Wednesday, December 20, 2006
Little Old List Maker, Me.
It's that time of year again, one many avoid or outright ignore, but I look forward to. Resolutions for a new year.

Many, if they speak of them at all, say they never make them, and quickly add or explain, there's no point even trying, because they never keep one. Me, I have to know if I can.

Over the years I've worn out the usual ones, weight loss, getting rid of junk, and my all time favorite, getting organized. I think I'll never get real good at that, but at least I try.

Not that it's solely about numbers. Numerics and being analytical, it's for certain that's not me. But last year I made five resolutions. Did real well with three of them, and not so good with the other two.

This year the ones I'm resolving to do are more about growing me. So here they are. There's something about writing things down that makes them seem more important, and even if I only keep a few, perhaps will become more like someone you'd like to be around, and in the process I may like me more, too.

#1. Think and speak more positively. Avoid negative as if it were the plague.

#2. Become a better listener. Get good at really hearing what others say.

#3. Judge others at least as kindly as I do myself.

#4. See the world through others' eyes. Try to understand why they feel the way they

#5. (And I just have to try this one again) Lighten up, and be less serious, except
about number 1 through 4. Hope you all have a wondrous Christmas, and many
blessings await you.

  posted at 11:12 AM  

Sunday, December 17, 2006
It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like...........
Well, here we are, not many days until Christmas. What I want to write about here, I've been thinking of longer than that. A few weeks ago the idea began to grow, when signs of it began showing up along with Christmas decorations,in the market places, and especially at the mall.

When a quote of the week about how we celebrate Christmas surfaced, I became even more interested in posting about this.

This isn't just about how Christmas has become a commercialized gift giving mania. What should be the focal point of it, Christ's birth, is not only pretty much ignored, now a days there seems to be a nation wide effort to suppress how we even speak of it.

A long time ago, it became socially correct to be politically correct. What comes to mind here is something I've often heard: that we shouldn't bring up politics or religion in social settings. But about this holiday that's almost here, we are, are we not, celebrating Jesus birth.

Consider, if you will, what we call December 25, and where the word, Christmas came from.
Some may wonder why I'm so adamant about this. I'm concerned about it because I think the way it's being dealt with goes further than just urging us to be socially proper, so as to not offend, or tread on anybody's rights.

A hallmark of Christianity is that we should have compassion for the needy and poor. A year or so ago, when Christmas drew near, a big shopping giant announced it would no longer allow Salvation Army Bell Ringers at entrances to their stores.

Because, they said, their presence might offend someone. The Salvation Army feeds hungry people, and gives clothes to those who need them, and these are provided by donations.

I understand they also help needy people in other ways. Whatever is tossed in the bell ringer's kettle, all of it is always voluntary. When you walk by one, have you noticed they never ask for anything.

While we're being encouraged to not say much about Christmas being Christmas, the media, especially the entertainment media, would also affect our thinking. While I was at the mall this week, I checked to see what movies are playing. Of three, one's caption read "What If you Could Live Forever?" It said nothing about the advertizement having anything to do with religion, just what if you could make yourself immortal. Another of the three movies showing was titled simply: "Babel".

In recent time, the public was informed to overflowing about a movie called the da Vinci Code. Not only was the movie hyped most everywhere, It's available in book form, too.

Long ago, there were movies about Bible stories. The parting of the Red Sea, and the chariot races especially stand out for me. But what's being made today pushes the limits, asks if Christianity's really real. It does this in a seemingly innocuous way. Presents a theme to catch the public's attention, and theme after theme follows, until it's considered usual to feed one's mind with these concepts, as if they were historical facts, instead of only subtle advertising.

Today, in the Denver Post's Arts and Entertainment section there's an article called "Putting Faith In Showbiz". It takes up at least a half a page of the paper. It describes a stand-up comedy tour available on DVD called "Thou Shalt Laugh".
At one point in the article, it is pointed out that "the Christian entertainment industry has boomed into a more than a $3 billion-a-year-industry."

One seasonal movie I read about just yesterday is called, I believe, "The Nativity", and the catchy short and to the point advertizement for it simply says something like: "it will put Christ back in Christmas". As I read this I felt we have come full circle here. Isn't that how this matter became a topic for discussion this time of year.

