Tag: Christmas

How John Lennon Saved Christmas for Me

OK… alright… I know Christmas is over. It was almost three weeks ago.

I have taken a break from writing during the holidays. I have been trying to finish my second book and have it published in the spring of 2019, but I have run into a bad case of writer’s block. I am struggling with motivation. That isn’t uncommon, I experienced it last year.

So why am I still writing about Christmas?

While I struggle to finish my book, I just have not been able to shake the thoughts and feelings that have overtaken me. Anyone who knows me is aware that I am not a huge fan of Christmas.

Well… let me clarify.

I love Christmas. I love the reason we celebrate it. I loathe the decorations and I am (much to my wife’s and sister-in-law’s disdain) not a fan of Christmas music or movies.  The music is too much and too overwhelming. At least for me.

Just about the time my Scrooge started kicking in and my to-list was growing, I desperately tried to hide my scrooge face from my wife. (which I am never successful at doing). Trees, wreaths, lights, decorations, stockings, holly, cookies, gifts. I needed to get into the spirit.

Then I turned on the radio and this happened… christmas

“And so, this is Christmas…”

John Lennon’s unmistakable voice came on. I listened, feeling the annual stirring. It occurred to me I’ve heard “Happy Christmas (War is Over)” every December since I was 11.

It took me back to the Christmas, my family celebrated in our Walnut Street home in Oak Harbor, Ohio. We had a tiny decorated tree with strings of lights and tinsel.

“And so, this is Christmas…”

Years later, I heard that song played the night John Lennon was assassinated. I was out of high school and was lost in a world that had moved on without me. I was working at HJ Heinz and all of my friends had left for college. I had no plan, no dream, no clue where I was headed, and I definitely had no idea where I would end up. I sat in the dark in my room and listened to this song, among others that John Lennon had made and cried until I had no more tears.

“And so, this is Christmas…”

Then a few years after that I would listen to this song as I drove back from Michigan, with my son peacefully sleeping in his car seat. I was driving home to my grandfather’s funeral. He died on Christmas Eve and I wasn’t there. That was over 30 years ago… and I am still bitter about it.

“And so, this is Christmas…”

Memories of two little boys dancing around, waiting for Santa. They woke me at 5:45 a.m., breathless with excitement, jumping on my bed.

“And so, this is Christmas…”

Years later… opening presents with our blended family of my two boys and the two girls that are as much a part of me as my son’s. My wife made sure Christmas was extra special for our family.

“And so, this is Christmas…”

More years pass and now it is just my wife and me on Christmas morning. Instead of waking at 5:45 a.m., we sleep in. Those little boys are now men. The girls are now married and are making Christmas memories with their husband’s. Two grandsons’ now wake their parents with dreams of presents dancing in their heads.

“And so, this is Christmas…”

2018… Christmas is still Christmas, but I have a son that hasn’t talked to his father in almost three years. I reach out to silence.  

 “And what have you done…”

This is the second lyric to the song… Lennon seems to be asking what we did with these 365 days. Did we try to help? Did we do our best? Did we learn? Did we grow? I hope I encouraged and loved and was there. I hoped I gave a smile and kind words when needed. I hope I was a good husband, a good grandfather, a good son, a good brother, and friend. More importantly, was I a good servant to my savior Jesus Christ?

Still, so many do much more. I see nurses and teachers who dedicate their lives to others. I have family and friends who spend their time helping the needy, children, and those who are sick. They inspire me to do better.

 “Another year over…”

I am not who I was a few years ago. I have changed. Regret is hard.

And yet good things happened. My sister-in-law beat Ovarian Cancer. She remains cancer free. The year started in doubt about that and we are grateful that she has been given a gift from God. My son found the woman he will marry in 2019. My wife still takes good care of me. She took a chance on re-inventing herself at her job and she has excelled. She still teaches (34 years now) and I love her more than life itself. My grandsons bring me more joy than I could ever imagine. I published my first book… and I reluctantly will now say I am a writer.  The sun still shines. And I still love my morning cup of coffee. Life goes on.

“A new one just begun…”

I pray we turn a corner, although it’s hard to be hopeful. The country is divided. Another mass killing takes place and my stomach drops. My generation didn’t grow up like this nor did my parents’. My heart goes out to young people who must navigate this world.

And yet, judging by my children and their friends I know they’ll be okay. This group is brave, strong, and resilient. They’ll not only make it through but will someday make a difference.

