Christmas lessons from the shepherds

And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened.  But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”  And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest,

And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”

When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.”  So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger.  When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child.  And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds.  But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.  The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.

Luke 2:7-20 (NASB)

Flock by night

The Shepherds

During Christmas time I like to read the story given to us in the Gospel of Luke.  He tells of the story giving a highlight to the shepherds who were watching over their flock at night.  We are not told how many there were, but I picture three to five shepherds of sheep.

I noticed the shepherds did three things during this event that I believe would do us all well to follow.

First we see that when the angel appeared they were afraid.  Can you blame them?!?  Here are these shepherds doing exactly what they are supposed to be doing when an angel appears with the glory of the Lord shining, and of course they have never seen this their life!  I can imagine how they probably wanted to run for their lives.  But the angel spoke and said to not be afraid – good news was to follow.  What a tense moment they had to have experienced as they decided in their minds to stay still and listen to the angel.

We see next that the shepherds did in fact stay still and listen to what the angel had to say.  These are startled shepherds and I am sure that the details of what was being said had to be hard for them to remember in their state of uncertainty.  I think the angel waited long enough for them to gain composure and listen intently.  We are not told, but I have my thoughts.

Then after the angel had told them the good news of the Savior’s birth, they were obedient.  They got up and went in search of this baby in Bethlehem.  Notice they did not get their affairs in order, but the went just as they were told.

Two lessons from the Shepherds

I think there are two lesson we can learn from the actions of these untrained shepherds.

We all become afraid at times.  Some people do not like to admit this emotion, but we all have times we fear for our health, finances, death, family or future.  Some people fear these kind of situations on a constant unhealthy basis and some of us just fear them quietly in our heads.  I think the key is to recognize the emotion and determine it’s source.

Then like the shepherds we should take these fears and let the glory of the Lord shine on them.  For us that simply would look like committing it to prayer.  Ask God just what I need to do with this fear.  Is there truth in the sources of the emotion?

Once we consult and hear from God, then we need to follow the example of these shepherds and take action.  Take positive action just as God lays out for you.  Don’t add your thoughts to it, but be obedient to the Lord.

I think if we follow these two steps from a time of fear, then we also would be blessed by our actions.  The shepherds were blessed beyond measure by being a witness to Mary about the message they heard from the angel about the baby Jesus.  Then they were one of the first on this planet to lay eyes on God who had come in the form of a human to be it’s Savior!  Wow – how they were blessed!

Mount LeConte – view #1

Foggy view of LeConte Lodge
Foggy view of LeConte Lodge

In November my daughter, myself and a few friends hiked to Mount LeConte and stayed the night at the LeConte Lodge in the Great Smoky Mountains.  I had never hiked to Mt LeConte and had wanted to hike it for as long as I could remember.  Our friends who hike it every year posted they had a couple of openings in one of their cabins and asked if anyone wanted to go on short notice.  I jumped at the chance as that was a rare free weekend for me.

So there are a few facts I need to let you in on to put this story in perspective.  First you need to know that I agreed to go one week before the weekend trip.  Yep – one week to prepare for a long hike and overnight stay.  Like I said before, I have wanted to hike and stay at LeConte for a very long time, so I eagerly jumped at a chance to go.   Secondly I lead a sedentary lifestyle.  Exercise to me was a big part of my life at one time, but is not currently something I do regularly.  ……..Work, home, eat, sleep and repeat is pretty much my routine.

Also know that I am a former member of the 10th Mountain Division in the US Army.  I was a commando Infantry light fighter, which meant more than anything we walked just about everywhere we deployed.  My job required me to carry a 75 pound rucksack full of food, water, clothes, and mortar gear when we were on maneuvers.  We were stationed in the flat lands but were trained mostly to navigate mountains (hence the name 10th Mountain Division).  Our unit was designed to go to and fight in places that the normal Army units could not access.  We were trained to go no matter how I felt, or how bad the weather was.  So I know how to hike and take care of myself.

The Hike

Trillium trail 1
Trillium Gap Trail

Now given the fact that I was not physically in the best of shape I thought to choose the most gradual incline of the five trails that lead to Mt LeConte.  Trillium Gap Trail is a 6.5 mile trail and gains 3,300ft in elevation.  From what I had read it gained the least in elevation, so I thought it would be the best on my knees and body.

