Are you ready for Christmas?

unwanted-christmas-presents-ebay-sell-gumtree[1]

The calendar had barely flipped past November when I started getting the question.

“Are you ready for Christmas?”

Translation:  “Do you have all your Christmas presents purchased and wrapped, your house impeccably decorated, 100 Christmas cards sent, dozens of cookies baked from scratch, and holiday family gathering plans finalized?”

My typical response is, “Uh . . . not yet, but I’m working on it.”

What they don’t see, is that under my ugly Christmas sweater, I’ve broken out in red and green hives. Just thinking about the expectations behind the inquiry stresses me out.

One of my coworkers, however, doesn’t let it phase him.

It was only a few days into December when someone lobbed the question to him during a staff meeting. Without losing a beat, he responded: “YES, I am ready for Christmas.”

At first, we didn’t know whether to be impressed or jealous. But then he left everyone speechless when he stated matter-of-factly, “I’m ready because I have purchased zero presents and that is exactly the number I plan to buy.”

Inwardly I applauded his audacity for bucking the system.

“How nice it would be if ‘being ready’ didn’t equate to running about in a frenzy for a month and going into credit card debt,” I thought.

Then one day, I was poring over my mile-long holiday “to-do” list and flipped on the radio for some background music. As I numbly hummed along to “Joy to the World,” a phrase suddenly broke through and hit me between the eyes: Continue reading “Are you ready for Christmas?”

Is anywhere safe?

shoppers

I was standing in line at Walmart when the thought crossed my mind, “What would I do if gunshots suddenly rang out?”  I knew it could happen, because shoppers in a Colorado store recently experienced it.

Driving home, I passed my church, and reflected on the massacre in a house of worship in Texas only a week earlier.

Nearby I saw the college where I work, and envisioned our regular “active shooter” drills.

It seems as if our country has become a place where we can’t buy groceries, attend church, or go to school without fear that bullets will begin flying.

Maybe like me, you sometimes feel overwhelmed by the rapid-fire succession of news stories detailing mass shootings.  I’m almost reluctant to turn on my TV, computer, or smartphone, for fear of hearing about another incident. (In fact, since I began writing this blog, several more horrific gun violence incidents have been reported.)

It’s tempting to live in a state of denial, become de-sensitized to tragedy, or exist in a constant “fight or flight” mode in response. Yet none of these options are healthy over the long-term.

So, how do we keep engaging life with a sense of peace and purpose when nowhere feels “safe?” Continue reading “Is anywhere safe?”

When it’s okay to break a secret

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Can you keep a secret?” she asked. “Sure!” was my quick reply, thinking I was going to hear something light-hearted.

My friend then confided that she had been doing something inappropriate for several weeks. It wasn’t illegal, and it wasn’t hurting anyone, but I knew it was wrong . . . and so did she.

I immediately offered an alternative so she could stop what she was doing, but she adamantly declined.

We parted ways, and I felt the weight of an ethical dilemma sink like a boulder in the pit of my stomach.

If I broke her secret, I would betray her confidence and risk losing our fledgling friendship. Yet if I stayed silent, I would be part of a cover-up.

I felt stuck between a rock and a hard place. Continue reading “When it’s okay to break a secret”

Loosening anger’s grip

Listen when I talk...I opened the email and immediately felt my temperature rise.  Someone had stirred up a situation I thought had been settled.

“Oh, that makes me angry!” I uttered out loud.  (To confess, my language was a little stronger than that.)

My irritation boiled the remainder of the day.  I craved the instant gratification of calling the person and unloading my feelings.  Equally as powerful, I fought the urge to run to a third-party to vent my frustration.

The voice of wisdom and experience whispered inside my head, “don’t do eitheryou’ll regret it later.”

Still battling these temptations, I went to bed smoldering, bypassing the counsel of Ephesians 4:26, which advises, “do not let the sun go down on your anger . . .” (NRSV) Continue reading “Loosening anger’s grip”

Why the election results won’t scare me

th10The sky is falling! The sky is falling!”  Most of us have heard this phrase from the famous folk tale “Chicken Little.” After an acorn strikes his head, the startled bird flutters about frantically, trying to warn everyone of impending doom.  Versions of the story exist in numerous cultures and go back centuries.

The 2016 United States presidential election has been  rife with Chicken Little claims, from both the candidates and their passionate supporters.

“If (insert candidate) is elected, then surely (insert calamity/tragedy) will happen.”

I’ll admit, I’ve had my moments of anxiety throughout this presidential campaign. I am both incredulous and dismayed that the best our electoral process could produce is the two candidates we have to choose from.

I’ve even whispered, “God help us if so-and-so is elected!” Continue reading “Why the election results won’t scare me”