time doing chores for Jan.  Ha.  I guess all that time he spent in the Air Force as a colonel prepared him for the job of listening to two people speak to him at once.
Mom Gets Ready to Chow Down
The cocktail hour arrived and our reunion began in earnest.  Jan served a dinner of delicious ham, roasted vegetables (onion, sweet potatoes and white potatoes), steamed broccoli, ambrosia, and rolls. Dessert was vanilla ice cream topped with hot fudge sauce and hot peppermint stick and whipped cream.  What a wonderful dinner!
L-R  Dave, Jan. Mom and Me
After dinner, we had a chance to continue our discussion and catch up on family matters.  Upon retiring for the evening, we slept like the dead.
Jan, Mom and Colonel Dave (Ret)
The following morning, Jan's breakfast consisted of crustless quiche (green chili peppers and cheese), bacon, sausage, raisin bread, juice and java.  Ahhhhhh......the woman can cook.
Cindy and Me
We departed at 11:00, enriched by the fellowship and fortified with Jan's culinary delights.  The return trip to our north Texas home was made fun as Cindy and I discussed our wonderful visit.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Beautiful Star of Bethlehem

Merry Christmas, everybody!

I love this beautiful song.

The family of A.L.Phipps (A. L., his wife Kathleen and two of their twelve children) recorded gospel and Kentucky mountain music in the 1950s and 1960s.  They have always been likened to their more famous counterparts, the Carter family.

A. L. wrote this wonderful Christmas song in the Southern Gospel tradition.  It is titled "Beautiful Star of Bethlehem".  A.L. Phipps was murdered while at home in 1995.  His murderer sits on death row today.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Mary's Boy Child

Harry Belafonte
This beautiful song was written by Jester Hairston in 1956.  It was first recorded by Harry Belafonte for his album, "An Evening With Belafonte".  The song reached number 1 on the UK charts in 1957.

The song is one of my favorites.  Belafonte's voice is perfectly suited for the melody.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Away In A Manger

This carol was first published in an 1885 Lutheran Sunday School book by James R. Murray (1841---1905), but the author of the first two stanzas is unknown.  There are at least two major melodies of this song.

1.  "Cradle Song", more commonly encountered in the United Kingdom by William J. Kirkpatrick and first published in 1895

2.  "Mueller" is the tune usually common in the United States, authored by James R. Murray and first published in 1887.  It is certain that the third stanza was added in 1904 by Dr. John McFarland of New York City

"Away In A Manger" has been recorded by thousands of artists.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

What I Learned From My Wife At 4:30 AM

Today I interrupt my Christmas themed blog to tell you what I learned about my lovely wife at 4:30 this morning.  I don't think I ever laughed so hard in my life.

We were still in the bed, just awakening, when Cindy asked me what football games I am interested in this bowl season.  The conversation went something like this:

Me:  I'm looking forward to several different games.  Why aren't you more interested in football?

Cindy:  Oh, I enjoy being with you while you watch the games, but I don't really get into the action that much

Me:  Do you understand the game?

Cindy:  I know the basics.

Me:  What are the basics?

Cindy:  (long pause)  Ummmmmm....well, one team is trying to get to the end of the field and the other team is trying to stop them from getting there.

Me:  (pause)  Well, yeah...that's pretty basic, all right.

Cindy:  And the team with the ball is trying to kick a field goal.

Me:  Oh, here we go......How many points does a team get for kicking a field goal?

Cindy:  (long pause)  Two.

Me:  (Now I'm thinking this is really an interesting conversation)  How many points does a team get for scoring a touchdown?

Cindy:  (pause)  Ummmmmm......One?

Me:  How many points does a team get for kicking an extra point?

Cindy:  I thought an extra point was a field goal---two?

Me:  How long is the football field?

Cindy:  (long pause).........500 feet?

Me:  Well, honey, so far you're perfect---you have missed every question.

Cindy:  Well, at least I DO know about baseball.

Me:  OK, what is a slider?

Cindy:  That's easy---that's when a runner tries to get to a base and slides in the dirt.

Me:  Hmmmm.  (Pause)......What is a triple play?

Cindy:  (long pause).......Is that when the batter hits the ball and it bounces three times?

At this point I tried to get out of bed to write this priceless conversation down so that it could be preserved for the ages, but I was laughing so hard it took me three minutes just to get on my feet.

And after having thought about this wonderful discussion, I am convinced that I am married to a true national treasure.  Thank you, Cindy, for getting my day started with a big laugh!  I love you!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Jeepers Creepers, Baby Jesus!

I wrote this poem with a touch of sarcasm over what Christmas has become.

Jeepers Creepers, Baby Jesus!

Jeepers Creepers, Baby Jesus!
I'm pretty sure You didn't know
Just how Christmastime would squeeze us,
Takin' all our hard-earned dough.

Everywhere are presents scattered
All 'round the merry Christmas tree;
As if the only thing that mattered
Was lots of gifts and gadgetry.

