mark the unremarkable

Generally, it is the big events that we remember best. The holiday gatherings with the family, the expensive vacations, weddings, and the like. Much of life is event-driven. Marketers encourage us to focus on special times that we will remember for a long time. Because of this, we sometimes feel that we have to make big plans or spend a lot of money in order to make a memory. There are a few problems with this approach: Most of us can’t afford to live like this so these occasions are rare. Family and friends are spread out all over the world so getting together is difficult. Many times when we do get together, our special celebrations are messed up by less-than-perfect circumstances. These events, although fun, don’t represent our real lives very well. Sometimes, after all of the buildup, we are left empty when the party is over.

I am thinking that we would all be better off if we could hang on to the average days. The “nothing special happening” times when you just get to spend time with the people you love. It doesn’t take a lot of money and it doesn’t have to be a big deal. Just time together.

I also think we learn the value of the everyday, nothing special times, when they are taken away from us. So hang on to them while you can.

It is the everyday things we should cherish. Take some time to mark the things that otherwise may go unnoticed.

Jesus first

At Christmas
Before the parties and before the gifts.
Before the meals and travel to family gatherings.
Even before the worship services and serving the needy and carol singing…
There is Jesus.
Put Him first.
Don’t put Him first because it is His birthday and it is rude not to put Him first.
Put Him first because He is God and everything else pales in comparison.

John 1:10-14 He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. 11 He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. 12 But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. 13 They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God. 14 So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son. (NLT)

Merry Christmas to everyone!

12.19 in Fla.

We took part of our day off on Friday and took a walk on the beach. I was reminded again how nice it is to be able to do something outside in December. What a great place to live!

The following pictures are for the enjoyment of our friends who live up north. Not trying to rub it in! I hope you enjoy a little Florida warmth.

A personal Christmas

If you read this blog often, you know that I don’t share a lot of personal information. No offense meant, I am just a relatively private person. This Christmas finds our family dealing with some issues that bring new significance to the holiday and cause me to tell you about some personal things we are facing.

Letha and I are blessed to have all four of our parents still living. We have recognized this as an incredible advantage. Our parents believe in us and pray for us more than anyone on earth. As our parents are aging (everyone around 80), they are dealing with the typical health situations that most people their age deal with. In particular, Letha’s mom, Mary is struggling. Four years ago, she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

As the health of my mother-in-law fades, we are drawn into times of gratitude for her spiritual strength and depth, as well as times of sorrow for everything she and her family are experiencing. Letha’s father, Dave, is as strong as any man has ever been. He is holding up well considering the circumstances. Letha’s family is very involved and very supportive. But we all realize that the clock is ticking for Mary. This could very well be her last Christmas on earth. I suppose the same should be said of all of us, but we are keenly aware of her imminent situation.

This awareness creates lots of nostalgia. I am thinking about Christmases over the past 25 plus years that I have spent in this family. We are recalling all of the great family times at the holidays. Letha and I talk often about how her mom was a pillar in the family. This definitely will be a theme for Christmas 2008. This will be a challenging but treasured Christmas celebration.

Hopefully, we can grasp tightly and hold on to the memories that have been made and will be made this year. I am hoping for the usual joy in their home. I am asking God for a season of peace for them. The presence of love is not in question.

Without being morose, know that none of us are promised another Christmas, or another year of life. Perhaps the gravity of our situation can inspire you to grab hold to the treasure of family and love and memories. Make Christmas what it was originally intended to be: honor the Savior’s birth and celebrate the gift of spiritual life.

God is good and His mercy endures forever.

giving is showing up everywhere

On our day off on Friday, we went to lunch at one of our favorite spots, a taco trailer. That’s right, we eat off the street (not literally) every chance we get. For any Mexican food fiends out there in south Florida, the place is Taco Al Carbon on the corner of Military Trail and Lake Worth. The neighborhood is not great and the cleanliness factor is sketchy, at best. But we love the food and that’s what counts.

Anyway, while we were there on Friday, a local organization was conducting a giveaway for Christmas. Toys for kids and clothes for adults were the featured items.

I am seeing it more and more.
The local news is covering it.
A radio station is promoting a plan to send gifts to military personnel overseas.
More organizations are leading the way.
More generosity, more selflessness, more giving.
I think this is another indication that people are not giving up because of the recession.
In fact, they are simply giving because of the recession.

We are making less money and some experts are saying that giving is going to drop. I am hoping that people will become more generous as they see needs increasing.

Another indicator that this economic crisis may just be good for us. Just maybe we are starting to focus on the really important stuff.

the economy is sounding better

While the news is still awful regarding our economic situation in American and in the world, and while the forecast is not calling for a turn-around any time soon, I am hearing some really encouraging things from some people I know.

Just this week I have heard people say:
“Maybe this is a chance for us to get our priorities straight.”
“Maybe we are starting to figure out what is really important in life.”
“We have been so shallow for so long, possibly we can grow up a little.”

To me, this is really good news. I think it is both a mark of character and a gift from God when, in difficult times, people see beyond their temporary pain and realize the good that can come from it.

I do know this, people in our community are much more open to spiritual matters now than they were 3 or 4 years ago. The greatest change in our lifestyles is related to finances.

So I have to say, although painful, this recession may be a good thing.

What is it that comes up from inside a person when times get tough?
I believe it is the resiliency that God puts within people.
As cynical and skeptical as we are, there is something deep inside most of us that keeps us looking for things to get better and looking for real meaning in life.
I believe that thing inside is hope.
And I believe that hope will see us through.

thanksgiving revisted

I have been asked by a couple of people to post more photos of our Thanksgiving trip to Casa Shalom orphanage in Guatemela. (see videos posted on 11.30)

Hope you enjoy.

A picture of the six turkeys we cooked

Party time! The Thanksgiving meal with the Casa Shalom family

A six course meal!

The older kids of Casa Shalom as we climbed the volcano (Picaya)

Our daughter Jessica, after climbing to an elevation of 9.000 ft.

It was an awesome trip for us, one of our best Thanksgiving hoildays ever.