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A Christmas Story

December 19, 2008 1 comment

I love this time of year. The air is crisp and the Christmas lights are twinkling. There is just something about this season. It takes me back to a simpler time…

We drove through the unfamiliar neighborhood. The houses were all decorated elaborately. The warm air was blowing out of the vent across the windshield carrying the sweet scent of antifreeze. It was really cold outside. The street and lawn were covered with a fine layer of snow and the flakes were continuing to come down. Strange that it had not been snowing on my block. It did not snow often in the small town we lived in. What a wonderful treat this was.

“Okay, champ, there it is.” My dad seemed a bit excited – almost giddy as he pointed up the drive to one of the largest houses on the block. The lights were amazing. The property was ornately decorated with what had to be thousands of lights. Even though there was a lot going on it did not seem to be too much. It was really beautiful. We pulled up to the front gate and this rather odd looking little guy stepped out. My dad got out of the car and opened the door for me. I stepped out and examined the little man that had just received the car keys. He wasn’t much taller than I was. “How is he going to even reach the pedals?” I thought as we were ushered through the front gate and directed down a winding path towards the big house. The path wove back and forth, in and around, through the lit trees and other decorations. The falling snow glimmered as it fell against the multicolored lights. We passed some mechanical reindeer calmly rooting through the snow trying to get at the grass under it. At least, I think they were mechanical. I could have sworn that I caught two of them moving about out of the corner of my eye. We made it to the house and rang the doorbell. It played “Carol of the Bells” and almost immediately the door was opened by another diminutive man who asked for the invitation. My dad dug in his coat pocket and pulled out a small red and white card. All it had on it was my name. The little man took the card and welcomed us into the foyer. The outside of the house belied the enormity of the inside. And was it decked out. There was garland and ribbon all around. Lights were flashing and the whole place smelled like freshly baked cookies and hot chocolate.

Around the corner came a lady that reminded me much of my grandmother. She was a large woman with a very warm and friendly face. She smelled a bit like gingerbread, I think. The small man handed her the card. “We have been waiting for you,” she said with a smile. “Follow me.” We walked down a long hallway lined with doors. Most were closed but I did glimpse what looked like an office or study. In it was an enormous desk stacked with papers and bags and bags of what looked to be letters. I couldn’t see much more than that. The kindly lady motioned us to enter a large room at the end of the hall. As I entered, I noticed other kids, nine of them, sitting around a large chair. They seemed as confused as I was. Nervous excitement filled the air. Suddenly, a door on the other side of the room opened and a rather large red-cheeked man walked in. He had a great big smile on his face and made his way to the large chair.

“That looks like…”

“Go have a seat, dear. It is time for the story. And you,” she said looking at my dad, “can join the other parents in the kitchen. We have all kinds of goodies for you in there,” the kindly old woman said as they exited the room.

I sat down with the others and caught the gaze of the man seated in the large chair. He looked old and wisdom radiated in his eyes. There was something about this guy. He commanded respect but his persona was very warm and inviting. He seemed genuinely interested in each kid – somehow seeming to know him or her personally.

He started speaking. “Merry Christmas, boys and girls. You have been invited here to hear a very special story. It is a remarkable story of love.”

He told a story of a woman, a carpenter, an angel and a great promise. A long journey and no place to stay except for a stable filled with hay. The woman gave birth to a very special child and laid him in a manger. There were more angels, a star and shepherds and wise men. And joy. Great joy that night.

“Any questions or comments,” he asked as he finished. Everyone sat there quietly. “That is the greatest story ever told. I wanted you to hear the real reason for Christmas. It is not about getting presents or toys. Well, I suppose it is about getting one present – the Lord Jesus Christ.”

A little blonde-headed girl held up her hand. “What happened after that to the baby named Jesus,” she asked.

“Well, the story that starts at His birth, as remarkable as that is, only gets better from there. You see, God loves us so much that He gave His only son for us. That is the reason for Christmas. We have turned it into something else but you, boys and girls, need to always remember the real reason. And we all should tell others.”

“But what happened to the baby Jesus,” she asked again.

