All the Presidents: Project Complete

Three years ago, I set out on a project that I hoped would be worthy.  The project would have been better done in my younger years, but it is as the worn cliché says, “Better late than never.”  I have now read either a biography or autobiography of every one of the 45 U.S. Presidents.

I did not read them in order.  I started with Eisenhower because he was President during my formative years.  I voted for him in our little election held by our teacher in the one-room school I attended at the time.  My parents proudly claimed the “I Like Ike” slogan and influenced me, of course, but after reading the biography, I would have voted for him had I been voting age.

Although I remain loyal to George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, my admiration for Calvin Coolidge has put him in my top ten Presidents.  His father wanted him to be a pharmacist.  I’m glad he was available at the time he was for the overwhelming task of cleaning up after World War I and toning down the progressive ideas and practices of Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson. Coolidge, a very disciplined and moral man, followed the death of Warren Harding who had been the direct opposite. Coolidge restored dignity and respect for the role of the President.

Although I did not read the books in order, I pieced together history.  Knowing the backgrounds of these men now makes me form more conclusive reasons for directions our nation has taken.  I was not a history teacher in my career, but I did have the task of teaching American Literature.  Had I known what I know now, it would have made me a far more interesting literature teacher.  Although it is now directly come from the Oval office, trends in many areas of American life stem from our federal and state government houses.  At best the legislators can only guess at what the constituents want when the votes are cast on behalf of the voters.  I did discover evil corruption during the legislation of certain issues that continue to affect our lives currently.  National banking and the Federal Reserve is one of them.

I gained respect for the Rutherford B Hayes family.  They were an outstanding family in practice, and I loved reading about them.  They were fondly loved and respected by the White House staff.  Poor Mrs. Hayes was nicknamed “Lemonade Lucy” because she firmly refused to have any alcoholic beverages served in the White House.

Included in my reading were two books written by White House staff and the personal stories of families in the “Residence” as it is fondly called, was enlightening and many times delightful.  The staff sees the First Family in an entirely different light.  It is mostly delightful.  Of course, the staff also unabashedly also reported anger, selfishness, drunkenness, and sexual immorality as well.

Some of our Presidents did not read or write well and were poorly educated, et performed successfully in the Oval Office.  Some served without a First Lady and found a family member to stand-in for the social events on their behalf.  Some first ladies were treated with fear and most were well-loved.  I found Mrs. Harding probably the most unlovely of all of them. No one will ever know whether or not she was ultimately responsible for her husband’s death. As the modern saying goes, Mrs. Harding was “a piece of work.” That is not just my opinion. Apparently historians do not look upon Florence Harding as angelic. Of most of the Presidents, I found the men who filled the vacancies of Presidents very interesting.  No Vice President, it seems, has any driving desire to fill the shoes of the man he serves under.  For the first hundred years of our nation’s history, the Vice President was not selected as a running mate by the President.  That was awkward and caused misunderstandings that could have easily be avoided.

To sum up the experience, I encourage you to read at least some of the biographies for yourself.  In a few cases, I read a biography of both the President and of the wife, (Barbara Bush, Jackie Kennedy, Eleanor Roosevelt, Nancy Reagan) as well.  It is certain that you will not leave reading biographies of great leaders without being enriched as a result. Whether you are young or old, don’t leave off reading and learning from the experiences of others.

 

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No Harm?

Generally, I consider a doodle to be rather rambling and without form.  What I write here today is a cross between a doodle and essay. I have no idea what to call it.  Maybe one of my readers can coin a word for me.  Recently The Daily Signal (https://www.dailysignal.com)  produced a column about the thoughts of a potential candidate for President on the topic of her approach to prostitution.  It has been unsettling to my mind.

