Tuesday, December 27, 2011

In pursuit of knowledge and wisdom - Proverbs 8:10 with a story from the life of Socrates and an observation.

SCRIPTURE: Proverbs 8:10 (TM)
Prefer my life-disciplines over chasing after money, and God-knowledge over a lucrative career.

A STORY as told by M. Littleton:
There's a story about a proud young man who came to Socrates asking for knowledge. He walked up to the muscular philosopher and said, "O great Socrates, I come to you for knowledge."

Socrates recognized a pompous numbskull when he saw one. He led the young man through the streets, to the sea, and chest deep into water. Then he asked, "What do you want?"

"Knowledge, O wise Socrates," said the young man with a smile.

Socrates put his strong hands on the man's shoulders and pushed him under. Thirty seconds later Socrates let him up. "What do you want?" he asked again.

"Wisdom," the young man sputtered, "O great and wise Socrates."

Socrates crunched him under again. Thirty seconds passed, thirty-five. Forty. Socrates let him up. The man was gasping. "What do you want, young man?"

Between heavy, heaving breaths the fellow wheezed, "Knowledge, O wise and wonderful..."

Socrates jammed him under again Forty seconds passed. Fifty. "What do you want?"
"Air!" the young man screeched. "I need air!"

"When you want knowledge as you have just wanted air, then you will have knowledge."

We already know more than we can ever use and yet, our pool of knowledge is growing ever larger. A case in point is my little Mac-mini computer. It measures 8x8x1 inches. The speed is unbelievable. Its ability is unimaginable. Now, compare what this little square box to huge machines that occupied nearly the entire second floor of Sears and Roebuck in Atlanta in 1970 when I worked for them as a credit supervisor. The temperature in that huge room was kept in the 60-degree range. There were hundreds of machine linked together. And yet, my little Mac-mini can handle thousands upon thousands more data then those early computers could in 1970. It is just unbelievable.

We chase after knowledge, but lack basic wisdom. We desire bigger, faster things. We hunger after more “stuff” and leave our desire for the things called holy on the sidelines. We sell our souls for what the world offers and by-pass the unbelievable joy of a relationship with God.

One of the lessons of the Wise Men, scholars if you will – the best minds that the world offered in that day - is that in all of their knowledge and wisdom they desired to bend their knees in worship in the young child’s presence. Oh, that we would follow their example.

Examples abound, gracious Lord, of individuals who place what the world offers at the feet of Jesus in their desire to worship him to the fullest. Give us the courage to follow suit. In the precious name of Jesus we ask this, Amen.

Monday, December 26, 2011

And the joy continues

SCRIPTURE: John 15:11 (NIV)
I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.

Author Leo Buscaglia tells this story about his mother and their "misery dinner." It was the night after his father came home and said it looked as if he would have to go into bankruptcy because his partner had absconded with their firm's funds. His mother went out and sold some jewelry to buy food for a sumptuous feast. Other members of the family scolded her for it. But she told them that "the time for joy is now, when we need it most, not next week." Her courageous act rallied the family.

Most of the world took time out of their busy schedule yesterday to experience the joy which had come into the world. Admittedly, it might seem hard to celebrate when some tragedy has visited a loved one. But, while life could be challenging the time of celebration has come into all of our homes … even when this seem the darkest. As Mr. Buscaglia illustrated in his story, celebration rallies our spirits. Rejoicing dispels the gloom and dark. Joy turns night into day. And so we stopped to celebrate … may the celebration of Christmas continue not just on the 25th of December and not just during the month of December, but it continue throughout the year.

I have always found it peculiar the number of homes that remove all signs of the Christmas celebration on the 26th of December. The tree is out on the curb to be picked up. The lights come off the house. All decorations are packed away for another year. They seem to be declaring, the time of celebration is over … now get back to routine, our work, our busy schedule … we’ve had our moment of happiness and it is time to pick up the pieces of our life.

But I like the declaration of the little girl who got up on December 26th and proclaimed to her family, “Merry Christmas, Jesus is born!” When her father tried to correct her by reminding her that Christmas was yesterday she shared, “But if he isn’t born today then he wasn’t born yesterday either. His birth is every day and every day is Christmas.” I think that she got it right. Her joy was and is complete.

May we dear Lord celebrate the reality of Christ’s birth in our life everyday. May our joy be complete as you life in us. Amen.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Dealing with the real reason for this season - Luke 2:15 with a story and an observation

SCRIPTURE: Luke 2:15 (TM)
As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the sheepherders talked it over. "Let's get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us."

