Category Archives: Uncategorized

Come Let Us Adore Him

There was an especially cold wind blowing ferociously today. It was uncomfortable to walk in…I had to use my ‘Wind Strap’ on my Tilley Hat. I notice old people…more and more…and they were out in their slow and quiet force this morning…to buy Christmas gifts for their grandchildren and their children…and their loved ones. Barnes and Nobel Booksellers had a nice array of full shelves of books and puzzles and family games for the customer’s perusal. I was happy to see this after noticing empty shelves in our local Walmart and Kroger last week. I have wanted some Christmas decorations for our yard…for some time. I saw some large Blo-Mold Christmas Candles…but even on sale…they were expensive. I reflected on our Blo-Mold Nativity Scene that we put in our yard in Elkville for several Holiday Seasons…when the boys were young. I used to look out of our massive picture window to admire the Nativity.

We wait for the birth of Christ. For we Christians…the hope of the ages. We were given a great gift…so many years ago…and we want to commemorate that earth-changing event…the old get out in the cold wind to warm the hearts of others on Christmas morning. ‘Let the weak say, ‘I am strong’ Let the poor say, ‘I am rich’ Let the blind say, ‘I can see It’s what the Lord has done for me.’

The hope for the hopeless…is coming to our lonely and sad and sick world. ‘For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase off his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even forever. The Zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.’ Isaiah 9: 6-7. KJV

Our eyes grow dim and our ears lose their audible acuity…but our hope grows stronger and more passionate each year of our lives as we await peace and no more war…health and no more sickness…love and no more hate…

Why not look for the coming of the Christ Child…in the eyes of those who have no voice…those who have been forgotten and marginalized and cast aside… Let us work toward a brighter future…a future that recognizes that we are all failing humans…that are bringing our gifts to the little baby…in the manger…

Music Is Magical

I traveled in Time…30 years…this morning. Not in H.G. Wells Time Machine…but by listening to a CD of Garrison Keilor and The Hopeful Gospel Quartet…that Jonathon got for me. I first listened to the wonderful harmonies of the Quartet…30 years ago. I had a cassette tape of their performance and was more than a little proud to have a vehicle that possessed a built-in cassette tape player. I played the tape on my way to my job as Assistant Superintendent of Building Services and I played it again on my way home to my little house in Elkville. We were in the midst of staff reductions resulting from budget cuts and my colleagues and I refused to reduce our vital service to our beloved University…to make a fiscal point… The rich melodies were an encouragement to me…as I worried constantly about our department and its continued viability.

I wrote the new Director a welcome note…and I told him that some of the best years of my life were working my entire career in Building Services. I went on to say that he would be working with consummate professionals throughout his organization. During the Christmas Season, I am reminded of the kindness and love, and dedication of the housekeeping staff…for all whom they served. They believed that our mission was as important as any mission of Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale…and that we were vital to the recruitment and retention of our most precious Campus Citizens…our students…

Some time ago a chancellor told me that Civil Service staff came third in line behind faculty and the A/P staff. After hearing this grossly incorrect statement a few times…I told him upon his completion of the creed that I would leave the meeting if he said it again. I went on to say that without Civil Service Staff there would be no SIUC.

Music can change my mood and lift my spirit…in a moment…especially when the singers are engaged emotionally in their art…and ministry…

Where Is Tiny Tim…

Billy B. was fascinated with the Charles Dickens Christmas Classic, A Christmas Carol, and he read the narrative each year. He had memorized large portions of the text and he and Chet would quote paragraph after paragraph to each other during the Holiday Season. Chet said that he had been visited by the Ghost of Christmas Future and the spectre had warned him to beware of this Christmas Season…as it was the harbinger of a dark future if mankind did not change their ways and become renewed in the spirit of the Enlightened Scrooge. He then said something that was somewhat unbelievable…Tiny Tim was missing from the story…and no one knew where he was…

