Christmas Traffic Trance

Posted by Richard Harris | | Posted On Sunday, December 26, 2010 at 5:53 PM

This is the time of year a trance falls upon the North Texas area. Fortunately it only last for a month or five weeks at the most. None the less it is very serious while it is with us and one that I feel I need to inform you of.

The name of this condition is: The Christmas Traffic Trance. This occurs each year in between Thanksgiving and Christmas, at times lasting up to the New Year. Seemingly nice, well educated, and civil people fall victim to this trance. It might be your mother or grandmother; it might be your son or worst of all it might be you. As a community service project of simple/truths I would like to give you some symptoms of those under this trance so that you can decide if you or someone you love has fallen into this emotional state.

Here are the traits of those under the Christmas Traffic spell:
• They are in a hurry. They might be going to the grocery store but they are determined to get there as quickly as possible.
• They forget their manners. They honk, they yell and well they do thinks that cannot be talked about in a family devotional. It isn't pretty.
• They are very angry. For some reason the slightest mistake on your part can put your life in peril at the worst and get you yelled at in the least.
• They are extremely aggressive. NASCAR has nothing on the highways of Dallas this time of year. People are making moves that even Jeff Gordon wouldn't attempt. Don't get in the way or you are in big trouble.
• They have serious memory loss. They forget what the speed limit is, they forget what a blinker is for, they forget to slow down in bad weather and they forget that there are other people on the road.

If you or anyone you love has these symptoms put down your laptop and immediately call for medical and emotional assistance immediately.

From my perspective the main reason for this condition is the added pressure of the season. Pressure has a way of changing us not only behind the wheel but also in our spiritual life. Let me provide some ways to beat the pressure.
• Slow down. Don't pack your schedule with too many activities. Streamline, do what is important and say no to the rest. You will find yourself in better spirits if you do this simple task.
• Be nice. Go out of your way to be courteous. There is a whole world out there running around like crazy, your good manners and spirit will make an even greater impact this time of year. A simple how is your day or thank you will travel far all year long but especially now. (manners is a lost art that needs to be revived)
• Cool your jets. You are probably under extreme pressure everywhere you turn. You may very well have to be dealing with people you do not like to deal with or don't have to very often. The people around you may be pushing your last button. Don't give into anger, walk away or maybe take a long walk. Pray for peace even if it is a very short prayer; prayer is the key with this one. Don't lose your good witness by letting pressure make you into an angry person no one wants to be around.
• Remember the reason for the season. Don't forget this is all about a savior being born; God with us. A time to worship and celebrate the greatest gift of all. Point your focus toward the savior and you will find little trouble dealing with all the activities of the season. As a matter of fact you might find yourself enjoying them more than ever before. Spend time in worship, the songs and spirit are great this time of year, don't forget to keep the main thing the main thing.

Pressure can make different people of us all and not just during the Christmas season but all year long. The answers that help resolve it are always the same; slow down, be nice, stray from anger and most of all keep your eye on the Savior.

John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” New American Standard

Dear Lord, speak to our hearts, help us to be rightly focused not only this time of year but all year long. Have us not to be shaped by the pressures of this world but shaped by a very real love for you and what you desire. We ask these things in Christ Name, Amen.

Covering up the Red Nose

Posted by Richard Harris | | Posted On Sunday, December 12, 2010 at 12:13 AM

This being the Christmas season I have watched many an animated Christmas presentation, for example I have seen Frosty the Snowman 327 times as of this writing. I have also had the privilege of watching another favorite several times and that one is Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is certainly one of them.

Let’s get right to the story; when the story begins Donner and Mrs. Donner are the proud parents of a new baby reindeer. You can just hear the pride in Donner’s voice as he talks about his new son. They are as proud as any two reindeer can be. He even seems to be heir apparent to be on the big team someday leading Santa’s sleigh. They are proud indeed.

Then something happens that changes the whole scene. Rudolph turns the nose on, how this is done has yet to be proven scientifically but who am I to doubt. This blinding nose situation upsets his parents greatly, after all no other reindeer parents have a child with a red nose. What in the world will others think? I am pretty sure what they will think from later events but I am positive what Donner thinks; this nose is a problem and a shame to the family.
Donner does what many parents do when they find a flaw in their child; they seek to cover it up. Donner comes up with some contraption that covers Rudolph’s nose so that no one can see the red glow. This works okay until Rudolph goes out and is with the other young reindeer and it comes off. This is a sad moment for Rudolph and his dad.

