Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Is Always, Pt. 3 - Dale Evans sums up the idea of Christmas

(Excerpts from Dale Evans Rogers' "Christmas Is Always" - Part 3 of 3)

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"Someone is asking, "If Christmas is always, as you say, then why do we set aside December 25 - just one day in the year - to celebrate it?" Well, there's a lot of tradition in that, too. We might answer that question by asking, "Why do we stop work one day a week - on Sunday - instead of on Thursday or Friday?" The answer is that God gives us one day in the week to rest, to think about what happened last week, and what will happen next week, to renew our strength through prayer and meditation so that we can face whatever comes. We can rest on other days, too, of course, but having a special day set aside for this seems to impress upon us our need for refreshment, and for the remembrance that we need to stop and take stock of ourselves.

The same can be said of December 25: it is the yearly reminder that our Lord loved us enough to become one of us, to sacrifice Himself for us so that we might understand once and for all that God is, and always was, and always will be; that God is Love, and that love will win, even on a cross.

Love is the greatest power there is, and love is the meaning of Christmas. This is why we need a day set aside for remembering the "earth birth" of our Lord, who was Love clothed in human flesh. Christmas is the day set aside for us to ask ourselves whether we honestly love God and man. We need this day of spiritual inventory to clean out the old worthless stock of indifference and to restock our hearts and minds with the spirit of the Christ, to receive Him and give ourselves.

Christmas, my child, is love in action - When you love someone, you give to them, as God gives to us. The greatest gift He ever gave was the Person of His Son, sent to us in human form so that we might know what God the Father is really like! Every time we love, every time we give, it's Christmas! . . . He gave His most precious possession in heaven, His own Son!

We need to see His Son beyond the gilt and gadgets of Christmas, need to see Him in the manger, in the streets, on the cross. Hilda W. Smith put it beautifully once:

The Carpenter of Galilee
Comes down the street again,
In every land, in every age,
He still is building men.
On Christmas Eve we hear Him knock;
He goes from door to door:
"Are any workmen out of work?
The Carpenter needs more."

Christmas is like that: like the walking of Jesus, like the moving of the Spirit from the days when time began to our own times, like the redemptive purpose of God working out its way in our lives through the One born as Bethlehem.

Yes, my child, Christmas is always, for Jesus said, "Lo, I am with you always . . . " and Christmas is Jesus!"

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May God bless your Christmas and the coming year!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas is Always, Pt. 2 - Dale Evans discusses Christmas trees and Santa Claus

(Excerpts from Dale Evans Rogers' book, "Christmas Is Always" - Part 2 of 3) 

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. . . Speaking of the Christmas tree - trees, you know, have been historically recognized as symbols of everlasting life. That is, no tree ever dies: it leaves new life behind it, in seed and acorn. Job says that "there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again" and we are told in the first Psalm that one who loves the Lord "shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water." It is symbolic of the rebirth of Christ in the human heart. Every time a repentant and seeking heart says, "I believe . . . " the King and Lord of all is born anew in the humble dwelling of the heart.

The Christ Child in us must be allowed to grow, and we allow Him to grow, like an everlasting tree as we, His branches, bear fruit fit for His Kingdom. This, my child, is a wonderful mystery, but it happens. I have seen it, and experienced it. . . .

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The Christmas tree is traditional; so is Santa Claus. We've always had him around at Christmas; he's really a tradition! But just what does Santa Claus have to do with Christmas, anyway? And how did he get into the picture?

Well, my child, the figure of Santa Claus is actually a symbol of the truly Christian spirit of giving, in spite of what some people say about him. He represents a man named Nicholas who, according to tradition, lived many, many years ago in Asia Minor. Nicholas' father was a very rich merchant, who for years had no children. He and his wife parayed and promised God that if He would send them a child, they would train himto love and serve God. God answered their prayer and sent the boy, whom they named Nicholas . . .

His parents died, however, when he was quite young, and left him a great deal of money. The spirit of the Lord prompted Nicholas to give away all that he had, with the exception of three small bags of gold, which at that time would have kept him nicely for the rest of his life.

