Christmas doesn’t have to be Me-mas

Centuries ago, Christmas was all about the birth of Jesus Christ. It was a sacred time of year to be with family and celebrate Jesus’ birth. While people gave each other gifts, it was very cordial and, in most cases, nothing to write home about. Christmas was a blessed time of year and a large majority of people looked at it as not a time of gain, but a time of sincere worship of God and the fact he brought his son into the world to save mankind.

Today Christmas is more about what I want, what she wants, what he wants, what they want than celebrating the birth of Christ. The majority that rules now is the me generation, what can I gain from this? Materialism. Fighting other people over an object that is the latest fad gift for their kid, that their child has demanded they get for Christmas or they will make Mommy and Daddy’s lives miserable. The true meaning of Christmas is still alive for many believers – but for the majority of the population is all about greed, materialism and who cares about a make-believe God and his zombie son.

It’s absolutely pathetic the way our society has degenerated into a selfish, prideful, me me me society. While there are still good people out there (most of which are believers), there are more selfish, greedy, people than anything else. This is not to say those greedy people didn’t exist centuries ago, but unlike today they were in the minority.

So this Christmas I challenge you to think differently! I offer you the suggestion that you can celebrate Christmas and think of others before yourself. Often times the things we want, we want because we think they will make us happy. We think they will satisfy some need. In most cases, wanting is far more appealing a thing than having. This season, take a moment to think of others. Show other people mercy, and by that I mean put yourselves in their shoes – consider how they feel and that they are human beings just like you. They are just as imperfect, just as flawed, have the same dreams, feelings and so on just like you. Give someone the gift of patience and understanding this Christmas. In the grand scheme of things, all those gifts that get opened on Christmas Day, will be sitting and gathering dust a year down the road. Then it will be the next big thing, and the next big thing, year after year. Take a moment to consider, what are the five most important things about Christmas, other than the obvious religious things?

  1. Family.
  2. Friends.
  3. Loving EVERYONE, regardless of race, beliefs, etc.
  4. Being patient with EVERYONE, including your kids.
  5. Humility.

If every person on earth focused on these five points, it would be a much better place.

I wish you and yours a very blessed, happy and safe Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and all the other awesome celebrations of the season.

Advertisements

Driving 101 – Tips

I have been driving now for 33 years. In that time I have had four speeding tickets and three accidents of significance (two of which weren’t my fault). So I decided I would put together some pro tips for driving safely. I dedicate this post to my dear friend and sister in Christ, Stephanie!

1. It is vital to make sure all of your mirrors are properly “calibrated” for optimal visibility of cars around you. To this end I have created an illustration to demonstrate.
zonesEach mirror has been designated a zone. Zone A represents your rear view mirror, which should be positioned in such a way that you can easily glance up at it and have a full view through your rear window. As another vehicle to your left or right passes out of view of Zone A, your side mirrors (Zone B Left and Right) should be positioned in such a way so that you can see the vehicle passing you. So as the front half of the vehicle leaves Zone A, it should be visible in Zone B Left or Right. Likewise as the vehicle in Zone B L/R is beginning to leave that zone, it should be visible in your peripheral vision, or by looking left or right. Keep in mind that your peripheral vision is restricted on the right side of the vehicle because of seats and/or occupants. In the illustration above you see there is significant overlap of each visibility zone. Configuring your mirrors this way insures that you won’t have any large blind spots.

2. Regardless of your mirror positioning as outlined above, ALWAYS double check your right or left side before initiating a lane change. Never rely 100% of the time on your mirrors, no matter how incredibly well you have them configured. ALWAYS glance to your right or left for a split second before changing lanes. And of course, please always use your turn signal BEFORE you change lanes. Not while you’re changing lanes or after you have changed lanes. It’s a common courtesy to other drivers to put on your signal BEFORE you change lanes.

3. Always use your turn signal when you are making a turn. Even if no-one is around, get into the habit of using turn signals at all times, in all situations.

