My Best Christmas Present
Written February 8, 2016
To know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight, to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity; to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth–Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance (Proverbs 1:2-5)
With Christmas now behind us I hope everyone is enjoying their presents they have received and have many fond memories of the holidays. In looking back I received many wonderful presents from my family members. My father game me a pasta maker for my KitchenAid mixer which Grace has been enjoying the fruits of. My mother gave me a number of khaki pants which most of you have seen me wear on Wednesday nights and Allison gave me an amazing 7 quart Lodge enameled cast iron dutch oven that I have thoroughly enjoyed cooking with.
However, in looking back, there is one present I received that really leaves all the other things in the dust. This gift I received had no tag upon it nor was it wrapped in colorful paper, but it is the best thing that I received and I would not exchange it for all the inventory in Le Creuset and William Sonoma combine. What is this amazing present? I got to play 3 games of chess with my grandfather with the same chess set he taught me to play on when I was a little boy.
Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!
Back when I was about 7 or 8 my grandfather, in his living room, taught me to play chess. He had a wooden chess set that resided in a cedar box in their attic and I remember going up in their attic, getting that box, and then getting a old cardboard checkerboard that was in their magazine rack and we would play when my sister and I spent the night at their house.
Now truth be told, I lost countless times to my grandfather. I grasped the concepts of how to move the various chess pieces but I lacked the know-how to use the pieces effectively and win a game of chess.
Those were simple but profound times in my life. I would go through a week of school and look forward to going to my grandparents’ house during the weekend. Finally, Friday would arrive and the weekend would begin and I would be able to have a fun filled weekend with “Mamaw and Papaw.” While I was there I knew I would have a chance to play chess and it would be just me and my grandfather. My sister never took a liking to chess and this would be our time together. Looking back those were glorious times, simple, and filled with fun.
I got to experience that again this Christmas. On the day of the children’s Christmas play my grandparents and my mother road together to see Grace perform and afterwards we ate lunch at the house and they stayed for the cantata that night. While we were all together I asked my grandfather if he wanted to play some chess and he said yes. The old cardboard checkerboard had long been replaced by a very nice wooden board I purchased when I was in college but the pieces were the same, still stored in their cedar box.
We ended up playing three games which brought me back to days I had forgotten. I was transported back to my grandparents house. It would be Friday night and I would have a half-eaten bowl of vanilla ice cream drenched in Hersey’s chocolate syrup in front of me, hoping that my grandfather wouldn’t see my knight ready to attack his queen. The game hadn’t changed, the pieces were the same, and the players were much older but still the same. Best of all the joy that those games brought were just the same.
Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching, for they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck.
I have found in those few games a great deal of wisdom. In those couple of games I was reminded that I was more elated being there with my grandfather than any gift I would ever get from under the tree. There was something almost magical in those moments and what I realized is that the magic was the connection. It was the time we spent making memories together that made those games so special and I knew it was time well spent because it reminded me that those were the moments that molded and shaped my life.
So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.
Moses wrote in Psalm 90, “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” One of the things spoken of here is the proper understanding of the value of time and that when we have that proper understanding we will be wise in our choices and how exactly we use our time. Let’s be honest, this is a lesson we can all benefit from because time is something we are all guilty of wasting and frittering away on amusements and other things of little value.
Our phones, television, the internet, and our hobbies are all things that bide for our time. Though they are not bad in and of themselves they can sometimes steal us away from priceless events in our lives.
One of those events was the chance to play chess with my grandfather. I could have done a hundred other things at the house that day but none would have given me the joy of making memories with my grandfather.
Here’s the thing, two things had to be present in order for all this to happen. First, I had to act on the opportunity presented to me. If I hadn’t gotten the chessboard from on top of the desk in the hallway nothing would have happened. The second is this, my grandfather, thirty years ago, back in the early 80’s had to take the time to sit down with me and teach me how to play chess. He had to take the time to sit and play with me and tolerate my mistakes and have the patience that was needed to teach a young boy how to play a somewhat difficult game, and he did.
Because he sowed those seeds years ago I was changed. I had joyful memories that in turn yielded more joyful memories, but more importantly I was changed. Playing chess became a small part of my life and it has followed me all of my days. Because of what he did so long ago I was changed.
My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you.
Do we see the little things we do with the people we love as amazing events that mold and shape lives? I’m sure my grandfather didn’t have that in mind when he taught me to play chess or when we played horse in the backyard but in looking back they were huge events in my life.
I believe that is part of what Psalm 90 teaches, that there is no such thing as unimportant times spent together. If we want to be able to number our days we have to first see how valuable time is and treat it as precious.
So what do we do? How do we seize these moments of influence in our children and grandchildren’s lives?
Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold.
First, to the grandparents out there let me encourage you in all that you do with your grandchildren. Keep doing it! Keep taking them fishing, keep baking cookies with them, keep playing board games with them. It has great meaning and will turn into times more precious than jewels. Those times are seeds that you are sowing into their hearts and through those seeds will come a harvest of character. Pray with them, read the Bible with them, take them to church, and worship with them. Encourage their faith, encourage their curiosity, and let them see your faith and love of God. It will change them.
When I was a son with my father, tender, the only one in the sight of my mother, he taught me and said to me, “Let your heart hold fast my words; keep my commandments, and live.
To all the parents out there, seize the moments that you have with your kids and enjoy them. Use the opportunities that God gives you to instruct and grow their faith, character, and minds. Beware because there is so much that is out there that can distract or muddle the time that we spend together. Work hard at finding those things that make memories and build the relationship you have with your kids. Don’t settle for just taking your kids to the movies, break out the video camera on your phone and make a silly movie together you can show the next time Christmas rolls around. Don’t just take them to basketball practice, play a game of horse with them in the back yard. They might not learn anything about that will help them win a basketball game but they will gain memories that will make them laugh and cry tears of joy one day. Find that one board game that everyone loves and play until the dice can’t roll any more. I guarantee opportunities will arise for you to share your wisdom you have accumulated about life, God, and the truly important things in this life.
Keep hold of instruction; do not let go; guard her, for she is your life.
Children, kids, and youth from those that have graduated college all the way down to those that cannot even read the words I am writing, don’t resist those that love you and want to spend with you. The Scriptures are filled with this compelling plea “Hear, O sons, a father’s instruction…” The greatest lessons of your life will most likely not be taught during the 11 o’clock hour on a Sunday morning, in Sunday School, or even at Caswell. They will come from your moms and dads as you live life. It will come over the dinner table, when you are laughing together, and when you are crying together. These are the memories that you will look back on a cherish and realize how much they changed your life.
My son, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Let them not escape from your sight; keep them within your heart. For they are life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh. Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. (Proverbs 4:20-23)
Let me end this article with my prayer that I hope would be a prayer that each and everyone of us would earnestly pray from our hearts.
Father in heaven I pray that You would teach us to number our days. Let us see the days that are before us as the opportunities You have given to us to love, to teach, to encourage, and to lift up those that are around us. Let us live this life with eternity in mind. I confess that I let too many precious moments slip by that I should use for Your glory, but I know with Your help I can make the most of each day. Please help me remember what is valuable in this life and to cherish the moments You have given. Let us each be an influence to further generations, that they may know You. For it is Your Name I pray. Amen