Making Peace with 2012

Well, the year has just about ended.  In a few days all the decorations will go away and we’ll return to our lives.  As I’ve thought about this year ending and a new one beginning, I’ve thought a lot about the things I want to do in 2013.  I’ve made some decisions about how I want to go forward with my life, the people I want to spend more time with and how I want to make an impact on the world and live my purpose.  But what I haven’t done yet is taken the time to appreciate all that 2012 taught me.

2012 was a tough year for many people.  There were sicknesses and deaths, natural disasters, money made and lost, new friendship bonds formed, old relationships mended, choices made and food eaten.  So today I’m taking a look back and sharing some lessons I learned.

Life is precious.  Whether you’re suddenly affected by a sickness or death in the family, or separate from a best friend, it’s times like these that make you appreciate what you have, or have had.

It’s better to live than laze.  I’ve never been a huge TV fan, so while I do have a few shows I watch each week, I’m typically more interested in living my own life than watching others.  I love spending time in nature, relaxing with a book or paintbrush, and encouraging and helping others to live their lives better too.

Change is normal.  I’m not someone who believes everything has to change, some things work very well the way they are.  But if you want to enjoy life more than you are currently, some things will have to change and adjust.  One of those things is probably your attitude, if not some of the actions you take in your life.

I’ve enjoyed 2012 a lot, but I look forward to the change and hope that a new year brings.  What have you learned from 2012?

My Christmas Wish

Christmas is almost here!  The stockings have been hung, trees decorated, homes opened and I can just about hear Santa getting on his sleigh.  For almost 2000 years Christmas has been a special time.  This year should be no different, but it seems to be.  With the end of the Mayan calendar we have a new future to look towards, and with the shooting in CT and other tragedies many are not having the happy Christmas they thought they would.   So this Christmas it seems like we’re going to have a Christmas much like the one Rob Thomas describes in A New York City Christmas:

“…So call on your angels
You’re beaten and broken
It’s time that we mended
So they don’t fade with the season
Let our mercy be the gifts we lay
From Brooklyn and to Broadway
Celebrate each and every day
of this New York City Christmas

Yeah I’m sending you a merry New York Christmas
and a prayer for peace on earth within our time
Hear the sidewalk angels echo hallelujah
We understand them, now more than ever
Merry New York Christmas

Call on your angels
Come down to the city
Let’s crowd around the big tree
All you strangers you know me
Bring your compassion
Bring your forgiveness
Lord how we need it
On this New York City Christmas…”

This year I hope Christmas brings healing and hope to our world.  I believe we’re still here after the Mayan calendar ended because God believes we still have potential.  It’s up to each of us to reach out and be neighborly to those in need, throw an arm around those suffering, and ask for forgiveness from those we’ve hurt.  It’s my wish that this Christmas we’d spread a little of the hope that arrived 2000 years ago in the form of a baby, hope that still exists today.

Merry Christmas!

Joy at Christmas

“We need to give each other the space to grow, to be ourselves, to exercise our diversity. We need to give each other space so that we may both give and receive such beautiful things as ideas, openness, dignity, joy, healing, and inclusion.”
Max de Pree

Christmas is all about giving-giving of ourselves, our time, our money, and little presents that show how much we care about those in our lives.  This year I’ve been thinking a lot about growing and what it means to grow and how we decide which ways to focus our growth.  As I was thinking about Christmas and growing, I realized that giving is part of growing.  We can’t grow if we don’t expand, think about a flower, it has to grow from a tiny seed and as it grows it reaches into the dirt and into the air and often touches other plants that surround it.  The seed couldn’t grow into a flower if it stayed hidden inside its shell.

As with us, we can’t stay hidden from the word, or rather we shouldn’t.  The world can be a scary place, there are people who are different than us, people who need more space than others, and people who need people more than others. And just like being with other people and interacting in the world can be risky, growing is too.

But what I’ve learned is that the only way to find happiness and joy is to take some risks.  Had I gotten a job when I needed one I would have probably been miserable.  Instead I started a business and have been happy.  All choices have risks, options and challenges associated with them.  It’s up to us to decide which choices will be the best for us and those around us.

I can’t create joy for the families in Connecticut this Christmas, just a few days away. But I can think about what will help this tragedy from happening again, and join with others around the country and world praying for openness, healing and eventually joy to be brought to the situation and these people’s lives.

This Christmas I invite you to celebrate the beauty and joy that is in the world.  We are stronger together than we are apart.

Christmas Peace

In light of recent, sad, events in Connecticut, it’s a bit difficult to write a post about peace.  But as I was thinking about it, the Christmas story in the Bible, as well as the Charles Dickens Christmas Carol, show that Christmas is all about upheaval and change.

Think about Elizabeth and Zechariah, Mary’s relatives.  As a very old couple they were given the blessing of baby John who would lead the way for Jesus.