I'm not saying it's not alright to enjoy entertainment, like "A Charlie Brown Christmas", It's author taught us many humane principles. The difference though, is that he didn't present them as anything other than what they were, lovely thoughts to laugh about and consider.

What's important to remember, I think, is that we have the same right, given us by God and Country, to decide how much or how little we care to be influenced by Hollywood's latest theme.

  posted at 7:20 PM  

Friday, December 15, 2006
It's Christmas Again.
I've been much too busy. Hadn't noticed until today, we're in the twelve days before Christmas, less than that, I think. Ten? Nine? Either way, no matter what's going on, Christmas will come.

I can feel it, sense it, eveywhere I go, especially since I'm not caught up in it, like usual. What I am caught up in is moving back to Denver. So instead of partying or wrapping lots of gifts, I'm packing, getting ready to go over the mountains again.

Still, it will be Christmas, so we should celebrate. Daughter, Barb, at A Chelsea Morning does it so well. She's good at that, much better than I am, so I will bring the shrimp. Those little ocean creatures that lend an elegance to any important meal, and this one is. Barb and I haven't been together at Christmas in a long, long time, and don't know when we can again.

My feelings are all tangled. Even though I'm eager to go back, as the time to leave nears, I wish we could spend more together, but understand it would never be enough. That's how moms and daughters are.

So I'm thankful, very thankful for emailing, and our being in what some call the blogging dynasty, so we can keep in touch, and know what's going on with each other almost any day.

It won't be the same as lunching together at Wrigley Field, or enjoying a shopping trip, but I'll come back when I can, and in the meantime, it will soon be Christmas again.

  posted at 9:03 PM  

Wednesday, December 13, 2006
Back To The Beginning, And Beyond
I know, I know. It sounds like a crazy title for a post. I'm trying to figure it out, too. When I began blogging a few months ago, after daughter, Bev, at Blessed Beyond Measure, encouraged me to I mentioned something she told me long ago, that she admired my loving "becoming".

I took it as a compliment, her saying that, for I understood clearly what she was trying to say. She had noticed my great need to grow. When I consider the times I've not done that well, it makes her comment mean more.

A little aside from all this seriousness, I need to say what I'm putting into words here isn't just about me, me me. Take any part or all of it you wish, if it will help along your way.

Lately, because I've had some time alone, I've thought of lots of things. How did I become whatever I am, and why? Bit by bit, little pieces of life, day by day.

I've already posted, maybe several times, on the influence certain people had on me. But today I'm talking about more than that, my journey to find me. Like many things about our lives, it didn't happen in a flash, nor without any effort.

Something that stands out more than others is a book an attorney said I should read: PSYCHO-CYBERNETICS, by Maxwell Maltz. It was in the early 60's. I had gone to the attorney because I was miserable in my marriage. I got the book and read it, but didn't understand hardly any of it. Looking back now, I realize I hadn't traveled far enough of my life to understand what I needed to see.

But I appreciated that the attorney tried to help. A seed was sewn, and it would grow.

Much more was taking place in the sixties, not just in our home, but in the world, but home took up most of me. My children were all in school, and I longed to be there too.

At our house each day just seemd to follow the one that passed. It's so easy to spend your energy and hours making beds and meals, that you don't think about much more than that.

But something in me was restless. I couldn't bear thinkng I'd grow old, and still be ignorant. While the children did their homework, I memorized word lists. I remember clipping the list to the kitchen curtain with a clothes pin, so while washing dishes I could study it.

By the early 70's we were in Colorado, and someone told me about a weekend the church put on. A time for personal growth, they said, and gave me a little book to read.

Except for the one the attorney mentioned, it was my first step toward getting acquainted with me. I'll never forget it: "HOW TO BE YOUR OWN BEST FRIEND".

That was long ago, and though there didn't seem to be much progress in my "becoming" back then, another seed had been sewn.

I hadn't found all of me yet, but at least was going in the right direction, and with a little wisdom understood, God had been taking care of me all along, almost laying in my lap whatever I needed to learn.

Over the years I did get some education. For a long time, I thought that was my life goal. Of course, not everything is learned in books. The 25 years between then and now, and just as many wrong turns, taught me more than a college degree did, mainly, that we can only know that part of ourselves we let grow.