2019 will bring change to me. Uncertain things at my place of employment and new opportunities. Maybe the path to reconciliation with my son will become clearer… whatever the year brings… I am grateful, and I am ready for what God has in store for me and my wife.

“And so Merry Christmas and Happy New Year…”

Politicians / People work to anger us, focusing on differences, giving reasons to hate and fear each other. Regardless of your position… everyone is guilty.

 “Let’s hope it’s a good one… without any fear”

John Lennon died 38 years ago. I wondered how would the globe spin without him? Who would lead the cause for peace and non-violence? It seemed impossible he was gone. Yet the years sped by and here we are.

I still miss him.

I did not agree with everything that John Lennon did or say, but I can’t help wondering… what would Lennon say about the world today?

“War is over. If you want it…”

The song ends. And I feel right again.

Whatever petty Yuletide problems I have… don’t matter.

Now I know… John Lennon didn’t save Christmas for me.

Jesus Christ is the reason we celebrate Christmas.  However, this song by John Lennon has grounded me. It reminds me this holiday is more than tinsel and evergreens. Christmas is about time passing. It’s about life and love and family. Christmas is about finding joy where you can. Christmas is about hope.

Thank you, John Lennon.  

You did it.

You saved Christmas (wink) for me once again.

 

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Dear Santa… This Is All I Want For Christmas

With some trepidation, I decided to publish my personal letter to Santa this year.  All of my life I have kept my communications with Santa private in fear that it might hurt my chances of having my wishes fulfilled. Though my last 50 plus attempts have failed, at this point I don’t feel I have a lot to lose.

Dear Santa,

I think I have been good this year, or at least I’ve tried very hard to be good.  Ok, in all honesty, I could probably say that I have not been actively bad,  or at least I have not been actively bad “all that often”.  That being dear-santasaid, I guess I could use some clearer definitions on exactly how “you” define good.  That would be helpful in my future endeavors.

I’ll keep my list short because I know you’ve got to fill the stockings of all those so-called “innocent” children who are in fact riddled with dark, primal impulses and conditioned and overwhelmed by commercialism and the media.

Let me take the opportunity to congratulate you on your years of marketing skills. (Yes, I am kissing up to you. You probably get that a lot this time of year) You must be very proud of the product you’ve sold each year. 

Over the years, you and your staff have done a wonderful job in “selling” Christmas to the masses.  As a matter of fact, stores have put up Christmas displays as early as September and you have even convinced radio stations to play Christmas songs as Digital Image by Sean Locke Digital Planet Design www.digitalplanetdesign.comearly as October. Not to mention the endless loop of Christmas movies that play on the Hallmark Channel. 

Again kudos!!!

But I see trouble on the horizon and I understand that my previous letters to you have been unsuccessful and probably unread, but I am holding on to my wishes and remain hopeful that this year you will make an exception and read this one. 

After all, being a kid is a lot of fun even without Christmas, but being an adult is seriously not-fun most of the time.

I know you might consider that accepting a list from me would be setting a precedent that you do not want fulfill, but, in my opinion, the whole Christmas project needs to be radically re-envisioned. I don’t know if you’ve looked at your traditional client base lately, but they aren’t exactly filled with believers.

I hope you have a nice Christmas, but if you don’t turn up this year, I’m prepared not to believe in you anymore, and frankly, you need all the followers you can get. Trust me, I know a lot of people who are having serious doubts. If you do exist, you need to re-target your market to include a more mature demographic. Because in case you haven’t noticed, it’s not the kids that keep you in business. It’s adults. And it won’t be hard to find someone else to put on a red suit, stick on a beard and work one day a year. Get what I’m saying?

There are a lot of movies that allude to the fact santathat you don’t exist. But I am holding on that you do indeed exist even if it is somewhere deep in the confines of my imagination.

So, Nick – if I may be so familiar – I was hoping to keep it real and talk man-to-Santa.

The things I really want for Christmas cannot be bought.  Like the Grinch, who learned that Christmas doesn’t come from a store, I am not asking for anything to be bought specifically for me. I am at the point in my life that if I want anything that can be Christmas Morepurchased, I will buy it myself.

That does not mean that I am not asking for some things for me.  Honestly, I am not asking out of selfishness but out of a desire to be a better man tomorrow than the one I am today.

I learned a long time ago that Christmas means a little bit more than most people consider. No offense, but one thing is for sure, it’s not about you. More importantly, it is not about me. It’s about Jesus Christ.  It is really only about HIM… but I’m sure you already know that. 

On that note, let me share with you my Christmas list this year.

Hopefully, you’ll be able to help out this year.

