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A Christmas column montage

IMG_3623In my years pontificating in this space, I have penned a handful of Christmas-themed columns. Here are some of my favorite lines. Nothing quite like an author quoting himself!

I wrote once about a “real, live Clark Griswold” who perennially turned his quarter-acre lot on “an overlooked street in an underdeveloped part of town” into a magical holiday light display.

Jimmy Sartain included a nativity scene in his spread. During my visit, I noticed something was missing.

“Some kids were having one of those scavenger hunts,” Sartain said. “Somebody needed a baby Jesus, I guess.”

“Particularly somebody who steals one,” I wrote.

My cleverness continued, “When you turn into the neighborhood, a sign will say ‘No Outlet.’ But don’t believe it. There are actually many outlets, all being put to very good use.”

Another year I wrote about my favorite Christmas comedy, Barbara Robinson’s The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. I called the piece “Herdmans, Herdsmen, and Me.”

Imogene Herdman was “as unlikely a carrier of the baby Jesus as Mary was herself,” I wrote. “Therein lies the story’s glory: God acting in the lives of ordinary people, the kind of people who get dental floss for Christmas.”

(My six-year-old had asked me that year, “What do you want for Christmas, Dad? Maybe some dental floss.”)

After the pageant, Imogene “returns alone to a darkened stage…In tears, she clings to the swaddled savior of the world.”

“From virgin birth to shepherd witnesses to a daring midnight escape…nothing is as you or I would have drawn it up. If a saving, gracing Creator can break through to Herdmans and herdsmen alike, just maybe he can break through to me.”

In “Both Rich and Poor Find Place at Christ’s Birth,” I wrote about lowly shepherds and lofty kings who visited the Savior baby born to humble folks.

“Was there really no room in the inn, or was there just no room for them in the inn?” I asked.

“At Christmas and in Christendom, rich and poor bow down together. They worship together in an upside-down kingdom. First are last. Poor are rich. What’s on the inside counts.”

In “Kids Can’t Not Believe” I write about how eager kids are to hold on to the magical, even an elf on the shelf. “Since the world is bigger than them, they assume there’s a world beyond them.”

It’s a lesson for us adults. That year, I was “struck by two miraculous births: Jesus, born to a virgin, and John, born to a barren woman. Whether we’re before our prime and scared, or past our prime and sad, the message is the same: God is in the impossible. Believe!”

Finally, in “Bottling the Spirit” I wrote about the season of miracles.

“You find a unique gift at a department store. You find an affordable one at a boutique. You think about families who have too little and people who have no families. You consider trees with no gifts and homes with no trees.

“You hit a movie, maybe a love story, and the popcorn tastes better than you remember. You stay through the credits. You attend a Christmas Eve service and hear the town’s best voice belt O Holy Night. You close your eyes and it’s Mariah to your untrained ears. You go to dinner afterward. You leave 35%.

“You recall the baby who, for the joy set before him, endured a tortuous death, rejected its shame and returned from where he came to prepare a place for us. Joy – to the world and back.”


Kevin Thompson writes regularly for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. Read more Christmas columns at

With teenagers, keep calm and parent on

Interacting with a teenager is a little like dealing with a two-year-old. The fuller his tummy is, the less likely the conversation will end in a blowup.

And the more sleep he’s gotten, the more likely you’ll make it through without hearing “Why?” fifteen zillion times. Still, somehow, he’ll think you’re the one who asks too many questions.

“You ask too many questions,” my teenager informed me recently with exasperation in his voice.

Evidently, my one inquiry, “How are you doing?” put him over the top.

I understood. I also used to cringe at questions from my folks.

Like him, I probably ended many conversations with a huffy, “May I be excused?” (teenspeak for “I’m done talking”).

Nevertheless, I tried to explain to him that dialogue builds relationships.

Parents are, by nature, in the past. Trends come back in style because kids don’t want to be like their outdated parents. My attire likely looks more like my grandfather’s than my father’s.

A piece of trivia came up at dinner recently: “A hotel was built in Hawaii in 1919.”

