Category Archives: Seasonal

Seasons

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens.

(Ecclesiastes 3:1)

Just about everyone who has ever worked a job outside of home knows about “life status changes.”  That’s the benefits category label for when you have…well, a life status change like a marriage or a birth or adoption or some other significant status change.  

We had one of those yesterday.  Our youngest child was married, and to a wonderful man.  I was blessed to escort her down the aisle and, with her mother, “give her away” (I smile at that because she’s been her own person standing on her own feet for a long time).  I was honored to pray over them and to dance with her.  For a few days this past week, all of our three children were in the same place at the same time, celebrating with family and friends and I was blessed to sit back and enjoy it all.  

The days of June LaDeece (the name of our eldest daughter’s doll) and “I’m going up the street to Tony Lorraine’s” (a near constant summertime refrain from our son as he ran out the door) and the My Little Pony books (one of our youngest’s first book collection) are long gone…except, in my memory.  There’s no more waking them up for school and Sunday School, brushing and braiding hair, picking out clothes for them to wear or making sure they ate breakfast before they left the house.  There are no more trips to pediatricians or to visit grandparents, the ones who lived close by and those who were at a distance.  There are no more parent-teacher conferences, report cards to review, band concerts, sporting events or recitals to attend.  There are no more prom dresses or tuxes to buy or rent, no more curfews to impose, no more driving lessons to teach.  There are no more tuition payments to make or advice to give (unless it is asked for).  Those seasons have passed, but they are alive in my memory.

The joy of yesterday is already tucked away in my memory, and like the rest, I will relive it from time to time.  It was a wonderful day.  

© Byron L. Hannon, 2021.  All rights reserved to text content unless otherwise noted.                     

A Memorial Day Reflection

Today, the U.S. is celebrating Memorial Day in honor of those who sacrificed their lives on the various battlefields of the world of which there have been many.  Both supporters and dissenters of the politics of those wars still owe thanks to the men and women who made that sacrifice because they were called to serve or because they chose to serve.  One of my cousins is one of them.  These and all other honors are more than well deserved. 

Over the years it has become common to also acknowledge anyone who, currently or in the past, serve(d) in the armed forces.  These folks are often asked to stand to be acknowledged in public gatherings on this day and the weekend preceding it.  I’m proud that both of my grandfathers, my father, several of my uncles, another cousin, my father-in-law, two of my brothers-in-law, and my wife’s grandfather have all stood on such occasions.

I think there is still more room for remembrance and honors on Memorial Day for there are those who have sacrificed for the sake of the “good fight,” a phrase made famous by the Apostle Paul.  Their wars were and are being fought on a spiritual rather than a physical plane.  So many have sacrificed their time, talent and treasure to do the will of Him who called and sent them.  Many have sacrificed their comfort, and some their reputations and even their lives for the sake of this work.  Whether we acknowledge it or not, we are all beneficiaries of these soldiers, many of whom still fight on battlefields unseen by most of us who are far removed from these front lines.  

Remember all of them and give thanks.             

© Byron L. Hannon, 2021.  All rights reserved to text content unless otherwise noted.  

Thanks Mom

“…Can a mother forget her nursing child?  Can she feel no love for the child she has borne…? (Isaiah 49:15)

Over the last 36 hours, even as I thought about my mother over this Mother’s Day weekend, I found myself in the presence of three other mothers: my wife, my eldest daughter (who we see irregularly because she lives on the other side of the country where we are now), and new friend  to whom we were introduced by our daughter.  There were no new motherly revelations opened while I was with them, but I listened closely to their talk (and occasionally contributed) as they shared their joys, some of the sorrows and the heartaches they’ve endured, the sacrifices they’ve made, and most of all, the love they had and still have for their children that is specific to their roles as moms.

Thanks to all of you mothers, grandmothers, aunts who acted like mothers, mother figures, and mothers-in-waiting.  When those times come when you feel forgotten or think no one notices, remember, there is a GOD who never forgets, who always notices and who’s love endures forever.  And some of the rest of us also notice and care deeply. 

Blessings, 

© Byron L. Hannon, 2021.  All rights reserved to text content unless otherwise noted.          

But Wait! There’s Still More!

