Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Meaning of Christmas

It was once said that there would be no Christmas if not for Easter. Today, my thoughts dwell on the meaning of Christmas.

In all actuality, Christmas makes me feel rather like the Grinch or Mr. Ebenezer Scrooge. For a time that is celebrates gifts and love and giving, there sure seems to be a lot of greed, selfishness, envy, and hatred going around. In the mass commercialization that has become such a familiar part of Christmas, I wonder if we have lost sight of what the purpose of everything is.

While serving a mission in the great states of Kansas and Missouri, I had a powerful experience that taught me the true meaning of Christmas, gifts, and what it all means. I was in Wichita, Kansas for a meeting with other missionaries as part of a traveling Christmas music program. After the meeting, we (myself and the other missionaries in the music group) decided to go and carol to some of the nursing homes in the area. As we sung Christmas hymns and classic songs, my heart was filled with an understanding of Christmas. The purpose of Christmas is to remind us of charity -- the pure love of God. Think about it. Everyone involved in the first Christmas showed love and charity. Joseph displayed this powerful attribute when he didn't put Mary away, the wise men came bearing precious gifts, God gave us the gift of His Son so that we may be made whole.

Of course, that gift -- Jesus Christ -- was the paramount gift that Christmas. He was to be the one to redeem the world, to show us "a more excellent way," and to heal the broken hearted. That is why we give gifts on Christmas. We seek to emulate the gift given to the world by sacrificing our own wants, needs, or desires to fulfill those of another person. That is what Christmas is about -- not the toys, the Black Friday deals, or even the treats (GASP!).

Lastly, Christmas is a time of hope. That first Christmas brought new hope into a dark, dreary, and hopeless world. It is my hope that perhaps one day, we will have a Christmas without any fear, sorrow, or anguish -- a Christmas that is a good one.

Friday, December 2, 2011

And I'm Feeling Good

I have decided that too many of my recent blog posts seem mildly depressing. That is not the intent of the blog. And so, I am changing tones. Happiness is what God intends for us, anyway.

I love this song. Also, I am beginning to love Nina Simone. She's got some sick, soulful scat skills. True story. I think there is great power in this song. Every day is a new dawn, a new life. We get to see what we can make of it. Isn't that cool?

This semester I've been learning a lot about anxiety and its triggers. One thing that often results in anxiety is having too much on our plate that we feel we have to get done. "Have to," I've learned, is a dangerous mindset. We really don't have to do anything. We have the incredible ability to make choices, and so we get to choose every single day what we want to do. It makes things an adventure in every sense of the word.

Visualize a mental list of all the things that you need to accomplish in the next week. Do it. Close your eyes and visualize it. Sometimes, it's a pretty lengthy list. Now, imagine trying to complete everything on that list today. How does that feel? Do you feel some tension? Now, think to yourself, "Oh boy! I wonder what I can do today." How does that feel. Notice a difference?

I do that drill everyday. It has helped me immensely. It's a work in progress. We cannot ever accomplish everything we want to in a day. There's only 24 hours, after all. Eight of those are spent sleeping, three or so are spent eating, at least one of those hours is spent in the bathroom. A full-time job fills up another eight hours, and lo and behold, we have twenty of our twenty-four hours filled. That went by pretty fast, didn't it?

This is not a post in praise of laziness. It is a post about priorities and decisions. Every day, I decide what the most important things for that day are going to be and I do my best to get them done. The annoyance that comes from not finishing everything motivates and causes reevaluation. Did I try to do too many things? Were they really all that important? Are there things I can eliminate? Bit by bit, the unimportant -- or at least less important -- fall away.

That's really the take home lesson for today -- learn to choose and prioritize. We can't always do everything. As much as I would like, I cannot save every child in Romania and Africa simultaneously. I cannot clone myself or be in two places at once. But I can do things one step at a time, one day at a time. Gandalf tells Frodo, "All we have to do is decide what to do with the time that is given us." Pretty profound statement of truth. We only have so much time. Choose wisely.