Saturday, June 26, 2010

Christmas in June

(…or All Year ’Round for that Matter…)

In the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of the time of year, but forget what truly is at the heart of Christmas. That’s why it’s good to ‘revisit’ Christmas when you’re about as far away from it as you can get…in late June. Today is June 26. Do you know that today marks the “Christmas midpoint” in the year? That means that there are about as many days since Christmas as there are until we celebrate it again. In other words: “Only 182 shopping days until Christmas!”

Sounds crazy, right? Of course it does. If you’re like most people, the thought of Christmas hasn’t even popped into your head. If you’re like me and you get about a billion mail-order catalogues, you may have already received a Christmas one. I haven’t yet- just some Autumn ones so far- and they’re bad enough! But they’re coming- and soon. I do have one very organized friend who begins shopping the day after Christmas and is done by about August. This is the time of year when she begins addressing her cards. But for most of us, something about beginning our preparations too early strikes a sour note. We don’t want to have to think of that hullabaloo just yet, thank you!

Another interesting thing is that during the Christmas season, we seem to care more for others and we seem to make a more concerted effort to express those feelings. At least it seems that way with all the cards, gifts-giving, donations to those who are ‘less fortunate’; and the extra volunteering of our time, ringing bells and serving soup. Think about it: we would much rather buy a disadvantaged family a turkey with all the fixins at Thanksgiving or Christmas, even though they might be helped more with the simple and understated gift of a bag of groceries or Wal-Mart gift card in May or February. But that’s when no one thinks of the jobless, homeless, husbandless and fatherless.

We also tend to touch one another more: kissing and hugging our co-workers and neighbors is totally okay from mid-November to the beginning of January- but after that…not so much. We smile more, and everyone tends to be full of anticipation and good will. We say to each other things like: “Gee, I wish it could be like this all year ’round!”

But then, as quickly as all that good stuff came…it disappears. For some reason, we act almost as though those kind expressions and feelings of good-will and generosity are seasonal and that their time is over. Like the over-fed mammals that we are, we begin a period of social hibernation as we withdraw again to a spirit that isn’t nearly so generous and warm. It almost seems as if we’ve gotten exhausted from working so hard to generate all that holiday warmth and good cheer. As quick as that, the spirit we so long to hang onto slips away from us.

It feels sad, yet also somewhat good, to return to some sense of simplicity as we recuperate from the festivities and celebrations. We are relieved that the frenetic activity has ceased, yet we long for that “feeling of Christmas”…that sense of community that we have gotten from the giving, sharing, and communing with one another during the holidays.

How did we get started with the idea that we only have to be who we are called to be in Christ for a period of a few weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s? Seems kind of crazy to think that no one really thinks it’s crazy to celebrate the holidays as we do. To celebrate Christ’s birthday, we participate in all kinds of overindulgence: we eat too much, spend too much, and we push ourselves to our emotional and financial limits. And then we pay for it. Racked up credit cards, and that feeling of utter let-down in January are some of they ways we experience Christmas’s aftermath. We vow not to get so carried away next year. We promise ourselves that we will be more even-keeled, that we will steward our resources better.

Suppose we actually followed through on that pledge? Suppose we cut back on some of the physical aspects and started right now to spread out the spiritual side of Christmas to every month of the year? The truth is that there are those around us who need our presence every month of the year, not merely our presents during one month. It would be nice to keep that “Christmas Spirit” with us all through the year. But even more heart-warming is the idea that we can have Christ’s Spirit with us…always.

What if we extended our “Christmas posture” to all our neighbors now, rather than only in that brief holiday window? What if we did it in “too dark and cold to leave my fireside February,” or in “too hot to leave my AC August” too? Would those within our spheres of influence get a glimpse of the Christ-child?

Let’s do it right this year by living a FULL YEAR of celebrating Christ’s life of kindness and generosity, so that in December we can make our next celebration of Christ’s birth a worthy conclusion to a the year.

adapted from After We Put Christmas away…by Dean Hughes

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Along the Way

Awhile back, I received a “tweet” from Rick Warren (author of Purpose Driven Life and pastor of Saddleback Church) that said:

“Study the STOPS of Jesus, not just his step -the interruptions he allowed. Every healing was an interruption! R U flexible?”

Those one-hundred and forty (or less) characters prompted me to think again about a phrase in scripture that I love: “along the way.” The Gospels are full of occasions in which Jesus and his followers stop “on their way” to their “intended goal” to do important life-affirming things. We see an incredible example of this in Mark 5 where “on the way” to heal a dying girl. Jesus first heals the Geresene demoniac (of “we are Legion for we are many” fame), and then he also heals a woman who had been hemorrhaging for twelve years. In fact, by the time he gets to his “destination,” the ill girl has died. Undaunted, Jesus resurrects her. This story reminds us in a profound way that the ‘bus-stops’ and fellow sojourners that we meet along the way of life are as important as the destination. Through them, we learn the importance of being flexible enough to give these encounters the full attention they deserve. Finally, we see that everything always tends to pan out in the end, even if at first blush it appears that we have arrived “too late” to our destination.

Knowing that, I make a special effort to be attuned to the ministrations of the Holy Spirit, and am ever looking for “divine appointments.” Divine appointments are situations that are inspired and intentionally placed in front of us by the hand of God in order to bless our life for the purpose of us, in turn, finding a way to bless others with what we have gained or gleaned from the interaction. They are never planned, but happen “on the way.”

On Thursday, June 10th, I had the delight of experiencing one of these said “divine appointments.”

