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“It’s Just Another New Years Eve…” 12/31/2017

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New Years Eve…  I sometimes wonder if I am the only person in the world whose least favorite day of the year is New Years Eve? Each year I watch people getting so excited and the thousands of people packing times square, celebrating and partying… and I wonder… what’s wrong with me? What am I missing?

Instead of the joy and excitement and anticipation of the New Year… I always feel a sense of sadness… loss… even sorrow… bordering on… foreboding.

This isn’t new for me… it happens every year. I think about the year that has passed, I think about those I have lost, and then I wonder what the New Year will bring. What challenges will we face? What trials will we encounter??

I know… I’m looking at this all wrong… Yeah, I get that.

I’ve heard it all before… “Oh Ye of little faith…” or for my fellow Star Wars fans… “I find your lack of faith disturbing!” Trust me… I know that there is wisdom in your words. But for some reason… to me… “It’s just another New years Eve…

So tonight while everyone is celebrating and watching the ball drop in Times Square… I think I will put on my headphones and listen to the one person in the world who seems to know exactly how I feel on New Years Eve… That great philosopher… Barry Manilow.

I pray that you all have a very blessed and Happy New Year…

Blessings

“It’s Just Another New Years Eve”

Don’t look so sad,
It’s not so bad you know.
It’s just another night,
That’s all it is, it’s not the first,

It’s not the worst you know,
We’ve come through all the rest,
We’ll get through this.
We’ve made mistakes,

But we’ve made good friends too.
Remember all the nights we spent with them?
And all our plans,
Who says they can’t come true?

Tonight’s another chance to start again.
It’s just another New Year’s Eve,
Another night like all the rest.
It’s just another New Year’s Eve,

Let’s make it the best.
It’s just another New Year’s Eve,
It’s just another Auld Lang Syne,
But when we’re through this New Year

You’ll see, will be
Just fine.
We’re not alone, we’ve got the world you know.
And it won’t let us down, just wait and see.

And we’ll grow old, but think how wise we’ll grow.
There’s more you know, it’s only New Year’s Eve.
It’s just another New Year’s Eve,
Another night like all the rest.

It’s just another New Year’s Eve,
Let’s make it the best.
It’s just another New Year’s Eve,
It’s just another Auld Lang Syne,

But when we’re through this New Year, you’ll see, will be
Just fine.

 

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Mama… I’m Coming Home… 12/30/2017

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Jimand Verna

In the past couple of months I have written a lot about home. I’m not sure if there is a word in the English language that evokes a deeper or more visceral reaction than the word “home.” It can evoke feelings and memories of warmth, joy, comfort and contentment for many… while arousing  feelings of loss, hopelessness, bitterness, anger and resentment for others.

Mom Dad Verna and Jim

There are so many times where “home” has become a part of our shared lexicon and experience… “Home is where the heart is,” It’s good to be home,” “Home sweet home,” and of course ‘There’s no place like home”… just to name a few.

But… something I have learned over the years is that often times home has more to do with people than geography… I remember when I first left home to move 981 miles away to Atlanta, Georgia to go to school. I quickly discovered the one thing I missed the most was… Karen.  We sent letters back and forth almost everyday and called most everyday for a year… This was back in the day when you had to pay so much per minute for long distance… no texting… no email… kids sure have it easy today LOL.

Karen14

A year after moving to Atlanta… Karen and I were married and all was right with the world… except… I then found myself homesick for my Mom and Dad. Home was definitely about people.

The funny thing is that now, when I think about home… what I miss the most is Clint’s Pizza, Whitey’s Ice Cream, and Maid Rite… but I digress.

I remember a story I heard once about a single mother doing her very best to raise three sons, one son was 18, one 12 and the other 10. On Christmas Eve, she asked her oldest son to go out and bring in wood for the stove… He refused, saying that it isn’t fair… He always had to do all the work… Make his brothers go out and do it…

The mother looked at him sternly and said… “I said, go out and bring in wood…” Again he refused, this time saying that he didn’t have to do anything he didn’t want to do… he was now 18, and the man of the house, and if he didn’t want to bring in the wood, he didn’t have to.

