Outgrown Christmas?


The time for Santa and barns perched quietly under a silent night is upon us and this is the last week of it.

It seems that not only does Christmas come faster and faster each year, but each year I lose more and more interest. So much so that when Baby A. shakes her little collection of jingle bells that Sarabeth stitched together for her, I constantly inquire over the ringing, “You know, we really ought to get you some bells that actually work.”polar-express-bell

(Eh? Anyone? Anyone? If you don’t get it, send this post to Tom Hanks – he’ll appreciate the reference. And if he doesn’t, try sending it to Tom Hanks…)

I was driving home from work one night recently and didn’t even notice the bright array of Christmas lights fashioned on our colonial-style houses lining our street until I reached the end of the road and I thought a policeman was pulling me over.

I’m not any nicer to people in December than I am in May. I can hardly stand to bare one more verse of “Joy to the World” and I kinda want to punch the snowman that looks like a circus clown and use his remains to fill my dog’s water bowl.


But I was thinking. Maybe it’s not so bad not getting into the holiday spirit and Fa-la-la-la-laing around the Christmas tree. I’ve got air in my lungs; a beautiful, funny, nearly-perfect wife (who is the true Top Chef); two trouble-making, sunbeam-obsessed dogs; an adorable, messy, loud, and hilarious baby girl; a job that pays the bills; a healthy and diverse library overflowing with priceless books…

So Christmas. Yeah, it’s nice to get presents and sing “Holy Night” at church with a dimly-lit candlestick dripping hot wax on your hand and all that.

But honestly, maybe life’s good enough as is, and Christmas is just an added sidebar.

Linus Nails It


“Remember when we were all sitting around the Christmas tree, opening our presents? That’s when you said it.”

“That’s when I said what?”

“It was beautiful. You said, ‘Why do we have to be nice to each other only on Christmas? Why can’t we be nice to each other every day?'”

Lucy then storms off, shouting, “You drive me crazy!”

And Linus, having won more TV and beanbag time, concludes in It’s Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown, “Joy to the world.”

Linus seems to nail it every time, doesn’t he?

So, brothers, sisters; husbands, wives; mothers, daughters…

The next time you grow impatient with your loved one, think back to two days ago – the look on their face when they watched you open that Wii console, or that rare edition of your favorite book.

I’ll think about how self-sacrificing my wife was getting me that 40″ LED Smart TV I’ve been bugging her about for over a year. And that ice cream maker. We don’t have room for an ice cream maker in the kitchen, but she knows how obsessed I am with ice cream, so she got it for me anyway.

I think that’s one way we can keep Christmas in our hearts all year long.

Remember December 25th, and how loving our family was in getting us things we don’t need or deserve.

But they went out of their way to get us those things anyway.

Because they love us.

Yes, that’s right, Linus: Joy to the world, indeed.

Win a free autographed copy of my suspense/adventure novel, The Man in the Box. Click here for details. (“Expect dinosaurs and giant creepy-crawlies. And if that kind of thing scares you, then you’re like me, which means you’ll go ahead and read the book anyway, with no one to blame but yourself for all the flinching you’ll do…” -Danielle E. Shipley, author and blogger)

Christmas – A Time to Reflect and Anticipate

sky-night-theme-from-here-this-has-a-static-wallpaperSome people are off from work today, some work half days, and others – well, it’s business as usual.

But today is a very unordinary day – a day that stands out from any other day of the year.

Today, the world holds its breath for those brief moments that bridge the gap between today and that oh-so-special tomorrow.

Many children will try to stay awake all night casting their eyes to the stars, hoping to catch a glimpse of one shooting across the sky.

Some people will make a mad rush to the mall or the nearest Target to grab those last minute gifts – praying that they’re not closed yet.

Families will be gathering around a roast beast tonight, or sitting closely together on church pews, singing about the holiest night in the history of mankind.

The night a baby was born. A baby that created the world.

And a baby that would grow up to change the world.

And we look forward to that grown baby returning once more soon to transform the world.

Christmas is a holiday that is unique.

Whereas other holidays celebrate or remember the past, Christmas extends its arms backward in time and forward.

We pause and reflect on the wonder that was, and anticipate the wonder that will be.