Many years ago the Puritans thought that they were ruining Christmas with all their pagan rituals. They especially objected to the fact that the holiday usually came on a weekday, therefore distracting people, they thought, from the Lord's Day of Sunday. But they did more than annually complain about it as we do. They took action and got rid of Christmas altogether. In Puritan settlements across 17th century America a law was passed outlawing the celebration of Christmas. The marketplace was ordered to stay open for business as though it was no special occasion and all violators were prosecuted. It was against the law to make plum pudding on December 25th. The celebration was not referred to as Yuletide but as fooltide. 

So we want to reform Christmas and clean it up do we? Well, is this how far we want to go? Do we really want to be rid of it altogether? Then will Christmas, as the Puritans thought, be saved from us and our sinful ways. So what if we spend $40 billion annually on presents. Can you think of a better way of spending all that money than on gifts of love? And most of them are just that. And so what are all the lights and tinsel does create a fairy tale setting that soon disappears, as does the so-called Christmas spirit. At least it lets us know, if only for a brief time, what life can be like if we only try. 
So let the message ring out this day, not that we are destroying this holy day, but rather, that we can never destroy this day. Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be for all generations. For unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a savior who is Christ the Lord.

A conclusion has come to mind and that being, God is going to do what God is going to do. It was while I was contemplating the popular and overused phrase during the Christmas season, “Jesus is the Reason for the Season.” I don’t know about anyone else, but it is fast becoming an irritant in my spiritual saddle, so to speak.

Individuals wear it as a pin, they place yard signs up in front of their businesses and/or homes, they send it out in Christmas cards, but … and that is a very large “but” … what else happens? Come on, let’s get serious now.

The conversation was heading towards the “reason for the season” stuff when I simply looked at the individual doing the sharing and asked, “When was the last time you introduced someone to Jesus Christ?” He began to choke on his words … but I didn’t stop. I continued, “When was the last time you feed the hungry, clothed the naked, visited the sick, cared for the widows and orphaned, or visited those in prison?” Again, choking.

It is one thing to proclaim the “reason” phrase, but is quite another matter to actually do something with the person of the reason. We become contributors to “fooltide,” in the story above, than in the true celebration of Yuletide. Puritans missed the mark in their attempt to “rescue” Christmas from the pagan and non-believers. And we too can miss the mark by just proclaiming the “reason for the season” stuff without following through by doing what he has instructed us to do. Could the real celebration of his birth be found in more practical, down to earth matters? Probably, if we would but look long enough at life’s situations and begin to respond to those problems. Like the little girl in one story that I like to tell when assured that Jesus was right here with her, “But I want someone with flesh on.”

From this old preacher’s perspective Christmas and the gift of Jesus is not about getting us into heaven, but getting heaven into us. It is not about getting our heavenly train pass punched. It is not about our salvation, but it is about salvation working in us for all people. It is not about feeling good and at peace (the warm and fuzzy feeling stuff), but it is about being agents of peace within a world that has gone a little mad. It is about us fulfilling the call to be changed agents for the Kingdom here on earth. Anything beyond this earth is but the icing on the eternal cake!

Lord, help us to find the true meaning of this season and guide us towards a deeper commitment to the work – the labor – of being part of the Kingdom. Amen.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Getting lost on our way to Christmas Day - some thoughts

SCRIPTURE: Colossians 1:20-23 (NKJV)
And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight-- if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister.

A STORY as shared by Robert E. Luccock:
In New York's Hayden Planetarium a special Christmas holiday show was enhanced by an added feature. A giant lollipop tree was projected onto the planetarium dome, surrounded by a horizon filled with brilliantly colored toys which came to life and cavorted to the tune of "Jingle Bells." At the climax a huge figure of Santa Claus faded out in a snow storm, and the star of Bethlehem broke through into a sky that produced exactly the Palestine sky on the night of the nativity. The designer of this show may not realize that he dramatically staged the supreme Christmas message our world needs to understand: The recovery of the lost meaning of Christmas. This is not said in any criticism of Santa Claus; the effect must have delighted the hearts of all the children who saw it, without doing violence to their love of Bethlehem. But for adults it is a tragic loss to substitute "Jingle Bells" for "Hark! the Herald Angels Sing," and a lollipop tree for the manger of Bethlehem. The instinct is right to fade out these things in the light of the Christmas star. It is about God's incarnation that the angels sing--God with us.

