The Christmas holiday is a joyous occasion as we celebrate with family and friends the birth of our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ. It is a time of giving and getting presents under the tree. It is a time of drinking egg nog and loosening our belts because we ate too much for dinner.
Christmas can also be a time of great stress and pain because of the loss we have felt over the past year or years. Losing a spouse. Losing a significant relationship. Losing a child. When we think on these losses, joy turns to sadness and depression. It’s a time of wishing that Christmas would just go away. For those who are experiencing Christmas in this way, I would encourage you to click on the link below as my daughter Debi, a psychologist and director of the counseling center at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago has written an article that helps us deal with the joy and pain of the Christmas Holiday. I hope you enjoy.
Christmas is a time for giving to those you love. Presents for spouse. Presents for kids. Presents for parents. Everyone knows that. It’s easy to pick out gifts for close friends and family because we know what their likes are. We can get so wrapped up in giving to those close to us that we can forget about all the others that touch our lives throughout the year. Postal workers. Garbage collectors. Secretaries. Doctors. Check out people at retail and grocery stores. Police. Teachers. I could go on and on regarding those that we come in contact with in our everyday experiences.
I found out through my daughter Victoria that she began to think of delivery workers that bring packages to our homes and thought of an idea. She told her sons, Brayden and Keaton, about the idea and they wanted to participate. The three of them went to the store and picked out candy and chips and put the cargo in a box that you can see below.
It so touched my heart that my daughter would think of others that It gave me an idea. I love to bake and have frozen bags of fresh pumpkin to make pumpkin bread. I began to think of the mail-men and mail-women as well as the garbage collectors that serve Nadine and I daily. I am going to bake loafs of pumpkin bread to give them as a way of thanking them for their service.
Nadine and I also are hosting a table at our church where three other couples are coming tomorrow night for a party of 55 year olds and older. We have decided to take a bag of homemade candy made from a little shop in downtown Castle Rock where we have gotten to know Allen and Gail, the owners. They made up 15 bags of candy that we are giving to the couples that are coming tomorrow night as well as the doctors and secretaries that are helping Nadine and her vision.
From one box of goodies has come an attitude of giving that begins to multiply. On this journey, when we get our minds off our circumstances and begin to think of others, it changes how we think about our own circumstances. Those reading this jlog may get the bug to give that will encourage others to give. You never know how your gift can impact those around you.
Going to Hawaii has always been an oasis from the business of everyday life. There isn’t much to do, so it forces you to lye down on a chase and rest. We had the opportunity to do that a couple of months ago and soaked in the sunshine and heat (90+ degrees everyday). One day we decided to go to the west side of Maui island and came across a beach that is known for leatherback sea turtles.
There were approximately 25 leatherbacks sunning themselves on the beach. They belong to the reptile family and hatch between 60 and 350 eggs in the sand after they become mature. They can go under the water for between 6-40 minutes without taking a breath. If they want to sleep in the ocean, they can stay in the water between 4 to 7 hours without breathing. Their main delicacy is the boxed jellyfish that is deadly to humans, but they are immune to the sting and love to eat them. That’s why there aren’t jellyfish on the Hawaiian beaches because the leatherbacks eat them. Unlike other turtles, the sea turtles can’t retract their heads into their shell.
Isn’t it interesting that God created these creatures in a beautiful setting to eat jellyfish that could kill us so that we could enjoy Hawaii without the treat of bodily injury. I had no idea of the potential danger that was being taken away by God’s magnificent turtle. How many other times does God intervene in our lives by taking away potential dangerous experiences in our lives and we are unaware of it or we take it for granted.
There are many times in my driving of a vehicle where I could have been involved in a tragic accident, but was saved by leaving a hair late and missing what could have been a life altering experience. What about relationships that seem to break up and we are left with wondering where we went wrong. Could it be that God didn’t want us to connect with that person because it wasn’t what would have been best for us.
The only way that we can escape from dangerous situations or relationships in our lives is by allowing the God of the universe to give direction and insight as to what is dangerous for us. On this journey, God wants to give us life and life abundantly, but we need to put our trust in Him so that He can take care of the jellyfish that swim our way.
Nadine and I spent some time over in Maui recently and visited the shore around Paia. One of the wonders we saw were wind surfers plying their skills to the ocean waves. It was a beautiful sight as they would go out from the beach about 2 miles or so and then come back into the shore. They did this over and over, sometimes falling to the rough waves and having to right their sails again to continue their sport. It was a sight to behold with each of us saying that we would never be able to do what they are doing, let alone wanting to do it.
Afterwards we talked to someone who was a wind surfer and he gave us a much deeper understanding of what we had just watched. He informed us that there are many sharks that swim just under the wind surfers. The reason they seek to right the ship if they fall is that there is great danger of being bitten by a shark if they remain in the water too long. They want to get up quickly so that the danger in the water won’t overtake them.
It brought new meaning to their sport doing it in the ocean. They do it because their passion for wind surfing is greater than the dangers that they could experience. Passion caused them to focus not on the dangers below the surface but to focus their attention on the love and excitement of riding the waves. Their passion caused them to look at the positive and not dwell on the negative. For me, my focus would be on the sharks in the water and would drive me never to get on a board. But not them. Passion covers over the possible danger which drives them to pack up daily and go to the ocean for the exhilaration of their board flying through the water.