Chet got one of his many copies of A Christmas Carol down from his bookshelf and looked for the numerous accounts of Tiny Tim. Everywhere that Tiny T. was mentioned…like ‘Bob Cratchit carried…. on his shoulder.’ Chet telephoned Billy B. and told him of the mystery of the missing Tiny T. Billy B. responded, ‘Oh he is not really missing…he is eating Malto-Meal with mom at the kitchen table…and does he ever use a bunch of sugar on his cereal.’ Mom said that he came through her Magic Mirror to warn those who would listen to him…that Christmas would soon be forgotten if the human family of 2021 did not stop thinking exclusively of themselves and begin thinking of those who are suffering… Tiny T. noted that he had already been removed from the book and that soon his dad and the entire Cratchit family would be deleted also. Tiny T. went on to say that the Ghost of Christmas Present had lost 200 pounds and had laryngitis. Instead of being dressed in a brilliant green robe…he was clothed in sackcloth and ashes. Now…rather than Want and Ignorance hiding under the skirts of his robe…they were in charge of his broken-down castle and he worked for them…he no longer held a Horn-Of-Plenty…but rather a half bottle of Prune Juice…

Tiny Tim said that he was going to stay with Billy B. for 1 year…and that if they could not make a difference in renewing the Christmas Spirit… Chet suggested that they consult Santa Claus to see if he had any ideas on how to proceed…and off the were all three holding on to the night-shirt of the Ghost of Christmas Future… who was very happy to see…Tiny T.

Santa welcomed the cold crew of Christmas Helpers into his Grand Living Room with a roaring fire in his massive fireplace. When he had heard Tiny T.’s story he opened his copy of A Christmas Carol and saw with dismay that Bob Cratchit’s name had now disappeared from the vivid story. ‘We must act quickly’…said the benevolent old gentleman. Santa said that they must send each child and adult alike…a dream that explains the most certain demise of Christmas…if they do not change…the dream must illustrate what their future will look like without the Christmas Spirit… And so…that night…it happened…billions saw the future that they would awaken to once Christmas no longer existed. There was pain and anguish and suffering and death…and pervasive loneliness…that covered the earth like a dark blanket… The church doors closed and were locked…no one waited for the birth of Jesus…when the rich saw the homeless they laughed a hollow and anguished chuckle…and they saw in their hungry eyes…that they were next…

Loving your neighbor as yourself…was really the message of Christ…

Santa Is Giving Out Mittens…

I just read a posting on Facebook that says, Santa is giving out; hats and gloves and shoes and coats and mittens in our, now closed, Macy’s parking lot…while supplies last. My mom often told me of her Christmases when she was a child and the fact that it was a major event for her and her sisters to receive an orange and a banana and some nuts…for Christmas. There were five siblings in her family and her dad was an alcoholic. When you are cold…nothing says Merry Christmas better than a nice pair of new mittens and a scarf for your neck and a coat…when you have none.

Christmas Movie that was sponsored by the Lions Club in Eldorado was a major event for me in the 1960s. On Saturday morning many of us kids would enjoy a Holiday movie at the Orpehum Theatre and afterward, there were the Lions passing out, what seemed to me to be, giant baskets of candy and fruit and nuts and toys to each of us that were in attendance. Talk about feeling special…I felt like the Little Drummer Boy…

My friend speaks of, ‘always believing in the Christmas Spirit and the Spirit of Christ.’ I could not agree more… In our world where we tend to focus on which political party is in power…or who has the inside track to fame and fortune…or who has more than we do…and how did they get it…there is the little girl whos hands are cold and red…the little boy runs to school with a light jacket…and hugs his arms about him…for warmth…

I used to negotiate with Chancellors and Presidents of Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale, Illinois. As president of the Civil Service Council, I represented the needs of nearly 2 thousand staff on the Carbondale Campus. I was speaking with a Chancellor on one occasion and telling him that many of his Civil Service staff received Food Stamps because they made so low wages. I went on to say that I had spoken to a group of Clerical Staff whose apparel was in disrepair and somewhat ragged. On another occasion, there were serious discussions regarding the Contracting Out of full-time Food Service positions. When I spoke to my friend, the Chancellor, regarding this frightening issue, along with my friend Jake, he became a bit angry with me and told me that perhaps he should consider contracting my custodial staff…as well… I was feeling rather unqualified for this speech with a powerful administrator and me…a lowly housekeeper…but I said that I knew that he would do the right thing… The Chancellor that I speak of had a heart of gold…and a bark that was much worse than his bite. He gave the Clerical Staff a raise and chose to not Contract any Civil Service Staff. This is the Spirit of Christmas…