There was twelve of us that hiked together that Friday morning.  Before I lost sight of the parking lot I was already winded, and I knew this was going to be a long day.  So I kept a pace that was steady, but not really as fast as the others.  The first part of the hike was not too bad, but by the time we stopped at the half way point for a snack my knees were already hurting.

It wasn’t long after we started the second half that my left knee gave out.  So to compensate I used more of the right leg, but I also noticed that I was falling further behind the rest of the gang.  By now the weather was also turning colder with rain becoming more steady, but the mountain trail was beautiful.Trillium cross roads

Then if that were not bad enough I started getting a Charley horse in my calf – actually both calves!  I was in pain!  Apparently I had not drunk enough water at the beginning of the hike, and it was now showing in these muscle cramps.  I could not go 10 minutes until one calf or the other was convulsing in a Charley horse.  All I could do was wait for the pain to go away and try to keep slowly hiking.

Danielle stayed with me to encourage me to keep me going – she was a trooper.  But it was not long until she was getting frustrated with my misery and offered to carry my backpack.  Not only are my legs hurting really bad, now my pride is hurting because this 40 something year old man is needing his 20 something year old daughter to carry his pack.  But I did concede and let her carry it for a few minutes because I was in so much pain.

I look up and the rest of the gang is long gone by now, but our group leader Keenan came back to check on us.  He saw the pain I was in and offered to hike on to the top, drop his pack, and come back to help me.  I was in no shape to deny the help, so he took off while Danielle and I kept on moving slowly.  I tried to keep a positive attitude because I was enjoying the scenery, smells and adventure.  I was also thankful that Danielle was keeping such a good attitude through all my trials.

I am not sure how long he was gone, but about a half mile out from the top he met us again with a couple of guys with him to help me out.  I was about in tears because I needed the help, and these guys had come to assist me.  I was totally humbled at that point and glad to let Keenan carry my pack the rest of the way to the cabin.

LeConte cabins
LeConte cabins

Once we got to the top we met the rest of the hikers along with another group that came up another trail.  One of them was a friend Mike who saw what kind of shape I was in and helped me to our cabin.  Mike also went to get me some warm hot chocolate from the kitchen to warm me up (LeConte Lodge is famous for their hot chocolate!).  Over the next hour as I sat in the cabin resting and trying to figure out just how I was going to walk around on the top of this mountain the rest of the night, Mike would come by every so often to check on me offering anything I would need.

Of course, the next morning would be a hike down the mountain with another set of pains to endure.  But as I sat there before supper reflecting on the day’s events I was overcome with gratitude and humility.

I am so Thankful

I was totally humbled by my lack of physical ability to hike to the top of the mountain like I thought I could.  Thinking back on my experienced days with the 10th Mountain I realized they were close to 25 years ago.  My mind was strong, but my body had become weak.

I was also overcome with such gratitude for those who helped me especially Danielle, Keenan and Mike.  They gave so sacrificially and graciously to my aid that I just could not thank them enough.

It reminded me of Joshua fighting in Exodus 17.  While Joshua and Israel fought Amalek and his people, Moses would hold up his hands.  When his hands were raised Joshua would win, but as soon as he let them down Amalek would win.  So Moses had Aaron and Hur help hold his hands up so Joshua and the Israelites could win the battle.  Those three helped me win the battle of Mt LeConte against my body.  I did victoriously see the mountain top!

My thanksgivings

Thanksgiving table

It should go without saying that I am thankful, but then again sometimes it should go with saying that I am thankful and just what I am thankful for.  I find it healthy to verbalize these things and to give thanks to God for the rich blessings He has given me.

So today I made a short list of some of the things I am thankful for:

First off I am thankful for my Savior Jesus who came to this earth as a man, lived a perfect life as an example for me, and then sacrificed His life for my salvation.

To be able to see the variety of God’s wonderful creation and all the beautiful places I have been fortunate enough to visit.Guatemala volcano

To be able to tell my family “I love you” to their face, and be so open to them.  Also for the great family that surrounds me.