It caused me to pause and ask the question to myself about what I am passionate about. What are you passionate about? Focusing on the possible negative aspect can stifle our creativity and our journey. If I concern myself with all the possible dangers in life, I will never experience the joy of living life. If I focus on all the dangers of this world potentially impacting having and raising children, I will never have children. If I focus on the embarrassment I might face in going out and playing golf for the first time, I will never pick up a club. If I am faced with questions about a job I am perusing and have insecurity about how I might be perceived, I will never jump in to learn.
Don’t get me wrong. Sharks in the ocean are dangerous. We need to be careful when we swim in the ocean, but being careful is different than not doing something because the danger stops us from living life.
On this journey, begin to figure out your passion while you are on this earth and take a dive. You never know whether that passion will cause you to fly with the best of them.
There is an old story of how to get rid of an elephant in the room. The answer comes by taking the elephant out of the room one piece at a time. If we focus on the elephant (or task) at hand and the enormity of the job, it seems like an insurmountable task. It’s like looking at school and thinking about graduating from high school when we are starting first grade. Too big of a task. Too much information to accumulate. Too many tests. Too much studying. Too many books to read. Too many papers to write. It seems impossible if we look at the whole task ahead of us from the starting line.
But if we just focus on one day at a time, and keep that focus as each day occurs, eventually we will have graduated from high school and look at the coming adventure that is before us. College. Graduate school. Career. Marriage. Children. Etc. Life is a matter of taking one day at a time and completing the tasks of that day which will give us what we eventually want.
Fifty years ago in 1970, I was challenged by a pastor in Colorado as well as other members of that church to read through the Bible in a year, going from Genesis to Revelation. It seemed like a big task with over 1100 pages to digest in a year, but I took that challenge. Mind you, there were times when I went through Leviticus in looking at the ceremonies of the Israelite nation where I wondered if I would make it through the dry and boring material. I passed through the genealogies of name after name where I had trouble pronouncing each name (I actually didn’t and glossed over the material that I would never remember).
Today as I write this Jlog, I look back and think of the 50 times I have read the Bible from cover to cover and realize that reading a little bit every day, day after day, month after month, and year after year can accomplish something seemingly insurmountable. It seemed overwhelming when I had been doing this for awhile and heard a Sunday School teacher say that he had read the Bible thru for 40 years. I could never imagine doing that for myself when I had just read it 7-8 times. Insurmountable. Overwhelming. Impossible.
Jesus says in Matthew 6:34 “Don’t worry about tomorrow, for each day has enough troubles of it’s own.” He tells us to focus on one day at a time and tackle the tasks of that day. On this journey, I would encourage you to take up the challenge of reading the Bible on a daily basis, and maybe even looking at reading the Bible from cover to cover this coming year. Who knows if you might be able to eat the elephant bit by bit.
I was talking with Deborah, my oldest daughter today and we were chatting about Chicago weather which was 95 degrees with 95% humidity yesterday and a balmy 78 today. She walks to work each day which is about a 3+ mile trip round trip. Needless to say it was more than sticky yesterday for her. None of this relates to the jlog I’m writing, but this was the start of our conversation.
Anyway during our interaction, she asked me what I was doing today. I told her that Nadine and I had taken a 5+mile walk and had eaten our breakfast. I then told her that I was going to watch as some workmen at our house were putting up a pergola on our back patio. It then hit me as to my deja vu moment.
Around 1976 we were living in Tampa, Florida. My late wife and I had a meeting over in St. Petersburg across the Tampa bay. St Petersburg is known as a retirement community where the cars go slower, people walk slower, and time begins to stand still. As we pulled into the downtown area, I noticed about 30 senior citizens standing and sitting around a construction sight looking at the building that was happening. I remember joking at the time that these old folks had nothing more to do but to sit and watch a building being built.
I was that person. I’m doing the same thing that I joked about decades ago with a bunch of senior citizens. On this journey, be careful what you joke about. You may in fact become the person you are joking about.
I had a family who once came in for intensive counseling. They were from the southeast and needed family counseling. One of the prime issues the family was dealing with was the anger the father manifested to the rest of the family. If he got angry he would go on for hours at a time. Over the course of the session, the son-in-law said something that ticked the father off. He began to rage and you could see the fear surface on the faces of the rest of the family members.
After a period of time, I reflected on what he had said and he responded, “You damm right.” He continued to rage and I would periodically stop and reflect back to him what I heard him saying. I was only mirroring back to him the perspectives he was communicating in his ranting. After about four of these encounters, he calmed down and was back to normal. I asked him how he felt and he said he was very calm. Then he said something very interesting. “For the first time in my life, I feel that someone really understood what I was saying.” In more cases than not, when someone gets angry they are intensifying their emotions because they feel they are not being heard. When I reflected or mirrored what he was saying back to him, he began to feel that someone heard him for the first time. I didn’t give my opinion as to what I felt was true or untrue. I just listened and reflected his perspective back to him.
Solomon states, “If the ruler’s anger rises against you, don’t leave your post, for calmness puts great offenses to rest.” Ecclesiastes 10:4 CSB. When you are dealing with an angry person, staying with that person and not running away is the best way in beginning to deal with intense emotions. Doing reflective listening (mirroring back to the person what they are saying) is the second step in handling angry people. Caution: If an individual is threatening or is about to do physical harm to you, you need to remove yourself from danger.
On this journey, we will inevitably encounter angry people in our lives. Staying put and taking time to listen to them will cause them to feel heard and will allow them to calm down.