Christmas Joy…And Joy In Your Heart

Joy is a bit difficult to define…but you know it when you feel it. During the Christmas Season, we seek something to react with our emotions that will subsequently bring us that elusive joy that songs have been written about. We hope that our Christmas shopping will go well…or at least as planned. We labor to ensure that our decorations are eye-catching and somewhat better than our neighbors. During Advent, we desire our Pastor to read the passages from scripture that resonate with our personal Christmas. We donated to the poor children in order that they might have a better Christmas…we give to the needy in hopes that the spirit of the Enlightened Scrooge will drop upon us and we will magically understand the Reason For The Season… Some of us stand upon our soapbox and proclaim with righteous indignation…that we do not say Happy Holidays…we proclaim…Merry Christmas… We that perform this Christmas Theatre equivocate God’s Fiery Anger…with the meek and mild birth of our Saviour in a barn…

Christmas Magic is supposed to fall upon us from Heaven…with the Christmas Star to show brightly upon our dark path. Somehow we have not perceived that the Magic of Christmas rests in our hearts. It is not Chrismas reacting with us…it is us reacting with the birth of Jesus and the wonderful promise of the Season. MJ and I visited with a wonderful Physicians Assistant today. This woman, Misha, is full of joy and gives peace and hope to all that she meets. Combined with receiving much better news than you feared that you might…the Christmas Trees show more brightly and the Christmas Carols have a deeper meaning.

As if it were but yesterday…I remember riding to Eldorado with my buddy, Steve, in his 1950’s Chrysler. In the back seat

a lovely landscape picture that I had purchased at Down’s Furniture in Elkville. I purchased it on time because I did not have the $25 dollars to pay for it outright. Christmas In The Country was playing on the radio…and there was snow on the ground…and it was cold…and I felt like a millionaire who just had yet to count his money…

‘A merry heart doeth good like a medicine…’

Santa’s Train

All seemed calm…all seemed bright. Santa was watching Turner Classic Movies…as he liked the vintage films. Mrs. Claus was fast asleep down the hall in her bedroom after drinking two tumblers of Extraordinary Egg Nog that was manufactured in her Christmas Egg Nog and Spirits Shoppee that was adjacent to Santa’s Work Shop. Carolyn Claus had been an Egg Nog maker when she met Santa…many Christmases ago. Her Egg Nog was considered the best in the land of Christmas and it was fortified with her secret recipe… Most of the elves could not remain awake after just one tumbler of Nog…but they were short… Carolyn was a 2 tumbler girl…but she often had to hold on the hallway walls…and indeed Humphrey the Head Elf in Charge of Manufacturing had placed handrails…like you see on a Cruise Liner…along the walls of the oaken hallway…for the First Lady to hold on to as she made her way to her slumber.

Humphrey was especially concerned as to what toys and crafts and gifts should Santa be delivering around the world for Christmas 2021. It had been an unusually hectic year with the ongoing Pandemic and labor shortages…yes…even at the North Pole. However…the supply line slowdowns did not affect Santa’s Operation…as he personally delivered all gifts… Now last year the Craft Shop had focused on games and toys that could be played with inside the children’s homes…due to the worldwide lockdowns resulting from COVID. But this year was critical…in Humphrey’s mind…there needed to be a practical application of Santa’s Magical powers…to help put the world back on track. Humphrey believed with enough elves and enough means of conveyance…and partnering with the medical community…Santa could make a difference in stopping the Pandemic…

Trains…were the answer. Santa Trains across the Globe…loaded with COVID Vaccinations for every member of the human family. Of course, the Trains could fly just like Santa’s sleighs….and they could also travel on land into the many remote parts of the Earth that have forgotten people. These trains could carry the essentials of a happy life for the children and the parents and all of the hurting and lonely people of the world. It would carry school desks for those who have none in their school. It would deliver clothes for the ill-clad and food for the ill-fed and educational tools like paper and pencils and multiplication tables and coloring books…and a COVID Vaccine for everyone who had not received one…and nurses to administer the Vaccination…

It was a Marshall Plan for the Pandemic. Santa had thought throughout our Pandemic how relevant he could be to the solving of it. He had watched as governments and peoples and tribes and nations had brought forth numerous ideas for the amelioration of the Plague…and how many had been satisfied with ignoring it for their Idols and Totems…and their own perceived benefit… As is customary…the poor countries of the planet were left…by and large…to figure out how to vaccinate their people…and it did not happen. The rich countries of the Earth focused on their citizens and crowed for their own political gain…and wondered why their herculean efforts had not stopped our Pandemic… Santa and Humphrey set up a meeting with all of the work-force of the North Pole Operation.

