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Writing Stories

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View from the outdoor cafe

I’m sitting at an outdoor coffee bar that serves a lot more than just coffee. It overlooks a sports arena, downtown buildings, and a commuter train railway. There is also an airport close by. A few minutes ago an airplane flew past while at the same time a train and a bus rolled along. Everyone is going someplace.

It’s interesting to observe the mix of people in this place. There are all shapes and sizes and I count at least six different nationalities. Most seem quite happy. I suspect the median age is late 30’s and I suddenly realize I’m pulling the curve up instead of down.

Most conversations I overhear seem pretty light. If I had to guess, I would say there is one budding romance across the way. They are all smiles and laugh even if what was said may not have been particularly funny. A trio of ladies have gathered for drinks and are swapping stories about their respective “crazy” day. An elderly man is by himself staring into his glass deep in thought.

I wonder what their stories are?

We all have them. We’re all on a journey. All of us are hopeful our story comes to a happy and peaceful conclusion. We’re all writing stories.

I can’t help but wonder how God’s eternal and perfect plan—His story for us—is possibly taking place at this exact moment in each one of our lives. There just seems to be too much going on, too many  details, too many people, too many possible outcomes. How can it be that God is in control and that “…every day of my life was recorded in His book and every moment laid out before a single day had passed” (Psalm 139:16)? How can this be true right now, right here in this coffee bar?

I know God lives in eternity and is outside all of nature’s laws regarding time and space. It is difficult to try and comprehend. My Dad loved to tell me that this meant “God has all the ‘time’ in the world to focus on me and me alone for my entire life—every moment of every day.” That both thrills and terrifies me. But I do believe that in some mysterious God-ordained-free–will way, we write our story with uncoerced choices which fit exactly into God’s eternal plan. 

Maybe David was sitting in a coffee bar (circa 1000 BC) drinking a strong black coffee (no way King David drank lattés) thinking about some of these things. Why does the Almighty God–with that kind of power and ability–unconditionally love and care for someone like me? Why would he even care about my story and even desire that “through his mighty power at work within me, accomplish infinitely more than I might ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20)? It’s too outlandish to imagine.

But He does. And so David had to say what I’m feeling at this moment, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand” (Psalm 139:6).

I need another strong black coffee.

Award Winning Book

Fun summer reading. “Monkeys In My Coconut Tree” by Ed Thompson, is a compilation of fun, easy-to-read stories of fun, family, and faith. It was a Reader’s Favorite 2016 Silver Medal Winner. So come on, check it out. Read some of the reviews and download your copy by clicking HERE. (Also available at Amazon.com, iTunes and others.)

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Sheet Trouble

hiding-underneath-pillow

My wife has the flu. So last night she suggested I may want to sleep in the guest bedroom. “The only thing is,” she explained, “you’ll need to put sheets on the bed.” She then drew me a map as to where to find the sheets in the hall closet, took some NyQuil, and went to sleep.

Soon after I found myself standing beside the guest bed trying to determine how to put the sheet with the curved elastic corners onto the mattress. “I have a college degree,” I said to myself trying to figure out which side of the sheet was the length and which side was the width.

I managed to get one curvy corner over one side of the mattress on the foot of the bed and then stretched the other curvy corner to the top of the bed only to have the bottom side pop off. Undeterred, I put the top side on and then stretched it down to the bottom only to have the top side pop off. “I must be using the wrong side,” I told myself. So using my suspect math skills, I spun the sheet by a quarter and tried again. Same thing.

I stared at the sheet looking for instructions or at least arrows pointing in the direction the sheet is supposed to go. Talk about a manufacturing oversight. I spun that lousy piece of sheet on the bed at least 15 different times trying to find the right configuration but the closest I ever came was to get three corners. That’s when it occurred to me I must be using the wrong sized sheet.

I followed my map back to the closet, pulled out a new sheet with elastic corners and tried again. This time, I managed to get all four corners of the sheet onto the mattress even though the elastic corners were desperately searching for some crevice they could cling to. When I laid down, everything seemed to work when suddenly, all four corners simultaneously popped off and enveloped me like a giant cocoon.

