Since we seem to no longer favor using the word Christmas, I have decided we need to rewrite all of our historic documents. We can't have Twas the Night Before Christmas so I decided to write a new, more politically correct version. Here you go:
'Twas the Night Before Holiday.
'Twas the night before Holiday, when all through the domicile
Not a living thing was stirring, not even a rodent;
Large socks were suspended on a shelf with attention to detail,
In hopes that a geriatric, corpulent man who gives gifts would soon arrive;
The children were sleeping in their beds,
Their mother was wearing a nightgown and I was wearing a cap,
We had just fallen asleep,
When out in the front yard there was a loud noise,
I jumped up from my bed to see what was the matter.
I quickly ran to the window,
I pulled back the curtains.
The moon glistened on the new-fallen snow
It lit up the objects below,
I noticed something,
A sleigh being pulled by eight reindeer,
With a geriatric driver who was surprisingly quick,
I knew in a moment it must be the guy who likes to give gifts to children.
More rapid than eagles his reindeer came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;
"Now, You who runs quickly! now, You who loves to dance! now, You who just plays around all the time and You who are ill tempered!
On, Fast Runner! on Lover! on, Thunder and Lightening!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now run away! run away! run away all!"
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,
So up to the house-top they flew,
With the sleigh full of toys, and the geriatric man too.
And suddenly I heard on the roof
The footsteps of each petite hoof.
I turned around,
Down the heater vent came the geriatric man.
He was dressed all in faux fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with dirt and grime;
He was carrying a sack of toys,
And he looked like a supplier opening his pack.
His eyes twinkled! his indentations on his face made him seem happy!
His cheeks were red, as was his nose!
His petite mouth produced a smile,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
Sadly he was a smoker,
And the stench of the smoke filled my house;
He had a large face and a protruding stomach,
That bounced, when he laughed like a bowlful of Jell-O.
He was overweight, but seemed content with himself,
And I laughed when I saw him, although I should not have done so;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon let me know this was a very strange man;
He did not speak, but worked,
And filled all our large socks; then turned quickly,
And laying a finger on his nose,
He gave a nod and up heater vent he rose;
Somehow he was back on the roof and got in his sleigh and whistled,
And away they all flew.
But I heard him exclaim as he drove out of sight,
"Happy Holiday to all, and to all a good-night."
Mentally I am a gypsy. I don’t wear bright red scarves or dance and sing. You would not look at me and say, “That’s a gypsy if I’ve ever seen one.” Regardless, I am theoretical gypsy.
[For this blog, I am defining a gypsy as someone who is inclined to a nomadic or unconventional way of life.]
Yesterday I mentioned about how I have trouble conforming to order. This is true in many areas of my life. I cannot ever seem to keep a regular exercise regiment, diet, budget, daily schedule, or about any other routine you can name. It seems that every time I start to get into a routine, I get bored with it and just flat out quit.
This year marked a milestone for me. I celebrated my 5th anniversary with my employer. This is the first position that I have ever been able to hold for over 3 years. It’s not because I’m a bad worker, I just like change a little more than the average person. Since college, I have lived in nine different homes, two countries, three states, and six different cities. To be totally honest, I am bored with my current home and often dream of moving somewhere far away. (We have actually lived in southern Illinois for 12 years, but have moved from town to town several times.)
With that said, there are things that have anchored me in my life. One of those anchors has been family. Where we currently live, we are near my wife’s family and only two hours from my family. We also have a great group of friends of whom we love to spend time. We attend the best church I have ever been to and I have visited many churches. My kids are a part of a dynamic school of which my wife is also employed. I have a wonderful career at the best hospital system in southern Illinois. These things help keep me grounded, but it does not change the fact that I am a gypsy.
