Christmas Roadtrips

Today we will put away the Christmas decor for another fifteen weeks or so, and wrap up our new family tradition of celebrating Christmas In July.  So I’ve been reflecting on my Christmas memories as a child this morning.  Many of those revolve around road trips to visit extended family. And when I say road trip, I mean road trip.  Like 1,000-1,500 miles and 20-24 hours of drive time.

We would leave on a Sunday night after church.  We would load everything in the station wagon and hit the road.  No seatbelt laws meant we kids could sleep on the slats Dad had specially made to fit in the back of the land yacht. Luggage underneath the slats and sleeping bags on top of the slats.

Mom would drive first because she was a night owl.  She would get us to daybreak, and then Dad… having gotten some sleep while she drove… would take the helm and keep us rolling.

We stopped only to fuel up and eat.  While we rode, we played all the classic road trip games… because there were no cell phones… or on-board wifi… or iPads… or built-in video players which could play videos or your gaming system.  No, we read… and slept… and talked… and drove each other nuts.

But you know what? I never thought twice about what direction to drive… or how much money we would need to take with us… or whether gas stations were open on Sundays or not… or whether we would get where we were supposed to be going.  Mom and Dad said, “Get in the car. We’re going to see your grandparents.”  And I did.  I just got in that station wagon, and let them do all the planning and driving.  They took care of when to stop and when to go.  They determined which roads were best for us.  They made sure we had all we needed to make the trip as easy as possible.  I just got in and trusted them.

Oh, that I would always treat God the same way.  That I would simply get in the car of life which He is driving, and let Him take care of all the details.  Sometimes I do better than most.  Other times, I’m like a 6-year old trying to tell his parents what time to leave, which road to take, how fast to drive, what time to stop or go.  I know, it doesn’t make any sense.

In those moments, my Heavenly Father is kind and gracious enough to say from Matthew 11:30, “Keep company with Me, and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”  In other words, “Allen, let me take care of the details… You just get in and ride along with me. I’ll get you where you need to be, when you need to be there.”

I’m glad He’s driving.  And since He is, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to climb in the back, rest, and have fun looking at the billboards and license plates we pass.

And oh yeah, just one more time this year… Merry Christmas in July!

Christmas In July- Continued

It has been such a fun week of celebrating Christmas in July as a family.  Memories have been made, and I believe a new tradition may have just begun for Team A.  We even drew names to get each other a small, inexpensive gift.

During this other “most wonderful time of the year,” I am reminded of the classic Christmas movies I loved watching growing up, and which our kids are now getting to enjoy. I loved those old claymation-type animated Christmas movies like Frosty The Snowman and Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer.

One of my favorite parts of the Rudolph storyline is when they need to find toys for Santa to give and Rudolph leads them to the “Island of Misfit Toys.”  There lived the toys that had flaws… and mistakes… and missing parts.  They were the toys culture said didn’t match up.  But Rudolph believed there were kids who would love having those toys.

Maybe sometimes you feel like a misfit toy yourself.  Maybe you don’t seem to match up to culture’s “ideals.”  Perhaps you don’t have the perfect shape or figure.  Maybe you’re not quite as young or glamorous as you once were.  Perhaps your résumé or ACT score isn’t what someone thinks it should be.

But for every person, God has a purpose and a plan.  There is someone out there who needs what you have to offer.  There is someone out there who will love you for you.  There is someone who doesn’t see your flaws and mix-ups as problematic.  Instead, they see you as unique and wonderful.

Ignore those purveyors of “perfect.”  Be yourself.  You have worth and value just like you are.  Ask God to reveal His purpose for your life, and point you toward His plan.  You’ll find Him pick you up off the “island of misfit toys” and place you in a healthy, loving environment designed just for you!

Does It Really Matter?

A few years ago, I went through a three-month fitness and lifestyle transformation program with a group of friends.  In one of the training sessions, our coach told us the story of a woman who decided to transform her health one small decision at a time.  On average, she drank at least nine sodas each day.  So her first commitment was to cut one per day.  To her surprise, she was able to cut two per day very quickly.  And after a very short time, she had cut back to one per day.  That was a huge difference in her health which began with one small decision.

One day, the Old Testament prophet Elijah visited a woman in the town of Zarephath during the middle of a drought and famine.  He asked her to give him something to eat and drink, but she replied that she was a widow and only had enough to make herself and her son one more meal before they completely ran out and would most likely die in the days following.  In what seems like a cruel request, Elijah asks her to go ahead and make him some food first.  In that moment, this woman made a small decision which impacted her destiny.  The Bible tells us that because of her decision to honor God by feeding a small meal to this prophet, she never ran out of oil or flour from that day till the drought and famine were over.  Others went without, but this widow who could not provide for herself and her family never did.

I remember hearing a Japanese fable once about a jungle which caught on fire. As the fire spread and grew worse, all the animals began to make their way out of the jungle and away to safety.  All except for one lone hummingbird.  This little hummingbird would fly to a nearby lake, scoop up a few drops of water in its beak, fly back to fiery jungle and drop the water on the fire.  After having passed the crowd of exiting animals several times, one of the elephants asked why the hummingbird was making this futile effort.  The hummingbird responded, “I’m doing what I can.”

Our decisions determine our destiny.  Take that to heart today.  No matter how small your decision to act seems to be at the moment, remember that it has power to shape your future.  Choose the small kindness… the small generosity… the small forgiveneness… the small courage… the small compliment.  Though it may appear small to others at the moment, that one decision could multiply into your destiny before your very eyes!  And even if it takes some time to show its effects, stick with it.  Sometimes our destiny is revealed by our legacy. 

More Than A Few Pointers

I used to be horribly directionally challenged.  For example, I once took over driving responsibilities on a vacation trip after stopping along the way to grab a bite to eat.  We got back in the vehicle… I in the driver’s seat and my father-in-law (aka, the person who actually knew how to get where we were going)… and we headed out.

He leaned back and took a nap, and I drove like the wind… in the wrong direction! (It was pre-GPS days, people. Give me a break.)  When he woke up… thirty minutes later… he sat up, looked around and mentioned that something didn’t look right.  He had made that trip numerous times and could tell all was not as it should be. When he asked me which way I turned as we headed out and I told him, we all realized what had happened… I went the wrong way because I was not familiar with the journey.

That little mishap cost us an extra hour of drive time and a little extra fuel on a vacation trip. But not knowing which path to take on the journey of life… well, that mis-step could cost us dearly.  It’s why I’m so glad the writer of the 23rd Psalm lets us know that the Good Shepherd (aka, God… the one who knows which direction we need to go every time) not only provides for us, but He also points us in the right direction.

Verses 2 and 3 say that He leads us to what we most need, and He guides us along the right paths if we will just follow Him.  The song writer also writes in Psalm 37 that God even directs our steps… those smaller parts of the bigger journey.

If you need guidance and direction in your life today, commit to follow Jesus, the Good Shepherd. He won’t steer you wrong.  He won’t even take a nap along the way.

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