“He grew up, did many wonderful things, and proved to everyone that He loved us. But, Grace, that is a story for another time. “

The matron of the house escorted the parents back into the room. It was time to go. The old man greeted each parent as they retrieved their children.

“Max, it is good to see you again. I remember when you came for your story time and your father and his father,” he said. My dad looked at him with eyes of wonder and as we said our goodbyes the man looked at me and said, “Always remember that Jesus is the reason for the season. It is all about him. Young man,” he said with a chuckle, “I will see you again. I am sure of it. Probably in about thirty years or so.”

I wondered how he could know that. The little man delivered our car and when he got in dad didn’t even have to move the seat back. The drive back was quiet as I thought about that story and everything that had happened. As we turned into our neighborhood, I noticed the snow had stopped and the streets and lawns were absolutely dry.

We hope that your family remembers the true reason for Christmas this year. It is so easy to get caught up in all the “stuff” that so easily takes control at Christmas. Have a blessed Christmas. As the wise old man said, it is all about Jesus.

Merry Christmas from the Dorseys

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Categories: Humor, Religion

Never Leave Your Partner Behind

August 18, 2008 Leave a comment

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Rhonda and I were fortunate to see an early preview of Fireproof at church a few weeks ago. It is a great film. We laughed. We cried. We really related to the characters. I think most married couples will see themselves somewhere in the movie.

At its basics, the movie is about relationships. The relationship between and man and his wife, his parents, and his co-workers, and ultimately, his relationship with Christ. Kirk Cameron’s character seems at once strong and very driven but also distracted by the trappings of life. He has no center; there is no foundation to keep him steady. It is made pretty evident that a marriage will not reach its full potential without Jesus as the third partner. The relationship with his Dad was especially touching to me. During those scenes I found myself wanting an experience like that. I loved my Dad very much but never achieved this kind of intimacy with him. I feel like I missed out on something very special.

This film is from the creators of Facing The Giants. It is very affirming and can strengthen marriages. I hope you can make time to see it.

Categories: Family, Film, Religion

A Still, Small Voice

July 16, 2008 1 comment

The still, small voice was whispering,“Grace” in my soul. Every fiber of my being was screaming for retribution or, at least, some kind of fairness. But there was that voice. “Grace… grace… they are only teenagers.” So I took a deep breath, put on my iPod and started cleaning.

Five hours earlier…

Two of the six guys I was responsible for at Trey’s youth camp decided to cook a spaghetti dinner one night. I thought that was a good idea and much cheaper than eating out in Red River, NM at night. And we would all be there together for a meal which provided another opportunity to bond. They wouldn’t let me help at all; instead, one would call his mother multiple times to seek advice. I guess they didn’t know or care (well, they did know… I told them a few times) that I am a good cook. I do most all of the cooking for my family during the week. But my experience was not asked for. They had purchased a lot of food. I was sure there would be left-overs. I did check on them several times just in case they needed something but they seemed to know what they were doing. So we were going to have spaghetti.

Trey and I were on the deck upstairs with four other guys playing a rousing and loud game of Rat, a variation of the dice game Farkle. Shouts of excitement and disgust would come spewing off the deck causing passers-by to look up and ask what we were doing. It was that clamor that make it hard to believe that the guys downstairs “didn’t know I was there.” So all of the spaghetti was eaten by those guys with the help of the guys next door. There was none left.

Over the previous few days I had tried to connect with these guys and really thought that I was making some good progress. “Spaghetti-gate” illustrated that I was wrong about that, at least to some degree. At first, I was disappointed until one of the fellows brought up the half-empty plate of his second or third helping (I am not sure which.) Trey had gone down and asked if there were anything left. I told the guy that I really wasn’t that angry but for him to tell everyone that I was ticked off. I was going to milk it for awhile. Then I went into the kitchen. Oh my Emeril! What a mess! There was spaghetti everywhere, cooked and uncooked. There was spaghetti sauce spilled on the counter, floor, and the sides of the crock pot they had used to keep it warm. (That was actually my suggestion.) Pots and pans were covering the counters – pans that had been used to cook hamburger meat, pots that had held spaghetti, pots that weren’t even used (I think). It was overwhelming. That is when I kind of lost it. The bus was going to pick us up in 35 minutes to take us to the conference center that was about a mile away. I told them, in no uncertain terms, that it all must be cleaned up before they get on that bus. Upon that instruction, Trey and I left to find something quick to eat so we would not be late to the evening session.