4. While driving, don’t do anything that takes your concentration off of what your primary purpose is — DRIVING! Don’t fiddle with your radio, don’t look at your phone, don’t do ANYTHING that pulls your brain off the job of driving and remaining focused on everything going on around you. People don’t really get the idea that when you’re moving at 65 miles per hour, things happen ridiculously fast! You must be totally focused on the task of driving and being alert.

5. When driving in any kind of bad weather, be in rain, snow, sleet, or whatever — stay focused, drive slower. For rain, put four times the number of car lengths between you and the car in front of you. So if you normally drive with 2-3 car lengths between you and the other car, then put 6-12 car lengths between when driving in rain. When driving in snow, I recommend bumping that up to five times the number of car lengths, so in this example 10-15 car lengths. Snow is very unforgiving and if someone in front of you has something go wrong, you want to be able to have the space to react. Also when driving in snow, it’s a good idea to place your wheels into the tracks left behind by the car in front of you.

6. Always, always, always wear a seat belt. In nearly every state in America it’s the law. Again, people don’t comprehend the force that is applied to your body in an impact accident. Without the seat belt there to restrain you, you could fly through the broken windshield or side window and that’s going to be game over.

7. When going into a curve on a road or on/off-ramp, you want to brake before the curve and then as you go into the curve gently push down on the accelerator to speed up. Never go into a curve at full speed and then brake in the middle of the curve. Some vehicles could over-turn in those situations. So brake early, go into the curve and give your vehicle some gas to get through the curve. Take extra care when the road is wet or icy.

8. Follow the speed limit within 5-10 mph. If the speed limit is 55 mph, then you can go up to 60-62 mph without any problem. If other cars are passing you as if you’re standing still, stick to the right lanes and don’t worry about those other knuckleheads. More than likely you might see them on the side of the road later on, with a police officer talking to them. If you don’t know the speed limit of a certain stretch of road, then take the safe route and go 55 on a highway, 40 on a major roadway and 25-30 on a side street.

9. When changing multiple lanes on any roadway, always do it ONE LANE AT A TIME! Change into the lane, hold there, check around you for other cars, change into the next lane, rinse and repeat. Always use your turn signal — can’t stress that enough.

10. My last point is also one of great importance. RELAX! Don’t stress, don’t worry. Follow the steps I have outlined above and you will be more than halfway to becoming a safe and alert driver. Always double check and second guess everything before you do anything in your car. Always make sure your car is well maintained, your tires have good tread and you’re awesome! Last, but not least, I highly highly recommend joining AAA. If anything goes wrong, you have them to assist you on the road with gasoline or to have your vehicle towed. I have been a member of AAA for nearly as long as I have been driving and they have come to my rescue on more than one occasion.

God speed! Happy and safe driving!

My Wonderful Life – A Christmas Story

I was telling someone about this last night at our church’s “House Church” Christmas party and I decided I would share this with everyone here. I’m sure you have seen “It’s a Wonderful Life” with Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey. How his character’s life came crashing down around him and he was left wondering why he should even exist. He figured, “the world would be better off without me.” That was me in 2014.

In May 2010 I lost my father to prostate cancer, two years later in March 2012 my adoptive sister died after spending nearly six years in a persistent vegetative state as a result of being hit by a drunk driver in 2005. Six months after my sister’s death, my mother had a massive stroke and had to be put into a nursing home. That two year period of hell cost me nearly my entire immediate family. I was the lone survivor. For every cause there is an effect, and that effect happened to creep into my life in 2014. I became severely depressed. As Christmas approached the depression deepened. I had no family to spend the holidays with, I didn’t have the money to go anywhere to be with my Mom’s family in New York, I didn’t have any friends. I was unemployed and my savings were dwindling, I had gone on over 30 interviews and nothing had come out of them.

