Monday, December 22, 2008


     We all think of standards at this time of year which are thought of as normal. The economy has changed the usual volume of spending but even the most thrift conscious will most likely put up a Christmas tree, perhaps send out cards, make special holiday treats like cookies, make or buy gifts for loved ones and execute any number of habitual holiday traditions because they wouldn't dream of eliminating these traditions out of their lives.
      This may be the first year of my life that I have seriously pondered why I think these holiday customs are necessary to celebrate Christmas. For many years now I have involved myself in the usual machinations of yuletide customs. The reason I feel this way is because I did something completely different this year. I decided to join in a cantata given mostly in Welsh through the Colorado Welsh Society which I joined back in September. I am only familiarized with this language so it was good to have translations in English readily available. Some songs were familiar and then some of them were completely foreign to me but not to a native Welsh speaker. It certainly did me a world of good because it gave me a whole different perspective.
      If you don't already know this, I am a Christian and I have been most of my life. Quite a few movies and television specials for Christmas have a message that is clearly Christian with the exception of the most recent. In the Charlie Brown Christmas Special that is played every year the consensus of all these children is that it has become too commercialized and it's true that, for the most part, it has been. However, something even worse has happened systematically and without warning: Christmas has become too secularized.
       We, who are Christian, have allowed our most precious holiday to become a buying season, making merry, bribing kids into good behavior with it and partying along with all the rest of the world into an oblivious state of disillusion. According to what I've been reading for years, chronic sufferers of the debilitating mental state of depression plunge back into their old mental state more deeply at this time of year than any other.
       I am writing this as a challenge to all Christians to take our holy day back, start celebrating the real reason why we started this tradition and perhaps we'll see a change in the world we never expected. Maybe atheists will sit up and take notice when we tell them, "I'm celebrating Christmas at church." Buddhists may be surprised when we insist on all references to Santa, reindeer and gift buying to end. As far as lights and decorations go- they're all fine to a point because they cheer us up during a rather dreary time of year. However, I believe a manger scene should be at the front and center of all of them, not done away with because it makes reference to a specific religion. We are celebrating Christmas and I would challenge anyone to say differently. Well, let me put it this way: if we aren't then what exactly are we celebrating?
The Castle Lady, keeping Christ in Christmas this year!

Sunday, December 07, 2008

People Who Need People

     Where do friendships go? Does anyone know why so many friendships end? It has seemed to be an ethereal and elusive commodity in my life and through the years I have had occasion to reflect on past alliances and wondered why they don't exist anymore.
     I have not truly forgotten anyone I have palled around with through my several decades of life and the saddest part is that I cannot say that even 95% of those people are active participants in my life today. I don't know how other people feel about this issue but it truly concerns me and even those who have only briefly touched my life, if I remember them, cause me to wonder how they are doing. Have they solved that problem? Did they follow their dream? If they consciously rejected my friendship, without explanation, I can only sit and ask myself why and more often than not I come up without an answer.
     More recently I have ventured to make up a mental list of people I have come to know well enough to consider friends. Having worked in a service-related field for many years, the bulk of this list would be clients, but this list would also include people I have helped who had temporary or quickly-solved problems. The list also includes people I have attended church with for many years and friendships I have made in passing such as those who I see when I walk in the park each morning. I believe the average person most likely strikes up at least two hundred friendships in their lifetime.
     At one time, starting in my teens, I started writing to pen-pals all over the world. Eventually I had twenty-four pen-pals in twenty different countries. Now the list is about five in five separate countries. I certainly don't remember ever being the one who quit writing. Probably I've written about six times as many letters as I've received. What is most interesting is that these ex-correspondents have no idea how they impacted my life. When I look through their photos, the eyes pierce something in me and I think, "Where in the world are you, now?" I met a few of them through international travel and some I still correspond with and others I do not. A Parisian pen-pal quit writing some months after I met her and dined with her family, visited Versailles with her and her cousin and toured a lot of Montmartre where she lived. We had corresponded for five years before I met her. Why did she stop writing? I may never know.
      All types of reasons can go through your mind. Did this person get offended by something? Did something happen in this person's life that caused him/her to drop out of sight? Did they have to move for political or personal reasons that they could not relate to anyone? Was there a real friendship to begin with or some deception they could not continue? Did the person succumb to envy or hatred?
      Before we start to apply all the superficial reasons for this problem, merely explaining it away, perhaps we should stop and ponder why friendship has come to have so little value in our world today. There is nothing in our friendships that we can take to the bank. Materialistically, if the the friendship is genuine it is a bust. A real friendship doesn't contain a capital gains clause or anything like that if we are honest. 
      Without true, lasting friendships life is impoverished and it can never be what it ought to be if we don't connect to people outside our sphere of experience. Too often we exclude people out of envy, disinterest or wrong assumptions. The other side of this dilemma is that far too many of us value livelihood and material aspects of our lives over people. We don't have to be entrenched in greed so much as the fact that we are essentially a materialistic society. Nearly everyone can get caught up in the 'game' of existence and feel trapped by it.
      Perhaps our most important activity should be to occasionally put away our balanced checkbooks, put the bills aside and try to reassess our values. Your values exist in how you spend your time. Working, shopping, gardening, and watching T.V. are all activities that may not involve other people at all unless we make a point to include someone in those activities.
     In the Bible a verse in Proverbs (18:24) states: A man who has friends must himself be friendly, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. According to Chinese philosophy, Plato is my friend but a greater friend is truth. I have felt for most of my life that my best and greatest friend was Jesus Christ. Once I understood the sacrifice he made for me it only made sense to consider him so. I have never had anyone stand up for me and say they would die for me. I have never heard any person say they would take the blame for anything I've done wrong. I have never had anyone say that they would build a house for me that is indestructible which I can live in for the rest of my life. That is, except for one person. His name is Jesus and you can read about him in the Holy Bible. He's my best and greatest friend.
People who need people, need Jesus!
The Castle Lady