The premise of this candidate’s (a former Attorney General) is that if intercourse is consensual it brings no harm.  Now, I am not qualified to argue in court with an accomplished lawyer, but I do feel frustration with her premise.  Intercourse, outside the bond of marriage, is immoral.  I am not quick to use the word always, but am inclined to use it now.  Immorality always brings harm.  A man who pays a woman to disrobe herself and excite his lust for a specified amount of time is sinful and immoral.  Such acts produce emotions that are entirely outside the boundaries of anyone’s life.  It leaves a lingering guilt and sense of dirtiness.  Worse, it could result in the conception of a child.  The child is not wanted and will be only in the way so that leads to the sin of murder of the baby before it has a chance to be born.  Prostitution may also lead to disease.  Sexually transmitted disease (STD) is all too common among districts that promote sex for a fee.

The Bible addresses sins of this sort are sins against the body.  In fact, I Corinthians 6:13 addresses this directly.  When I looked up that verse to be certain, it led me to the word fornication.  The synonyms for fornication are whoredom and/or harlot.  In the New Testament the word comes from the Greek root porneia.  You guessed it, the English word for pornography comes from that root. The word takes on the whole variety of sexual sins including homosexuality and pedophilia.

My noodle doodle is now too long, but I hope long enough to convince you not to adhere to the premise of Ms. Harris that prostitution does no harm.  Common sense should tell you.  What happens is that the words modernize and sound more harmless that the original.  Whore is a harsh word.  It is still the word now dressed up as a “lady of the night.”  Stay away from either being her or being with her.  It brings harm.

 

Phobia

It is strange to me that phobia is a bit one-sided.  Facing fear is a tricky business so be careful about pointing fingers.  What one calls a phobia could well be, well, a phobia of your own.

 

Many fears abound; it seems as if new words are being added to our vocabulary with another new fear.  Hillary Clinton’s famous basket of phobias sent me to the dictionary only to find out that I am not afraid of those things in her basket, yet I would have to declare myself part of her basket of deplorables.  I even went so far as to buy Todd Starnes’s book, The Deplorables Guide to Making America Great Again.”  I learned many things from his guide but along the way I also learned that what Clinton loaded up her basket with is a wide range of fears that I do not even have.  Somehow, I just don’t fit her narrative.

Where the ones who accuse me of being a deplorable person goes wrong is that they fail to separate the person from the accused trait.  It IS possible to love a sinner but hate his sinful lifestyle.  I am not afraid of a homosexual, for instance.  In fact, I feel compassion for them and wish, even pray, that the person will turn from trying to find success or happiness in a sinful way and turn in repentance to Biblical truths that will set him free. Yet, the group of LGBTQs want to call me deplorable just because I disagree with their lifestyle choice.

Xenophobic was a new word to me.  It actually is an old word, but not in my general vocabulary.  In fact, I am not sure yet whether Clinton thinks I am deplorable because I am skeptical about someone I don’t know.  After all, years of my mother’s reminding me not to talk to strangers is difficult to shake.  Perhaps the term xenophobic ties in the racist.  Oops, Hillary Clinton, I also am not racist.  Character means far more to me than the color of one’s skin.  Actually, when a person thinks about it, we are all some sort of shade of brown.  The Bible clearly declares us all one blood.  Come to think of it, when I worked in a hospital, everyone’s blood was the same color.  Dr. M.L. King, who was of a very dark brown color, said that character was most important in a person’s life. Racist just doesn’t fit me.  I see a person’s soul and his need for Christ Jesus as the most important thing.  I will never hesitate to tell someone, anyone, that Jesus sacrificed His perfect life to pay the penalty for sin.  Skin color or lifestyle doesn’t matter.  Repentance and turning to Christ is what is of uttermost importance.

So, this evening when I heard such hatred spew out of the mouth of some woman on television calling conservative Christians terrible names, I, well, found that a bit—um, deplorable.  She took my desire for her to turn to Christ and away from a sinful lifestyle as hatred.  Really, lady, it is love, not hate that drives my compassion for your soul.

Regardless of what the sinner has done, there is still room at the cross for you.  I don’t hate you and there is no need for you to hate me (which was obvious from her body language and venomous tirade) and settle down.  For her own sake, she needs to cool down and think through her own attitude.  Or, die and go to a very warm place for eternity.  The choice is theirs, those who carry that basket around and wrongfully condemn me as the deplorable.  If they want to see a deplorable, perhaps just look in the mirror.

