Journalism 101

Monday marked my work anniversary. On Sept. 3, 1997 I was hired as a sports clerk for the San Bernardino Sun. And I became an official member of the media.

In my 21 years of service as an “enemy of the people,” I have covered everything from Little League Baseball to high school and local colleges, spent summers interviewing Major League baseball players and even covered a Super Bowl.

Sure I work in Sports, the “toy department” of the industry, but over the years I have dealt with my share of stories on athlete tragedies. From preps to pros, I have had to write and edit stories dealing with alcohol, drugs, suicide, car crashes and more. But I have also talked with professional athletes that have come back to their hometown and talked and worked with local kids to inspire them to a brighter future.

After more than two decades, I still love my job. Even as the walls have begun closing in, after more rounds of layoffs and buyouts and shrinking resources.

I hate all that is happening to my chosen career field, but still love journalism at it’s core.

Journalism is, essentially, gathering information, breaking it down, analyzing it, and packaging it and distributing it to the masses, so they will be informed of what is going on in the world around them.

It is more than a career path, it is a calling, a public service. Anyone still left in the game loves it, on some level.

Despite all of the downsizing, and cries from the public, we still love it.

You have to, otherwise why would you do it? Bad pay, bad hours, and an email box full of complaints on the one thing you might have screwed up during the 50-60 hours you were putting in on a 40-hour salary.

If you are educated and qualified to do this job, there are plenty of other things out there to do. But still we persist.

Most of us are information junkies, and are eager to tell the world what we have discovered. The search for Truth has led most of us on this journey. We take our calling as the Fourth Estate seriously. It is about finding the truth and presenting it, unbiased, no matter which side of the political, or religious spectrum it falls on.

All of which is something that our colleagues among the talking heads on TV have failed to deliver.

When they talk about newspapers being left-leaning, or right-leaning, they are talking about the opinion pages, not the news pages.

We need to be reminded. Journalism is not slanted, it is not biased, it is presenting the truth.

Over the years I have dealt with angry parents or coaches or readers that have found a way to complain about our coverage, or usually the lack of coverage, of their team. But nothing compares to this “enemy of the people” nonsense.

The news industry has tried to defend itself on this matter, but has only been met with more angry rhetoric and death threats, all of which has led to active-shooter training at the office. Let that sink in for a minute.

The People don’t seem to be listening, so let’s try some Journalism 101.

Journalists are not the “enemy of the people.” Journalists ARE the people, regular, everyday people. They have spouses, they have kids, they have families and friends who care about them. They want to do their job the best they know how and live their lives.

Yes, there are rabble rousers out there, looking to rile up one side or the other, spreading rumors and swill just to get a reaction or make their side look better. But those kind of people are in virtually every office in America. There is always someone ruining it for everyone else.

Nothing should be more sacred in this country that the First Amendment — Freedom of speech and Freedom of the Press. Without those assurances, tyrants, whether they be in politics, or business, or your community, will run amok if unchecked.

Responsible journalists stand on the front line, guaranteeing you will know what is going on in your world. I can’t say it any simpler than that.

If you are tired of the mass media on the national level, pulling to one side or another, take a look at the community level. Community journalists at your local paper are still working hard to bring you the news, the real news.

Stay informed, stay involved, and stay connected to one another. The World may seem like it is coming apart at the seems, but there is far more things that unite us than divide us.

The (Yellow Brick) Road of Life

FRIENSWhen I was in college at BIOLA University I took a creative writing course. A big part of the class was spent on character development.

Writers tend to write about what they know. Even if they are creating a new world, the characters in their writing will be recognizable. The two places writers draw from are personal experience (people they know, friends, family, coworkers, etc.) and fictional characters (from Books, movies, TV).

But the best writers find a way to combine the two and create new characters, blended from both people pools to better tell their story.

One big assignment we had for the class was to find 4-5 people we knew, make notes of all of their characteristics, good and bad, and find a similar group from the fiction pool, and combine them to tell a story.

I knew who my 4-5 people were. Just a few years earlier I had lost my Mom to cancer – still the major defining moment in my life. Destroyed by the traumatic event, I went numb and gave up on a lot of things I cared about. It was a core group of friends that helped keep me going and propped me up until I got my feet under me again.

