Superficial Season


It’s the most wonderful time of the year–and the most superficial.  Somehow we have managed to take the trappings of Christmas and turn them into the whole focus of the holiday.  It’s like we oooh and aaah over a beautifully wrapped gift, but we never bother to open the package to see what treasure is inside it.  Let’s take some time to dig deeper and go below the surface of Christmas symbols.

Christmas is magical to young and old alike in part because of all the beautiful lights.  We put them up on our houses and on our Christmas trees.  Our yards glow with lighted Christmas decorations.    Families take outings to see Christmas light displays often coordinated with seasonal music.  Light is great, particularly at this time of year when the days are short and natural light is in short supply.  But we don’t have a holiday to worship light bulbs.  Christmas is about the arrival of the Light of the World.  The Christmas story as told in Luke let’s us know that the shepherds saw a bright light–the glory of God.  It’s our choice.  We spend the holiday focused on the light adorned trees or we can rejoice for the forest of light supplied by our Heavenly Father in sending us His son–the Light of the World.


Christmas lights are outshone in our materialistic society by Christmas gifts.  We apparently can’t expect a kiss from our spouse without presenting him/her with a diamond from Kay for the holiday.  We stress out about getting the perfect gifts for people on our list and put ourselves in a financial bind by overspending on things no one really needs and often don’t even want.  The actual Christmas story does involve gifts brought by the Magi–gold, frankincense and myrrh.  Nevertheless, the crux of the Christmas story is not what humans gave the baby Jesus but what God gave the world in sending us His Son.  Christmas is a time to reflect upon that gift and to thank God for it–not to hold out our hands and exclaim, “Gimme, gimme, gimme.”  I mean how could you top receiving a Savior on the first Christmas?


And Christmas gifts can’t just be handed to the recipient.  Oh, no!  They must be appropriately packaged and decorated with wrapping paper, bows and gift tags.  We spend oodles of money on beautiful paper which is expected to be ignored and ripped into pieces and thrown on the floor as quickly as possible by the donee.  Does anybody really notice the ribbons other than to complain that they are difficult to get off and impeding our ability to get to the goods?  Gift wrap was also a part of the first Christmas, but there were no bow, tags, ribbon or paper.  God’s gift to us was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger.  I don’t think these were designer duds.  Mary, Joseph and the shepherds were focused on what was wrapped inside and not the outside covering.  We don’t follow through at Christmas.  We are stuck on the wrap and not what it contains.


And Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without accompanying music.  For weeks before the big day we hear Christmas songs on the radio.  There’s only so many times you can hear “Deck The Halls” before you want  to deck someone.  Christmas music adds an air of joy, but just what are we joyous about?  The first Christmas had music too, and the reason for the joy was expressly stated.  The angels appearing to the shepherds sang “Glory to God” and praised Him.  Jesus’ birth provided a wonderful occasion for the heavenly host to break out in song.  Instead of mindlessly singing “Joy To The World” let’s think about the reason for the season.

This Christmas, I invite you to “put your thinking caps on,” as my mother would say.  Don’t be mindlessly trapped by the trappings of the season.  Remember why we have these items at Christmas.  Why ask why?  Because you’ll miss the whole point if you merely look at the surface.  Have a super and meaningful Christmas, not a superficial one.







Practical Presents For People Presented In People


It’s the most worrisome time of the year. Christmas is rapidly approaching, and the deadline is looming for picking out just the right present. Perfection may be setting the bar a tad too high. Avoiding a present that bombs may be a more attainable goal.

Let’s admit it. Each of us has received that head shaking, eye rolling, “What were they thinking of?” gift at some point in life. While I’ve forgotten the gifts relatives sent that I oohed and aahed over as a child, I’ll never forget the awful gift sent by an out of state aunt who shall remain nameless to avoid bloodshed within the bloodline. For some unknown reason, she thought that my siblings and I would be over the moon about receiving socks for Christmas. Yes, I said SOCKS. These weren’t fancy socks with any particular design or theme. No, sir. These were just plain and simple socks. Give my aunt a “P” for “practical” but not for “perfect.”  Needed?  Yes.  Nice?  No kid in his/her right mind would think so.  But the present did get used.


Not that I am in a gift-giving relationship with any of these people, but I’ve given some thought to the practical presents that I’d buy for some famous folks. Their reaction might be like mine to the socks I received, but methinks these gifts are quite apropos and needed.  On my shopping list would be the following:

1.  Donald Trump–a mouthguard.  No, he doesn’t play basketball, but this presidential candidate’s often inflammatory and outrageous statements indicate that he needs something to restrain his mouth, at least long enough for his brain to be engaged before he opens it.

2.  Caitlyn Jenner–her picture on a box of cereal.  She’s not an athlete like her alter ego, Bruce, but she has broken new ground with her gender change.  How about her likeness on a box of SHEaties?