I was laying in my white cocoon considering checking into a nearby hotel, when I realized I didn’t care if the lousy bed sheet was on correctly or not. After all, I spent my entire freshman year of college without bedsheets and was certain I could manage until my wife got over the flu. Besides, the cocoon was perfectly comfortable and even eliminated my need to use the other sheet in the set – the one without the elastic corners.

Engulfed in my soft cocoon, I started thinking that perhaps I had stumbled onto something that would be perfect for the “As Seen On TV” section at Walgreens. “Why pay for two sheets when all you need is one?” would be my slogan. Then, in my very expensive Super Bowl ads, you’d see happy people jumping into their beds in slow motion only to be lusciously swallowed up in fluffy white cocoons of cotton on top of bare mattress pads.

I must admit it was rather gratifying knowing I could help millions of men who would never get their elastic cornered sheets to stay on without staple guns. With that happy thought, I pulled a pillow into my cocoon, drew a soft blanket over the top, and fell asleep. Solving problems for millions of men, after all, is exhausting.

A Colorblind Life

Most colorblind people cannot see the image above.

Most colorblind people cannot see the image above.

I needed a few things at Office Depot and was looking over the selections when a stranger walked up to me with a pair of headphones in his hand. He politely said, “Excuse me, I hate to bother you, but I’m trying to buy these for my daughter. Could you tell me what color these are?” He lifted them up for me to see as he added, “I’m colorblind.”

What he obviously did not know is that I am also colorblind. So when he lifted the headphones up for my eyes to see, I had absolutely no idea what color they were. The only thing I knew for certain was they weren’t plaid.

Undeterred, however, I leaned over, took a good look and said, “I believe they are blue.” The man smiled, said, “Thank you,” and went on to explain his daughter liked blue but disliked purple. He was turning around to leave when I added, “I suppose I should tell you that I, too, am colorblind.”

There was a special moment as four colorblind eyes met. Through the fog of unknown shades of color, we instantly bonded in a world where, without help, neither one of us can buy ripe bananas.

We just stood there, blinking, reflecting on the countless times we had asked total strangers, “What color is this?”

He finally broke the awkward silence and asked, “Can you see stop lights?” I stood tall and replied with a confident, “Nope.” That’s right; think about that the next time you pull up to a stop light. Especially if I, or my X chromosome deficient friend, is in the car coming the other direction.

My colorblindness was discovered in the first grade. My parents sent me to a private school run by a sweet Lutheran German lady who could bend horseshoes with her bare hands. Corporal punishment was the behavioral modification technique of choice and apparently, I required regular modification. When she said, “Take out the green crayon and color the grass,” she meant it. It wasn’t until my third or fourth behavioral modification session that it began to dawn on the Lutheran that perhaps I wasn’t intentionally coloring the grass red.

Colorblindness is classified as a “mild handicap,” and no matter how much you argue it doesn’t qualify for a handicap sticker. About 8% of the male population is colorblind and, to the relief of the fashion world, it is rare for women to have faulty retinal cones causing colorblindness.

We do, in fact, see colors. Being colorblind means you’re not able to perceive the differences. It’s really no big deal unless you want to be a doctor, pilot, police officer, painter, electrician, fire fighter, or buy ripe fruit.

It’s no surprise then, that I honestly don’t care what color something is. It just doesn’t factor in. My wife could paint our entire house lime-green (which I’m told is not a good house color) and it wouldn’t bother me in the least. In fact, when I first started dating the pretty girl who is now my wife, she was the first one to inform me that the nice pair of khaki pants I bought in college were, in fact, lime green.

Standing in the Office Depot aisle with my new colorblind friend, we shared a few laughs about coping in our color-coordinated world — things like trying to match dress socks or a necktie with a suit. Watching me attempt either of those things is a source of great entertainment for my kids.

About this time an Office Depot clerk came around so my new friend politely asked, “Excuse me, but what color are these?” The clerk took a quick glance, gave us a strange look and said, “bright purple.” I watched as the clerk helped locate a pair of blue headphones and couldn’t help but smile. He was wearing khaki pants, just like the ones I bought in college.

Elliptical Gym Confusion

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My daughter is getting married soon, so I thought it would be a good idea to get in better shape. After all, when the pastor asks, “Who gives this woman to be married to this man,” I don’t want to be doubled over trying to catch my breath after walking her down the aisle.

