My Favorite Things

One of my very favorite things each year is to pick out my calendars for the coming New Year.

Now some of you may think…get real…it’s just a calendar for Pete’s sake…who cares. Ahhh…but you would be wrong. You see having just the right calendar…or two…or more can really help brighten your day.

Just imagine…you’re at work and the morning is already filled many demands…and you pick up the phone…and here’s someone else wanting to add to your already very full plate. That little stress meter is going up…but then you take a look at that calendar that you brought in for the new year. You know the one…that wonderful “For the Love of Dogs” calendar by Lang.

What do you see…you see a puppy dog who looks so real that you feel you could stretch your hand out and pet him. He’s looking at you with those loving eyes…and just wants a pat on the head or to given a treat. All of a sudden you feel your blood pressure go down. You remember there’s more to life that all the demands of the office…and now you can refocus.

I just love calendars…and each year look forward to seeing the new selections. I get four. Actually more if you include the desk calendars. One for work…and three for home.

Lang…makes the best calendars. No matter what you favorite subject is…they will likely have calendar to meet your needs. A few years ago I discovered their “For the Love of Dogs” calendar…and have been sold ever since. Being that I have cats…it may seem odd that I have a dog calendar. But truly I am an animal lover…and the only thing keeping me from having dogs is not having the space.

Usually my calendar purchases involve animals…dogs, cats, birds or wildlife. I like the nature scenes, garden scenes…or old fashion times and place. My calendars are a bright spot in my everyday life.

Lang…does make the best calendars. Their artists are among the most renowned and talented. The quality of the paper they use…will allow you to frame some of your favorites once the year is over.

So if you haven’t already made those all important selections for your New Year…click on the link for Lang and order your calendars today.

A Christmas Challenge

My absence should not be interpreted as me being a Scrooge…not at all…but instead one sick dog. On Friday…an ongoing cough caught up with me and had me in bed for the last two and half days. My best laid plans for Christmas were set aside…and instead exchanged for switching between the bed and the sofa. My biggest accomplishments were feeding Nathan and Moss…and taking down the trash. Doesn’t sound like much…but trust me…even that took some effort.

The words I uttered most in the last two and half days were, “please God help me”…so today I am most grateful to be feeling better.

Unfortunately, I did let so much of the Christmas busyness keep me from focusing on Jesus. I surely hope that next year…I don’t loose sight.

One of the challenges I had wanted to try this year was from David Fisher at Pilgrim’s Scribblings. David is always one to inspire, encourage and challenge you. One of his postings prior to Christmas was to read Luke 2 each day before Christmas and come up with 12 rules of Christmas.

I did actually start it…but each time I waded in to reading Luke 2 I found so much to take away. But before this blessed Christmas season has passed entirely…I thought I’d try to write down some of the lessons I see in Luke 2:1-40.

What from a human perspective, what seems like an inconvenience at an exceptionally bad time…is actually something God has ordained and is part of His plan.

It couldn’t have been an easy thing for Joseph and Mary to travel to Bethlehem just as she was about to deliver her firstborn child. But indeed it was part of God’s plan…because the promised Messiah was prophesied to be born in Bethlehem. So God had to get them there…from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Our God…who uses earthly rulers to accomplish his plans…caused Caesar Augustus to issue a decree.

Our first choice and God’s first choice may not always be the same.

What expectant mother would choose to give birth in a stable? But here again…we can see God’s wisdom. In the stable…Mary and Joseph would be afforded the privacy they would have lacked in the inn. No one would be intruding on them during this most vulnerable time. The stable was likely a cleaner place than the inn. And the warmth of the animals…helped protect both the new born babe and mother. Would the shepherds have been allowed in the inn as easily as they were at the stable…following the angel’s declaration of the good news of the Savior’s birth?

God values those who are seemingly insignificant in society…even lowly shepherds. He entrusts his message of the birth of the Christ child to these men. The shepherds listened to the message, believed…and chose to go witness for themselves the sight of the babe wrapped in clothes, lying in a manger. They didn’t doubt or question that it was God who had given them this message. There were excited and hurried off to find the babe…and they told others. They didn’t keep the message to themselves…they shared God’s good news. They glorified and praised God for all that they had seen.

Do I value those who are low and seemingly insignificant? What do I do with God’s Word that He has entrusted to me? He has entrusted me with the Bible…his very own Word. Am I eager to share it with others? Am I obedient to follow God’s leading? Do I praise and glorify God…not only with my words…but also my deeds?

