Archive for December 2014

CHRISTMAS SHOES

December 19, 2014

Dr. Steven J. Callis

Christmas Shoes; a song released in 2000 by Christian artist, New Song.

Christmas Shoes; a Donna VanLiere novel published in 2002 by St. Martin’s Press.

Christmas Shoes; a made-for-TV movie that aired in 2002 on CBS.

Perhaps you are familiar with the story line these releases have in common, a heart-rending tale of a young boy who wants to purchase a pair of expensive shoes for his terminally ill mother so she will look beautiful when she meets Jesus. Explaining to the cashier the reason for his purchase, the boy realized that he did not have enough money.  A man standing in line behind the boy was stirred in his heart with the “true meaning of Christmas,” and paid for the balance of the purchase.

My Christmas Shoes story is different from that version.  My shoes were handmade by my grandmother.  In fact, she knitted a pair for each of her grandchildren that year.  MawMaw and PawPaw lived a simple life on a meager budget, but there was no doubt at all that they loved their grandkids.  We spent many fun days at their house.

Well, I opened my simply-wrapped Christmas present to find my knitted slippers; a lovely shade of pink with a single pink button on top of the toe.  I wish I could have seen the facial expression of this ten year old kid when he laid his eyes on those shoes!  My mom and dad understood my embarrassment, but not enough to release me from the obligatory trying on of the slippers.

MawMaw always wore this innocent and unassuming smile on her face.  I dared not look over at her for fear that I might hurt her feelings, but I am certain she was adorned with that grin of personal joy and satisfaction.  Even now, I feel somewhat ashamed that it would be the only time I ever wore those shoes.

Some of you are aware from previous writings how much I love my Dad.  Well, I loved his mom and dad, too.  We cousins laugh as we reminisce from time to time about MawMaw’s sugarless fudge (it only happened once that she forgot an important ingredient), or the Christmas she gave us all silly putty – we were teenagers – and other funny incidents.

I also remember her yummy treats, her teaching me to loom a potholder, her hugs and kisses on the cheek, letting us sleep over at their house, letting me feed her parakeet, her Bible reading and praying, and her funeral at age 103.  It is a little too late now, but I wish I had those Christmas Shoes to wear on Christmas morning.  However, I am glad to have my favorite memories of this precious lady, and the Christian heritage that she effectively passed on to her children and grandchildren.  Have a blessed Christmas!

Home for Christmas

December 10, 2014

Dr. Steven J. Callis

Walter Kent composed the music for the Kim Gannon lyrics, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” Bing Crosby was the first to record the song in 1943, and the single eventually reached #3 on the song charts. In December 1944, the Crosby recording was released by the U.S. War Department, and it touched the lives and hearts of America, soldiers and civilians alike.

The music composition easily fits that era and the solemn, somber spirit of the days during WWII. Longing to be home with family was a dream that many soldiers would merely have to dream, knowing that it would not be a reality that year. Saying “thank you” hardly seems adequate for those individuals who, then and now, will not be gathering around the Christmas tree with family this year, but instead are putting their lives on the line for “the folks back home,” but we offer a prayerful thanks, nonetheless.

I realize how blessed I was (and am) to be heading home for Christmas. If I had composed the music for that song, it would have included a banjo, guitars, fiddles, drums, harmonicas – – it would have been an up-tempo celebration of excitement. Even as a father with young children, I felt giddy deep inside as the car drew near enough to hear the Christmas carols of my favorite radio station from my home town.

Nostalgic feelings would flood my mind as we entered familiar territory, with landscapes and buildings and highways that once were my stomping grounds. It felt good to be home, sometimes finding the opportunity to reconnect with friends from the past.

Mom and Dad are in heaven now. Our children have grown and are out on their own. Two of the three never lived in Douglasville with us, so the only giddy they might feel at all is in seeing their parents. As for me? Well, I am a home-body. I like sleeping in my own bed, enjoying the freedom to raid the fridge and cabinets, relaxing in my recliner, watching Christmas programming on television; I like being home.

And with these necessary and expected changes over the years, I still get those giddy feelings inside. However, these days they are not centered so much around familiar places and precious memories. No, they come about as we near the town where our children live, or as their anticipated arrival time in our driveway approaches. Either way, that is when my childhood memories are replaced by memories of their childhoods, and in my heart I am still rocking them to sleep, reading stories to them, riding bikes, going to school plays, attending music recitals, and cheering for them at ball games.

I have grown into the reality that home truly is where the heart is. Wherever we choose to gather with them this year, I know I’ll be home. Let those giddy feelings begin!

Mystery Beneath the Tree

December 4, 2014

Dr. Steven J. Callis

I was a victim at the age of 7, and that incident is forever etched in my mind.  The first present beneath the tree that year was a long cylinder tube so beautifully wrapped, decorated with ribbons and bows at each end, and the tag had MY name on it!  I picked it up and held it when no one was looking, and something inside rolled from one end to the other as I tilted the package.

It taunted me night and day, even as a few other presents appeared alongside.  What could it possibly be?  My excitement and curiosity seemed to make the days pass even slower as I anticipated opening that one gift above all the rest.

I do not remember it being a family tradition, but that year my brothers and I were allowed to open one present on Christmas Eve before we went to bed.  No one was surprised to see me select that uniquely shaped present which I tilted a couple more times before tearing the paper to dispel the suspense.  I looked in the tube and saw a small object at the opposite end, and then gently let it roll towards me until it landed in the palm of my hand – –  a walnut!

A walnut!!!  Since that time, I have opened many “gag” gifts at Christmas.  My brothers and I reached the point that we felt slighted and unloved if Dad did not wrap at least one such gift for each of us every year.  It is one aspect of Christmas that we all miss since Dad died.  Of course, we still carry on the tradition in our own families, but my Dad was the master.

By the way, for those of you who are deeply concerned about the horribly culpable action on this poor, innocent 7 year old boy, they allowed me to open a consolation present.  I loved my new book from the Hardy Boys series

At some point Dad began to blame Santa by writing his name on the tags of those special gifts.  On an occasion or two, the “gag” was that the gag gift from Santa was not a gag at all, but something nice and useful.  We just never knew what to expect from Dad’s creative mind.

Yes, I was a victim.  A victim of my Dad’s love and sense of humor.  He loved the Christmas season: the decorating, the buying and wrapping, the lights and lawns and school pageants and church programs and foods and treats and sounds…and he instilled that love in his children.

Above all, he made certain we understood that Jesus, the Reason for the season, is not a gag at all.  He is joy, love, and life; the real thing.  He’s always available, always on time, and exactly what we need.  No returns or exchanges necessary.  He is, indeed, the greatest gift of all.