I joined a little neighborhood gym offering month-to-month memberships which seemed like a good idea. It had been a long time since I had been in a gym with the purpose of actually using it, so I had my doubts about lasting even the first month. The other good thing was that this gym is real close to a Cuban bakery so I would be able to reward myself with a guava pastry after my vigorous workouts.

Like most gyms, there is a row of treadmills the size of Mini Coopers perfectly positioned so if one person falls off to the side, he or she will knock everyone else in the row over like giant dominoes. I stepped up to the NASA built console and began pushing buttons waiting for something to happen. After 15 minutes, my treadmill was still motionless, but I had given my index finger a hearty workout. I wondered if that constituted a sufficient workout deserving of a pastry.

While I was mulling this over, I noticed a lonely elliptical machine which seemed to have a minimal array of buttons and blinking lights. I got off the treadmill, sucked in my belly as I walked past some nicely shaped leotards about half my age, and strolled over to the lonely machine.

I really had no idea what “elliptical” meant and made a mental note to look it up when I got home. Remembering I constantly misplace my mental notes, I used my cellphone and called myself and left a message. “Hello Ed, this is Ed. What’s up? Listen, I’m at the gym and was wondering if you could find out what “elliptical” means when you get home. Thanks. I hope you’re having a good day. Talk to you later.” I also left my cell number so I could call myself back.

I figured out the elliptical machine console and spent the next half hour or so working up a legitimate and healthy sweat. I was so pleased with my workout, in fact, I decided to bypass my well deserved Cuban pastry reward. I made a mental note to have an extra stack of pancakes for breakfast.

When I got home, I checked my messages and was surprised to see I had missed a call from myself. The message was to find out what “elliptical” meant so I could have a better understanding of what I was subjecting my body to during those long, rhythmic, circular, oval shaped motions on that machine.

Dictionary.com explained that elliptical means, “pertaining to or having the form of an ellipse,” which of course was no help at all. A secondary definition says it means, “tending to be ambiguous, cryptic, or obscure” of which I certainly agreed.

Obviously a look at the word, “ellipse” would clear up the matter. Here is the actual definition of “ellipse” from Dictionary.com: “a plane curve such that the sums of the distances of each point in its periphery from two fixed points, the foci, are equal. It is a conic section formed by the intersection of a right circular cone by a plane that cuts the axis and the surface of the cone. Typical equation: (x 2 / a 2 ) + (y 2 / b 2 ) = 1. If a = b the ellipse is a circle.”

After reading the definition, I had to take a nap.

The next day at the gym, I stopped at the front desk as I glanced at the elliptical machine with a wary eye. I was certain the nice young man could help so I asked him if he could verify that “a = b” on that machine or if, at least, the foci were equal.

He looked up at me with a blank stare and pleasant smile and after a long pause said, “Hola, puedo ayudarle?”

I called myself and left a message to learn Spanish.

Shocking!

I remember as if it were yesterday.  It was a hot summer day and as usual, I was shirtless and shoeless. My little five-year-old feet carried me into our small storage room where I was determined to find out why my Dad had warned me; “Never stick anything into a wall socket.”  I had a screwdriver in my hand.

Two small steps led down to the cement floor storage room where the wall socket stood, waiting, next to an old refrigerator. Light shone through the open door illuminating the 110 voltage receptacle of electrons and protons.  It was calling to me. I walked over and slowly moved the long flathead toward the socket.  “Yes, yes,” it whispered.  A trickle of sweat ran down my face as the tip of the screwdriver entered the small hole. Nothing.  “Further,” it called to me.  I gripped the screwdriver tight and pushed.

???????????????????????????????????????The next thing I knew the outlet reached out and grabbed my hand and violently squeezed so tight I thought my hand would crush.  At the same instant, proton and electron minions flew out of the outlet with an evil laugh and started jabbing my arms, shoulders, and legs with millions of tiny needles.  I tried to let go of the screwdriver, but the wall socket just sneered and shook me so hard my teeth rattled.