Friends who are truly friends no matter what, and will be there for me under any circumstance.  I count just a few people in the world with this description.  I also love it when I can call one of these guys up after a long break from seeing each other and start off cutting up like we just spoke yesterday.

The special friends who showed me what it was like to follow Jesus at an early age, and those who still do it today.

Those people who tell me they are thankful for me.

The mistakes I have made – now that they are behind me.  I have learned so much from them and they have formed me to be the man I am today.

The gifts and talents God has blessed me with and the times I am fortunate enough to use them.

I hope you will take some time today to give thanks for the blessings in your life as well.

Happy Thanksgiving yall!

The Rest We All Need

Thus the heavens and the earth were completed, and all their hosts. By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.  Genesis 2:1-3

I read this scripture again a few weeks ago and realized something significant – God rested.  Wow!  The creator of our universe, who is without boundaries or limitations rested.  Why on earth would God do that?

I think he rested to provide an example for us to follow in our lives.  We have to rest or our body will shut down on its own.  Sometimes we think there is no time for rest because there is so much to do.  Or does that just happen to me?

I’ll admit, I have so much to do at times that I really feel rest is a waste of time.  It doesn’t get me anywhere.  It just lets me, well ……. wind down –  recharge  –   refocus.              Oh yeah … rest.

I need rest in my life for no other reason that to refocus at times.  I get so wound up with the things in my life I think must be accomplished.  I also am a bit of a perfectionist at times.  I think some things I do have to be absolutely finished and completely right before I can stop or let it go.  Now sometimes that is a good thing of course, but sometimes it just drives me to the end of my physical and mental usefulness.

Peace like a River

Three kinds of rest we need


I don’t know about you, but my body needs 7.5 to 8 hours of sleep every day.  It would be awesome if I could keep a consistent rhythm of getting that much sleep every day, but I usually don’t.  And when I get behind on a good night sleep it seems to affect me in a lot of ways.  I find it hard at times to just quit what I am doing and go to bed – I have so much more to do!  But what I make up in productive activity … I lose in rest.  My body will suffer as a result.  So only when I get wise do I lay things down and get a good nights rest.


Here is the Biblical example we are given – to take a weekly rest.  Some call it a Sabbath day, the Lord’s day or even the day of rest.  For my family it is Sunday.  That is the day we set aside to rest from work and worship our Savior.  I will do everything I can to keep this day set aside and not work.  I don’t like to do business on this day if I can help it.  I also like to spend Sundays visiting with family.  We usually eat lunch with family members on Sunday and it is so good to recharge those relationships during those times.  I also like to get in a good Sunday afternoon nap.  For me that nap gives my body  that extra rest that I missed during the week.  It also gives me peace knowing all is well with my family that I can check out for an hour or so to just rest.


One of the best ways we rest is with a good vacation.

Think about the best vacation you have ever had.  Was it a fun vacation?  Was it a restful vacation?  Usually the two are not the same.  During the season of our lives when we have young kids – rest is the furthest thing from a vacation.  However, I have felt the releasing of tension from work and my hustle/bustle life.  I may not have rested in the sense I would like, but my mind let go long enough to recalibrate the priorities in life.  Like spending time with family.

So for six days God worked.  I hope I showed you last week that work is actually a good thing.  Then God rested.  So let’s think about a couple of things.  God cannot be a part of anything evil.  So if God is in rest, then it must be a wonderful thing.  Notice that God blessed and sanctified the seventh day.  What God did was declare the seventh day good and set apart.  Since work was also good, God gave a separate time and weight to resting.

For me God speaks to me and says that I need that same time of rest.  I need a break from work to let my mind and body separate the activities.  Both work and rest are good and they both are something we all need.

Note to reader:  I finished this blog one night and thought I had it complete.  I went to bed and after resting had some more insight to this topic.  So I included it this morning before posting.  The overnight rest gave me a more clear picture to describe rest.  I hope this topic is as beneficial to you as it has been for me.

Are you heartily at work?

Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men – Colossians 3:23

Before sin came to our world there was work. Did you ever think of that?

In Genesis 2:15 we see that God put man in the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. This means that gathering fruit and vegetables was work, but in a good way. Imagine loving to do work! It brought Adam joy, food for life and a sense of accomplishment.