A little confession … I do get carried away with the festivity of celebrating Christmas. Always have and probably always will. It is kind of built into my nature. I love the decorations, the outside lights, and everything that goes along those ideas. By the Wednesday or Thursday after Thanksgiving everything is up and ready for Christmas Day to get here. I cannot wait. It is the kid in me … and my faithful spouse is correct when she observes that I over do it – kind of over the top. And, a little more confession, there is a little envy for those families who are have been featured on the TV programs illustrating the best, most outlandish decorated homes in America. If I could afford it would I follow suit?

But at the heart of it all is my love of Jesus. Behind all that I do is the reality of the birth of the Savior. Nestled within the lights, the tree (in several homes we were able to have two trees), the decorations (in every room), and all the food and drink (remembering fondly Margaret’s tremendous efforts with the annual Christmas open houses) is the truth of the miracle of God reaching out to all of us in a way that we neither can fathom nor completely understand. All we can do is receive the gift and be glad.

It is easy to get lost along the way to the actual celebration of Jesus’ birth, but in years such as 2011 when Christmas Day falls on a Sunday (the last time this happened was 2005) it is much easier. Oh, mainline denominational folk decide to stay home from worship on Christmas Day because they are following some “family traditions” and yet, are we not a part of a larger family – the Family of God? Shouldn’t we want to be together with our brothers and sisters in Christ? Maybe the liturgical church folk have it correct because they have set a high priority on being in church for Christmas Day worship regardless if it falls on a Sunday or a Wednesday or a Friday.

It is that “reconciliation” thing God does through Christ. God has taken the trappings of our Christmas celebration and brought us into his divine presents. Again, a little confession, I get somewhat angry with individuals who refer to the “trappings” as pagan. I look at all the “stuff” of Christmas as a means of the world throwing a huge birthday party for the King of kings. Anyway, many do get lost in the Santa Claus thing, the tinsel and colored lights thing, and the gift-buying-the-gift-giving thing … but, maybe, just maybe, in their hearts they do realize the central event of the season as testified by the large number of those who find their way to a worship service on Christmas Eve.

Anyway, that is my way of approaching this seasonal event of all events … and I’m sticking to it be it a “Merry Christmas,” a “Happy Holidays,” a “Season Greetings,” or simply a “Merry Xmas”. I feel sorry for those who see it differently. They have lost sight of their inner-child. The wonder and “magic of Christmas (truly) lies in our heart” as Santa Clause shares in “The Polar Express”.

Keep each of us focused so that when the stress of trying to get it all done and completed by the deadline of the 25th we don’t get lost in the process. In the name of the babe of Bethlehem. Amen.

Quote for today: "The mystery of the humanity of Christ, that He sunk Himself into our flesh, is beyond all human understanding." Martin Luther

Thursday, December 22, 2011

O Little Lord of Christmas - a poem

As in other years I post today my favorite Christmas poem. It always get me thinking about how I celebrate this beautiful season, how I set my priorities, and what I deem to be important.

On Christmas Eve they filled the house, some fifty guests all told.
(O little Lord of Christmas, were you left out in the cold?)
And ate and sang, played cards and danced till early morning light.
(O little Lord of Christmas, did they think of you that night?)
Next morning came the presents on a glittering Christmas tree.
(O little Lord of Christmas, was there any gift for thee?)
The dinner was a Roman feast, and how those guests did eat!
(O little Lord of Christmas, were you hungry in the street?)
Then came some teas, a movie, and at night the last revue.
(O little Lord of Christmas, what had these to do with YOU?)
By midnight all were tired and cross and tumbled into bed.
(O little Lord of Christmas, did they think that you were dead?)
They all woke up with headaches and no joy in work or play.
(O little Lord of Christmas, did they mark your birth that day?)
The love, the joy were good, no doubt: the rest a pagan spree.
(O little Lord of Christmas, let us keep the day with THEE!)

Quote for today: “To perceive Christmas through its wrappings becomes more difficult with every year.” ~ E. B. White

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Jesus is the light of the world and we are the keepers of the lighthouse - John 8:12

SCRIPTURE: John 8:12 (TM)
Jesus once again addressed them: "I am the world's Light. No one who follows me stumbles around in the darkness. I provide plenty of light to live in."