This year, in no particular order, I am asking for…

  • The ability to turn on the news without seeing acts of mass horror and terror.
  • That every person would truly understand the gift of grace that God offers to each one of us.
  • The good sense to be gracious for life and health.
  • The ability to live my life so that others see Christ in me.
  • The opportunity to make things right with those that have found fault in me.
  • An understanding that life is too short to worry about what everyone else is saying and doing. 
  • The opportunity to rid myself of selfishness, love of money, pride and rebellion.
  • The ability to humble myself before God and before others.
  • A deeper appreciation for my employer and the career I have been allowed to be a part of.
  • Knowledge to see the wealth in life that goes far beyond material things.
  • The closeness of true friends.
  • Thankfulness for the comfort of the home my wife has made for me.
  • Good health for all of my family.
  • Continued growth, health and protection for my grandsons.
  • The ability to lose any bitterness in my life.
  • That my heart will know nothing but love, forgiveness, and mercy for others.

So, in closing, Santa, that is what I am wishing for.  I could go on but I realize you are on a time constraint and it may take few hours for you to pull this together for me.  Again, if you choose to not visit me this year I will try to understand.

At the end of the day, please do your part to “Keep Christ in Christmas”.  It is important that you not forget this.keepchristbb350

In a time of multiple tragedies, fear and terrorism, we need love, mercy and compassion more than we ever have. Now is not the time to dwell on material things.    

Santa, if you can take anything from all of this, it would be that the things of this earth are not permanent and they will perish; if you are spending your whole life building it off of material things and not on the meaningful things, you will always find yourself missing something.

So if you’re celebrating Christmas this year, please remember all that our Savior has done for us and to make an effort to reciprocate that into the world around us.

No matter what you celebrate, or even if you don’t, Merry Christmas, and I wish upon you the utmost love and peace that only Christ can give.

Best Regards,

David

Taking Time for Silent Nights

There are only a few more days until Christmas Eve.

I am sure there are people out there that are starting to panic as the realization sets in that the shopping is not finished and the gift’s are not wrapped.

SilentNightsAlthough the Christmas season is supposed to be a time of joy and celebration, it’s easy to become overwhelmed with all the stress that comes with the season. Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in everything you have to do, such as visiting family members, buying gifts and attending multiple Christmas gatherings. Before you know it, you can feel so stressed that you simply want the season to be over so you can have some time to relax. Sometimes life during this Season is so loud it is deafening.

If there is anything we all need to do more of during this season, it is to take time for silent nights.

My wife and I are done with the wrapping and the shopping.  Maybe the better way to say it would be… my wife is done with the wrapping and the shopping.  I’ll give credit where credit is due. She gives me the best Christmas present every year. She takes care of the buying and wrapping and she is gracious enough to me give the opportunity to experience a few of these Silent Nights before Christmas Day.

I am learning that it’s important to take some time out for yourself during the next few days. Don’t turn this Christmas into something you dread. By just taking a little time out for yourself from time to time can help you get your perspective back, helping you to relax and enjoy the joy of the season. Sure, you have a to-do list that is multiple pages long, but if you can take time for a few “Silent Nights” it will allow you to really remember and enjoy the meaning and the joy of Christmas.

Try to embrace the holiday season this year.  Soak up every minute. Cherish every shared laugh of your children and grandchildren.

It is easy sometimes to slip, inviting stress and distractions to interfere in the celebration of Christmas. It is easy to focus on expectations, “to do” lists and activities that the day after Christmas you come to the realization that you were so busy that you missed the opportunity to enjoy the season.

It’s when I choose to slow down and choose to be silent, everything changes.

It is then I hear God’s voice in the laughter of my family and in the giggles of my grandchildren. It is when I feel His love in the hugs of my friends and family. It is when I see Him in the twinkling lights, and in the love that brings us all together.Silent

This year I want to be silent and listen. I want to make memories that I will take with me for the rest of my life. I want no regrets this Christmas. It’s what I want for my family and friends and it’s what I want for everyone that reads this post.

So today, take a deep breath.  Soak up every conversation, every shared moment with those around you.

Be still. Be Silent. Listen.

A Silent and Holy Night is coming.

Don’t rush it. Don’t stress over it.

Embrace it. Cherish it.

Be thankful for it.

Make this choice today and see what happens to your Christmas this year. –

 “Be still, and know that I am God.”