“To live is Christ; to die is gain. (Apostle Paul in his letter to the Church at Philippi – Philippians 1:21)

It doesn’t take long, when seeing some of those cheesy TV advertisements about some product allegedly not available in stores, to come to the catchphrase.  Near the end of the commercials, we are invariably offered an enticement to buy extra of whatever they are selling at no additional price when they say something along the lines of: “But Wait!  There Still More…”  

The thought that there is a good deal to be had is a cornerstone of consumer marketing.  The message that we can save money by spending money may seem illogical when framed as I just have, but it works well nonetheless.  As a consumer society, we are always ready to hear how we can get more for less…and there are always those who seek to convince us that they have a deal for us.  

I’m pretty resistant to those ploys, recognizing them for what they are.  That’s not to say I never look for a deal, but I try to be selective.  One that I have found that is real and has lasting value is my faith in Jesus Christ.  I have lived with Him for over 40 years, and I cannot imagine a life more rewarding, filled with contentment, and even miraculous (Man, the stories I could tell!).  

I’m on the backend of this part of the journey, but just having experienced another Easter, I’m reminded, “But Wait! There’s Still More.”  Easter celebrates the fulfillment of a promise that there is an eternal more for those who believe and follow (Job 19:26-27; Psalm 16:10; Isaiah 53:10-11; Daniel 12:2-3; Hosea 6:1-2; Luke 24:6; Romans 4:25; 1 Corinthians 15:5).  Initially it took some convincing (about five years worth), but I have bought in lock, stock and barrel.     

Paul argues (Romans 15:13-19) that without Christ’s resurrection, then bodily death really is the end, faith is futile, and those of us who have invested in this faith are to be pitied.  Apart from the resurrection of Jesus, the whole thing falls apart.  I’m betting the ranch…actually, I don’t own a ranch so to restate, I’m betting my life that my belief in these promises and my belief in Him will hold together.  I’m waiting because I believe there’s even more.  Anyone want to wait with me?              

He Is Risen!  He Is Risen Indeed!

© Byron L. Hannon, 2021.  All rights reserved to text content unless otherwise noted. 

Memories of Sand Hill

Driving on a rolling 9 mile stretch on Rt. 23 in Lancaster County on Sunday morning, it was hard for me to not notice the snow-covered hills and valleys that covered the landscape.  I also noticed there were no sledders anywhere on that stretch.  Perhaps it was the earliness of the morning and/or the fact that it was a worship day in a county in which church attendance is common.

I’ve made it no secret how much I’ve come to dislike snow.  The aggravations of shoveling walkways and driveways, cleaning off cars, driving behind partially clean cars that throw off hardened chunks snow on those driving behind them, walkways with snow melt that freezes overnight and the risks of slip falls, rock salt and sand that stains cars and windshields all accumulate to make snowfall something I can do without.

It wasn’t always that way.  When I was a boy, one of my favorite wintertime activities when it snowed was to spend as much time as possible on Sand Hill.  At age 10 and 11, Sand Hill looked more like a small mountain and when it snowed, the hill called to me to all of my friends.  We prayed for deep snow, and it seemed every season our prayers were answered two or three times.  

With our sleds, we would make our way to the top of the hill.  Whoever had the toboggans would go first to compact the snow.  When it was my turn, I would take a running start and leap onto my American Flyer and fly down the hill, maybe an eighth of a mile long, landing in a ditch that kept us all from sledding into the street.  And then I would climb back up the hill and do it again…and again…and again…  We all did until our fingers turned blue and we had no more feeling in hands or feet.  When we could stay no longer, we would slowly make our way home.  If it was a weekend or if school was still closed because of the weather, the next day would bring a reprise.  I loved it!

It is now mid-afternoon, and I am writing this from home many miles away from those snowed hills and valleys.  When the snow is gone, I won’t miss it, but I have to wonder if there are any kids climbing those hills with their sleds to do what only seems natural when it snows.

© Byron L. Hannon, 2021.  All rights reserved to text content unless otherwise noted.                   

Hold On, Just For A Moment!