I tried to scream, but the protons had zapped all the air out of my lungs.  At the same time, the electrons opened a valve without my permission which allowed a rapid flow of a certain fluid to exit my body.  I would later try to blame the dog for that particular mess, but my soiled pants and frizzy hair told a different story.

After what seemed like several hours but in reality was only a few seconds, the evil socket simply let go and slunk back into the wall.  The angry protons and electrons sat around pricking my skin for a while, but finally left leaving behind wobbly legs, ashen skin, and glazed eyes.  When I was finally able to catch my breath, I let out a blood curdling scream that caused my Dad to leap some 10 feet into the air before running to my rescue.

I don’t remember much else about that little experience, except thinking I was surely going to be in big trouble for disobeying my Dad and almost electrocuting myself.  Instead of being punished, however, I remember lots of hugs and kisses that day.  Even, I think, an extra scoop of ice cream.

While I learned my lesson and am pleased to say I have never again stuck anything into a wall socket, I still find myself standing there “holding a screwdriver.”  It’s just that today, the “wall sockets” calling to me are completely different.

God provided us a list of 10 rules to live by and to paraphrase said, “Listen to me, my child.  I’m telling you this because I love you and know what will happen if you disobey.  Don’t have any other god but me. Don’t misuse my name or try to replace me with some worthless idol. Don’t murder or commit adultery. Don’t steal or lie or even covet what someone else has. Honor your father and mother and remember the Sabbath and keep it holy” (see Exodus 20).

The notion that God’s rules cramp our lifestyle or keep us from enjoying life “smells like smoke,” as my old pastor was fond of saying.  The truth is, God knows exactly what happens when we stick screwdrivers in wall sockets. He gave us His rules because He loves us, wants to protect us, and wants the very best for us.

Now…if we would only just listen.

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Miralax Cocktails

Slightly after turning 50, my doctor informed me it was time for me to have a colonoscopy.  He also told me I should lose 30 pounds.  Obviously, I need a new doctor.

I was thinking about his recommendations over lunch while sipping on a chocolate milkshake after eating a double bacon cheeseburger.  I have spent a lifetime filling my colon with vast quantities of (mostly) edible substances and have very few complaints regarding its performance.  So I was a little dubious as to why, just because I turned 50, I should allow a total stranger to, well, explore my nether regions like a Conquistador searching for a “Lost Polyp of Gold.”

Now, I take to heart God’s directions to Noah and his family after the great flood. God blessed them and told them, “All the animals of the earth, all the birds of the sky, all the small animals that scurry along the ground, and all the fish in the sea… I have given them to you for food, just as I have given you grain and vegetables” (Genesis 9:2-3). And while the Bible has much more to say about food (including the sin of gluttony), it does make it clear that food is a blessing and something we should enjoy.  I, for one, am doing my best to do just that.

As I finished off a wonderful Philly Cheesesteak smothered with provolone cheese, sautéed mushrooms and caramelized onions for dinner, I looked up the benefits of completing the “procedure.”  While the one major “con” makes one rather queazy, there is little debate that early screening is a proven life saver.

So it was, several weeks later with Miralax in hand, I began the process of “cleansing” my fifty year old plumbing in preparation for my “C-Day.”  As a hearty eater with a particular fondness for generous splashes of Tabasco and large gobs of wasabi, I began  my “liquid only” fast and chugged the first 32 ounces of my Miralax/Gatorade cocktail with haughty boldness.

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Colonoscopy preparation tool

The first rumblings began a couple hours later.  At first, I wasn’t certain if the audible reverberations were simply a cry for food or caused by the Miralax cocktail.  I quickly learned, it was indeed the cocktail.  This was also about the time I remembered ignoring my wife’s concerns that our septic tank was backing up.

I do not recall reading anywhere in the “colonoscopy preparation” documents about having a plunger handy once the Miralax cocktail has begun to take effect, but that is a serious oversight.  Even more so once the second 32 ounces of the devilish cocktail have been consumed.  Likewise, there really should be suggestions about removing such things as bathroom mats and rugs in the event one is otherwise detained and cannot reach the plunger in time.

Later, as I lay on a gurney awaiting the sweet relief of sleep induced by Propoful, I knew my colon had never been so clean or empty.  When I awoke a moment later, the procedure was over and the doctor informed me all was well.  He then complimented me on the fine job I had done with my preparation.  A gesture I almost forgot to pass on to the plumber.