Do I have the faith of Simeon?

Simeon was said to be righteous and devout. He had been promised that he would not die before he had seen the Christ child. Yet Simeon was very old…but he still believed. He was there at the temple and waited for the Christ child to be brought for his time of purification. He didn’t leave the temple…he didn’t get discouraged when it didn’t happen earlier at time that he would have preferred. He waited…on God’s timing…and trusted God’s promise.

He was looking for Jesus…and when he saw him…he recognized him. He took Jesus into his arms…and praised God. He acknowledged that God was faithful to his promise. That indeed he had seen God’s promised salvation. He recognized that Jesus was not only Messiah for the Jews…but also the hope and salvation of the Gentiles too.

Would I be like Anna…who worshiped in the temple night and day? Would I recognize the Christ child when I saw him? Would I recognized him for what he was…the promised Messiah sent to redeem his people? Do I give thanks to God for my redemption…of which I am unworthy and could never earn?

What a wonderful and rich story. What wonderful pictures of people to emulate. The overriding presence in this story…is God. God the Father…who’s plan was being carried forth. God the Son…who set aside his glory…to take on human form so he might pay the price for our sins. God the Holy Spirit…bearing witness to Simeon that he would not die before he witness the promised the Messiah. God who is holy, perfect, righteous and just…also loved sinful man so much that he sent his only begotten Son to pay the price for our sin that we might be redeemed. A message not only for Christmas…but for each day throughout the year.

May you know the peace of God and the joy of Jesus’ birth. And remember…be sure to share that good news with others.

Tattered Christmas Treasures

One of my favorite things about Christmas is decorating my home. Each year…I love putting up ornaments on the tree. I’m able to look back at ornaments I’ve collected over the years…and see some dating back more than 40 years.

Two of my favorites…may not look so hot upon closer examination. But by golly…they mean so much to me. Both ornaments were ones from my childhood. If memory serves me right…they originally came the Alamosa National Bank in Alamosa Colorado…from when my dad was employed as President of the bank.

The bank was always decorated beautifully…and these two ornaments are tattered treasures…but are a tangible part of my memory from those days. Memories from a sweet and tender time.

Get Out of the Way

It was rather informative and entertaining to see the various comments that came in regarding my earlier post “Justice Served by Tookie Williams Execution”.

I knew passions were running high on both sides…but quite honestly…some of the uglier comments by some very troubled individuals made me pause. I was not surprised…since I’m a former lefty…and have seen the tactics of some the more virulent persons on the left over the years.

I was torn…should I let the really ugly comments stand and speak for themselves…or just delete them?

I wavered back and forth. One adage I find holds true…is that when someone wants to make a fool of themselves…get out of the way…and let them do it.

However…I have zero respect for people…both right and left that invoke vulgarity and hateful language in their lame attempts to bully, intimidate and shout down people with whom they disagree.

I have no problem…with people raising an argument contrary to what I believe…as long as it’s done in a respectful and civil tone. But people who fall into vulgar name calling…should not be tolerated. So…I deleted the really ugly comments. I don’t care to have any people who happen upon this blog to be offended by obscene language.

That kind of language and name calling is something that should have been left on the playground by immature people who either don’t have the ability to make a reasonable argument presenting their point of view…or are too lazy to do so.

Some of the same people who made these wretched comments…are the same ones that maintain that Tookie Williams influenced others for good. That contribution surely wasn’t apparent in your comments. I think Tookie deserves a refund if you are his representatives.

To those who made civil and respectful comments…even those that expressed a different point of view than what I shared about the William’s execution…I thank you for taking the time to voice your opinion.

We may agree or disagree…but I appreciate your consideration.

Alzheimer’s…Christmas Past & Present

A couple of reflections on Christmas past and Christmas present…with Alzheimer’s.

It’s been a while since I’ve written about my mom, Gayle. She’s currently a resident at an Assisted Living Facility in the Alzheimer’s unit. Actually, she’s been at the facility for a little over three years now. About a year and a half in the Alzheimer’s unit.

When getting out all my Christmas decorations this year…I ran across a Christmas pin that she gave me three years ago (pictured to the left). That was shortly after she was officially diagnosed with Alzheimer’s…but well into the progression of this wretched disease.

I found it very poignant when I reflected it was really the last Christmas present I will ever receive from her. She didn’t go out shopping for it…or pick it out special just for me. But instead while her mind and ability to function normally was quickly slipping away…she was still aware enough that at Christmas time you exchange gifts. She was uncomfortable being the recipient of Christmas gifts without having something to give in return.