I was watching a college football halftime show and one of the analysts was lamenting to extent to which Covid-19 had upset normalcy in society and particularly its impact on the unencumbered play of college football.  Like the rest of us are impacted, all players, coaches, fans, and schools have been affected.  The schools with big-time programs also have experienced major economic hits as their football programs provide millions of dollars in revenue.  Taking a stab at humor, there was a paper shredder on the table and the analyst making the complaints started shredding pieces of paper with the year 2020 emblazoned in bold letters.

For certain, 2020 has been a tough year around the globe, but before it passes into obscurity let’s not ditch it before looking to see if there are lessons we can glean from it.  Here are a few thoughts:

  • It’s not 2020’s fault.  Sure, there is symbolic blame we can cast on it, but when the clock reaches 12:01am on January 1, 2021 we will face the same challenges as we did in March 2020.  It was only a year ago when we were looking forward to saying “Happy New Year” as 2019 came to a close.  While there may be light at the end of the tunnel because of the pending availability of vaccines, it may be mid-summer before we have universal availability in this country, not to mention other countries around the world.  The challenges of economic and emotional recovery will loom large well into 2021…and there are no guarantees, which brings me to the next point.      
  • If nothing else, this experience, hopefully, has taught us and continues to teach us that we don’t have the control over our environment we thought we had.  Scientific and technological advances combined with the relative wealth of living in a “1st world” country can create an illusion of sovereignty, unlimited personal agency and even arrogance.  Nope!  No matter how far advanced we become, there have always been historical events beyond the control of persons, individual and collective wealth, scientific expertise, and governmental strength that remind us that we are neither transcendent nor unlimited.  Perhaps it was just our time.  This alone should humble us…and keep us humble.
  • The only tests of resilience are difficulties.  Endurance is only needed when there is something to overcome.  This past year has required, of all of us, resilience and endurance.  For some, it has been more so than for others.  Still, I suspect it will continue to be so as we try to recover, adapt, and move forward.  And perhaps the resilience and endurance we’ve had to demonstrate in 2020 will give us confidence for whatever we may face in the future.

So, before we throw 2020 away into the dustbin of forgetfulness, let’s take time to see what else it might say to us that can actually help us in 2021.  May the new year give you clear eyes to see and fresh ears to hear what the Spirit is saying.  

Blessings.

© Byron L. Hannon, 2020.  All rights reserved to text content unless otherwise noted.                

Advent Memo

For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:

“Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”                                                                                (Luke 2:11-14)

Asking the question, “Didn’t you get the memo?” or hearing someone say, jokingly, “I must not have gotten the memo” is a pretty common and light-hearted way of talking about instances of not getting a piece of information that everyone else seems to have gotten.  This passage from Luke is a memo of sorts sent, not to the elite of society (I suspect there was a shortage of elites in rural Bethlehem), but instead to some blue-collar outdoor workers assigned to the night shift.  

The message to them was one of peace.  I’ve always preferred to look at these words as GOD extending, by way of His Son, a peace offering to the humanity that was estranged from Him.  The relationship between GOD and His greatest creation was broken and dysfunctional.  The healing of relationships always requires someone taking the first step.  GOD took the first step and extended a hand.  

Many since then have taken the memo to heart and have made peace with GOD, through Jesus Christ, and have experienced the reality of a peace that is hopeful and which sustains through time or circumstance.  Quite a few are alive today; I’m blessed to know some. 

Still, we seem to live in an environment where harmony and benevolence (mutual peace and goodwill) is in too short supply.  Caustic attitudes, self-centeredness, anger, resentment and even worse, with the attendant justifications and confusion, seems the order of the day for enough folks that it’s impossible to ignore. Did they not get the memo?  If not, why not?  It’s not like anyone is hiding it.  It’s there for everyone.   If they did get it, are they ignoring it as if there is no downside to ignoring it?  What’s up with that?

One of the dynamics of peace with GOD is that it leads to peace with others.  GOD apparently values peace a great deal.  See Matthew 5:9: “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called the children of God” i.e. those who intentionally seek and make peace with others bear a resemblance to their Father in heaven.  

I’m not speaking of false peace which is just an absence of visible conflict or where animosity is suppressed behind a false face.  The peace I refer to is rooted in and flows from such a deep reverence and regard for GOD (love) that it translates into a deep, unselfish regard (love) for everyone else’s humanity.  It makes no distinction.  Jesus spoke to this when He said that loving GOD with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength is the greatest commandment and second to that is loving our neighbor as ourselves.  

