Christmas-At Last- Something Worth Celebrating-

I think I have learned to look at the positive things in life-the things we take for granted each day. I wasn’t always like that but a good friend of mine told me about 20 years ago that all I ever saw was what was wrong, what might go wrong, or what happened in the past that was wrong. At first my response was to tell him that all everyone ever did was criticize me…then we both laughed as we realized I couldn’t even fake it for a minute. It really was one of those life changing moments for me, as I was extremely critical of just about everything I encountered.

As the years have passed since then I have realized that there is much more to it then just avoiding saying negative things. There really is power in the tongue. The Bible in the book of James mentions how the tongue has the power of life and death. An illustration of how we put bits in the mouths of horses and that controls the huge animal, also how the tiny rudder on a giant ship controls which way it goes. So it is with the tongue and the words we speak-there truly is power in our speech. Anyone who has been verbally abused by a loved one can attest to that, it pierces the soul.

So when I think about the world today, and go about my daily business, something seems different, even with careful monitoring of what I choose to focus on. It just seems like the everyday joy that used to find its way into some part of our day, is elusive. There is so much negative going on in the world today that one truly has to make a concerted effort to remain focused on what is right. Every once in a while I am reminded of just how fortunate I am, even with some very difficult problems in my own life. One that stands out, is a man I heard on the radio several years ago. He was being interviewed on air by the local dee-jays because he recently won 5 million dollars in some sweepstakes. The man just didn’t seem as excited as one might be in his position. About half way into the interview, the dee-jay got serious and said to the man something like this- ” Sir I know that you recently lost your 8 year old son to cancer. We certainly understand that you would gladly give the 5 million back to have your son back”

The man actually broke down on the other end of the phone and was weeping almost uncontrollably. After he caught his breath and was able to speak again, there was a brief pause before the man said this -” Have him back? I would give the 5 million back just to be able to say goodbye”. There was a pause over the airwaves and suddenly the celebration came to an end, and the reality of the situation set in with everyone. I know that after I heard that brief exchange, my problems instantly became almost non-existent. I am a father, and just the thought of what he must have been going through was more then I could process. I had no idea of his pain. The only good thing I could think of was that the boy was not suffering and that he was with the Lord.

To this day, when I begin to feel sorry for myself, I remember that interview. My problems are real, and truthfully we have had an extremely turbulent decade in my family. Things that never occur even once in the lifetime of others have been regular issues in our lives. Yet, although the problems have caused major disruption and much loss for my family, I still cannot bring myself to complain too long, lest I recall the father on the radio.

It seems as though events like that father’s have become common in the last few decades. It could be me, but when I wake up and go out into the world these days, it takes just a few minutes to hear of a tragedy that takes my breath away. I think we all can become desensitized to the incredible devastating events occurring daily in todays world. Sure, some argue that with todays technology, the internet and all, we are just more aware of such things. There may be some truth to that, but it seems the walls are closing in faster and harder then ever in our world.

How do we respond to this type of climate? I guess there are a few ways to deal with it. One way that seems to be popular is to avoid talking about what is happening, or downplay them. For me, the things going on in Washington alone are frightening. Sometimes I am amazed that we have allowed our current leaders to continue in the direction they are, a direction that appears to be on some occasion the exact opposite of what we need. Yet millions of us stick our fingers in our ears and say ” Lalalalala” – pretending we don’t hear, rather then address the fact that we have terribly corrupt, chronic liars and even acts of treason being committed daily by our leaders.

There is another group that in times like these instinctively shed the non-essentials in life and cling to what really matters, or perhaps things that actually have lasting value, even eternal value. This year, Christmas has been one of the very few days that I could actually dare to really purposely think about all day and not become depressed. I realized how hard the rest of the year has been when it felt unusual today to be okay with being reminded all day of what was happening . I did some reflecting about these things today, and realized that in the last couple years, I have made some changes in my routine without even purposely doing so, but more out of necessity to protect myself form falling into a downward spiral.

I have always enjoyed the morning paper and the evening news. I just liked to keep up with what was going on in the world around us. Today I discovered that it has been a few YEARS since I watched the news even once a week. I get the paper on certain occasions and its not a lot. The fact is that depression can easily set in if we focus too much on what is happening in this dark world. No matter how much we remain positive in our talk, we sometimes need to cut out some of the garbage we are used to feeding ourselves every day. For those that understand the concept of eternity, its comforting to put the paper down, and dust off the Bible, to be reminded that even though the world outside is shocking to us, it is not any surprise to God. As a matter of fact, for the naysayers, most of what is happening today is actually predicted in the Bible.

