Catch Me I’m Falling

Pretty Poison sang this song in 1987 back when MTV actually aired music videos.  Most of the video takes place on a variety of staircases or other elevated places with actors/dancers taking a tumble while others catch them.  It reminds me of a trust fall exercise, which is a group exercise where each participant stands on an elevated platform and relies on multiple people to act as a safety net.

I had a similar experience this Christmas season. I had not been looking for a trust exercise; however, I did ask God to humble me.  Guess what?  He was listening.  If you had asked me prior to December 14th what was the best catch I ever witnessed firsthand, I would have said the Dewayne Wise catch in the 9th inning of Mark Buehrle’s perfect game.

That changed when I blacked out and fell down the staircase from the 2nd floor to the 1st.  I would personally not recommend this to anyone.  I do remember telling my husband once I gained consciousness that someone was with me on the stairs.  God had caught me.  Dewayne Wise—move over.

I had asked to be humbled and I was.  Christmas was celebrated in a completely different fashion than ever before.  Not only was I unable to do the shopping, cooking, and baking but my husband had total knee replacement surgery just one week later.  The usual crowd of people we have at our house on Christmas Eve was nowhere to be found.  Not that they didn’t want to come, it’s just that we were unable to serve anyone.  No food at an Italian/American’s house on Christmas Eve is akin to blasphemy.

Instead, we had to rely on my youngest daughter to do everything.  This was a mighty stretch since we still consider her “the baby”.  She proved to be our rock.  I don’t know what we would have done without her.  It was probably very humbling for her, taking care of her parents so unexpectedly.  God made the initial catch and then tossed the ball to our youngest to complete a double play.  Isn’t that amazing?

My eldest daughter was stuck in New York City for Christmas.  It’s hard to get away from your job when it’s one of the busiest times of the year in the hotel industry.  My entire family realized what it’s like to spend Christmas alone.  We all hear and pray for those who don’t have family or friends to spend the Holidays with—especially if they’re sick and not mobile.  We can only imagine what that’s like.  Well now I know Christmas Season can be a very lonely time.

It can also be a time to grow closer to Jesus.  My husband asked me if I had a Bible, then said he should have his own.  Being humbled and saved by God is a life changing event.  In a split second everything changes.  I find myself repeating the famous quote from Star Wars, “may the force be with you.”  It’s kind of like that when you surrender yourself to God.  You have to yield the right of way to an invisible power and it’s hard to let go; harder still to realize you were never in control in the first place.  God has a huge catcher’s mitt and He knows how to use it.

Being alone at Christmas, my thoughts turned to Mary and how she felt, giving birth in such deplorable conditions.  Did Joseph truly want to bring his wife and child to such a place?  Have you seen or smelled the inside of a barn?  It’s not like the sterile manger scene we are all so used to looking at.  Animals live inside, it stinks and it’s full of refuse and muck.  The force was with them—God had them.

We are all so busy we forget the true meaning of Christmas.  It has nothing to do with family, Santa Claus, presents, decorated trees, and eating.  It has everything to do with a baby, destined to be the King of the universe, coming into the world in the lowliest fashion.  The sick, the poor, and the lonely understand.  I’m not talking about the false poor who live in poverty of their own making—that’s just an excuse to get what they can.  I’m talking about the truly destitute.  Many are alone, sickly or suffering from some form of a disability.

How many times do we walk by a homeless person living on the street?  We see them so often they become invisible.  We’ve been jaded by those panhandlers who take on the guise of homelessness.  Why are these people on the streets?  Where are their families?  Many suffer from mental illness.  The greatest numbers are US veterans.  How sad. They sacrificed so much for us but we have abandoned them.  When you do give them something they are quick to respond with, “God bless you.”