Two years ago I was searching for a job. We had only lived in our current home for a few months and I was already looking for a job that would take us away from southern Illinois. Many people don’t know this but I was offered a position as a regional manager in Tacoma, Washington. I live in southern Illinois, which is like western Kentucky with much less freedom. Tacoma is far north, near the base of a volcano and completely different than any place I have ever lived. It was a tempting offer. I would be doing something I loved, making a greater income and finally have the opportunity to try something different. For a gypsy, it was a great offer; I declined it, however. I will be honest and admit that the prospect of moving somewhere more cold than where I currently live was definitely a deterrent, but there was more to my decision. I felt that God told me to stay where I am for a season. I know that sounds weird to many readers. Not everyone understands what I mean when I say God ‘told’ me to do something. Some of you won’t believe me, but I know it is true. The evidence was in how I completely changed my plans and focused on staying put. It hasn’t been easy, but some wonderful things have taken place as a result of my staying in southern Illinois. My kids started the great school I was talking about and my wife got her job there. I got a sizable raise at my job and obtained great favor with my supervisor. I started writing and found a latent passion in my life. It was like God knew what was best for my family despite my efforts to do what I wanted. The last time God spoke to me so clearly was when I was about to marry Julie and he told me to go to Honduras for a period of three months. We went to Honduras within the first year of our marriage. That decision was one of the best I ever made in my life. It changed me from the core. It caused me to see the world from a different perspective and it brought me and Julie closer than we ever imagined.
I don’t know how long a ‘season’ is and I’m not sure how long I will remain in southern Illinois. I do know this, I trust God when it comes to these decisions. He always knows best. Jeremiah 29:11 states this: “’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. ‘” He does. - Tim
A twelve pack of beer and a pack of cigarettes. These are not my vices. I do have my vices but beer and cigarettes are not some of them. One of my vices is Diet Coke. I realize that Diet Coke differs greatly from beer for many reasons, but it is still a drink that fulfills the need for a chemical dependency but provides no health value.
I had a great time this weekend and really enjoyed the freedom from my typical schedule. I was able to stay up late and sleep in. It has been a very long time since I have been able to enjoy those subtle yet pleasant freedoms. This morning was my enemy because it presented the antagonist to freedom, order. You see I am somewhat of a beatnik in that I enjoy just throwing the schedule out the window and seeing what the day has to offer. Because I really don’t like to keep things in order, I become somewhat pessimistic when I am forced to realign myself with the confines of my schedule and that is how today began.
After fulfilling the very unpleasant ritual of rising from bed, showering and attempting to prepare myself for work, I embarked upon my thirty minute commute. Due to the dark, cold surroundings and my morning ataxia I determined I must stop at a local gas station for a Diet Coke. It was really the only way I would be able to sustain myself and arrive at work unscathed, or so I had convinced myself. I muddled my way through the soda machine and walked up to the counter to make my purchase. That was the moment Twix called out my name and said, “I know I am way overpriced at $1.19, but you really need me. You won’t be able to make it through the day without me in your life.” Like a bedazzled lunatic, I fell for its ruse and handed over my $2.25 for a soda and candy.
The next thing that happened unearthed a vile flaw in my character. There was a lady behind me in line. I could see her in my peripheral vision. Trying to be a gentleman, I scooted to the other side of the counter while I fumbled with my change, Diet Coke and Twix. She stepped up and I heard a clank on the counter. I thought, “Surely she isn’t buying beer at 6:10 a.m.” I turned and looked and there on the counter sat a twelve pack of Keystone Light. The lady stepped forward, wearing her blue denim coat, ragged clothes and unwashed hair pulled back into a ponytail. In a raspy voice she asked the cashier for pack of Chesterfield. This is when that vile flaw in my character made its appearance. That vile flaw is judgment. Here was my thought process, “Really, she is buying beer and cigarettes at 6:10? If all she has to do is drink and smoke, you would think she would at least sleep in instead of waking up at the crack of dawn… Is her dependency so great that she feels the need to get up this early to drink all day? I bet she will be drinking and smoking all day while I work. I bet she is on welfare and I am paying for her alcohol and smoking addictions. What a waste.”