It was an ordinary work day at the Compassionate Care Hospice Inpatient Unit where I work as a registered nurse, and I was preparing to administer some medication when a woman approached our front desk and began talking to our unit secretary. The medication area’s proximity to the unit secretary’s desk made it easy for me to “eavesdrop” (and I felt no shame in openly doing so, since my responsibility as charge nurse is to know what is going on at all times on the unit.) The young woman identified herself as one of our hospice volunteers and stated that she had received permission to take pictures of our new unit and staff for her blog.

Setting aside what I was doing for a minute (I was dissolving a medication in water, and the pill needed to sit a bit longer in the solution to liquefy completely, anyway…) I chimed into the discussion and we exchanged blog names (has anyone else noticed this practice is becoming increasingly more a form of social etiquette?). She identified herself as Rachel Simon, an author- and we then proceeded to go around the unit taking some pictures of the unit and staff members for her blog.

I am so glad I took the opportunity (and had the flexibility in my work load that particular day) to take a little bit of time and enjoy this Divine Interruption. Although I had not planned on meeting a new person and having an extraordinarily interesting conversation, it was my great pleasure to share a few very powerful moments conversing with this bright, articulate woman.

Rachel is the author of several books, one of which (Riding the Bus with My Sister- a memoir of a year Rachel spent with her developmentally challenged sister riding public transportation) has been made into a Hallmark™ movie starring Rosie O’Donnell as her sister and Andie MacDowell as Rachel.

Our conversation flowed easily, and I had an immediate sense of kindred-spiritedness. In our brief (15 min max) conversation, Rachel and I talked about how humans “pastor” one another (whether or not we are ordained by a faith community to do so), and about the positive impact and richness that dis-ability and illness can add to our lives when they are embraced rather than eschewed. I had to get back to my duties, so we were only able to enjoy a short-lived, but profoundly rewarding (and I might add, tantalizing) interaction.

It is always healing balm to my soul to encounter another individual who thinks deeply and can articulate those thoughts fluidly. For me, it is like a sip from a good glass of wine, or a few stanzas of a beautiful piece of music- and it usually leaves me wanting for more.

I want to hear more of Rachel’s thoughts and so, I have purchased Rachel’s book and am awaiting its arrival from Amazon.

It will be my “fun” summer reading and I will share my thoughts about it here with you.

Look for more on the book later this summer…

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


Police Sketch Artist rendition of Newark/Stanton Rapist/Kidnapper based on reports from two abductees.


“A 27-year-old woman was abducted at gunpoint…last Wednesday from the First State Surgery parking lot, driven around for five hours, raped three times and forced to withdraw money at an ATM. A 22-year-old woman also was abducted at gunpoint Saturday morning in the parking lot at Sallie Mae and driven around by the gunman, who raped her and returned her to the parking lot 45 minutes later.”
Excerpt from Delawareonline article:; accessed 6-09-10

Remember: All rapists tend to be serial rapists and the behavior of serial offenders tends to escalate with each subsequent encounter.

Please Be On Your GuardWhat to Do in an Abduction

By skygal, eHow
From:; accessed 6-9-10

A majority of abductions do not turn out well. Common sense might say, obey the abductor and he will let you go. This scenario doesn't always happen, especially if you don't know what the abductor's intentions are. Sure, they may just want to rob you and take you to an ATM to withdraw money, but people have been killed after giving the abductor what they wanted. Worse case scenarios would involved an abductor who wants to take you to another location if you are a woman to rape and kill you. Often the location will be a remote one and your chances of surviving decrease. Never go to the second location. Fight back!

Step 1: Don't be distracted! Criminals look for people like you who are talking on cell phones, searching for car keys, and thinking about where you have to be next. You won't get there if you don't stay alert and aware of your surroundings.

Step 2: If your abductor tells you that you won't get hurt if you do what he says, Don't Believe It! Criminals are manipulative and they will say anything to get what they want. Criminals succeed at manipulating you because they are playing off your fear. Be fearless and flight back. Let your abductor know that he will have to work hard to abduct you, and many won't like it because they will realize they can't control you which is why they do it.

Step 3: Regardless if an abductor has a weapon, fight back anyway. Maybe you will only get wounded by fighting back, but it will be worse if you are taken to another location. As the author of this article, I personally experienced getting robbed at gunpoint and the detective working on my case told me to never go to the second location. When I asked about the gun, the detective said run in a zig zag motion away from the attacker and do what ever it takes to escape because a majority of people who are abducted and taken to the second location never come back alive.

Step 4: Take a self defense class. Self defense classes are offered with different scenarios such as being attacked by one or multiple people, rape scenarios, abduction, and dealing with an attacker using a weapon. In self defense class, you get to actually hit, kick, and fight real live people protected in thick padding so you get an actual feel of how hard you have to hit your attacker. You will also get to experience what the attacker will do next so you can practice thinking fast and ultimately being prepared for anything.

Step 5: An abduction will happen fast, so you will have to think fast. Focus on the attackers sensitive areas such as the eyes, private area, and throat. Use your elbows, knees, or car keys as weapons.

Step 6: If you do end up getting abducted in a car, keep your senses about you and be aware of where you are, call 911 if you have your cell phone and start mentioning street names and how you don't want to die because you have children at home. The 911 operator should figure out you're in a bad situation and get you help. Try to signal to passing cars that you are in distress. Worst case scenario, jump out of the car because going with your abductor will be much worse.

Step 7: A cell phone can be a great asset in an abduction situation. Obviously you don't want to tip off the abductor by using the phone in front of him but create an emergency plan using a text message and let all of your friends and family know about it. Your phone should have something like saved drafts or an auto text feature where you can have a message ready to go if you need to send it fast- such as: “If you are receiving this- I have activated my emergency message on my cell and am in danger. Please call 911 for me and have them track me via GPS. For my safety- DO NOT call me back. Your Full Name and Cell Number” Cell phones now have GPS tracking capability and by having a text that tells who you are and that you are in danger will help the police save your life.