2022 Is Here! What Will You Do?

Ok, let’s get this out of the way.  I am not fond of the celebration of the New Year.  I kind of feel like it is a bit of a cheat.  It seems to be a day where we are offered a new start where all the bad things disappear, and all good things take their place.  That is just not the case.  When you get up on January first the same issues in your life are right there staring you in the face and no amount of toasting in the New Year will solve those issues.

Now I know this is just me, or maybe not.  There are probably a few people who agree with me, but the majority are sure New Year believers and maybe they have a point.

New Year is a time of renewal in many areas of our lives.  A time to evaluate where we are and correct the course is necessary, To do this though you must do a deep self-examination and this is hard to do because it means being brutally honest about all areas of your life.

For instance, let’s use me as an example.  I admitted to myself a couple of months ago that I am overweight, grossly overweight and if I didn’t do something about it I would probably die much sooner than the rest of my family who weighs in the right range.  I told myself to look around, there are no old fat people.  And as far as I know, there are none.  I have been obese for years and the medical community didn’t warn me of the dangers, in fact, most of my docs avoided discussing the matter until I said, “Im fat and something has to be done.”  Then they could speak.

I believe one of the reasons the docs are afraid to talk about weight issues is because of this new thing called fat shaming.  Now while I totally agree that kids on the playground should not insult the fat kid, I disagree that once you have grown up and someone mentions your weight you should be happy someone cares enough about you to say something.  To tell heavyset, obese, or fat people to feel good about themselves and to be proud of who they are physically is just plain stupid.  I’m going to be quite clear.  I’m ashamed of myself for letting things go this far. I’m uncomfortable in movie and theater seats.  I don’t like the way I look and I know I am damaging my body by being this size.

This is a brutal self-examination but it is necessary if there is to be change.

We cannot live in a world where change is scorned or where people fear it.  We did, in Europe for many years and that time in history is called The Dark Ages.  Nothing changed during those terrible years but when they ended people began to think and thinking both good and bad is what brought us where we are today.

You can have Dark Ages ib your own life.  That time when you see yourself as perfect when you are far from it.  All the years I denied I was gaining weight were my own Dark Ages and it has led me to where I am now.

It’s not just the weight and how I look.  It’s getting out of breath while carrying something.  It’s feeling my heart race when all I’ve done is walk across the room.  Being short of breath from doing the simplest of tasks and having my feet and legs hurt all the more because of the weight I carry.

That exams my physical body and assesses the problem fairly well.  Now, what’s to be done about it.  I have already begun a program of weight loss.  With my doctor’s approval, I am doing Slimfast for two meals and a sensible dinner.  The reality of that plan is my morning Slimfast shake with an apple and 16 ounces of water lasts me till around four o’clock so for the most part I don’t use the second shake.  I know my stomach, at least, has shrunk as I can only eat a much smaller amount at dinner than I used to.

After a physical assessment is done a mental assessment must also be done.  My mental and emotional state, in general, is better than it was before.  I still need therapy and appropriate medication but in many ways, I am a much calmer person than I used to be.  I can be honest with myself, I no longer rely on comfort food to help me get thru rough patches and other negative behaviors have become much more under my control. My emotions are no longer controlling me as much as I realize that emotions are first response tools.  You have to be careful to digest a first response and think about it before acting on it.  If I get bad news, for example, my first response would be to eat something to make me feel better about the bad news.  I can’t do that.  First response emotions will die down and go away after a while especially if you use your brain to think through your response.  If we respond to anything in anger or fear it is pretty much assured we will regret what we have done.

Now I think more before I react.  First thoughts may be McDonald’s will not solve my problem.  Second and third thoughts could well be the solution to those problems.  Self-control is the beginning of learning how to deal with emotions.  If you have strong emotional reactions to anything, given time, rational thought will calm those emotions down.