I've looked and looked, but cannot find the little book about being one's own best friend. If any of you have it, or know where one's available, I would so appreciate reading it again.

I realize it's nearly Christmas, and you're busy preparing for it. At this moment you're probably not seriously contemplating your future. But while I have all this time on my hands, even while packing, thought I'd share this with you. I think I see another road unfolding, just ahead.

  posted at 9:28 AM  

Monday, December 11, 2006
This Grand Valley, and beyond.
For a few days I've been wanting to write this, though I'm still not sure how to start. It's Christmas time. I feel like I should be doing more of the things the holiday requires, but I'm not doing many of them, not this year.

The main celebration will be at Barb's, that beautiful lady, my daughter, at "A Chelsea Morning". Even if she didn't have children and a grand child to celebrate with, it still should be done at her house. Anyone who loves every Christmas detail as much as she does, should celebrate royally, and we will.

It's not that I'm not into the Christmas spirit. Chances are Barb got much of her love of it from me. But while the count down continues til December 25, another drummer boy calls out.

Soon, very soon I'll be leaving this valley, over the mountains to the northwest's Big D. Always, always I will remember what it's like to live here, but must go where work is better.

Still, today I felt a little out of whatever's expected at Christmas, so I did what shoppers do. Went to the mall, and people watched. It's great for loneliness. A young man checked out Bridal rings, maybe surprised at the cost. When I walked away, so as not to stare, he was still there, smiling.

I hadn't eaten, so headed to Burger King. Placed my order and got it, and found somewhere to sit. Across from me two men who looked like father and son, had a chess set out, and were playing. I couldn't tell who won. I just so loved that they took the time for each other, and wish that more of us did.

A few weeks from now I'll be back in Denver. There are good things about it, too, but I will always remember this valley, and the people here.

  posted at 9:35 PM  

Saturday, December 09, 2006
Key To The Kingdom
This week's quote for Christian Women Online by Terry Maxwell: "I am the one holding the keys to the atmosphere in our home", got my attention as quickly as a knot in my apron string would. Not that I wear them much anymore, but I remember when I did, when the children were growing up.

The quote suggests I'm responsible for the emotions, feelings and attitudes of everyone under our roof.

My first reaction to this was a long, tired sigh. The children, all six of them, grew up and have left home.

Our family's history could cause many people to pause and rest. There's heart ache and heart break, but there was also love. I think it's all called life.

One grandchild is in juvenile detention. Another was chosen by a college president to be his assistant. A grand daughter is in trouble because of drugs. Chidren and Grandchildren, who live Christ centered lives, are teaching their children the same. Most of them seem responsible, and self reliant, and haven't been in trouble with the law.

Six completed college, and have good jobs or budding careers. Some exist on very little. Some have more.

I realize tragedy can reach anyone, but I wonder why some turned out to do so well, while others haven't. A son killed himself, and the death of a grand daughter may have been a suicide, accidental, or not, because of drugs.

How did all this happen? What influenced some to head in certain directions, while others don't yet seem to know which way to go.

I think the biggest common denominator, is whether they let Christ lead their lives. Those who do seem to prosper more. Not that salvation is about money, but their emotional lives seem richer too. I don't see as much worry and strife.

I believe core values are learned early on, and mostly at home.

There's talk about how birth order affects development. Each of my children showed different personality traits while very young.

So how did the emotional atmosphere where we all lived together seem to affect them so differently? I don't doubt they didn't have much self esteem. They couldn't have seen much of it in me back then.

I easily recognize their love of learning, and know where they got that. When your mother gives you an additional spelling test each week, besides the one you got at school, you kind of get the idea she might think it's important.

While Moms may have more to do with the home atmosphere than Dads, I believe boys pick up on traits they can only learn from fathers, or other men, those things that tell them how to be a man.

The same can be said of mothers and daughters. Little mannerisms, the way they walk or talk, or pause. Some of it may simply be from bone structure genes, but more than likely, my daughters learned theirs from me.

We haven't touched on other things home atmosphere affects. Helping children feel safe and wanted, and knowing they're secure.

They learn much more from what they see, than what they're told. If their father shows respect for thier Mom, they learn they should, too. How they're trained and corrected tells them how to treat their children.