By the way, the television show I was watching was the Laura Ingram Angle.  The woman was denouncing our Vice President.  He was my governor before he was VP, and before that he was my state senator, and before that, he represented my district in Indiana.  Mike Pence doesn’t have a hate bone in his entire body. However, there are sins that he certainly stays away from and chooses a lifestyle that lines up with the Bible a majority of the time.  He truly knows how to love a sinner yet hate the sin the sinner may be displaying.

II Timothy 1:7 states clearly, “God has not give us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind, be not therefore be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord. . .” I will never be ashamed or shy away from the precepts of God’s clear teaching in His Word.

 

 

Shelomith

Who is he anyhow? For some reason he stood out to me today as I made my way through yet another list of names in I Chronicles. I think it is pronounced Sheh-lo-mith. The accent is probably on the second syllable. If I remember correctly, that how the Bible reader pronounced it. The name is apparently used for either a male or female as I did a little research on it.

Actually, Shelomith was a big deal. He was King David’s version of our Steve Mnuchin. Our Secretary of the Treasury is much like Shelomith. King David made him responsible for oversight of the treasury of dedicated things. The spoils of war were set aside for use either in the construction of the Temple to come, or in the future use as funds to keep the Temple running in good order. The spoils had been kept in store for about a hundred years, so it was no small amount.

Shelomith’s name is mentioned in I Chronicles 26:25-28 and comes through the impressive bloodline of Eliezer. In the almost endless list of names, God’s Word takes a break for four verses and commends the position that Shelomith held. I’m impressed.

Lately I’ve been feeling a bit set aside. I’m reading a book about fellow alumni of my alma mater, Pillsbury Baptist Bible College. So many have done such admirable things. But many more have lived extraordinary ordinary lives too. I am one of those. I sit among my peers just as they—Christian school teachers, children’s workers, camp ministry volunteers, choir members, and whatever else needed doing around the church. Most report having been active in community events. I am not a political leader, but I am an active voice for conservatism also like my peers. While some of my peers hold doctorate degrees and written books, most graduates, like me, are just ordinary but faithful and for the most part, fruitful.

It takes a very special person to be a Shelomith. We should all have our goals set to be faithful in our tasks, trustworthy, and reliable. The Apostle Paul admonishes us still in Colossians 3:17 to do all to the glory God. That, folks, is the heart test of a life well-lived.

Touching the Clouds (book review)

Book 1 in a 3-book series, Touching the Clouds, by Bonnie Leon, is a break from hum drum fiction that seems to permeate the market today. It is published by Revell, copywrite 2010. The print edition is 396 pages. I chose the Kindle edition because it was free and as of this afternoon, is still free. Books 2 and 3 are $5.99 in Kindle formats.

Kate Evans, the lead character in the book is well-developed with a strong will and a pilot’s license. Kate is very independent as she also owns her own plane. Supporting characters are also well-developed as is the sub plot. The setting is Anchorage, Alaska, 1933. Kate has a deep longing for adventure and the desire to overcome a fear of failure. The antagonist in the story is the overcoming of that fear. I particularly like books that use an inner conflict as the antagonist rather than the blood and guts mean person to overcome. Kate chooses to fly into the Alaskan bush during the 1930’s long before Alaska became a state. Of course, there is romance and people who surround Kate that all help her develop into an even stronger personality.

Because the series includes terms from aviation vocabulary and the suspense of landing with skis as well as pontoons, or landing without an air strip at all, once the reader is just a few pages into the book, it becomes a page turner. Leon writes other books with Alaskan settings and I am looking forward to reading more books by this author. This book had a good balance of plot, sub plots, mystery, romance, and is morally clean. My kind of book!

