short, sweet, and to-the-point — by Keith Elder

Archive for the month “December, 2013”

“Acknowledgements… Hands Free Mama… and Making Someone’s Day”


My wife, Jean, said, “Keith, you are in here.”

I looked up from my laptop, “In where?”

“In the ‘Acknowledgements’…of Rachel’s book!”

Just that afternoon we had received a delivery from Zondervon Books. To our delight it was our very own advance copy of Rachel Macy Stafford’s new bestseller, Hands Free Mama: A Guide to Putting Down the Phone, Burning the To-Do List, and Letting Go of Perfection to Grasp What Really Matters!  

Jean got the right of “first perusal”, and found the note (page 231, in case you’re interested ). Sure enough, there I was! “…Keith Elder….”  (After that, everything else sort of faded into “yada, yada, yada.” Sorry. Rachel!)  Why would I be mentioned in such a wonderful new work?  I just lucked out. I happened to be serving as pastor of Liberty Crossings UMC in Birmingham, Alabama, where Rachel and her beautiful family (Scott, Natalie and Avery) became very active and supportive members. I did very little.  They were just “wonderful” looking for a place to happen.

Rachel had so many gifts to bring to the table—creativity, passion, attention to detail, just to name a few—and having a “people pleaser” tendency, she could easily have been swallowed up by dozens of church and community commitments.  She almost was.  Fortunately for us, a comment by one of her young daughters brought her to the realization that “Mama” might just be missing out on the best part—that is, her daughters’ childhood!  In her effort to be all things to all people, she was missing a thousand little moments and looks and smiles and stories and hugs and conversations and adventures that truly are here today and gone tomorrow.  It was a wake-up call for Rachel, and, mercy! did she ever wake up!   Her “Hands Free Revolution” now touches literally millions of readers. *

Back to “the acknowledgement”.  It was just a few words…among several pages of acknowledgements…in the back of a 236-page book. (Did I mention…I’m at the bottom of page 231 )  Just a few words, but they meant so much!

With just a few words—spoken or written—we acknowledge someone’s existence…their sacrifice…their gift.

“My life’s better because you are in it.”  

“The way you stepped out and took a chance on your dream gave me the courage to step out and take a chance on mine.” 

It’s a “thank you” to an old school teacher.  It’s a “thank God for you” to that special relative or friend.  It’s a sincere “You made my day” to that coworker who complimented your work or made you laugh.

Acknowledgements.  They are a big deal.

By the way, whoever you are…reading this…I want you to know that you just made my day.



* Please get to know the work and words of Rachel Macy Stafford at Such a gift.

“Mark Zuckerberg for the Nobel Peace Prize?”


It’s not the first time the thought has occurred to me: the possibility that the committee has overlooked an obvious, worthy candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize.  As millions have enjoyed yet another holiday season of reconnecting with friends and family from around the globe, without so much as walking out to their mailbox, I have found myself thinking again: “What other technology, teaching, scientific formula, fictional writing, piece of art, or political leader has done more to connect people in peaceable ways than Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook.

It may have started as a college kid’s idea to revolutionize the dating game, but it has morphed into a world-changing manner of staying in touch with people and groups and issues–in real time. Has it been misused at times?… preyed upon by malevolent spirits and hackers?  Absolutely…but then, what hasn’t?  Evil, all the way back to the Serpent in The Garden, has always found ways to distort the truth and taint even the best of life.  For the most part, though, Facebook has been a good thing.

Question: How many reading these words have enjoyed seeing pics, over the past week, of that faraway soldier-loved one in Iraq or Afghanistan?  How many have seen photos of holiday decorations and favorite dishes, and families opening gifts–pics that almost made you feel like you were there?  Has anyone seen video of folks sharing their renditions of “Frosty the Snowman or “Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer”?  How about generational pics—baby and new mother and grandmother and great-grandmother? How about a baby experiencing their very first Christmas?

Talk about “peace on earth, good will toward men”.  I would venture a guess that ninety-eight percent of what I have experienced over the past week has been good news!  Bridge-building… “let’s be friends”… “miss you”… “wish you were here” material.  Exclude the Duck Dynasty—let’s call it “perspective sharing”—and you have a pretty cool, “We are family!” love fest going—complete with a candle-lit “Silent night…holy night” conclusion.

I’ve shared before that religion, in its purest form, was meant to bring people back together, back to God, back to our best selves. The goal?  Peace.  Shalom.  I, for one, am of the opinion that Facebook has helped to nudge the Earth ball in that direction.

For that reason, I vote, “Mark Zuckerberg for the Nobel Peace Prize in Technology.”

Now,…where do I send my ballot?



“Ramblings on the Phil Robertson ‘Conversation’”


I’ve read quite a bit over the past few days about certain comments made by Phil Robertson of “Duck Dynasty” fame.  Outrage seems to be the one thing we can all agree on.   Outrage at Phil.  Outrage for Phil.  Outrage at secular media. Outrage at A&E.

Call me a wimp, but I’m not taking a side in this conversation—Phil’s for speaking his mind, or gays and lesbians who were offended, or the A&E Network for their decision to suspend Phil from the show.  I’ve just had this flurry of related thoughts and quotes running through the kitchen of my mind.