3,  Lamar Odom–a name tag.  This athlete’s name is well known to the world for his basketball prowess and his marriage to one of the K sisters.  However, due to his cocaine snorting, he can’t always remember who he is and may need a handy prompt.


4.  Barack Obama–a gift certificate for a transition assistance program.  He’s the sitting president now, but he’s also a lame duck.  The clock Is ticking for his eviction from the White House.  What to do next?  From Obamacare he’ll switch to Obamawhere?

5.  Alex Skarlatos–a recording of “Love Train.”  This American hero took action against a terrorist on a train.  He then rode his resulting fame to a gig on “Dancing With The Stars.”  Why not put that fancy footwork he learned to use advocating for peace through a meaningful dance to the O’Jay’s “Love Train?”

6.  Josh Duggar–an Internet filter.  His family rose to fame on a cable channel show, but he spent more time trolling for hookups via Ashley Madison or viewing porn than he did viewing wholesome fare such as “19 Kids And Counting.”  The key is selectivity in what you’re watching, Josh.

7.  Tom Brady–a pump.  What better way to avoid controversies such as Deflategate than to have your own personal pump to keep those pigskins at the proper pressure?


8.  Jared Fogle–a  scale.  We all know the ex-Subway pitchman lost a huge amount of weight by eating at Subway.  With his predilection for child porn and sex with youngsters, Jared’s continued to lose; however, this time it is his job as Subway pitchman, his wife, his family, his freedom, etc.  Perhaps he should have weighed his decisions more carefully.

9.  Kim Kardashian–a serving tray.  Mrs. West’s bare bottom was seen from east to west coast on the Internet holding up a champagne bottle.  Poor thing apparently spent all her untold wealth on clothes she doesn’t wear and had nowhere else  to put her bottle of bubbly. Obviously her newborn son is the only Saint in that household.


10.  Jennifer Garner–a nanny cam.  As if splitting from hubby Ben wasn’t bad enough, Jennifer learned that Ben had been a very bad boy with their nanny.  Forget keeping an eye on the kids, you’d better be watching what the nanny is up to!

11.  Dr. Ben Carson–a campaign t-shirt.  The good doctor always appears well dressed, but a political campaign screams for a t-shirt to attract attention and support.  His could read, “Separated conjoined twins and can put this country back together!”

12.  Mark Zuckerberg–a new social media site.  Now that the Facebook CEO has added a bundle of joy to his family to go along with the bundle of money he’s made on Facebook, Mark needs to expand his offering to increase his earning potential. Raising kids, especially girls, can be very expensive.   He ought to have Baby Facebook where adorable pictures of tots can be posted.  Daughter Max can be the poster child of Baby Facebook.  It’s never too soon to get your child involved in the family business.

Thankfully, I didn’t have to spend my 12 days of Christmas rounding up excellent gifts for the elite.  While my ruminations may be humorous, the bottom line is perceptive.  Instead of giving folks what they say that want, it may be better in the long run to present  them with something fitting and beneficial which will be used and not mothballed or re-gifted. Ho! Ho! Ho! Meaningful Christmas Presents!







Map Musings


In Biblical times, the stars were used to guide travelers such as the three wise men who journeyed from afar to Bethlehem.  We still look to the heavens to guide us, but in a more indirect way via satellite transmission from above to our GPS.  Paper maps were the intermediate guide, but they are used today about as frequently as camels to reach one’s ultimate destination.

While paper maps may not be the handiest guide tool in our modern society, they are still an asset on a long trip.  On our recent trek to Texas I pulled out a paper map–not to find my way but to entertain me during the long hours on the road.  How can a map be amusing, you ask?  Well, have you ever stopped to really look at one?  The names of places and their locations in relation to each other can be pretty interesting.  For example, my Texas map shows both an Old Dime Box and a New Dime Box.  Which was settled first?  Why that name?  Was there a family feud that led to the establishment of a second Dime Box settlement?  What the heck is a dime box anyway?


While sailors and the Magi may have looked upward at twinkling stars to point the way, they already had their destinations in mind, i.e., a specific port and the location of a newborn king respectively.  Paper maps can be used differently.  What if we want to figure out where we want to go?  Wouldn’t it be fun to pull out a map and decide on a place to travel based on the names found on the map?  OK, I was trapped in a moving vehicle for hours on end traveling in Texas, so you have to get creative in how to amuse yourself.

If you take the time to look, there are some pretty interesting place names in the Lone Star State.  Maybe I should move to Alice, Texas temporarily just so I could leave and then say, “Alice doesn’t live here anymore.”  If you are a fan of the Jetsons cartoon, you may want to check out Elroy, Texas.  Or you could kill two birds with one stone and visit a Texas location that connotes another spot such as Nazareth, Moscow, London, Nevada, Sudan, Ireland, Scotland, Trinidad and Buffalo.  I’d suggest going to Nazareth at Christmas, Ireland for St. Patrick’s Day and Trinidad for spring break.  And for an out of this world experience, consider checking out Venus and Mercury–Texas, that is.

