There's a Nativity in every room of our house. That was my wife's #1 order for Christmas decorating. Decorations are fine. Lights are nice. Nativities are mandatory!

So we have all kinds. Big mangers. Small mangers. Native American Nativities. A cowboy creche. An Eskimo "Bethlehem." The cast is pretty predictable. Mary, Joseph and the baby are there. So are the shepherds and those Wise Men. Sometimes a cow. A donkey. A sheep.

Our granddaughter couldn't have been more than three that Christmas. Suddenly she appeared in the living room, carrying a long, empty wrapping paper tube.

"What's that for, angel?"

"I'm a shepherd," she announced emphatically. Silly me. Of course she was a shepherd. I should have known from the "shepherd's staff" in her hand.

My parents told me they were the "magic words." But they would often have to remind me, "And what are the magic words again, Ronnie?"

I still need a reminder. "Please." "Thank you."

Actually, "thank you" can be almost magical. Because like valuable collectibles, those words are getting to be pretty rare.

I got to visit my very intelligent grandson on the campus of his new college last week. Wall-to-wall with students like him. I got to use the three big words I know.

He's a freshman there. No, he's a '23. Every student I met was a number. From 20 to 23. It's like part of their name. "Emily Smith, '21."

I saw the sign on the door of a convenience store. On Halloween.

It said, "Please remove your mask before entering." That makes sense. Just in case a mask is meant to conceal someone who's there for more than candy.

But not all masks are for Halloween. The kind that never come off. The masks that people wear all year. They present the person I want you to think I am. And conceal parts of me I don't want you to see and that I don't want to face.

I like labels. In a grocery store. It's good to know what you're about to put in your body.

I also don't like labels. On people. Because - unlike the grocery labels - they don't tell you what's inside.

In our very confusing, very complicated, very combative world, we find it easier just to put people in convenient categories. Often based on flawed stereotypes. "If I know your 'tribe,' I know you." Not necessarily. I've been wrong too many times about a person because of some category. Then I got to know some members of that "tribe." And found out they were so much more.

A lot of guys introduce their wives as "my better half." My Karen was more than that. I've told many people, "She made my half so much better." She really did. In so many ways.

My girl has been in heaven for over three years now. I really miss her. Her laugh is irreplaceable. Her unpredictability made for lots of crazy moments. Her curious mind made her always interesting to be with. Her walk with God made her wise and magnetic. Her hugs and prayers and insights helped me navigate many storms.

In warfare, they call it collateral damage. Those innocent bystanders, victims of a bomb that’s been dropped.

There have been a lot of those in recent years – in a different kind of war. Because when a Christian leader suddenly blows up spiritually, a lot of innocent people get hurt. Believers who looked to that person as an example, an inspiration, someone who’s helped them get closer to Jesus.

Every morning I have a date with my bathroom scale. Some days it makes me smile. Other days, I'm sad. So I need comfort food. Like donuts.

But years ago, our son had an unusually uplifting scale. He was working in youth ministry on a reservation and living in a trailer. He urged Karen and me to weigh on his scale in the morning. Karen was thrilled - she'd lost 15 pounds in a day! And so had I! Of course, we got wildly different results every time we weighed.

Our grandson wants to major in philosophy when he gets to college next fall. A few days ago, we got to sample what kind of philosophy we might expect from his one-of-a-kind brain. It's not exactly Socrates. But it's interesting. And within the reach of the common man.

He received some gifts for graduation. So here's the philosophical gem he spoke to his mother...

"You live. You die. And in the middle, you write thank you cards."

            

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Ron Hutchcraft Ministries
P.O. Box 400
Harrison, AR 72602-0400

(870) 741-3300
(877) 741-1200 (toll-free)
(870) 741-3400 (fax)

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