Positive or negative outlooks are easily acquired. Attitude about race and religion, children pick up on without being told.

When I began writing on this subject, I was thinking my being in a good mood, or having a pleasant disposition helped develop a good home atmosphere.

But I wasn't satisfied I'd adequately covered the subject here, so I looked the word up. Atmosphere: "a pervading or surrounding influence or spirit" is what I found. I knew I provided all of it I could, but there are times it seems my children need more.

So I must step aside, so they can find the greatest atmosphere and influence of all, our Lord. This doesn't mean that I won't sometimes still help them. Moms are like that, I'm sure you know. But wise ones also know when to move over, and give their children space to find themselves and grow.

  posted at 5:53 PM  

Friday, December 08, 2006
War Or Peace
Yesterday, because it was the anniversary of the beginning of World War II, I thought of writing chapter 6 of my life story, and focusing on that time, and the war, and how it affected the part of the world I lived in.

But I saw something in the news that changed my mind. World War II veterans, some of them 80 years old, or older, gathered yesterday to honor the sacrifices our military made in that war. In their talks yesterday, they mentioned that because of their ages, many of them aren't sure they can attend next year.

So I think instead of focusing on that particular war, something needs to be said about those that followed, and some that took place before.

I'm not real astute about World History, but in my years I've picked up a little. When I read about governments not based on separation of church and state, and the atrocities they heaped upon those who opposed them, I was shocked.
Torture and death were common place. Many groups of people risked dying to get to America and the freedoms they believed waited here.

Long before World War II, other wars were fought. Men were willing to die to defend territories, and determine who would rule.

In 1836 In Texas, a battle was fought at a religious mission. All who opposed the invasion died there, but not before a line was drawn in the sand, to separate those who would stay and fight from those who wouldn't. and it came down to every man. Wars that followed picked up the battle cry it began. When World War II started, you could hear it, "Remember The Alamo". That's the kind of courage we needed then, and need today.

At the Alamo Americans fought to defend a country, a cause. Terrorists, their very name describes them, only want to destroy, and while attempting to do that, delight in humiliating and inflicting pain, and fear.

What's happening today is even more insidious. When the terrorists flew our planes into the Trade Center towers, they didn't bravely announce their coming, or state a cause for war. Like the Japanese on Dec. 7, 1941, they sneaked in, under cover, and attacked, but what they did declared a brand new war.

Their beliefs harken back to religious wars of ancient times. At least their ideology is the same, that to exist with them, all must adopt their beliefs.

This won't happen, of course. Peaceful co-existence with them will never be. So we fight unseen enemies, wherever they appear. It could be in New York subways, or in an oil field, or one of our airports. Yesterday one was arrested for trying to bomb a shopping Center. It's not a conincidence it was to be done at Christmas.

This challenge to our country won't end soon, maybe never, but there is something we can do to strengthen us for the battle. I'm not saying we should lay down our weapons. Having them gives us strength. It's not likely we'll be called on to do hand to hand battle, but we can overcome evil with good, one good deed at a time.

Not in high government board rooms, but wherever we happen to be.

We can slow down a moment and let someone in traffic. Move over for someone at the mall to rush by. Not be so critical when we see someone begging. Not judge why their life is that way.
Appreciate our own good fortune enough to give some of it to others. Care if we leave the outdoors like we found it. At least not litter it up.

Ordinary people become heroes by finding causes bigger than they. Let's go a step further with charity, and not expect praise for ourselves.
Enough airports and buildings and towns have been named after people.

Let's think on these things and then do them, not only a while at Christmas, but every time we can.

  posted at 8:11 AM  

Thursday, December 07, 2006
A Remembered Time
It's Christmas time again. This one feels kind of indescribable, because I'm in a new town, and not very well connected with a church group, and instead of the house looking Christmasy, U-haul boxes waiting to be packed, are scattered all around.

I have a little apartment size tree that even has lights on it, but with all those boxes taking up space, can't figure out where to set it. The kitchen can't know it yet, but in a few days its shelves will be bare. It's not that I can't afford Chrismas goodies and other stuff this year. There's just no one here to prepare it for. So I won't be making my great brownies and other yummy stuff, not this year.

