Editor’s Note — Enjoy this special Christmas post by my mentor and friend Terry D. Newberry. Be blessed! ~Jennifer Davis Rash
By Terry D. Newberry Ok, Ok, Ok… Before you start, hear me out. I know I go overboard at Christmas. It is well documented. Newspaper stories have been written. TV specials have aired. Heck, the White House even called one time and asked if I was trying to upstage them. It is a character flaw. Even my kids fuss at me about it. It all started a long time ago. When I was a kid, like many of you, we didn’t get much at Christmas, and usually what we received was used; donations from some well-meaning charity. But that was cool, I appreciated the thought. I had no idea what I was missing until That Day. That Day. That fateful day. I was 14. It was Christmastime and I was hanging out with one of my brothers from the foster home I where I was living. We went to his girlfriend’s house. Her name was Beth. She invited us in and took us to the den, and WHAM! It hit me like I’d been kicked in the head by a reindeer or smacked by the Abominable. The den in her home was amazing. There was a fire blazing in the hearth, bathing the room in a warm yellow flicker. It provided a soundtrack to the experience as the logs sizzled and popped, sending showers of sparks up the flue. The mantle was festooned with evergreen garland decorated with small ornaments and holly berries, all intertwined with tiny twinkling lights. I’m here to tell you, the room was decorated to the nines. Lights, tinsel, garland, the whole works. Santa Clauses and reindeer and snowflakes and angels and you-name-it. I’m pretty sure there was even a Grinch. Every surface was decorated. Every wall had Christmas art. Every table had Christmas figurines. There were Christmas rugs on the floor. And down at the far end of the room, in the place of honor, right by the front window so the whole world could see, was the tree. Exactly where it should be. It was probably a 6-footer, but to me it looked 50 feet tall. It filled my eyes and my mind and my heart. The fragrance filled my nose with a scent that to this day I associate with Christmas; bright and piney and crisp and fresh. The tree was perfectly decorated and surrounded by more gifts than I ever imagined could be found in one place. They filled the space under the tree and around the tree. They were stacked on the furniture. They were stacked on the floor. And around the walls of the room. They were stacked on the mantle. They were piled next to the couch and the chairs and the ottoman. They were everywhere. There were large gifts and small gifts, square ones, round ones and rectangular ones. There were boxes and bags and ribbons and bows and wrapping in bright Christmas colors. It was a child’s Christmas paradise. Right then and there I made a decision. It wasn’t even a conscious choice — it just happened. I decided that one day, I was going to have a Christmas like that. A tree like that. Decorations like that. And gifts like that. Gifts everywhere, all over the place. Not used gifts – new stuff. New stuff for everyone I knew. And so it began. True to my promise, every Christmas I go just a little crazy. I think about what the perfect gifts might be, and wrap them in brightly colored paper with matching ribbon and sometimes add a little decoration, like a drum or a bell. And have a blast doing it. There is a workstation set up in our home with dozens of paper choices, a ton of ribbons and bows, gift bags and tissue… it’s like we hijacked a Hallmark truck around here. I put on some Christmas music and wrap while listening to everyone from Bing to Casting Crowns. I imagine the look on the faces of my friends and family when they open their gift. I hope to give them, for one brief moment, the joy that I felt that day at Beth’s house. Because once they feel that, Christmas comes alive. Now before my Baptist friends get all up in arms and start calling me to tell me about the real meaning of Christmas, I get it. I know that presents and gifts and bows are not what it is about. Christmas is when we celebrate the birth of Jesus. I understand. And because of that, I try to celebrate my faith every day. When Christmas comes around it allows us all to share the joy that is in our hearts. As Charles Dickens put it so well. “I have always thought of Christmas as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable time; when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely….” That’s how I feel. My faith births a joy that began that Christmas in Bethlehem so long ago, and which is cherished and celebrated in my stubborn heart every day of the year. But then Christmas Day comes around and that joy spills over and becomes a splendid madness with giving at its center. So, I hope that you, gentle reader, you, my dear kids, (and the White House) will forgive me for my indulgences during the season. I promise I am going to be more responsible and not give so many gifts. Starting next year.