Do you see what happened? Some of these thoughts took place while I walked to the car. I didn’t just stand there and stare at her, but I quickly sized her up and determined who she was. Furthermore, I concluded that since I was well dressed, wearing designer glasses and walking to a nice car, I was better than her. Did you hear me? I compared her to myself and essentially decided that she was below me simply by how she looked at what she purchased. I didn’t stop to think about things from her perspective. There could be a litany of reasons why she looked the way she did and made that purchase at that time in the morning. Maybe she recently lost her husband and didn’t care how she looked and alcohol is her coping mechanism… Maybe she was making a purchase for her abusive husband to keep him from hitting her some more… Maybe, maybe, maybe, just maybe I was right. Does that make me a better person than she? Does that give me the right to judge her and put myself on a platform? No, it doesn’t. As I mentioned earlier, I have my vices. Sure they are more socially acceptable, but that doesn’t make me more valuable than she… Some would say that value is based upon contribution to society and others would say it’s based upon how we give back to the earth. I don’t view it that way. I see it simply as it is stated in a very popular Bible passage; John 3:16 “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. “ Did you read that, God loves everyone the same. He doesn’t see me as greater than the Keystone Light lady; he puts me on the same level. You know what, I am glad about that. I have made plenty of bad decisions in my life and if God’s love was based on how we perform I would fail. His love is based on his love and that is just awesome. God cares about that lady and so should I. I really need to stop judging people and putting myself higher. I need to see others as people that God created and loves. I need to care for people, not crush them. Do you care? - Tim
Instead of fighting the crowds this morning, I am writing this blog. That is how dedicated I am to my readers. I am not camping in the cold
weather, catching a cold and fighting throngs of people to attempt to save $25 on a netbook or other device only to be upset to find out all five have already been sold. Instead, I am sitting in my peaceful abode and writing my blog. If you are finally home from the shopping wrestling match and looking for entertainment other than “It’s a Wonderful Life” or a John Wayne move, here you go.
Last year, I absolutely had to buy a brand new HDTV and an iPod. I was determined to get the best deal. First I went to Toys R Us on Thursday night. We pulled in the mall parking lot across the street and walked to the store. We were amazed by how long the ling was. It already filled the entire parking lot and was still hours before it opened. I looked at Julie, she looked at me and we walked to the car. We went home and decided sleep was more important. Still determined to get my products, I got out of bed early Friday morning and went to our local Wal-Mart. I waited in the line in the cold weather. I was excited to get in ahead of a large crowd. I went to pick up to television only to find out they had given ‘tickets’ to people who came in the middle of the night. I didn’t get the television. I did, however, get the iPod after another long, confusing ordeal. Later that day, I got an even better television at Best Buy and didn’t need to fight a large crowd.
We do amazing things to save a few dollars. We will get up early, fight crowds, yell and push to get a better deal. It is a time of great unity
and joyful bliss. Oh, if every day could be like ‘Black Friday.’ We would all be dancing in fields of flowers and riding unicorns through bright rainbows. We definitely show our best side on this exciting day. It is a time of peace, love and 60’s infused flower power. Today, you might be shopping. If you do read this blog on your iPhone while waiting in line - remember that it’s only a few dollars and not worth losing your sanity over. Happy Black Friday - Tim
America is known for its diversity. For years, it has been called “the great melting pot.” The American church is one example of this diversity. It’s not really because the churches in America are racially diverse. Sadly, many churches are predominately one race or another. It is because there are so many different types of churches in America. We are like the ‘Baskin Robbins’ of churches. There is a whole spectrum of different churches, but two mainstream categories. You might be thinking I am talking about Catholic and Protestant or
Liturgical and Evangelical, but you would be wrong. The two categories for which I am referring are Traditional and Hipster. Almost every church in America leans toward one of these two categories.
One area in which this is most evident is in style of music. The spectrum that separates traditional from hipster is quite large. In a traditional church you will most likely sing hymns and in a hipster church you will sing modern music. Many hipster leaning churches sing what has been termed ‘Praise and Worship’ music. My church falls into that category. I truly enjoy our music and feels that it is a good way for me to communicate with God. I sometimes get wrapped up in the meanings of the songs, however, and search for what the writer is trying to express. Some songs simply confuse me and I lose focus of why I am singing them to begin with. Here is a list of some of the songs that have confused me throughout the years.