We are made in three parts, The Physical, The Mental and The Spiritual.  Many people regard the spiritual as unimportant or attached to emotions.  It is not.  For me, the spiritual parts of us are about our relationship with God and his with us.  I am a Christian and I believe that Jesus was born of a virgin, as an adult lived a sinless life and taught the precepts of the Kingdom of God.  At the age of 33, he was crucified for what he taught but on the third day, he rose again from the dead.  He was seen by many and ministered another 40 days here on Earth before he was bodily taken up to heaven.  I believe that if you believe all of what I have just written and believe that Jesus is Lord you have a place in eternity with Him.  Repeating that is a way to decide how much work my spiritual life has to go.

This year I’m good.  However, Jesus taught us that we should be good to the poor and the suffering.  This year my question must be what I’m doing to follow my Lord in that area and the answer must be not much.  And I’m not sure where I should start.  My physical issues are many and my resources are tight and yet Charles Dickens wrote in A Christmas Carol “Any Christian working in his little sphere will not have time enough, in this life to complete all he can do.”  I paraphrased that but the answer I seek is what can I do?  Hopefully and humbly in future blogs, you will read the answers I found on how to help.

New Year’s may not, in reality, be a new beginning.  But it can be a renewal.  Get past the parties and the cork popping and really dig into who you are and who you want to be in the coming year and you find yourself on the greatest adventure anyone can take, the adventure of conquering yourself.

God bless you dear reader and Happy New Year.

Christmas 2021

I am not a poet.  As I assume all writers do I dabbled in poetry.  I went into fields and climbed trees and looked for inspiration in all the usual places I imagined poets would
go to find their muse.  I never found mine except once.

It was 1979 not long before Christmas when I realized I had no money to give my folks a Christmas gift that year.  It was my first semester in college and as all college students are, I was broke.  I thought and thought and slowly an idea came to mind.  I would write a poem.  Initially I must have thought it would be a Christmas poem, but it turned into something slightly more elaborate.  I wrote the poem, bought some poster board and hand printed it out with some small amount of artwork for the borders.  I was no great poet, but I was and am an even worse artist.  Still, it was a heartfelt gift and I present it to you now as I presented it to my parents as a Christmas gift.

Jesus

They say he was born in Beth’lem town,

And on that night there was the sound,

Of trumpets from the heavenly host,

And in all this the saints would boast.

He grew up alongside men,

Who in their sight he would begin,

A ministry of peace and light,

And leading people toward the right.

For three short years he labored strong,

And taught the people to go along,

A path of wisdom both just and bright,

To walk not in darkness but in light.

The leaders feared what this man taught,

And in their fear a man they bought,

A follower to betray the lord,

For they knew he feared no earthly sword.

They hung him on a wooden cross,

And men believed that they had lost,

A friend much closer than a brother,

Their only friend man had no other.

He died upon that cross so high,

And they placed him in a tomb nearby,

They placed him there while women moaned,

Then covered the entrance with a stone.

For three long days he lay there dead,

The world lost hope and all men said,

That he was good and just and wise,

But like all men he had to die.

But on the third day God shook the earth,

And when the stone rolled from its berth,

He rose again then into life,

And took away all pain and strife.

The world for long awaited this,

For this man he brought a gift,

Of everlasting life for us,

If in Him we put our trust.

As I have stated in other places you can’t have Christmas without Easter.  If Easter did not happen then there would be no reason to celebrate the birth of Christ.  We would still be partying in one way or another.  After all, Christmas did replace the roman feast of Saturnalia.  And that feast had parties and bringing in the green form outside, as well as gift giving.  But the church, as her job, redeemed the pagan holiday and its customs and turned it into one of the most beautiful times of the year. It makes us know that we are loved and somehow instils in us the need to love and help others.  As Dickens wrote it is “a time when want is keenly felt and abundance rejoices.”

Dickens further writes in A Christmas Carol.

