I often reflect on my college professor, Dr. Nat Tracy, who was in his 60’s when I studied under him – first, for Old and New Testament; and then for six Philosophy courses. He was so very special to me, as was Dr. James Shields.

On the first morning in Old Testament class, Dr. Tracy said, “no matter how much you think of yourself, it is not as much as God thinks of you.” I have never forgotten that.

He also said, on several occasions, “the greatest thing you can do for someone is to raise their self-image, to help them see themselves like God sees them.”

Well, I think Christmas is about how much God thinks of us and God telling us that we matter . . . that He believes in us.

So I guess my Christmas thought for you this year is this: God became flesh because YOU were that important. Not just a universal YOU, but a specific YOU! That means that God loves us – YOU – so much that he would have become flesh specifically just for each of you who is reading this. YOU matter that much; He believes in YOU that much.

I like to think that the angels went to the shepherds and told them, “We have something very special to tell you, because you matter that much to God.” And the Bible tells us that, after the shepherds went to see Jesus, they went to tell others about what they had seen.

I will say it like this. Christmas is about God showing us how much we matter, and the Christian life is about us telling others about Christmas – in other words, telling others how much they matter to God and to us.

I shared these thoughts last week at a deacons Christmas banquet at First Baptist Church , Austin . After I finished, their wonderful pastor, Roger Paynter, said that they were going to start a “matter ministry” at First Baptist Church .

I love that idea. Read the scriptures, and notice how many of the events recorded there – even in the Old Testament – are stories about God showing or telling someone that they matter.

Read the New Testament – you’ll find the same thing there . . . the shepherd leaving his 99 sheep to find the one lost sheep, because it mattered . . . Jesus telling Zacchaeus that He was going home with him, because he wanted Zacchaeus to know how much he mattered.

There is nothing we could do to celebrate Christmas more than to realize how much we matter to God and then go and share with others how much they matter to us and God.

If you need to be reminded how much you MATTER, reflect on Christmas . . . on God becoming flesh, because you matter that much.

Merry Christmas to my Texas Baptists Committed family. You are very special to me. You matter.

“Dan Fogelberg, the singer and songwriter whose hits ’Leader of the Band’ and ’Same Old Lang Syne’ helped define the soft-rock era, died Sunday at his home in Maine after battling prostate cancer. He was 56.”

Thus began the news story of the death of one of my favorite singer/songwriters, Dan Fogelberg, who touched my soul with his thoughtful, passionate songs. I was fortunate to see him perform live in Austin , over 20 years ago, from a fourth-row seat!!!

Most of you probably recognize the song, “Leader of the Band,” which he wrote about his father.

Leader Of The Band

An only child alone and wild, a cabinet maker's son
His hands were meant for different work
And his heart was known to none
He left his home and went his lone and solitary way
And he gave to me a gift I know I never can repay
A quiet man of music denied a simpler fate
He tried to be a soldier once, but his music wouldn't wait
He earned his love through discipline – a thundering, velvet hand
His gentle means of sculpting souls took me years to understand

The leader of the band is tired and his eyes are growing old
But his blood runs through my instrument and his song is in my soul
My life has been a poor attempt to imitate the man
I'm just a living legacy to the leader of the band

My brothers' lives were different for they heard another call
One went to Chicago and the other to St. Paul
And I'm in Colorado when I'm not in some hotel
Living out this life I've chose and have come to know so well
I thank you for the music and your stories of the road
I thank you for the freedom when it came my time to go
I thank you for the kindness and the times when you got tough
And, papa, I don't think I said 'I love you' near enough

The leader of the band is tired and his eyes are growing old
But his blood runs through my instrument and his song is in my soul
My life has been a poor attempt to imitate the man
I'm just a living legacy to the leader of the band

I am a living legacy to the leader of the band


There are certain songs that make you say to yourself, “I wish I had written that.” Fogelberg wrote many that made me feel that way, especially “Leader of the Band,” “Same Old Lang Syne,” and “Run for the Roses,” which has the great lyric, “It’s the chance of a lifetime in a lifetime of chance.”

I cannot listen to “Leader of the Band” without thinking about how much I miss my Dad, these 18 years later. Losing a parent, I think, becomes a part of your life. The memories are actually more pleasant than painful, for he lived a long life and told his children he loved us over and over every time he saw us, and we returned the love. I treasure the memories of his later years, when he was sick and lying in bed, and I would lean over him, kiss his forehead, and say, “I love you” each time before I left the house. He always answered, “I love you, son.” I loved that he called me “son” all the time.

I am also moved to realize that Dan Fogelberg died of prostate cancer, which I had just 5 years ago. Mine was caught early. Fogelberg’s was caught in an advanced stage, which means that he did not have yearly check-ups starting at age 50. After his diagnosis, he used his fame to urge men to get early and regular check-ups. The reality is that, if his cancer had been caught early, as mine was, he probably would have lived at least 20 more years.

Instead, one of the greatest songwriters to ever live will not spend this Christmas with his family, a truly sad reality.

So one reason I write this “bonus” Rancher’s Rumblings is to urge every man reading this to go get your PSA checked NOW, if you are over 40 and have never had it checked, and to begin, at age 50, having it checked annually. Prostate cancer is the most beatable cancer there is—but only if it is caught in the early stages as mine was.

I felt that saving even one life was certainly worth a bonus Rumblings.

Maybe it’s also worth a bonus Rumblings to remind all of us to tell our parents we love them this Christmas and every chance we have – and to tell our children, as well.

Maybe another worthy cause – for giving you a bonus Rumblings – is to motivate you to go purchase “The Best of Dan Fogelberg” on CD and let your heart be touched as deeply as mine has been.

Finally, writing this bonus Rumblings was worth it to me, because I wanted another opportunity to wish you a Merry Christmas and tell you how much I appreciate all of you who read these thoughts. Have a wonderful Christmas.