Making decisions in the dark can lead to some regrettable consequences. Back in the days before electricity, a tightfisted old farmer was taking his hired man to task for carrying a lighted lantern when he went to call on his best girl. "Why," he exclaimed, "when I went a-courtin' I never carried one of them things. I always went in the dark." "Yes," the hired man said wryly," and look what you got!"

Recently I came across this statement: “Early lighthouse-keepers were priests who tended to the duty of providing firewood to fuel the lighthouse beacon. As a result, many churches near shorelines were also used as lighthouses. Not by coincidence, the lighthouse is often referred to as a symbol of Christ, the light of the world. The rays of light symbolize God’s guiding path, just as the lighthouse serves to guide ships safely to the shore.”

The challenge is to consider how we are “tending the light” or we expecting to Jesus to do it all himself? The celebration of Christmas is to embrace the reality that the light of Christ has come into a very dark world and thus, as his followers, to make sure that light shines in us.

Here we evaluate our daily work and make sure that we shine with his light. E. Stanley Jones was fond of asking, “Do you have Christ in your heart?” If the answer was yes, then he would follow it up with, “Well, how about informing your face of that reality.”

Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!

Help us not to hide the light of Christ in the middle of our busy and over-scheduled life. May your agenda God become our agenda. May the light of our Savior and Christ be evident to all those who see our face.

QUOTE FOR TODAY: “Some people change their ways when they see the light, others only when they feel the heat.” Source unknown

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Version of 1 Corinthians 13

One of my favorite Christmas hymns is, “Love Came Down at Christmas.” The images housed within the three short verses of this hymn are magnificent and creative. Besides, the tune is just fun to sing.

Sometimes within the mad dash to the Christmas finishline the love portion of this season gets lost. We get lost in the decorating, the party going, the endless trips to the mall, sending/receiving Christmas cards that many see as “just another necessary” task that isn’t filled with joy, and so the list goes on and on and on.

My neighbor expressed his regret our first year in the community because immediately after Thanksgiving our outside Christmas lights were up and turned on. He fretted because he just knew that his wife was going to start pestering him to their lights up. Well, evidently he won that battle for the last two years since the lights didn’t go up. Go figure … right?

Recently I came across the Christmas version for 1 Corinthians that I would like to share:

If I decorate my house perfectly with plaid bows, strands of twinkling lights and shiny balls, but do not show love to my family, I'm just another decorator. If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas cookies, preparing gourmet meals and arranging a beautifully adorned table at mealtime, but do not show love to my family, I'm just another cook. If I work at the soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home and give all that I have to charity, but do not show love to my family, it profits me nothing. If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels and crocheted snowflakes, attend a myriad of holiday parties and sing in the choir's cantata but do not focus on Christ, I have missed the point.

Love stops the cooking to hug the child.
Love sets aside the decorating to kiss the husband.
Love is kind, though harried and tired.
Love doesn't envy another's home that has coordinated Christmas china and table linens.
Love doesn't yell at the kids to get out of the way,
but is thankful they are there to be in the way.
Love doesn't give only to those who are able to give in return
but rejoices in giving to those who can't.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails.
Video games will break, pearl necklaces will be lost, golf clubs will rust.
But giving the gift of love will endure.

From our home to yours … Have a very Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Cookie Rules for Christmas

A little confession is probably good at this point. As those who are regularly visitors to this blog discovered during the past many days, I haven’t posted anything for more than a week. First, our PC went south and had to be replaced. Since our son-in-love just took a job at an Apple store and was quickly converted “to the other side,” he easily converted me to the idea of replacing my old PC with a new Mac. Therefore, I made the decision to add a Mac-Mini to my home office. The Mac-Mini is one of the most dependable of all their machines … except for the one I purchased. Thought first it was the power pack, but to their amazement it was the mother-board. Long story, I was dead in the water for too many days and am just now getting caught up so, here’s the confession – this blog was posted back in 2010, but since I dearly love my spouses Christmas cookies and found the “Cookie Rules” delightful during this time of celebration I decided to repost. Enjoy … Maybe tomorrow I will be back to my regular routine, but we will see!?!