1. As the Deer: This is a classic and for years has been the staple for traditional churches who wish to try out ‘praise and worship.’ Here’s the thing, part of the song is written in King James (Shakespearean) English while the rest is penned in modern English. The transferring of dialect is just confusing. If you look up the lyrics, you will find all types of combinations of this hybrid praise and worship hymn because people aren’t sure at what point to switch dialects. Is it my soul longeth after thee, longs after thee, longeth after you, etc?
2. How He Loves Us: Many people love this song and love to pretend they understand all of its lyrics, but some of those lyrics simply make no sense to me. For instance, it compares God’s love to a hurricane. I see a hurricane as a destructive force, so I’m confused by this lyric. The part that really confuses me, however, is the lyric that says, “So heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss and my heart turns violently inside of my chest…” I just don’t get how this is a good thing. I think penning a wet raspberry would make more sense. A kid laughs when you give him a raspberry; he wipes his face off when you give him a wet sloppy kiss. For me, it might as well say a painful cheek pinch. I just don’t understand its meaning.
3. Revival by Robin Mark: This entire song has always perplexed me “As sure as gold is precious and the honey sweet, so you love this city and you love these streets. Every child out playing by their own front door. Every baby laying on the bedroom floor. Every dreamer dreaming in her dead-end job. Every driver driving through the rush hour mob. I feel it in my spirit, feel it in my bones. You're going to send revival, bring them all back home.” What? Wouldn’t the baby be ‘lying’ on the bedroom floor? Why does God love the streets? I could go on and on.
4. Shout to the North: Why are we shouting to the North and the South, but singing to the East and the West? Did the people in the North and South do something to make us mad that we are shouting at them?
I love how music inspires us, but I also want to understand what I am saying. Do you understand all the words in the songs you sing at church? - Tim
Somewhere between Halloween and Holiday, there used to be an American holiday known as Thanksgiving. I’m not sure what is was about but people ate turkeys, argued and watched football. According to some, it was a traditional holiday focused on bringing families together and giving thanks to a deity for the stuff they had. Others say it was a way to celebrate unity and remember how the first immigrants to what would become the United States of America were greeted and rescued by the native people who already lived here. People stopped celebrating it as much during the early 21st century and over time it faded into oblivion. Now we have the two month celebration of Halloween - Holiday. I can’t imagine what fall and winter was like before we went door to door on October 31st to ask for wrapped gifts to place underneath our Halloween - Holiday trees. I know I really have trouble waiting until December 25th to open my gifts. It seems like a long time for them to sit under the tree. I do love the orange, green and red lights that we decorate our house with. I love the candy and yams, but I wonder what it was like to eat meat before it was banned. It seems like such a barbaric thing to do to eat animals on a holiday, but that is what people used to do. Even so, I just wonder what it tasted like. I’m not sure why people ever celebrated Thanksgiving; I mean who wants to spend time with their families anyway? Well, happy Halloween- Holiday everyone! - Johnny T. Smith, Fourth Grade Research project, November 22, 2211 CE.
Does this really sound that farfetched? When I was a child, Thanksgiving was a really big deal. It wasn’t just a holiday squeezed tightly between Halloween and Christmas, ahem ‘Holiday.’It was a time that my family came together and celebrated each other. We did give thanks to God for all of his blessings and we enjoyed each other’s company. We all packed into my grandparent’s house and shared love. Even though November is a cold month, my memories of Thanksgiving are always warm and bright. My family still celebrates Thanksgiving although grandparents have passed away and I live two states away. My parents come and celebrate the holiday with us and we have started a new tradition. I still have a great time and I am enjoying teaching my children about Thanksgiving. It is still warm at our house.
