It’s Thanksgiving Day, and during this month our home has undergone the transformation from scary Halloween ghosts and witches, to the earthy displays of leaves glowing in autumn red, pumpkins greeting friends from the front porch, and the smells of morning pastry floating from the kitchen. The sun has only graced us for two hours, but the hustle of cooking for multiple meals, final touches on table decorations, and last minute cleaning is well underway. We love Thanksgiving Day because we get to host the event – which means family will be arriving soon, bringing with them the laughter, love and fun that defines the day.
This story is the prototype of my next book, a year long weekly devotional featuring short stories that kindle long thoughts about God. Fifty-two stories, hundreds of new ways to think about your relationship with God, and hopefully in an interesting and engaging way. Let me know what you think.
Outside my window on the fourth row, the runway raced underneath faster and faster until the nose of the jet lifted, dragging the rest of the 737 with it. The two powerful engines overpowered gravity for the moment; but eventually gravity would win the battle, it always did. So our pilot’s most important objective became choosing where and when the aircraft would submit to gravity and return to earth. Everyone on board flight 765 that day preferred the surrender be accomplished gently, on a runway at the Denver airport.
Last night was a long one for Bill; too little to eat, too much to drink and way too little sleep. The alarm only accentuated his pounding headache, so knocking the clock on to the floor of the hotel room seemed a fair exchange for waking him this early. Rolling out of bed, Bill walked, in not so much of a straight line, to the bathroom. What he saw in the mirror was not a pretty sight; although the mirror had been cruel to him for many years now, so he should have expected nothing less. Before washing his face Bill looked at his reflection in the mirror. The bloodshot eyes were no surprise; most mornings were met with varying shades of red surrounding black pupils. His once thick, black hair was thinning across the top and offered more grey than black. The sagging bags under his eyes were pronounced, looking like a wave of exhaustion pulling down his face. There is a crooked scar just under his right eye, a reminder of falling asleep while driving home late one night from somewhere that he should not have been. The morning beard is a staggered mixture of white and black. Why did the architect of this hotel make the mirrors so big? There was nothing here Bill wanted to see.
Lynn (Mom) walked from the kitchen, where she was making breakfast, to the landing midway up the stairs, “They are in your top drawer on the right side, with all your other socks -same place that they have been for the last four years; and remember the rule of not shouting in the house?”
“Yes Mom, thank you.” ‘You’ was drawn out in typical adolescence overkill. Kallie was the middle child in this busy household.
Kaizer, our 100 pound lap-dog, can suck the negativity and anger right out of anyone, his enthusiasm for life fills a room when he enters it; as does his enormous head, long and lean body, and huge feet. His tail can be compared to nuclear energy; it is meant for good, but when it’s near a coffee table where any breakables are on display – the incredible force of his nonstop, speed-of-light tail can only leave destruction and heartache behind. He is one of two dogs whose home we share (note the implied ownership – they hold the mortgage and have never made a payment), and without them our home seems empty and too quiet. Kaizer is a good dog (and Harley – so are you).
As the year ends and we transition to another, it is commonplace to reflect on what we have done, and what we have left undone. Too often though, reflection on the past morphs into a self-inflicted mental beating, centered on our perceived shortcomings. We tend to focus on the bad, and forget about the good we have done. The discussion becomes a stream of, “I didn’t…”
I didn’t lose ten pounds.
I didn’t get that promotion.
I didn’t find full time work.
I didn’t save, or invest as I had planned.
I didn’t, I didn’t, I didn’t……
A little negativity can erase a lot of greatness, if we let it. Our pastor spoke about this phenomenon in an excellent sermon, and I’m sharing just two if his thoughts, but they are very important. When the “I didn’t” takes over, remember:
You are better than you think you are
You matter more than you think you do
Why? Because it is true, and because God said so. We are not the center of the universe, God is. But, sometimes we are much closer to the center than we think.
Happy New Year!
Thanks for reading.