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Surviving the End of High School Athletics

When it comes to recalling my athletic exploits, the axiom is true, “The the older I get the better I used to be”. The truth is, however, most of my athletic memories involve hospital rooms, casts, crutches, and Extra Strength Tylenol. I had a heart for football but knees for X-box.

My wife, Jenn, never actually saw me play football when we were students at Wheaton College. She did, however, visit me in the hospital where I slightly embellished how I sustained my season-ending knee ligament tear.  If memory serves, it was whilst tossing a perfect 127 yard touchdown pass between 8 defenders while being tackled by 14 rabid linebackers, the opposing team coaches, and a few cheerleaders.  It was quite a play.

David surrounded by family on Senior Day

I exchanged my football cleats for a seat in the bleachers long ago.  And what a great seat it has been.  Front row and center for the past twelve years; a constant barrage of football, soccer, basketball, volleyball, baseball games and practices.  But then, in an instant, it came to a jolting stop.  Our youngest played his last high school game and suddenly, it was all over.

We knew this day was coming.  It had to.  It took a slow, inevitable route beginning with our oldest.  I distinctly remember his last high school football game and the slow, agonizing walk off the field. Shoulders were slouched giving way to heavy sobs.  And my son wasn’t doing much better, either.

But when our eldest son’s high school athletic career came to an end, we still had two more to cheer on.  That meant our calendar remained full of football, soccer, basketball, volleyball, and baseball.  Then suddenly, my daughter’s soccer games were over; then her volleyball.  The writing was on the wall the entire time, but with one kid still in the system, the busyness continued.  Then, on a normal day, our last high school game was played and just like that, it was over.

Erma Bombeck said she took a very practical view on raising children.  She put a sign in each of their rooms which read, “Checkout time is 18 years”.

My wife continues to remind me that our job as parents is to prepare our children for “checkout time.”  As custodians of God’s prized possessions, we hope and pray we’ve filled them with confidence, dreams, determination, and faith and trust in a loving God.

When checkout time arrives, the ones with the biggest adjustments are often us parents.  We go from years of whirlwind activity to the unfamiliar territory of calm and quiet.  Suddenly, it’s just the two of us again and that’s both exciting and a little scary, too.

As it turns out, hanging out with my wife is pretty awesome.  And to my great relief, I think she likes hanging out with me, too.  So, it appears we’re going to survive the end of high school athletics. And if our recent trip out west is any indication, this new chapter  in our lives is going to be rather fun and exciting.

Today, highlighted on our calendars, are those wonderful college break visits and vacation days.  And of course, just because they’ve “checked out”, doesn’t mean they won’t be visiting.  After all, right next to that “checkout” sign is another sign that reads “welcome home”.

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P.S.  To our great delight, our youngest (David) is continuing his athletic career at the University of Miami.  We have many football and baseball games yet to enjoy.

2009 Thompson Family Christmas Letter

Matt, Jenn, David, Ed & Abby

Warm Christmas greetings from the Thompson Family. Or, as the Spanish Santa’s say here in the malls of Miami, “Jo, Jo, Jo.”

Jenn and I took a moment to reflect on this past year to see if we had anything exciting to report. After a few minutes we realized 2009 was far more eventful than we had initially thought…so we took a nap.

Feeling refreshed, here’s a quick look at our year in review:

Matt (22) graduated from college! That is a wonderful, amazing sentence that wears us out all by itself. Now that a diploma from Florida International University hangs on Matt’s wall, he can always proudly say, “I was the first child to graduate from college in my family…” We are, or course, very proud of Matt. And now, the real world begins for this college graduate…

With that said, the ink was barely dry on his diploma when he was off to Macon, Georgia to begin his “Development Intern” job at First Presbyterian Day School. My brother, Gregg, just so happens to be the Head Master. Gregg was looking for someone with creative abilities to produce promotional videos, webcast school games and special events, speak at chapels, and generate even more excitement, energy, and school spirit for a great high school.

Laura & Matt

That job description had “Matt” written all over it. He is also a football coach once again and has even added “swim coach” to his vast repertoire of things he can do.