Anyone who is not outwardly mobile is unseen.  There are very few elderly cared for by loving families any more.  What about the disabled?  I remember when I was very young and working in downtown Chicago, they were very visible and in the workforce.  That has sadly become a thing of the past.  Today’s society no longer wants to see them.  How can they exist when they could so easily have been aborted?  Just the other day I had a friend tell me how horrible the fate was of a co-worker who was committed to taking care of his brother, who has Down’s syndrome, after their mother passed away.  ‘How selfish of his mother?  Didn’t she realize her normal son’s life will be ruined?’ she lamented in her best Margaret Sanger voice.  Would condemning his brother to an institution be better?  Or his mother would have done right by murdering her not so normal son?  Who decides who is normal and who isn’t?  Who decides who lives and who dies?  Who creates and chooses?  We are all God’s creatures and He grasps and holds us all in the palm of His hand if we ask Him to.

This brings me to young single mothers, many of who turn to abortion because they are alone and scared.  No one tells you about what they experience years after the abortion.  Just last week Nicki Minaj revealed she had an abortion as a teen.  She stated she thought she was going to die.  It was the hardest thing she ever did and it will haunt her for the rest of her life.  What about those unborn lives?  They are truly alone except for God.

Let’s return to the manger in Bethlehem.  Many religious scholars believe Mary was approximately 13 years old.  Imagine being 13 and pregnant with nowhere to give birth, relying only on the word of an angel.  Would she have been receptive to God in today’s world?  And what about Joseph?  What young man that you know, prompted by an angel in a dream, would take a pregnant young teen as his wife and take responsibility for her child!  Just watch an episode of Maury for an answer.

Yes, God has a large safety net.  Next time you lose your footing, spiritually or figuratively, ask God to catch you.  Even if you do fall, He’ll be there to pick you up no matter how badly injured.  And if by chance you ask God to humble you, watch out.

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Right Here Waiting

For those of you not familiar with the 1989 Richard Marx tune, it tells the tale of a man waiting for his true love.  Whatever she does, wherever she goes, no matter how long, he’ll be right there waiting and preparing for her return.

Waiting actually has several meanings.  Most people associate it with sitting around until the something they’re waiting on happens.  Others associate it with customer service, as in a restaurant server.  In all cases the wait is actually preparing for that big something to occur.

Waiting, unfortunately, has become a lost art—thanks to technology.  We rarely have to wait for anything.  News is made and broadcast as soon as it happens.  Fast food establishments give us our fix “freaky fast”.  You can order just about anything online via your computer, laptop, tablet and even your phone and arrange overnight delivery.  Sometimes this is good but other times—not so good.  Remember when waiting was worth it?  We still catch glimpses of it every time Apple releases a new product.

One of my fondest memories was standing in line at the crack of dawn with my sisters and cousin outside the Field Museum to view the King Tut exhibit.  We were so excited and so were all the other thousands of folks who braved the weather.  The anticipation level was off the charts.  And then finally we were lead into the exhibit to see the stunning artifacts.  Was it worth the wait?  Of course.  Why else would I remember it so fondly?

Back in the day, when mom or grandma baked or cooked our favorites we couldn’t wait to eat it.  This was before supermarkets and microwaves—everything was made from scratch and the process could be long.  The aromas and expectations for biting into our favorite foods or desserts would drive us crazy.  It was always worth the wait.

Have you noticed how angry we have become when we have to wait a few minutes for anything?  We’ve all seen the YouTube videos of customers screaming obscenities or reacting violently when their Big Mac is slow in coming.  Not to mention ugly Black Friday sales where people would prefer to trample fellow human beings over a television all in the name of Christmas.

Patience is a virtue, but waiting and preparing can be gifts themselves.  We are now in the season of Advent.  Advent means coming. Who is coming?  Jesus is coming.  Jesus came as an innocent baby some 2000 odd years ago.  But sometimes we forget He’s coming again.  His apostles and followers believed He was coming soon after He left.  But He didn’t.  And we’ve been waiting and preparing ever since.

What do you do when you’re waiting for a very special visitor?  My guess is you clean your house thoroughly and of course prepare a feast fit for a king.  Isn’t that what we should be doing as we await Jesus’ return?  But we don’t know when He’s coming back.  That’s the point.  At least with human visitors we usually know when they’re coming.  But what happens when someone drops in unexpectedly?  Unless you’re Martha Stewart my guess is your house is a mess, the kids are screaming, and there is nothing warm and delicious in the oven.  Remember that old song, If I knew you were coming I’d have baked a cake?  That’s what happens when we are unprepared.