One day, he overheard the weeping of a neighbor's daughter, and he heard the father say to the girl that he was too poor to give her a dowry for her marriage. (In those days a girl could not marry unless she had a dowry, or a gift of money, to bring to her husband.) There were three daughters in this family, and they all wept when they were told they could not have a dowry. The girl who was at the marriageable age wept loudest of all; she was the one Nicholas heard, and he couldn't bear it. He had all three bags of his gold at this time; he crept behind a bush under the window of the neighbor's home, and tossed one of his three bags of gold through the window. He did not want them to know who did it, for he remembered the words of Jesus: "When thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly."

So the daughter was happily married. Then came the next daughter's turn. The father was still poor, and again Nicholas heard the weeping. Again he secretly provided the dowry by tossing his second bag of gold through the window. By this time, the father was determined to know who their 'angel of charity' was - so when it came time for the third daughter to marry, he stationed a watchman outside the house, to catch his wonderful benefactor. Sure enough! As Nicholas tossed in his last bag of gold, the man grabbed him and took him in the house, where a very grateful father thanked him for insuring the futures of three tearful, but very grateful, girls.

Of course, this became known in the town, which embarressed Nicholas, for he was a modest young man; and since he loved to serve God ad his fellow man, he decided to become a priest. When he had finished his studies, he decided to return to his home town of Myrna, in western Greece. Myra was having quite a time of it, right then, trying to elect a new bishop to preside in their cathedral to take the place of the old bishop who had just died. The clergy just couldn't agree on the man to fill the vacancy so they decided to wait until the next out-of-town priest walked into their cathedral, and they would make him the bishop.

While all this was going on inside the cathedral, Nicholas came along the main street of the town; just outside the cathedral he found a crowd of little children and he stopped to talk with them (and, I like to think, even play a little with them!). Then he stepped into the cathedral - to be welcomed by the shouts of the clergy, who then and there proclaimed him the new Bishop of Myra.

Nicholas became known as "the patron of the children" for his untiring efforts to help them and teach them. Each year on his birthday, which ws December 6, Nicholas would collect presents and distribute them among the children. This idea of presents for the children spread all over Europe, and it was always done in memory of St. Nicholas, who was such an outstanding example of the Spirit of Jesus.

The word "Santa Claus" is the Dutch name for St. Nicholas, and we adopted "Santa Claus" when the early Dutch settlers came to New  Amsterdam, or New York, as it was later called. The English called him "St. Nicholas" and, somtimes, "old Kris Kringle", but whatever they called him, they always associated him with the giving of gifts at Christmas. In the town of Myra, after Nicholas died, the practice of giving gifts continued on December 6 for a long, long time beofre it was finally transferred to December 25th.

The red robe of Santa Claus has a religious significance too; it represents the red cape which the priests of the church wore at Christmas. The fur-trimmed hat and boots were adopted by the cold countries of the north; travel there would be very cold and very difficult for Santa unless he had a sled and some fast reindeer - so he got the deer and the sled, and he became a jolly, round, old man distributing untold happiness to children everywhere. He was never meant to overshadow the celebration of the birthday of our Lord Jesus Christ, but only to supplement it, for it was the Spirit of our Lord that gave us "St. Nicholas".

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(To be continued . . .)

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas Is Always Pt. 1 - Dale Evans talks about love and giving.

Since this year was Dale's 100th birthday, I thought I would post excerpts from her book, "Christmas Is Always". Also included is her recording of her matching song. Merry Christmas!

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 "Christmas, my child, is always.

It was always in the heart of God. It was born there. Only he could have thought of it. Like God, Christmas is timeless and eternal, everlasting to everlasting. It is something even more than what happened that night in starlit little Bethlehem; it has been behind the stars forever.

There was Christmas in the heart of God before the world was formed. He gave Jesus to us, the night the Angels sang, yes - but the Bible tells us that Jesus shared a great glory with the Father long before the world was made. Jesus was always, too!

God's Spirit has always been, too; the Spirit "moved upon the face of the waters" at the time of the beginning of the world. And the Holy Spirit visited the mother of Jesus and brought forth our Lord as the Christ Child, in the manger. Christmas is always. It has been always. But we have not always understood it.