 Psalm 46:10

Joseph’s Lullaby

empty-mangerWith Christmas decorations comes the inevitable arrival of Christmas music… that to some people is pure joy.  I think my sister-in-law, Lynn starts playing Christmas music some time in mid-August.  Normally, I wait until about week before Christmas Day to start the music… but not this year.  For some strange reason I have listened to more Christmas music than ever.  I think it’s partially because one of my favorite bands (The Sidewalk Prophets) put out a new Christmas CD.  Their song “Hey Moon”  (video attached at the bottom of this post) is the best Christmas song I have heard in years.

Last night, like many other nights, I sat down in front of my computer to do some writing and do some editing of posts that I have written over the past month. Unfortunately, I found myself staring at a blank page in front of me.  So I turned on some music for some inspiration.  I like the music of MercyMe and I just sat in my office staring off into the abyss listening to them when the lyrics of one their songs hit me like a ton of bricks.

I love how it’s written from Joseph’s perspective. The new father singing a lullaby to the One that would soon change the world.

Incredible.

Joseph knew what was in store for the child.  He knew the price that was going to be paid.  He knew that this newborn son was born to die and pay the price for the sins of the world and that of mankind. He knew that this child was going to experience pain.  The lyrics of this song really got to me tonight.  Not just the song, but one line in particular. It gets me every single time.

The lyric is this….

For tonight, simply be my child.

I remember when my first-born, Nathan was born.  I really thought I was preHand_holding_finger_bw babypared to be a father.  In reality, I was nowhere near ready to take on the responsibility that soon would be mine.  I am not sure anyone is truly prepared for the changes in life that happen when you first become a parent. My perspective in life changed in the micro-second of when I first touched and held him in my arms. I felt the same responsibility when my son Adam was born as well. For me, being a parent was something magical… something incredible. Your goals change and you realize that you are no longer here on earth living for yourself.  You want to create this perfect world for your child, where they will forever be protected and not experience any pain or hurt in this life.  

My sons are now 27 and 22 years old and the parent in me still wants to protect them. I still do not want any hurt or pain of this life to effect any of my children.

I cannot fathom or comprehend the emotions and thoughts of Joseph and Mary as they held this perfect child in their arms, knowing that he would carry the burden of the Cross of Calvary.  Would it have been selfish of them to ask God to give them a break and allow Jesus to simply be their child for a brief moment?  The father in me says no.

As Joseph and Mary understood that this perfect child was given by God to pay the price for mankind’s sin. They would not be able to protect him from what he was going to face. We as parents realize the same is true with our own children.  We can help them and we can hope that the pain of this life passes by our children but we know that the inevitable is coming. It’s part of life… but that does not keep us as parents to stop trying to protect our children regardless of their age.

We have so many visions and dreams of what our children will be one day. We know early on what their potential is and having lived as long as we have on this earth, we also know the challenges in life which lie ahead for our children. We also know enough to accept the fact that there will be surprises too. As we watch them grow up in the various moments of life, we as parents, often think back to that simple line….

“Simply be my child”

I do not want and most assuredly I do not want my children to speed through the moments of life without having memories to look back on.

I am learning that as I grow older my memories are a lot like a bank account, you withdraw from what you’ve put in. So, from personal experience, my advice to all of us would be to withdraw as much of the bitterness, anger and disappointment in your life while you can. Start depositing more family time memories, more contentment and less regret in the bank account of your memories. Because the world and all of its pain and challenges can wait. Soon enough there will be plenty of things that will steal our attention and time.

As we navigate the hustle and bustle of this Christmas season. Take time to make memories. Carve out moments and put the world and all it’s worries and pain on pause.

Allow your child to simply be your child.

Tis the Season…

Tis the Season…

Gifts boxesI know some of you are already finished and everything’s wrapped beautifully beneath your tree. I wanna let you in on a little secret – the rest of us don’t like you very much.

I’m that guy who’s out on the 24th and wrapping things minutes before the gift exchange, so right now I am cruising.  No need to panic just yet…I’ve got plenty of time.  I always think it’s more exciting with the panic and road rage I’ve grown so accustomed to.

Truth be told… I could live without all of the craziness.

Unfortunately, I don’t hide my feelings very well (understatement).   So much so that my wife sometimes teasingly refers to me as “Scrooge”.    But she knows me better than anyone else…  she knows that I amscrooge not a “scrooge”.  I love to give presents. I love to give them and watch my children and grandchildren open their presents.  I admit I am not a fan of the process, so much so that I defer to my wife to do the buying but I have no issues with doing the financing.  I just really believe that my reactions to the Christmas season can be misinterpreted. 