If the candid birth of a king that would not be recognized on His time on earth is so catastrophic, so pantomime – imagine His return when not a single person, loyal or not, will be unable to not bow their knee in utter reverence to Him.

Christmas celebrates the birth of Earth’s king, while it cranes its neck forward, leaning in, and begs that king to reclaim His throne and reign supreme forevermore.

Christmas celebrates the past and the future.

But in the present – from midnight tonight to December 26th – what are we to do? How do we reflect and anticipate? How are we to both remember and long for?

By pausing.

Simply pausing. For one meal of the year, let the meal itself last longer than the scrubbing of the dishes.

Put work aside, if you have a choice, and know that money can always be made for the next 364 days.

Laugh with your kids, embrace your wife, tell your husband you love him.

If you’re still awake at midnight tonight, keep those eyes in the sky, but look not for eight reindeer – but imagine a star once shone brightly on a manger showcasing the birth of God whose reign would extend much past his three-day death.

And when the wrapping paper is in the trash and the last spill of Egg-nog has been cleaned up, and the last Christmas show has been watched on the eve of December 25th, stop.

Don’t think about the mundane 26th – that most dreadful and dreary of days where Christmas has passed and winter remains.

But think beyond that day. Think future-ward to the day when the Christ-child will return, not in a bed of straw, but on a flaming chariot.

That night, when He returns will not be so silent, but oh, will it be holy! That triumphant night, that holy night, that night that wipes away every December 26th, and does away with lingering winters, and every day, from that day on will be like Christmas for those who believe; remembering the past, and living in the future.

Merry Christmas.

Win a free autographed copy of my suspense/adventure novel, The Man in the Box. Click here for details. (Toy’s debut novel will leave readers talking and will make them instant fans of his storytelling abilities. -Nicole McManus, reviewer and blogger)

Unmet Plans


I just turned 30 this year, and it was a difficult milestone, as I’m not yet the self-made millionaire I was supposed to be by this time.

I’m a tricky guy; I eat cookie dough and get giddy over a tacky Christmas light displays with all those cheap plastic light-up Santas and snowmen. But deep-down I’ve been a Scrooge. (I turned off the Christmas music a couple of days ago because it was just too much.)

But 2013 has been a difficult year.

I had high expectations to be met by this time.

We were supposed to have a kid by now, be financially stable – no, comfortable, and  have my book be a New York Times bestseller.

But with just thirteen days left of the year, it’s not likely my plans will come through, and my resolutions must be delayed another year.

But, hard as it is for me to admit, God’s plans are right on target.

And, honestly, I hate that.

It’s true that His ways are not our ways. And sometimes I just want to scream, “Why don’t You just make Your ways MY ways?!”

Maybe I’m not alone. Maybe you had big plans for 2013, too. Maybe you were expecting a promotion by now, or hoping to see a friend or family member come to salvation by this point, or… I don’t know, hoping to finish that book, or go on that vacation.

But the December 31st deadline is crushing in on us.

Something I have to realize and come to grips with is that everything’s on schedule according to God’s watch.

It’s easy to write that, and say it. But darn near impossible to believe.

Or if I do believe it deep down, it makes me angry.

Conform your ways to mine, God. You know?

One of the greatest lines of all time is from the movie Fiddler on the Roof. It’s the last verse in Tevye’s song, “If I Were a Wealthy Man”:

Lord who made the lion and the lamb,
You decreed I should be what I am.

And here it is:

Would it spoil some vast eternal plan?
If I were a wealthy man.

It’s meant to be humorous, but it chokes me up every time.

I’m not trying to sound wise or profound here, but I think the answer to that question, as hard as it is to admit, is yes. Yes, if God were to “smite me with money” (or happiness, or wishes-come-true), it would spoil His eternal plan for my life.

I wouldn’t have to work at my day job, and, who knows, make friends with the people I work with; listen to them, laugh with them, witness to them, pray for them. (Not that I’m great at the latter two, but the opportunity is there, nonetheless.)

When self-made deadlines approach and when our dreams fall through, these are truths that are hard to face, but face them we must.

If I’ve learned anything from the Christian life, it’s that hardly anything in it makes sense. And nothing is fair.