“I may not be a smart man, but I do know what love is.” –Forrest Gump

It’s amazing how expensive “free speech” can be.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.” –Jesus

“Sayin’ it loud don’t make it right!” –Bill Cosby on, “The Cosby Show”

“A wise person makes knowledge acceptable.” –Proverbs 15:2

“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”   –Mark Twain

Jimmy “the Greek” Snyder… Fuzzy Zoeller… Natalie Maines… Mel Gibson…

“With many words, transgression is unavoidable” –Proverbs 10:19

Overheard: “Since when does a secular media have to remind Christians to be kind. Whatever happened to ‘Be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another.’  I guess we all pick our one another’s.”

“Some people wield the love of God like a twenty-pound hammer. That ain’t Jesus.” –Unknown

Anyone who says, “I have no regrets,” will probably lie about other things too.

Ron White, on why he was standing before a judge: “The officer said, ‘You have the right to remain silent.’ I just didn’t have the ability.”

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, good will to men.”—Luke 2

Sometimes I’m thinking the Lord must be thinking, “What was I thinking?”

Oh well, at least we can all agree on what color Jesus and Santa are.



“Bonanza, the Baby Jesus, and a Cartwright Christmas”


If you grew up watching the cowboy drama, Bonanza, and tuned in on Sunday nights to keep up with Ben Cartwright and sons, Adam, Hoss, and Little Joe; if you’ve watched the forever reruns since the final episode aired in January of 1973 (I did have to look up that detail); then you are primed to appreciate this colloquial retelling of the Luke 2 Christmas narrative.

“A Cartwright Christmas”

Me and the boys were tendin’ to our sheep one starry night.

The little lambs were snoozin’ and the fire was burning bright.

We’d had our fill of pork and beans, and drunk our coffee black.

And everybody figured it’s about time to hit the sack.

Well, there ain’t a lot to do when you are sittin’ ‘round the fire.

You pick yer teeth and clip yer nails, and play some Solitaire.

But this here night was meant for extra-ordinary things.

We knew it when we saw them shiny fellers with the wings.

Little Joe thought they were rustlers!  Paw, thought that they were fairies!

And dumb ol’ Adam thought that they were foreign dignitaries!

But bein’ smart the way I is, I figured out this scandal,

When all them fellas started singin’ songs by G.F. Handel.*

We harkened to old Harold, and the angels as they sang.

Man, you won’t believe the campfire story them old fellas brang.

They told about a coming King!  A bonafied Messiah.

And one poor angel burned his bathrobe standing by the fire.

They said that Bethlehem was where the wonder would occur,

So off we traipsed, not know just what we were looking fer.

They claimed a lowly manger was the place that he would be.

And so now you’ll understand his stable personality.

So, we were there—you be we were!  And, boy, do we remember,

That night the Lord decided he’d have Christmas in December.

The angels sang and did their thang…and gave Old God the glory.

You know, it’s really hard to Ponder-o-sa wonderful a story.

I suppose the story didn’t have to happen in the land of Judea, in the City of David. The angels didn’t have to appear to shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night.  Why, Jesus could have been born any time or place to and through anybody.  Come to think of it, I guess He still can.

Yee Haw!… and Merry Christmas!



* G.F. Handel composed The Messiah…including “The Halleluia Chorus”.

“A Cartwright Christmas” by Keith Elder.  © Copyright 1983.


“Alex Trebek… NFL Stats… and Careful with the Coffee!”


Alex: “The Final Jeopardy category is ‘NFL Stats’. The answer is ‘13.873.’ Good luck.”  Music starts, “Dum, dum, dum, dum….dum, dum dum….”  Maybe you’d feel smarter if they’d turn off that dumb-dumb music!  But as time runs down, it hits you.  That’s it!…as time runs down 

“What percentage of points is scored in the final two minutes!”

Wiki Answers reports that 13.873 percent of all NFL points are scored in the final two minutes of the game.  Two out of sixty.  Three percent of the game yields almost fourteen percent of the points!  What makes those two minutes so special? Do the players put on their magic shoes?  Does the coach sprinkle the quarterback’s arm with pixie dust? (Yeah, right—“pixie dust”.)  Do the defenders just run out of energy after 58 minutes?

No. They realize, “Hey, we’re about out of time…and if we don’t want to get traded to the Alaskan Malamutes, we’d better score!” And so they do.

Call it “The Coffee Ground Syndrome.”  When you first get that fresh can of coffee, you pop it open (pssshhhh!) and even as you do so, you spill a few grounds on the kitchen counter. You sweep them into your hand and toss them in the disposal.  No problem; you’ve got plenty!  This happens on numerous occasions. No worries!  But one day, you pick up the can and it feels lighter. Looking inside, you see the coffee is well below the halfway mark—as a matter of fact, you can see the shiny bottom of the can peeking through.  Yikes!  Immediately, your perspective changes and you become very careful. Why?… because you realize your coffee grounds are numbered!

Satan’s #1 strategy: “Tell ’em there’s no hurry.”

Folks, I don’t want to be an alarmist or create some false sense of urgency, but your coffee grounds are numbered…the clock’s ticking…and we don’t have the advantage of a two-minute warning.  Talk about “final jeopardy”.

Let’s just assume it’s the final two minutes…and live today accordingly.



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