So what is my problem? What is it that keeps me from really enjoying the Christmas Season?

I’ll tell you…

I don’t like the process of me receiving  gifts.  Strange right? 

I find it awkward.  Uncomfortable. 

I am always the last to open my gifts and I just would rather open them up at a time when I am alone.  I know that that could get interpreted as being ungrateful (which I never feel) or maybe that I am taking away the enjoyment that someone would get when they give me a gift.  My intention is to not encourage either one of these reactions. So what is my problem? Why do I struggle with the process of accepting and opening presents that have been given to me? 

This is not something new to me.  I have always felt this way.  I do not remember a Christmas or birthday that I was looking forward to opening presents that were given to me.  As a matter of fact, I don’t remchristmas-listember a Christmas where I ever really asked for anything or was hoping for a certain gift or toy.  To the best of my recollection, I have never made a list and I most certainly never “expected” anything.  I don’t say these things to sound noble or selfless… it is just the truth of how I honestly feel and how I am.

I know that most people won’t get or understand this.  But after I resigned from my job and made a career change in 1994, I had to reinvent myself. I felt like a complete failure in life. I had never really had anything in life as far as material things go… so it wasn’t like I had lost a lot of “things ” in this life.

But as a result of that event in my life, I have learned some valuable lessons in life. First of all, I am here to tell you, you never know where life is gonna take you. You leave home, go to college or start your life and you do the best you can.  In that process it is so easy to get lost in this old world and forget who you are and where you came from. It is so easy to start believing that material “things” are more important than they are and you equate success to having “things”.  

I don’t want “things”. I could have a nice big house (with a nice big mortgage) and I could have the new car sitting in the driveway. I don’t ask for them because I don’t want them.  I have indeed re-invented myself and I have learned that having success and living a great life aren’t the same thing. You know? Success might hand you everything you ever thought you wanted… but nothing will keep you from a great life more than chasing after things and comfort.

We all work so hard to create a comfortable life, but most of us get chained up in the process.  And once we finally do get comfortable, we wouldn’t possibly consider changing course because of all we could lose. We make most of our life choices based on mortgage payments, car loans, insurance, and our 401K.

I choose to have a great life as opposed to having “things” that might be considered having success. My happiness is found in my relationship with Jesus Christ, my wife, children and grandchildren. It isn’t found in any “thing” I have ever had in my life.

That is not to say that I haven’t enjoyed the gifts I have received over the years.  It is just I never expected them and most certainly were not taken for granted.

I guess it’s because my favorite Christmas presents I have ever received have not been neatly wrapped in paper and sealed with ribbons and bows.  My favorite presents have not come in boxes and as matter of fact… I struggle sometimes to remember physical gifts that have been given to me.

The gifts I remember and I cherish are the ones that hardly get noticed. At least not noticed by anyone else except me. I received one these gifts this weekend.  Our grandsons were spending the day with me and my wife. I Brody22was holding Brody (4 months old) as he drifted off to sleep and when I looked down to see his sleepy eyes close, I was warmed with the love I have for this child. My gift this year for Christmas is the opportunity to hold him in my arms and etch that memory in my mind and in my heart.  These times will pass me quickly and soon this little boy will grow up and move past having his grandpa hold him as he falls asleep. A wonderful moment in my life.  A gift. A gift I don’t take for granted.  A gift I don’t want to forget.  A gift that is better than anything I could possibly open in a box. A gift not wrapped up in ribbons and bows but is more beautiful than my words can convey. These are the moments in life that you hold on to.  That was one that I will remember as long as God gives me the ability to do so.

When my two-year old grandson Indiana says to me, “Grandpa… ready…setCARS… go…” I know he is asking me to line up all his cars on the floor and play cars with him.  We will spend the next 1/2 hour or so pushing them across that wooden floor to each other and with each squeal of “ready…set…go!!!” that Indy yells out, I will push each car at his command.  Each one a gift and a memory for me.  He too will one day move on… and soon enough will be asking me for the car keys to drive me somewhere.  Hopefully, I will be around for that one… because it too will be a gift and a memory for me.

I have received some special gifts from my family over the years that will always be precious to me. I have a special gift that I carry with me everyday and that gift is clearer in my memory on each Christmas Day.  These special gifts are the memory of when my children have used their own words and looked me in the eye and told me they loved me. That is the only present I want or need. That present is priceless. They are the ingredients to a great life.

As I stated, I choose to have a great life as opposed to having “things” that might be considered having success.