You’ve heard that he no longer gets in any reindeer games which could lead me to another devotional about the Reindeer coach but we shall save that for later. It seems all is lost, no friends for Rudolph, dad is crushed and the whole leading Santa’s sleigh seems lost forever.
All because of one flaw and one failed cover up. For Rudolph the problem was not so much the red nose as it was the parents response to it from an early age, there is much us human parents can learn from such a thing. Below are a few:

Lose the perfect expectations. You will do yourself and your child a huge favor. Donner expected a big strapping boy ready to lead Santa’s sleigh. That is what he got; he just got the bonus of a red nose in the process. If you are having an issue with this I have a simple solution. Take a good long look in the mirror or check out your behavioral history.

See your child as a creation of God. God is the creator of all things; he made each person in his image with their own special gifts. We need to stop making a short stop out of a piano player. We need to see value in what God has created and let the flower bloom as God created it.

Do not be tempted to join in the competition. Too often as parents we try to live out our lives through our children’s. No doubt part of what bothered Donner was what others would think about that red nose. Who cares; that is your gift from God, buy a pair of sunglasses and enjoy the gift. We need to all get past worrying what others think.

The cover up never works. Rudolph knew he had a problem because everyone was acting like he had one. Thus when the cover up failed he failed as well. I am not saying bury your head in the sand, but I am saying find the positive and the good that the child can do and then help them do it. It is all about focus and honesty.

Side note: Often we see our own shortcomings in our children and that frustrates or scares us. Use what you know, you made it so will they but helping them avoid the pitfalls you faced is a good thing. Use your experience to your child’s advantage.

Shortcomings can be a blessing, see them as such. Had Rudolph not had that red nose well who knows what might have happened on that snowy night. If it had never been uncovered then Santa would not have known how to use him. Who knows what God has planned for our children? We might very well be covering up the very thing God wishes to use for his Glory. You only need see the Bible to know that God can use some pretty unusual characters to get his purpose done.

Of course this show has a happy ending, but only after some fretful days as Donner and all the other reindeers see the foolish way they behaved toward a simple red nose. We can avoid those fretful days if we keep things in the proper perspective from the start and do this one thing:
Stop covering up our child’s red nose and let it shine; who knows how God might use it!

Psalm 139:14,16: “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well…..Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”

Dear Lord, guide us as parents to see our children as a gift from you and to provide for our children as you would have us. We thank you for the gift and praise your name for your wonderful works; we ask these things in the name of Christ, Amen.

A Christ-mas Truce

Posted by Richard Harris | | Posted On at 12:12 AM

Alfred Anderson died last week, he was 109 years old. That he died last week is worth noting but what he was doing in 1914 is of great interest. Mr. Anderson was the last known survivor of the 1914 Christmas Truce in WWI.

Unless you’re a history buff or know a little something about the First World War the Christmas truce may be something you know little if anything about. It occurred on Christmas 1914 on the western front between British and German troops.

On that Christmas these men stood within shouting distance in the muddy, blood soaked trenches that separated the two enemies. The fighting in world war one was some of if not the bloodiest of the last century. For months men could hear the voice of the enemy alone with the bullets being fired at them from close range. Alfred had this quote last year at the age of 108 some 90 years after the event, “All I’d heard for two months in the trenches was the hissing, cracking and whinning of bullets in flight.” Then on Christmas he remembered hearing a strange sound; silence. He said, “I remember the silence, the eerie sound of silence.”

What broke that silence? Gun shots, no. Cannon fire, no. hand grenades exploding in their trench, no. What broke the silence Alfred said was the sound of men shouting Merry Christmas. Then for a matter of hours British and German soldiers came out from their trenches and shared a smile, a smoke and a time of peace. The peace lasted for hours and in some cases tradition has it days in a cease fire with the enemy they had been attempting to kill over the last several months. It was a moment of humanity and sanity in an otherwise cruel and heartless war.