Rudolph asked Donder if he knew what the big meeting was about…this close to Christmas. Donder said that he had heard that Christmas would last a week this year. The Jolly Old Elf had developed a plan to literally visit every; igloo and hut and Flat and to not miss a single person for his special gifts. The Santa Trains would begin to fly on December 17 and end on Christmas Morning. ‘If I could have all of your attention…please,’ said Santa. ‘I tell you this every year that I could not perform this Magical and Mystical feat without each of your hard work and perseverance,’ Santa said. He continued, ‘This year is special and it is different…our world is suffering under a terrible malady of fear and loneliness and illness…and death.’ ‘The wealthy countries of our world have done little to help their poor neighbors…so we must do what we can,’ Santa said with a tear in his eye. ‘Are you all with me,’ Santa asked?

Tears of joy cascaded down the cheeks of every elf and reindeer and Mrs. Claus…’Three cheers for Santa Claus’ cried, Rudolph…

Santa was old and arthritic…and he had just returned from his doctor in Destin, Florida…who had told him to retire…for his health…but he could not resist attempting to do his best to help the ‘Apples of His Eye’…the Children of The World…

Humphrey cried, out…’Oh my God…we have to make the Trains!’

Seekers…Not Solutions

It is difficult to believe that today is the first day of December. Where has autumn gone? Where has 2021 gone? This year was our emergent year from our Pandemic. We received our vaccination jabs in the late winter and the early spring…and believed that happy days were here again. No face masks for us who had received the vaccine…until the ‘Break-Thru COVID’ cases began appearing.

During our May Maine Holiday, it finally dawned on me that restaurants across our country were experiencing severe labor shortages. Prior to that we were at our favorite restaurant, Cunetto’s House of Pasta that is located on the Hill in St. Louis, Missouri, and witnessed that only half of the establishment was open due to not enough help.

I was in Kroger supermarket yesterday and there was the strange combination of many empty shelves and two manned check-out areas with lines that snaked around the aisle… Life has changed for us…and we are yet to understand…how much. And, so, we are seekers of solutions and answers to our new reality…as well as the individualized reality that each of us live with on a daily basis.

Christmas has come again. One of my blogger friends asked, ‘Why do we have to include religion in everything?’ I think his question is valid. I have been a Christian for over 50 years. I became a Christian because the love of Christ compelled me… I have been a member of 4 churches during the past over 5 decades. Some for much longer periods than others. First Presbyterian Church of Carbondale is my longest and I am sure that I have found my natural Church Home. It seems to me that there is the religion that many enjoy proclaiming and broadcasting…and there is the ‘Quiet Faith’ that you go to bed at night with and wake up the next morning…with the same desire to seek and understand God and your role in his creation and his plan… The people of faith that I want to be my mentor are those that never feel the need to announce their faith. They quietly go about doing good unto others…and look for neither recognition nor praise…and are embarrassed when someone mentions their good service to their fellow woman/man.

Church simply does not have all of the answers that you seek. The congregation is a gathering of honest hearted people that are seeking the faith… Many churches garner large attendance by assuring those in their midst that they have the dogmatic and final answer from God and that their leader heard from him personally…this morning… We humans like certainty and definitive answers. But, ‘Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.’

The Quiet Christian…sees a hungry person…and feeds them…and a lonely person…and they sit with them and learn of them and become their friend. They pray for those in need…not because another human gives them the definite answer that God answers prayers…but because they have faith that he does…

Christmas is coming…and the lonely need a friend…the hungry need something to eat…the homeless need shelter…

Seeking God…and religion…and faith…can be found in the eyes of your neighbor…who you practice loving…as you love yourself…

Reindeer Revolt

Rudolph said that he had received a belly full. He noted that his kids needed braces on their teeth and that he had been sick with Covid for two months and that his North Pole insurance did not cover the at home care that he received all November…nor the constant haranguing telephone calls from Santa’s Aid…Brittany…who would first ask a cursory question as to his health and then came the real question…when was he going to return to work… He told the Reindeers that were assembled at the Union Meeting that he had tried in vain to contact Santa directly…but could not reach him…as he was in Florida…seeing his doctor…or as Rudolph asked the group, ‘How many of you would like to have a doctor in Florida…or how many of you have ever been to Florida?