We can’t experience this if we don’t have or really want His peace within, if we didn’t read the memo or take it to heart.  It is there for the taking.  Take it!  Though others may choose not to, don’t settle for less than GOD’s best.    

As we approach the celebration day for the first Advent of Jesus Christ, let us recall what Paul, an   Apostle of Christ, said from his imprisonment: Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus…Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

Read the memo.  Selah.

© Byron L. Hannon, 2020.  All rights reserved to text content unless otherwise noted. 

ADVENT(URE)

A common word heard in the Church community this time of year is “Advent.”  It is a noun that means that something waited for is finally here.  Something important has occurred.  With the ubiquitous presence of smartphones, for example, the advent of the next generation of (pick your favorite brand) is enough for some people to wait in longs line (queues, for my European readers) in order to have the privilege of paying an outrageous sum of money to have better “bells and whistles” on your cellphone than the cellphone you’re replacing.  Everyone experiences advent in some context.

In the broader Church community, Advent refers to the first coming of Jesus as the promised Messiah (Hebrew version of Christ), the spiritual basis for the holy-day, Christmas.  Brief sidebar here: Messiah/Christ means GOD’s Anointed One.  The Church also anticipates a second Advent in the return of Jesus (that certainly would qualify as being pretty important), something promised multiple times in the documentation of prophecies in both the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) and in the New Testament.

So now that the primer is out of the way, let me get to what’s on my mind.  I don’t know why this never occurred to me before, but I’m now struck by the thought that the root of Adventure is Advent.  Am I the only one caught by this?  It’s doubtful, but I don’t ever recall anyone talking about this.

An adventure is the experience of something exciting, bold and maybe even risky.  There is, at its core, the idea of an arriving or a happening as a result of this exciting, bold, and/or risky step.  Adventure has described my life from the day I became a follower of Jesus.  My arrival at this choice to belong to Him and subsequent, related choices in the decades following, can be characterized by all three words: excitingbold and risky.  My life with Christ has been an adventure.  Not that most days have been high mountaintop experiences or low-in-the valley challenges, but on the whole, this is a life I could never have foreseen or planned, nor would I would trade it for anything other.  

Of course, there have been scary times, rocky places, high moments and some lows.  There have been questions by others about the wisdom and practicality of my commitments.  I’ve had to walk away from some folks who couldn’t get it and from vocational and personal pathways incongruent with this life.  I was once told, after resigning from a pretty lucrative career in order to begin preparing for pastoral ministry, that it was like I was bungy-jumping naked from the 57th floor of the high rise I worked in.  There’s a picture for you…a scary one on multiple levels!  I was actually in an office on the 57th floor when I was told this.    

I’ve had to sacrifice in multiple ways, including my right to define my own morality.  And I’m not alone in this…my wife, partner, and best friend chose to come along for the ride (thankfully!) knowing that it would cost her, too.  

Still, the pluses have been so much greater, in quality and quantity, than anything I have sacrificed, the most significant being that I “know a living Savior who’s in the world today” up close and personally.  This is not a cliché.  I know Him and He knows me; and because of this I take time to count my blessings, and man, there are so many and often beyond my comprehension!  More than once He has spoken to me in as close to being an audible voice without actually being audible, including once while I was driving alone on the Penna. Turnpike wrestling with a Big problem.  His presence in that car was so tangible, I literally turned to look at the passenger seat to see who was talking.  I can go on and on, but I won’t.             

My point is that because of the first Advent of Christ, I have experienced a great adventure.  And it’s not over!  I, like everyone else, don’t know how many remaining days I have, but as long as I’m here, I look forward to the Advent of Christ still to come.  That will usher in the ultimate adventure for “no eye has seen nor ear has heard, and no human mind has conceived the things GOD has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).    

Blessings to you and yours this Christmas because He’s real and He is for real.

© Byron L. Hannon, 2020.  All rights reserved to text content unless noted otherwise. 

For Dad

In a few months, I will be the age my father was when he passed away.  That was 28 years ago.  Like in many homes, we have pictures of family members here and there including one of my Dad.  The picture is in sepia tone and he’s a young man in his early 30s.