When It Became Quiet

On a somewhat recent shopping excursion I purchased some interesting paper napkins.  They have several questions on them that are considered conversation starters.  Until I was unpacking my groceries, I didn’t even notice what I had bought.  Ha, I thought, the grandkids will enjoy these.

Now that I have used them on several occasions, the newness of the questions are beginning to wear off.  There are only about eight different questions, yet they seem to continue to generate conversations.  I wonder if the napkin has done that for other families and it saddens me to think that there are too many families that I hear about that seldom eat one single meal together throughout the day.  It is sad when families are too busy to eat together.

Last evening I was entertaining only grandchildren—no parents.  I really did set the table with no thought of conversation starters.  Eating with boys is a challenge and I had only one ally in a young granddaughter.  Three of them were boys.  Conversations with teen boys can be a bit crazy.  Out of the din, I heard them talking about music and songs I did not recognize.  Then quietly one of the guys included me in the conversation with the question from his napkin.  “So, Nana, what song characterized your day today?”  Without deep thought at all, I replied, “Trust and Obey.”  The table grew very quiet. I guess my song made an impact. I’ve thought about it several times today.  I really was not even trying to make a point.  But I did. Silly conversation turned serious.

It was not an intensely spiritual day yesterday.  It was rather ordinary.  Everyday needs to be a day to trust and obey.

 

Bibi: The Turbulent Life and Times of Benjamin Netanyahu (Book review)

I chose to review this book on my blog site because I thought it might inspire some of the readers here to investigate the book further. I couldn’t review the book on Amazon because I did not purchase it there but listened to it on audio from Talking Books, a service of the Library of Congress for those with impaired eyesight. That service is invaluable to me.

Written by a journalist for the Haaretz in Israel, Bibi: The Life and Times of Benjamin Netanyahu, is a picture of the current Prime Minister of Israel. It is 441 pages in length and sells on Amazon in both Hardcover and Kindle formats. It was released in May 2018 and does cover the time period right up to as present times as possible. The book is not by an American publisher. The author, Ansel Pfeffer is well-known in Israel and writes for the American publication, Economist.

I chose to listen to this book via Talking Books. It was helpful to have the Hebrew words pronounced for me and the reader brought authenticity to the book. It was an 18-hour long work and it informed and entertained me during my Christmas baking season.

The book stretches from the history of Netanyahu’s parents and siblings to Netanyahu’s education and military service, public service, and finally into the political years right up to the present since he remains Prime Minister of Israel. The book satiated my curiosity about his education in America and what led him to return to Israel.

The writer does not seek to hide scandals in which Netanyahu has been accused or his failed marriages. I applaud Pfeffer on his ability to stand back and report details without opinion. Until the epilogue, I really could not tell if the author agreed or disagreed with the ideology of the subject. Such unadulterated writing is rare.

The book, of course, includes Israel’s history woven into the life of Netanyahu. For the first time, I found a way to chart time from 1948 to 2018 and how each of Israel’s leaders have approached international roles.

Because I have a Biblical view of the nation Israel, I found the more current history entwined in prophecy. Not all readers will see that, but it was helpful to me in understanding the views of current Jewish thought. Pfeffer exposes the attitudes of American Jewish voters as well as Israeli voters which was eye opening. I do hope this book will be available for years to come. Check your local public library to see if it is available.

A Calendar Doodle

Moses occasionally waxed poetic in the book of Exodus and one Psalm is attributed to him. Psalm 90 was probably written close to the end of the Wilderness Wanderings.  Grandson, Kholton, wrote his mother a poem for Christmas.  It is so sweet!  As for me, I can’t even write to the meter of “Roses are red.. .” and I am quite sure I dreadfully failed when it came to teaching poetic styles when it came along in literature.  Limericks are easy to spot, and sonnets, and of course, the haiku.  One of my goals in 2018 was to read all 157 Shakespearean sonnets. I became a bit bleary eyed by the end but I did it!

