Christmas Carol Classics: We Wish You a Merry Christmas

“We wish you a Merry Christmas
We wish you a Merry Christmas
We wish you a Merry Christmas
And a Happy New Year

Good tidings we bring
To you and your kin
We wish you a Merry Christmas
And a Happy New Year

Now bring us some figgy pudding
Now bring us some figgy pudding
Now bring us some figgy pudding
And a cup of good cheer

We won’t go until we get some
We won’t go until we get some
We won’t go until we get some
So bring it right here

So bring us some figgy pudding
So bring us some figgy pudding
So bring us some figgy pudding
And bring it right here

Good tidings we bring
To you and your kin
We wish you a Merry Christmas
And a Happy New Year”

To finish out our year and this Christmas season I’m sharing one last song, “We Wish You A Merry Christmas.”  It’s one of those classic songs that you do hear every year and many artists do their own version of (including Weezer).

This is yet another song that has come out of England with smashing success.  While parts of it were around from earlier years, the rendition in 1935 brought about most of what we know of as the carol today.  The lyrics “a merry Christmas and a happy New Year” have ties to the carolers that would sing outside of homes in exchange for food or drink (hence the line that talks about “figgy pudding”).

As we look into the new year just a short while away I’m excited for what’s ahead.  We’ve just about made it out of this year and into a new one.  No matter how bad or good your last year was you’ve just about made it to the new one.  One of the reasons I chose this song is because of the passion and purpose in it.  As we go into the new year we often talk about resolutions, and while I’m not going to suggest that you make one right now, I do encourage you to commit to yourself that you’re going to make it your best year yet and you don’t give up, especially if this past year wasn’t your best.  What will you make of 2017?

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Reality Reflection: Books are Awesome

This past Friday was Read an eBook Day and September 6th was Read a Book Day, and of course it’s back to school month so there’s lots of talk of learning!  I am a huge book lover, I love reading articles online and in my emails and think that reading is one of the best ways to learn.  Of course there are other ways of learning, but to me it’s one of the best and most enjoyable.  There’s nothing quite like holding a book in your hand, but eBooks have certainly revolutionized the book industry and made it much easier for everyone to be able to read, not just those who have access to physical books or a place to keep them.

I always check out book list posts when they come through my inbox because I like to know what other people are reading both fiction and non-fiction.  Sometimes there will be books that inspire you or give you a new perspective on something that you would have never picked up yourself but thanks to someone else’s recommendation you’re able to read.  I usually go first to my local library and see if I can get the book through there since it’s not necessarily something I want to keep a copy of.

One of the things I’ve been seeing lately on posts like these and especially others that talk about the benefits of reading is how down on fiction books they are.  I love reading books about and by great leaders that can help further my knowledge about business, people and personal growth.  I’ve even read a couple good history books.  But the majority of books I read are fiction books, as are the majority of books I read with kids.

Why do I love fiction books?  First because of their passion for adventure, curiosity, love, relationships, learning, growing, dedication and sense of accomplishment.  Many authors do extensive research before doing writing and do their best to make many of the details in their books accurate to how things are in the world and given the fictional setting and characters is often a more palatable way for people to learn things.  Second because they keep us adults connected to the passion and energy that kids go through life with.  We encourage our kids to read anything they can get their hands on and enjoy when they’re kids. But when they become adults we start telling them to read newspapers and serious publications because the fiction they used to read can’t be good for anything now as adults.  But as with other things, it’s not true.

I believe there’s a need for us as adults to spend time in worlds where things are a little less structured and a lot more fun.  We’re super serious because of all that goes on in the world and because of all we’ve seen.  But just because we need to know about the reality of the world around us, doesn’t mean that a little fun, adventure and out-of-the-box thinking can’t get us just as far or further than if we just work with the box.  So get out there this week and try a new author, read a favorite author’s latest book, or pick up one of your favorites and get lost in it for a little while.