Some choose destinations for the local food.  Why the Sterns earned beaucop bucks writing about food on the road.  You could enjoy breakfast in Oatmeal, TX, a healthy snack in Plum, TX and pasta in Noodle, TX.  You might need a plate from Dish, TX to hold your meal.  Come on; you have to admit these thoughts are entertaining (for someone who is road weary and has miles to go before being released from vehicle jail).

Tired of traveling?  Why not pick a place that suits your mood?  You can be difficult in Moody, TX. on cloud nine in Utopia, TX, compassionate in Loving, TX and confused in Uncertain, TX.

While you may scratch your head at why some place names are chosen, it is understandable that a town may be named after a historical figure or beloved character.  I must have been absent, though, on the day in American History class when Elmo, Kermit  and Ben Hur were discussed.  Were those three at the Alamo?  I remember the Alamo, but not them being there.  All three are towns in Texas along with Jonah (you know all those whales they have on the plains) and Ben Franklin (the plains must be  a good place to fly a kite during an electrical storm).

Concern for my safety tempers my desire to visit some Texas towns.  Think I’ll pass on Cut And Shoot, Bang and Bigfoot.  Gun Barrell City might be safe if all citizens are packing to keep the bad guys in line; let’s just hope no one has an itchy trigger finger.  Shootings might necessitate a sidetrip to Spade, TX to dig a grave.


Other Texas locations just seem like a good time is inevitable based on the name alone.  Who wouldn’t be happy in Friday, TX where you could say, “Thank God It’s Friday!” every day?  Tuxedo, TX sounds like it is up for a fancy party all the time.  And you’d never be too tired for fun in Energy, TX and Pep, TX.

As entertaining as my map musings were, at the end of the day, there’s no place like home.  I want to be off the road in a place where I don’t need stars, a GPS or a paper map for me to find my way around.  I live in Valparaiso, FL, the vale of paradise.  Paradise, TX will just have to do without my presence for now.



Winning Isn’t Everything–Unless You’re An SEC Football Coach


The area around Athens, Georgia, home to my alma mater, the University of Georgia, is still experiencing aftershocks from the huge earthquake which struck on Sunday, November 29th.  The magnitude of this event cannot be measured on the Richter scale, although that name is apropos.  The ground did not literally move, but the UGA football program and the Bulldog Nation has been shaken and irretrievably changed by the firing of long-time head football coach Mark Richt.

So, what did Mr. Richt due to deserve to be sacked?  Let’s consider the facts.  The Georgia Bulldogs have won two SEC championship, achieved 6 SEC East championships, recorded four straight 10 wins seasons  and played in a  bowl game every single season in the Richt era.  Coach Richt has a winning percentage of approximately 0.739,  a percentage that any baseball hitter would die to have.  He is the second winningest coach in UGA history and has the fifth best winning record of active FBS coaches.  This year his team had a (winning) 9-3 record and are headed to an as yet undetermined bowl game.  So, with this performance record of course, the powers that be want to fire him….

Um, wait just a minute.  What’s wrong with this picture?  Well, he didn’t win any national championships and he didn’t win the SEC Championship every single year–that’s what!  Coach Richt concedes that the performance standard for him was to win the SEC Championship.  With 14 teams in the SEC, 13 out of 14 head football coaches will soon be out of a job if that’s the industry standard of performance.


Vince Lombardi is apparently the UGA Athletic Director’s hero.  Coach Lombardi is famous for saying, “Winning isn’t everything–it’s the only thing.”  As far as SEC football goes, that quote clearly is the gospel truth.  Why even Les Miles’ job is far from secure because he didn’t provide the Tigers with the whole enchilada this year (regardless of his stellar past track record).

So much for it isn’t whether you win or lose but how you play the game as Grantland Rice (a storied sportswriter) and my mother would say. Regardless of wins and losses, Mark Richt was known as a man of integrity and deep religious faith.  He received the 2013 Stallings Award, a humanitarian award for community service.  He is a family man with a big heart, big enough to grow his family by two through adoption.  Coach Richt is the epitome of a Southern gentleman, even on the sidelines during a game.  No visor throwing, player punching or bleeping words anywhere to be seen or heard.  No finer role model could be found for a young athlete.  He taught his players football, but he also taught them teamwork, requiring his players to work on houses for Habitat For Humanity together to bond, learn to act jointly for a common goal and recognize that there is life outside of football.

While Mark Richt is currently out of a job, the bigger loss is UGA’s.  I mourn for the skewed values demonstrated by the powers that be at my beloved alma mater.  UGA may get Smart (Kirby Smart, that is) for a new coach who might (or might not) deliver a trophy, but the university is not smart enough to realize what a treasure they have thrown away by kicking Mark Richt out of the Dawghouse. BAD DAWGS!!!!