I was certain that when I walked back into the kitchen that it would be clean. So I was crestfallen upon finding that much of it was still untouched. They had put the plates in the dishwasher, apparently without rinsing them, which clogged up the dishwasher and later caused a leak all over the kitchen floor. All of the pots and pans and mess were still there. I started to get warm.

“Grace. Grace”

Then I noticed the crock pot had been left on and had a black baked-on layer of spaghetti sauce in the interior. I was getting really mad now. “I can’t believe these guys didn’t share their meal with me and then left all of this for someone else to clean”, I thought.

“Grace. Grace”

In all, it took about an hour to clean that mess. I got finished just before they returned from the late night activities. In my room, I listened to see if anyone had noticed. It seemed they didn’t. And the next day, no one said thanks or even acknowledged that any of it had happened. Later, one of the guys, who had been sick and taken to the hospital thanked me for looking after him and “everything I did.” I appreciate that but it was given in a more general way. I will, however, take what I can get in that respect.

The next day, before we left Red River, I was checking the kitchen one last time. I found another mess inside the microwave. Someone had re-heated their spaghetti and sauce had splattered all over the inside of it. “I wish I had seen this yesterday.”

“Grace. Grace”

We were often told by our leader that this week was not about us (the adult sponsors). In light of that, I feel kind of guilty for even writing about this. I had been praying for several weeks that God would use me somehow to influence “my guys”. And although camp was really great in every other way, I came home wondering if the Lord had used me in any way. Later, I told Rhonda that I am not sure that I got anything from camp this year. But she reminded me about that voice. That still small voice quietly urging me to extend grace to those six 10th grade boys. I am not sure why but I guess I did bring home a lesson about grace. Maybe God was also showing me that it really wasn’t all about me. Should I have cleaned up that mess or made them do it? I may never know if any of this had an impact on any of them. But upon reflection, it did have an impact on me.

A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense.” Proverbs 19:11

Categories: Family, Religion

Are You Smarter Than A 3rd Grader?

At first glance, the obvious answer to that question, it seems, is yes. I am smarter than a 3rd grader. But after spending a week with 20 3rd graders at church camp I am amazed at what I learned from them. Noah and I spent five days at Camp GAP with about 1200 other kids and adults last week. And what a week it was! Our Minister to Children considers this week the highlight of the year. I now know why he thinks of Camp GAP that way. It was a great week.2008_shield.jpg

Noah was able to climb a rock wall, slide down a 4 story zip line, and climb a 55-foot alpine tower. The kids learned about God’s Amazing Power (GAP) and were blessed by Keith Coast as he preached the Word with his unique blend of the Gospel and illusion. And, of course, he got inside a large balloon. That was a crowd favorite.

It never ceases to amaze me how God can bless me so much through the lives of kids. Whether it is church camp, Upwards Sports, or teaching a Sunday School class, I am always inspired by the outlook and perspective these kids have. I guess it is all a part of serving but I think I am often blessed more than the kids that I am with. That is why Camp GAP is one of the highlights of the year. And that is why I am planning to go back next year.

Now from 3rd graders on to the youth. I will be going to camp with Trey next week. It is in Red River, NM again this year. We will spend a frenetic week up in the mountains. It was a lot of fun last year. So next week, the question is what can I learn from a group of teenagers that think that have all of the answers. I don’t know. These guys inspire me all the time. Sometime while we are there, we are planning to go white-water rafting down the Rio Grande. I am sure that I will learn something in that experience. I did not do it last year but want to now after hearing Trey rave about it. I guess I will have some stories to tell when we get back. Now what did I do with my sunscreen?