Whenever I glance at it, memories of him flow through my head: me as a young boy trying to walk in his shoes; him pushing me on my bike and then letting it go after having taken the training wheels off; going with him on Saturday mornings to his part-time job as the transmission engineer for WJLK radio; sobbing at 7-years old as he was leaving for three months to work in Alaska; going to the beach in Belmar on weekends and then to Carvel Ice Cream on the way home; fishing with him at the Shark River Inlet and off the jetties in Asbury Park; him tutoring me in geometry and being confused about why I didn’t get it because it was so easy for him; the time I tried to get between him and my mother while they were arguing and him staring me down (and me backing up); he being really, really p-o’d when I stayed out all night for my senior prom; him dropping me off at college for the first time; the times I didn’t show him the respect he was due because I foolishly thought I was smarter than him; his help during some  difficult times as a young working adult; watching him let my wife hug him when showing affection which was something he just didn’t do; him trying to feed my kids foods he liked that they didn’t want to eat and having to intervene; having spiritual conversations with him; visiting him when he was recovering from a stroke; being told by a friend that he had expressed pride in me; watching him come to grips with his terminal cancer; closing his eyes on the morning he passed.

I still miss him, and although I’m glad he’s not around to see how far the world hasn’t come, given some of the hard places and situations he and his siblings had to survive, there’s a part of me that would love to hear his commentary on the state of things.  Just thinking about it makes me smile because I know it would be deep, provocative, and funny all at the same time.

I received so much from my father that I never thanked him for, but I have tried to pay it forward with my own children.  He gave me a rich legacy, some of which I’m still discovering as I deepen my relationship with his youngest sister who is now in her mid-80s.  She has told me a number of things about my Dad I never knew.

For my friends who have recently lost a father or who experienced that loss as a child or who never knew your father, I suspect Fathers’ Day is a particularly tender time for you.  Even with your loss, I’m sure there is something of him in you that those who know you best can spot.  I pray you are able to celebrate that this Fathers’ Day.

To all of my fellow Dads, Granddads, Fathers-in-Law and father figures including uncles, much older brothers, teachers, pastors, mentors and coaches, I pray you are able to receive the blessings of honor this day especially.

© Byron L. Hannon, 2020.  All rights reserved totext content.

My Giant Rooster

In our kitchen, high on a ledge, is a large ceramic rooster.  It was one of several ceramic roosters my mother owned, both large and small.  Although she’s been gone for nearly 40 years, I’ve managed to hold onto to this one.  It’s a reminder, along with the pictures of her in our family room and on my bed-stand.  Family and friends have asked, over the years, about this large rooster in the kitchen as my wife and I aren’t big ceramic people…but there’s a story behind it and a reason I keep it.

My mom was raised in the South at a time when it was common for people to keep animals in their yards.  Having a farm wasn’t a prerequisite and codes on that kind of thing were pretty relaxed.  My grandparents kept chickens when mom was a child.  Even during my early years, their detached garage had been converted into a turkey pen.

Anyway, among the chickens my grandparents kept during mom’s youth were a couple of roosters.  One in particular was pretty aggressive and my mother was one of his targets.  He would peck at her ankles and legs often.  One day she ran into the house crying after being pecked.  My grandfather, having had enough, went outside and butchered the rooster.  He became Sunday dinner.  From that day on, my grandparents called mom “Rooster.”

I have so many memories of summer visits and hearing my grandmother yell down the long hall of her home for my mother, “Rooster!”  In fact, I don’t recall either one of my grandparents ever referring to mom by her name, Martha.  It was always Rooster.

As an adult, mom had a collection of ceramic roosters.  When I was a kid, they were just part of the décor of the house and I hardly noticed them.  But now, whenever I walk into my kitchen and look up, I see that giant rooster and my mind fills with all kinds of memories.

Mom was 5’ 2” tall, but she was always a giant to me, My Giant Rooster; and though decades have passed since the day she drew her last breath, her presence is strong to me in the memory of her laughter, the stories she would tell (like how she became “Rooster”), the conversations and experiences we had, and the love she gave over twenty-eight deeply blessed years.

To all of you moms, thank you for being giants among us.

© Byron L. Hannon, 2020.  All rights reserved to text content.