So Andrea, Rob, Brad, Kristi and Tonya were my people, I just needed to find a corresponding fictional group.

Like most of my assignments, it got put on the back burner and I found myself a day from having to turn it in and not having written anything.

I was coming back from dinner with a friend that night, when we came across a crowd in the dorm lobby. It was movie night. The dorm was split into the men’s wing and the women’s wing, but the lobby (common area) was open to all, and once a week everyone would gather to watch a movie together.

I stopped to take a look before heading upstairs to write my paper. The movie that night was the Wizard of Oz. I walked off, then stopped and took another look. Then the inspiration struck. And the following was what I wrote up that night (to the best of my recollection).

The Yellow Brick Road

Going around the room, I compared each of my friends to the characters from The Wizard of Oz.

Dorothy – Andrea Malcolm – Physically a match, even with a little farm girl naiveté thrown in. A sweet and caring individual. Kind, compassionate, always willing to help others. Always positive and looking on the bright side.

Tin Man – Robert Cobb – Physically a match, tall slender build. The Oz Tin Man started with no heart, but found it along the way. Rob is all heart. He has a passion for people. A caring spirit that loves people, the good, the bad and the ugly.

Lion – Brad Godwin – Physically a match, larger than life personality (it also helped that our high school mascot was a Lion).  The Oz Lion started with no courage, which usually comes from a lack of confidence, but later found it. Brad is the epitome of courage, the man oozes confidence. So much so that you can’t help but be confident when you are around him. I have countless tales from high school of doing things I never would have done without him there (and most of them good things). He was the one that talked me into joining the school newspaper, setting the course for my lifelong passion, as well as writing song lyrics to help express myself.

Scarecrow – Kristi Cope – Physically a match, tall and skinny, even had short frizzy hair at one point, resembling a scarecrow. The Oz Scarecrow was thought to have no brains, but turned out to be the smart one of the bunch. Kristi was a great student, in school and in life. The quiet one always taking the time to notice the little things, always willing to just listen and not judge. Always smarter than people gave her credit for. The Scarecrow in the field also resembles another monumental figure, a man on a cross, and the faith that comes with that. Faith is something Kristi was never short on. No matter the situation, you could count on Kristi to have the Faith to get you through.

Glinda (the Good witch) – Tonya Gan – Physically a match, the pretty, blue-eyed helper, that seemed to magically appear out of nowhere in a time of need and showed the way home.

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My professor was impressed, and so was I that I had come up with this in one night.  But when she was done, she asked, “If this is your group of friends, where do you fit in?”

I had been so busy filling in the other people I hadn’t thought about it. She said she would give me extra credit if I came back after the weekend with a version that included me.

At first I was stumped, not sure of who I was, there were not that many characters remaining. What was I supposed to be, a flying monkey? The only good character left was the Wizard himself, but that didn’t really fit who I was. Or did it?

I have never been the guy out front in the spotlight, commanding the audience to look at him. I have always been the guy in the background, making sure everything gets done … the guy behind the scenes … the guy behind the curtain pulling the strings … and there it was.

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Wizard of Oz – Brian Goff – Physically, maybe not the prototype you would expect of a grand wizard, but a guy that gets things done. Someone that had suffered a traumatic event, was lost in a new world, and could not find his way home. In order to survive, he felt he the need put on a disguise, and create something bigger than himself, to distract from the pain he was really feeling.

That is until he found a band of friends, with someone who stayed positive and was there to help (Andrea); someone who was there to show compassion and lend a kind heart (Rob); someone to lift him up and give him the confidence to get back up again (Brad); someone to lend an ear and show the faith (Kristi) needed to get through. And finally someone to be there through it all and shine the light (Tonya) to finally get him back home.

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I got an A on the paper, and a lot of extra credit for the self-examination.

Some 25 years later, I look back at this and where my band of friends are today.

Dorothy/Andrea is still that kind soul, and a positive attitude is something that she uses every day while teaching elementary school children.

TinMan/Rob still has that passion for people that love has served him well as pastor of his church in San Diego.

Lion/Brad is a businessman that had the confidence to strike out on his own, and has international dealings across the globe. And is still giving me the courage to reach for the stars.

Scarecrow/Kristi is still that sweet, kind-hearted woman, who had the faith to reach out in a time of need and adopt a little girl from Haiti and raise her alongside her own children.