When we use to do our annual Christmas open houses Margaret would bake dozens upon dozens of cookies … numerous varieties … along with various kinds of fruit bars, heavenly hash (truly, heavenly), and tons of other little goodies. It was unbelievable, but the glorious smells filled the house … I am still amazed at what she accomplished. Besides we got to taste as the baking continued for an entire week. Brothers and brother-in-laws got the leftovers.
One funny story concerns the “care package of goodies” we sent off to her brother in West Palm. It had arrived via US Postal service, but Ted was off at work. The postal carrier simply left it at the front door … on the ground. Well, a package of goodies on the ground in Florida – result was that the package was soon filled with ants. Ted comes home from work, finds the package, sees who it is from, knows what is inside, sees the ants … and decides I’m not going to throw it away so into the freezer the package went. A day later they started to enjoy the goodies as they brushed off the frozen ants. Go figure!
The only problem with all those cookies are the calories that come along with them. They are too good to resist, but our waistline is under attack. What I just recently discovered, thanks to my son-in-love, is that there are actually Christmas Cookie Rules that automatically eliminate the calories … are at least it is fun to think about the possibility that it just might be possible. Anyway, it takes away the guilt factor, but neither you nor me are going to stop eating those beautiful cookies that we only get once a year!
Christmas Cookie Rules...

1. If you eat a Christmas cookie fresh out of the oven, it has no calories because everyone knows that the first cookie is the test and thus calorie free.

2. If you drink a diet soda after eating your second cookie, it also has no calories because the diet soda cancels out the cookie calories.

3. If a friend comes over while you're making your Christmas cookies and needs to sample, you must sample with your friend. Because your friend's first cookie is calories free, (rule #1) yours is also. It would be rude to let your friend sample alone and, being the friend that you are, that makes your cookie calorie free.

4. Any cookie calories consumed while walking around will fall to your feet and eventually fall off as you move. This is due to gravity and the density of the caloric mass.

5. Any calories consumed during the frosting of the Christmas cookies will be used up because it takes many calories to lick excess frosting from a knife without cutting your tongue.

6. Cookies colored red or green have very few calories. Red ones have three and green ones have five - one calorie for each letter. Make more red ones!

7. Cookies eaten while watching "Miracle on 34th Street " have no calories because they are part of the entertainment package and not part of one's personal fuel.
8. As always, cookie pieces contain no calories because the process of breaking causes calorie leakage.

9. Any cookies consumed from someone else's plate have no calories since the calories rightfully belong to the other person and will cling to their plate. We all know how calories like to CLING!

10. Any cookies consumed while feeling stressed have no calories because cookies used for medicinal purposes NEVER have calories. It's a rule!

So, go out and enjoy those Christmas Cookies - we only get them this time of year!

Quote for today:
Think what a better world it would be if we all, the whole world, had cookies and milk about three o’clock every afternoon and then lay down on our blankets for a nap. ~Barbara Jordan

Friday, December 9, 2011

Day 6 in our journey to make sure Christmas is a joy-filled holiday

It is Day 6 in our incredible and fascinating journey into making sure that Christmas is truly a joy-filled holiday. I’ve been sharing some of the suggestions made in, “The Little Book of Christmas Joys,” by H. Jackson Brown, Jr., Rosemary Brown, and Kathy Peel. As the cover states, “432 things to do for yourself and others that just might make this the best Christmas ever.” The ones being shared are simply selections from the book – some I have edited and others, I have added.

• Be sure to wave a “thank you” when somebody lets you into holiday traffic.
• If one family member lives far away and can’t afford to fly home, suggest that other family members chip in and buy him/her a ticket. It could that persons best Christmas gift ever!
• Take time to remember that the greatest gift is a home filled with people you love.
• Find some place to serve as a volunteer like a homeless kitchen, Meals on Wheels, food pantry, etc.
• Ask children, “What are you giving for Christmas?” and volunteer to take them shopping to help their parents out.
• If you have friends who have lost family members since last Christmas, make a special effort to call and cheer them during the holidays. Why not invite them over for a special Christmas dinner. The holidays can be a lonely time for a single individual.
• Have a special Christmas tablecloth that’s used only on Christmas Day.
• Make a pot of chili and have some friends and/or neighbors over.
• Pull out some old games – Monopoly, Clue and Parcheesi – and have an ongoing family tournament during December.
• Try to find an interesting and new game for the family to play on Christmas Day.
• From a local craft store purchase a few Christmas rubber stamps and then use red and/or green ink and white paper to create your own unique design for wrapping paper.
• Discover the quiet satisfaction of anonymous giving.
• In the afternoon of Christmas Eve simply go to the mall, purchase a cup of coffee or hot chocolate and take a seat to watch the people.
• Create a holiday recipe collection. Add to it each year. Serve one different dish during the holidays.
• Instead of exchanging gifts with close friends at Christmas, decide to take each other to lunch.
• If invited to a holiday party make sure you take your camera and then send the photos to your host or hostess. They will be too busy during the party to really enjoy it, but the photos will be a cherished reminder of the special event.
• Don’t forget the homeless shelter. They always appreciate your leftovers. Call ahead first.
• Hide at least one small gift in the tree.
• Keep up with the local news during the holiday season to learn if there is someone who might need your help.
• It is usually cold during the holidays. Remember the homeless and collect some blankets to pass out to those who live on the streets.
• If you are taking a trip with children during the holidays, purchase a large number of small gifts that they can unwrap during the trip … one an hour is a nice pace. It makes the trip go faster and helps them keep their minds off the fact that they are riding a long distance.
• As you pack up the Christmas tree decorations, ask family members to write a prediction for the coming year on a piece of paper. Put them in the ornament box and read them next year.
• Don’t try to do everything yourself. Remember, even Santa needs helpers.