Tis the Season… yes… we are closing in on another Christmas. How might your Christmas be different this year if you stopped and considered not spending so much of your time and choices pursuing and buying “things” and focused on the important aspects of this life?  

This year, give your family and those you love in your life something they can’t give themselves. Write a handwritten note to tell them you love them. Look them in the eye and tell them thank you and that you appreciate all that someone has done for you in this life.

I can assure you, this Christmas there are no greater gifts you can give.

 

It’s Not About the Wrapping

I have talked about this before. 

My wife  has a problem.  I may have to have an intervention.

ChristmastreeShe is a Christmas Junkie. 

She can’t get enough of it.  She loves everything about it.

The planning…the shopping…the decorations…the shopping…the music…the shopping…the tree…the shopping…the baking of cookies…the shopping…the stockings…the shopping…the lights…the shopping…the candles…the shopping…the movies…the shopping…the crowds…the shopping.

She will go from the extreme high of Christmas morning to a slight depression the next morning  that lasts until she gets up and takes off for all of those “After Christmas” deals and starts the process for next year’s holiday.  I mean she has to get busy because Christmas is only 365 days away.

Did I mention she loves the shopping?

Yes, Christmas…she loves it.

Everything except the wrapping.

She hates the wrapping… you would never really pick that up if you would take a tour of our Christmas warehouse of a basement.  We have more ribbons and bows than we ever could use and we have “in stock” more wrapping paper than our local Wal-Mart.  

The Christmas gift bag is her friend but she still cannot put all of the gifts in bags so she is forced to sit down and meticulously wrap gifts.  badly wrapped gift

I learned a very simple truth a long time ago.  If you look like you are trying  but do something intentionally bad the first time you usually do not get asked a second time to do it.  This is the simple truth I learned about wrapping presents.  The first time my wife asked me to help wrap presents I intentionally wrapped the box really bad and I was relieved of my duties.

I have tried to tell my wife that it isn’t about the wrapping.

There is a cute commercial running on TV right now. The Grandpa is asking his son on Skype how the baby likes the present he sent for Christmas. They show grandpa that the baby is having a ball with the box and ignoring the present. That happens every year.

Babies always play with the box, but as they mature the box is just in the way of what they want.  Sure they admire it but make it as pretty as you want and they still just want what’s inside!

All that money and effort gone in seconds, reduced to a pile of rubble. gifts

That whole  wrapping the present thing is all too often a picture of the season. We spend all that time and effort to make it look perfect and in reality it is what is on the inside of the box that makes the present special. It isn’t the wrapping paper nor the bag that makes it special.

It is the gift itself… it is the thought and purpose of the gift.  The gift is given out of love and it is an expression of that love to the person receiving the gift.  It matters not how it was wrapped or its appearance.  The important part of giving a gift is the gift itself.

The real gift of the season, the reason for the season is not the wrapped box.  As a matter of fact, I have never seen a BOX that even remotely could contain the real gift of the Christmas season.  Ultimately, the true gift of Christmas is “wrapped” up in the birth of Jesus Christ.  God’s gift to us… that led to Christ’s gift of forgiveness to us by His death on the cross of Calvary.

There is nothing wrong with Boxes, just keep in mind they are ONLY BOXES and don’t let them replace the real gift of Christmas, a real relationship with His Son, Jesus Christ.

So as my wife continues to wrap presents, I know that these presents that she wraps with loving care is an expression of her love for those she loves.  Her heart is in the right place and I look at her with awe and I am proud to be her husband.  She is the example of what Christmas should be for all of us. 

So for the rest of us that may have a little bit of Scrooge in us or may be too concerned about how the box looks… let’s not try to get so wrapped up with the box that we never get to the true gift of Christmas. 

The Undiscovered Gift

Late last week I sent a package to Ashburn, Virginia.   I sent it UPS.    It was a Christmas gift for my niece.   I haven’t heard from my sister to know that she received it yet.   Christmas is almost here and I’ve heard nothing from them.   It really isn’t a big deal…just a inexpensive, simple gift from her uncle.   The bigger issue for me is for her to know that we care for her and that we want her to know this gift awaits.

I wonder…is this how God feels about us?  He’s sent the gift, but many still have not received it yet.  It is just waiting for us to accept it.  God sent His Son to this earth, which is why we celebrate Christmas.  But the Christmas  story doesn’t end there, for the gift that was given that day in Bethlehem was not wrapped up in His birth but rather the gift was wrapped up in His death on the cross.  For it is there we see the gift of salvation and a way to seek and find forgiveness for our sins.  It was freely given and all we have to do is accept it.

