Tuesday, January 15, 2013

On the weather

The weather in Mississippi just can't seem to make up its mind lately. With 40 degree swings in high temps, it's hard to tell what season it is. But the cold and rain the last few days have been wonderful.

I know; you think I'm crazy for saying such a thing, but let me explain. Don't get me wrong. Warmer, sunny weather is great too. The thing about the weather of the spring and summer though is that you want to get out--to the park, to the pool, to the lake, to the beach. You want to picnic, camp, travel. But when the cool and (occasionally in MS) the cold arrive with blustery, wet days, where do you want to be?

Home.

You see, I love layering up and getting out in the cold, wet weather, but if I am going to be completely honest I love coming home and getting out of that weather even more.

When it's cold and wet outside, home is your refuge. Home is warmth. Home is a cozy chair by the fireplace. Home is a mug full of hot chocolate or good coffee. Home is picking up that book you've abandoned more than once but insist on finishing (one day). Home is enjoying a hearty meal. Home is holding the ones you love a little bit closer.

So maybe what I really love isn't so much the cold, wet weather; it's home.

But, still, I do love the weather, and hopefully, you appreciate it a little more now too.

Stay dry. Stay warm. Stay close to those you love.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Reflection

     Christmas spirit has been a little hard to come by at No. 20 this year. Several life circumstances have collided to create a lot of tumult. But tonight, I came home from a family Christmas celebration and decided to watch the Christmas programs of some local churches. FBC Jackson's Carols by Candlelight came on too late, but I couldn't turn it off. Their presentation this year was very unique and moving as it gave testimony not only to the arrival of the Christ child but also to His life, death, resurrection, and eternal rule at the right hand of God the Father. And for the first time this year, the Christmas story clicked for me.
     This arrival of the Son of God in Bethlehem, while quite an event and a miracle in its own right, was just one of the first of many miraculous steps that would culminate in Christ's sacrificial death on a cross and His victory over death in His resurrection. And all this wasn't just for show. Each of these steps was ordained by God the Father so that the gap between the holy Creator and the sinful creation could be bridged. Christ didn't come to put Bethlehem on the map; He came to save the world. And that manger scene with Mary and Joseph and the shepherds means nothing without the crucifixion and resurrection that came three decades later.
     Jesus came into this world just like we did, but after that arrival He did what none of us could do; He led a perfect life. And that perfect life was sacrificed in our place--in MY place--in YOUR place.

"For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. " John 3:16

     In Christmas, we don't just celebrate the birth a baby. We celebrate the arrival of our Deliverer, our Redeemer, our Saviour!

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Sweet Memories

            The songbook sitting on my piano was pulled out tonight because on the way home from work I was listening to some Christmas music and heard an arrangement of "Away in a Manger." You may think that's a fairly benign, underwhelming Christmas carol, but it certainly isn't for me.
            I pulled out that particular songbook because it was the Christmas music I learned to play on the piano back in junior high. I remember being excited that it had an arrangement of "Away in a Manger" in it, and in my mind that made the song more "grown up." Admittedly, it is a juvenille song, but that's just it. Even though I was barely a teenager, I already knew the importance of sweet, sweet memories. And that [grown up] arrangement of "Away in a Manger" allowed to me to go back to my earlier childhood without seeming like a little kid (early teens are always worried about their image, right?).
            So listening to the song in the car the other night created memories inside of memories. I remember learning to play that song in junior high and thinking back on when my sister and I were younger. Come Christmas time, we would drag out the Christmas carol songbooks at our grandparents' house. I remember us coaxing our Memaw away from her post in the kitchen (she was the world's best cook) and into the living room to sing along with us. And our favorite song? "Away in a Manger." We would all sing, and even though I couldn’t even pick out the melody on the piano at the time, I would sit and pretend to play.  
            So tonight I sat at my piano and played that song. The arrangement isn't the best and even though it's not difficult, I was a little rusty. But the memories were sweet.
            Yes, it isn't yet Thanksgiving. Christmas music is the one part of Christmas I do let sneak in before Thanksgiving festivities are complete. And I am glad I do. Because the Christmas music I listened to and played tonight made me so thankful for the memories I have. For the family I have. For the faith I have. Happy Thanksgiving y'all.

Away in a manger, no crib for a bed,
The little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head.

The stars in the sky looked down where he lay,
The little Lord Jesus asleep in the hay.

The cattle are lowing, the baby awakes,
But little Lord Jesus no crying he makes.

I love Thee, Lord Jesus, look down from the sky
And stay by my cradle til morning in nigh.

Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay
Close by me forever, and love me, I pray.

Bless all the dear children in thy tender care,
And take us to heaven, to live with Thee there.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering

As I sit here watching the real time replay of NBC's coverage of the morning of September 11, 2001, I can't help but be overcome with many of the same emotions I felt on that day.

In September of 2001, I was a ninth grader who was still adjusting to a move from a small private Christian school to a slightly larger school. Due to class scheduling, I had been separated from the friends who had moved to the same school with me. Starting high school is tough enough, but when you have to do it on your own, it's even harder.

I remember standing in the hallway waiting to get into my Mississippi History class after our morning break. I was aggravated because the coach that taught our class was late again which meant I was stuck in a hallway full of people and completely by myself. In the classroom I was safe; my desk and books served as a sort of home base or shield. In the classroom you were supposed to be paying attention and working. I didn't have to worry about making friends then; I could hide behind the school work. So I definitely wanted to get in the classroom.

Then, our football coach came barrelling down the hall announcing what had happened. We were all stunned. By the time we heard the news both of the twin towers had been hit and one or both had already fallen; the Pentagon had already been struck, and Flight 93 had already crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. I remember our headmaster coming over the intercom and telling us what had happened and praying for our country. My concerns about myself and dealing with my new environment completely vanished. I quickly realized how much bigger this world is than me and my insecurities.

We stayed at school the rest of the day. Everyone wondered why we didn't dismiss school early, but none of us knew what to do even if we did. I don't remember what school work, if any, we got done that day. Our minds and hearts were all somewhere else. I remember worrying about my mother because I knew she was at work worrying about my family. I wondered who would come to pick my sister and me up from school--if it would be my mom or dad, or if my grandmother would pick us up as planned.

That afternoon, when we got to my grandmother's house, I was glued to the television. There was no new information. All the stations were just replaying to footage of the attacks and reading and re-reading statements from government officials as well as showing coverage of President Bush who had been out of Washington, D.C. that morning. My grandmother and sister didn't want to watch, but I couldn't not watch. I had already become a news/politics junkie, but this was bigger than that. I was searching for answers.

After my dad had picked up my brother, sister and me and taken us home, I still hadn't found what I was looking for. President Bush made it back to D.C. before the end of the day and addressed the nation from the Oval Office that night. It was so reassuring to see him in that place--to know that our country was shaken but not broken and that there would be justice. I remember going to bed that night wondering what further attacks could be coming.

It's been ten years now and much has happened. The terrorists haven't been eradicated, but many of their efforts have been thwarted. The war on terrorism will never be over. Both sides will have their victories, but I know that in the end good prevails over evil. And that is the answer I was looking for that day. We live in a fallen, sinful world. Bad things will happen--and to good people. But redemption is coming for those who hope in the Lord.

To truly always remember the events of that day is to remember how important it is for our nation to stand as a united people--as One Nation Under God. America, honor God, and you will know His blessings.

II Chronicles 7:13-15
Ephesians 6: 10-18

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Back to School

     No! I'm not going back. I've had enough, thank you. But my little brother starts back to school tomorrow. I can't believe he is starting high school. He's my little brother; he's still supposed to be a kid. Now, it's even getting to where I actually won't be able to call him my little brother though--not if his growth spurt continues. I will have to transition to the more proper "younger brother."
     When he was born, everyone made such a big deal because he was 7 years younger than my sister and 10 years younger than I. Nowadays that isn't that abnormal (not really sure it was then). But from the very beginning he got plenty of attention. As a baby and toddler he got so much attention that he didn't have to bother talking until he was three. There was no need for him to verbalize anything because he was waited on hand and foot. The problem is there were too many words on backlog when he did start talking, and he hasn't shut his mouth since! (My grandmother swears that he talked when he was one but was fussed at and stayed quiet until he was three and apparently plotted payback by talking non-stop for the rest of his life.)
     My parents often joke that he is the only child they had because my sister and I came into the world acting like old people. A point which neither of us deny; he is a lot more fun. And for all the ridicule my sister and I have heaped upon him, he's turned out pretty well. Of course much of the credit goes to yours truly--you see, another of my parents' oft quoted claims is that they had me to raise him. Ha! Well, he's "all growed up" now, and I am not sure what to think. Isn't your little brother supposed to stay a little boy forever?!? But he's growing to be a fine young man. He has a strong conscience and a strong family sense (even if it is one of his friend's family and not ours), and if he puts his mind to it, he excels in school--he is a Watts after all. He's also a committed Bulldog so he will go far! I assure you his better habits were picked up from his big--err, older--brother. I take no responsibility for the bad ones.
     So here's to his next four years. Let's just see if he can live up to the standard his older brother and sister set (no pressure). I'll be proud regardless.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