Digging work
Digging work

Then when sin came along that same work became toilsome. In Genesis 3:17-19 God said that the ground then would produce thorns and thistles.  You know what they are – competition for healthy plants. God also said that work then would cause us to sweat and make us exert a lot of effort.  Sometimes work is physically hard and sometimes it is just mentally draining.

Most people in our American society look at work as something that is hard and a duty they don’t look forward to. Commercials, TV shows and movies all give work a bad name. But we should realize that God created us for work, and by realizing that is part of our human design accept work as a way of glorifying God!

In Colossians 3:23 we are instructed to work heartily – just as if working for the Lord instead of humans.  To work heartily means with all your heart, to work genuinely, sincerely and warmly.  Is there anything in your life you do this way?  I know of people with a commitment to a team or cause with this kind of zeal, but not usually to work.  If you think of it, the matter comes down to a heart issue.  I think we need to work from our heart just as we love, play, sing or dance.

So when you work in retail you are obviously serving a customer, but you are also working to please God. If your job is to make widgets, then make them as if God paid you. At staff meetings, sales conferences, deliveries and while answering the phone see to it that you are pleasing God with your efforts.  If mowing, cleaning, chores and the like is your thing – then do them all in a way that would be pleasing to God!

One of my favorite quotes gives a great description of what somebody looks like who is working heartily:

The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he’s always doing both.     – James A. Michener

So – how heartily are you at your work today?

My Veterans Day salute 2013

Today I would like to do my part in honoring the military veterans of our great country. Thank you for your service and your sacrifice – all gave some and some gave all.


As a veteran, I have several thoughts and reflections that are going through my mind. I served three years as an Infantry mortar man of the 10th Mountain Division in Ft Benning, Georgia. In my 3 years, I earned the rank of Sargent, was Airborne qualified, field medic certified, trained in Alaska and spent many days carrying an oversized rucksack in the field as a light-fighter. I am thankful to God that there was not a military conflict while I was in the service, and so abundantly grateful to those who had engage in combat.

I have at least four veterans that have made a huge impact on my life, and I try to honor them this day when possible.

  • My cousin Chuck is a few years older than me. He was a Marine, and while I was floundering in college he came to visit one time right after his basic training. The change of discipline I saw in him influenced me to see that the military might be a good thing for me.
  • Wes is my buddy and as close as a brother to me. We didn’t know each other before, but joined the 10th Mountain at the same time – from the same hometown. The three years in the Army was only the beginning of a lifetime of friendship. We experienced life in many ways over the years – good and bad times, hard and fun times, even in life and death. Sometimes I would talk to Wes and he would just know what I need – without me asking.
  • Jeff is a friend I met through work around twelve years ago. We were both veterans and had so many things in common with each other. We worked together for years, but were separated by three hours and a state line. Jeff taught me integrity through golf and the value of a friend when needed.

The last person I want to honor is my grandpa – JB Grigsby.JB Grigsby He was the first veteran I ever knew, and the one I never appreciated until after his death in 1990. Grandpa fought in the Battle of the Bulge in WWII, and was among very few who came home alive from his platoon. He never spoke of his military service and I never really asked. Oh how I wish I could ask him just a few questions today, and thank him for the sacrifices he made.  I wish I had took the time to lean from his wisdom, but I was just too foolish at the time.

JB grave

Military service is not for everyone.
For those who do volunteer for service to our county I am grateful. I am thankful that men and women still love this country enough to sacrifice themselves and serve in our military. I also know this fact to be true:

All will give some
Some will give all

Remember freedom isn’t free.
God, please continue to bless and heal this great nation of ours.

Yes, Work is good

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters

Colossians 3:23

Before sin came to our world there was work.  Did you ever realize that?

In Genesis 2:15 we read that God put man in the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.  I think God intended Adam to gather fruit and vegetables daily to provide for nutritional needs.  Harvesting was work, but in a good way.  Imagine loving to do work!  Work brought Adam joy, food for life and a sense of accomplishment.

Then we see that when sin came along that same work became toilsome.  In Genesis 3:17-19 God said that the ground then would produce thorns and thistles – competition in several ways for healthy plants.  God also said that work then would cause us to sweat – to make us give a lot of effort.  Those same fruits and vegetables now became more difficult to harvest because of the weeds choked them out.