His mother calmly walked over to him and said… If you are going to live under my roof, you will respect me and do what I ask. He looked at her and said… “Fine, I no longer live here…” He packed a small bag and stormed out the door… His mother went to her room and cried the rest of the night.

A week went by with no word, which turned into a month which flowed into many months… The mother went on as best as she could taking care of her two younger sons… hoping to hear something… anything from her oldest.

For the son, things weren’t going well… his lack of education and no marketable skills had left him moving from job to job and place to place…staying in one place long enough for the rent to come due again and then being forced to leave. He was lost, hungry and tired… spending many night on the streets with no food and no place to go… he longed for the companionship of his family back home, he ached for his mothers home cooking… he just wanted to go home and be with his family.

Christmas time had come once again and he found himself walking up to his mothers front door… the Christmas tree was visible through the front window, he could see his brothers sitting in the living room watching television and he could smell the aroma of fried chicken drifting through the door. He knocked tentatively… having no idea how his mother would respond… he prayed that she would at least feed him before sending him on his way.

When his mother answered the door, she immediately burst into tears, threw her arms around him, and kissed him.

Barely being able to speak, he said… “Mom… I’m so sorry, I’m sorry about everything… can I please come home…”

She pulled away from her embrace slightly… looked into his eyes and then looked back at her two younger sons who were anxiously awaiting just the right moment where they could jump in and join the celebration…. and the mother, without hesitation said… “The wood pile is still waiting…” He smiled and said, let me go bring it in for you.” He proceeded to bring in a weeks supply of firewood.

Home can be complicated… but it can also be wonderful. I have always been blessed… I had loving parents, a great childhood, I always had food on the table and a warm bed to sleep in. As I have grown older, I can now understand how very fortunate and blessed I was.

I ran across a song the other day that I had never heard before… It was written by Ozzy Osbourne and is titled… “Mama I’m Coming Home”

Take a moment to listen… (Don’t prejudge Ozzy) and then if you were fortunate to have a blessed childhood and home… take time today to thank those who helped make it blessed…. And if they are no longer with us… remember and be grateful.

Blessings

Follow Me… And I Will Lead You Home… 12/27/2017

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2013-09-05 11.46.45

My best buddy in the world, Odie, is getting to be an old dog… He doesn’t hear very well anymore, he can’t see well, he isn’t as stable on his feet, he has to be lifted on the bed at night and sometimes he gets up in the middle of the night. Now as I think about all of those things, I have to sigh… because the truth is, I can say those same things about myself… (With the exception of having to be lifted up on the bed.) So, if that isn’t depressing, I don’t know what is LOL

You know, I don’t really mind, when he gets up at night… I don’t mind at all getting up,  putting on my shoes and coat and taking him outdoors… heck, I probably would be getting up soon anyway.

But… what I have noticed… is that at night… he follows me… Now that is really saying something, because Odie has always led me everywhere we have ever gone together. He will always be as far out in front as I will let him go on his leash and even in the house, he will take off running to the bedroom or the basement, making a generalized assumption of where he thinks I might be going so that he can arrive first… and to be honest, he’s pretty smart… most of the time he knows where I am going before I do.

But nighttime is different… he waits for me… he goes very carefully and is never farther away than he can see me. He is my best friend and he knows that he can follow me and that even though he can’t see well enough to know where we are going… he knows that I will always lead him safely home.

I’m reminded of a time I was in the hospital battling Cellulitis…. I was so sick… I remember the doctor coming in and saying we are going to do this test first and depending on what that showed we were going to follow with either option A or option B, and then he gave me a list of what I was to do, such as using ice at certain frequencies and several other tasks that I can’t remember.