Back to Moses—verse 12 stands out in Psalm 90.   “So teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” That verse is what makes me think he may have written this near the end of the forty years in the wilderness.  He may well have been thinking that his days, indeed, were reaching the end of the numbers he was allotted.  The same passage mentions the days of our years being a general three score and ten, or by reason of strength, four score and then “we fly away.” He was 120 when he passed in the land of Moab, having seen the land of Canaan from Nebo. God buried him.  His grave site is still unknown.  Moses appears on the mount of Transfiguration and he will appear as one of the two witnesses in the end time.  I think God granted him his desire to number his days carefully and apply his heart unto wisdom.

I filled in my 2019 calendar this evening.  I marked all the birthdays, graduations, and the couple of doctor appointments I have made already.  When I came to the December page, I stopped and prayed the same request that Moses expressed.  “Lord teach me to number my days. Help me be wise with my time.” In this year I will reach another birthday if God allows it.  I am over my three score and ten and heading for that four score.  I don’t want to waste any of my remaining opportunities to sound out for Jesus whether it is with family, neighbors, or fellow passengers on the bus. Let my voice be heard whether in advice for Godly living, or in supplication in the quietness of my prayer room.

What does your 2019 calendar hold?

A Christmas Doodle

Christmas time is here again. In the local stores it has been for sale since before Thanksgiving. Since Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, I wait until Advent to start my Christmas. Oh, I admit, I play my playlist of Christmas songs sometimes other times of the year, and occasionally, I buy items right after Christmas when they are downright cheap and tuck them away for the following Christmas, but for the most part, Christmas starts at Advent.

In 2018, the first Sunday of Advent was December 2. On December 3, I was out prowling around my storage barn getting out Christmas decorations. This year I put up both of my (artificial) Christmas trees. One is gorgeous, at least to me, all decorated in gold and white, while the other is practical. It is a four-foot table tree. About ten years ago I attended a ceramics class and painted every gingerbread ornament that shows off on that tree.

The next thing I did was prepare an outline for the December devotionals I would present at the local senior center and select the stories I would tell. I repeat the devotional at a local nursing home too. Then listening to Christmas music from my playlist started in earnest. Nearly every selection features an aspect of Christmas minus Santa Claus. I don’t hate him, he just doesn’t fit into my Christmas. My Christmas is one of hope, love, joy, peace, and Jesus.

Next, Karyl’s bakery opens. Time was when the grandchildren were all small, between Thanksgiving and Advent, A pajama factory kicked into operation, but I don’t do that anymore. I gave my sewing machine away when I no longer could see well enough to sew. I can still bake, almost by instinct. By just a few days before Christmas I will have enough baked goods to give to my near neighbors, the firemen down the street at the station, and our local police department. This year the Johnson County Senior Services will get treats too. They tote me around to doctor appointments, dentist appointments, and various places that they can fit into their schedule. Every single one of them is kind to me. I want to give back to them in more than the few dollars I contribute each month. They ask for nothing; I just give it to them anyhow.
Tonight, my daughter and family are taking me to the church Christmas program. We are meeting in a little while for a mid-afternoon lunch; if we were British, I suppose it would be tea. My grandson is home from college. I haven’t seen him since June so I am excited to see him. I’ll steal from my stash of goodies to make up a plate to take over. Christmas is indeed a time for giving. It is a time for joy, a time for peace, a time for hope, and always a time for Jesus.

Christmas Eve, 1881 (from my story file)

I’ve used this story a couple of times this week.  You might need a tissue or two before the story is finished.  It teaches such a very important principle that I decided to share it here.  I found it on a story site back in 2014.  Some of you storytellers may be able to use it yet this year.

Christmas Eve, 1881

Regretfully, author unknown.

Pa never had much compassion for the lazy or those who squandered their means and then never had enough for the necessities. But for those who were genuinely in need, his heart was as big as all outdoors. It was from him that I learned the greatest joy in life comes from giving, not from receiving.

It was Christmas Eve 1881. I was fifteen years old and feeling like the world had caved in on me because there just hadn’t been enough money to buy me the rifle that I’d wanted for Christmas. We did the chores early that night for some reason. I just figured Pa wanted a little extra time so we could read in the Bible.

