Do It Yourself Christmas Kit

  It was snowing in the North-West Territory, but then it was always snowing here. Or at least it seemed that way to Clara. She had lived here half of her life, after marrying Henry, her Canadian Policeman. Now they were retired, and contemplating moving back home to her beloved New York. Actually, she was doing more than contemplating, she was packing.

Not clothes, but household items, things they wouldn’t need to take with them. Truth be told, Clara was depressed. She needed something to jar her out of it, and wasn’t sure what it was. Henry watched his Wife, he knew exactly what was going on. He just didn’t know how to help her, so he thought he would help her pack.

It was on his first trip to the Garage that he hit on it. It was a box of Christmas lights, tangled and quickly wrapped up. He grabbed a sharpie from his tool belt. “No, that won’t work, it has to be a red one. Oh, wait here it is.” Henry collected an item here and there, and carefully carried his box to Clara.

“What’s this?” “It’s a guaranteed anti depression remedy. Now don’t deny it, you’re missing family. You need something to jar you out of it. We’ll be in New York soon enough, but until then.” He handed her the box.

It had the old line from the Christmas song written on it. “We need a little Christmas, right this very minute.” She opened it, and instantly began to laugh. It was a box of tangled Christmas tree lights, a battery, a small plastic tree, and a Christmas ornament. Inside was a paper tag that read, Do It Yourself Christmas Kit.

She kissed her husband, and they had a cup of coffee. It would have been the last time she thought of it, until her plane ride. Clara shared the sweet memory with the passenger across the aisle. You would have thought it was genius, the lady was so enthused. Just the idea of it seemed to make her happier.

Clara filed that fact away in the back of her head before they got off the plane. The next few weeks were constantly busy, and they loved being near family. Still, Henry knew that something was bothering Clara. “What is it honey? Aren’t you happy that we moved?”

“Oh yes, very, but that’s just it. You and I are happy, but people around here don’t seem as happy as they used to. It seems like everyone is sad, depressed, or in a hurry.” “I guess it’s the way of the world. Everyone could use a little spark to brighten their day.” “A little spark, yes, yes, I think they could.”

With that, she preceded to share with Henry his idea, version 2.0. They would buy some small plastic trees, a battery powered set of miniature lights, and a few tiny ornaments. When they met someone who seemed to need a smile, they would get their address, and send them a little Christmas.

“Aren’t you afraid that someone will think we’re trivializing Christmas? Or that we’re ignoring the real meaning of it?” “No, because we’re going to send them a tag, like yours. On one side, it will say Do It Yourself Christmas Kit. On the other it will say, He traveled far so you wouldn’t be sad, this is a reminder to be happy.”

It was the middle of August, but they started their personal goodwill campaign. They didn’t just stop with family and friends. The store clerk at Macy’s got a kit, the man in the elevator that never smiled got one too.

They had arrived in an election year, so the Mayor and his top rival each received one after the debate. Only theirs had a customized card about letting Brotherly love continue, and the other’s name written on the card. It didn’t stop the campaigning, but it made the next two debates much nicer.

This little enterprise continued sporadically for the next year, until a reporter showed up at their door. Wil Zolman was a good reporter, and a very pessimistic young man. “I traced three boxes back to your address. I know this was you, tell me, what’s your intention? Are you starting a business? Is it a religious message? What do you hope to gain out of this?”

Henry had seen his Wife mad, what husband hadn’t, but he hadn’t seen her this mad in a long time. “Young man, you might want to rephrase that.” She didn’t give him the time to however. Clara was too angry to wait.

“What do I want out of this? Perhaps a world filled with less cynics like you. A place where everyone doesn’t have an angle, where you do something nice period. Let me ask you the same question. What do you get out of being suspicious of everybody you meet? Do you enjoy being miserable?”

The reporter was shocked, he just sat there a minute. After the rush of emotion had fainted, Clara felt bad. She didn’t want to hurt the young man. “I’m sorry, it’s just that this world is so full of misery. When you try to do something good, people think you have a gimmick. Honestly, we just wanted to see people a little happier. I suppose if they know it came from an old couple in Brooklyn, it’ll lose it’s magic.”

Wil still hadn’t moved. Her words had stung him, and he knew why. He was miserable, he had been that way for so long, he missed it when he had a fleeting moment of happiness. It wasn’t that he enjoyed it, just that he was accustomed to it. “Tell you what, if I can have one of those kits to go, no one will ever know.”

