The Christmas Tree Saga

by Russ Dyer

The holiday season was then in full swing

When I judged it was time to reorder our thing.

We were tired of seeing the same plastic tree.

So off to the forest, we set feeling free;

A saw was in hand and a vision in mind;

A beauty, majestic, we set out to find.

A bit on our journey, we did realize,

Such trees are quite rare, a difficult prize.

We did find some woods and set on our search;

Hopping fence, log, and stream to a grand lofty perch

Scanning the scene, an amazing fir stood

Like a beacon it called to a much deeper wood.

As the point of a compass, we made our way there

Each step filled with rapture and fresh country air.

To an full open pasture with great tree in sight

We trudged one and all with vigor and might.

A song we all sang of the evergreen wonder

As the saw reached below and cut it down under.

There was joy in our hearts at the sound of the fall,

The work and the journey seemed nothing at all.

A rope for a harness and the tree as a sled

We pictured it dressed, streams of silver and red.

The children were singing each step of the way.

We knew it had been a most glorious spent day.

Back through the woods; the distance grew far.

We ached as we pulled all the way to the car.

Over hill, log, and fence, we made our way back;

But never, no never, did our spirits slack

No thought to diminish the joy of the spree

As each of us pictured our well decked out tree.

It took quite an effort to load it in atop

We tied it quite tight, no branch free to flop.

The engine was revving and ready to go,

As I noticed a man standing knee deep in snow.

A scowl and a gun said he was not a friend,

But I smiled and calmly tried to pretend.

He asked just one question as plain as could be.

Wondering just where we had gotten our tree.

I nervously told of our journey that day

And started to leave, but he told me to stay.

He noted the fence and a way down the line

For the first time I saw the “No Trespassing” sign.

The children were anxious and scared for their dad

With the gun and the anger, they knew it was bad.

I pleaded and told him our purpose that day;

And hoped to be granted a bit of allay.

I promised to pay his price of desire.

His scowl lessened then, and his face lifted higher.

Five hundred dollars or the law he would seek.

So I dug through the cash we had for the week

There were bills that would wait for a time yet to be.

For how could I pay them, if I wasn’t free?

He counted his money as we drove away,

And still I was pondering events of the day.

Arriving home with our marvelous tree,

We invited the neighbors to come out and see.

Mouths were agape as we showed our new pride

And set forth the effort to get it inside.

The door was too narrow, and branches too spread.

We pulled and we tugged until faces were red.

Trimmers were summoned and branches deleted,

My tears were flowing with each bit depleted.

Now finally in; pulled close to the wall,

We pressed it upright, but it was too tall.

Glorious feet of its growth would now go

From the top or the bottom, I just didn’t know.

Chopping and cutting, and finally right size;

So we stood it in place to examine our prize.

No word needed saying, as we all stood and stared

The glorious nature had no way been spared.

It’s hard to describe the all feelings applied

As we took what remained and tossed it outside.

There was nothing to say and nothing would do,

But to sit for a moment, self-pity to stew.

I was feeling a failure; a great sense of pall

I was sure I had ruined the Christmas for all.

It was then that I felt little hands touching mine.

She smiled and she told me we would be fine.

I realized then that it wasn’t the tree

That was making the season for them or for me.

It was time spent together that made it all right.

How could I make such an obvious slight?

So singing our songs, drinking cocoa and nog,

And bathed in the warmth of the burning yule log,

Our spirits were soaring. Our hearts were all free;

As the lights flickered bright on our old plastic tree.

Autumn – In Perspective

The falling leaves drift by my window

The falling leaves of red and gold

I see your lips the summer kisses

The sunburned hands I used to hold


Since you went away the days grow long

And soon I’ll hear old winter’s song

But I miss you most of all my darling

When autumn leaves start to fall

“Autumn Leaves” by Johnny Mercer

Autumn is the interwoven tapestry of the year.  It is no wonder that we celebrate in the latter quarter of the year.  For, pressed into that short period of time is all the wonder of the year that has been, and the preparation for the winter to come. 

Every season has its own special nature.  Winter is the stark and stunning message of hidden hope.  It strips the surface and buries the faded things in preparation for what lies beneath the surface making ready for the life to come.  Spring is the palate of youth.  It longs to be set free.  Bursting with life, it is a playful child that runs through the fields with no regard for anything other than the joy of the day.  And while it pouts at the spoiling rain, it still grabs it galoshes and dares the weather to hamper its fun.  Summer is bold and brazen.  It is the caffeine drink of life.  Summer is the timeless moment that makes us feel like we are standing in eternity.  It is the sun-soaking hours of rich pleasure in which we carelessly abandon sense in the single-minded pursuit of selfish ambition.  It is an escape to reward ourselves for what we believe we have accomplished, the hard work we claim to have done, and the thought that there is more yet to do. 