More tomorrow …

Quote for today: “Worry does not empty tomorrow of its troubles …. It empties today of its strength.” Corrie Ten Boom

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Day 5 in our journey to turn Christmas into truly a joy-filled holiday

This is day 5 in our journey to make Christmas a truly joy-filled holiday. I’ve been suggesting ideas that are presented in, “The Little Book of Christmas Joys,” by H. Jackson Brown, Jr., Rosemary Brown, and Kathy Peel. I hope that each of us have been able to begin a few new Christmas traditions because of what they have been suggesting. As in previous days I have taken the liberty of editing some and/or add a few of my own.

• During an evening meal start the conversation by sharing “the Christmas I remember best,” or “the craziest present I ever received,” and encourage others to share.
• When you hear the song “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” grab the family member closest to you and kick up your heels.
• This Christmas, give yourself the gift of living in peace with those things you cannot change.
• Let children wrap their own gifts by providing them with their own supply of wrapping materials.
• Serve some meals in front of the fire.
• If you don’t have extended family close by, invite a family with similar circumstances to share some Christmas festivities with you.
• Take the time to thank police officers, fire fighters, emergency personnel, and security guards for doing their job during the holidays.
• Consider hosting a holiday party the week after Christmas.
• Volunteer to watch a neighbor’s home while they attend a Christmas Eve service at their local church. Many robberies take place during that evening.
• Give someone who’s disappointed you the gift of a clean slate this Christmas.
• During a long flight, offer to entertain a small child for a while for a parent traveling along during the holidays.
• Use a wide variety of wrapping paper for the gifts under the tree. See how many different kinds of wrappings you can create. One suggestion is to use pages out of those Christmas catalogs that come every year.
• Instead of exchanging gifts at the office, take up a collection to give to a designated charity.
• Don’t let a rude person steal your Christmas joy.
• Give a pint of blood; it’s the gift of life.
• When you see a family or group taking holiday pictures of each other, offer to take one of the whole group.
• Give children toys that encourage their creativity.
• Whenever possible call stores to see if they have a particular item in stock, what the price might be. This will save time and energy.
• Trade out baking with three friends. Each of you bake a double batches of your favorite recipes; then swap.
• Acknowledge every gift you receive.
• Have frosty windows on your car? Write, “Joy to the World” and drive around town.
• Follow the Irish tradition of putting a bird’s next in your Christmas tree.
• If you have children buy a roll of plain brown kraft paper or white butcher paper and let them color, draw, or design their own wrapping paper.
• Call the dean of a local college and ask if there might be a couple of students who would like to share a holiday meal with your family. Not all college students can afford to travel back home.
• Create a special gift by gathering as many unique recipes for someone who loves to cook.
• For a quick holiday centerpiece, fill a large bowl with red apples. Intersperse with sprigs of greenery.
• Go to a store that is selling Christmas trees. They usually have a pile of branches which have been cut off from trees that they have sold. Bring them into your home to add some of the “smell” of Christmas.
• Serve cinnamon sticks with hot cider and peppermint sticks with hot chocolate.
• Buy a children’s Christmas music tape or CD. Listen and sing along with your children while you’re running errands together in the car.
• Have your car battery checked. A dead battery in a mall parking lot challenges even the brightest holiday spirit.
• Let other cars pull in front of you.

More to be shared tomorrow …

Quote for today: “Success comes in cans. Failure comes in cannots.” Source unknown

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Day 5 in our journey to turn Christmas into truly a joy-filled holiday

Finally, after many days with my computer not working I have a new Mac. It will take some time to get use to the different “feel” and the various new names for the programs that I normally use … but the good thing is that I am back up and running.

