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Monday, December 29, 2014

Have Your Eyes Really Seen?

Every day we go out into the world with our eyes open and gaze upon the world around us. But what do we really see if we only use our eyes and not our hearts?

Over the Christmas Holiday season I was blessed to spend a lot of time with my family and close friends. Normally, if I watch people with just my eyes, I see them going through their normal everyday lives driving to work, shopping for groceries, picking up kids, cleaning their homes, just normal stuff. But over the holidays I made it a point to really look at people more closely, with my heart as well as my eyes, and it helped me to see things much differently.

I saw people constantly going out of their way to show their love for others. Sometimes it was just in small ways that could easily be missed if you weren’t watching carefully. Other times I saw people shower their love on others in big ways, hugging, kissing, exchanging gifts, sharing a meal and giving thanks to God for family and friends. There is something about the Holiday Season that brings out the best in people and I think it’s that we are allowed, in fact encouraged, to express our love more openly and more freely than usual….and that certainly makes life better for everyone. It also makes sense to show our love for each other during the Christmas season because that’s the time when God most openly demonstrated His love for us.

But why not express our love for each other more openly all year long? I know there are a lot of people who are lonely and hurting and looking for love, so maybe this would be a great New Year’s resolution….Instead of spending our time looking for love, we could spend our time looking to share our love!

“The words I have to say may well be simple but they’re true…until you give your love there’s nothing more that we can do.”
Love is the opening door
Love is what we came here for
No one could offer you more
Do you know what I mean
Have your eyes really seen?
~ from Elton John’s “Love Song"

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Real Meaning of Christmas

We had two of our young grandchildren stay overnight with us this past week, which means lots of non-stop giggling and laughing, so we really enjoy spending time with them. They play well together and are as inseparable as a brother and sister can be. But one of them, little 8 year old Jackie, suffers from severe asthma and has to use a breathing machine every single day. His younger sister, Andie Rose, cares deeply for him and constantly tries her best to make sure he is okay. Whenever Jack is struggling she will come running to get us. Her love is so clearly obvious that you can’t see it and not be affected by it.          
Obviously being a child isn’t easy even under the best of circumstances. Young children have to depend 100% on their parents to provide their every need, including food, shelter and most importantly, love. If they have kind and loving parents they will typically grow up to be good, kind, loving people. If they have selfish, self-centered parents they may well adopt those traits as they grow up. We have to remember that children are always looking to adults for examples of how to act and more importantly how to react when facing tough situations. Children want and need to learn from the adults in their lives, so we had better remember that.
However, after watching Andie Rose care so deeply for her brother, something occurred to me. If we slow down our own lives a little, and pay attention to the children around us, we just might learn something back.
      Quick Story - Jimmy was 9 when his mom told him his little sister was sick and would die if she didn’t get a blood transfusion – and Jimmy was one of the only people in the world who had the rare blood type needed. Jimmy loved his sister and though he didn’t know what was involved, agreed to give his blood.
      On the appointed day, Jimmy was solemn, but brave, when the nurse put the needle into his vein and began to drain his blood. After a few minutes of watching the bag fill, he began to get scared. Finally he asked the nurse, “How much longer will it be before I die?”
      The nurse was shocked. “You’re not going to die!” she said, and then she wept when she realized he thought he had to give all his blood to save his sister.
Courage and the willingness to sacrifice our own wants and needs to help others are two of the finest traits we can ever teach our children. Speaking of teaching, I am reminded of someone else who came to earth a very long time ago for that very same purpose. May His example live forever in our hearts!
"And that's the real meaning of Christmas - Charlie Brown!"

"And there were shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flocks,
and lo the angel of the lord came upon them and the glory of the lord
shone round about them, and they were sore afraid, and the angel said unto them,
fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a savior who is Christ the Lord.
And suddenly there was with the angels a multitude of the heavenly hosts,
praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth -
peace, good will toward men."

Monday, December 15, 2014

Consider Consideration

The world can seem like a really crowded place, especially during the holiday season. Everyone is so busy with tons to do, and so little time to get it done. But as bad as crowds are, they can also serve a purpose… to remind us that we do not live in this world alone.  
Last week I drove to our mini-storage to try to find our Christmas ornaments. Having given away most of our possessions since we moved to a tiny beach house two years ago, I knew we didn’t have much left. All I found was one small box with a couple of red and green balls and a few “special ornaments” that my wife had saved. I put the box in my truck and started to leave when I noticed a mother and her little girl both pushing large rolling carts stacked with heavy items. The mother headed down the sidewalk but the little girl lost control of her cart and two of the wheels went off the curb. I could see her struggling but I could also see a man standing no more than 10 feet away, oblivious to the little girl. The girl struggled and struggled and the man just stood there pretending not to notice as he talked on his cell phone. Just as I put my truck in reverse to go back, the mother came running over to help her daughter and yet the man still never lifted a finger to help either one. I couldn’t believe the lack of consideration.
From there I drove to the Mission Viejo Mall to pick up my wife who was fighting the crowds to buy Christmas presents for our grandchildren. As I pulled up to the curb to wait for her, I noticed an elderly couple walking ever so slowly to their car. The man was using a walker but his lovely wife didn’t seem to mind as she walked patiently by his side. Just as they were getting into their car a white Mercedes pulled into their row and waited for their spot. After only about 30 seconds, the lady in the Mercedes started honking her horn. I don’t mean honk, honk, honk. She laid on that blaring horn non-stop for over two solid minutes, not only annoying the elderly couple, but everybody else in the parking lot as well. The funny thing is the lady in the Mercedes then took her time getting out of her car and strolled to the mall, apparently not even in a hurry. Talk about being inconsiderate.
When I got home with my sorry little box of ornaments, I was depressed about the sorry things I had seen. Taking a minute to be considerate and help a little girl, or taking a minute to be considerate and wait for a parking spot, are tiny little acts of consideration that only take a minute of time. Maybe we need to be reminded that the word consider means “to think about” and the word considerate means “to think about someone else”!