“Wasn’t that when you were born, Dad?” one son asked in a line of joking that – ironically – never gets old.

“No, he was 1914,” my eldest son chimed in.

Some joking about my age is more innocent, such as the time my 7-year-old daughter asked me with all seriousness, “Dad, what year were you born? Do you remember?”

The older I get, the more birthdays mean, and the more I want to embellish them.

Recently, my wife and I were planning a family birthday outing for our soon-to-be fifteen-year-old.

“Why?!?” the teenager asked, channeling his inner toddler.

“We want to celebrate with you,” I said.

“I want to celebrate with my friends,” he retorted, in no uncertain terms.

Anyone who has lived with hormones knows they never stay constant. It wasn’t much later that he backtracked, “Well, maybe we can go out to dinner or something.”

At that point his stomach was full and his frontal lobe was developed just enough to remember that he will indeed get hungry again.

It’s uncanny how much we all can turn, for the better, when we just let a little out. I’m not the same person after I do. He’s not the same person after he does.

When teenagers are diffusing and refuting, it’s important to keep calm and parent on, the Brits might say. Things only become a big deal when you make them a big deal.

Letting a little rope out also helps.

“How late did you stay up?” I asked when I picked him up the morning after a night at a friend’s house.

“Guess,” he invited.

“Five a.m.” I conjectured.

With wide eyes he asked, “How did you know?”

I was a teenager once, I explained.

I, too, had inquisitive parents. Then, I became one.

I know he’ll soon get annoyed again by questions from his old man. I also know he would get more alarmed if I quit asking them.


Kevin Thompson writes for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. He can be reached at

Making contentment less elusive

Last summer, our family took a boat ride on Lake LBJ. Our seven-year-old son surveyed the lake houses lining the shore. He noticed some of them had swimming pools.

“Hey, Dad,” he said. “Why do those houses need a pool when they have the lake?”

Perceptive question. My reply had something to do with the desire to swim in a more controlled environment. He seemed to get it. Sort of.

Finding contentment is a great challenge of our day. Global and social media combine to constantly show us what we’re missing.

Wanting what others have is not a modern dilemma. Thousands of years ago, Moses etched a commandment on a stone tablet: “Don’t set your heart on anything that is your neighbor’s.” (Exodus 20:17 from The Message)

The temptation to covet is not just reserved for things. Experiences and opportunities are also at play.

There has been talk at our house lately about Disney World. We’ve had a few friends visit the Magic Kingdom.

“Is Disney World in Texas?” one brother asked.

“No, it’s in Boston,” his seven-year-old sister informed him.

The farther, the better, as far as I’m concerned!

Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard did not set out to build a $200 million a year company when he started his outdoor clothing and gear company in the early 1970s. He simply wanted to create higher quality rock climbing apparel and equipment than what was available at the time.

The billionaire still speaks of a simplicity paradox. He encourages people to have fewer possessions of better quality that last longer. It’s not a scarcity mindset, he makes clear. It’s making space for more true living.

“The more you know, the less you need,” said Chouinard on National Public Radio’s “How I Built This.”

An avid fly fisherman, Chouinard recently decided to forego the thousands of fly shapes, colors and patterns that exist today.

“I’ve limited myself to one type of fly for the past year, and I’ve caught more fish than I’ve ever caught in my life. You can replace the hundreds of thousands of fly options with knowledge and technique.”

“The hardest thing in the world is to simplify your life because everything pulls you to be more and more complex. If we decide to go to a more simple life, it’s not going to be an impoverished life. It’s going to be really rich.”

My nine-year-old got his new baseball uniform last month. Like his brothers before him, he inscribed Philippians 4:13 on his hat: “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”

While many young believers reference this verse in terms of hitting home runs and scoring last second shots, the Apostle Paul was actually talking about being content in all situations, particularly hard ones.

Contentment is about perspective, as demonstrated in the following quote:

“I asked God for all things that I might enjoy life. He gave me life that I might enjoy all things.”