Clara smiled, went to the closet, and handed him one. He smiled, thanked them, and went on his way. He stopped in the coffee shop, typed up a very different story, and emailed it. Next, he headed for his next stop.

She hadn’t expected him, they hadn’t dated in over a year. Alda Cox was also a reporter, they had met through the paper, and at first she thought things were going well. The trouble was, a few months into the relationship, Wil seemed to find reasons to push her away.

Eventually she became so frustrated, that she ended the relationship. She’d read his byline from time to time, miss him, and go about her day. For some reason, every one she dated after him, ended near the same way. Either her or they lost interest, and she would think of him in passing.

That didn’t mean that she was happy to see him. Truth be told, she had made it clear every time they ran into each other she was still angry. He didn’t expect this to be easy, he thought he was crazy for trying, but he was tired of being miserable.

Wil knocked on her door. When she answered he placed the brown craft covered box in her hand. “Look, don’t say a word yet. Just listen, but first, can I come in?” Alda stepped back, but just far enough to let him inside the door.

“Christine Parmenter, my girlfriend in college. Actually my fiancé, until she returned the ring with a wedding invitation for her and my replacement. I hadn’t known we were in trouble, there were no signs of it. It’s easier to be suspicious that someone is going to leave you, than to not expect it at all. I know it’s probably too late, but would you like some coffee? At least open the box ok?”

Alda kept a blank stare on her face, he had no idea what she was thinking. She sat the box down, unwrapped it, and pulled out the tiny tree, the battery, the lights, and the ornament. She read the card, and the extra piece of paper that Alda hadn’t told Wil about. It read …

I could be wrong, but I suspect this young man is miserable because of a girl. Whether you are the one that caused the misery, or the victim of her, you’re the one he gave the box too. If he gave you this, he’s asking for another chance. That’s what Christmas is about, God came to Earth to give man a second chance. It couldn’t hurt to follow His example could it?

“You better be glad you’re cute. An I want good coffee, not some cheap place. In fact, I might order steak, just because I feel like it.” Then she smiled at him. The next Wedding invitation wouldn’t be sent out for several months, but both of their names would be on it, and she did order steak, for all five hundred guests.

In case you’re wondering, the article read something like this. ‘While their identity will remain a mystery, two very special people felt that New York needed a little Christmas, right this very minute. She was in too much danger to wait for December winds to blow in smiles and laughter, so they used the mail.’

Thanksgiving and Pizza

  My first job was in a pizza place, and the night before Thanksgiving was one of the busiest of the year.  Up until then, I never associated pizza with November in any way.  It seemed everyone was so busy cooking tomorrow’s dinner, that no one wanted to make that night’s meal.

Most people were nice, some were not, but we couldn’t allow it to affect our reactions.  When their pizza was boxed up, and they turned to leave, we were smiling at the next person in line. It was more than good business, it’s a wonderful prescription for enjoying this season.

Someone you meet in the next twenty four hours will be either angry, or grouchy. You may not realize it, but rude people lurk around the spice aisle where you buy nutmeg once a year.  You can’t isolate yourself from them, but we can insulate ourselves.

First, find the joy in this time of year for yourself. What about it makes you happy? Once you know, lock that down in your heart. Don’t allow others to steal your happiness these next few days and weeks.

Second, view others, especially the irritable ones, through eyes of compassion.  Their anger, attitude, and actions, could stem from depression, heartache, or loneliness.  Remembering this, will alter your entire view of the man who just snatched the last stalk of celery you needed.  

Lastly, if you find their moods affecting you, watch for it. You’re human, people are going to get on your nerves, don’t let them stay there.  Refuse to allow a momentary interaction to dictate your actions the rest of the day.

Thanksgiving and Christmas and all the other special events of your life, are too important to allow others to ruin them. Mentally box up the few minutes you spent with them, and push it out of your mind.  Then smile at who or what is ahead of you, knowing that you’re happiness is safe behind the counter of your heart.

Cranberry Sauce 

  I bought some this week, cranberry sauce, not the fresh kind, but that jellied, can shaped substance people make fun of.  I always did, until I married my Wife Ashley, she loves it. Now it’s part of our Thanksgiving traditions.  

Before we were married Ashley enjoyed the Macy’s parade, but she had no idea how important it was, until she met me.  Now, it’s something that must not be missed. Such is the case with family traditions, they are pieces of a relationship.