Now, I continue with what I started last week – here is Day 5 of ways to bring joy back into the celebration of Christmas taken from, “The Little Book of Christmas Joys” by H. Jackson Brown, Jr., Rosemary Brown, and Kathy Peel. In it they offer “432 things to do for yourself and others that just might make this the best Christmas ever.” I haven’t been sharing all of their suggestions, some I have chosen to edit and then I have offered a few of my own. Here’s to a joy-filled season of celebration and hope.

• If someone disappoints you this season, don’t give a lecture. Give acceptance and forgiveness.
• Once or twice, take a different route home from work and enjoy the decorations in another neighborhood.
• Turn off the lights, except for the Christmas tree, and turn on some Christmas music.
• Take advantage of the tour of homes offered in your area.
• Do something secretly for one of your neighbors.
• Answer your phone by saying, “Merry Christmas.”
• Have a fireplace? Throw orange or tangerine peels into your fire for a spicy aroma.
• Pray that God will help you see opportunities to be a blessing to others this Christmas.
• Learn the names of Santa’s reindeer.
• Learn the second verse to “Jingle Bells.” … yes, there is a second verse!
• Challenge someone to sing all the verses of “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”
• Create a gag gift that is passed on to different family members every Christmas. A complimentary hotel shower cap always brings a lots of laughs.
• Remember every individual who serves your needs during the year with something little extra during the holidays like money.
• Order two take-out lunches – one for yourself and one to give to a homeless person.
• Buy Christmas gifts from local artists and craftsmen.
• Remember to shop at the small businesses in your community.
• When you have friends over and there’s Christmas magic in the air, don’t let the evening end early. Throw another log on the fire or ask them to bring their walking shoes so everyone can take a leisurely walk through your neighborhood to look at the lights.
• Offer to keep a friend’s children when you learn that their sitter has canceled right before a holiday party.
• Pay the toll for the car behind you during the week of Christmas.
• Buy an extra cup of hot coffee to give to a homeless person.
• Order and pay for a pizza for a neighbor. Ask the delivery person to tell them it’s from Santa.
• Set aside twenty minutes each day to catch your breath. Make yourself a cup of tea, put your feet up, and turn on the answering machine.
• If you take a trip by plane during the holidays, offer to trade seats so a family can sit together.
• Let someone with just a few items go ahead of you in line at the grocery store.
• Use poster board and felt-tipped markers to create a giant-size family Christmas card for someone special.

To be continued …

Quote for today: “Don’t sell your soul to reach your goal.” Bob Bledsoe

Friday, December 2, 2011

Day 4 of trying to celebrate Christmas as a joy-filled holiday

Day 4 in our journey through, “The Little Book of Christmas Joys,” by H. Jackson Brown, Jr., Rosemary Brown, and Kathy Peel as we each seek to make this a joy-filled season of hope and promise.

· Give someone who’s discouraged the gift of encouragement.
· Make your family feel just as important as your holiday company.
· Change out the Christmas CDs or Tapes or Records (whatever you use) so you embrace the full scope of the holiday music.
· Offer to carry someone’s packages.
· Plan a quiet evening with your family the week after Christmas. Talk about your goals for the coming year.
· Take your family and some neighborhood children to the movies, ice skating, to the park … make it adventure.
· Try different recipes.
· Go out and look at Christmas decorations … Shout, “Merry Christmas” to everyone you meet.
· Pass out some candy canes at the mall, Wal-Mart, Target, or on main street.
· Serve holiday cookies on a Santa Claus platter.
· Give a small gift – such as a tree ornament – to each guest when you have a holiday party.
· Feeling harried? Go to a church, sit in the sanctuary, and reflect on the real meaning of Christmas. You’ll leave feeling more peaceful.
· Consider taking a family trip one Christmas instead of exchanging gifts.
· Invite people over on the spur of the moment, serve hot apple cider and freshly popped popcorn.
· Don’t forget, no matter how many Christmas photos you take, next year you’ll wish you had taken more.
· Try to create the funniest or silliest Christmas photo of your family – have fun!
· Read out lout “The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry when you have your family over.
· This Christmas, write letters to several people who have had a positive influence on your life.
· If you are able take the parking space as far away from the entrance to the mall leaving the ones closest for others … besides, you need the exercise anyway.
· Put Christmas lights and a small wreath on the dog house.
· Whenever you are out of town make sure you pick at least one little ornament for your tree this way you will remember the trip and celebrate the season.
· Tie peppermint candy canes to children’s packages.
· Always buy something from students holding a Christmas bake sale and tell them to keep the change.
· Unless you’re certain of the correct size, don’t give someone clothing.
· Take a child to the library and check out a book of Christmas stories.
· Keep a roll of one dollar bills in your pocket to pass out on a whim when you are out shopping.
· This season, cut others – as well as yourself – more slack than usual.
· Replace your shoelaces with a red one and a green one.
· Put pebbles or marbles instead gift boxes so that when they shake the packages, they won’t be able to guess what’s inside.
· Hide a least one gift per person and send them on a scavager hunt through the house and garage.
· Include a new game among the gifts under the tree. Play it several times on Christmas day.
· When you put away the decorations label each box as to what is on the inside. You’ll have a better chance of starting with joy next year.
· Visit in the nursing home. Ask for the names of those who do not have regular visitors. You will be surprised as to how many never have a visitor.
· Take daily walks with a person that you love, especially after the Christmas meal.
· Read “The Littlest Angel” by Charles Tazewell to a child.
· Remember that the loving holiday spirit in your home depends more on the words you speak than on the gifts you give.

