The Gift That Keeps on Giving

One year, when doing my taxes, I realized that my son’s birth on December 31st had given me a tax credit for the entire year. Those few hours of life on one day covered the past, present and future with regard to the amount I owed the government.

This year, I’m reminded of another birth that had past, present and future implications but much more important ones than taxes and money. The birth of Jesus Christ set in motion events that would forever affect our relationship with God.

In the book of Hebrews we find that “…since death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant [the laws of Moses], those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance” (Hebrews 9:15-16). Later we see that “…now once, at the consumation of the ages He [Jesus Christ] has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Hebrews 9:26).

As we come to the end of 2018 and look forward to a new year, we can continue to celebrate this perpetual gift of salvation that has covered the cost of man’s past, present and future sin.

Poetry Revision

Poetry, like any written work, needs revision. I suppose there might have been a handful of times when inspiration for a short poem hits and what comes out the first time is good enough. But most times there’s a good bit of thinking, speaking and writing that goes on after the initial words are put to paper.

When I say good enough I mean I’m happy with the way it sounds and I feel I’ve gotten my message across. In other words, good enough is an incredibly subjective measure of a poem’s completion.

Notice that I didn’t say a poem is good enough if half the people who proofread it say it’s OK. No, good enough comes before any eyes but mine have beheld the work. And that makes it incredibly dangerous. Because whether I think my message has been put across or not or whether it sounds good, no one else may see it that way.

That’s why the initial words of a poem’s first draft usually shouldn’t be published. It’s tempting (and I do it more than I should) to just put them out there quickly and see what happens. But that usually results in reading them later and cringing when you realize you let other humans read that slop.

Those initial words are not the poem; not really anyway. Instead, they’re the idea, the inkling of a theme or the exploration of a subject. Usually, when I think I’ve got something good, I’ll walk away from it for a week or more. I come back to it later with fresh eyes and see that it wasn’t very good in the first place. It’s then that the poem begins to be written.

Christmas Memories

I have fond memories of Christmases past. Although we stayed home many years, some of my most remembered holidays were the ones when we traveled. 

We would often go to visit my grandparents. My cousins were usually there and we had a great time playing, exploring and eating.

Like most kids, presents on Christmas morning was the highlight of our time. And of course, we were always trying to get our parents to let us open presents on Christmas Eve. From what I remember we might have been able to open a small one that night but for the most part we waited until morning.

Games were a big part of family gatherings at Christmas time as well as around other holidays. I have a lot of very game savvy family members. I remember many happy nights staying up late playing Rummy, Up to 10 and Back, Pictionary or Boggle. Sometimes I would even win.

But my memories are just snapshot views. I don’t really remember everything in vivid detail. I think that’s why I rarely sit around reminiscing. I prefer focusing on living in the moment and making sure that those happy memories from my past get translated into happy future memories for my kids and their cousins.

And while games and food and presents are all important and fun, I remember being taught the reason for the celebration. Above all else that’s what I hope my kids remember most about Christmas; that we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ who came to save us and give us the gift of true freedom.

I hope your Christmas was a great one and that you can store its events away as happy memories to be enjoyed for years to come 

Putting Christ Back In Christmas

The other day I was going into my local Home Depot when I noticed their holiday hours sign on the entrance door. For Christmas Eve and Christmas day, someone had written X-Mas Eve and X-Mas day.

I’m not one of those people who get offended easily at things people say or do. But I was more than a little perturbed that someone had decided for everyone coming into the store that Christ needed to be removed from the name of the holiday.

Christmas has long been a celebration of the birth of Christ as he came to be the savior of a fallen world and to bridge the gap, caused by sin, between man and God. But in recent years, there’s been a push by some to avoid any talk of God and Jesus Christ in relation to Christmas.

Instead, many today put more emphasis on celebrating a magical, obese, reverse burglar who enslaves flying caribou and little magical people in a bid to put toy stores out of business by giving everything away for free.

I’m a quiet person who usually doesn’t say anything about things that bother me in society. But the X-Mas thing really bothered me. Not only did I think it dishonored the real reason we celebrate the holiday, but it also looked very unprofessional. So I took the initiative to make my voice heard. 

I dug around a little and discovered that the Home Depot survey you’re prompted to take on your receipt is actually payed attention to by store managers. So I took the survey and expressed my displeasure in the sign. 

Sure enough, an assistant manager emailed me back that afternoon and when I went to the store the next day, the sign was changed to read Christmas instead of X-Mas.

 A temporary sign on a hardware store door might seem like a little thing to be concerned about. But unless we take action to correct the small problems we see in our daily lives, they will slowly grow bigger and bigger.

Unnecessarily Neat

I was wrapping presents over the weekend and thought about how nice it is that most wrapping paper comes with a grid of lines on the back. Gift givers used to really need to pay attention to what they were doing to get a nice straight cut. Now it’s easy to get a perfect cut every time. What a wonderful innovation! It’s so ingenious, it must have been a Google 20% project. Everyone should be happy about this.

But then I got to thinking, what do I care if my wrapping paper is cut perfectly. I was perfectly happy eyeballing it before. What’s more, nobody else cares if you cut paper straight. Kids tear open present without giving a single thought about the paper. They just want what’s inside. They wontonly tear off what you so lovingly cut, wrapped and taped.

Adults are no better. Think about it from your own experience. When’s the last time you got a present and thought “Gee, these seems sure are neat” or “what loving attention to detail Sam applied to his cutting and taping”.  Sorry, it just doesn’t happen.

Not only do people not care about straight wrapping paper cuts but the grid lines that make it possible also have negative consequences. Think about it, it’s going to cost more to print things on both sides of the paper. Don’t think you’re getting all that ink on there for free. Your wrapping paper is costing you more. Is perfectionism really worth the extra cost?

The cost of perfectionism has other costs too. It’s probably stressing you out, giving you high blood pressure, causing internal anxiety and outward shows of anger and aggression. You might find that every time your scissors veer off the line you start yelling at your children and kicking the dog.

But if health and relationships with those you love don’t move you in this discussion, there’s a more insidious consequence to these seemingly innocuous paper grids. Now that there are lines on the white side, you can’t use scraps of wrapping paper to make little To/From tags. You’re being forced into buying pre-printed tags that you might not even like.

I’ve always enjoyed using the paper I was wrapping with to make my tags. Now that I can’t do that, the joy of present wrapping has left me. Now all I can do is make my wrapped presents unnecisarily neat.