Thursday, December 4, 2008

Memo from Santa to Nebraska

I will no longer be able to serve the Cornhusker state on Christmas. I do, however, have a replacement for you: my third cousin twice removed, Herbie Claus.

His side of the family lives not at the North Pole, but in North Platte. In order for you to get to know him better, here are a few differences between us.

Herbie drives an old, red Chevy truck with rusty wheel wells (rather than a shiny sleigh with jingle bells). I made the mistake of loaning Herbie one of my reindeer – its head now hangs above his fireplace. Eight flying beef cows pull Herbie’s truck on Christmas Eve.

Many people, including me, prefer classic Christmas movies like “Miracle on 34th Street” and “It’s a Wonderful Life,” but Herbie’s favorite holiday films are the “Game of the Century” and any Cornhusker Orange Bowl win.

Instead of cookies and milk from a plastic jug, Herbie asks that you leave him a hot Runza and milk in a glass bottle. I’ve tried the Runza and agree it warms me up more than cookies.

Like me, when he comes to your house, he’ll be wearing a red and white suit, but don’t be alarmed by the addition of his striped bib overalls – required attire for the truest Nebraskans.

Instead of hearing “On Comet, on Cupid, on Donner and Blitzen,” you’ll hear “On Rodgers, on Rozier, on Crouch and Frazier.” And finally, you may be used to me exclaiming, “Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night,” but Herbie Clause will be sure to say, “Merry Christmas to all and to Pelini a championship.”

Merry Christmas, Nebraska.

Your friend,
Santa Claus

Author's Note: To show the love of this Texan for Nebraska I wrote this to share with my congregation last Christmas. Many thanks to Chris Amundson of Nebraska Life Magazine for his editorial work & permission to use this copyrighted version here. "Memo from Santa to Nebraska" was published in the November/December 2008 issue on page 27. Merry Christmas indeed, Nebraska!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Drop Zone

We call it the drop zone.

My boy, Seth, & his carpool pal, Landon, are undoubtedly, without reservation the absolute fastest kids at exiting a car that Zeman Elementary has ever known. They're like paratroopers bailing out the door each morning.

We've got the routine too. En route I check them off. Weather report. Check. Jacket zipped. Check. Hats & mittens. Check. Backpack. Check. Lunchbag. Check.

Their need for speed is not my doing however. Turning into the parking lot each morning I've got to hold them back. "Don't unbuckle yet." The troopers are restless. "One more car." They're leaning to the door. "Wait." Hands on buckles. "We're almost there." We roll into the drop zone & I give the word, "Okay, go!"

Quicker than a Dad can say "Have a nice day!" they've bailed out & are running to class.

The drop zone.

This morning watching Seth run, yes run to class because he wants a good spot in line, a wind swept over me faster than the breeze in a paratroopers face. He's gone. His focus. His mind. They're not on me. I said, "I love you, Buddy," but did he even hear me? He's doing life without me. He doesn't need me right now. He's growing up. Look at him go.

I choked up, but I was already pulling out lest some other Dad berate the silver Saturn driver for being slow.

Just as quickly as the first wind of emotion came another. When he did need me. Yesterday. No reason. No prior plan. Seth says, "Dad, let's play Monopoly." We played for hours. He's shrewd. It was fun, simple, time together. What a joy!

My job, as a Daddy, is to spend as much time with him as I can. It also my job, once I have spent time with him, to free him to run into life on his own.

A wise son brings joy to his father. Proverbs 15:20

Heavenly Father, please teach me wisdom that I might bring you joy. And, Father, please teach my children wisdom too that they may bring joy to You, me & all. Amen.