Maybe it was the Morphine, maybe it was the pain, maybe it was just the sense of everything being beyond my control, but I just remember a tear in my eye and saying “Just tell me where I need to go and what I need to do”… because I couldn’t even think what the first thing was that he had said… my mind was so confused… I didn’t understand at all what he wanted me to do…

He just smiled and said… “Don’t worry… your job is to trust me, get well, and I will see to it that you get home soon…”

My friends… Have you ever been lost??? Have you ever not known how to get home?

Or… Have you ever had the experience of someone saying… “Don’t worry, follow me and I will lead you home…”

Those are the words that Jesus says to us in our darkest times… when all the light has gone out, when our vision fails, when we no longer know where to go or what to do… Jesus says, take my hand and follow me and I will lead you home…

Our faith isn’t about following a set of rules, it isn’t about checking off a to do list, before we can get to heaven… it is all about trusting in Jesus, taking his hand and following Him home.

I ran across the most beautiful song this Christmas season… It is called Christmas Lullaby. The words are beautiful and the melody is haunting… Take a moment and listen and let me know what you think. It became my favorite song of the Advent and Christmas season…

“Christmas Lullaby” ( I Will Lead You Home)

Are you far away from home
This dark and lonely night
Tell me what best would help
To ease your mind
Someone to give
Direction for this unfamiliar road
Or one who says, “follow me and I
Will lead you home.”

How beautiful
How precious
The savior of all
To love so
Completely
The loneliest soul
How gently
How tenderly
He says to one and all,
“child you can follow me and
I will lead you home
Trust me and follow me
And I will lead you home.”

Be near me, lord Jesus
I ask thee to stay
Close by me forever
And love me I pray
Bless all the dear children
In thy tender care
And take us to heaven
To live with thee there
Take us to heaven
To live with thee there

Blessings

An “Original” Merry Christmas… 12/25/2017

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Ralphie

Oh! The humanity!!!! I am so traumatized… I was just sitting here enjoying my Christmas morning… feasting on biscuits, gravy and bacon… and watching one of my favorite Christmas movies, “A Christmas Story” on television when it happened.  At the very end of the movie Ralphie said… “And all was right with the world…” Wait a minute… “All is right with the world..”   That’s my line… I say that all the time…. I even used it in a recent blog post… I can’t believe it… Ralphie stole my line!!!!

Now it may be true that I haven’t had an original thought in my entire life… And it is certainly true that my mind is cluttered with scenes from movies and old television shows. (Just ask my parishioners) But, I’m very sure that “All is right with the world,”  couldn’t have come from Ralphie… could it?  I mean… It’s like a part of my soul.

Next thing you know, someone will tell me that one of my favorite sayings… “He is one of my own kind you know” or “If you got time to breath, you got time for music” came from some old Andy Griffith episode. Or, when I sign my Christmas Cards… May your days be merry and bright and may all your Christmases be white, came from an old Bing Crosby movie…

darling

This is indeed troubling…  I think I need to ponder this all a little more over my Christmas feast of  Who pudding and rare Who roast beast. So in the mean time… I know it’s been said many times many ways… Merry Christmas to all…. and to all a good night!!

Blessings

merry christmas 1

 

One Little Candle… 12/23/2017

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Advent-Wreath-5

I have thought a great deal about this post, I wrote it early this week, but I just wasn’t sure about publishing it. After sharing my thoughts in a couple of different Bible studies, I decided that perhaps others were feeling the same way and knowing that they are not alone could be helpful, so here it goes…

Tuesday was a great day… a sad day… a difficult day… and a challenging day, emotionally, physically and spiritually. Tuesday, with the help of some of the Saints of the church we distributed food and Angel Tree gifts to several families in our community. When we were on our way home, Karen asked what I thought of the day… It took me awhile to answer, it was difficult… and I was trying to discern exactly what it was that I was feeling.

In time… I answered her by saying that I felt our efforts were like a bag of sugar dumped into a cranberry bog. (I know… you’re thinking what the heck does that mean) Let me try to explain.