After supper was over I took my boots off and stretched out in front of the fireplace and waited for Pa to get down the old Bible. I was still feeling sorry for myself and, to be honest, I wasn’t in much of a mood to read Scriptures. But Pa didn’t get the Bible, instead he bundled up again and went outside. I couldn’t figure it out because we had already done all the chores. I didn’t worry about it long though, I was too busy wallowing in self-pity. Soon Pa came back in. It was a cold clear night out and there was ice in his beard. “Come on, Matt,” he said. “Bundle up good, it’s cold out tonight.” I was really upset then. Not only wasn’t I getting the rifle for Christmas, now Pa was dragging me out in the cold, and for no earthly reason that I could see. We’d already done all the chores, and I couldn’t think of anything else that needed doing, especially not on a night like this. But I knew Pa was not very patient at one dragging one’s feet when he’d told them to do something, so I got up and put my boots back on and got my cap, coat, and mittens. Ma gave me a mysterious smile as I opened the door to leave the house. Something was up, but I didn’t know what..

Outside, I became even more dismayed. There in front of the house was the work team, already hitched to the big sled. Whatever it was we were going to do wasn’t going to be a short, quick, little job. I could tell. We never hitched up this sled unless we were going to haul a big load. Pa was already up on the seat, reins in hand. I reluctantly climbed up beside him. The cold was already biting at me. I wasn’t happy. When I was on, Pa pulled the sled around the house and stopped in front of the woodshed. He got off and I followed. “I think we’ll put on the high sideboards,” he said. “Here, help me.” The high sideboards! It had been a bigger job than I wanted to do with just the low sideboards on, but whatever it was we were going to do would be a lot bigger with the high side boards on.

After we had exchanged the sideboards, Pa went into the woodshed and came out with an armload of wood – the wood I’d spent all summer hauling down from the mountain, and then all Fall sawing into blocks and splitting. What was he doing? Finally I said something. “Pa,” I asked, “what are you doing?” You been by the Widow Jensen’s lately?” he asked. The Widow Jensen lived about two miles down the road. Her husband had died a year or so before and left her with three children, the oldest being eight. Sure, I’d been by, but so what?
Yeah,” I said, “Why?”

“I rode by just today,” Pa said. “Little Jakey was out digging around in the woodpile trying to find a few chips. They’re out of wood, Matt.” That was all he said and then he turned and went back into the woodshed for another armload of wood. I followed him. We loaded the sled so high that I began to wonder if the horses would be able to pull it. Finally, Pa called a halt to our loading, then we went to the smoke house and Pa took down a big ham and a side of bacon. He handed them to me and told me to put them in the sled and wait. When he returned he was carrying a sack of flour over his right shoulder and a smaller sack of something in his left hand. “What’s in the little sack?” I asked. Shoes, they’re out of shoes. Little Jakey just had gunny sacks wrapped around his feet when he was out in the woodpile this morning. I got the children a little candy too. It just wouldn’t be Christmas without a little candy.”

We rode the two miles to Widow Jensen’s pretty much in silence. I tried to think through what Pa was doing. We didn’t have much by worldly standards. Of course, we did have a big woodpile, though most of what was left now was still in the form of logs that I would have to saw into blocks and split before we could use it. We also had meat and flour, so we could spare that, but I knew we didn’t have any money, so why was Pa buying them shoes and candy? Really, why was he doing any of this? Widow Jensen had closer neighbors than us; it shouldn’t have been our concern.

We came in from the blind side of the Jensen house and unloaded the wood as quietly as possible, then we took the meat and flour and shoes to the door. We knocked. The door opened a crack and a timid voice said, “Who is it?” “Lucas Miles, Ma’am, and my son, Matt, could we come in for a bit?”

Widow Jensen opened the door and let us in. She had a blanket wrapped around her shoulders. The children were wrapped in another and were sitting in front of the fireplace by a very small fire that hardly gave off any heat at all. Widow Jensen fumbled with a match and finally lit the lamp.