But far more exciting than any of these things is… he is getting quite serious with a young lady named Laura, who is as beautiful on the outside as she is on the inside. Jenn and I are way too young for any of this…we need another nap.

Abby, (19) is a sophomore at Samford University in Birmingham where she is studying the cognitive and corporal effects of college on two hours of sleep per night. She has always been a blur of activity… now she must be seeing everything blurry, too.

She somehow manages to keep up with her studies in between her Facebooking and nimble fingered texting. And while this sounds a bit strange, it does make my day to get a text from Abby that says, “Luv u Daddy.” Abby continues to study Exercise Science. She is still very interested in helping people who need prosthetics, but is developing an interest in working with children who have autism as well.

Abby

She’s in a tough major requiring lots of long hours of study… and I have no doubt, a little extra sleep would help. She loves her Zeta Tau Alpha sorority and has made some great friends. She now has a “big” and a “little” which I’m told means something important. And because she is always awake, she is also the sorority’s intramural chairman planning all their sports teams and events.

Needless to say, this beautiful and energetic girl with a gorgeous smile has a long list of would-be suitors. I have calmly responded by developing a deep and intimidating scowl I’m hoping young men sense and fear from hundreds of miles away.

Abby seems to have developed some sort of immunity to my scowl, however. She knows she can soothe the savage beast with a simple gaze and smile in my direction. It’s not fair. I need a nap.

Most would agree that David (16) had a pretty good year. He started 2009 helping lead his team to their first State Baseball Championship since 1998. David was the only freshman on the team, but led Westminster Christian in home runs, batting average, and other such nice things.

The great season helped David become a First Team All-State Team selection, a First Team All-Miami Dade selection, and to top things off, a MaxPreps All-American (the top 30 baseball freshman in the country). So, yes, I suppose he had a pretty good year.

When the 2009 football season rolled around, David, now a sophomore, had the opportunity to put on the pads and help lead his team back to the playoffs for the first time in six years (Matt’s junior year). As a second year starter, the preseason report by the Miami Herald listed David as one of the top QB’s in Miami. The season concluded with David making the top 10 in several offensive categories for the entire state resulting in him being described as, “the top rated quarterback in Florida for the class of 2012.” Hmmmmm. Matt is quick to remind David, however, that his (Matt’s) 80 yard touchdown pass is still the family record. Even so, you can see some highlights here: David Football Highlights. After attending all his games, Jenn and I need and deserve a long nap.

Dave & Tim Tebow

Meeting Tim Tebow was pretty cool, too. And in case you were wondering, yes, the college letters have begun. Of course, Jenn thinks David being inducted into the National Honor Society was even more impressive than his athletic skills. I know…Jenn is so funny.

Speaking of Jenn, she had a pretty good year, too. She started the new school year at Westminster Christian as the new and very cute Elementary School Principal. Yes, several major changes took place at the Alma Mater of Ed, Matt, and Abby… but none more exciting than Jenn’s new role.

She was promoted from her Assistant Principal job in the Middle School to being in charge of grades PreK – 5th with roughly 60 teachers and over 340 kids to oversee. While most think she is working really hard, the truth is, she’s just reliving her childhood. We especially love to hear the stories of cute little boys and girls who are sent to the Principal’s office for one reason or the other. I tell everyone, “If I worked half as hard as Jenn, I’d actually get somewhere.” Jenn would take a nap if she had the time…

As for Mr. Ed, well, I am working on a very exciting project at LOGOI called our “Virtual Pastor’s Office.” It’s a brand new way to do missions and we have high hopes for how it can help indigenous pastors and leaders, missionaries, churches, as well as partners in ministry right here in the States. You can get a preview at www.logoibeta.org.

It’s also been great to see three of the singles from my “Beautiful Feet” CD make it to the top 20 of Christian Radio & Retail’s Global Charts. Over 500 stations are playing my songs and soon you’ll even be able to include some of my songs on places like “Pandora Radio” on the internet. My single, “Love Me Anyway” climbed all the way to #2 on the inspirational chart and held a top 20 spot for over 25 weeks. A fourth single is scheduled to be released in January. You can check my website for more details: www.edthompsonlive.com. And come on, invite me to perform at your church already.