Finally, a Greek proverb summarizes why just a little bit more is often not enough:

“Nothing will content a man who is not content with little.”

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Holy Week and the Final Four

This Holy Week, an underdog Jesuit Catholic Loyola University arrives in San Antonio for college basketball’s Final Four.

Even the Ramblers’ 98-year-old team chaplain, Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt, didn’t pick them to advance this far. Oh, she of little faith.

During Holy Week, Christians ponder the remarkable events that led to Jesus’ resurrection, and the clash of faith and doubt it tips off.

Shortly before Jesus’ “triumphal entry” into Jerusalem on the back of a virgin colt, he told a story of a widow who cried out to a judge for justice. The judge finally granted it because of the woman’s persistent faith. Jesus finished the story with a question:

“When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

Regardless of your religious perspective, you have more faith than you think.

Every car you pass on a two-lane highway is a testament to your faith in your fellow drivers.

You believe you will be paid after a week or two of work.

You trust your bank will return the money you deposit at exactly the time you request it.

You are confident the grocery will take that money in exchange for food to cook.

And, if you don’t feel like cooking, you have faith the chef or burger flipper will, more or less, prepare your meal as your grandma would, without any extraneous “ingredients.”

When people break faith, we all pay a price. In our litigious culture, people turn to courts to resolve conflicts they could often avoid by following through on their commitments. As a result, lawyers paper contracts to protect clients from the prospect of broken faith.

This process comes at a cost. A friend calls it a “sin index,” referring to the increased prices we pay because people don’t always act in good faith.

So, in some areas we have faith. In others, we lack it. Jesus’ closest followers experienced this tension, even Simon whom Jesus called a rock (i.e., “Peter”).

After Judas took a bag of silver coins to betray Jesus, Peter took to anonymity to deny him.

“I’m telling you, I don’t know the man!” he told a servant girl in the temple courtyard.

Only hours before Peter had asserted to Jesus, “Even if everyone else deserts you, I will never disown you!”

But then the sword-wielding disciple went silent and a rooster crowed in his place, just as Jesus had predicted.

The resurrected Christ eventually reinstated Peter, and Jesus ultimately followed through on his promise to build his church on that rock.

In Peter, many of us find a piece of ourselves. Moments of conviction combined with episodes of disillusion.

Like the father of the demon-possessed boy in the gospel of Mark, chapter 9, we go to God with our need, but we also ask timidly as the father did, “If you can…”

“‘If you can?’” Jesus scoffs with his own disbelief in faith’s frailty. His is a loving pity.

“Everything is possible for him who believes,” he continues.

At the end, the sick boy’s father captures the paradox in every believer’s heart: “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

Perhaps that is Sister Jean’s Holy Week prayer for Loyola’s ballers. Go Ramblers!


Kevin Thompson writes regularly for The Boerne Star. Read more at


Boerne Needs More Gym Space

As young kids, my sister and I received handbook-sized daily diaries from our mother. The books had straps and small locks on them to keep one’s sibling from prying. Never mind that the locks and keys were identical on both.

I didn’t write much in mine. Years later I flipped through it and noticed only a handful of entries.

One entry, however, recalled a time when some high schoolers invited me to play in their pickup basketball game at the local YMCA. They must have needed a player. I was a frail seventh grader framed only by a love of the game.

According to Diary, I drained a three-point shot to win the game. Over the years that followed I played hundreds of spontaneous games at that YMCA.

Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of pickup basketball in Boerne.

Basketball is a remarkable sport. It requires minimal equipment once goals are in place. It’s good exercise. It’s a team game that’s both physical and fluid.

And we have one of the world’s finest prototypes in our own backyard to mimic. Blue bloods will cringe at this, but there’s not much difference between the San Antonio Spurs and the San Antonio Symphony.

Here’s the problem: Boerne doesn’t have enough gym space. Court infrastructure has fallen behind population growth. Even when using school and church gyms, the Boerne YMCA still sends some youth teams to play in Helotes.