“We brought you a few things, Ma’am,” Pa said and set down the sack of flour. I put the meat on the table. Then Pa handed her the sack that had the shoes in it. She opened it hesitantly and took the shoes out one pair at a time. There was a pair for her and one for each of the children – sturdy shoes, the best, shoes that would last. I watched her carefully. She bit her lower lip to keep it from trembling and then tears filled her eyes and started running down her cheeks. She looked up at Pa like she wanted to say something, but it wouldn’t come out.

“We brought a load of wood too, Ma’am,” Pa said. He turned to me and said, “Matt, go bring in enough to last awhile. Let’s get that fire up to size and heat this place up.” I wasn’t the same person when I went back out to bring in the wood. I had a big lump in my throat and as much as I hate to admit it, there were tears in my eyes too. In my mind I kept seeing those three kids huddled around the fireplace and their mother standing there with tears running down her cheeks with so much gratitude in her heart that she couldn’t speak.

My heart swelled within me and a joy that I’d never known before, filled my soul. I had given at Christmas many times before, but never when it had made so much difference. I could see we were literally saving the lives of these people.

I soon had the fire blazing and everyone’s spirits soared. The kids started giggling when Pa handed them each a piece of candy and Widow Jensen looked on with a smile that probably hadn’t crossed her face for a long time. She finally turned to us. “God bless you,” she said. “I know the Lord has sent you. The children and I have been praying that he would send one of his angels to spare us.”

In spite of myself, the lump returned to my throat and the tears welled up in my eyes again. I’d never thought of Pa in those exact terms before, but after Widow Jensen mentioned it I could see that it was probably true. I was sure that a better man than Pa had never walked the earth. I started remembering all the times he had gone out of his way for Ma and me, and many others. The list seemed endless as I thought on it.

Pa insisted that everyone try on the shoes before we left. I was amazed when they all fit and I wondered how he had known what sizes to get. Then I guessed that if he was on an errand for the Lord that the Lord would make sure he got the right sizes.

Tears were running down Widow Jensen’s face again when we stood up to leave. Pa took each of the kids in his big arms and gave them a hug. They clung to him and didn’t want us to go. I could see that they missed their Pa, and I was glad that I still had mine.

At the door Pa turned to Widow Jensen and said, “The Mrs. wanted me to invite you and the children over for Christmas dinner tomorrow. The turkey will be more than the three of us can eat, and a man can get cantankerous if he has to eat turkey for too many meals. We’ll be by to get you about eleven. It’ll be nice to have some little ones around again. Matt, here, hasn’t been little for quite a spell.” I was the youngest. My two brothers and two sisters had all married and had moved away.

Widow Jensen nodded and said, “Thank you, Brother Miles. I don’t have to say, May the Lord bless you, I know for certain that He will.”

Out on the sled I felt a warmth that came from deep within and I didn’t even notice the cold. When we had gone a ways, Pa turned to me and said, “Matt, I want you to know something. Your ma and me have been tucking a little money away here and there all year so we could buy that rifle for you, but we didn’t have quite enough. Then yesterday a man who owed me a little money from years back came by to make things square. Your ma and me were real excited, thinking that now we could get you that rifle, and I started into town this morning to do just that, but on the way I saw little Jakey out scratching in the woodpile with his feet wrapped in those gunny sacks and I knew what I had to do. Son, I spent the money for shoes and a little candy for those children. I hope you understand.”

I understood, and my eyes became wet with tears again. I understood very well, and I was so glad Pa had done it. Now the rifle seemed very low on my list of priorities. Pa had given me a lot more. He had given me the look on Widow Jensen’s face and the radiant smiles of her three children.

For the rest of my life, whenever I saw any of the Jensens, or split a block of wood, I remembered, and remembering brought back that same joy I felt riding home beside Pa that night. Pa had given me much more than a rifle that night, he had given me the best Christmas of my life.

Author Unknown – Please comment if you know the author

 so credit can be given.