Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Remember All the Good Gifts, Merry Christmas Everyone!
Jim Brickman Lyrics
The Gift Lyrics
Today is probably the last time I’ll get a chance to write before Christmas and I would totally be remiss if I didn’t talk about some of the great gifts I’ve received and given over the past 39 years of my life. Some of these may surprise you, but most won’t.
I guess the earliest gift that I remember jumping up and down over was a Six Million Dollar Man. For those of you unfamiliar with the series. It looked like Lee Majors even with little bionic pull out pieces. I loved that show so much as a kid. The fad came and went and the poor little bionic man didn’t last long.
To begin my teenage years, I received a gift that shaped my life to be lazy. For the Christmas after I entered junior high, I got the Atari 2600. Admit it, you remember that combat game with the two tanks that tried to shoot each other for points. I bought every sports game that went with it and made myself a superstar.
This might be the first of gifts you might not expect. As my sophomore year ended, I had a dream. That dream was to go into sports journalism and be the next Lanny Frattare. Those of you not from the Pittsburgh area probably don’t know that Lanny was the voice of the Pirates for 33 seasons and retired after this past season. I wanted to be like him at the broadcast booth. However, I was told that I probably wasn’t ready for Journalism II and was out of the program to pursue other dreams. Thanks to that, I joined the audio-visual club and became the voice of the Indians basketball program. The only people to enjoy the feed were the coaches and I will always remember Coach Bill Kerns cracking up after Chuck Steele scored a basket and I smarted off about it being his first two of the season. Sorry Chuck, but I remember the comments being funny.
After what I would call a disasterous junior year, I was given the gift of a teacher that really inspired me. Not only did Mrs. Booth help my confidence by telling me that my writing was better than average, but she helped my mom find my dad and get back child support so I could go to college. If it hadn’t been for her, I’m really not sure where I would be today.
The next gift that I received is commonly looked at as negative, but I see now that it was for my good. At age 23, two days after Christmas in fact, I almost died. I’ll talk more about this in a blog next week, but I found out that I was diabetic after a coma that almost killed me off. It began a journey that culminated in figuring out what was important in life and the beginning of my walk with the ultimate gift anyone can get, Jesus Christ. That gift came April 7, 1994. Carrying that gift of diabetes hasn’t always been easy, but it has taught me many lessons in life that have made me a better person.
I’ll save the gift of Christ for last and move on to some other gifts. I’ll thank Jack Kincaid for my first ministry job as a switcher for WLYJ TV. I was able to learn from some really great teachers as I aired some of the best to the public. It’s why you may see influences in my writing from people like Charles Stanley, Joyce Meyer and John Hagee.
Moving to Kissimmee, Florida was another unexpected gift and it has kept on giving even up to today. I found the church that changed my life. It made me want to be a follower of Christ. It was what my friend Tom Zawacki had helped build. I got the same offers from him that came at BBC, but I mentally wasn’t ready to receive those gifts six years earlier. BBC made me shine. I got involved in the singles ministry and helped people, including myself, recover from divorce and move on to do things for God.
I also received the gift of stepping into the greatest ministry I’ve been in before or since. Being involved with the teens at BBC has been the gift that keeps on giving. It was great to go visiting with Pastor Jackson and see these kids grow into fantastic adults. Even this morning, I visited one of my former students’ web page and saw that he had a beautiful little girl. To see that he has matured into a loving father just blessed my soul.
And without BBC, I would never have met my wife. There are times we may not exactly call each other a gift, but for over six years now, she has been the gift of my lifetime. She has given me three other gifts that sit in the next room watching Peter Pan today. Well, two of them are. Little Maggie for some reason is trying to crawl under the couch. At eight months, I am happy she is crawling though.
I will admit that Tom was right about one story he told me. I remember during 1994 sitting in his den and his telling Alvin, Scott Hamilton and myself about the day his daughter Lisa was born. He said, “It was just amazing. I remember it hitting me on the way home. I have this little girl that I love so much. God you love me so much more than that. I am just amazed.” Every time one of my children was born, I thought of that story. Here I am holding this beautiful child and God how glad I am that you love us both more than I will ever be able to show them. Oh, I’ll try. My mom and my wife both tease me that I spoil them. How can I not? A good father believes in good gifts. They may not be the most expensive, but they have been awesome enough.
The best of the gifts my wife has given me has been the ability to stay home, type these little commentaries and be a full time dad to my kids. It’s not always been easy. As much as I love my kids, I miss working some. I’m a natural people person. I love interacting with people. But the gift of being the one to see them walk, talk and do other silly and awesome things first has been more than I can ever describe with less than honor. It’s nice to see that I have three caring, loving children. Sure, they struggle with sharing their toys now and then, but they love each other and that is something I missed as an only child.
The next to last gift I’ll talk about is one of people who help influence my writing today. You never realize how someone is going to touch until you’re already in the friendship. As much as Alvin helped me become a Christian and start my walk in 1993-1994, my friend Peter has really helped encourage and take me to the next level with One Man Revival. He was the guy who helped me shape the idea of how this ministry that I get to sit at my laptop and do came into being. He’ll say I give him too much credit, but after God and Van put the idea in my head, he was the one who gave me wise counseling by telling me that I wasn’t crazy and that the internet is the next great mission field for Christ. Truthfully, he’s the first person since I moved to the town over five years ago to give me more time to talk my way through this walk with Christ. You may find that amazing, but it’s not always easy to find a friend in a new town. Next to marriage and parenthood, I consider my friendships the most important relationships of all on Earth.
I say on Earth because the relationship with most value is the one I have in Christ. I’m moving in on 15 years with Jesus and we haven’t always been best buddies. I have yelled, screamed, kicked, shut him out and been a pain in the butt at times and he still loves me anyway. But He has walked me through some great memories. They weren’t always what I would call great memories at the time, but they have become sweeter as I get older. He helped me grow up and accept responsibilities that I’m not sure I would’ve taken any other way. Maybe I don’t give myself enough credit, but sometimes I do overdo it. Believe me, he’s always willing to tell me to take that hand off of my shoulder that I’m patting myself with when I do.
He gave his life for me over 2,000 years ago when I couldn’t do anything about it. I’m awfully glad He did. Because if I had to go through this life and even attempt to be as good as He was, the only writing you’d be reading is either the most depressing crap in the world or my obituary. He keeps me honest. He keeps my nose clean and with sinus problems, that isn’t always easy. My wife is looking over my shoulder and asking me if I have started a new Psalms 23, He keeps my nose clean. This might also tell you why she’s with me. She gets me and knows how to use sarcasm on me. Smartaleck. But I love her anyway, just like I said earlier.
So as we celebrate this Christmas season, that’s right people, it’s Christmas whether the non-believers like it or not, remember the good gifts you’ve gotten, intended that way or otherwise. They will spur you on when you don’t feel like it. They will help with the confidence that’s been shaken. Finally, they will help you give the love you’ve received back out. That’s what the holiday is all about. Loving each other as we go around on the big blue marble.
I love you guys!