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. . . On Christmas Eve down in Texas, we always went to the church first, for the lovely service, and then to the town square with its breathtaking, brilliantly lighted Christmas tree, where there were little gifts for the children. And when we woke up in the morning, there was another Christmas tree which had appeared miraculously as we slept; the whole family gathered around it, and again we sensed the spirit of love running through the circle. There were gifts for everyone - but not too much! How grateful I am for that, now! The real gift was the love we had for one another, and the silent joy of just being together, all one in love.

Is this not the true Christmas? Isn't that what Jesus came to accomplish - "A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another . . . "? At least, in those first childhood Christmase, we began to learn that lesson of love. The gifts were secondary; the greatest gift of all was the plain, simple gift of love.

Isn't it strange how children love simple things? You can give a child a most expensive, intricately assembled toy, and after he has examined its color and mechanism, he will put that toy aside for an empty soppl and a piece of string.

. . . The challenge of simplicity is a magnet to the human spirit. Much of the beauty of Christmas lies in its challenge to look further, deeper, until we find its secret in the heart of God. But we never find that unless we look beyond the presents under the tree.

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. . . Have you ever stopped to think that our Lord chose to come to earth as part of a family? He heartily approved of the family, as a social and spiritual unit. When we talk about the first Christmas, do we not always see the Holy Family in the humble manger? It couldn't be Christmas without them there! When we are careless about our family relationships, we are losing Christmas.

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Following my marriage with my first sweetheart in my 'teens, God blesed me with a wonderful spiritual child, my beloved first-born, Tom. It was Tom who gently led me to the feet of the Saviour, nine years ago, by his quiet and steady devotion to Him in every area of his life. It was Roy's three motherless children and my feelings of spiritual inadequacy in meeting the problems of being a stepmother that made me look with longing at the serenity of Tom's face. I knew he had Someone he could depend upon, and I needed that Someone.

To Tom, Christmas was every day, for Christ was with him every day. Christ had been born in him. Every heart is, or can be, a manger in which the Lord is constantly reborn.

I have many wonderful Christmas memories, gathered as the years rolled by - Perhaps the loveliest is the one of the second and last "earth" Christmas of Robin, our little angel. I wanted so desperately to see her enjoy, understand and really catch the spirit of Christmas, and I hoped that our carefully chosen little gifts would help and please her. You know, she looked just as though she belonged on top of a beautiful, glimmering Christmas tree. Her nurse used to call her "angel", and that Christmas day she really looked the part.

Robin was one of the greatest Christmas gifts of my life; she brought me into suffering and taught me to walk by fath with Christ through the deep waters to a new and clearer understanding of life. Through her I had learned where abundent life is really to be - in the service of others through the Christ who lived, died and rose for all of us.

I remember the indescribable feeling of happiness as I watched Robin delightedly pound the little red piano that still sits on my window-sill - and I remember hearing a song in my heart -

'You little blue-eyes angel,
Heaven has sent you to me,
You little blue-eyes angel,
You belong on a Christmas tree.
Hair that is gold has my precious one,
That little smile warm as the sun.
You little blue eyed angel,
You belong on a Christmas tree.'

- what a blessed Christmas experience that was! My soul grew much in understanding that day.

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Then, the next Christmas, as we trimmed the tree for Cheryl, Linda, Dusty and our two newest Rogerses, Sandy and Dodie, I picked up a little Christmas-tree angel, and inwardly saw little Robin's face. As I placed it on top of the tree, I suddenly knew that little Robin was very, very happy now and having a Christmas with the One who made it possible! Sandy and Dodie were ecstatic over that tree and their gifts, and we all felt warmly grateful to God for the two charming little strangers He had sent to take the place of our 'angel unaware'.