Glinda/Tonya has reappeared in my life when I least expected it. The loving mother of three has turned my world upside down.

Though they have all gone their separate ways, in just a few months they will all be reunited to watch as Glinda/Tonya and Wizard/Brian become man and wife.

I will be blessed to once again be surrounded by my friends as I begin a new journey.

The (Yellow Brick) road of life is filled with all kinds of characters, and you never know who God is going to put on your path to help you along the way. Be thankful for all of them, and never waste an opportunity to make friends.

 

Fidelity to a Worthy Purpose

Helen Keller once said, “People have the wrong idea about True Happiness. It is not attained through self-gratification, but through a fidelity to a worthy purpose.”

Truer words have rarely been spoken. 
As the walls seem to be closing in around you, with the stresses of work, finances, relationships, world politics, it can all give you a feeling of helplessness. 

In my years on this Earth, I have found one of the best remedies is to take the spotlight off of yourself and focus on others. What can you do for someone else?

Look to those around you that are hurting and in need, ask them, “What can I do for you? What can I do to ease your burdens and your pain?”
With this I am beginning a campaign, #ForACauseFriday 

Each week I am going to post a photo to bring attention to a worthy cause. Worthy of your time, money or resources in helping others.

October being breast cancer awareness month (and that being something close to my heart) we will start with the Susan G. Komen Foundation (ww5.komen.org)

In the coming weeks I will seek out other worthy causes to shine the light on. 

I ask for you to join me, send me pics or drop me a note. What is your worthy purpose?  

 Let’s show the world that people still care about other people

#ForACauseFriday #RealMenWearPink #ForMyMom

Family Legacy

As the calendar turns to fall each year, my heart is filled with mixed emotions.

I am an old soul with ties to the Midwest. I love the crisp air of the fall, the leaves changing from green to orange and yellow. However I live in California, where the only change in color is when the landscape goes from brown, to orange and yellow to black as wildfires blast across the land ravaged by another hot summer.

The Fall also leads up to the big family holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas. And who doesn’t like that.

However as the years have gone by, the Fall has also had its share of family tragedy. This week will mark the 30th year since my Mother lost her battle to cancer. In November it will be 10 years since I got the call that my Dad’s health had taken a turn for the worse and he was heading to hospice care.

Over the years I have spent a lot of time battling depression at the end of the year, as the holidays roll in and I am left with just memories of two of the people I loved the most.

As the years have passed, I have gotten better and with conversations with friends and family, along with the Men of The Grove, I have been able to talk about the good times without reliving the bad times.

That is a big thing for a guy that LOVES to tell stories. And in the past year, as I am making family plans of my own, I have found myself able to talk about the past and tell stories from my childhood about my Mom and Dad and not get choked up, and lose it.

Just last week at Bible study we were discussing how we carry ourselves as Christians, and I brought up what I learned from my Dad. How he always lead by example. and would never judge others. He would let you know where he stood on things, but never beat you over the head with it. He instead chose to live out his life as an example of his love for God.

As I was talking about this I found myself in full storyteller mode, and I brought up how he had these people he knew at work, Jim and Cheryle Parsons. I didn’t really know all of the people in the room, but I knew the Parsons had been prominent members of our church at Liberty Baptist, prior to Jim’s death a few years ago. I knew everyone would know who I was talking about (one of the people was even wearing a JKOMs T-shirt, the brand sold by Cheryle).

I talked about how at some point God put it on my Dad’s heart to bring the Parsons to church. Our families had interacted on occasion, his kids and their kids were the same age. So he started going over to their house and inviting them to church. It didn’t matter that they drank and smoked, or didn’t have the “right” background. My Dad did not treat them as if they were something less, he just let his actions do the talking and they responded.

They started coming to church with us at Magnolia Ave. Baptist, and were saved. Our families spent a lot of time together, especially in the months leading up to my Mom’s passing.

That was more than 30 years ago, and the Parsons and the Goffs are still together. The younger Parsons, Travis is married to my sister, Betsy. I sit in church in Sunday school and church with Josh Parsons and his wife and kids.

Despite my Mom and Dad and Jim not being around anymore, our families are as tight as ever. We celebrate the good times together, we mourn the bad ones. And we do it all in the Faith that we got from our Parents.