There is a television commercial for Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice with no sugar added. It shows the two lovable Cranberry farmers standing out in the middle of a cranberry bog and one of them dumps a bag of sugar into the bog and in horror tells the harvesters not to take any cranberries from that area. Of course one of the jokes of the commercial is the fact that one little bag of sugar wouldn’t make the slightest bit of difference in a bog that large… perhaps a dump truck full of sugar might have an impact… but not a bag.

And, that is how I felt Tuesday… Between my churches, our people spent hundreds of hours of preparation, and thousands of dollars purchasing gifts and food for these families and when we were delivering, I couldn’t move past the feeling that in spite of all of our monumental efforts… we weren’t coming close to making any difference in these peoples lives at all.

One family was being foreclosed upon and wouldn’t be able to stay in their home after the first of the year… another family was living in absolutely abysmal conditions… another family had a little one in the hospital… another family was being forced to move before Christmas…The needs were so great… I have never felt so inadequate.

Later in the evening we had the opportunity to go out to dinner with a couple of our parishioners and afterwards we went for a drive looking at Christmas lights. As we were driving, I saw a most beautiful sight… it was an old house with Christmas wreaths and a single candle in each window. It was in that moment that it dawned on me. that perhaps our task wasn’t to fix anything… but instead to simply light a candle in these families lives.

candle in window

Advent is a time of light… the candles in the advent wreath signify Hope, Peace, Joy, Love and Christ. Perhaps, we are called to simply light a candle… just possibly we are called to bring the light of Christ and hope into a dark place… maybe like a candle on a dark night, we are called to show the way.

The reality of our efforts on Tuesday was that we did indeed bring a light of hope into the lives of our families… We certainly brought the light of Joy into the lives of  children who might not have received any gifts at all. I can only imagine the joy on Christmas morning when the gifts are opened.  And, beyond a doubt, we brought the light of Christ and love with us…

A single candle  can make a tremendous difference. I have been told that if you carry a candle in your car during the winter… if you are stranded, you may get cold, but the lit candle will keep you from freezing. When the lights go out… a single candle can light up an entire room.

One of the most beautiful sights at Christmas is when we gather in a large circle around the sanctuary in darkness, with only the light from the Christ candle burning… One by one we take the light from the Christ Candle and share it with one another until everyone is holding a candle… there is enough light from these candles to light the entire sanctuary. Perhaps that is the lesson I learned Tuesday.

My friends… light a candle today… share a gift… share memories… share your hope and love with someone who is hurting. Tomorrow is Christmas Eve… the most Holy night of the year. Find a Christmas Eve service to go to… start a tradition this year that includes Christ in Christmas.

One last thought… I saw a trailer to a movie that said… “The only way to defeat the darkness is to become the light” May that be our prayer and wish this Christmas season.

“One Little Candle”

When the day is dark and dreary
And we know not where to go;
Don’t let your heart go weary,
Just keep this thought in mind…

It is better to light just one little candle
Than to stumble in the dark.
Better far that you light just one little candle,
All you need is a tiny spark.
If we’d all say a prayer that the world would be free,
A wonderful dawn of a new day we’d see…
And if everyone lit just one little candle,
What a bright world this would be.

Blessings

 

It’s December 13th… Must Be Christmas!!! 12/13/2017

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Mom

Today is December 13th which was a very important day around the Higdon household when I was growing up. December 13th was my Mom’s birthday and that meant that today was the day to put up the Christmas decorations.

Christmas 3

It’s funny how family traditions and Christmas traditions start. Many years ago, it was common to decorate for Christmas on Christmas Eve. Today it is common to decorate around Thanksgiving if not before. If we give it a few years… People may start decorating for Christmas in July!

But, for our family it was Mom’s Birthday. Maybe it was because Mom loved Christmas so much… maybe it was a compromise between decorating on Thanksgiving and decorating on Christmas Eve… but whatever the reason, our appointed date for Christmas preparations was December 13th.

How about your family? When did your family decorate for Christmas? Did you have any special traditions surrounding it?

