December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve

When I was growing up, Christmas was a big deal.  Mom would decorate everything from head to toe.  There was always a Christmas scene spread out in the china cabinet, complete with a mirror made ice pond where people were skating and fake snow.  Other places, like the top of the stereo, held the manger scene.  Bows went up on the doors.  Charlie Pride, the Chipmunks, or Eddie Arnold were spinning on the record player.  My brother and I would always be tormented by our sister in picking out the tree from the neighbor's tree farm.  She always had to find the "right" one, which translated into walking around for hours in the cold.  Once the tree was inside, we would decorate it with the old school strings of lights complete with metal reflectors to keep the heat from the bulbs from catching the tree on fire.  Each ornament we hung on the tree had some story and history attached to it, along with the angel on the top.  Then, to cap off the tree, fresh boxes of aluminum/plastic tinsel were draped on each branch.  It was quite a sight.   It was quite a fire hazard.

Christmas Eve was our Christmas Day.  That night we would open gifts, get a long distance phone call from Aunt Sandy, and then hop in the car and go to my Aunt Kay and Uncle Claude's house.  There we would watch them open their gifts and then roast marshmallows in the fireplace.  Santa visited a few times before the cat was out of the bag.  I can remember my parents sending my brother, my sister, and me to one of their rooms in the basement so that Santa could show up.  Then, they would stomp around a little and our presents would appear.  The sad thing is that I never really questioned why they were able to see Santa and we weren't.  With that in mind, its not surprising that we didn't believe in Santa that much.

My worst Christmas Eve memory is this.  I received one year the best present ever...cris-cross-crash.  It was a matchbox racer set where the cars went around on a figure 8 track and hopefully crashed in much carnage in the middle.  It was awesome!  Unfortunately, it didn't last but an hour or so.  I can't remember if I broke it out of the box or if I broke it putting it away.  Nonetheless, it broke.  We tried to return it, but of course they were sold out.  

As I sit here and type, all of these memories come rushing back.  Family parties, the smells of food, and so much more are invading my mind.  Its a great thing.  Its the thing that I want to create for my daughter.  I want her to have the rush of great memories when she is 40.  I want her to have the desire to create memories for her family.  

What memories do you have?  How are you writing memories for the next generation to come?  

December 20, 2012

The End?

I guess if the Mayan people are right and in the EST, I've only got a few more minutes of life.  I figured I'd make a post on my blog to show that I did keep it up till the end.

If not, I have some thoughts rolling around in my head.  Lots of them.  Some that scare me.  Some that frustrate me.  Some that I might actually let out one day.  We will see.

Until then, keep your eyes and ears open to the moving of our God and His Kingdom - His ADVENT into this world and His promise to return again.  May we be the Light to the world while we wait.

December 7, 2012

A Prayer

I've been doing some reading out of an app for my iPad called, Breviary.  It contains the daily prayerbook of the Catholic church.  I use it to help me supplement my prayer life once in awhile--I grew an appreciation for the hours of prayer and liturgy in seminary.  That idea of continual praying was furthered in me by Ed Dobson and his book, The Year of Living Like Jesus.

I understand that many faithful people have come and gone before me.  I want to hear how they prayed and engaged in God.  I want to learn from others how I can engage God and my faith more.  The different prayer books have helped me to do that.  And, I've found it to be a great place to connect to old hymn texts and written prayers that I've never even seen.  The depth of words sometimes is amazing.

In my perusing last night, I came across this simple prayer that came at the close of one of the daily offices of prayer.
we need your help.
Free us from sin and bring us to life.
Support us by your power.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
One God, for ever and ever.
May that encourage you today, to know that in this Advent season, God is our only hope and our full peace.  He brings us love and grace, and in turn gives us an immense joy!

December 5, 2012

Emotional Torment

It's Christmas time.  It's a time for family, food, and all things holiday oriented.  That includes advent calendars.  Hannah has a couple.  One filled with chocolates that she will not share, the other filled with Legos...a Lego chain saw, a Lego tree and so on.  Who knows what will come out of the box by December 25th.  Steph and I have one, too.  It is a couples advent calendar from North Point, a church in Atlanta.  One of our guys at church snagged some of the leftover calendars they had.  It's been cool so far.  One day's challenge was to talk about your favorite Christmas memory.  One day you were supposed to have a picnic in front of the tree.  We are a little behind, go figure.  So, tonight we combined two to catch up.  We had a take out pizza dinner in the living room in front of the tree while watching a Christmas movie.  Now, that sounds like a great night to me.  Some pizza and breadsticks with some garlic butter dip paired with a movie and my girls!  What could go wrong?

As we were getting settled into the picnic, we started discussing whether to watch Home Alone, the classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas, or A Muppet Christmas Carol.  The Muppets won the discussion.  In went the DVD and on to the movie we went.  I should have known better.  Let me explain.

My daughter, Hannah, will turn 9 years old next month.  She is very mature for her age.  And that's not just a proud dad talking.  She is a smart, well adjusted kid...except when it comes to movies.  When she was growing up, we watched lots of cartoons.  She watched Dora and the Backyardigans and all those great shows.  But, not movies.  Movies had too much angst and emotion.  One of the first movies she ever saw was Cinderella.  Now, I know what you are thinking.  That's a great movie for kids.  Its a classic!  Not for my kid.  When the wicked sisters came in and tore up Cinderella's dress before the ball, my daughter screamed and cried.  When she watched Lilo and Stitch, she did the same thing, in addition to standing on the couch while shouting "Get away from her!" at the bad guys at the top of her lungs.  At The Lorax, she sobbed for awhile when the Lorax went up into the sky.  Steph says she cried the entire way through Happy Feet

As I said, she is almost 9 now.  I figured she had adjusted to society and the angst of cinema.  We watch Cops all the time.  A Muppet Christmas Carol should be no problem at all.  Was I wrong.  By the end of the movie, my daughter is a sobbing mess.  She couldn't stop crying.  Even though the story resolved and all was well, the emotions of my little 9 year old had been shaken and the floodgates were open.  Needless to say, it took awhile for her to settle down.  It took her even longer to fall asleep, though the hot chocolate I made her after the movie probably didn't help.

I love the fact that my little girl has such a big emotion.  Soon after Tiny Tim was introduced in the movie last night, she was asking questions.  "Why does he walk with a cane?  Is he going to get better?"  She's like that with most things.  I think it is a good thing.  There is much compassion that runs through her.  I want that to stay alive in her.  Yet, I wonder how she is going to handle the world as she grows up and realizes that its a worse place with much more pain and anguish than Cinderella or Scrooge.  Should I desensitize her with more Christmas movies like Home Alone (the old man is scary) and cause her controlled emotional anguish or should I simply let her grow up in the harsh world one day at a time?

Beyond her, I wonder about myself.  How much emotion have I lost because of the environment I'm in?  Ministry is a place where you get to see people at their worst sometimes.  You grow calloused to what you see over time.  If you didn't, you would never be able to cope with the heart break.  What is the healthy balance?  Is there even a balance?  Should there be?  How are we to embody compassion and care through all the ugliness?

Maybe I'm simply seeing it wrong.  Maybe the challenge is to continually engage with the emotion of such things as movies and reality so we are continually feeling the emotions of hurt, compassion, and love so we can be the best we can through them.

God, give me the wisdom to know how to help my little girl grow up in a way that allows her heart to grow as big as it can with as few scars as necessary.