Then there is autumn.  Autumn may be the real key.  There is in autumn a rich mixture of life.  Drawn together in interwoven threads, it presents a picture in reality.  The preceding part of the year has been a bit like one of those drawings done in the presence of everyone, but not really revealed.  The artist has turned the picture in such a way that the image is somewhat covert.  What you think you see is not really what the drawing really is.  Oh, you enjoy what you see, but you are only seeing a part of the picture from a limited perspective.  Autumn is the finished work.  It is that moment when the picture is turned for all to see.  It is the moment when all eyes widen, mouths drop, and hearts engage.  It is that “WOW” moment that awakens the mind to know that every earlier season of time has been building for this moment.  Autumn is the spectacle of life.

It may be that the “autumn of life” has the best perspective for living.  Follow the progression.  We cherish children and long for the energy and innocence they have.  Still, they need experience and guidance to channel their drive.  Our culture tends to worship youthful adulthood.  Young, unlined faces are the heart of media and entertainment.  The strength of youth in sport is admired and desired by every age.  At the same time the declining days of “senior-dom” engage fear in us for its appearance and for its loss of power.  It is the autumn of life, those mellow days of maturity between youth and decline that have the best perspective on living.

It is the angle that brings the beauty of reality to view.  Consider the season.  As the axis tilts and the sun sinks to that southern angle, the filtering atmosphere helps the sun’s lighting power bring the colors of nature to full vibrancy.  Mixed with the changes of time, a full palette of color embraces the architecture of creation.  In other words, autumn is far more than the precursor of the coming winter.  It really is the culmination of all the beauty of nature exposed to view in one season.

So is life.  We may think we have it all at other points.  Maturity may even be belittled for the nostalgic sense it holds.  It shouldn’t be.  Instead it should be recognized for the more complete perspective it has.  The autumn of life should be something of a prize, a treasure to be sought and celebrated. 

As we reach that special season of life we have choices.  We can retreat from the common view.  We can even carry our time like a club intended to berate the other seasons.  The better choice is to allow the autumn of life to simply be an opportunity to be seen, known, and shared.  There is so much to offer.  There is so much to be absorbed.  We can make it available as a blessing and not a controlling oppression.  The autumn of life reminds everyone of what has been, and warns of what is to come.  It is wisdom in color displayed and shared in the panorama of life.

There is no doubt that winter will come, but for a season we can enjoy the wonder of autumn.  Autumn is a blessing.

“Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.  Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind”  (Philippians 3:12-16).

Russell L. Dyer

On A Sunday Afternoon

“Movin’ down a crowded avenue

Doin’ anything we like to do

There’s always lots of things that we can see

We can be anyone we like to be

And all those happy people we could meet

Just groovin’ on a Sunday afternoon

Really, couldn’t get away too soon”

Perhaps you have noticed that one of the common questions asked of celebrities, during an interview, has to do with Sunday?  When asked what a Sunday is like, many of the celebrities tell of later mornings, casual dress, and brunch.  Some tell of visits with family, to a park, or shopping at a local market.  A few add some sort of spiritual or church activity.  Almost every answer tells of a very different kind of day than the other days of the week.

Sunday is special.  It is special in many ways. 

For those of us who are Christians, it is even more than special.  We often call it the Lord’s Day; and rightly so.  It is the day that we gather with others and worship.  It is a special day of honor, celebration, and worship. 

Then think about Sunday dinner.  Filling a house with the aroma of a well seasoned pot roast can whet the appetite of even the most dedicated dieter.  Add some mashed potatoes, gravy made from the drippings, fresh bread, and some vegetables.  With all those things, a meal is set that is better than the finest “four star” restaurant.  For the family connoisseur, the Sunday dinner is the Rockwellian picture of life.  It is a time that is hard to exceed. 

Sunday afternoon is made for peace.  For those who have dined well, a good nap comes naturally without question or even choice.  The industrious use the time to fulfill little projects.  The conversational people casually visit about family, politics, or even the possibility of a little extra dessert.  Sports are played on Sunday.  Whether it’s football, baseball, auto racing, or some other treat for spectators, the relaxing comfort of a family room allows even the most avid fan to spend the time with a sense of peaceful participation. 