The gift is there for you today…it is not too late.  It’s sitting there, waiting for its discovery.   Imagine how God must feel to hear so many say, “God doesn’t care. He doesn’t love me.”   When all along this gift of salvation awaits discovery.   All you have to do is know that it has arrived and receive it.   Christmas provided that gift.   God’s gift of His Son is that undiscovered gift.

Merry Christmas to all and I hope you find the true gift of Christmas this year.

Christmas Is Coming…Whether I Like It Or Not.

Christmas is coming…whether I like it or not.

It’s not that I don’t like Christmas in and of itself.  It is indeed a wonderful time of year.  People can be nice (sorta) to each other and who doesn’t like to get presents?   I would like to say that I hate the commercialism associated with Christmas and all the “Santa” talk…but in reality, it’s not that.  It is more of the fact that for all the hard work…the Christmas spirit only lasts a few days.

My wonderful wife is the ultimate Santa Claus kind of person.   She loves the holiday, the foods, the decor, the games…and all that goes with it, but she married a Grinch kind of guy.   I would rather take the easy way and not deal with all the work to set up the tree, only to have to take it down again in a few weeks.  We decorate the house with the same Christmas stuff I lugged up the stairs (only a month or so ago it seems) and I think she has well over 200 rolls of Christmas wrapping paper and don’t even get me started on the bows and bags we have inventoried in our basement / Christmas warehouse.

Usually,  we will have our annual Christmas tree argument,  about having a real tree vs a fake one.  She always wins.   But in reality, I’m really glad my grinchiness  has not stifled her Santa Claus spirit.  It’s wonderful to celebrate the Christmas holiday with family.   I always look forward to the time together and the looks on the kid’s faces when they open the gifts.   Some years it is a little challenging to find the money for gifts, but we always seem to work it out. I love the resulting feel and celebration because of my wife’s hard work and spirit.   As much as I complain about it, I wouldn’t want to have my way…a Grinch Christmas would be really sad.

So, my advice to all the other fellow “Grinch’s”… Let the Santa Claus in you rule the giving portion of heart for the holiday!!!  As far as the receiving portion, let the love of Christ and the celebration of His birth (the true meaning of Christmas) rule in your heart.  His gift of salvation is FREE…all you have to do is accept Him into your heart and life.

Christmas…it’s coming and there isn’t anything I can do about it.

Truth is…I wouldn’t want to have it any other way.

In the meantime, I will attach a video to my son-in-law’s band, “The Undeserving” and their free version of  “You’re a Mean One Mr. Grinch”…enjoy…

Is Your Tank Spiritually Empty?

Only a few more days until Christmas.   It seems hard to believe but another year has passed by and I am putting up the same Christmas decorations that I swear I had just put away the other day.

This year, I think that my wife has personally tried to end the current economic crisis all by herself.  She pretty much cleared out the mall in Washington D.C. on Black Friday and more recently in Toledo.

With that in mind, have you checked out the price of gas these days?

Now I try to economize as much as possible.   I look at every gas station I pass on my way to work, checking out which one has the lowest price; and then, on my way back home, I pull into the best option and fill‘er up.   Loyalty to certain brands plays a bit of a role in my choice; but I still try to find the lowest price.  Lately,  I find that I’ve been filling up more frequently, because eight gallons feels less painful than fifteen.   Plus, I don’t want to get caught short.  So, it’s become a habit.   I regularly check to see what’s in my tank.

When I was younger, I would risk it and try to see how far I could go without running out.  More times than not I would make it.  It was sort of exciting to push the limits and make it.   However,  the thrill of taking these chances and pushing the limits of your car’s ability to run on empty sometimes got the best of me.   I made the mistake of risking it and paying the price of a long walk in the middle of the night to get some gas.

It reminds me of a favorite Seinfeld episode…
When I look back at those times,  when I would risk running out of gas, I see an immature young man that did not really have to face any real consequences for the choices he made.   If I did not make it, well then, I had no one else to blame.  However, it didn’t take too many of those walks on a lonely highway in the middle of the night to teach me to make sure I had enough gas to get to my destination.  I guess that is the process of growing and maturing.   I had walked enough miles to allow myself to learn a lesson.  Now when I see my gas tank hit a quarter tank I start to sweat and try to find a gas station before I find myself walking along another lonely highway.