Reality Reflection: Shine Like a Star

The adventure in Rio has begun.  Whether you enjoy watching events like the Olympics or others like the World Series or Oscars (as well as local events of the same types), or not, there’s something awesome about people coming together and showing what they’ve got.  These special or culminating events include people from a specific group or from around the world who are the best of the best at the time.  It’s a way of showing what they can do as well as an opportunity for the rest of us to celebrate what they can do.  I think these types of events are important because it’s important to celebrate the good, cool, and/or interesting things we can each do.  It’s a healthy way of pointing out and celebrating our differences and what makes each of us unique.

I believe that God has given each of us special gifts and talents, and that it hurts Him when we don’t use what He has given us.  You don’t go to the store and buy stuff you don’t like or use, you only buy what you want and need.  The same is true with the gifts and talents we have: we should use them.  Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about purpose and what I’m doing with my life and what I want to do with my life.  It’s always good to take time to reflect on your life and what you’re doing because it means you can stop the derailments that may be happening and curb unhappiness before it becomes full blown depression or causes more problems than it needs to.

Take time to do a reality check on your life this week.  Are you unhappy?  If so, why?  Life is way too short to be stuck and unhappy.  Don’t be afraid of letting your gifts and talents shine.  Don’t worry too much about the criticisms you get for having and using your gifts and talents.  Don’t bury your gifts and talents because you don’t think you can make a living using them or that they’re not useful gifts.  Everyone has valuable gifts, it’s up to you to find out how best to use yours.

“I always thank my God for you and for the gracious gifts he has given you, now that you belong to Christ Jesus.” 1 Corinthians 1:4

“You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”  Matthew 5:14, 16

Remembering The Liberator

July 18th was the birthday of one of the great men of the world: Nelson Mandela (celebrated as “Mandela Day”). No one is perfect (Mandela included), but he’s someone who showed throughout his life that he was a true leader. A 2013 article on Mandela called him a “Dissident, Liberator and Statesman.” Those are 3 big titles that all say something important about who he was, but the one I wanted to focus on today is “liberator.”

Mandela knew what it was to be not free, he spent 27 years in prison for his efforts to make South Africa a better place for people. Some people, having had his experience, would throw in the towel and spend the rest of their years quietly, thankful to be free. But Mandela never gave up on his dreams of and plans for a better life for himself and the people he loved, and people around the world too.

We take time each year to remember people like Nelson Mandela and the dreams they had for a reason, a reason that seems more important than ever with the violence over the past few weeks and months around the world. People like Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr, and countless other men and women who have passed on would not be proud of the people some of us have become. I think they would be happy to see that some thing have changed and are changing for the better, but sad that we are fighting on many of the same things that should have already been addressed, and creating issues that shouldn’t be issues and haven’t been in the past.

What it comes down to is that the world is always in need of more people like Nelson Mandela. You don’t have to be in a traditional position of power to make a difference, you have to decide that you’re going to give your best effort to fixing or alleviating the problem(s) you see in the world. Whether you make that effort in jail, on the street, in your office, in a school, or as a president doesn’t matter. What matters is that you choose to step up and let people know that they too can be liberated and choose what they want to make out of life.

Reality Reflection: What do you Want?

There’s something that most of us do but don’t really have the right things in mind when doing it.  What am I talking about? Wanting.  Do you really want that jelly doughnut, or do you want something sweet in general (could be healthy like summer raspberries) but the doughnut happens to be handy, are you trying to procrastinate or avoid something by eating it, or are you ignoring what your body really wants to eat by having the doughnut?  I know, it’s a really simple example, but food is one of the areas that we’re most confused in about our real wants.

Every day we use the word “want” countless times.  ‘I want to do this.’ ‘I want that one.’ ‘I want this more than you.’ ‘I want you to do it.’ The list could go on.  And on the surface the question I bring up today is about whether or not you really want what you think you want.  But it’s also about something so much bigger and deeper.

