Tag Archives: Attitude

Entering the New Year With Hope

Someone once stated, “Men plan, God laughs” and looking back at your previous year, perhaps you can relate!  My wife and I sure have had our share of trials at times these past few years; a couple of those trials even followed us into the following New Year.  And while some folks are busily jotting down their New Year’s resolutions and planning every week for the next year, others are facing the upcoming new year AND new decade with the “same stuff, different year” philosophy.  But just for an instant, a brief moment in time, if you look at your new calendar just right, you’ll see it; a blank slate, an empty page, a blossoming hope for better days ahead.

Sure, I’ve been one of those resolution driven individuals who would charge into the New Year touting remarks like, “I will strive to eat better” or “I will endeavor to exercise more consistently and get in better shape” or even “I will attempt to be the best version of myself”…whatever that means? Without some thought, planning and preparation, many jump into these resolutions and burn themselves out after only a couple of weeks.  I’ve touted the first two “resolutions” and reflected below is a sampling of my personal experiences.

A few years (or so) ago, my wife and I joined Weight Watchers to shed some weight and generally feel better.  I was doing pretty well, getting into the groove of eating certain foods that was considered healthy and, being a creature of habit, ate these same foods on a regular basis.  On one occasion at our WW group meeting, I had a particularly good weight loss week, and so I was encouraged to share what I had been doing.  Being rather proud of myself and that week’s accomplishments, I proceeded to share with the group what I routinely ate for breakfast.  There were audible gasps throughout the group and I thought the one lady in the third row was going to pass out right there; it seems what I thought was normal and healthy for me had exceeded 98% of the group member’s point total for half the day!  “You must have great metabolism” they said…whatever…

The other activity I would dabble in at times was exercise.  As those of you who know me can attest, I’m not exactly the poster child for Mr. Olympia.  However, exercise is the catalyst that helps me lose weight and keeps my health in check.  I remember one particular early morning, dragging my carcass into the local YMCA to work out before work.  I always began my morning routine warming up, most of the time on the Elliptical machine.  As luck would have it that morning, the only machine open was beside the most perfect specimen of a human being.  I’m pretty sure that he turned his machine on the “MEGA MACHO” setting for his sixty minutes of pure bliss, complete with a dumb bell in one hand, a power drink in the other, while pouring over a book in front of him.  If he did sweat, I’m sure the one drop that dribbled down the side of his head smelled like Irish Spring.  I, on the other hand, turned my machine on the desired setting of “NINJA TURTLE”.  After five minutes on the machine, I appeared to have just completed an ice bucket challenge, for sweat was pouring from every pore.  I swear I was getting stares like, “you ARE going to clean that area up, aren’t you?”…yeah, whatever…

Many times in our lives, we are railroaded into believing a misplaced opinion or criticism and it, well, gets us off track from meeting our goals, resolutions and/or dreams until they are never realized; they never come to fruition.  We have to be determined to focus on the prize before us, to block out all outside negative influences if we want to see our hopes and dreams become a certainty.  But here’s another train of thought; what if your goal/dream/hope was only a selfish want that should never have been realized anyway?  What if that goal you’re spending so much time and energy attempting to birth is out of line with your needs or the needs of your family; more importantly, what if it’s directly out of line with God’s will for your life?

The hymnist, William Mote, penned the first few lines of his beloved hymn, The Solid Rock, which reflects how we must align our hopes, dreams and goals. “My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness; I dare not trust the sweetest frame, But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.”  Once our hopes are based on God’s will and not our own, the future becomes so much brighter and a lot less scary.  For if we truly believe everything we see, hear and read in the media, social media and print, from impeachment proceedings to rampant crime statistics, hope would scarcely be found.  It’s only when we completely rely on God’s will for our lives, does our future shine with the brilliant hope of tomorrow and eternity; for even death itself doesn’t have the fatal sting when we are one of His own.  Romans 8:23-25 states, “Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.  For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”  Yep, we can hold on to the hope of something greater one day; but for now, we have to be patient AND obedient to the will of our loving Heavenly Father.

Just one more thing to consider; we all go through different seasons in our lives.  Just as storms come and go, even though the storm may be severe at the time, they eventually blow over and the sun shines once more.  So it is with the situation you currently face; God may not remove the storm clouds from your life, but he’s definitely there beside you to walk with you through the storm.  What a comforting thought that reinforces our hope for tomorrow as we step into a new year AND a new decade!So, what does your new year look like?  Are you already frazzled from all the upcoming self-proclaimed goals, resolutions and deadlines you have laid out for yourself or are you going to listen and act based on God’s will for your life?  My goal for this next year is to strive to nestle closer to the One who knows me best and loves me most.  And perhaps my hope is to dismantle this annex I’ve built over time on to God’s temple; I know that is my physician’s hope as well…

All I Want For Christmas Is Some Peace and Quiet

I was rummaging through some old papers and documents the other day when I ran across this little gem from an English Composition class.  This was an argumentative paper that reflected just the opposite of a topic that the writer strongly believed in; I chose Christmas.  Now here comes the disclaimer; I love everything about Christmas!  As you read through this narrative, you may notice that there are distinctive undertones of cynicism, yet between the recesses of the lines and words, there are significant truth bombs more relevant now than ever.  I hope you enjoy reading, “All I Want For Christmas is Some Peace and Quiet”!

