Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Groundhog Year

Do you remember that movie Groundhog Day? The one where Bill Murray repeats the same day over and over again?

That is the way I always felt this time of year. Except mine went like this:

1) Eat lots of cookies, cakes, pastries.

2) Wash that down with eggnog.

3) Repeat until there isn't so much as a sprinkle left.

4) Make New Year's Resolution to exercise and lose all of the new-found weight.

Every year it was the same thing. And every year I had the same New Year's Resolution.

Until last year.

Last year I decided that I needed to start exercising my
soul, and resolved to read the Bible. I am proud to say that, thanks to the Daily Audio Bible, I kept that promise. (For those of you new to my blog, I listen to it in my car every day.)

Empowered by this very small victory, I've decided that every New Year's Resolution from now on will include a religious component.

Every year I want to grow closer to God. To do something more for Him in the upcoming year than I did in the past one.

I guess you can say that I never want to have a spiritual "Groundhog Year" again.

I'd love your help as I look to write mine for 2010.

Any ideas? Are you making any Spiritual Resolutions for the New Year?

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas

"Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy
which will come to all the people.

For to you is born this day in the city of David
a Savior,
who is Christ the Lord."
(Luke 2:10-11)

May we all welcome Him into our lives and into our hearts!

Merry Christmas,
And may God bless all of you.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Return to Tree

I was going to take a break from my usual reflective-type posts this week, and leave you with a picture of the Christmas Tree in Rockefeller Center.

For those of you that aren't in the NY area, I thought this would be a nice way to bring the tree to you.

But I feel like God wanted me to do more than that and go through the normal reflection.

So here goes ...

As you can see from the picture, I made my annual trek to the tree on a night full of rain and light snow. Part of me was disappointed at the less-than-ideal weather, while the other part was hoping some of that snow would stick to the tree. After all, what could be prettier than a 65-foot lighted tree with snow glistening from each branch?

Alas, the snow did not stick. And while the tree was as beautiful as always, I feel like my experience was less than optimal.

The more I thought about that experience, the more it reminded me of some Catholics this time of year. Like me to Rockefeller Center, they return to the Church year after year at Christmas-time.

And that's it.

Three hundred and sixty four days between visits (unless they also go for Easter).

Like that snow, it just doesn't stick. And while that day is probably beautiful for them, their overall experience with our Lord is less than optimal.

So I decided to start praying for those people this week. I pray for all those who only come to the Church a few times a year, and even more for those who have left the Church entirely. I pray that God guides them back regularly, so they can start living their lives more fully - the way He intended them to.

God Bless.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Pregnant + Desert - Epidural = Sacrifice

I love looking at Nativity scenes.

Mary and Joseph proudly looking over their Son, who is in swaddling clothes and nestled comfortably in a manger.

Wise men on one knee, presenting gifts to the new King.

Shepherds looking on in adoration, with a sheep or camel nearby.

Maybe even a single light bulb casting a soft glow over the entire set.

Those scenes are always so peaceful, but they betray the challenges that must have led up to that perfect moment.

Take the journey, for example. Bethlehem is about 90 miles from Nazareth. That journey must have taken over 5 days given the trail and Mary's advanced pregnancy. I've never been 8+ months pregnant or on a donkey in the desert, but I have a hunch the combination is probably extremely uncomfortable. I'm sure it was also littered with bandits,
treacherous hazards, and extreme temperatures.

Or what about the delivery itself? In a stable? On hay? With animals around? And no drugs?

Let's not forget eight or nine months before all that, Mary had to find the courage to tell her parents and future husband that She was pregnant. Can you imagine how that conversation went, especially after She told them the Father was God? Not only was that probably a terrifying conversation, but one that could have led to her death!

And in between, I'm sure both Mary and Joseph had to overcome serious doubts, fears and concerns. What would the Son of God look like? Was He going to come out speaking? Glowing? Was it all really happening to them? How would they know what to say to Him? Would they be able to teach Him anything at all? Would He lead Israel in some kind of war? Would He be able to fly or walk on water?

I always take for granted that I know what happened thanks to Evangelists like Luke - but Mary and Joseph were running on 100% faith.

That's why every time I see a Nativity scene, I not only reflect on the birth of our Savior, but on the incredible sacrifices Mary and Joseph made, and the inspiring faith they had.

I hope you are having a blessed Advent.

P.S. I almost signed off without reminding you that Mary and Joseph went through all of that at the tender age of 16ish.

P.P.S. Stay tuned for follow up posts entitled "How to escape to Egypt when a king wants to kill your baby" and "Traveling through the desert with a Newborn"

Sunday, December 6, 2009

From a Guy in a Red Suit to a Baby in Swaddling Clothes


My, how that word has changed meaning for me over the years.

The word itself comes from the Latin word meaning "arrival" or "coming".

When I was a kid, the word Advent was always followed by the word calendar. And, unfortunately, back in those days, the only "arrival" I cared about was that of a portly old man with a red suit and some flying reindeer.

As I got a little older, I still viewed Advent as the "countdown" to my favorite day. But I also started to become more fascinated with the historical events that led up to Christ's birth. I started to spend more time trying to learn exactly what Mary and Joseph went through, what the real "Nativity" scene looked like, and what kind of clothes actually swaddled.

These days, now that I am wiser (cough cough) I finally appreciate Advent for what it is spiritually - a time to reflect on the amazing Gift our Father gave us on that Christmas Day, as well as a reminder to prepare for the next coming of our Savior.

To that end, I have been thinking a lot about the similarities between Christ's birth and His Second Coming.

No one knew when the Son of Man was coming the first time. They didn't know the time. They didn't know the place. They didn't even know the generation.

The truth of the matter is that the day the King of Kings was born, most people were probably going about their normal daily routines - good and bad. Worrying about money, events in town, and other worldly things.

Likewise, we don't know when Jesus will come again. Nor do we know when God will call us individually.

The best we can do is to make sure we are always prepared. Always ready. Always thinking about things important to God and the Kingdom.

Easier typed than done, of course. But at least these days, I am preparing for Jesus, instead of an imaginary man from the North Pole.

God Bless.