Our Beachfront Charlie Brown Christmas Tree!

God has not called us to see through each other, but to see each other through.
~ Anonymous

Monday, December 8, 2014

Captivating and Contagious

This week is typically the beginning of a very busy and stressful time of year. On top of all of our normal burdens, chores and responsibilities we have the added stress of the holiday season, which means heavy traffic, long lines and paychecks that can’t always fill the bottom of the Christmas tree, let alone the more important needs of our families.

So I have a suggestion that might help and it comes from playing golf. I have noticed that there are certain people that I enjoy golfing with a lot more than others. The people I enjoy are the ones that always appear to be having fun no matter how poorly their own game might be going. They are constantly smiling and cracking jokes. They notice and comment on the inherent beauty of the golf course with its lush green grass, ancient tall trees and abundant wildlife, and they are also quick with praise for others when somebody hits a good shot. That type of person brings a certain joy with them that is both captivating and contagious. They’re fun to be around and they make life a lot more fun for everyone else. Plus they lower the stress of the people they touch, which is truly a blessing!

Obviously we all have different personalities, so we can’t always be “that fun and happy person” all the time, but we can take small steps in that direction. What if we kept in mind that today (and each and every day) is a unique 24 hour precious moment in time that will never happen again because once it’s gone… we can never get it back! And what if within that 24 hour period every time we came in contact with someone else we immediately made it a point to think something positive about them! We would probably smile a lot more than normal and we would probably make those around us smile a lot more as well.

It really isn’t that hard to come with up a positive thought about somebody. You might not know them, or for that matter you might not even like them, but you can still find a positive thought if you try. Maybe the thought is…They have great hair, or their clothes fit nice, or they look healthy, or at least they still have all their teeth and can walk upright. I don’t know what the thought might be, but it’s not that hard to formulate a positive thought and guess what, a positive thought always bring a smile… and a smile is both captivating and contagious!

Christmas Ornament

Smiling is infectious,
You can catch it like the flu.
Someone smiled at me today,
And I started smiling too!

~ Anonymous

Monday, December 1, 2014

When I Hurt

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving with our family this year and it’s partly because our family keeps growing. In the past few years we have added five more grandchildren to the mix so there’s a lot to be thankful for. And speaking of thankful…one of the little kids asked if we could go around the room and have each person say what they are thankful for. Every person spoke up and every person spoke from the heart, giving thanks for a wide variety of blessings including love and friendship.

Being thankful is what Thanksgiving is all about, taking the time to express our gratitude for the blessings bestowed upon us. But what about the non-blessings bestowed upon us? What about the anxiety of upcoming surgery, the fear of financial problems or the pain caused by inconsiderate people? Should we be thankful for the bad things in our lives? Should we be grateful for evil?

For example….Last Monday we discovered that thieves broke into the commercial mailbox at our business complex over the weekend and stole all the mail. That creates a huge problem for all the business owners because we will never know what documents, letters or checks were stolen and it will take months to straighten it out. Unfortunately we will never recover all of the lost information and the thieves will probably profit greatly from their evil doings. (Coincidentally, the personal mailboxes on our street were vandalized on Friday as well, creating the same bad situation at home.)

It’s going to take a few weeks to get a new commercial mailbox installed, so we now have to go to the Post Office every day to pick up our mail. When I picked up the mail on Tuesday there was a large mailing tube addressed to me personally and inside was a poster. It was an awesome poster made from photographs that were taken when I played at the MSBL Baseball World Series last month. It was a gift I didn’t know was coming and had it arrived over the weekend, it would have been lost forever. Ironically, the thieves would have found no value in it at all… but to me it is absolutely priceless!
I am convinced it is extremely important to be thankful for our blessings and express our thanks to God on a regular basis. As far as evil goes, I’m never going to be grateful for it, nor do I believe God causes it. But I can use it as motivation to be even more appreciative of the many blessings that I regularly receive. Although I’ve felt great pain in my life and although I’ve been hurt deeply many times, one thing I’m sure of…when I hurt…God hurts with me! (Why else would there be holes in His hands.)

Every happening, good or bad, is a parable whereby God speaks to us…
And the art of life is to get the message.  
~ Malcolm Muggeridge