On Christmas Eve I remember sitting on the sofa in the dark, crying unceasingly. My dogs were sitting beside me, wanting to console me. But I was so far down the road of depression, not even they could bring comfort. Interspersed with my crying and thinking about how utterly alone I felt, I thought that perhaps I should just kill myself and thereby free myself of this lonely existence, free myself of the pain and sorrow I was feeling about my Dad and sister not being here to celebrate Christmas with me. I didn’t even put up a Christmas tree after my Mom’s stroke. It was too painful because my sister was the one who always, always, decorated the tree at Christmas. She would travel down to Virginia from her home in New York City to be with us and we would just put up the tree and leave it barren for her to decorate. She did an incredible job. But in 2014 she was gone and I wasn’t about to put a tree up. I just spent Christmas Eve in the dark, sobbing.

But there is one thing about me that keeps me afloat in those situations. It is a strong will to persevere, to overcome challenges and trials. It’s my faith in God. Rather than self-destructing that night, I got up and walked into my office, sat down at my computer and composed a piece of music that I consider to be one of my best. It was a piece for orchestra and chorus, a Kyrie. If you’re a Catholic you should know what Kyrie Eleison means. For those who don’t, it’s latin for “Lord have Mercy” — I was using my God given gift of music composition to express my emotions that Christmas Eve. It was an outlet that had served me well many times. That piece of music bore every ounce of my sorrow, my pain, my hope for a better tomorrow. I prayed to God that night that he would help me get out of this place I was in, would help me find a job and that my life would be better in 2015.

God didn’t just hear my prayer, He orchestrated a monster series of events that would send me down the path He wanted me, needed me, to go down. It would set up something that would be the biggest, most incredible, expression of God’s grace I have ever experienced! God planted a bomb in my life that was set to go off in miraculous fashion.

That year, 2014, I had met some guys in a startup that I was participating in as Lead Designer, and as it turned out one of those guys knew another guy who was the co-founder of another company, called Omnilert.

Well this guy at Omnilert, named Nick, contacted me in January about redesigning their company’s app, Scenario Launcher. So from mid-January to around mid-February, I worked on the redesign of this app. That brought in some much needed money. But after that project ended, I was back in the unemployment status, freaking out and trying to find a job. I interviewed for a job with Church Community Builder in Colorado Springs in March. Got through two interviews and then was invited to go out there for a “cultural-fit” interview in mid-April.

I flew out and did the interview and when I got back to my hotel room, I just sat down on the sofa there and felt that things didn’t go very well. I was about to climb under the covers and take a nap when my phone rang. I answered it and it was Nick from Omnilert. He said to me, “So I understand you’re out in Colorado looking for a job.” I told him about the job and the interview. He then told me, “If they don’t offer you the job, then fly home knowing you have a job with us, if you’d like to.” Well they didn’t offer me the job and the following Monday morning I contacted Nick and accepted the job as Lead Designer at Omnilert. Now things start moving fast…

Then the last week of April, I was out walking my dogs and heading back to my apartment when a tall young black dude walks up to me. I had seen him around before and waved at him, but this time he took the initiative to introduce himself. We talked for a while and one thing led to another and we began talking about faith. He asked me if I had a church that I attended and I said “No, but I have been looking for one for a while.” He handed me a card and asked me if I might like to visit his church and give it a shot. I nodded I would, then he asked me for my phone number and being the closed in and insecure person I was, I chose to give him my email address instead. He emailed me a few minutes later with the info on his church. His name was Aaron.

Well I didn’t visit his church for two more weeks and then I started feeling bad because I had said I would. So I went to a church service, which happened to be outdoors this particular weekend. I was greeted so warmly, with so much love, that I was eating it up. Here was a person who had been alone for so long, hadn’t been around a lot of people and I was now being introduced to so many new people it was almost overwhelming. I made several new friends that day. I had found the church that was perfect for me, bible based, totally awesome and filled with people who worshiped and loved Christ.

God had now scored two big hits but was about to drop the third and most amazing gift of all.