No one thinks too much about You;
Our main concern is bills to pay;
Along in March we sure do rue
The debt incurred for Christmas day!

Those three wise kings who came to see
You offered only gold and myrrh;
They'd no credit cards to yearly
Struggle paying or defer.

(C) 1999 Clint Ellison

The First Noel

We continue our countdown to Christmas with our next famous carol, "The First Noel".

This song is of unknown origin.  It is generally thought to be English, dating back to the 16th century.  There is a misconception that this song is of French origin because of the French spelling of "Noel", as opposed to the olde English spelling of "Nowell".  This song was first published in 1833 when it appeared in "Christmas Carols Ancient and Modern", gathered by William B. Sandys.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

White Christmas

We continue our countdown to Christmas with Irving Berlin's monster holiday classic, "White Christmas".

The morning after Irving Berlin wrote "White Christmas", he went to his office and excitedly told his secretary, "Grab your pen and take down this song.  I just wrote the best song I've ever written---Hell, I just wrote the best song anybody's ever written!"
Irving Berlin Was Born Israel Baline in Russia.  He is Considered One Of the Greatest Songwriters in History, Having Penned 1,500 Songs.

He wrote the words in 1940 while sitting at poolside at the Arizona Biltmore Resort in Phoenix, Arizona.

Arizona Biltmore Resort, Phoenix, Arizona
The song was introduced to Bing Crosby in the 1942 musical, "Holiday Inn".  In the film, he sings a duet with Marjorie Reynolds.  The song received the Academy Award for best original song.

Crosby first publicly performed the song on Christmas day in 1941.  The song topped the charts at the end of 1941 and continued atop them well into 1942.

Bing Crosby and His One-Of-A-Kind Voice
It has been noted that the song's mix of melancholy---"just like the ones I used to know"---with comforting images of home---"where the treetops glisten"---resonated especially strongly with listeners during WWII, and the Armed Forces Network was flooded with requests for it.  It was number 1 on the US charts for 11 weeks in 1942 and also hit number 1 during the holiday seasons of 1945 and 1946.  Crosby eventually sold over 50 million copies.  The Guiness Book of World Records currently lists the song as a 100-million seller, including all versions.

The recording was broadcast on the radio as a pre-arranged signal during the US evacuation of Saigon on April 30, 1975.

             White Christmas

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas
Just like the ones I used to know
Where the treetops glisten and children listen
To hear sleigh bells in the snow
I'm dreaming of a white Christmas
With every Christmas card I write
May your days be merry and bright
And may all your Christmases be white

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Holiday Stress

Cindy and I were still in bed, trying to become fully awake, when the talk turned to the stresses of the holidays.

We both agreed that the stress begins about two weeks before Thanksgiving and builds steadily until Christmas night, when it then begins to ebb, finally disappearing the first week of the new year. 

We also agree that this holiday stress produces feelings of guilt, anger, withdrawal---and in the extreme---suicide.

All of this comes, as the song says, at "the most wonderful time of the year". 

While I love the idea of Christmas and Thanksgiving and New Year's celebrations, the reality is often tempered by tension and stress.

Often, stress is produced by expectations of others in our circle of family and friends.  Sometimes it comes in the form of feeling pressure to do something/go somewhere we don't want to do.  Many times, we agonize over what gift to give aunt Mossie or uncle Jack or brother Bill.

What are your thoughts on this subject?  Do you become stressed at Christmastime?

Joy to the World

Christmas song #4 in our countdown to Christmas is "Joy to the World". 

Joy to the World was written by the famous English hymn writer and theologian, Isaac Watts.  Based on Psalm 98, and first published in 1719, the song was written as a hymn glorifying Christ's triumphant return at the end of the age, rather than as a celebration of His birth in a manger.
Isaac Watts  1674---1748

Isaac Watts went on to write some 750 hymns, many of which are still sung today.  Two very well known popular Watts hymns are "O God, Our Help In Ages Past" and "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross".

Isaac Watts Statue at Southampton Solent University
Note that the phrase, "The Lord IS come" is grammatically incorrect.  It was correct, however, when it was written in 1719.

           Joy TO The World

Joy to the world!  The Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King.
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And heav'n and nature sing,
And heav'n and nature sing,
And heav'n and heav'n and nature sing.

Joy to the world!  The Savior reigns;
Let men their songs employ.
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the neations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, and wonders of His love.

Friday, December 17, 2010

We Three Kings

The Three Kings
The third Christmas song I present in our countdown to Christmas is "We Three Kings".
Rev John Henry Hopkins, Jr
Written by Rev John Henry Hopkins, Jr, who wrote both the lyrics and music as part of a Christmas pageant for the General Theological Seminary in New York City.  It is suggested to have been written in 1857 but not published until 1863.  Hopkins composed the piece in Williamsport, PA where he was a pastor at Christ Episcopal Church, which still stands today at the corner of Fourth and Mulberry.

Hopkins was a clergyman, author, book illustrator, stained glass window designer and editor of the "Church Journal" out of New York.  He became rector of the Trinity Episcopal Church in Plattsburgh, New York in 1872.

