Posts Tagged 'Christmas'

Hai Karate

Years ago my family and I lived in the small Texas panhandle town of Pampa.

Pampa is about 60 miles north and east of Amarillo and, on a windy day, the dirt from the Oklahoma panhandle comes over to pay it’s respects.

Pampa is filled with wonderful people who, due in part to it’s remote location, develop close and lasting relationships.

Church and School are the center posts of most social interaction, so involvement in both is essential, unless you prefer to live life as a hermit.

While we were living in Pampa, we attended the First United Methodist Church and “belonged” to a very active sunday school class of middle aged married couples.

Although we were involved in many different activities, one annual event always comes to mind as wee approach the holidays.

The annual white elephant gift exchange.

As many of you know, a white elephant gift exchange is where everyone brings a gift, most are something you wouldn’t think about giving to a friend and are sure to bring a groan from the receiving party and jeers from everyone else.  But that is not where the fun ends.  The receiving party is then given a chance to trade their newly acquired prize for something others may have already opened.  The fun goes on until the last present is opened and the last present is exchanged.

This particular sunday school class had an ongoing annual white elephant gift exchange.  It continued on unbroken for many, many years, so much so , there was a list of gifts that were certain to show up every year.  As a result, new ways of disguising the same old gift became an art form.

There was the string art pictures, a rubrics cube (unsolved), and many others but the longest running gift was a bottle of Hai Karate.

For those of you who are too young to remember, Hai Karate was a designer fragrance developed by the Leeming division of Pfizer launched in 1967.

This bottle was complete, in the box, with the small “self-defense”, instruction booklet that was sold with each new bottle.  It started to evaporate, and the color was changing from it’s original shade of green to a greenish swamp water color.

Still, the Hai Karate was passed from one unsuspecting victim to another, from year to year.  Each year it was accompanied by a list of recipients dating back to the gift’s origin.  The list of names was impressive.  It included lawyers, doctors, judges, plant managers, teachers, and house wives.  All unwitting recipients unable to convince others of the value this humble bottle of cologne offered if they took it off their hands.

Nevertheless, the Hai Karate held some strange attraction.  As much as the recipients moaned at it’s unveiling, there was some hidden feeling of belonging attached.

For the first time recipient, perhaps, it was the opportunity to have your name added to the long list of those who went before.

For the repeat victim, it might be the opportunity to once again join the game and spend the next year creating the perfect ruse successfully hiding the contents of the package.

Even today, these many years later, I think fondly of the time I fell victim the the Hai Karate gift.  I remember how everyone cheered when I ripped open the gift wrap revealing the prize within.  How I pleaded, in vain, for someone to trade their equally useless gift for mine.  Even the pats on the back and handshakes coupled with feigned condolences at having taken one of the perpetual relics of the annual event.

More than that though, I think fondly of the friends and fellowship this event created and sustained.  These friends were always near, even in the darkest or most difficult moments.

In the end, it is all about the relationship.  So much like the rest of life, we sometimes unwrap the beautiful package, full of expectations and excitement, only to find a bottle of Hai Karate.

It might be a move away from friends and family, job loss, or even something like a debilitating illness.  None so easy to get rid of as to pass on to another unsuspecting victim.

When these things happen, we often hear the words of offered condolences, and the gentle hand on the back as someone attempts to console or reassure.  More often these are only outward gestures and are often laced with judgment and condemnation.

It is the silent knowing of a true friend, who without a single word, reassures and comforts.  Who, because of their relationship, know what you need.

These are people you want to be near you in time of trouble.

The bible speaks of this relationship in Proverbs 27:9  “Just as lotions and fragrance give sensual delight, a sweet friendship refreshes the soul.

When no one else is there, God is, and he will help you get back in the game.  He will help you prepare for the next white elephant gift, life dumps in your lap.

He will comfort you with just his presence.  He knows, more than anyone, what you need and it won’t be laced with judgment and condemnation.

In the end, it is all about his relationship with you.  Take a look at that bottle of Hai Karate and find that hidden opportunity to learn and grow.  Add your name to the list of previous recipients, as you do not walk this road alone, as long as he is present.

En servicio como Padre


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Unopened Gifts

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows
James 1:17 NIV

We have heard if from the time were were children. This is the season of gift giving. In both the Christian holiday of Christmas and the Jewish holiday of Chanukah, the practice of giving gifts is the highlight in many of our eyes.

We spend months, days, and hours online and at the mall seeking the perfect gift. One drive by the local shopping center, this time of year, will confirm the importance of this aspect to the majority of people.

Every year, my wife and I struggle to determine the wishes of our children and grandchildren. The task gets harder each year due to the increasing advances in technology and the ever expanding stores of goods acquired by each of us.

We live in an increasingly material society. We have need for little and even less tolerance for, what we see as, marginal quality. We expect to be entertained or lavished upon by our gift givers.

Gift giving permeates out lives. We give gifts at work, at school, at church, at lunch with our friends, not to mention the gifting with our family.

It seems we have become masters of gift giving, but for what purpose?

The problem comes when we turn to the other side of this equation. The side that involves receiving.

We have so much of everything, we soon become insensitive to our role in receiving.

We all know the feeling, when a gift is given, that is not exactly what the recipient wanted. The reaction is evident in their eyes. The gift is destine to be re-gifted.