This event came to be known as the Christmas Truce of 1914. I wonder if perhaps the world would be a better place if we took the ‘mas’ off the Christmas and just had a Christ truce. If just for a moment we would stop firing shots at our enemies long enough to visit with them. To look them eye to eye, you know it is much easier to take shots at people when you can’t see them. But when you look them in the eye, when you realize that they are human just like you with family, friends, dreams and heartaches then really that changes everything.

You see we are never closer to being Christ-like than when we treat our enemies with the respect, that He would. We can never influence the world until we quit firing shots at one another. You know what I mean by shots, words that wound, hateful accusations, a lack of mercy to the hurting.

How can we create a Christ Truce? We can forgive with ease. We can attempt to see the other person’s side, we don’t have to agree just a little looking in the eyes and attempting to understand will work miracles. When we have the chance for a cease fire, instead of firing one last bullet, we can let it go. We can make the wounded feel welcome instead of looking for ways to bury them in a sea of guilt or shame.

The world has seen enough of the wars fought by Christians, they are thoroughly unimpressed and there certainly is no Christ in that type of atmosphere. Let’s start a truce, let us be people of peace. Let us put down our weapons, get up out of the trenches, walk into that empty space they called ‘no mans land’ and put our hands out reaching in love. I know it is dangerous out there, but it is worth the risk.

Alfred Anderson remembered the peace in the middle of war some 90 years later, that friend’s is an impact.

Those around us will remember our Christ truce and weapons of the peace given by the Spirit of God; it could affect them for an eternity. That too is impact.

Colossians 3:12-15, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe your selves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which bind them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

Dear Lord it is not easy to be the peacemaker at times, help us to lean on your strength and your power. Help us to be more compassionate, more humble, more gentle and more patient; in short Lord help us to be like you, In Christ Name Amen.

Looking Past the Disability

Posted by Richard Harris | | Posted On Monday, December 6, 2010 at 2:06 PM

Today my wife and oldest daughter went to do some shopping leaving me behind with the other female in my life as well as three of my boys. Watching the boys is just a matter of being a co- pilot referring minor conflicts from time to time. Gracie is another matter all together.

Gracie and I watched some football for a while but much to my disappointment she was just not into it. I ended up rescuing my oldest daughters make up and my office before she settled in on changing clothes and watching a movie with me. There is no doubt who the boss is in our relationship and I attempt to take care of the boss as best I can.

During our time together I held her hand for a moment and in that instant I looked at her and my mind said “You have a daughter with Down syndrome.” You might think that would be obvious to me since she is five now. It is.

It is not that I don’t understand it is that I do. I understand about the 24 hour a day 7 day a week constant watchful eye needed, my sleepy eyes are well aware of the fact we never get a full night’s sleep. No doubt I am on top of the fact that language is a frustrating daze of hand signals, finger points and simple words that are coming together at a rate far slower and more frustrating than our other children.

I never question for one second the statistics that parents of disabled children have high divorce rates as I live out the pressure and stress involved in my own life. Without a strong love and good support system I can see where a marriage stands little chance. ‘Development delay’ formerly was a term used for others, now it is a way of life as I watch the slow (but consistent) growth in the most simple of task.

Starting to detect a pity party? Not behind this keyboard. Feeling as though someone is venting on you under the disguise of a devotional; not here.

My moment in my living room was a reminder that for me that I do not see the disability on a daily bases, I see Gracie. She has been a part of my life for almost five years now and long ago I knew how good I have it and many years though I don’t know when, I stopped looking at her as someone with a disability.

I look past the disability and see Gracie, my daughter. Not my daughter with a disability or my daughter with Down syndrome. I see past the disability, I think God does the same with us.

We all though many refuse to admit it are disabled. When it comes to a holy God we stand no chance. We hate, we gossip, we lust, we abuse with word and deed. We become addicted making man made things our idols replacing God with drugs, alcohol and sex. We covet what others have, seek revenge when wronged and make others the target of our ridicule under the disguise of humor. In the sight of a Holy God these and all of our sins are our disabilities.

When God looks to us he could see our disabilities. He could say there goes Richard the smart aleck or Richard the person who loses his temper.

Instead He looks past the disabilities and sees Richard; his child.

He does the same for you. God the creator knows the creation and its tendencies. That does not stop him from loving us, in fact it almost seems as though it moves him to love us more. Why else would he send his son to die for our disabilities (sins)?