The matter was exacerbated last year when the Boerne YMCA moved locations. Its previous location at least had some hardwood flooring and four basketball goals.

The YMCA is still a $5 million donation away from constructing a gymnasium at its new location on Adler Road.

The City of Boerne Parks & Recreation Master Plan was released last year. It quotes data provided by Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI).

According to ESRI, more city residents participated in basketball in 2016 than any other field sport, 39 per cent more than the second most popular sport, football. Presumably, these residents are shooting a lot of hoops on their driveways given the dearth of gym space mentioned above.

The parks and rec master plan also states that for a city Boerne’s size, the National Recreation and Parks Association recommends three full-size basketball courts.

The city claims it offers two courts, but one of those is a set of stand alone goals in the City Park parking lot which is often filled with cars.

The only full-length basketball court provided by the city is in Northrup Park. It is a covered pavilion with only two goals. It was built in 2000 but feels much older.

The parks master plan includes a concept to construct a full-court basketball pavilion at the Northside Community Park. The court is part of an unfunded $8 – $10 million build out of softball fields, soccer fields, a dog park and a volleyball court.

I propose this near-term solution: A “bubble” tent similar to what college and professional sports teams use to cover their practice fields. There’s adequate land space either at the YMCA or the Northside Park property. Other expenses such as flooring and hoops don’t seem exorbitant.

Pickup basketball is an exercise-invoking, community-building activity for kids and adults. We need to figure out how to hoop it up more.

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star. He can be reached at


Boerne Chamber goes wild for awards party

The Greater Boerne Chamber of Commerce hosted its annual gala Saturday night at the Cana Ballroom. I have long referred to our local business organization as the chamber that never sleeps. Saturday night was another example why.

Three hundred thirty attendees filled the St. Peter Catholic Church event center that overlooks the hill country. Plenty of leopard prints and Crocodile Dundee wannabes maximized the 1920s era safari-themed night.

Boerne Chamber Events Director Barbara Hooks has breathed new life into the annual tradition.

“We want all our events to deliver a ‘WOW factor’ that will keep people talking,” Hooks said. “We wanted the awards party to be interactive and engaging. I think we accomplished that.”

A ten per cent attendance increase over last year was driven by twenty-eight corporate tables, up from twenty last year. Seats sold out two weeks prior to the event.

Partygoers enjoyed non-traditional entertainment including acrobats from San Antonio-based Aerial Horizon, as well as live exotic animals. An African porcupine, a python, a lemur, a kinkajou and a coatimundi roamed the cocktail hour with escorts from Happy Tails of Pipe Creek.

Even the world’s largest rodent, the capybara, made an appearance. If you’ve never seen one, it’s worth a web search.

The Flower Shoppe provided table centerpieces and crafted a near-life-sized paper mache elephant.

Chamber member chef Johnny Hernandez of La Gloria and Burgerteca fame catered the dinner through his True Flavors entity. A vertical poached pear salad and Akaushi beef pan-seared medallions exceeded expectations.

“We intentionally did a stand up dessert bar to get people up and mingling,” Hooks noted.

By the time San Antonio band Gunpowder Soup took the after-dinner stage, couples took to the dance floor, complete with karaoke mic.

As for the hardware, the evening’s corporate awards went to long-established entities while relative newcomers took home individual awards.

Frost Bank secured large business of the year while All County Home Health and Hospice won small business of the year. Non-profit of the year went to Cibolo Nature Center and Farm.

Businesswoman of the year went to insurance agent Lorelei Helmke. After fourteen years in the wine industry, Helmke purchased a Farmers Insurance shop in 2015.

Matt Nelson of Prime Capital Investment Advisors took home businessman of the year. Nelson moved his operation to Boerne in 2016.

Other award winners included Tommy Mathews of Westward Environmental (Mike Coyle Innovator Award) and Mike and Diane Arthur (Kendall County Air Community Award).

Outgoing Chamber board chair Baron Houser selected Misty Mayo for the Chairman’s Award. Mayo runs the Boerne Kendall County Economic Development Corporation.

