Safe Place with Ruth Graham

Safe Place with Ruth Graham

The Spirit of Christmas

posted by Ruth Graham

My daughter and I had a delightful time yesterday. Each year we take a day to go to the small town of Lexington to see the decorations, visit the shops, go “junking,” as my Mother used to call it, find stocking stuffers, eat a delicious lunch and find ridiculous gag gifts for friends who live far away. It gives us a time to be “just girls”. It started out as a way to celebrate my birthday but has become a tradition whether it is my birthday or not. I was scheduled to have a skin cancer removed and the doctor wanted to do it in her Lexington office so we did not go on my actual birthday,  deciding to incorporate the doctor’s visit in our celebration. It seemed appropriate – as I age more and more things are going to happen, good and bad!

Anyway, everything was so festive, folks were calling out “Merry Christmas!” as they left the shops or passed one another on the sidewalk. The little cafe was full of folks celebrating each other or the occasion. It was almost like a scene out of the movie “Christmas Vacation” but there were no carolers or ice skaters. As a matter of fact is was a somewhat balmy 40 degrees.

Regardless of the pressures we felt, decisions to be made, schedules to keep, lists “to do”, aches we felt we found ourselves caught up in the spirit of Christmas.

There is a special feeling in the air around Christmas, I have to admit. I don’t know when it begins…but it comes as surely as the sun. This year I felt it as I ran errands on a Saturday morning preparing for my grandchildren to arrive. I do not like to run errands, especially on Saturday morning but there was a sense of anticipation that was unmistakable.

The Christmas spirit had struck!

It comes at unlikely times and unlikely ways. It cannot be manufactured – though many try. Even in the most dire of circumstances, it comes. It does not come in Santa’s sleigh, or wrapped up in pretty ribbons or lovely carols sung by choirs. It doesn’t come with the feasting or  partying. It’s not on anyone’s list. It cannot be bought.

I think the Grinch put it best, “Maybe Christmas…doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps…means a little bit more.”

And the little Whos down in Whoville got it right when, after they discovered the Christmas trappings were all gone, stood together and sang, “Welcome, Christmas, bring your cheer. Cheer to all Whos far and near. Christmas Day is in our grasp, so long as we have hands to clasp. Christmas Day will always be just as long as we have we. Welcome Christmas while we stand, heart to heart, and hand to hand.”

The Christmas Spirit has to do with doing for others – thinking of others before ourselves. And didn’t God start it all? He thought of us, poured His love out on us. “Who, being in the very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant,being made in human likenes. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:6-8)

He emptied Himself and took on the form of a baby. (Can you imagine the Creator of the Universe limited Himself to the space of a womb?) He loved us so much He found a way to redeem us – though it cost Him the death of His own Son. God is THE spirit of Christmas.

 

Unexpected Death – Purpose in the Senseless

posted by Ruth Graham

When businessman, Roger Rodas, bought his fiery red, Porsche Carrera GT he was on top of the world. An accomplished Wharton School of Business graduate he had made his mark as a financial analyst and was consider to be one of the best in the country. He also made a mark in the world of philanthropy supporting many good and worthy causes. He was a kind-hearted fellow and well-liked by those who knew him. He was young, 40, with a beautiful wife and two children.

On Saturday he made plans to meet up with his friend, Paul Walker, at a charity event for Reachout Worldwide which sends first-responders to devastated areas of the world like the Phillipines (typhoon) and Indiana  (tornados) to aid victims. They shared an interest in philanthropy, giving back as they could. They took it very seriously. Not only did they share an interest in philanthropy but, they shared a love for speed and cars both having invested in high performance automobiles. Roger owned “Always Evolving Performance Motors” in Southern California.

Paul was a successful, famous film star. Voted by People magazine in 2001 as one of the most beautiful people in the world.

It was a beautiful day. Great-to-be-alive kind of day. As the event ended they decided to go for a “joy ride”. I know very few men who would decline an opportunity to take a ride in a bright red Porsche Carrera GT on a fine southern California day!

Both of them had the world by the tail, successful at doing what they loved, young…neither one guessed this was their last day. They never thought when they woke up that morning they would be dead by noon. They never dreamed the beautiful, red car would be their coffin.

Sobering.

Why would I bring this up in a season of joy?

Because of Jesus we know that this is not all there is. Becusse of Jesus we know life has real purpose. There is a reason. Because of Jesus we can be assured our sins are forgiven, our lives made new, we can say with Paul, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?…Thanks be to God!”

Had there been no Christmas, no Bethlehem, we would be hopeless. But thanks be to God there is Christmas! There was Bethlehem. There is purpose – even in the senseless.

 

Thanksgiving in reverse

posted by Ruth Graham

When I sit down to make my Thanksgiving list what do I put down?  ’Friends’ and ‘family’ (most of them!) are at the top of my list. Then perhaps ‘health’, ‘freedom’…

Do I ever express thanks for ‘bad health’, ‘gloomy days’, ‘stress’, ‘conflict’? They wouldn’t be near the top of the list, if they were on it at all.

I began to think about this – it is a cold, rainy, dreary day here today. Raw. Winter-like. I wanted to try to think in reverse.

So it’s a gloomy day. It makes all the pretty days so much prettier. I am grateful that it grants contrast. I will appreciate the sunny days more. I know my brother in Seattle enjoys sunny days because there are so many drizzley ones out there!

If I have aches and pains they remind me that I am alive and I am grateful for analgesics. There was a time when you just had to grin and bare it.

If my bank account is low I am thankful that I even have one and have been able to provide for my family. There are many in this world who have nothing.

If I am stressed it means I have a job that requires all of me, challenging me, using my brain. There are some with no job.

If I am overwhelmed it shows me I need to pace myself. I don’t have to do it all right now. There are those who are no longer able to do anything.

If there is conflict it means I am in relationship with someone and have the opportunity to grow from it. Some just walk away.

If I am lonely I can be grateful that I have known wonderful relationships and have beautiful memories. It can prompt me to reach out to someone who may be lonelier than I am.

If I have regrets, I am thankful that I had choices and though I made bad ones, I can begin again. Some choose to remain the victim.

If I have questions and doubts I am thankful that these same questions and  doubts can spurr me on to look for truth. Some become inflexible.

I hope that is not “Pollyanna-ish” but it always helps to look at the positive side of a situation, if I can. (It make take some time for me to get there!) I recognize that sometimes I just want to be miserable – feel the pain. After all I earned this misery! And there is nothing worse than someone trying to cheer me up when I just need to feel miserable! Someone once said, “It is small comfort when you are drowning to be told there are others swimming.” But I want to move into positive thoughts rather than stay in the negative. I want to grow and live with a grateful heart.

What are you thankful for this year?

 

 

 

 

How Do You Forgive Yourself?

posted by Ruth Graham

When we make a mistake it is easy to forgive ourselves – of course, depending on the mistake. I am thinking of a minor infraction – getting a speeding ticket. But if we repeat that mistake it becomes a little harder to forgive ourselves. And more than twice it becomes a real  struggle to forgive yourself.

If we continue to drive down the same stretch of road and continue to get speeding tickets you have to ask yourself ,”why”? Why do you keep making the same mistake over and over?

Of course when we fail in a big way, going against what we know to be right and against our value system, it only takes one time. We feel shame. Regret. Fear. For instance, if you are unfaithful to your spouse – it’s against your value system. You knew better but did it anyway. There is shame, regret. You are shocked at yourself. How do you forgive yourself?

I want to hear from you all – how do you forgive yourself?

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