Father, uncle, son, grandfather, nephew, brother, husband, cousin, other family members and close friends (male and female) — each of us on the TAB Media team is closely connected to a veteran of the United States military.
One of our staff members — Richard Maddox — served in the U.S. Navy (Submarine Service) from 1970 to 1974.
And a few days ago, another staff member was helping her grandson complete his paperwork for admission into the U.S. Army. He leaves for boot camp right after Christmas.
We all have varying levels of experience with someone who has or will be serving; and we all have tremendous respect for those who have served, are currently serving and will serve in the days to come. We are grateful for their service.
We want to personally thank all of you who served our country.
The sacrifice is not lost on us, and we are indebted to the role you played in keeping our country safe, as well as to provide the freedoms we enjoy as American citizens.
May we never take those sacrifices — past, present and future — for granted.
While November provides a day on the calendar for us to salute our veterans, hold parades and remember, we urge all who live in this land (that so many worldwide covet for themselves) to never forget those who have served.
They not only faced dangerous situations but also missed milestone moments at home and gave up creature comforts during their service.
So many carry the horrible past experiences of war with them each day, choosing to tuck the nightmarish memories down deep while continuing to function as strong and contributing citizens.
We recognize you graciously accepted the lifelong sentence of what you endured — saw up close and personal, felt in your heart, worked to comprehend in your mind and maybe even had to do — so the rest of us would be spared those difficult circumstances.
Thank you for your service, dear veterans. Know you are loved and appreciated.
—Jennifer Davis Rash
Dear Ms. Cooper-Jones,
Watching your interviews with various media outlets drew me to you. The depth of your grief alongside the calmness of your spirit speaks volumes.
I can’t begin to imagine what these past two and a half months have been like for you, nor can I truly ever understand the pain for the African-American community as a whole, but I do want you to know I join the hundreds of thousands, and possibly more like millions, of Christians who care and are grieving with you.
Read the full letter here: My Rashionale
—Jennifer Davis Rash
“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” —Romans 12:18
Five years in Glory — Keep painting those pink skies, sweet Belle. We are making our way to you.
Thank you, sweet Jesus, that our separation is only temporary for those who know You — by grace through faith in Christ alone. (John 3:16, 1 John 1:9) #teambelle
The buses are rolling and those new backpacks won’t be crisp and clean for long now that school is back in session.
With the start of a new school year comes a combination of excitement and nerves for both students and teachers. And in many cases the exhaustion has already set in for teachers — exhaustion from burnout, discouragement and endless frustrations.
Think about the school teachers who made a difference in your life.
Also think about those who had lost their joy for teaching by the time you were in their class. How many opportunities to change the life of a child for the good did they miss? Did their lack of energy and enthusiasm for the role end up holding students back in life at some point down the road?
I’ve known several people who truly wanted to make a career out of teaching. They love kids, enjoy teaching and embrace the milestones that come with watching a child learn and grow.
But the overwhelming administrative requirements, overcrowded classrooms and the volume of difficult life issues impacting so many around them finally beat them down.
Making a difference
While the school boards and governmental leaders debate the structural and financial details of how to improve schools and teachers’ salaries, church groups and community members can continue helping in small ways such as sending notes, volunteering and donating. We all can help in a big way by praying for the teachers in the school near us by name.
It’s not hard to find out what a school district or individual school needs most. From there, follow the proper channels to help and encourage others to join the effort.
After all, teachers are molding the minds and lives of our children as much as anyone.
Shouldn’t we want teachers at their best?
—Jennifer Davis Rash
I’m not properly equipped to outline a solution for the humanitarian crisis taking place at the U.S. border but I do know the situation pulls at all of our hearts no matter our stance on how best to deal with the overall issue of illegal immigration.
I’m confident none of us want anyone’s child to be afraid or lacking basic securities, care and love. It’s one thing to be in the dark about sufferings happening around us; it’s another to know about it and choose to sit back and do nothing.