Split Wood
Austin and Spud split wood

Most people in our lifetime look at work as something that is hard and a duty they don’t look forward to doing.  Commercials, TV shows and movies all give work a bad name.  But we should realize that God created us for work, and by realizing that is part of our human design accept work as a way of glorifying God!  Work is another way to worship God!

So if you work in retail you are serving a customer, but you are working to please God – that’s how He designed you.  If you stack, ship, move or manage for a living – do your tasks to please God.  If your job is to make widgets, then make them as if God paid you.  If mowing, cleaning, chores and the like is your thing – do them all to be pleasing God!

Below is one of my favorite quotes that gives a great description of what somebody looks like that loves working and is bringing glory to God.

“The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he’s always doing both.”

James A. Michener

Good ain’t good enough

Buddy – How are you doing?
Me – Good.  How are you?
Buddy – Good
Me – Good

GoodWho is good and what really is good any more?

The above conversation happens all too often in my life it seems.  And I for one am ready to put an end to it.

Webster’s defines good in several ways:

of high quality;of somewhat high but not excellent quality; correct or proper; of a favorable character or tendency; free from injury or disease; not depreciated; commercially sound

So which is it – how are you really?

And then to hear it is good that I am good.  Well that is just good to hear.

I think.

I propose a new wording for our greetings.  What if we greeted each other with something other than good?  And how about how I am doing is something other than good?

I have tried in the past few weeks to eliminate good from my greeting vocabulary.  It is hard at times because good is just so ingrained in our minds to respond when asked how you are doing.  But I am trying.

Here are some of the responses I have been providing:

  • I am well.
  • I’m just fine.
  • Doing better than I deserve!
  • Really swell.

Does anyone feel the way I do?  Am I on my own on this one?

Will somebody stand with me?

It sure would be good if you did!



My son planned a cookout and bond fire at our home this past Friday night.  He contacted his friends and made food plans with his mom.  Then he and I prepared the yard and fire pit for the evening.

A couple of his buddies came over early to help us finish off the last details of moving cinder blocks and gathering wood.  Each of them were giddy and willing to do just about anything I asked them to do as we prepared.  Why?  Anticipation

They each anticipated who would show up for the event.  What conversations they would have. Maybe a new friendship would develop.  For sure, somebody was going to do something so funny that the whole school would be talking about it Monday morning!  That’s the beauty of anticipation – it is hoping for something great that is unseen and uncompleted.

Their anticipation reminded me of two great anticipations that I have on my mind:

1st – I am anticipating the new acquaintances, friendships and adventures I will have as a result of writing and maturing this blog.  The ability to purposefully share my thoughts and adventures makes me just giddy!  God is giving me wisdom as I journey, and I am so glad to share with anyone who will listen.

2nd – I am also anticipating the glorious meeting I will have in Heaven with my Savior!  I know in Heaven there will be a great reward for the things I do for the glory of God here on earth.  Hebrews 11:1 says “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”  I have never seen Heaven, but I sure do have faith that it will be a wonderful place to be for the rest of eternity!


My son and his buddies did not know for sure who was coming to the cookout or what kind of fun it would be.  But they anticipated a really good time.

This blog and eventual book journey are certainly uncharted for me, and I know will include many highs and lows.  But I do anticipate how it will change me and my future.

My personal journey toward Heaven will be tough at times, but will also include many mountain top experiences.  Best of all I anticipate the final reward when I meet Jesus face to face!!!

So how about you?  What are you giddy about or greatly anticipating in your life?

In the beginning

In the beginning I wrote a blog.  Why would I do such a thing?

This is the beginning of a journey I have been wanting to take for some time.  I have wanted to write a book about the life lessons I learned while picking blackberries with my grandma.  She died in October of 2008, but I had begun to record my thoughts a few years earlier.  I said when she died I would finish this book.      Ok, better late than never.  I am starting to put it together.

So this blog will be my preparations for the writing of the book.  I hope to journal this journey, learned life lessons, and some adventure.

Thank you to those who will start out with me early on the journey.  I pray you will be able to say it was beneficial to you as well.

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