Categories: Family, Religion

Live Out Loud

April 15, 2008 Leave a comment

There are so many times when we are blessed and just go on about our lives without giving thanks or praise for the blessing. Only one of the ten healed lepers returned to Jesus to praise Him for what He had done. Are we so preoccupied with our own lives that we cannot acknowledge His greatness and His ultimate sacrifice for us? We need to live life to the fullest every day. We never know when our appointed time is. That is so evident with the passing of Chynna Zmolik. This year’s D-Now at church will forever be remembered not for the great teaching, worship, and fellowship but as the weekend when many of those students first tasted the bitter root of death and mourning. It is really sad. It just doesn’t seem right to lose someone at age 17. But God is sovereign. We can trust that He knows what He is doing. So we need to live life in the moment. We need to thank continuously. We need to praise constantly. We need to worship relentlessly. We need to pray ceaselessly. We need to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with the Lord. Without end.

When you are finished reading this, please say a prayer for the Zmolik family. Ms. Zmolik,17, was a student at Forney High School who died after a 23-hour surgery to repair a valve in her heart. This family is a pillar of our community and loved by many.

Categories: Current Affairs, Religion

Is Oprah for real?

April 5, 2008 1 comment

I guess much has been said about the video below. In the past, I have liked Oprah… respected her really. She is so wealthy and has done much good for lots of people. But recently she has really made me wonder. I have never assumed that she wasn’t liberal. The majority of that industry is. That doesn’t really surprise me. But when she came out for Senator Obama in more than just a vocal way she lost my infrequent viewership and my respect for her started waning. Then there was this video. I got it in an email and while I usually don’t watch stuff sent in emails I did take the time to watch this. I can’t say that I am shocked. I am just really disturbed by this.

Although this video is obviously put out by someone trying to sell a book, it does seem to show Oprah in a less than favorable light. She admits growing up in a Baptist church but she has really been led down the wrong path. I believe what the Bible says. Yes… there is only one way to salvation. It is Jesus. The Bible says it. I believe it. That settles it. What is disturbing is that she is espousing all of the New Age nonsense and people are listening and falling for it. This isn’t the first time she has done this. She switches from time to time to whatever the "current" philosophy is. It is ridiculous! It is sad. It is ridiculously sad. This woman needs our prayers.

Categories: Current Affairs, Religion

Oh my, she makes me tingle…

November 8, 2007 Leave a comment

I have to be the luckiest man on earth. Why did I deserve such fortune? I am not so deluded to think that I actually do deserve this. But God has continually drenched me with His grace for the last 20 years. Wow! 20 years!

Marriage really is a mysterious and wondrous thing. So many people get married and never really know what they are actually doing. For the act of marriage is more, much more, than a civil ceremony. Mike Mason speaks to this in his incredible book The Mystery of Marriage:

In marriage a man is given the opportunity of seeing one woman, one person, as he has never seen any other woman or person before. Marriage affords as deep a glimpse into the heart and soul of another being as we shall ever have. We long to stand in awe of one another, just as Adam and Eve must have done when they first locked gazes. We long for our whole body to tingle with the thrill of knowing that this one fascinating being, this being of a different gender, has been created especially for us and given to us unreservedly for our help, comfort and joy.

Did I mention God’s grace? I love my wife. Our love has grown stronger and deeper over the past 20 years. She still amazes me. What a woman of incredible grace she is. As I sat across from her last night, happily sharing a piece of chocolate cake I couldn’t help but consider that she does indeed have the same effect on me as that rich, luscious piece of cake. I told her that eating all of that chocolate made my face tingle. I don’t know why it does but it always has. Maybe it is the release of endorphins or something. But I get much the same “endorphic” (don’t think that is a word) effect by just looking at her and being with her. After 20 years, she still gets me going. I can’t wait to see what another 20 years will bring. My hope is that, at the end, people will look at us and consider ours to have been one of the greatest loves ever.

Do I deserve all of that? Probably not. But they say the journey is the thing and I couldn’t have ever imagined that my journey could be so complete. That is ultimately what counts.

Categories: Books, Family, Religion