What this reminds me of is how attached we get to our usual ways of celebrating. I'm not complaining, honestly, I'm not. I'm sure hospitals have many patients who won't celebrate in their usual ways this year. Car wrecks, accidents, things that happen, at the most inconvenient times change lots of plans.

My heart is Christmasy though, and listening to soft reminders of other holiday times helps. I'm sure it's allright with the Christ in our Christmas, if I continue packing, as this holiday arrives.

Reminiscing helps too, and I'd like to share a special long ago Christmas with you.

It was 1971. I felt a little then, like I do now, not very connected to where I was. We had moved to Colorado, mostly because I thought if we lived in a different place, we might hold our 25 year marriage together. Time and distance didn't solve the reasons it was falling apart, so I filed for divorce, and just before the holidays, it was final.

Viet Nam was still raging. Some of my sons were at far away Naval bases. With so little money, and Christmas so near, and food stamps stretching only so far, I felt like your parents must have. I didn't know how I would afford presents, or a chicken or small turkey, and fixings to make dressing with.

Back then the children and I went to a Catholic church, and I remembered it was announced at Mass, if we knew of families who needed help, to put their names in the offering plate. I was embarrassed to do it, but wanted something that seemed like Christmas for the children that year. So I wrote out my name and address, and slipped it in the collection plate. I thought maybe we would get a food basket.

A few days before Christmas, two people from the church showed up, and handed me a basket filled with nice foods, things you couldn't usually afford, and $25.00 worth of supermarket vouchers. Before leaving the church people paused a moment, and said they had something else to give me. The priest knew I was going to school part time after work, so when he learned we needed help, he sent along a one hundred dollar check from the church, to encourage me, he said.

The childen grew up, not without bumps and struggles, but they all graduated from high school. When we talk about those years, it's not the being poor that we remember. It's knowing someone cared enough to help that Christmas. Someone cared enough to give us hope.

  posted at 11:26 AM  

Wednesday, December 06, 2006
Sorting It Out.
To take a break from getting ready to move back to Denver, I've figured out what to do. Blog, do a post about it. Now that I've stopped arguing with myself about whether to stay or go, Im dealing with a long list of things, some very important, that need to be taken care of, before I leave.

If I live long enough, maybe I'll get better acquainted with me. I wonder, is it more than furniture and important papers, and belongings I need to be sorting?

If you've read even a few of my posts, you may have noticed I get too serious about most everything. That's how I was approaching not only this move, but other things about being here. Even though I like to think I'm reasonably sharp, and have some savvy, I had slipped into an either-or-attitude about making this move. If one place was a good choice, how could the other be.

Honestly! Sometimes I wish I didn't know much psychology, all those why's and how comes about human behavior, and I could just think and feel as my little heart tells me to.

Something I've come up with is, behavioral patterns I learned years and years ago, I continue now, almost automatically.

In childhood I was taken or sent to various relatives, sometimes to other families. This may have been because all of us were in the throes of trying to survive a Depression. Many times the leaving was sudden, with no time for closure about no longer being where I was. Sometimes I had to leave little friends.

I'm wondering if how I dealt with those changes is how I deal with today's. When something about a relationship hurts, and I feel helpless to change it, I just numb myself, so I don't feel anything at all. I know I have a very hard time with goodbyes.

This time of leaving, I'm choosing to see good things about it. Barb and I shared more time together these past months, than we ever have before. She got Rob to bring her to my place several times, to help straighten out a really awful mess about the computer.

Her little Chelsea, the doggie she named her blog after, makes you feel so needed when she gives you a fifteen minute hello, each and every time you visit.

I got to see Barb's little grandson while he was still a baby, and thrilled at watching him take his first steps, then walk so fast it seemed like he was running. I suppose, like the rest of us, he's trying to find his trail, too. I love listening to him try to make words.

I was tremendously honored and happy when Mandy confided in me that she would be marrying a really awesome young man.

I think I'm getting it all sorted out. Each of us needs to get on with our lives, no matter which side of the mountain we choose, but when I head back to Denver, I'm taking some precious moments along.

  posted at 5:41 PM  

Monday, December 04, 2006
#5. Christmas In The 30's and 40's
To post #5 of my life story, I intended waiting until after the Christmas season, But something happened that caused me to change my mind. A group of Christian women take a quote each week, (this time it's Billy Graham's), and post about it.