The Monday following my first church service I woke up, made breakfast, and went about my work day. Around 1pm that afternoon I got an email from 23andMe – a DNA service I had used to find out my medical risks and family history (being adopted I knew nothing about my family’s medical history). The email stated that a person had been identified in the system as being my uncle. Now I had received many many emails which stated things like “This could be your cousin 8 times removed” and things like that. So I didn’t give it much thought. Well within minutes of getting that email, I got another email stating someone had sent me a private message on the 23andMe web site. It was a woman who was asking me about when and where I was born, and that she believed that I was “the boy who was put up for adoption”. So I gave her my details, that I was born in Kansas City, KS on March 19, 1965. The message that followed was filled with excitement, “YES! You’re the one! I know your mother…”

I sat, looking at the message, stunned and in disbelief. This woman’s husband turned out to be my father’s brother…and she knew my mother. She then asked me for permission to give her my information, and I accepted. My heart was literally beating it’s way out of my chest. All my life I had wondered here and there about my biological parents. What did they look like? What did they do? Were they still alive? Do I look like my Mom or my Dad, or neither? I never even thought about siblings.

About an hour later I was on the phone with my biological mother for the first time. It was an emotional and amazing moment for both of us. I came to learn that I had two sisters, one older, one younger. My Dad had passed away in 2013, which saddened me. It wasn’t long before I was talking to both my sisters – who, by the way, didn’t know they had a brother who was put up for adoption. And of course the number one question was, “Do you feel badly about being put up for adoption?” No way! Not in the slightest. Because I was raised by two incredible, loving, nurturing, parents. So for me, the fact I was adopted never ever crossed my mind.

Now let’s fast forward to 2016. To today as I sit here writing this long story of God’s grace and awesome power, to take a broken and crushed man – buried under tons of loss, sorrow and loneliness – to dig him out and put him back into the world of the living.

This Christmas a tree stands in my living room. Decorated with many of my adoptive sister’s favorite ornaments. And this year I have a family: my adoptive mother whom I love and insure she is being well cared for, my biological mother whom I love and cherish, two amazing sisters whom I love with all my heart, an amazing extended family both adopted and biological. I have more friends now that I have ever had in my adult life. Friends who share my beliefs and who love me unconditionally as disciples of Jesus. I have my dream job, the greatest and most fulfilling job I have ever had, with an incredible boss with whom I have the best working relationship with I have ever had in my life. I am celebrating Christmas this year because I am celebrating God’s awesome gifts that he gave me. Gifts of greater worth than gold. Family. Friends. My job.

So this Christmas if you are sitting on the sofa, in the dark, crying your eyes out and feeling like the only living being on planet earth. Destitute and abandoned, a spirit crushed and buried in sorrow, loneliness and depression. There is a God who loves you and who wants nothing but the best for you. Most of all He wants to be in a relationship with you. Not some hollow, frail, mortal relationship that is here one day and dust upon the wind the next. But a lasting one that endures forever.

Merry Christmas.

 

 

 

Winters Cold Wind (A Poem)

If you have followed me here you know that winter is my favorite time of year. So with that in mind, I have written another Winter related poem.

It’s a calm night, with a chill in the air,
I sit by my open window and wait,
for I know Winter, my lover, will soon be there,
she is the only one, my sweet, my mate.

The wind howls with righteous fury,
and the air transforms to frigid ice,
a snowflake, some sleet, Winter please hurry,
a white Christmas would really be nice.

I climb under the covers of quilted snow,
closing my eyes I drift off to sleep,
embraced by my lover you already know,
Winter has come and tears of joy I weep.

Icy tendrils creep around my room,
turning it into a frozen cube of ice,
curled up in my bed, inside the womb,
I dream of snowy days oh so nice.

I sleep so soundly in the sub-freezing air,
the wind blowing without end,
no-one could be happier than this polar bear,
watching the thermometer descend.

Oh Winter, my passionate frozen bride,
I love you with all of my heart,
At spring and summer with malice I deride,
I pray, Winter, you and I will never part.