 

Most of the time, I realize that what we do in our normal, daily lives often has an application to our spiritual lives.  Take my experience with checking my gas tank. Physical fuel is a must to keep a car running.   But what about your soul?  What does it take to keep it running?   What is in your spiritual tank that keeps you running and serving the Lord?  My experience, both personally and what I have observed from others,  is that we don’t keep our spiritual tanks full and we risk living our life with empty spiritual gas tanks.

What do you do to keep your tank full in your relationship with God?
Music?
Prayer?
Bible study?
Fellowship with others?
What helps you the most to refresh yourself in your walk with God?

Your spiritual tank is much more important than your car’s fuel tank. Yet, most of the time, we
don’t even bother to think about it very much.  After all, “there are so many concerns in my life
that occupy my attention.  You know: the economy, my job, the children, my health.”

Yes, that’s all true.   But what happens when your “soul-tank” is empty? When you run out of “soul fuel” how do you feel? Agitated? Pretty empty? Short-tempered? Giving up hope? Angry at God? I think we’ve all experienced one or more of these feelings at some time or another in our life.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.   What I have found is that when I need to be renewed and re-energized, all I have to do is surround myself with the things of God.  I keep a close watch on my life and heart so that I keep myself close to the source of  spiritual fuel I need to get through the day.   If we would only take the same kind of care and preparation to make sure we have spiritual fuel as much as we have for the physical fuel for our car our life would be different.

This year, Christmas could be different for you.   Take time to fill your life with Christ.   It doesn’t cost you anything… it is a free gift.  The best thing is that you can fill up any time you want.  What a deal! It’s yours for the asking.   Make the decision today – to let Jesus fill your tank.  And when you do, you’ll start to see this world in a different light and this could be the best Christmas you have ever experienced.

It’s all up to you.




The Easter Bunny, Cadbury Eggs and The Resurrection of Christ

A curious time of year, Easter.  I often wonder why it’s done in the way that it is?   We have delicious chocolate eggs, bunny rabbits of all shapes and sizes, some people get some time off work to ‘celebrate’ the holiday, but for many that’s about it.  So I am not going to waste my time trying the demonize the Easter bunny or Cadbury Eggs.  The sad truth is…is that I love Cadbury eggs.  I am just not sure what they have to do with Easter.

As someone who believes in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, I feel somewhat ashamed that at times the above has often been my focus during this time of year.  No different from how at times I have lost the focus on what Christmas is all about as well.  When people compare Easter and Christmas it’s easy to see which holiday is the favorite.   Christmas = presents (and for most people, lots of ‘em!).  It’s a joyous occasion when we spend time with friends and family, eat lots of great food and chill out after a gruelling year at work.   Easter’s just a long weekend for most people, isn’t it?

But as I get older I am finding myself really believing that Easter is my favorite holiday.  The story of Easter remains the more inspirational to me and it gives all of us a greater hope.

Don’t get me wrong, I love both times of year.   But I’m less passionate about a time of year when I can either give or receive presents in celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ.   I am now more interested in celebrating  His death on the cross and His resurrection.  For it is through His death and the resurrection that I have hope of salvation. This is awesome news for people who don’t know God.   I’d much rather they got this gift of salvation than a tie at Christmas.


The story of Jesus is that He came to earth as God born of a woman.  He lived without sin yet was murdered on a Cross. He died but rose from death three days afterward conquering Satan, sin and death – this is the greatest story of all! Without the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we have no hope.

Let’s not forget what Easter is really about.   It’s not the eggs, or the rabbits.   It’s not about getting some time off work. It’s not even about religion.   It’s about Jesus.   It’s about what He did on the Cross, dying for our sins, so that whoever believes in Him should have eternal life.

Easter is all about Jesus and His Resurrection

Resurrection!  We don’t talk about it much except for a few days around Easter and maybe if we hear a message on Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.  Of course the whole Lazarus thing was different, because Lazarus didn’t get a new body, he got his old one back and eventually had to die again.  Bummer for him!  But when we come to the resurrection of Jesus, who had been in a grave for 3 days, we should take notice.  It was such a significant event that the early Christians met weekly together to celebrate the resurrection.  They knew that this changed everything.

There is now a guarantee that the grace Jesus offered is real and that we can count on the forgiveness of our sins, healing, and restoration.   All of the teachings, the truths, and how Jesus lived his life becomes absolutely critical to who we are as followers of Jesus.  Facing the future is now something to look forward to, because resurrection with a new re-created body and life forever is in store for everyone who whole-heartedly follows Jesus.  That is good news!  That is the purpose of the Easter Holiday!  That…is the reason to celebrate His Resurrection.