Finally, I thought you’d enjoy a little picture of our home decorations this year. We’ve thought about doing this for quite some time as our neighbors get into the Christmas spirit with great gusto. They found a few “empty” spots in their yard this year which they’ve been able to fill with blowup Santa’s, snowmen, ferris wheels, and even a manger scene if you can see through all the penguins. So, we put up our Christmas tree, hung a wreath, and wrote, “Ditto” in lights on our roof with an arrow pointing at the neighbors. A steady stream of cars driving by at night seem to be enjoying our Christmas sentiments. We hope you do, too.

Merry Christmas, from our house to yours. May the love and grace of Jesus fill our hearts and lives. “Ditto!”

The Thompsons

Limo Rides

When was the last time you rode in a limo?
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I asked this question to my office staff the other day because my son, David, had recently ridden in a limo to his school homecoming party.  I had asked him how he was planning on getting to the party, since as a typical teenager, he seems to be under the impression that his parents are sitting around anxiously waiting for opportunities to jump up at a moments notice and drive him where ever he wants to go.

David simply shrugged and said, “We’re taking a limo.”

Now, one may think this sort of matter-of-fact answer would shock me.  David, however, is my youngest child, meaning I’ve been through this twice before.  So his matter-of-fact comment about a fancy limo taking him to a party got my standard answer, “Oh?”

“Oh?” by the way, is a great answer to almost anything a teenager says.  You have to say it as a question, of course, which not only does it cause the teenager to elaborate, but it’s a great delay tactic giving your brain a chance to race through variables associated with their irrational comments—most of which will have something to do with time and money.

“Yes,” David replied in a low, teenage mumble, “a group of us are taking a limo.”  Now, the last thing I want to spend money on is a limo ride to a homecoming party, so I gave him my, “Do I look like Donald Trump?” scowl.  This caused David to quickly mumble, “Don’t worry Dad, the limo isn’t going to cost us anything.”  To which I immediately perked up and said, “Wow, a limo!  That’s sounds like a lot of fun.”

But I started thinking about this whole limo concept.  I mean, with the exception of politicians and the Donald Trumps of this world, limos are used when you want (and can afford) to do something extravagant and special.  In my impromptu office survey, for example, the only limo rides taken were at weddings—and neither was mine.

I couldn’t help but consider the stark contrast of living in a “limo-available” country and a very special mission trip I was able to take last month to Cuba.  Now, I suspect there are a few limos somewhere in Cuba, but it is definitely not a “limo-available” place.

A group of us were able to take some relief supplies into Cuba after Hurricane Ike tore across the country.  We had the privilege of visiting some homes and churches of local pastors.  One pastor’s family and home particularly sticks out in my mind.  They were a handsome family. They stood in the front of their little church and smiled at us and we smiled back.  Beautiful little girls holding hands, well groomed, cute dresses.  Beautiful.

Their house church, which perhaps could seat 20 if everyone squeezed in tight, somehow filled up with over 60 each Sunday.  Behind a curtain in the front of the church was their home. After apologizing for the “mess,” they graciously allowed us to walk around—it didn’t take long.

Two sparse bedrooms, a closet for a kitchen—which had a sink and nothing I could see that resembled a stove, and a bathroom whose mirror was a few shards of glass, and empty closets.  Our talkative group went silent as we saw the true picture of their situation.  There were no limos here.

While we thought no one else was looking, several of us left cash gifts to help out.  We also were able to provide gifts of clothes and even some hand-made dolls for the girls lovingly given by a grandma in California.  It felt good to help…even though we know it will all be used up soon.

A few days later, I was back in my beautiful “limo-available” country and my Miami home which featured such luxury items as a working stove, complete mirrors in the bathrooms, and closets full of clothes.  I looked at my well-fed and happy family and couldn’t help but say a prayer of “thanks” to a gracious God who, for reasons I’ll never understand, allowed me to be born and live in this amazing country.

While we certainly have our troubles, I love living in a “limo-available” country.  I may never splurge for one, but I like the idea that I could.  It means I live in a country where God has blessed me with far more than just life’s essentials.  It also means I can joyfully and willingly help others in need.  And of course, opportunities to do just that are everywhere.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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