The point of my story was that it would have been easy for my Dad to go in guns blazing, thumping the Parsons over the head with his Bible, telling them to repent. It would have been easy for them to reject what he had to say.

I am so grateful for how things turned out. I am am always trying to live up to the example that my Father set. And as I head into a life of raising three boys, I pray that I can leave the same kind of example for them.

 

 

 

Revival time

I have been listening to and enjoying Third Day’s music for quite some time now. I have blogged before on how their music speaks out to me, just as I need it the most.

As they are well into their second decade of Christian music, I am always interested when they come out with a new album. Always intrigued by what kind of new twist they are going to bring to their classic southern rock sound.

Over the years they have gone from Rock, to worship, to live albums. Their latest album “Revival” is a throwback to the Gospel sound they all grew up on.

The title track “Revival” grabs you from the start …

“Anybody here looking for revival; In our own hearts and across the land
Anybody looking for a revival; Lift up your voice and say Amen”

As you let the entire album play, you can just feel the Holy Spirit wash over you.

Gonna Be There With Me; Leave This World BehindIn Your Hands

Take your pick, all are filled with the Word of God, and the smooth sounds of Mac Powell’s deep voice.

“Faithful and true” just might be my favorite of the bunch …

“More than I could ever hope for, More than I would ever need
Everything I’ve ever been or ever hoped to be
It’s all because of You, Your love is faithful and true”

Take a moment to listen …

 

Or maybe Let There Be Light

“Let there be light, Where there is darkness
Let there be hope, When there is none
Let there be peace, In the midst of sorrow
Let there be love, To bring us back home
To bring us back home”

 

We live in trying times and are desperately more in need of a Revival than ever before, and here is Third Day with a new message.

I have found over the years that Third Day has a song for just about everything you are going through. From dealing with loss and sorrow, to struggling to find your way through life’s storms, Third Day always seems to hit the right note and find the right words to say.

Or rather God finds a way to deliver his message through them. And He is always Faithful and True.

 

It’s a GOFF thing, I pray you understand

Two weeks ago, I was heading into church on another beautiful Sunday morning. As the worship songs began to play, I pulled out my phone to mute it, and I opened up Facebook to “check in”and let people know I was feeling blessed to be at church.

As my post cleared, I was about to put my phone away when I saw a post from my cousin Jared, speaking about his Dad, my uncle Mark. I had to read it twice to make sure I understood. As I saw the “RIP” at the end, my heart sank, and I fell to my seat. As I read it again, trying to wrap my head around it, the tears began to fall.

My girlfriend Tonya asked what was going on, I had no words, I just handed her my phone. After the first song it was time for the welcome, and I saw my opportunity and made a break for the door. I was consumed with grief.

As a journalist, when things happen my curiosity takes over and I want answers, but this was a different feeling.

My old friend Art Cobb had followed me out, and prayed with us. I pulled myself together enough to slide back into the service. I sat down in time to hear Pastor Mark Beigle get into his prepared sermon on how when the storms of life come calling, as Christians we need to rely on our Faith in Jesus and His promises. And the darker the storm is when we find out what we really believe.

Sometimes you just have to look to the Heavens say, “I know that was you, God” and give Him a nod for always being on point.

Military and first responders will tell you how they get through the toughest of times is that they rely on their training.

Christian hip hop artist Lecrae says, “when the storm’s brewin’, and when the tide’s high
That’s when I lean into the truth that I abide by.”

I am a member of the Goff Family. Our training that we fall back on is the Word of God.

My Grandfather, Harold Goff preached from the pulpit in churches from Ohio to West Virginia. He raised his seven children on the teachings of Jesus. They went on to raise their kids the same way, and today I watch as my fellow cousins are raising their kids with the same love for God.

I can attest, this family has seen more than it’s share of storms over the years. And in times of trial, we lean on our Faith. It is ingrained in us.

It’s a Goff thing.

So as I reached out to my family on that day, I could not help but rely on my training. I turned to the word for understanding. As I thought of Mark, I thought about what a man’s man he was, but how he was also was a loving man,

I thought of one of my favorite verses. In the past month Pastor Beigle has been going through I Corinthians at Wednesday night prayer meetings. It is one of my favorite books of the Bible.