But you know what helps? To know that others have been in your place. And they’ve made it through, alive, well, joyful, and healthy.

I guess it’s true that there’s nothing new under the sun.

But you know what? I may not have everything I want, but if I did, what would there be left to fight for?

I want happiness for my wife. I can fight for that.

I want financial comfort for my family. Bring it on.

On my good days, I want my coworkers to know God. Let’s do this.

This is all easy to say and creatively write this in a blog post, but it’s another to believe it.

But, traditionally speaking, Christmas is the time for impossible belief, isn’t it? The miracle at the year’s midnight? The mustard seed planted in the eleventh hour?

And maybe – just maybe – from that seed can sprout a little hope, a little faith. Just enough to start things off for next year. A better year.

A hopeful year.

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Gladdest Noel

I’ve been posting the best unheard of Christmas songs. But this one deserves to have a post all its own. If for some reason, you’re unable to listen to this lyrical song by Evelyn Brush featured on the Christmas CD “Ring the Bells” I have taken it upon myself to write the lyrics out for you below the video.

In a lowly, lonely corner of a dark and dismal earth

What man once lost was found again – hope was given birth.

Calamitous our condition under judgment from the fall

‘Til the gladdest brightest Miracle came down to save us all.

He heard us crying in the night, dying in our sins

So in unblemished love, God slipped into our common skin.

And the Word became flesh and the greatest became least

And swaddling clothes were wrapped around Heaven’s highest Priest.

In teeny, tiny fingers, and teeny, tiny toes

Baby soft and sweet to kiss lay Sharon’s tender Rose.

Desire of all nations, spreading His rich perfume

As morning sheds her glory across the shimmering dew.

Oh, holy night! God of virgin born, prophecy fulfilled! Fathomless… alone.

But the serpent of Eden hissed heinously and groaned!

For the Savior had returned to claim back His rightful own.

The snake, he slid and slithered in reviling rant and rave

For men’s life was not his purpose… he was hellbent on their grave.

So, besniveling from the manger in green-eyed insanity, he crawled off to hew a rugged Cross

From just the perfect tree in search surpassing sinister, yet sovereignly allowed.

He also plucked the perfect thorns  for Rose of Sharon’s brow.

And in these things he had his way but only ’til the stain

Of Jesus’ blood had washed away our sins ’til none remained.

And the wrath of God was violent, and the terror cruel and raw

Not at all the thing we want to see while looking in the straw

At an Infant pure and innocent.

But we must reconcile with this Truth:

The price to set men free was held within this child,

The Lion of Judah, who died for us our death.

Whose throne can be our very hearts whose breath can be our breath

Whose Life can be our life for all eternity.

If we will but accept the gift He sent for you and me

Jesus is His name



Messiah, Deliverer, Emmanuel, Holy One of Israel!

The Prince of Peace!

Almighty Counselor!

Our sinless high Priest!

God of all gods!

Light of all light!

Joy in our sorrow, rest in our nights.

Blessed Redeemer.

Bright Morningstar!

Wonder of wonders,

What a wonder you are!

Comforter, Helper, faithful friend,

Promise keeper of Bethlehem.

King of all kings!

Lord of all lords!

Ancient of days!


Immortal, invisible, merciful One.

Forgiver of every vile thing we have done!

Righteous, victorious, our all in all.

And yet… His eye sees when a wee sparrow falls

And when are weak,

He is Strong.

And when we are wandering, His arms are long.

And when pain runs deep

His love’s deeper still.

If we will but ask Him, He’ll save us, He will.

Beautiful Savior!

Bethlehem’s bloom

Hope for the tiniest forms within the wombs!

Loving, kind rescuer of helpless man,

No one can steal us out of Your hands!



Gladdest Noel

Jesus is born

All is well!

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The “Real” Santa

Everyone pulls out all their favorite Christmas movies this time of year, and it’s not a Christmas movie without some appearance of Santa. But we’re torn between so many different versions of him, it’s hard to decide who we want to most represent him. So I leave the choice to you. Comment below to leave your favorite Santa persona. 