Spend some time today… perhaps around your dinner table this evening… talking about your family Christmas decorating traditions. (I know, what an archaic idea… actually eating dinner together… but then again I am kinda old fashioned)

If you don’t have a tradition… start one this year… December 13th is a good day!!!

And before I forget… Happy Birthday Mom!!!

Blessings

The Sights and Sounds of Christmas… 12/12/2017

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I can’t help it… I Love the stories and the sights and especially the sounds of the Christmas season. Sunday night was our Oak Grove Christmas program and I was so blessed and touched by the evening.  I laughed when the little ones sang “Away in a Manger.” I loved the choir’s presentation…  I was so proud of our youth as they sang and read the Christmas story from the Book of Luke. I struggled to hold back tears as we gathered in a circle around the sanctuary with our candles lit and sang “Silent Night” together… But I was blessed beyond words when at the very end of the service, I handed the microphone to young Colten and he said the benediction… “God bless us everyone.”

I want to share a Christmas song with you today… the beginning of the video reminds me of so many Christmas programs I have been a part of through the years with Mary and Joseph and shepherds… and while I’m not sure that it is “The Best Christmas Song I’ve Ever Heard… ” as it claims…  I will encourage you to take 4 minutes and 8 seconds out of your day and listen… because I can make an argument that the the last two minutes may be the most beautiful and inspirational you have ever heard… It will definitely give you chills.

And Miles To Go Before I Sleep… 12/11/2017

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Robert-Frost-poem

These words by Robert Frost are perhaps the most beautiful and haunting words I have ever heard. I can’t count the number of times in my life when I have gotten in the car and thought about the words “And miles to go before I sleep…”  how many times I have been so tired and didn’t know if I could take another step… how many times I have wanted to stay in the beauty and quiet of the woods lovely, dark and deep, only to know that I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep.

I remember a Christmas Eve many years ago… We were home in the Quad Cities and it had begun to snow in the early afternoon. After a wonderful day of shopping in the morning, dinner with my family and Karen’s Mom and Dad in the evening, followed by a joyous time of family and gift opening, it was starting to get late and we needed to take Karen’s Mom and Dad back home.

The snow was already over six inches deep and didn’t show any signs of letting up and we knew that we had a long journey ahead of us to take her parents home and return. After dropping them off, and not being in any hurry… Karen and I decided to take the long way back to my Mom and Sister’s house.

It was the most beautiful night we had ever experienced. We were completely alone on the road… the only sound was the whistling of the wind and the hypnotizing crunch of the snow under the tires. Through the beams of our headlights, we watched the snow dance across the road in front of us and restlessly dart back and forth… never wanting to land. As we drove along the Mississippi River, the sight of the Christmas lights and the lights of the city reflecting in the water between the snowflakes was enchanting. We were truly in a winter wonderland… our own private wonderland.

If I could stop time… I would have stayed in that moment forever. The expectancy of Christmas Eve was over, the work and preparations were completed, the joy and anticipation of Christmas morning was yet to come…

Silent night… Holy night… all is calm… all is bright……… heavenly peace!

Winter gif

The night was indeed lovely, dark and deep… But we had promises to keep and miles to go before we sleep and miles to go before we sleep… to sleep in heavenly peace…

Blessings

 

Try To Remember… 12/09/2017

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Ben and Grandpa

“Sometimes my memory isn’t very good… ”

I remember saying those words one time in Bible Study, and one of the members of the group laughed out loud! “Your memory isn’t good?” he asked. “That’s crazy, you are always telling stories or quoting scenes from movies or lyrics from songs…” And, I suppose he was right… It’s funny what I remember and what I don’t.

For instance… a few days ago, I shared with you in great detail about the first Christmas tree that Karen and I had… right down to the cost of the star on the top. But, I have almost no memory of Christmas the next year. 1981 was a very hard year for our family. Dad had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and had undergone radiation therapy, but ultimately the cancer spread to his brain.