“Some people say Boerne, Texas, is gone forever,” Houser bellowed. “I say it’s Boerne, Texas, better than ever!”

Ms. Hooks credited a host of sponsors for a night that went off without a hitch: Bandera Electric Cooperative, Broadway Bank, Centennial Bank, Habagallo Foods, Jefferson Bank and Journey School.

“We had very few hiccups,” Hooks recalled. “Everyone showed up on time; the food came out right. The most challenging part was finding seats for everyone who wanted to come.”

That’s like telling a job interviewer that perfectionism is your greatest weakness!

Kevin Thompson writes a weekly column for The Boerne Star and serves on the Greater Boerne Chamber of Commerce board of directors. He can be reached at

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign


In its 1971 hit “Signs,” Canadian rock band Five Man Electrical Band sang, “Sign, sign, everywhere a sign; blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind.”

It’s political season in Kendall County and the lyric applies. You know people are running, but it’s hard to tell for what and against whom.

Between the start of every even-numbered year (no savvy politician obscures Christmas decor with a political sign) and the primary election on the first Tuesday in March, it’s a mad dash for Republican candidates to get their messages out.

This year is especially frantic with a thirty-year Congressional incumbent, Lamar Smith (R – San Antonio), not seeking re-election. Twenty-two candidates have filed for his seat including eighteen Republicans.

Smith’s District 21 includes swaths of San Antonio and Austin, and the entireties of Kendall, Blanco, Gillespie, Kerr, Bandera, and Real Counties.

“It’s stressful,” four-term Texas state representative Jason Isaac (R – Dripping Springs) said about the time crunch and geographic expanse. He was in Kendall County over the weekend for a youth livestock show and door knocking.

Isaac’s “Make America Like Texas” slogan surfs atop both Lone Star pride and President Donald Trump’s winning 2016 message.

Boerne resident Matt McCall has tossed his name into the ring for a third time. McCall was first runner-up to Smith in 2016 garnering nearly thirty-four thousand votes.

McCall hopes to bring America to financial solvency and “slash” the size and role of the federal government, among other strict constructionist hot points.

Kendall County’s state legislators have drawn primary opponents. Hays County attorney Shannon McClendon is challenging State Senator Donna Campbell (R – San Antonio).

State Rep. Kyle Biederman (R – Fredericksburg) will face off against Dave Campbell, also of Fredericksburg, though not the high school football guru. Campbell owns a machine parts manufacturer and has chaired the Fredericksburg chamber of commerce and school board.

The status quo could shift in the newly created 451st District Court which serves Kendall County exclusively. In 2015, the Texas Legislature carved the court out of a larger district court which included Kerr and Gillespie Counties.

In 2016, Governor Greg Abbott appointed long-time county court-at-law judge, Bill Palmer, and assistant county attorney, Nicole Bishop, as judge and district attorney, respectively. Both appointees’ terms expire later this year. Both are running to keep their seats.

And both engaged in a round of he-said, she-said last year over a burgeoning court docket. Bishop claimed Palmer didn’t offer enough criminal court dates. Palmer claimed Bishop didn’t use all the dates offered.

Palmer faces eight-year Boerne city attorney Kirsten Cohoon. Cohoon hopes to get to cases faster.

“Justice delayed is justice denied,” Cohoon said.

Bishop, a Boerne native and Ole Miss law grad, has drawn Dave Parent, a former police officer and homebuilder, and Nick Socias, a former Harris County felony prosecutor.

Incumbents are running unopposed for district clerk (Susan Jackson), county judge (Darrel Lux), county clerk (Darlene Herrin), county treasurer (Sheryl D’Spain) and county surveyor (Wes Rexrode).

Kendall County Commissioner Richard Elkins (Precinct 2 – southeast Kendall County) faces a challenge from Boerne City Councilman Ron Cisneros. Precinct 3 (northeast Kendall County) Peace Justice Debby Hudson will try to ward off Jon Tipton.

Options are a good thing in a constitutional republic. We have plenty in Kendall County at this point.


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