Think about Mary, she was to give birth to a baby without having a husband yet or doing it the “normal” way.

Think about Mary and Joseph having to head to Bethlehem for a census while pregnant with this child that technically wasn’t theirs.

Think about Ebeneezer Scrooge who despite being quite successful was headed straight for hell if not for the visits of 3 Christmas ghosts.

All of these individuals lives were thrown into total and complete chaos all at this time that means celebration to us.  But all of them ended up being blessed and thankful for the upheaval.  I think that these truths reveal the reality of peace.  Peace isn’t riding on fluffy clouds all day removed from the difficulties of this world.  Peace isn’t being ensconced in a bubble of wealth separated from the struggles of poverty.  Peace, as Mary and Scrooge learned, is knowing that everything happens for a reason and there’s a greater power out there.  But more than that, peace gives you the courage and the strength to get through the more difficult days to get to where you’re headed.

As we reflect and come together as a nation in response to this tragedy and celebration of the season, encourage and support someone in need.  Maybe a coworker needs to hear a good word.  Maybe you’ll be kind to your partner instead of yelling.  Maybe you’ll call a family member you haven’t spoken to in a while and seek forgiveness.  Where can you start the healing process of peace?

An Attitude of Love

I’ve been reminded over and over this year that Christmas is all about you.  Yes, it’s that simple.  Christmas will or won’t be amazing if you choose it to be.  Yes, things may happen like deaths or sickness, but you’ve got the choice to celebrate Christmas or be like Scrooge.  Roy L. Smith said it well:

“He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree.”

Christmas is a very commercialized time, but at the same time, if people weren’t interested in participating and spreading Christmas cheer, there would be nothing to commercialize.  It’s the one time of year that people around the world put aside their differences and share a little brotherly love.

This year one of my Christmas wishes is to enjoy the spirit through Christmas Day.  You see, usually by around the 20th I’ve gotten so sick of the hustling and bustling that I just want Christmas to be over.  So I thought that this year I’d try to have a better attitude, one of love, towards my fellow humans and their situations that may have put us on a collision course.

Christmas is a time for us all to come together, gather around the tree and share cookies and family traditions.  We can enjoy the commercialization that gives us the ability to spend a little more, travel a little farther and enjoy a few more things in this season.  But the true spirit of the season has to start with you.  Will you join me in spreading some love this season?

Christmas Joy

Last week we started our Christmas journey with love, today we’re thinking about joy.  Matthew 2:9-11 says:

“After this interview the wise men went their way. And the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was.  When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”

Here we’re brought into the story of the Wise Men.  They’ve just stopped and visited with King Herod, hoping he had news of the babe that they had followed the start to see.  He didn’t and they continued on.

For the wise men, they didn’t just accept the many good things that were in their homes miles away, they didn’t just open a gift that was placed beneath the tree, they traveled many miles hoping against all other odds that they would find the answer to the prophesy of old.  Sometimes that’s how joy is, it doesn’t always fall into your lap and life.  True, sometimes it does, but in many cases it’s up to us to take the journey that will bring us that joy and fulfillment.

I think that journey is worth it.  To think in terms of other holidays, it’s like finding the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  Yes, the rainbow is beautiful, but actually getting that pot of gold is an amazing feat.

So what about you this Christmas?  Will you wait for joys to enter your life or will you take action to bring joy to your life and the lives of those around you?

Hope of Christmas

As we get close to Christmas and finish out 2012, I’m going to be sharing a series of posts on some of the emotions we feel at this time of year.  The first is the topic of hope.

I know not everyone is feeling hopeful right now, as a matter of fact, you may be feeling rather hopeless right now.  It’s OK to be feeling sad or not festive this time of year, even if you’re doing all the things you usually do, sometimes you just don’t feel it.

So why talk about being hopeless?  After all, isn’t this season supposed to be all about joy and light and laughter?  Yes, but the reality is that I’ve struggled with holidays in seasons and years past myself and know that it’s not easy to find the spirit of the season when you’re just not feeling good at all.

So if you’re not feeling very Christmasy, first try to relax and step back a bit from life.  You don’t have to be the spirit of Christmas every year.  It’s totally acceptable for you to let others do the decorating, entertaining, and baking once in a while.  Don’t feel guilty about not doing what you’ve done in past years.  After giving that a good try, if you’re still struggling you also might want to talk to your doctor about medicines you’re taking or try different vitamins to see if that’s the issue.

It’s my hope that this week you’ll find a little blessing that will remind you that you’re loved.  Maybe a relative will send you a food gift in the mail, maybe a co-worker will get coffee for the office, maybe you’ll get a Christmas card with a little note in it from someone thanking you for being a special friend this year.

By the way, if you are feeling the spirit this year, do something nice for someone else, it may be the glimmer of hope they need.