When we arrived home for Christmas, the mood was very somber… Dad was confined to bed and was gravely ill, but Mom was committed to have him stay at home if it were at all humanly possible. I remember taking my son Ben in to see his Grandpa and Dad was able to say “Little ones that size can cause a lot of problems”  (If he only knew!!!) That was Dad… even in tremendous pain he tried to keep things light hearted. Dad held on until we lost him in April.

But that is all I remember… I have tried to remember more… but it’s as if those memories had been completely erased.

Christmas can be such a difficult time… many people you meet seem excited and happy… yet for many others, the holiday season is a constant reminder of those we have lost and what will never be the same again. We are often warmed… but sometimes haunted by memories of Christmases long ago.

Another challenge for many during this time of year, is that we are suddenly plunged into darkness… December 21st is the longest night of the year… and for many people the holiday season is the longest season.

My friends… if you find the holidays more sad than happy… just know that you are not alone and hear these words of hope…

John Light

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.  In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it…. The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.

Cling to the true light… know that darkness cannot over come the light and try to remember the good times… times of hope… times of peace… times of love… and times of joy.

Blessings

 

What Else Do You Have To Do?? 12/08/2017

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Mary Christmas

Through the years I have come to understand that every family has their own traditions and customs surrounding passing out Christmas gifts. For instance… When I was very young… we came downstairs on Christmas morning…  our gifts would be on a chair or on the couch… nothing would be wrapped… everything left there just as Santa had carefully placed them.

Christmas1

 

Christmas 2

Then, as we got older, our tradition changed to opening gifts on Christmas Eve with everything wrapped and placed under the tree. All of the gifts would then be passed out and someone would say… “GO” and a mass frenzy of unwrapping would commence… two minutes later, it would all be over… all was right in my world… all was good… everything was as it should be… until…

Karen came along… and my world was rocked forever. I remember going to her house for Christmas and looking at the tree with all of the gifts piled under it. I had never seen such a mountain of gifts in all of my put togethers… Of course she had two brothers and their wives and a sister and a WHOLE BUNCH of nieces and nephews.

Karen family

 

After dinner, came the appointed time to open up the presents. We all formed a very large circle in the living room extending out into the dining room, and Karen’s brother Tom asked if we were all ready… I couldn’t wait for the mayhem which I knew was about to ensue…

Karen Christmas 1

But instead of passing out all of the gifts… Tom reached under the tree and selected a gift for the youngest nephew… and we sat there and watched as his mother helped him open it. When he was through, Tom picked out another gift and we watched the next person open it… What was going on here? This isn’t normal… What have I gotten myself into???  What’s wrong with these people?

Karen Family1

I leaned over to Karen and asked… Are we going to do this with every gift??? (Hoping that perhaps the pace was about ready to pick up) She just looked over at me with a stern expression which meant… That was a stupid question!!! I thought for a minute thinking that she must not understand the gravity of this situation… So I leaned over once again and said… This is going to take ALL AFTERNOON!!!! Seriously…ALL AFTERNOON!!! Karen gave me that same stern look and said what else do you have to do??? Hmmm… She had me there… nothing I guess.

Karen Christmas

So as the years went by, I began to see the wisdom of opening gifts Karen’s family way. But, it wasn’t until a few years later after my family Christmas that I heard my Mom asking “Jim… Did you open the sweater?” Verna…Did you get the book?” … that I realized that Mom was missing the best part… watching the expression on her families face when they opened up the perfect gift that they really wanted and that she had spent hours searching for.

A few years after Karen and I were married, I finally got up the nerve to suggest to my family that we try opening gifts the “Sikardi Way.” (Karen’s Family Way) Mom was on board immediately but it took a couple of more years before the rest of my family could be convinced to try it. I would hear my family say… “It will take all night…” to which I would respond… What else do you have to do?

I’ve reflected many times on how my first impression of Karen’s family way of opening up gifts changed from… This is stupid… to THIS IS GENIUS!!!

I wonder how many other things I have been wrong about through the years??? (Don’t answer that question) So if you haven’t tried passing out one gift at a time… maybe this would be a good year to try it… besides… what else do you have to do???

Blessings