Next time you consider your latest failure, look in the mirror and see what God sees; his child.

Never forget he sees past the disability and loves you (as I love Gracie) with an unquenchable everlasting love. No one is too disabled for God.

Scripture: 1 John 3:1, “What marvelous love the Father has extended to us! Just look at it—we're called children of God! That's who we really are. But that's also why the world doesn't recognize us or take us seriously, because it has no idea who he is or what he's up to.” The Message by Eugene Peterson

Prayer: Dear Lord, we come with thankful and humble hearts that you love us in spite of who we are. That you love us as a parent loves his child. We seek your help to live out our lives in a way that gives honor to you our Heavenly Father. We ask these things in the name of Christ, Amen.

The Prodigal Dog

Posted by Richard Harris | | Posted On at 2:00 PM

At first Dudley the faithful cocker spaniel and I were not the best of friends and I was ready to be gone with him. But over the last two years he has won me over; he sits by my desk while I type and he sits faithfully by me while I watch TV. He doesn’t destroy the house or bark all the time and if I could take care of that little problem about going outside at 3 in the morning he would be the perfect dog.

Dudley is a bit preoccupied with the cats outside, which is another thing I like but he like his master he has a tendency to OCD on some things. He will never go out the door unless there is a chance for a cat. At some point in that day after staring outside endlessly he received some kind of break and he escaped. By the time we found he was gone we had no idea where or how long he had been on the run.

So we did what all people who love their prodigal do; we went looking for him.

Evidently like most prodigal’s when he started off he just started to run. He had no real direction in mind he just wanted out, first perhaps to check out the cats but after that prize was gone he just ran. He had all he needed at home; loved, well taken care of and certainly there were people left behind who would miss him. He just saw the opening and did what prodigals do; he took off thinking freedom was far better than the security of the home. Like all prodigal’s he was wrong.

We dropped everything we had going on and started scouring the neighborhood. On foot, by car and bike everyone searched into the dark night for our wayward dog. We looked high and low searching for our dog on the loose; to no avail.

The worst thing about all of this is that when he went for his run he did not have his collar on that gave his address and phone number. He was ours; but no one knew it. For anyone who saw him he would be a stray dog belonging to no one. That is another trait of all prodigal’s; the way they behave, the places they find themselves in and the actions they take often lead to others not being able to identify who they really belong to and who really loves them.

Prodigals lose their identity because they run from who they really are. People who love prodigals don’t care they just want them home.

About eleven at night we started to close our disappointing search down. Kim and I went for one more drive and this time we took some signs for the neighborhood. It is against the rules to put up such signs in our HOA neighborhood but that did not matter to us. To the one who loves the prodigal it is more against the rules to simply let someone you love who is in danger and lost wander out in darkness. You do what it takes, then worry about the rules later.

People who love prodigals will do what it takes to get their lost one home.

The next day my four year old Gracie and I were first in line at the dog pound to make a missing dog report. We were greeted with the news that someone had just called in who had found a cocker spaniel the previous night. A few phone calls later and there was confirmation that indeed Dudley had been found.

There was a great reunion that evening when the boys put their arms, leash and collar around our once lost but now found dog. Like most prodigals he had gotten an amazingly long way from home in a short period of time and like most prodigals he was glad to see faces he knew and arms that loved him, the very arms that he had run from the day before.

Perhaps you like Dudley have run from those who love you. Perhaps you find yourself an amazingly long way off from what you know is right and from those you are certain that love you. Maybe you started running and now you find yourself tired and longing for the comforts of home. It might be pride that keeps you in the distant land; it might be an addiction picked up on the road or your worried about the consequences of your wrong choices. Maybe you think you are unlovable and God does not care. Think again!

There is a God who is looking for you, he is breaking every rule in the book to find you and wants nothing more than to bring you back into his arms. Go ahead turn your heart toward home; there you will find a God that has not rested one moment since you started running, who loves you no matter what choices you made and one that cannot wait for a great reunion with his prodigal.

Stop running; you will be surprised at who is looking for you and how much better home feels.

Scripture: Luke 15:20 “So he got up and went to this father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” The prodigals welcome home, read all of Luke 15, good stuff.