What Mr. Graham said about how people do Christmas got my literary brain to buzzing, and I wrote a lengthy post about it, how most of the celebrating hardly acknowledges Christ coming to earth.

I've thought a lot about this today, and finally decided maybe it would help if I told you how Christmases were done long ago when I was a little girl, in the 30's and 40's.

As I think on what to write here, I remember what a patient said to me one night, as I worked a nursing shift. We had somehow got on the subject of raising children. I'm as old as some of my patients, so we easily relate about things like that.

She said what our country needs is another depression, so people would have to do with less, and maybe children would learn how to be more responsible, and as they became adults, be more able to take care of themselves.

I'm not advocating a scrooge mentality attitude about Christmas, or about raising children, but I can tell you what both were like in my childhood.

Down the road was my grandfather's big, two story house, but Mom and Dad and a sister and I lived in a smaller place.

A heater that you built a wood fire in barely kept us warm, and you had to turn from side to side as you stood near it, because it was nothing like today's central heat. If one side of you was warm, the other side wasn't, and there was always the danger of a fire, which had happened.

My sister's nightgown had caught on fire, and it burned her pretty badly. I remember that the doctor got Mom and Dad to put table chairs on each side of her in the bed, so the covers could be draped, and not touch her burns.

It was Christmas time, so Mom put cookies or something out, and told me not to eat them, because they were for Santa Claus. Christmas morning they were all gone, except for some crumbs. Dad showed them to me, then took me outside and pointed to tracks in the dirt. "Those are Santa's" he said, and I believed him. I still didn't know much about expecting Santa to deliver toys and things.

Dad said maybe Santa left me something at GrandPa's.

I loved going to GrandPa's house. It always smelled like something was cooking, and usually it was. Aunts and uncles would arrive, and the tree, it brushed the ceiling. It was beautiful.

Not much was said about presents, except Grand Pa showed me a little rocking chair, and told me it was mine, all mine. There was another one for my sister, but it would be a while before she could sit in it, because of her burns.

Relatives kept showing up. Uncles teased me about how much I could eat. GrandMa's food was so good, and we didn't have stuff like that at our house.

My other Grand Ma lived farther away. Sometimes we went to her house. She warmed the bedrooms (there was no living room) with a wood heater. But what was most fun was that she let me help her build a fire in the cook stove.

Near it was a wooden box she kept kindling in, small pieces of pine we used to start the fire. GrandMa showed me how to light it with a match, put it in the stove, then blow on it to make it burn bigger, and add more pieces of wood, to keep it burning.I just felt so grownup that she let me help start the fires.

As an adult, I think how hard that crude way of life must have been for her. Christmas dinner at her house was baked chicken and cornbread dressing, and not much else, except maybe she would make one of her syrup cakes. I stayed real close by as she stirred it and poured it into baking pans, for she always let me have the stir spoon to lick.

The only things that even resembled gifts or toys at her house were the paper dolls she let me cut from old catalogues. But we had good times. Granny showed me how to sew quilt blocks. She called them "nine patch" blocks, because that's how many you sewed together to make one. It was hard to reach the pedal to push with my foot, but that's what made the sewing machine work.

Many years later Granny died. I don't think she hardly ever had electric lighting, indoor plumbing, or central heat. When it was cold winter you could hear the wind whistling outside her door, and sometimes feel a draft that found its way inside.

The love and courage that little woman showed! It would be many years before I realized the hardships of her life. She was widowed very young, with four small children to raise, way out in the backwoods of East Texas.

I've seen many Christmases, and received nice presents, wrapped in ribbons and pretty paper. But the paper dolls, and making quilt blocks, and especially the helping Granny build cook stove fires, those will always be the very best gifts of all.

Quite a ways from Granny's was my aunt's home in Houston. that's where I saw electric Christmas tree lights for the first time, and It's where I learned more about the war my daddy went away to. But tonight, as this Christmas nears, I just want to remember Granny, and all that she gave me, that wasn't bought from a store.

  posted at 6:09 PM  

Saturday, December 02, 2006
Holding Baby Jesus
Because this quote of the week by Billy Graham is so long, I will try to paraphrase it here.