Here is what concerns me. Thanksgiving is losing its grip on American society. This is a very sad thing because it is truly an American holiday. This is not a holiday that other countries celebrate. We celebrate it because it is a rich part of our history, it’s our heritage. To do away with Thanksgiving is to tear away a vital part of our culture. It is, however, fading. Here is my theory; Halloween and Christmas provide great profit to businesses. Sure, grocery stores rake in some cash for Thanksgiving, but it’s not a very profitable holiday otherwise. Because of this shift toward profit, businesses highly promote Halloween until the very last minute and then they turn their focus to Black Friday. (Maybe I should have named this as a holiday in my opening paragraph.) Here is a way to illustrate what has taken place. Thanksgiving has become the unwelcome family member at the table of holidays: “Oh look, Thanksgiving showed up. I thought you were not going to invite him this year,” says Halloween. “I didn’t invite him or Christmas, but they always seem to come anyway. Oh, look at how uncomfortable Black Friday looks squeezed between them,” replies Holiday. Let’s stop the madness and bring back Thanksgiving. Enjoy time with your family and don’t become so wrapped up in the football game or ‘holiday’ gift buying that you forget it even exists. Talk to your family and share your lives together. Don’t take this holiday for granted. Happy Thanksgiving! – (Tim) Timothy J. McSwain, November 22, 2011 A.D.
PS: I really like eating turkey!
Have you even went into a bathroom to relieve yourself only to discover that people of the opposite gender are also in there and looking at you strangely? I haven’t, but I sometimes fear that I have. Here is how I quickly assess which bathroom I am in, if it has urinals there is a pretty good chance it’s a Men’s Room, if not, probably a Women’s Room. What is often funny are the times I am using the urinal and wonder which bathroom I am in. I have seriously done this. It should be obvious, but it takes a minute for the light to come on.
One time a group of friends, Julie and I went on vacation to Florida together. One night we ate at an Irish Restaurant. It was an interesting experience. One thing about this restaurant was they had the Men’s and Women’s signs reversed with arrows pointing to the correct room. People were confused and often entered the wrong restroom. One of our friends was a victim and it was quite funny. We kidded him for years afterward.
Another strange thing is when a dad brings an older daughter into the Men’s bathroom. As a parent, I understand there are times in which you are alone with your small children of the opposite gender and must take them into the restroom with you. At some point, however, this should stop. For us, we do this by age 5. When I have my daughter with me, I take her to the correct restroom and wait outside the door. My wife does the same with our son. It is very strange to be using the urinal and watch an eight year old girl come into the bathroom with her dad. It doesn’t happen often, but if feels extremely uncomfortable when it does.
Speaking of urinals, there needs to be a code for how men use them. Issue 1: Space. Some men want space, just like in the movie theater, but others seem to enjoy closeness while doing their business. The two seem to always end up at urinals beside each other. We will call them Man 1 and Man 2. Man 1 closes his eyes and prays that Man 2 doesn’t strike up a conversation. Man 2 turns his head to face Man 1 and asks him how things are going. Man 1 just wonders if it would be possible to stop at full stream and start again later while Man 2 could care less how long it takes because he is enjoying the conversation. Issue 2: Marksmanship: Some boys and men need a class on how to properly aim. It is amazing how many things get shot. Sometimes I wonder if the guy before me even knew the bathroom had urinals in it. I think this often coincides with turning your head and talking. Keep your focus on the job you are doing guys. Issue 3: Flushing:Apparently flushing a urinal is a very difficult chore – almost as difficult as washing your hands. Men, remember this: after zipping,flush. It’s that easy. I don’t really want to stand in the puddle that some guy left while he was talking, and then discover that he also didn’t flush what actually made it into the urinal. It’s just gross. Issue 4: Trash: Repeat after me, “the urinal is not a trash can.” It is amazing what you find when you walk up to a urinal; gum, wrappers, soda cans, tractor implements. The urinal is not a trash can.
Have you ever experienced an interesting bathroom story? - Tim
It’s hard to believe that Thanksgiving is only one week from today. There are so many things we have yet to do to prepare. You would think that my dedicating Thursdays in November to giving thanks would clue me in on the fact that Thanksgiving is nearing, but it hasn’t. With that said, it is time for this week’s Thankful Thursday.