I’m fascinated by a growing group of people who call themselves “preppers”.  If you don’t know who they are, they’re a diverse group of self-reliant people who are preparing for all things great and small, such as a loss of a job right up to a natural disaster.  They stock up on food, water, extra clothing—waiting and preparing—just in case.  They should not be confused with hoarders, who buy massive quantities and keep them squirreled away for no particular reason.

Our country was founded and built on being prepared and self-reliant. It’s the true definition of real freedom.  Early Americans did not want to rely on a king or a big government to tell them what to do or take care of them.  They waited on God, prepared with their own hard work and if their neighbor ran into bad luck, they were equally prepared to help him or her out.

Some people attribute the return to self-reliance to The Church of Latter Day Saints or the Mormons.  If you ask a Mormon why their church leaders counsel them to keep a year supply of food, water etc. on hand they will tell you being self-reliant makes common sense.  They are not only prepared for anything, it allows them to help others as well.  I have a good friend who is Mormon.  Among other things, she always has plenty of pillows on hand at any given time.  Why?  She’s one of the first on the scene of natural or man-made disasters to deliver a pillow to a person who has lost everything.

My grandmother was not Mormon, but she was a product of the Depression.  Today she would be considered a prepper.  She never had one can of anything.  You could always find something edible growing at all times of the year.  Her generation was prepared for whatever life would throw at them.  If you dropped in on my grandmother without an invitation, it was never a problem.  She was always prepared.  An extra plate or five could easily be set at the table and there would still be extras left over.  Being prepared is a good thing.

Waiting and being prepared go hand-in-hand when holding a big event.  As I mentioned earlier, this is what Advent is all about.  We are waiting and preparing for Jesus’ return.  We don’t want to be caught unprepared in a dirty house with no provisions to set before the King.  Or even worse, not home to answer the knock at the door.

Father Robert Barron, in his Advent Reflections, says one of the best ways to get into the spirit of Advent is to read the Bible.  I agree.  You can’t fully understand Jesus as Lord and Savior without the backdrop, prophecies and history of the Old Testament.  This year, why not read a passage from the Old Testament each day of Advent?  You probably have a favorite biblical tale from your childhood.  Revisit it and read it as an adult.  Looking for excitement?  Read Genesis, Exodus or Samuel.  Feeling sorry for yourself?  Read Job.  Crave prayers and meditations?  Try the Psalms.  Looking for wisdom?  Read Proverbs or the Book of Wisdom.  Want to read about fascinating women?  Try the Book of Ruth or Esther.  If you’re a fan of so-called psychics and mediums, read Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel.

I’m a collector of Advent calendars.  From a church with 25 little doors, a Christmas tree with 25 opening ornaments to a mouse that jumps from pocket to pocket—I love counting down the days to Christmas.  As a child I loved being the lucky one who got to the calendar first, peeled back the small door and ate the small piece of chocolate that waited there for me.   I no longer store hidden chocolates behind every Advent calendar door, but what I’ve discovered is there is something much better than chocolate behind each of the 25 days of Advent.

Hooray for Hollywood

My Dad was a huge fan of Benny Goodman and his orchestra. However, I know this song because Doris Day sang it. I loved her movies as a kid. Heck, I still love her films. They just don’t make them like that anymore. I find myself saying that more and more, especially now when Thanksgiving and Christmas are just around the corner.

Things were very different and not all that long ago. During Christmas or Easter season we could always count on great films like The Greatest Story Ever Told, King of Kings, A Christmas Carol, The Bishop’s Wife, The Sound of Music, The Song of Bernadette, The Bells of St. Mary’s, and It’s A Wonderful Life. I also remember gathering with my cousins around the television and watching Family Classics with Frazier Thomas. We couldn’t get enough of Heidi, Gulliver’s Travels, Jungle Book, Little Women, The Lone Ranger, and so many more.