They’re not the relationship, merely things that bring us closer.  Traditions change, as families add members, new ones are created.  Sometimes we try too hard, and make holidays more difficult than they have to be. 

It’s not just about the parade, the food, or even the football game.  Thanksgiving is about being thankful for who God has placed around your table.  They are more important than if the turkey is perfect, or if the mashed potatoes have enough salt.

Making a new tradition means creating a new memory.  It doesn’t have to be big, or elaborate.  The only requirement is that we focus on those we love.  It may be as simple as a can of red goo, but if it’s important to the love of your life, you’ll give it a proper place on your table.

An Airport Thanksgiving 

airport2Carlos was worried.  He looked at his wife Nita and could see that she was unhappy.  Holly and Joquin were miserable.  Why shouldn’t they be, the family was supposed to be in New York for Thanksgiving.  They had an amazing view of the Thanksgiving parade thanks to Carlos’ Mom’s apartment.  Instead, they were stuck in a small airport outside of Toronto, snowed in.

It could have been a recipe for disaster, had it not been for a single sound, Holly heard a sneeze.  She looked over to see a young boy crying.  Holly, thirteen and afraid of nothing, went over to see what was wrong.  Neil’s Aunt Paula explained.  “His Dad is coming back from a tour overseas.  This is going to be their first holiday together in four years.  Now it looks like we may miss Thanksgiving.”

That was when everything changed.  Holly looked at her Mom, Nita looked at Joquin, and they all looked at Carlos.  He wasn’t sure what they were asking, but he instinctively agreed.  Holly whispered something to Paula, who wrote something down and handed it to her.  Holly promised she would be back, and made her way to the small restaurant in the airport.

Nita went with her, and in a few minutes, they gave Carlos and Joquin their instructions.  For an hour, they made their way to every store and person in the airport.  Everyone agreed to help and soon, Neil could hear music coming from the far end of the airport.  Before he knew it, he was watching a make shift Thanksgiving Parade filled with security guards, home made costumes, and one man who was handing toys out from the gift shop.

The music came from assorted smart phones, portable speakers, and a few singing travelers.  Everyone knows that the last float in a Thanksgiving parade is Santa Claus, so naturally Neil looked for a make shift sleigh.  What he saw was more than he could have expected.  It wasn’t a sleigh, there were no reindeer.  It was a small cart with a tablet computer, and on the screen wasn’t Santa Claus.

“Hi sport, I told you we’d be together on Thanksgiving.”  Neil and John wiped the tears away as they talked.  “I just wish it was in the same room.”  “It will be, but don’t worry.  Grandma is keeping the dinner warm, we’ve taped the parade, we’ll still celebrate Thanksgiving together.”  “But I won’t get there until tomorrow.”

John smiled.  “Son, it doesn’t matter what time you get here.  I’m so thankful to be with you, and I intend to give you all the love in the world.  Do you know what that means?”  “What?”  “That Thanksgiving isn’t about a day, a parade, or a dinner, it’s about being thankful for the people that God has placed into our lives.”

The two talked for almost an hour, and then all the stranded passengers were guests of a make shift Thanksgiving dinner.  The little restaurant was a hamburger place, so the closest thing to Thanksgiving was an apple pie milkshake.  It didn’t matter, one little girl had rescued everyone’s Thanksgiving.

The next day the snow let up, and soon everyone was on their way.  No one felt cheated, or sad, it wasn’t the Thanksgiving anyone planned, but it was what they needed.  For years to come everyone that spent Thanksgiving in that airport would cherish both it, and every Thanksgiving that followed.

They were reminded, Thanksgiving isn’t a commercial holiday, it isn’t about the turkey.  It’s the people, not the side dishes that matter.  The day isn’t measured by how big the floats are, or how well dressed Santa is.  Instead, our Thanksgiving is a success when we review the parade of blessings that God has placed in our lives.

Human Events

  

 “When in the course of human events…”, it’s the way our Declaration Of Independence starts. I woke with those first seven words on my mind. It seemed ironic that, in this day and time, our founding fathers would pick that phrase. We truly have arrived where we are because of human events.

The next words are “it becomes necessary…”. Every Christian I know, believes that we are in the last days. With signs in Heaven and on Earth, from Israel to Washington, Europe to Asia, clues abound. Two thousand years ago, Christ became what was necessary to secure mankind’s salvation against this age.