“Be on the alert, Stand firm in the Faith, Act Like Men, Be Strong” — I Corinthians 16:13

It is a very manly sounding verse. Like a Chuck Knoll or Vince Lombardi halftime speech, it fires you up.

Watch out, be aware of your surroundings. Standing firm, cleats in the ground, gathered together with your brothers in arms, ready for an attack.

Act Like Men — in some translations it says “Be Courageous.” I like that those two phrases are considered synonymous.

Being courageous is not about being fearless. Having fear is part of being human. Being courageous is about having the ability to overcome your fear and do what needs to be done.

Uncle Mark was every bit of that.

I also know that you can’t just cherrypick verses from the Bible to suit you, you have to give it context, and look at the surrounding verses to get the whole story.

In this case you just have to look at the next verse.

“Do All Things in LOVE.” — I Corinthians 16:14

Jesus tells us that if we have Faith the size of a mustard seed, we can move mountains. And Paul tells us that if we have Faith that can move mountains, but have not Love, it is useless.  We are commanded to prepare for the storms, to be on the alert for attack, but if we act without Love, we are nothing.

Uncle Mark was every bit of that verse too.

Being a Christian doesn’t mean your life is going to be perfect, it means you will be better prepared when the storms come.

I will be traveling to Ohio this weekend, as the Goff family will gathers together at Country View Baptist Church to say our goodbyes (for now) to Mark Goff, beloved son, father, uncle. We will once again weather the storm together. We will fall back on our training. And on the Word of God.

Third Day does a great version of the old Rich Mullins song, “Creed.” The chorus goes, “I believe what I believe in, it’s what makes me what I am.”

As Goffs, that is what we believe.

And we will find God’s Love, Grace, Kindness and Mercy waiting for us, as it always has.

 

 

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How can I help you today?

In time of uncertainty, we all have something we fall back on.

If you ask military types or first responders, they will tell you to “always remember your training.”

For me, that takes me back to things I learned from my parents.

A lot of people have stories about their Dad that involve things he said. “Dad always said …”

My Dad was  more a man of action. So when I find myself at a crossroads, or a time of crisis, I try to think of the things my Dad did. As I look back, Dad was always praying. My fondest memories include him sitting at the kitchen table in the morning eating a bowl of Cherrios and reading his Bible.

As my life becomes more complicated, and I edge closer to some major changes — professionally and personally — I have been following my Father’s example and praying to find the correct path to take.

But in my experience, as the walls start to close in on you, sometimes you need to take a step back and take the focus off of yourself.

The other thing you would always find my Dad doing was helping others. Even during his biggest struggles in life, he would always be finding ways he could help you, any way he could.

As I have been pondering all of this, I received my daily email from Air1 Radio, with their Bible Verse of the Day.  Sometimes I open it and take a look, other times I can get busy and not see what they send me. Today I looked …

“I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them, intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them” — I Timothy 2:1

Sometimes God is not so subtle with his message.

The Bible calls for us to be subject to one another, to serve one another. So in setting aside all of my own drama and worries … what can I do to help you.

I am not quite the handy man my Dad was, but I can still help. What do you need today? Do you need lifted up in prayer, someone to lean on, a shoulder to cry on, or just an ear to listen. I am here for you.

A while back I had a friend call, with some personal family issues that were getting out of control. He was not a “religious” person, but he knows where I am with things, so he spilled all of the family drama to me, not really looking for advice, so much, as someone to just listen, and say a prayer.

Sometimes it seems like that is not doing much, but for a person in need, it can make all the difference in the world.

I am here for you. If we all took time to set aside our own drama and unselfishly help one another, maybe we come to realize our own problems aren’t so big.

As usual, I have a song in mind. Toby Mac’s “I’m for You” where he asks to “let me be the voice through all the noise”

“Whatever I gotta be, I’ll be for you. Whatever you need from me, To see you through …”

“I know the feeling
I know it’s real when the drama’s all in your face
You see a mountain
I hear a promise – it’s never more than we can take
Well it ain’t over, ’til it’s over
We can learn from our mistakes
So let me be the voice through all the noise”

I am praying for you all, and giving thanks …

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Birthday, Eddie Ray!