When I got married and began having children, I passed on many of these traditions to my girls. It was an Easter ritual for my eldest daughter and me to watch The Ten Commandments. Along with Christmas and Easter films you could always count on Yankee Doodle Dandy on Independence Day, The Quiet Man on St. Patrick’s Day, and Pride of the Yankees on baseball opening day. In 1992 the country was caught up in Sister Act mania, thanks to Pope John Paul II, including my two daughters who routinely paraded around the house with arm chair guards on their heads (their nun veils). But that was 22 years ago! As my girls got older these films all but disappeared except for an occasional go-round on Turner Classics.

Think about it. Christmas classics are now considered Home Alone, Elf, and A Christmas Story. As much as I love Ralphie and his quest for a Red Ryder B.B. gun, there is not a mention of Christ in A Christmas Story. Actually, I’m shocked they’re still airing A Charlie Brown Christmas on ABC since Linus proclaims the real meaning of Christmas is the birth of Jesus Christ.

Let’s face it. We people of God are movie-starved! Remember the excitement when Mel Gibson released The Passion of the Christ? And the movie doesn’t have to be religious. Name one person who hasn’t seen The Blind Side. The Book of Eli was more than thought provoking. I went to see it at the theater where several young boys were seated in front of me. At the end of the film one of them got up and shouted, “Yeah, God!” Do you see what I’m talking about?

But we’re beginning to see a shift. The Bible miniseries, which aired on The History Channel last spring, broke all records and its major motion picture follow-up, Son of God, was a box office smash. God Is Not Dead opened several eyes and what did Hollywood do? They released Noah. It made money but was not nearly as successful as the independently made movies mentioned above. Why? It was “loosely” based on the story of Noah. Now I’ll give them room for creativity since the story of Noah is not lengthy. But portraying Noah as an almost homicidal baby-killer? Even the Hollywood movie critics laughed at it and gave it a bad review for not being Biblically correct.

Why is all of this happening? Elitist Hollywood types and others like them want to change our traditions and eradicate religion. Unless of course you practice the religion of environmentalism or atheism. When Tim Tebow bent his knee to thank God before and during each football game he was ridiculed and eventually blackballed. When Kirk Cameron was gearing up to release his faith based documentary, Unstoppable, Facebook pulled the trailer from their site and his Twitter feed filled up with words of hate. Facebook eventually restored the page, but Cameron had the biggest laugh of all. His one night only documentary broke all records and he was named King of the Box Office by Yahoo! Movie Talk. Why? The film grossed more than $2 million on just 700 screens.

However, it seems like the joke is on Hollywood. 2014 is going down in history as one of the worst years for the film industry. Box office sales are abysmal and movie studios are handing out pink slips. Why is nobody going to see Transcendence, Ride Along or Sex Tape? But they are flocking to see Heaven Is For Real, Mom’s Night Out, Persecuted, When the Game Stands Tall, and America? Americans are hungry for something to believe in. Something they can relate to with substance that makes them think about what has been missing in entertainment—like truth, wholesomeness, and God.

Noah is not the answer—but it could have been. Hollywood elitists don’t grasp that to create a fantastic film that can survive the test of time is not just about the money—you have to know it and believe in it. Cecil B. DeMille, whose mother was Jewish and father an Episcopal lay minister made The 10 Commandments to spread biblical values during the Cold War. A little unknown fact—DeMille himself appears at the beginning of the film with this message to the audience, “The theme of this picture is whether men ought to be ruled by God’s law or whether they are to be ruled by the whims of a dictator like Rameses. Are men the property of the state, or are they free souls under God? The same battle continues throughout the world today.” Amazing. Too bad this is left out of the television version. And what DeMille said is still true today.

Hope springs eternal. There is a new Exodus film coming out later this year. David and Goliath is scheduled for a 2015 release. The latter is produced by an atheist turned Christian and promises to be based on the Bible and history. Sounds promising given the fact that there is so much written about Moses and David.

Let’s face it folks, we are now the counter-culture. It’s up to all of us—no matter what denomination or no denomination at all—to come together and sponsor, promote and frequent these films. We must win the culture war or our grandchildren and great-grandchildren may never know what Christmas or any Judeo-Christian-based traditions truly are. They’ll only know what Hollywood tells them they are.