Here it comes again.  I can see it in the stress-etched faces of passers-by, eyes fixated in terror.  Soon there will be no turning back for anyone; no credit card will be left untouched.  As Thanksgiving approaches, one has a sense of urgency and uneasiness, of unjustified dread.  Unjustified that is, until you are stretched out on your favorite sofa, channel surging one evening and you come across a commercial just bursting with holiday cheer.  It is only then that panic permeates your entire body, leaving you numb and listless.  Santa Claus is coming to town again, corrupting your children and robbing you blind in the process.

Not that there is anything wrong with the holiday season.  Peace, good will toward men is a very noble reason to celebrate Christmas, not to mention the Christ child’s birthday.  But given today’s emphasis on sensationalism and commercialism, the three wise men would do well to present gifts of Prozac, Valium, and Ritalin.  The distorted, commercialized ritual of Christmas begins with shopping for the unappreciative, followed by the search for the elusive perfect tree, and finally climaxes with the distribution of gifts to family members, immediately followed by the requests for the receipts of such sought after gifts.  So why DO we do this to ourselves?

Shopping has always been a fun, leisurely sport, enjoyed typically by those who actually have money to spend.  But when the Christmas season hits, it is every man, woman and shoplifter for him or her self.  Mothers and wives exchange their aprons and pot holders for pepper spray and baseball bats, anything that will give them an advantage over the other toy hoarding citizens that no doubt have already given one of their kidneys for the newest gizmo on the market.  One week before Christmas, everyone is so dazed and confused, they continue to buy that something special for individuals not even on their Christmas list.  All that matters now is that we have sufficient gifts for whomever may drop by; the mailman, the minister, the local orphanage—it is of no consequence; just be prepared.  As the shopping comes to an end, there is a slight pain in the pit of the stomach as you realize, “Man, I have to wrap up all of this crap!”  After all the gifts are beautifully wrapped, we try to stuff the mini mall of merchandise under a tree that only has a floor to tree clearance capable of accommodating a comic book.

Finding that special tree has always been an exercise in tolerance and ambition.  Some folks like to travel the hillsides, scanning the horizon for anything that still looks green, spruce like and big enough to withstand the weight of five tinsel laden boxes of holiday cheer.  Others prefer to wander through the fire retardant forests of Walmart, torn between the permanently snow laden pine or the ever famous, one piece, sit and trim.  Finding the right tree is the easy part; trimming the tree can be suicidal.  There is an unwritten rule that a string of Christmas lights will work as long as they are not attached to the tree.  Once applied, the Christmas tree lights have a mind of their own.  Rule number two deals with the application of decorative bulbs and garland.  No matter how many boxes of tinsel you have, it is just not quite enough.  The last rule applies to the tree itself.  There are always five times as many gifts as there is room under the tree to place them.  But why worry; the gifts will soon be given to family and friends anyway, right?

Family gatherings have always been the mainstay of the holidays.  One can almost feel the anxiety and irritation rising from the depths in anticipation of another “encounter”.  The location may vary, even the time frame may hover within two weeks of Christmas but the “encounter” remains a constant.  The gathering begins with the initial greeting at the door.  While still clinging to a favorite relative, you begin to scan the interior of the house for a “safe place”, a little bit of territory to call your own.  Next comes a little chitchat, a review of deaths from the previous year and a little catch up on the families’ aches and pains.  Any potential discussions relating to recent surgeries are reserved for the holiday meal.  While the adults are wasting away the hours bemusing themselves with nonsense, the children are circling around the gifts, perfecting their scotch tap removing skills, and preparing for the impending gift opening frenzy.  When the time arrives to open the gifts, the kids are oblivious to anything around them except for the shiny new toys unwrapped by other kids.  Their sense of greed overwhelms their sense of excitement and a squabble is sure to ensue.

The parents, on the other hand, have a more succinct sense of dread as everyone sits around in the circle of judgment and waits their turn.  One by one, the adults open their gifts as everyone else waits for the recipient’s reaction.  It is wise at this time to “psych out” the spectators with a broad smile and approving nod; sharing your real impressions of the gift can wait until the interesting drive home.

Again, that nagging thought crosses the mind, why DO we do this to ourselves.  It is time to start shopping for compliments for one another, not for the material trash we bestow upon our friends and family.  Wouldn’t it be better to embellish someone’s self-esteem than to spend hundreds of dollars prettying up a dead tree?  When it comes to family gatherings, I think that all of us would enjoy the Christmas holiday just a little more if we could just drop the dramatics and be ourselves.  Christmas is all about the Christ child, childlike fun and tradition, not unwarranted guilt and obligation.  So go ahead and deck the halls with boughs of holly; I’ll be the contented one in the corner, having a very merry Christmas of my very own.