. . . One day we all took a ride on the ski lift on Mount Summit, riding in pairs in the little chairs which scaled the mountain. The higher we got, the colder and more beautiful it became. Our ascent was very slow in comparison with the descent of those who went down on their skis, just undder the cars in which we rode. What a parrallel to life! To climb requires effort and persistance; to slide down, no effort at all. . . . The children were delighted with the little snow-covered 'Christmas trees' which we saw on the way up - and there were so many! Roy said, "Wouldn't it be wonderful to have one like that for Christmas, with real snow on it?" I thought of the sixteenth verse of Psalm 147: "He giveth snow like wool: he scattereth the hoarfrost like ashes."

Giving. Always, God is giving. Not just on one day do his gifts arrive, but always - constantly - day by day - hour by hour - He causes Christmas to happen with the spectacle of little snow-covered trees on the mountainsides, in August and July; He trims them with a color and a glory that make our hearts leap up as we behold them. He gives unstintingly and constantly of Christmas beauty to us all, if we have but eyes to see."

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(To be continued . . . )

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy 100th Birthday, Dale!


Today is the 100th birthday of the Queen of the West - Dale Evans Rogers! She was born in Uvalde, Texas on 31 Oct 1912. Despite her Texas heritage, she wasn't a cowgirl until she began doing films with screen cowboy, Roy Rogers, in 1944. She soon got into the swing of it, and all-in-all they would do 28 films together. On New Year's Eve of 1947, the King of the Cowboys and the Queen of the West became real-life partners when they were married in Oklahoma.

In 1950, Roy and Dale had their first child, Robin Elizabeth Rogers. She was born with downs syndrome and had some other physical problems. Instead of placing her in a mental institution, they took her home and she became a special part of their family. Robin passed away two days before her second birthday. In her grief, Dale wrote a book which told Robin's story of her two years on earth, Angel Unaware. The book was a bestseller and helped many parents accept their handicapped children.

Dale based her book on the Bible verse, "Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares." (Hebrews 13:2). Dale expressed it best in her introduction of Angel Unaware

"This is the story of what a baby girl named Robin Elizabeth accomplished in transforming the lives of the Roy Rogers family. Our baby came into this world with an appalling handicap, as you will discover when you read her story. I believe with all my heart that God sent her on a two-year mission to our household, to strengthen us spiritually and draw us closer together in the knowledge and love and fellowship of God.

It has been said that tragedy and sorrow never leave us where they find us. In this instance, both Roy and I are grateful to God for the privilege of learning some great lessons through His tiny messanger, Robin Elizabeth Rogers.

This is Robin's story. This is what I, her mother, believe she told our Heavenly Father shortly after eight p.m. on August 24, 1952."

Dale wrote many other Christian books over the years. She was a fabulous lady and a wonderful witness for the love of Christ. She and Roy were married for 51 years, until his death in 1998. Dale continued to write and make public appearances until she died on 7 February 2001 at the age of 88. 

On her 1975 album, Heart of the Country, Dale recorded a song that she had written. Angel Unaware. A fitting tribute to the little girl who left a great message on earth. We made a special photo video to the song that shows photos and home videos of Robin and the other two children that Roy and Dale lost, Debbie and Sandy. So, until we meet again, Happy Trails to You! 



LYRICS

Be not forgetful to entertain a stranger,
for thereby some have entertained
an Angel Unaware.

Don't see a difference.
Just warmly give your welcome.
The hand you clasp may be the hand
of an Angel Unaware.

Though  your heart may be breaking,
it will pass in a little while.
The stranger may be aching
for the sunshine of your smile.

And, in your hereafter,
you may rejoice at finding,
the stranger that you entertained
was an Angel Unaware. 

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Autographed "Cowboy Princess" Books

When Cheryl Rogers' book, Cowboy Princess, came out several years ago, I couldn't wait to read it. I got it from the library as soon as they had a copy and it soon became one of my favorite Roy and Dale books. She has such a great style. Like she is talking to you alone. She remembers a lot about the earlier days with her parents and she tells a lot of stories. Her chapter about Trigger is great, as she remembers getting to ride Trigger around unaccompanied.


Sadly the book went out of print very soon and I couldn't find an affordable copy. Then I discovered that Cheryl has a personal website and that she was selling copies of it. AND she would autograph it for you! Swell! Sarah and I decided to buy ourselves a present and we ordered them. They arrived last week and are absolutely wonderful. Beautifully autographed and personalized. We couldn't be happier. This is definitely a book that I will read over and over.

