Go home or keep going…

In the last six years or so, I have had the opportunity to take part twice in a winter retreat of pastors from all over the greater New York City area.  This retreat, organized by Concerts of Prayer Greater New York, brings together pastors from every denomination and is held in a quaint retreat center in the country located on the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware River.  I remember more than once sitting on a simple bench looking out over that cold, icy, winter river and, being a history-buff, thinking about what it was like for George Washington and his men to cross this same river near Trenton some 65 miles or so away.  We are all taught in school of that famous crossing that Washington made on Christmas night, 1776, and how important the capturing of the city was for the war effort.  What most never learn is, just a week later most of Washington’s troops were ready to give up and go home.  As a matter of fact, up until that famous midnight crossing and defeating of the Hessian troops, that’s what a lot of the Continental soldiers had already done.  Continue reading

A baby broke through…

For as long as I can remember I have liked to watch war movies.  Maybe it is because my dad served in the Air Force during WWII (he was a belly-gunner on a bomber in the Philippines) or that my oldest brother did two tours of duty as a Green Beret in Vietnam.  Now, neither of them ever really talked about their experiences, but for whatever reason I’ve always been drawn to these types of movies – especially the old ones.  The first battle-type of movie I remember seeing was when I was a child and my dad took another brother and I to the historic Proctor Theater in Schenectady, New York.  We drove the 25 miles or so from our home in Delmar one Saturday morning to see the 1939 classic film “Gunga Din”, starring Cary Grant and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. (based on the poem by Rudyard Kipling).  Maybe it was something about being in that big, old theater, or eating popcorn out of the square box instead of the typical tub… or maybe it was just the memory of sitting next to my dad as the story played out on the screen.  Whatever it was, from that moment on I was hooked.  Continue reading

Angels we have heard on high…

It was 1976 and I was 6 1/2 years old that Christmas.  I remember laying in bed on Christmas Eve in the top bunk as my older brother slept quietly in his bunk below.  Our family had come home from the Christmas Eve service at our church a few hours before, and we had already made it through a family tradition of opening just one simple gift before going to bed.  After seven kids my parents had learned that giving us that one gift was like slowly turning a pressure valve that probably gave them at least a little more sleep on Christmas morning.  As I lay there it was like something out of Clement Clarke Moore’s story “Twas the Night Before Christmas”, you know with children nestled in bed and visions of sugar plumbs dancing in their heads – but for me it was toys.  I was thinking about all of the stuff I had wanted and wondering what would be waiting for me under that tree.  That’s when the most amazing thing happened. Continue reading

No room for them in the inn…

That same year (2008) that God used someone to bless us with all of those gifts that were left on our doorstep, we had another encounter that I know was from Him.  To be honest I don’t remember if it was before or after the gifts arrived, but it was another surprise on those same steps – this time in the form of a young man needing help.   It was about 5 o’clock or so in the evening, and we were rushing around the house getting ready to leave as we had to be at the church at 5:3o to practice for the Christmas program and we didn’t really have any time to spare.  That is when the knock came at our door.

Now, you’ve got to understand that house we lived in… it’s pretty far out of town, and it was way back off the road.  Nobody would just randomly select our house to stop at, which is what made the knock on our door that night so strange.  Continue reading

Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts…

“On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.” (Matthew 2:11)

Back in 1992 my wife and I were poor. Maybe not in the world’s standards, but I was only making about $11,000 a year working at the hospital evenings and going to Bible school during the day. We had a 5 year-old and a one-year-old, and we had no money for Christmas. Continue reading

Jesus, George Bailey and me…

I have always been drawn to the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” and the story of George Bailey.  I think like with most anyone, there are certain things that take place around Christmas time that stir my heart and cause pangs of nostalgia.  The songs, the classic TV specials, the change in seasons – well, maybe if I lived anywhere else besides Florida, that is.  The moment that Santa shows up at the end of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, it’s like a switch is flipped inside of me and I am ready for the Christmas season.

The movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” does that for me, too… Continue reading