42

Last week I celebrated my 42nd birthday. If you’re familiar with the work of Douglas Adams, you’ll recognize that my age is actually the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything. The answer may not be entirely accurate but it does help inspire an upbeat attitude about being this particular age.

I’m way past the age where I expect to get birthday presents from anyone except myself. But, like anyone else, I still enjoy it when others recognize the fact that God has allowed the earth to shuttle me around the sun one more time by giving me something, no matter how trivial.

My family did not disappoint me in this. My youngest son who is 11 at the time of this post, drew me an amazing picture of a bird landing on a branch. I think he is getting better all the time but this picture shows that he is already pretty good!

My oldest son (15) got in on the action as well. He gave me a coupon good for a birthday gift to be made any time I want it. The funny thing is, he couldn’t bring himself to make one then on my birthday! He’s getting good at punting things. Next, I expect him to work on his delegation skills and outsource making my gift to fiverr when I call in the IOU.

My wife is always consistent when it comes to my birthday. She knows I’m fine not receiving gifts but she always manages to find something anyway to make me feel special. This year she presented me with two books that I keep borrowing over and over from the library. If I borrow something two or three times, that’s a pretty good indication that I could benefit from owning it.

The first book is The Painted Art Journal: 24 projects for creating your visual narrative by Jeanne Oliver. It’s a great book on mixed media and creating personal stories through art journaling.

The other book is Geninnes’s art: birds in watercolor, collage, and ink: a field guide to art techniques and observing in the wild by Geninne Zlatkis. Geninne is an amazing artist and I love her bird paintings. This book is great because it breaks down the process Geninne uses to develop her work. It’s very inspiring especially since I already like drawing and painting birds. Hopefully, this book can help me take my art to a higher level.

So all-in-all it was a pretty successful birthday haul. But presents aside, I had a great time spending the beginning of my next year of life with the people I love.

The Microwave Generation

We live in a microwave generation. If our food is not cooked in three minutes or less we start to sweat and worry that our lives are slipping away. If our wars are not won in a matter of days we attach labels of “quagmire” to the ensuing conflict.

Our cars never drive fast enough, checkout lines with two people are crowded, and thirty pounds should easily be lost in a week. Problems, for this generation, are not things they should have to live with. And never let it be said that consequences should ever be borne for individual actions.

We want everything and we want it now. But getting everything you want the second you want it is called being spoiled. Not only that but self-indulgence is a sure-fire way of being unhappy. There’s happiness in waiting. There’s a pleasure to be had in working over a period of time and being rewarded with completion or payment later when it’s finished. The Bible even lists patience as one of the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22).

Try this experiment. If you normally microwave your food, try cooking it on the stove top for a week. When you eat your food, eat slowly and mindfully. You might discover your mind and body slowing down. You might feel more relaxed. Your food will likely taste better and you’ll be more appreciative of what you have.

If the above experiment is successful, try slowing down in other areas of your life too. Going too fast means you can’t enjoy what you have. Slow down, realize what you have and enjoy it.

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 consummation of the ages He [Jesus Christ] has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Hebrews 9:26). Jesus paid the price to restore us to a right relationship with God. All we as humans have to do is believe and accept that ultimate gift.

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.

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.