Prayer: Dear Lord, for those of us who have run from your love we thank you that you never give up on us. For those who are currently running we pray they will grow tired and return home. We thank you that you love us and that will do whatever it takes to bring us home. We praise you for being such a wonderful Heavenly Father, we ask these things in the name of Christ. Amen.

The Amazing and Powerful Oz

Posted by Richard Harris | | Posted On Wednesday, December 1, 2010 at 8:41 PM

I must admit to an oversight in parenting, these moments of honesty are difficult but here goes. There are children in my house who have never seen the Wizard of Oz. I guess I just never made it a priority or I got caught up in the Toy Story Trilogy, who knows why we let things like this happen, they just do.

Sunday night is my time to detox from the day; Sundays are busy and I need a little time to reflect and let the mind just go for a moment. Most of the time this means sitting in front of the television watching the most mindless thing I can find. This week someone beat me to the punch and I looked up and low and behold the Wizard of Oz was on.

I was excited about this and impressed with how much better it looks on a television in 2010 as opposed to around 1970 when I first saw the movie as a child. By a stroke of good fortune all the kids that had not seen the movie where in the house; my parenting error now redeemed.

This movie begins with Dorothy and her dog Toto getting in a tornado and finding themselves in Oz. This is a wonderful place except for that nasty old wicked witch of the west. She is out to get Dorothy and Toto for a little mishap when her house landed on her sister, talk about sensitive. Fortunately there is a good witch of the north that gives Dorothy the dead, bad witches ruby slippers and sends her down the yellow brick road to the Emerald City to see some guy named the Wizard of Oz in order to get her home.

Off Dorothy goes singing up a storm and dancing down the yellow brick road. On her way she finds three friends that have some needs. She finds a scarecrow that needs a brain, a tin man that needs a heart and a lion that needs some courage.

Let’s throw in Dorothy's need to go home and what you have is a care group looking for someone to help them find what they need. The Oz well he is somewhat of a disappointment; think of him as a Bob Newhart from the 70's kind of guy. He delays in his help but eventually comes through; he is neither amazing nor wonderful but merely practical.

Here is what I see; four things that we are all looking for or need. Here is what I know; we can find them in someone much more powerful than Oz, we can find them in God.

· Scarecrow-Brain: We all need some spiritual wisdom in our life. We like the scarecrow may have the heart to get things done but are lacking in the wisdom to make it happen. God provides wisdom if we seek him. Let us stop leaning on the wisdom of man/woman but soak up wisdom from an all knowing God. Proverbs 3:21-24

· Tin Man-Heart: We all have a heart of course but often it becomes bitter and callus. We find ourselves lacking compassion. Here God is at his greatest; when we come to him he provides for us a spirit of compassion. To be like Christ, you must have a heart that breaks for injustice, aches over our own sins and looks for ways to love our brother. If you find yourself emotionless filled with a lack of concern for your fellow man; make sure your heart matches Christ. Proverbs 3:27-28

· Lion-Courage: Fear breaks over the bow of our ship daily. We fear world events, we fear the neighborhood, we fear we will lose our jobs, spouse or security and the list goes on. Fear paralysis us and keep us from moving out in faith. More than anything we all need courage to step out and do what God has pre-planned for us to do. We need courage to face a world of naysayers that want to squash our dreams and put us in our place. We need courage to face down a world that ridicules and lessens our faith. We get that from God not a magical Oz standing behind a curtain. Proverbs 3:25-26

· Dorothy-Home: Oh Dorothy, she never really left home it was just a dream. We wander often, we find ourselves and our souls lost. We wonder if we will ever make it back. All the time someone who loves us, cares for us and died for us is watching out over us directing circumstances with one thought in mind: getting us home. Home is not where you live and it is not the Emerald City, it is heaven, it is where we were created to be and it is where God wants to find us at the end of lives journey. Today if your soul is lost turn toward home and there you will find God waiting. John 14:1-3

On our journey in search of who we really are and what we were really meant to do we seek the answers from the wrong place often. Like Dorothy the answer is right in front of us the whole time; look to God. Trust me he is far better than the Oz.

Scripture: Psalms 1:6, “For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.”

Prayer: Dear Lord, may we come to you with all our needs, knowing you care, love and watch over us. We ask these things in the name of Christ, Amen.

all simple/truths are written by richard harris

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