“I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come around, apart from it’s sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it could be apart from that, as a good time, a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time.  The only time in the whole calendar of the year when and women, seem by one consent, to open their shut-up hearts freely and to think of people below them as fellow passengers to the grave and not another race of creature bound on other journeys.  And therefore, uncle though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe it has done me good and will do me good and so I say God Bless it.”

This was speech given to Scrooge by his nephew in A Christmas Carol.  Very few stage or screen productions ever let the actor have the whole speech but in those words is the true meaning and heart of Christmas.

Earlier this week a fellow Christmas Carol fan, Michael Castellano wrote a poem that embodies the whole story of A Christmas Carol.  He did this all-in-one day and I think it’s pure genius.  With his permission I present it to you now.

My Carol

A chill to my Christmas

with harsh blowing winds,

I’m mean and I’m ornery

when my story begins.

My hearts made of stone

I may never reform,

and to be quite honest

I should have never been born.

Money and power is all that I crave

and my earthly delights,

will end soon

at the grave.

Bah Humbug to Christmas

with its tinsels and lights,

my hatred is strong

where others delight.

my partner in life

has returned from the grave,

“I’ve come here to assist you

your soul I’ll help save.”

You’ll be visited by three spirits

you’ve nothing to dread

they’ll take you on journeys

from the foot of your bed.

The first spirit came

with a bright shining light,

to show me my past

on this cold winters night.

We visited scenes

from my boyhood at school,

where I sat all alone

with a spoon and some gruel.

Then on to the Fezzywigs’

with their great Christmas fete,

with plenty to drink

and abundance to eat.

The love of my life

my very own Belle,

she had me entranced

I fell under her spell.

But greed overtook me

I lost at loves game,

now everything’s different

and nothings the same.

The spirit soon left me

as the city clock struck two,

where I met a gentle giant

who sipped a strange brew.

” Come know me better!”

he said with a laugh,

a crown of live holly

adorned his large staff.

with a touch of his robe

such a soft gentle touch,

we flew over mountains

to a boy with a crutch.

He showed me my life

and my cold frozen heart,

although I saw much

it was only a start.

The giant soon left me

at the end of his haunt,

but inside his robe

I saw ignorance and want.

The last of the spirits

appeared from the mist

a silent spirit

my life to assist.

He showed me my future

my life at its end,

he scared me this spirit

but he was truly a friend.

My name on the grave

I was truly alone,

“I’ll change” I cried

please don;t leave me alone.

Now I’m a new man

the old man is dead,

I’ll help Mr Cratchit

and a visit to Fred.

I’ve finished my story

I’m finally done,

so Merry Christmas to all

and God Bless Us Everyone.

If you have no time to read A Christmas Carol or watch one of the film adaptations, you at least have this poem.

One more note about A Christmas Carol.  I have a tradition of reading the book every year.  I start at night on the 21st reading the First Stave Dickens uses the word Stave instead of Chapter in his book as it is a musical term meaning the verse of a song.  For the next three nights, I read a single Stave usually right before bed.  On the 25th Christmas morning I read The Final Stave entitled The End of It and live with Scrooge all the joy he found that Christmas morning.  For me, it’s a meaningful and touching way to read the classic.  It’s also something a family could do together.

One last thought before leaving you.  Several years ago I was working in dialysis at a local hospital and one of the docs gave me and the rest of the unit employees a little card with a free verse poem on it.  It was beautiful and very timely, and it is a reminder that the celebration of Christmas is only the beginning.  That little card did not have the author’s name, but I found that out recently and I present the poem to you as a last gift of Christmas.

The Work of Christmas

When the star is the sky is gone,

When the song of the angels is stilled,

When the kings and princes are home,

When the shepherds are back with their flocks,

The work of Christmas Begins:

To find the lost,

To heal the broken,

To feed the hungry,

To release the prisoner,

To rebuild the nations,

To bring peace among the people,

To make music in the heart.

  • Howard Thurman