He knew man was on a collision course with eternity, that time would run out. Jesus wanted us all to have something to hold to when this day came. He said “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” God was giving us a new pathway, truth to sustain us, and His life to redeem us.

As we go towards our country’s celebration of freedom, I would like to encourage you. If you know Jesus, then you are truly free, no matter what we face. What He is doing in you, is greater than the chaos that’s happening around you.

If you don’t know Him yet, I would tell you that there is still time. I know you’ve heard it before, but suppose for just a moment that I’m right. If there is any chance that I am, you owe it to yourself to consider the possibility.

If I’m right, then man is infected and afflicted by sin. If that is so, then all of us need a Savior. If I’m right, there is only one religion with an empty tomb. If I’m right, then the question of eternity must be dealt with. 

Are you prepared to answer the question of forever and ever? Do you have a truth to hold to when that day comes? Our founding fathers believed enough to evoke God as they fought for and sought their freedom. “We are endowed by Our Creator with certain unalienable rights…”

Because of human events, Christ star shone in the east. Because of human events, He arrived to bleed, die, and rise again so that we would have a truth to hold on to. Finally, because of human events, eternity is calling. 

We don’t have to face it unprepared, we have a Declaration of Independence from sin. Our country was blessed with this self evident truth, and as Christians, we are blessed with the evidence of His love. If you know Jesus, you have something to celebrate! If you don’t, He’s penned the path to your Liberty!

Dads

  Andy and Opie Taylor, some of my favorite Mayberry moments were between Father and son. I’ve often thought my Dad reminded me of Andy Griffith. He was funny most of the time, noble always, and serious when he had to be.

Isn’t that the perfect description of a Father? Someone that rides asteroids with you, protects you from the monsters under your bed, and from the very real things you face as you grow older. Isn’t that what our Heavenly Father does for us?

He gives us dreams, and the ability to achieve them. He walks with us on the journey, ready to catch us when we fall. He went ahead and dealt with the things that could destroy us before we ever faced them.

Some of the things I watched my Father do as a child, held an importance I couldn’t appreciate until I became a man. Budgets, bills, and balancing work and family didn’t seem like anything at eight. At thirty eight, I sometimes wonder how he did it.  

He proved it could be done, before I knew I would need it modeled. He was training me for my future, just by living, and loving us daily. Fathers in that way, really are Superman, Jedi, and (insert favorite childhood character here).

Today we honor those special men who get up each morning and do whatever is ask of them. They simply, and quietly, go about the business of being a Dad. It isn’t glamorous, but is one of the greatest gifts a child could have. Thank you Dad for caring, modeling, and walking ahead of me to show me the way. Happy Father’s Day to Fathers everywhere!

The Roses Of Our Republic

  Today we honor those brave soldiers whose convictions empowered them to give their lives from Valley Forge to Mosul and Kabul. They cared enough to do whatever it took to keep us a free people. Americans of all races and backgrounds came together to make a statement. That statement was simply this, the American Dream is worth defending.

Like our soldiers, all across this country, good men and women, feel the need to impact our nation. We may not all be able to fight in uniform, but we can all make a difference. In honor of our soldiers, let us start today to better our country, in whatever way we can.

Whether it’s the voting booth, running for local office, or giving time to our community let us accept the call. Falling in step with the men and women of history who improved this country. We can leave our nation better than we found her.

It is fitting that our Lady Liberty is made of copper. Her skin was once brown, but age gave her that now famous green patina. Over time we can change the face of our nation, if we make a start.

What do you believe our country needs that you can help to make happen? I believe in the three great documents of our country, and what they stand for. The Declaration Of Independence, the Constitution, and Bill of Rights.  

I believe in the right to worship, free speech, and the freedom of the press. Which by the way, is the order listed in the first amendment itself. If we believe it, then we must contribute to its preservation.

Look for a place to serve, a gap no one is filling. Whether it’s through prayer, political office, or local charity work, we can beautify our corner of America. It can be as simple as placing flowers on a warrior’s grave.

Historically one of the early days chosen for Memorial Day was selected because the flowers were in bloom. The hope of a better life still grows on that shining city on the hill. The roses our republic were planted by America’s defenders, and must be cultivated by it’s citizens.  It’s our job to maintain what our brave soldiers planted, and to cause it to flourish.