STARTING NEXT WEEK, RATHER THAN SENDING THE ENTIRE MESSAGE IN AN EMAIL, I WILL BE SENDING A LINK BACK TO MY WEBSITE WHERE YOU CAN READ IT. I PROMISE IT WILL BE EASY AND FAST. – Michael
In the shopping mall, or in the parking lot adjacent to the mall, as we approach Christmas Day the intensity increases in almost geometric proportions. In other words, it can get pretty nasty out there. Not with everyone, and not to astronomic levels, but on average the anxiety index goes up as we near the big day. And, if you are one who believes that welcoming the New Year is the second most important day of the year, then the stress will last until sometime in January. There are moments, perhaps days, when the stress dissipates, allowing joy to sneak past the barriers of hurry and rush, bringing forth that smile for which we all search. Why are all of us so determined to self-inflict stress, drama, anxiety, and heartache into the holiday season? Could it be our unnatural, yet all-encompassing need for perfection? Everything needs to be just right. The need for “right” usually isn’t even for us; it not an “about me” complex that rules the emotional landmines cluttering the shopping, cooking, and decorating scheduled for today. No, we need everything to be just right for everyone else. It is the giving part of our celebration which provides such amazing joy and unprecedented weariness in the same instant; it’s the Yin and Yang of Christmas. I say it is time to keep the Ying (amazing joy) and throw out the Yang. I am promoting the idea that not being perfect is okay. Imperfection is the pavement on the road to happiness.
A favorite tradition during the Christmas season is the placement of lights on your yard and home. Christmas lights are like fireworks that don’t burn out and fall from the sky, but stay bright, as long and often as you wish. Glowing colored lights of all shapes and colors: red, yellow, green, and now even purple, in shapes of stars, balls, icicles, and angels. Trees and bushes are engulfed by multicolored webs, transforming dormant green and brown plants into glowing beacons of electric wizardry. Suddenly, a fog filled and chilly evening has become a scene of Muppets playing in the neighbor’s yard, Charlie Brown and his gang playing baseball on the roof, Santa and his gift filled sleigh rocket to a chimney from a nearby light pole. Scenes of white glowing deer amongst (You guessed it), white glowing circular trees surround the Magnolia Tree in the front yard, and air filled Polar Bears standing along an Igloo – magically rise for the evening show, only to deflate at midnight. Occasionally, a scene of wise men, a man and woman, and a baby find their way onto a yard to tell a different story of light.
Lighting our homes in celebration of Christmas is a beautiful tradition that I hope lives forever. Of course it should, since the tradition has already survived for over two thousand years. The first year there was only one light, but it was fantastically bright, and thought it could be seen by millions, was only noticed by three. It is a light that has never gone out since, and never will.
Have a very Bright and Merry Christmas.
The title of this story was the classic response from Jesus, when after healing the ten lepers, only one came back to say, thank you. “Weren’t there ten of you?” He asked. Of course He knew how many there were; he had just healed them. He wanted the one person who returned with a grateful heart, and us, to know that He was questioning the whereabouts of the other nine. In effect, Jesus was asking, “Were the others happy to be healed of this terrible disease as well? Why didn’t they come back and say so?” Undoubtedly, the other nine men were very happy and excited to be healed; most likely, that was the problem. They were so excited that they forgot who to thank for their gift. They ran off to their homes and villages to show off the miracle, to stand before the crowds and reveal how fortunate their circumstances had changed. The gift became the focus of all, the center of attention; and the giver, the most important person in this moment, was cast in a supporting role. The nine were confused and mistaken. It was not the gift that was important, but the giver of the gift who was the real story. In their haste, (and happiness) they forgot about gratitude.
As Thanksgiving approaches there will be numerous articles written, radio programs broadcasted, and television shows aired bringing to our attention the need to be thankful. Setting aside one day a year to remember, and acknowledge all the reasons we have to be thankful is a very good tradition. I encourage everyone to embrace this holiday; to be with friends and family and carefully consider how lucky we are to be American’s, living where we do, having food in the pantry and people who love us. Only, my goal this season was not to write about Thanksgiving simply because everyone else is, yet here I am mentioning Thanksgiving three times in the first paragraph. So, I’ve decided instead to focus my writing on You’re Welcome; it’s what happens after thanks.
Saying “You’re welcome” is the finale of a three part process initiated by an action; not just any action though. For instance, stepping on someone’s foot while dancing doesn’t usually lead to you’re welcome, nor would denting a car door in the grocery store parking lot. To arrive at the desired good outcome, the first step is to do something that brings joy, happiness, relief, comfort or love to another person, whether you know that person or not. An action is needed to start the process. Being thankful unto itself normally is a passive experience, and living in the level of good fortune that we do, begs for more than a passive gratitude.