It's time

     Vacation's over, and I'm headed back to work tomorrow. Growing up, vacations were all about fun trips where you could pack as many exciting activities as possible into one week of the year. Being grown up, you just want to get away and do AS LITTLE AS POSSIBLE. So my family, which is four grown ups and one teenager now, did just that this week. We sat on the beach all day every day and read books we've wanted to read since last summer while the sun drained us of all our energy. It was pretty awesome.
     The alarm clock goes off bright and early tomorrow morning though--forcing me to get back to the real world. But that's okay because I enjoy my work. Not many people get to work in such a wonderful environment with so many great co-workers. I'm pretty fortunate. And people don't believe me when I tell them that I decided on my career and even my current place of employment when I was in 5th grade and decided that science didn't interest me enough for me to become a brain surgeon in Maine (long story...).
     Funny thing is I've always had everything in life planned out. I go over everything I plan to do hundreds of times before I take the plunge and actually do it. But I've hit a road block now. I've never planned past landing a job, finishing my MBA, buying a house, and passing the CPA exam; all of which have now been accomplished. I may only be one quarter of my way through life, and I am not sure at all what to do with the remaining three quarters. So it's time to set some new goals--to do some more planning. What I need is a change in my routine. Because as I sit here writing this and pospone going to bed so going back to work seems just a little further away, I realize that what I dread about returning from my vacation isn't my work; it's the routine to which I am returning. Some would argue I need to stop planning and "just live"--whatever the heck that means. I will keep planning thank you. Things don't always turn out as I plan anyway--thank goodness--and I am absolutely fine with that. But the plan is the starting place. 
     There is a verse in Jeremiah that I tend to say is "overused" which upon reflection I realize is impossible in that God's Word could never be overused. Misused might be a better word since the passage is often referenced by prosperity preachers--those guys who wear the rose colored glasses and promise worldy riches and scoot right on by that pesky sin issue. Anyway, I digress. But tonight I'll use that Scripture because it has real meaning for me as I reflect on it. It's Jeremiah 29:11-13, "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.'"
     In it's context, God is speaking to His people who are exiled and in bondage. We're all in that same place though when we lose our focus or seek out our own desires. God grants us a reprieve though. He is always there for us. But as the verse says, it's not our job to worry about our "prosperity"; that's God's job. Our job is to seek Him; then we will know what it is we are supposed to do with our lives. So it's time to seek Him. It's doesn't always make life decisions easier, but it certainly makes the right decisions more obvious. (Anyone who has ever made a tough decision knows what I mean.)
     So when I get up tomorrow and head to work I know that I don't have to settle into my old routine, but I do have to act if I don't want to spend the next three quarters of my life in the same place I am now--which I can tell you now is not what God wants for my life and neither do I.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Fireworks

Growing up, my family always went to see fireworks displays on Independence Day, but it wasn't my sister or I that insisted we go; it was my mother. She loved (and still loves) fireworks. None of the rest of us were as enamored but we always indulged her. And when my little brother came along and absolutely hated fireworks because the noise hurt his ears, we still went, and he would cover his ears or sit in the car with the windows rolled up. Dad knew how much Mom loved the fireworks, so if there was a way for us to see them, we did.

I never disliked fireworks, but not until tonight did it hit me--"it" being what makes fireworks so magical. That wonderment--that simple awe my mother has always had finally made sense to me tonight. It's easy enough to explain how fireworks work, but when you see them in the air you just don't think about it. As they're bursting in the air you're amazed at how they seem larger than life. Their brilliance really does awe you, and you sense their power as they explode with that huge noise and the bright flash of colors.

And in a lot of ways those fireworks can serve as a reminder to what America is. America is an idea that is larger than life. We're one of a kind. As the city on the hill we have shared the brilliant light of freedom and exhibited our power throughout the years. But just because we were founded as in independent nation, doesn't mean we will stay that independent nation. We have to fight for it every day. Independence comes at a great cost.

We also have to realize that independence is not the freedom to do whatever we want, it is the freedom to do what is right. The former is anarchy. The latter is the America our founders envisioned when they declared independence 235 years ago. So we now have the responsibility to guard their legacy and extend it to future generations. So always remember to celebrate America's independence and never forget to fight to preserve it!

Happy Independence Day