As I get older and begin new experiences in my life, the more I find myself saying things and behaving in ways my Father did.

As I reflect on the life of Edward Ray Goff on what would have been his 67th birthday, nearly 10 years after his passing, I begin to realize just how many things I learned over the years. Every thing from history, to mechanics and mannerisms to relying on my Faith in God..

I have been spending a lot of time with my girlfriend Tonya and her three boys, and I find myself pointing things out to them. Teaching them things from the history of certain places to how things work.

On trip to Las Vegas we stopped off at the Hoover Dam. While the boys (who are 13, 11 and 8) didn’t seem impressed at all, I continued pointing out how the whole thing worked. Telling them how the water turns the turbines, creating electricity, which powers places like Las Vegas and in Arizona.

Sometimes they are impressed with what I know, other times not so much.

Dad had a mechanics mind. He was the builder of The Living Christmas Tree at Magnolia Avenue Baptist Church. He knew how all the pieces fit together so that it not only looked great, but was structurally sound and safe for the kids to climb on and perform.

He didn’t have a college degree, but he had a lifetime of experiences in figuring how things worked, and loved to share his knowledge.

Whether it was changing the oil in our cars, or trips to places like Hoover Dam or the state capital, Dad loved to explain how things worked, and I always took notice.

He wasn’t very athletic, but he taught me how to play baseball, how to golf and how to bowl. If there were mechanics involved, he could break it down and show you how to do it.

But there were plenty of other things that he didn’t have to teach, because he showed you be example, especially when it came to his Faith.

One of my clearest memories is of him sitting at the kitchen table, eating his Cheerios, reading his Bible. That was how he started every day. In good times and bad, and there were plenty of both, he was never far from the Word.

No matter what was going on in his life he always showed the Love that his God had showed him. Never judging, never assuming, he just Loved on people.

As I carry out my days on this Earth, I try to live up to the bar that he set. I try to live up to his legacy, always showing people kindness and respect,  whether they deserved it or not. Help people in need, and – above all else – Love one another.

In an ever threatening world, sometimes the simplest things seem the hardest to do, but they usually are the only things that will make a difference.

I miss you Dad, every day. Thank you for the example that you left behind. Happy Birthday!

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Favorite Christmas Story

This time of year has always been special. Family and friends gathering together, with lots of food, music and fun.

And let’s not forget the storytelling. The sharing of Christmas’ gone by. Over the years stories get told, embellished and re-told to new faces.

They are the stories that you may have heard a thousand tomes, but they bring a smile to your face each and every time you hear them, and you look forward to getting a chance to share them with someone new.

I was reminded of this recently, when a certain 8-year-old was upset that his older brothers had told an embarrassing story about him. I told him that was common among siblings, and proceeded to tell him a story from my childhood.

Probably my favorite Christmas Story … which is commonly known in the family as “The Waffle Maker Story.”

It was Christmas 1977 (I think, or maybe ’76), we were living in Ohio. I was just 2 or 3 years old. Some of my earliest memories are of our house on Bagley Road, which had a big bay window in front, and I remember looking out that window at all of the snow piling up outside (which was also a big reason we wound up back in sunny Southern California).

This particular Christmas, Mom had made it clear she wanted a waffle maker. And I don’t mean one of those little plastic things they sell now, I am talking about the heavy, cast-iron deals from Sears and Roebuck. Someone else had one she had borrowed and she really wanted one of her own.

One day while she was out of the house, Dad pulled out some stuff he had gotten for Christmas and began wrapping them and putting them under the tree, including a big box with a waffle maker in it.

As We were wrapping it up, I saw Mom coming up the walk. Dad grabbed all of the wrapping supplies and the waffle maker and headed for the bedroom. I jumped about like one of the three stooges, then followed him.

Mom came through the door in time to see us heading up the hallway. Dad put the stuff on the bed and told me to keep the door closed and not let Mom in until he had finished wrapping.

Mom was knocking on the door and wanted it, Dad was telling me not to. Mom asked what we were doing, and in the chaos, I blurted out, “You can’t come in Mom, we’re wrapping your waffle maker!”

Dad gave me his best, “You’re killing me, smalls” look and told me to open the door. When I did, I found my Mom sitting in the floor, head in her hands, laughing so hard she was crying.