If anyone is interested in getting a copy, here is the link to her website.


Sunday, December 25, 2011

Pt. 3 - Roy Rogers' Favorite Christmas Story

"And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night."

After Mary and Joseph, the animals in the stable were the first to see Him, in His swadling clothes. . . . The animals - then the shepherds from the hills. The shepherds were the first men to come. The people in the courtyard may have looked in at Him and smiled, and gone away never knowing what they had seen, but the shepherds came, and they came because they knew, and they came to worship. Out on the hillsides, watching their sheep, they had heard a great strange music. . . .

The shepherds heard the angels sing: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will . . . " Peace? For the shepherds, who got kicked around by everybody? Good will? Who had anything good to say about a shepherd? You were really out of luck, if you had to watch sheep for a living; that was about as far dwn as you could go. But my Bible says the shepherds heard it first, and that they came first to worship the little King who would make them the equals of anyone in the world. They had waited a long, long time for this night - ever since Abraham was a shepherd in Ur, ever since David was a shepherd in Bethlehem, believing what the angels had told them. They came first because they were the first to understand that this was the Good Shepherd . . .

They were poor, so they couldn't have brought any Christmas presents - oh, maybe a little milk, or wool, or a baby lamb. But their gifts weren't important. They brought themselves. It was all the Baby would have wanted from them. Did you ever stop to think, at Christmas, that the only gift He wants from you is you? Christmas is giving time - time for giving ourselves.

We don't think enough about those shepherds. We talk about how they came to Bethlehem; how about looking how they left Bethlehem? They left it "glorifying and praising God" - and man, that's important. I'll bet they sang all the way home. Anyone who meets Jesus Christ goes away singing.

Something happened to the shepherds. They didn't go home and sit around the rest of their lives dreaming about what happened that night. They told everybody about it, and "all who heard about it wondered." It figures. They had to tell everybody. I never knew a happy man who was a quiet man, who could keep his mouth shut about whatever was making him happy.

Christmas is telling time - wondering time. Wonder enough about it, and you'll know, and you'll tell about it. . . .

Sunday, December 11, 2011

P. 2 - Roy Rogers' Favorite Christmas Story

"But thou, Bethlehem . . . though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be the ruler in Israel. . . ." Mary knew this. She knew her Baby was the Promised One, the One promised by the prophets and the Book and God. She knew she was the blessed "handmaid of the Lord," through whom the Son would come.

That's what fascinates me about Christmas. It isn't just a day to pass around presents to everybody, or one day in the year when you're nice to everybody whether you love 'em or loathe 'em; this is the day God Almighty chose to give us His only begotten Son, through Mary of Nazareth. How can we miss that?

Most of the folks in Bethlehem missed it, when poor frantic Joseph knocked on the door of a little inn and asked for a room. . . .

". . . there was no room for them at the inn."

"And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger. . . . "

So the Baby was born in the cold, unfriendly night, in a cave cut in the side of a hill, in a bed of straw, in a stable. In Bethlehem, when you ask to see the place where Christ was born, you are taken to a little rock-bound room. There is a big stone church built above it now, with great high beautiful pillars and alters with gold and silver and precious stones, but people who go there now never pay much attention to that. They hurry through the church and take little candles in their hands and go down a flight of narrow twisting stone stairs worn smooth by the feet of saints and sinners and scholars and common folks, into the little rock cave underneath the floor of the church. They stand there hushed, some of them with big tears running down their cheeks, and they look down at the big golden star set in the floor to mark the place where the manger was, where He was born. Princes and paupers come, high and low, good and bad, just to stand for a few minutes where the innkeeper tried to turn Joseph and ary and the Baby away. They come into the place through a door that's only four feet high, so low that you have to bow to get through it. No matter who or what they are, they bow as they approach the manger.

You stand there, and all the world stands still around you, and you hear nothing and see nothing but the Baby in the feeding-box where the oxen came to eat, and if you've got a heart, it breaks. That's Christmas to me: standing at the manger. . . .