Last Friday was the Brexit vote, something that’s still being talked about and debated, and will be for some time.  And coming up on Monday in the US we’ve got Independence Day, the day we remember when in 1776 the people of the US signed the Declaration of Independence from Britain.  My point? It would be easy for people in pre-Brexit UK or Pre-Independence Day US to say ‘I want a better job’ or ‘I want a better house’ or ‘I want to make things work better between our countries.’  And none of those things are wrong.  But the people of the UK and US in 1776 made some really big choices that they don’t want to just work on improving in the current (or what was current) situation, they want a new set of rules, new set of opportunities and future that doesn’t line up with how things are (were) going in the present.

As I said, it’s not wrong to want to improve within the confines of your current situation.  But if you have the ability to want for something more, something bigger, something different, something new, something better for not just you but many people, why wouldn’t you want that?  As we look towards the 4th in the US and the future of the UK, I encourage you to consider your life.  What do you really want from and in your life?

Who Makes You Feel Great?

The holiday season brings into sharp focus that the world revolves around people.  I have to admit to sounding like a Scrooge by the time I get off the roads at the end of the day during the holiday season, I just can’t believe who has a license to drive on the roads some times.  But there’s a lot of other joy that can be found in people especially during the holiday season.  It’s such a blessing to watch a child open a gift, especially if it’s something they really want.  And the holidays provide an opportunity if you don’t take the time on a regular basis to show the people in your lives that you do indeed appreciate them.

I’ve watched about a dozen versions on the traditional Scrooge story this year and there are tons more I haven’t watched.  The holidays (and the end of another year) also are a reminder to pay attention to the type of person we are.  Scrooge may be a holiday character but we have Scrooges in our lives all year long (you may even be one!).  We have the ability to a certain extent to choose how much time we spend with those types of people and how much influence we allow them to have in our lives.  It’s not always easy to stand up to or ignore these people though, they have very commanding, intimidating and overwhelming presences.

But I believe that each and every person has value.  You can choose to use that value to help or hurt others.  You also have a choice in how you develop the value you have.  Do you choose to spend your (free) time with people who support you and build you up and occasionally challenge you to be better, or do you choose to spend your time with people who could get you in trouble and crush your dreams?   Your choices in how you contribute to people’s lives and who you choose to contribute to yours is one of the biggest decisions you’ll ever make.

“Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions.  Small people always do that, but the really great ones make you feel that you, too, can become great.”  Mark Twain

Imagining the Future

The past couple weeks I’ve been thinking a lot about what life holds for you and me. I received an email recently about a blogger I enjoy reading who has decided to stop publishing; somehow it didn’t occur to me that at some point in time someone I enjoy reading from would choose to pack it in. It got me thinking about life and how things change. But that’s the way life goes: we travel a path for a season and when it ends we go in a different direction. It’s not bad to end things, but we don’t always think about the end or when it’s coming. When things end all too often we’re at odds with life. We ask ourselves “what do we do now?” and “what’s next?” and we don’t have an answer.

So as I was thinking about this I was reminded how important it is to see life as a journey. Journeys aren’t made up of one part, they’re made up of stretches and seasons, of moving from place to place until the final destination (death) has been reached. The journey doesn’t end because you reach an age or an accomplishment, that’s only the end of that part of the journey, which is why it’s so important to keep the bigger picture in mind at all times and not exclude parts of your life while you’re on that part of the journey.

The other thing I was reminded about was how important it is to dream throughout our lives. We can get so wrapped up in things that we forget what it’s like to have passion and dreams. I’m not (just) talking pipe dreams and dreams of retiring to our own private island, I’m talking about the realistic ones like being in a long-term happy and healthy relationship or raising kids or making a difference in the world in a way that’s personal to you. The past 2 weeks have reminded me how little I’ve been dreaming and as a result I’ve started again. I’ve started reaching for that which makes me feel and that which excites me rather than just plodding through where I am.

What about you? Where is life taking you right now and are you prepared for the changes that are coming, or will they take you unawares?

“Einstein was entirely correct when he said that imagination is more important than knowledge. You are where you are today as a result of where you’ve allowed your imagination to take you. It either spirals you down to greater depths of despair or propels you upward to greater levels of success” Chris Howard