After all with knowledge comes responsibility — but then there’s the problem of determining exactly what it means to be responsible.
Reconciling levels of responsibility
We know we should be the ones responsible to care for ourselves and our families which also means protecting them.
We know we are called to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength” and “love your neighbors as yourself.”
But how do we reconcile these specific responsibilities when it comes to the border crisis?
We may be able to help with immediate actions to alleviate some of the suffering but we can’t stop there.
Our country’s leaders must set aside their political agendas to find a workable solution. They’ve done it before and are more than capable of doing it now, but I do think they need to know we will not punish them for sitting across the table together to figure it out.
We also must remember to pray for all involved and find ways to help.
While U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facilities currently are not accepting any donations of supplies to help migrant families and children, we can look for other ways to assist current ministry efforts.
For instance, West Brownsville Baptist Church is one church ministering in the Texas Rio Grande Valley. The church recently began serving as an overflow respite center to shelter migrants and has lots of needs related to that role.
Purchase items from the church’s Amazon wishlist for Iglesia Bautista West Brownsville Respite Center here.
Other Baptist organizations accepting relief donations include:
San Diego Southern Baptist Association: Choose “Juvenal Gonzalez-Tijuana” fund (church planting catalyst missionary in Tijuana serving migrants) and give online at https://app.easytithe.com/App/Giving/sdsba.
Southern Baptists of Texas Convention: Choose “Disaster Relief” fund and give online at https://www.shelbygiving.com/App/Giving/sbtc.
Arizona Southern Baptist Convention: Specify an amount, then choose “AZSBC Disaster Relief” to give online at https://azsbc.org/give/.
The Alabama Baptist staff will continue researching appropriate ways to contribute, send supplies and provide teams to help.
If you are interested in assisting the efforts or have information to share, then reach out to us at email@example.com or by calling 1-800-803-5201, ext. 103.
—Jennifer Davis Rash
The First Christmas (another perspective)
The weary couple at the close of day
hoped this crowded Inn was their place to stay.
Compelled by the expectant couple’s plight,
the innkeeper found them a room that night.
He ushered them into his hectic hall
When he heard God’s voice so still and small,
“Don’t birth my son in the ruckus place
Of noise and drink and want disgrace.
Is this a place to begin a life
that will change the world of dark to light?”
So the keeper of the inn did say,
“There is no room for you to stay.”
He turned the worn out couple away.
Then stepping outside his lodging place,
He whispered to the groom in haste
“There is a place where you can stay —
out back in my livestock stable hay.
Though not as warm as sleeping here,
it is distant from this dwelling of leer.”
“This is no place to birth a king
whose life will make the angels sing
Of love and joy and grace to all —
Don’t start His life in this reckless mall.”
Stark words he spoke, were not his own.
Where had his compassion gone?
This kind innkeeper had been used
to protect God’s son by his refuse.
The groom in livid anger said,
“I’ll take my bride to this unkempt bed
to birth a child alone this day.
But you, dear sir, will be known for all days
as he who turned the King away.
In great dismay by what he heard
The innkeeper left without word.
That night a savior child was born
in the silence of a manger lorn
With sheep and mules and cattle there
to gaze upon the baby fair
The groom looked at his bride and child
in this quiet place of peace and mild.
He understood the inn keeper’s will.
That put them in a place so still
so they could hear the angels’ thrill
and see the star above the hill.
If they were in the noisy inn
the angels’ song could have never been
heard above the party crowd,
the star obscured by a smoky cloud.
Now they both knew the reason why
the innkeeper had passed them by
This tiny king in their arms this night
Will never be found in the noise and blight
And bustle of a world that reeks
of a self excess — where egos peak.
Instead He is found in a silent night
Where angels sing and stars are bright.
As you seek your Christmas this year
Look not in the hustle and bustle so near.
Consider the innkeeper’s faithful ear
To God’s whispered voice,
which always speaks,
but seldom shouts or competes
with all the glitter, glitz and haste.
Find this Christmas in a common place.
By Michael Alan Tate, Leadership & Life Journal (originally published in 2004, reprinted 2018, used with permission)