And on Christmas morning she acted surprised when she tore the paper off of her new waffle maker. And we had waffles for breakfast.

To this day my sister and I will use the “Don’t come in” line when it is needed.

It is my favorite Christmas Story because it shows the kind of loving, joyful, caring house that I grew up in. It reminds me of my parents, who are no longer around, and how much they loved the holidays.

As I told this story to 8-year-old Trevor, he busted up laughing, which got me laughing. And that is what sharing your old stories are all about.

At our Christmas party a few days ago, my old friend Andrea told her favorite Christmas story, one that also included my Dad.

One Christmas Eve she was just about to set out some cookies for Santa, when there was a big knock at the door, and a hefty, “Ho, Ho, Ho!”

She threw the cookies in the air and sprinted off to bed, only to find out it was my Dad and Uncle Marv, coming to pick up a Christmas gift they had hidden in their garage. My uncle had won a three-wheel motor bike. They wound up running it around the neighborhood before bringing it home.

My addition to the story was that once they brought it home, one of my cousins wound up running it over the embankment behind our house.

As you go throughout this holiday season be sure to share your favorite Christmas story.

At the Cross: Music and Lyrics

At any given time I have any number of songs playing in my head. Over the years I have listened to a large variety of music.

I was raised on Country (Johnny Cash, Kenny Rogers, Oak Ridge Boys, etc.), but I grew up in Southern California in the 80s, and that means rap/hip hop to go with some rock and roll. I am a white kid from the suburbs, actually I grew up in the countryside outside the suburbs. But I love me some good rap/ hip hop. And am so excited that the Christian music scene is now filled with artists like Lecrae and TobyMac who can deliver God’s word in a whole different light.

I always love it when I hear someone talking, and memories and music pop into my head that goes along with the conversation.

Last week Pastor Tom Lance was giving his message at The Grove on the meaning of the Cross, and it being much more than a symbol.

As I was listening and taking notes, some song lyrics popped into my head. He was talking about how Jesus dying on the Cross was the plan the entire time. And Lecrae popped into my head.

 

“Without the Cross there’s only condemnation; If Jesus wasn’t executed, there’s no celebration.” — from ‘Boasting’

I simple, true statement if there ever was one.

Tom went on to talk about how the Cross was God’s Plan A. Jesus suffering a slow, agonizing death was the whole point. He took the weight of the world on his shoulder and paid the price for all mankind.

Over the years I have heard people talk about how it went down, saying that if only Judas had remained loyal, if only Pilate had stood up to the crowds, things wold have been different.

But if those things play out differently then we miss the whole point. Those people played the role God needed them to, in order for his plan to come to fruition. Max Lucado wrote, “When Eve took a bite of the apple, the Cross was on the horizon.”

Tom went on to talk about how the real message of the Cross should rock us to our core. What Jesus did for us, the brutality of it all. The plan was executed, the points carried out … eliminate sin, overcome Hell, make Heaven possible.

And that we should respond to that with thanksgiving and gratitude. Strive to put others first, Love unconditionally, make a bold commitment.

After listening to the message, some other Lecrae lyrics came to mind.

“God has never been obligated to give us life; if we fought for our rights, we would be in Hell tonight” — Boasting

“When it gets hot, it boils down to sin, if Heaven ain’t a gift, then I ain’t getting in” — Gotta Know

After listening to these songs over and over again, you get to know the lyrics and can sing along, if you will. But when you take a closer look, you can see the depth of these words.

As a writer and general lover of the written word, I have a great appreciation for the ability to put the right words together to say exactly what you want to say. Which is why I feel a drawing to rap and hip hop music.

Even if I don’t agree with the message of someone like Eminem, I can certainly appreciate the craft and his ability to arrange words together.

Which is why my love for Christian artists like Lecrae and TobyMac is so deep. They can take God’s word and lay it out for you in new way.

“Every day that I lie, every moment I covet
I’m deserving to die, I’m just earning your judgment.
I, without the cross there’s only condemnation.
If Jesus wasn’t executed there’s no celebration.
So in times that are good, in times that are bad
For any times that I’ve had it all I will be glad.
And I will boast in the cross. I’ll boast in my pains.
I will boast in the sunshine, boast in his reign.”

Take a listen and read the words on the screen, let God’s Word wash over you.