More to come tomorrow.

Quote for today: “Without eternity, life would be but a tale told by an idiot.” Source unknown.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Still more suggestions how to turn Christmas into a Joy-filled season - Part 3

This is day 3 of looking at the suggestions made by H. Jackson Brown, Jr., Rosemary Brown, and Kathy Peel in. “The Little Book of Christmas Joys.” In this book they make “432 things to do for yourself and others that just might make this the best Christmas ever.” And so, I pass on some of their suggestions in the spirit of Christmas that the joy of this wonderful season might surround you and lift your spirit, as well as all those who you touch in and through your life. Some of their suggestions I have edited and/or added to for the sake of this blog.

· Remember the bubble lights your parents used to decorate Christmas trees when you were young? They are available again. Buy a couple of strands for old time’s sake. Or, recapture one or two of the other “old” traditions from your growing up days like painting pinecones to hang on the tree.
· Include a family photo with Christmas cards sent to relatives and friends you don’t see often.
· Let a child decorate a small Christmas tree just the way he/she likes it for his/her bedroom.
· Start a collection of Christmas cookie cutters.
· Refuse to let heavy traffic and long lines dampen your Christmas spirit.
· Wear a Christmas apron while cooking in the kitchen during December.
· After attending a holiday party, be sure to call or write the host to say “thank you” for a wonderful time.
· Fix yourself a cup of hot cocoa and read “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost.
· Give a donation every time you pass Salvation Army bell-ringer. Remember to say “thank you” to the volunteer bell-ringer.
· Find something special to wear on Christmas day and then make that a part of your Christmas tradition.
· Regardless of the temperature, if you have a fireplace, have it blazing Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
· Wrap a gift in an odd-shaped package so the recipient can’t guess what it is.
· Make a friend of an enemy this Christmas.
· Pay for the Coffee of the person standing behind you at Starbucks, Dunkin Donut or wherever you purchase your morning coffee.
· On a clear night, find the bright North Star and recall the story of the Wise Men – best to do this on a very cold evening so that you have to snuggle under warm blankets.
· Teach children to look at the gift tag before they open the present so they will know whom to thank.
· Be a generous given.
· Be a gracious receiver.
· Make it a daily practice during the holiday season to do something nice for someone without telling them you did it.
· Read “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” the night before Christmas.
· Read “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” by Barbara Robinson. If you have children/youth in the home, take turns reading and read the story over several nights.
· Send Christmas cards with encouraging messages to military personnel on duty overseas.
· Record your young child singing Christmas carols on a cassette tape. Send it to grandparents who live far away.
· Set out a bowl of walnuts, tangerines, and pecans in the family room.
· Buy the biggest red candle you can find for the kitchen table. Light it every night at dinner during the holidays.
· Attend a children’s Christmas pageant.
· Share a plate of homemade cookies with a family in your neighborhood.
· Visit someone who lives by himself or herself.
· Open Christmas cards as a family activity each night at the dinner table. Read the messages aloud. Or, save all the cards until Christmas eve and open them all at once as a way of celebrating the joy of Christmas.

More suggestions to come tomorrow.

Quote for today: “God was in Christ hugging the world – embracing – nurturing it back to health.” Source unknown.