The three kings are probably Zoroastrian magi from the area of Persia.

Their gifts represent the following significance:
---Gold represents Jesus' kingship, not earthly, but heavenly
---Frankincense represents Jesus' role as priest---the perfect intermediary between mankind and God
---Myrrh, associated with death, represents Jesus' role as Savior, in connection with his ultimate purpose of sacrificing Himself to redeem mankind

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Jingle Bells

Here is song # 2 in our countdown to Christmas....

Also known as "One Horse Open Sleigh", Jingle Bells is one of the best known secular songs in the world.  It was written by Lord Pierpont (1822---1893) and copyrighted under the title "One Horse Open Sleigh" in 1857.

The song depicts youthful exuberance.  Many parodies of the song have been sung. Examples:

Jingle bells
Batman smells
PS---so does May
I'd push May right off the sleigh
And quickly drive away.


Jingle Bells
Shotgun shells
Rabbits all the way
Oh what fun to shoot my gun
With dinner as my pay.


Shingle nails
Shingle nails
Hammers tacks and screws
Oh what fun it is to ride
In Hitler's stinking shoes.

But, somehow, the original is so much better than the parodies!

Dashing through the snow
In a one-horse open sleigh
O'er the fields we go
Laughing all the way
Bells on bob-tails ring
Making spirits bright
What fun it is to ride and sing
A sleighing song tonight

Jingle bells, jingle bells,
Jingle all the way!
Oh what fun it is to ride
In a one-horse open sleigh.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Silent Night

Between now and Christmas, I will offer one post per day, each post dealing with a popular Christmas carol or song.  The histories of our favorite Christmas songs are so interesting.  My first description is of "Silent Night".......

"Silent Night" is probably the most popular Christmas carol of all time.  The original lyrics of the song were penned in German by the Austrian priest, Father Josef Mohr; and the melody was composed by Austrian headmaster, Franz Gruber.  Today's version of the melody differs slightly from Gruber's original.  Today, the lyrics and melody are in the public domain.
Josef Mohr
Gruber gives no mention of the specific inspiration of the song.  It was first performed in the church of St Nicholas in Oberndorf, Austria on Christmas eve, 1818.  Although Mohr had composed the words much earlier, in 1816, he brought the words to Gruber just before Christmas in 1818 and asked him to compose a guitar accompaniment for the church service.

The reason for a guitar accompaniment---instead of piano or organ---has been supposed that the church organ was inoperable at the time, and therefore a guitar was substituted for the organ.  Historians have noted, however, that the first mention of a possible broken organ was in a book published in 1909.  Many historians believe that Mohr simply wanted a new carol that he could play on his guitar.  The Silent Night Society says there are many romantic stories and legends that add their own anecdotal details to the known facts.

The original manuscript has been lost; however, a new manuscript was discovered in 1995 in Mohr's handwriting and dated by researchers at c. 1820.  This shows the date of the words and music as 1816 and 1818, respectively.

Another story claims that the carol, once performed, was forgotten until an organ repairman found the manuscript in 1825 and revived it.  This cannot be verified.

The carol has been translated in over 300 languages and dialects around the world.  Although written by Catholics, it is given special significance in Lutheranism.  The song was sung simultaneously by English and German troops during the Christmas truce of 1914.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Love Bugs, Public Enemy # 1

Love Bugs (Plecia Nearctica), Coupled in Mating
Last year, in the merry merry month of May, Cindy and I were driving through east Louisiana, headed home after a wonderful weekend in New Orleans.  Somewhere around Alexandria, large, expansive dark clouds enveloped the interstate.  It was the Love Bug, AKA Honeymoon Fly and Kissing Bug, fully involved in its cyclical mating display.

Cindy had never seen or heard of this spectacle before, and when I explained to her that this particular species of fly mates in late spring and summer, the mating is accomplished by their bodies fusing together for several days as they fly around....well, it sounded so preposterous that she didn't believe me.  Ha. 

Radiators And Internal Passages Can Become Clogged
These swarms contain millions of flies, and when the motorist enters a cloud of them, they make a total mess of the automobile.  Their bodies are acidic, and after a few hours of being splattered on the car, the paint and chrome will pit.  Radiator passages are easily clogged.

Love Bugs in Swarm
The residue of these pests is awfully difficult to remove after drying.  The bugs have been known to cause accidents because the driver cannot see after hundreds of the critters have impacted the windshield.

Vehicles Can Be Completely Blasted
Cindy and I got out of our car to examine these bugs up close.  Their mating is interesting and unique, indeed.  The bugs are harmless---they do not bite or sting, but they can ruin an automobile.  These bugs are native to the areas lining the southern Gulf coast, from Texas to Florida.

Drivers Can Be Blinded By the Swarm
It took considerable effort from two men at the car wash to remove the bugs when we got home.  A special cleaning agent and lots of elbow grease were required to restore the finish.

Once The Bugs Dry On The Car, They Are Extremely Difficult To Remove