Comet said that he had been counting on his Christmas Bonus and that he not only had seen nothing of it…but that his wife Bridgett…was very upset as he had promised her a holiday in the Caribbean after Christmas… He mentioned that he had spoken to Mrs. Claus about his families need for a pay raise to keep his kids in Charter School and Bridgett in new shoes and Holiday Apparel.

Cupid proclaimed that the roof on his house needed to be replaced and although he brought toys to every good little boy and girl…his kids often went wanting…due to lack of funds. He wondered if the message of their dissatisfaction had ever reached the ears of Mr. Claus…or had been stopped by his underlings… He went on to say that Mrs. Claus was super protective off the Old Elf…and did not want to see him upset.

Blitzen chimed in that he did not think that Santa was aware of the problem…or he would provide a solution. He said that Santa had told him that he would help him get a condo in Destin…if he wanted one. Blitzen told Santa that he truly enjoyed the Beach Air and the white sands of Destin, Florida.

Santa appeared in the midst of the assembled Reindeer. ‘What is wrong my faithful children, Santa asked? ‘Without each of you…I could not be a joy to the world’s children…you are more important than I am, Santa said! ‘I just got back from Destin…and I feel much better after a little time on the beach…and I want to give you each a small token of my appreciation for you, the Jolly Old Elf said. ‘I am giving each of you a new condo and a 30% pay raise…and a membership in the Jelly Of The Month Club,’ laughed Santa…

Billy B. and Chet were watching the Reindeer meeting of the AFL-CIO… The Reindeer began to dance and sing, ‘Who is the King of Christmas…You are the King of Christmas!’

Humphrey the Elf…heard the joyful singing…and wondered what the Reindeer were so happy about…

Christmas Peace In Our Pandemic

It is warmer today…and it will be warmer tomorrow…and Thursday is forecast for a high temperature in the 70’s. A possible meteorological record for December 2nd. Jonathon and I have carefully placed the remainder of the Christmas decorations…although I am pondering getting two more Nativities out of the blue storage bin. The Omicron variant of COVID – 19 is frightening the world. We are nearly 2 years into our Pandemic…with no end in sight. We all have things to do…and places to go…and people to see…but our Pandemic is not only not cooperating…but it continues to illustrate with non-partisan ferocity…that it is not only real…but is a problem for all of us…that is not easily solved.

Our forbears dealt with many devasting diseases. From Polio to Tuburcleois to Small Pox…disease has ravaged the human population. The Spanish Flu Pandemic began in February 1918 and ended in April 1920 with an estimated 500 million cases. I was in our local Cracker Barrel Restaurant Sunday and observed that although the facility was packed with people…almost no one was wearing face masks. Several people stared at me…and my Van Gough Face Mask. Perhaps they were admiring ‘Starry Night?’

We may not see the end of our Pandemic if the United States does not commit to vaccinating the world…America First…is not an option…variants that develop in other countries…come here…and kill our people. We must learn the tearful lesson that we are all members of the same human family…and that, ‘We are all in the same boat in a stormy sea. and we owe each other a terrible loyalty. G.K. Chesterton

When a Christmas Card is More Than Merely a Card

A wonderful Jonathon Brooks Blog!

jonathonbrooks

2008 was the first year I gave out Christmas cards. That season I bought a pack of 8 Christmas pop-up cards by legendary pop-up book and card maker Robert Sabuda. I recall the cards had a mouse in a festive red hat popping out of a Christmas stocking with joy on his face. Giving out those cards brought me tremendous gladness.

I continued the card giving tradition every new Christmas season until the year of 2020. Alas, Robert Sabuda did not create a new pop-up card design last year. Without the legendary Sabuda I was discouraged regarding Christmas cards and I did not purchase any or pass any out to friends.

Well, a new holiday season is happening and I’m happy to report I mailed off 12 pop-up cards earlier today. I had a total of 16 cards to give out this season. The cards consist of two different designs…

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