The rejection of a given gift is probably the greatest gift giving fear we have.

Some years ago, I worked in a joint venture company, between American and Japanese companies. The practice of bringing a gift was a very important part of doing business with our Japanese partners. During any visit it was important that a gift was brought to the host. Although the gift was graciously received, it was considered inappropriate to open it in front of the giver. If for some reason you did not like the gift, it would be impossible to hide your dissatisfaction. By not opening the gift in front of the giver they were spared the embarrassment of having to apologize.

How many of us would knowingly bring reject a gift? How many of us would take it one step further and never open the gift? I would guess the answer would be few.

Yet, on a daily basis, and especially at this time of year, many of us do just that.

We celebrate the greatest gift ever given. The birth of our savior Jesus Christ.

Year after year the battle rages about taking Christ our of Christmas. Eventually we bow to the wishes of others and greet them with “Happy Holidays” or “Seasons Greetings”. We remove the baby from the manger.

The greatest gift ever given remains unopened in the hearts of men and women throughout the world. We reject the grace and mercy of a loving God. A God who was willing to give all of Himself, that we would no longer taste the disappointment of the creations of our fellow man, both emotional and spiritual.

At this time of year, when we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. This year take it one more step, receive the gift that He has given. The gift of His son Jesus Christ. Bring a change into your life that you never thought possible.

You will experience the blessings of the full gift giving cycle. The blessings of giving and receiving.

Merry Christmas


Silent Night

Silent Night, what a wonderful piece of music.  It’s a melody that, for most of us, call to mind a flood of memories tied up in many a past Christmas.  The words of this song though somewhat simple are spiritually deep and reflective.


During this holiday season, all of my children, save one, have been home, with their families to visit.  These visits were way too short and to some extent harried.  We tried to cover as much ground as possible and visit sites around our Georgia home we have never seen before.  We packed so much into the day we didn’t even realize night crept up on us.


After a day of running, we would crash into bed and start all over again the next day.


Now that they have finished their visits with us, planning to spend Christmas Eve and day with the family of their spouse, I am taken to thinking about the things we missed once again.  The things I wanted to say, the questions I wanted to ask, the fatherly things I wanted to relate to my sons who are now heads of their own households.  The protective advise I wanted to give my daughter.


My mind drifts back to the simpler times of our lives.  The days when these adults were but small children.  I remember the times when they slept peacefully on their beds surrounded by all manner of space vehicles, stuffed animals, or dolls.  The times they fell fast asleep on the chair next to me, after an afternoon of active play.  Still other times when they were sick and needed someone to lay beside them to help them feel secure knowing there was no monster under the bed.


I remember those “Silent Nights”.  The nights I prayed over them as they slept.  Wondering what the future would bring for them, but praying earnestly, that whatever it was, it would make them happy. 


Those nights I prayed God would forgive me for the mistakes I made with them.  The times I disciplined them out of anger, the words I said that were not supportive or uplifting.  The shame I felt when I realized they loved me in spite of my shortcomings.  Oh how I wanted to take some of those words and actions back.  Yet, they were gone out of me, establishing a place in them that would be hidden in their subconscious because it was not given out of love.


Those “Silent Nights”, were times of deep inner study.  What must I do differently?  What could I do right?  I knew what my dad had done and said to me, but here I was using the very same words in the same manner.  Why did I not learn?  How can I be a better father?


On this “Silent Night”, as I reflect on those of the past, God gently reminds me of the words of this great song:


Silent Night, holy night, All is calm, all is bright

Round yon virgin mother and child! Holy infant so tender and mild,

Sleep in heavenly peace, Sleep in heavenly peace.


Silent night, holy night, Shepherds quake at the sight,

Glory streams from heaven afar, Heavenly hosts sing alleluia;

Christ the Savior is born! Christ the Savior is born!


Silent night, holy night, Son of God, love’s pure light;

Radiant beams from thy holy face, with the dawn of redeeming grace,

Jesus, Lord, at thy birth. Jesus, Lord, at thy birth.


Silent night, holy night, Wondrous star, lend thy light;

With the angels let us sing “Alleluia to our King;

Christ the Savior is born! Christ the Savior is born!”

Fr. Joseph Mohr, Franz Xaver Gruber 1818


It is love that prompted God to send His only Son to be born on the “Silent Night” spoken of in this song.  Even though God knew the future this small child would face, he did not withhold his love from him or from us.  Quite the contrary, he spoke of His love for this child with “radiant beams” from His holy face.


This “Silent Night” made it possible for me to ask and receive forgiveness, both from my children and from my God.  It is this “Silent Night” that heals the wounded heart of a child now an adult.


Fathers, our times here on this earth are short.  Our times with our children are even shorter.  Do not waste them.  At any time, our children could be taken from us.  At any time we could be taken from our families.  The light that is our life is barely visible without the great love brought to this world by the birth of Jesus on this “Silent Night”. 


Put your trust in Him, seek him, and you will find great joy and no regrets as you face those “Silent Nights” which are your future.


Be blessed in this holy season of Christmas.  I am saying a special prayer for all of you as I sit through this “Silent Night” and watch for the radiant beams of God’s holy face showing his love once again to this lowly world.


En servicio como padre


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