I have loved Sunday afternoons.  As a young boy, I once enjoyed a rainy Sunday lying in the front seat of the family car.  Dinner was finished and the dishes were done.  I gathered some of my newest “comic books” and quietly slipped out of the house and into the car.  No one seemed to even notice that I was gone.  As the rain poured over the car, I became absorbed in the fantasy of Superman, and the adventures of Archie.  Later in youth, Sunday afternoons would find me watching a football game, or gathering with some friends for a few downs of our own.  In high school, there were usually several of us who would gather at a park and play a bit of coed football. 

Recent years have found Sunday afternoons to be filled with a variety of activities.  There is always some review study and preparation for the Sunday evening sermon.  Sometimes there are meetings or visits that need to be made.  Then there are grandchildren.  Peace may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a Sunday afternoon and grandchildren.  It is a different kind of peace.  It is not about a lack of noise and activity.  It is not about private time.  It is a peace that comes with relationships and fulfillment.  When a Sunday afternoon is filled with the people you love the most in the world, it identifies real peace.

We will not be returning to an earlier day, and the peace that we perceive it to hold.  Our Sundays of the present will be filled with the activities and obligations that are a part of today.  The key is to not allow the day to be robbed of the marvelous “groove” that it has to offer.  While so many other days are scheduled and prescribed for us, Sunday afternoons are different.  We have been given so much, and Sunday afternoons are a special time to reflect, enjoy, and even relish the marvels of life around us. 

Try groovin’ on a Sunday afternoon.

“This is the day the Lord has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalms 118:24).

Russell L. Dyer

All I Need

If I could make a wish, I think I’d pass.  Can’t think of anything I need.”

Driven by the power of making more money, a free market system is always in need of more.  In order to meet that need, innovation turns to marketing and new ideas. Invention and new discoveries feed the cavernous craving to always have something new.  “Out with the old, and in with the new” is the tactic that seems to be commonly applied.  If there are no new products or inventions available,  we turn to re-invention to feed the market.  The well used is replaced with the new and improved, the reformulated, or at least the repackaged.  To simply turn a profit is not the goal.  There must be a projection toward the next opportunity, along with estimates of the values it will produce.  The status-quo is not nearly good enough.  We have to raise the projections for tomorrow so that it will be even better than today.

There is pressure.  Yes, pressure is needed.  We are reminded by the consultants, “You only get the toothpaste out of the tube by applying pressure.”  An economic market has to be driven if it is to have any measure of success. 

What works for the market may not always be good for us.  We are designed with limits.  While the movie reminds us that money never sleeps, people do.  We long to say, “I have all that I need.”  We look for that point of satisfaction.  We may have no idea where it is or how we will find it, but we still look for it.  I believe we long for that time and place where all pressure is gone.  Think about it.

Imagine being at such a point in your life that there is no desire beyond what you have.  Most of us can think of some experience in which, at least for a moment, everything was all that we wanted it to be.  Maybe it was that moment when the love of your life uttered those words of permanent attachment, “I do.”  Maybe it was when you looked into the eyes of your first child.  Maybe it was a holiday, when all the family was gathered in joy.  The similarity that these events all share is that they offer that precious and vital sense of complete satisfaction.  What a moment!  What a feeling!  We might say, “It was almost heaven.”

There may well be moments; special times of seemingly complete fulfillment.  Sadly, they do not last.  Sooner more than later, these moments pass.  We long for more.

There is a promise.  There is a place.  There is a fulfillment, complete and sure.  There is a life that holds that long desired sense.  In that life there are no more wishes, no more hopes, no more longings.  In that life everything is always complete.  It is not almost heaven.  It is heaven.

“In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:2-3),


You Have Done Tougher Things

2 Kings 5:9-14

People are out there almost every day; jogging, walking, or both.  For some, it is a passion and a commitment.  For others, it is an escape from the tensions of their busy lives.  And for others, it is a driving effort to improve the quality of their health, appearance, and vitality of life.  For me, it may be a little of each.  Where they or we are is the walking/jogging trail/track.  Sometimes it is just the streets in the local neighborhood.  Sometimes it is path along a lakeshore or wooded area.  In other topographic locations, it may well be a tail that winds up one side of a hill and down the other.  In recent days, my pursuit has been limited to the well paved track that encircles Earlywine Park.  It is a one and a half mile track, with markers to help you know your distances. 