You’ve got your choice of:

Tim Allen

You wouldn’t think divorced, workaholic, estranged father Scott Calvin would be capable of filling the big black boots, but when he’s given the job, he certainly gets it done. His movies may get worse and worse, but try to resist the temptation of leaving him soy milk, if you can – even if he does tell you he’s lactose intolerant! 


Ed Asner gives us a different take on Santa Claus in the movie Elf. He’s kinda mean and grumpy, and doesn’t hesitate to shoo prying kids off with a stick. But you’ve got to give him a break – I’d imagine it’d be tiring being jolly and giddy for so long. But, he’s kind of absent-minded here as well. I mean, was the orphanage really the last place he visited that Christmas Eve when Buddy crawled into the bag? If not, how did he miss the wriggling, crying baby stowaway in his bag the rest of the night? 


In Arthur Christmas, Santa-ing is a job that is passed down in the St. Nicholas family. Malcolm, the man that’s been Santa for the last 70 years, is ready to let one of his sons, Arthur or Steve, take the reigns. (Spoiler: Arthur wins.) So you’ve got your tech-savvy Steve, the inventor of the S-1; Malcolm, who lived to see the crossover from the out-dated sleigh and reindeer; and Arthur, who realizes it doesn’t matter how the gifts get delivered – just that they do. All in all, it’s refreshing to see that Santa’s family is as dysfunctional as the rest of us. And even Santa needs help to pick up the slack for just one missing child.


Who’d have known Santa had red hair? And isn’t it a bit misleading to say that it’s claymation, when clearly they’re all made of wood? Nonetheless, it’s nice to see that even in Santa’s humble origins, he still had a heart of gold. 

Vote for your favorite Santa below, or add your own favorite. 

Win a free autographed copy of my book, The Man in the Box. Click here for details.



Christmas Wish List Part 4


Looking for some last minute Christmas gifts for the book lovers in your life? I’ve compiled a list of the best books I’ve read this year. (See below for last year’s lists for more recommendations.)


Life as We Know it (Susan Beth Pfeffer) – Sarabeth and I read the whole series this year, and despite the political agenda (which eases up with each book), we thoroughly enjoyed them. They’re teen books, but who wouldn’t be interested in reading a dystopian tale about an asteroid knocking the moon closer to earth, throwing everything out of whack, and devastating every survivor on the planet? I’m not sure how there isn’t a movie out about this yet.

The Yearling (Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings) – Disclaimer: Do not read this book while driving, or in public, for that matter. Best to be read by yourself, locked in a room miles from anyone, so that no one can hear you wailing and weeping when you read the final pages.

Life of Pi (Yann Martel) – If you saw the movie and wasn’t that impressed, pick the book up. You’ll be much more impressed.

The Man in the Box (Andrew Toy) – Having never really been impressed with many suspense/adventure books, I’m not sure I can recommend this one enough. It’s about an average family man who discovers an exciting world inside a cardboard box. The more he goes back to it, the more addicted to it he becomes. After all, wouldn’t any man rather be fighting off monsters and running from titanic panthers rather than enduring yet another argument with his wife or kids? This book is often referred to as a darker Narnia.

Biography/History Readers

Elizabeth the Queen (Sally Bedell Smith) – For anyone interested in learning more about the monarchy, this is the book to go to. (Also recommended: The King’s Speech by Mark Logue.)

Close to Shore (Michael Capuzzo) – The coolest shark book you’ll ever read. Even better than Benchley’s Jaws. 

Rawhide Down (Del Quinten Wilbur) – If you love minute-by-minute retellings of little-known incidents in history, this book will tell you all you need to know about the assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan.

Amazing Grace in the Life of William Wilberforce (John Piper)- God, and Christianity has never been a proponent of slavery. Not during Pharaoh’s rule, not during colonial times, and certainly not during the 18th century in Great Britain. Charles Colson raised Wilberforce up as one of his greatest heroes.

Charles Dickens: A Life (Claire Tomalin) – I’m in the middle of this book, and I already know I’ll be returning to it for a second visit very shortly. This is an especially great gift for struggling authors.

My Ideal Bookshelf (Jane Mount and Thessaly La Force) – Can’t decide on a particular book? Then buy 100 bookshelves! This book has book recommendations from well-known actors, poets, artists, authors and more. 

Check out last year’s book recommendations:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3


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