I can’t imagine what the last 16 years would have been like without Julie. We met at Murray State University, Murray KY in the fall of 1996. I was a third semester senior preparing to graduate and she was a junior who had transferred from John A. Logan College in Carterville, IL. At the time, I was finishing the last requirements for my major in Business Administration and my minor in Youth Agency Administration. I was also working as an intern for a Christian ministry known as Chi Alpha Christian Ministries. Julie and her friend Paige began attending the group. We quickly became friends and started spending much time together. Julie had a very nice car and I was envious. She owned a red 1989 Nissan 240sx. If memory serves me correct, we ate at Shoney’s one night and I managed to lift her keys, hand them to my friend H.L. who went to the bathroom but actually parked her car in the back of the building. He handed the keys to me and I returned them without her knowing. When we left, her car was missing. It was a lot of fun. I’m not sure why, but she let me drive her car that night. Not long after, we started dating. We married on May 30, 1998.
This may seem strange to many, but prior to our marriage Julie spoke about foreign missions. I had been on a couple mission trips, but had never really visited a third world country. She was enamored with Honduras and wanted to one day return to do missions there. The idea of going to a third world country terrified me and I hoped it was just a phase she was going through. I didn’t have any desire to go. One night while praying at church, I distinctively felt that God told me to not only go to Honduras, but to do it early in our marriage, stay for three months and trust Him. After that night, my desires changed. I began planning our trip to Honduras. I called airlines, checked the prices of flights and learned what I could about Honduras. We married in May 1998 and were in Honduras early in 1999. When we got there I knew it was meant to be despite that all our plans fell apart when we arrived. (God provided for us and I will blog in the future about all the miracles that happened on that trip.) That trip did two major things in my life: 1. It helped me to trust God with my life and lean on him and 2. It sealed my relationship with Julie and brought us closer than either of us could ever imagine.
Our life together has been wonderful and I look forward to the years ahead. I am thankful for Julie, that we went to Honduras together and that we chose two have the two most wonderful children in the world, Caleb and Rachel. I truly live a blessed life and I thank God for it. - Tim
Since the next presidential election is only one year away, I wrote the following list of things you can expect to see over the next 12 months. Enjoy.
10. The sitting president begins passing legislation that no real decision will be made until after the next election.
9. The media begins ignoring stories about natural disasters and crime to spend more time talking about political hot topics.
8. Everyone begins hearing the name Ron Paul again.
7. People we have never heard of are suddenly the focus of every news station and we find out every mistake they ever made and learn all about their personal lives.
6. Somber attack ads replace all the cute commercials advertising deodorant and cars.
5. The sitting president begins making appearances on Jay Leno and Saturday Night Live to appear more human and likeable.
4. People begin accusing everyone that disagrees with them of being closed minded.
3. The American people start hating government more than they had a year ago.
2. The sitting president begins making excuses and says he needs more time to accomplish his goals.
1. Bloggers who can’t come up with anything else to talk about create top ten lists about the presidential election to fill space.
Have a great day. - Tim
I have a very short window of opportunity to write this morning. I need to do a future blog on procrastination; I just keep putting it off. Anyway, I love to travel. I love travelling so much that I spend much of my time fantasizing about the next place I want to visit. I greatly anticipate experiencing new sights, food, culture, etc. Honestly, I haven’t been to many exotic locations, but I dream of one day visiting Thailand, Japan, Italy, Ireland, and New Zealand. Sometimes I think that maybe my vocation in life should have been one that involves international travel, but I know that doesn’t provide stability for a family. At this stage, I am content at living in the Midwest and travelling to other places on occasion. I can often get lost in my dreams. I get so focused on where I want my life to go that I forget where it is. Don’t get me wrong, we should make plans for the future and create goals; but we need to be careful about daydreaming. Sometimes I fantasize too much and forget how great my life is now. I have a beautiful, loving wife, wonderful children, a great family, a dynamic church, a stable and fulfilling career, and many wonderful friends. I truly have a great life, but it is easy for me to sit and dream about living on the beach, swimming in the ocean with the dolphins, playing with the kids and laughing all the time. Ok, maybe no dolphins, but you get the picture.
I guess my point for today is plain and simple, we need to live today. Enjoy what this day brings and relish each moment. Plan for the future, but don’t live in it until it becomes the present. Have a good day! - Tim