In these warm spring days, the track has many who use it.  There are understandably few in the middle of winter.  People of every size, shape, and condition can be seen.  I have grown accustomed to some that I see on a regular basis.  Some will even ask, “Are you going out there today?  How was it today?”  At my age, it is a challenge to make myself go and then even harder to keep going.  It is so easy to stop.  Excuses are many, and it is more challenging on some days than it is on others.  Motivation is a common need. 

A sign caught my attention the other day.  It was placed on the north leg of the track.  It was put there by a family named Miller.  It is directly in front of a bench that is used for a brief respite by those who are tired.  The sign is about two and a half feet tall and about two feet wide.  The background is painted black, and the lettering is very light.  On the sign is the printed phrase, “You have done harder things than this.  Keep running.” 

I like the sign.  Every time I pass it, I read the words again.  It is an encourager along the way.  I may pass it as many as four times during a full run, and every time I pass it, it says the same thing to me.  When the temperature is less than comfortable, or the wind is blowing far too hard, it is easy to be discouraged.  When my legs feel like overstretched rubber bands, and my lungs are about to sue me for infliction of pain, there seems to be plenty of justification for stopping.  And then there is that sign.  How interesting that they would choose to put it right in front of that bench.  Since the sign was put in place, I have seen no one on that bench.

The servants of  the commander and warrior, Naaman, challenged him with the thought that he would have done greater things if asked to.  We can imagine the things that he had faced in battle and in service to the king.   We are told that he carried the physical scourge of leprosy.  There should be no doubt that his life was marked by some awfully steep challenges.  And maybe it is the challenge of the mind that gives us the most difficult time.  For, when it is the mind that is struggling, the ability of the body is often left out of the contention.  So, as conflicted as he was, regarding the instructions he had been given, he knew he had faced and would face a lot tougher challenges.  He complied.

We all face those moments that call on us to quit.  We know the rationale from both directions.  We all need a sign that reminds us.  We need a reminder that what we are doing has value, it is true.  More than the reminder of value, in that moment of struggle, we need a reminder that we have faced tougher things.   Then we can rally our strength and keep running.

Trees and Living

Jude 12

When I was a young boy, one of the major streets near our house was lined with large Elm trees. They arched over the street to the point that it was almost as if we were driving through a tunnel like arbor. In the autumn, the leaves would fall and cover the street. It was an amazing picture. The leaves would blow into the air as the cars would pass. It was something like being inside of one of those snow-globes after they have been shaken. There is something amazing about a tree lined street. That street has long since changed and most of the trees are now gone, but that seems to be the way of life. Some of the most amazing things in life seem to pass so quickly.

In this part of the country, we don’t have nearly as many of those high arching trees, but we do have our special trees that ornament our lives. They even tell things about the character of the people around them. You see, I think trees are more than shade and ornaments. They are a depiction of life.

I know a street that is lined with trees. Most of the trees are those Bradford – fruitless – Pear trees. In the early spring, when the white blossoms cover the trees, they appear like giant snowballs. They are amazing, beautiful, and a promise of even better things. Until the late spring winds knock the fading blossoms they gather attention from all who pass.

Even in the fall, there is a message in the trees. Crimson is the peak of color. From the green of the summer leaves, the changing season brings the mixture of glorious reds. Quickly the color spreads over the tree, and the background of the green offers a vibrant realization of the ever moving changes of life.

Travelling north, I passed between the trees and was struck by the sight. On the east side of the street, the trees were completely bare. On the west side of the street the trees were still covered with leaves. Not only were those trees still covered, a large portion of the leaves were still green. Larger sections were red, and other parts were obviously undergoing change. I wondered. Why was there such a clear divide? I am sure there is some scientific and rational reason. I am just as certain that some of you could tell me the reason. Still, it is simply the status of things that strikes me. There they were, trees of the same type, but so very different in their development.

It strikes me that people are a lot like those trees. People surround us and we pass through them like leaves that have fallen from trees. They interest us. We are among them for a moment, and then they settle as we are gone. Then there are the trees that blossom early, attract attention, and then become simply a part of the scenery. And what of those who lose their vibrant color so much sooner than others. What is that all about? Yes, we see people around us, and in similar circumstances, but very different in development. It is hard to understand all of the reasons. It is easy to see that it is the way things are.

Maybe we all need pause to consider how we respond to the opportunities of life around us.