So she searched through her dresser drawer and found this pin and gave it to me as Christmas present.

I go to see my mom every Sunday. Usually we make it a movie day. When I arrive to see her…she’s usually finishing her lunch. I chat with her, other patients and the nurses that work there. When she’s finished eating, we head back to her room. While she’s “taking care of business”, I pop a bag of popcorn…and we put on a movie. Last weekend…we watched March of the Penguins.

Some Sundays…she doesn’t talk too much. This particular weekend she was alert and really watched the movie. But her ability to communicate and express a particular thought about what she’s watching or feeling doesn’t usually happen.

But every once and while…she’s say something that really touches me. After watching our movie…we were talking about Christmas…and she asked me if my mom ever comes over to my home to see me. It was just so sad. I told her no…and asked if her mom comes to see her. She said no.

Some days she thinks I’m her sister, or an old school chum…on occasion she can tell you quite clearly I’m her daughter Susan.

It’s funny…it doesn’t bother me when she doesn’t know who I am. Maybe because I was familiar enough with the disease I expected that to happen.

I think the thing that bothers me the most is…I’m not going to go there tonight. Perhaps another time.

Only One Healer…For Nothing Good

As of Sunday December 11th, Governor Schwarzenegger has still not announced his decision on commuting Tookie Williams’ death sentence. With a little over a day remaining I’ve been reflecting on how overwhelmingly horrific this thing is…all the way around.

I have already written a piece about the death penalty…and why in the case of murder I believe it to be a right and just thing. Yet…just the absolute horror of it, is almost too much to contemplate.

Think about it.

Right now Governor Schwarzenegger must be quite torn…no matter which decision he will ultimately make. If he decides to commute Tookie’s sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole, how does he look the relatives of the four victims in the eye. Their family members were brutally and unjustly murdered. How can you justify that it is right to have the person who took their lives continue to live?

Yet…if he decides to not commute the sentence and Tookie Williams is executed…there’s no turning back. It’s a done deal. Once the man is dead…there is no bringing him back. Unless you have a crime committed on videotape or you witnessed yourself…you would always have a twinge of doubt…what if he didn’t do it?

Then there is the unimaginable burden…that even when proceeding with the execution of a confessed and proven murdered…a human life will be taken. A human life, created in God’s own image. A life so precious, that God sent his only begotten Son to die, so that whosoever would believe might be saved.

Then to think of Tookie Williams’ mom…what might a mother be feeling as her son face the death penalty for crimes committed. Tookie was once a babe in his mother’s arms. Most precious and innocent…and full of hope and promise. To think how awful his life turned out…it’s too painful to imagine.

Of course let us not forget that the victim’s families have been facing that for the past 26 years…to think of what an awful death they faced. The pain and the terror of their last moments. Their future…their life cut short and ended at the hands of a murderer.

Dennis Prager once had a show in which he posed the question…as a parent would rather you child be a murderer or be murdered. Actually…he didn’t keep the topic for a full hour because both Dennis and callers alike found it entirely too painful to contemplate….indeed it is.

While an entirely different context, a Golda Meir quote comes to mind, “I can forgive you for killing my sons, but I cannot forgive you for forcing me to kill your sons.” Golda was addressing the Palestinians.

While the forgiveness is not mine to offer in the instance of Tookie Williams, because my family members were not murdered, I think Golda Meir’s quote is apt.

God forbids individuals to extract revenge and to kill someone for wrong doing done towards us as individuals. However he does permit and give that ability to government. In fact God tells us in Genesis 9:6 “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God, has God made man.” What’s interesting to note in that passage, it says by “man’s hands” will the murder’s blood be shed. Not God’s hand…but by man. Not as an individual taking revenge. For revenge belongs to the Lord alone. (Romans 12:19). But the government/society is charged with that responsibility, after a just trial has take place and the crime proven.

Tookie…you are forcing our society to take your life for the crimes you committed.

No matter what happens…if Tookie sentence is commuted or the death penalty is carried forth…there is nothing good that comes from this. There is only hurt, pain, devastation…and there is only one Healer to whom all can go. Our God must be weeping with us.

It is my prayer that the victim’s families will go to Jesus to be able to forgive the unforgivable. That Tookie Williams will repent, seek forgiveness and salvation through our Savior Jesus Christ…who bore all our sins on the cross…including your sins Tookie. Also that Governor Schwarzenegger would seek guidance and wisdom, peace and strength for the decision that rests in his hands.