"When Mary and Joseph needed a place for the Child to be born, the innkeeper wasn't hostile; but his inn was crowded, and his mind was preoccupied, like millions are today, as Christmas nears."

"Instead of making the Christ Child the focal point of Christmas, people's minds and hearts are taken up, to the overflowing, by other crowding interests. Their response is not atheism, nor is it defiance. It is preoccupation, and the feeling of being able to get on reasonably well without Christianity."

When I saw this week's quote, I didn't even have to think whether to write on it. For years I've felt that the way we do Christmas is out of focus, far removed from what we say we're celebrating.

I don't mean to come across like a modern day Judas, complaining that precious perfume should not be used to anoint Jesus' feet. I understand that families create traditions about Christmas by hanging certain stockings, or decorating a particular way, and serving certain foods down through the years, and this creates beautiful and bonding memories for them.

I recall special occasions at Christmas. A son managed to get a key to my apartment, so he could set up a tree for me. I was so surprised about it that it was a few moments before I realized he needed family to be around a tree together more than I did. One Christmas season a daughter showed up at my door, holding a box of ornaments. I will never forget how firmly she said, "Mom, get your coat, we're going to get you a Christmas tree." Another time, some of my children figured out a way to get me a new typewriter. Was that ever a surprize! An older daughter, knowing one year was probably one of the worst ever for me, sent me Christmas in a box, gifts to open, homemade goodies, and a handwritten letter so filled with caring and love.

But as beautiful as all those times were, in comparison to the Christ Child's love, our human effort to show it, pales. Do we emphasize gift giving, sometimes to extreme, to fill up the emptiness of not holding Baby Jesus at Christmas?

If that's all we do to celebrate His birth, if that's what we teach our children Christmas is about, we short change them in their relationship with Him. We teach them that material things are more important, more valuable, than holding the Baby Jesus, who became our Lord.

If we don't make time and space to at least remember what we're commemorating, if we barely acknowledge whose Birthday we say we're celebrating, then all of our efforts, no matter how noble, don't mean much, and leave us not a lot different than the ancient Romans, who indulged their flesh and food appetites, but didn't let Christ feed their souls.

I am not against profit making in the marketplace at Christmas time, but the gift giving part of it has grown so huge, it has replaced the meaning of Christmas. It has become many people's holiday God.

Again, I want to say I'm not opposed to giving gifts. I love surprising someone with something special, and it's nice sometimes, to receive a present, but don't you think it's all out of proportion, when stores set up Chrismas displays before Halloween's even done. I saw a holiday add in the news today that said something like, "While you're choosing gifts for others, make yourself feel better, get one for you."

Christmas has become so stressful that medical organizations post helpful ideas on how to deal with it. Depression is prevalent this time of year, as is suicide. We crowd our time and energy and minds with a too long list of things to do. Many get gifts for their pets. Stores have long aisles of things for them. Again, at the risk of sounding like a modern day Judas complaining about the cost, wouldn't it spread more of Christ's love to feed a poor hungry human, if only one meal, than to buy something cute for an animal.

Often, for whatever reason, people accept too many invitations to social events, some of which they don't really want to go to anyway. Isn't that a little hypocritical, when it leaves us too worn out or short on time to be with family?

We need to understand that it's not that Christ needs us to draw close to Him, but He, in his magnificent love for us, wants us to experience being so loved.

Even if you don't attend church, when was the last time you walked after a light snowfall, and sensed its freshness, and the crunch of it beneath your feet? When were you not in such a hurry to bake cookies that you savored the aroma coming from the oven, and wrapped a few in a little container, and took them to someone who can no longer bake, like they used to. When you light Christmas candles, do you stop a moment to smell their fragrance, do you think about all that God has made for us, or are you so caught up in the doings of the season, that you just hurry to get it all done.

You will be amazed at how quickly we all grow old. When you reach that point, when memories are almost all you have left to hold onto, wouldn't it be so good, if along the way you'd made and kept a few, and taken time to hold the Baby Jesus in your heart, so it would be so natural to say: "Jesus, how I need You to hold me."

  posted at 3:47 PM  

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Name: Judith

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