That may not be comforting to everyone, but it is to those of us who remember the meaning of Christmas and hold fast to the promises in the Bible to those who remain in the faith. We live in a media world where if it bleeds it leads-if we aren’t careful we can get caught up in that bloody mess and forget about the blood that gives Christmas such hope. The blood that covers all the darkness in each of us, and gives us hope each day that we are forgiven just for the asking, and we don’t have to be dragged down with the world’s problems.

Since I was a little kid ( more then 20 years ago-lol)  I have heard the saying ‘” There are no atheists in foxholes”.  I am watching in the world today as everyone takes their cover to shield themselves from the war we are in. Some take cover by numbing themselves, some by denying anything is wrong ( a favorite saying among this group is that history repeats itself). Yet others actually put millions of dollars and much time and effort into avoiding having to think about what might be happening and the idea that we are living in times of Biblical proportion. These are the ones that call themselves atheists-you will know them by the way they tirelessly fight for the removal of Bibles, crosses, prayer and anything else that might possibly remind them of the God that does not exist….( ??)

While I personally am not a believer in atheists, I am intrigued by the amazing time and money that they invest -all to shut down any reminders of a God who is non-existent. If I were to spend my millions on demanding that every state ban any poster or video of spider-man from any public school, I am fairly sure I would be labeled a nutcase. At any rate, I have these people to thank for my faith in a strange way, because over the years when I have been anywhere in public and happened to mention the name of Jesus in conversation with whoever I am with, I am amazed at the looks to kill I get! You would think I just threatened their first born child.  Yet that reaction by the ” atheist” always serves to increase my faith. The reason is because it is the only name that has the power to convict, agitate, and irritate  those who reject the name. I have tried saying other names like buddha, ghandi , mohammed etc– nothing.

So as the day comes to a close, I want to encourage everyone to take a moment and prioritize your life. We all need to put things in perspective once in awhile and we certainly need to train our tongues to speak of the things that are good, not just the negatives. Its not easy at first, I can attest to that! I had the benefit of working as a foster parent for 5 years for an organization that required 15 positive interactions to every 1 negative with the teens I worked with. The delinquent and troubled teens, I might add! They had a man whose job was to come to the house and monitor for an hour or two our interactions, so there was no faking it! That experience changed my life, personally and professionally. It prepared me for parenthood and also for my next 10 years in social work, as an administrator for schools for expelled kids.

I taught parent training for the state for a few years, and by far the hardest concept to get the parents to grasp, was the ratio issue. When I first introduced the fact that no child will ever change a negative behavior pattern by constant negative reinforcement, all I got were blank stares, and a few brave souls dared to ask ” what else is there?” I really spent most of the week teaching them how to catch their child being good instead of catching them in the wrong.  It took time, as it did with me, but once it was learned, the results with their children were amazing. I try to maintain the same ratios of 15-1 in my daily life as well. I don’t always succeed, but even when I fail I am light years better off then if I did it the old way.

Whether you are a person of faith, an agnostic, or an ” atheist” I challenge everyone of us to step things up a notch in our priorities. In todays world more then ever we don’t know if tomorrow is promised, so it makes sense that we make sure we spend the proper amount of time on the proper things. I know ever since the father on the radio interview, I hug my little ones just a little longer and a little stronger each night. I worry less about money and more about treasures in heaven. The fact is that the cross is for anyone and everyone who will believe. God loves the ” atheist” as much as the church going bible thumper.  I think this Christmas, if we haven’t already, we all should turn the television off, and hug our loved ones. Sneak into the kids room after they are asleep and kiss them. Pray for them.

I watched a  great movie the other day. It is called  God Is Not Dead. I recommend it to anyone. I recommend we all take life more seriously and take hold of what s real and important, and let go of the non-essentials. Come to think of it, I also listened to one of my favorite Christmas songs many times this season- its called Mary Did You Know Many people have sung the song  but my favorite by far is the version by Michael English. Take a minute with your kids or by yourself and go to you tube and search Mary Did You Know by Michael English.

Listen to the words! It will be the most powerful and positive 4 minutes you have spent in a while, I promise!

Merry Christmas! Its a Red Letter Day!

Tj

 

 

 

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