books, Christmas, community, love, music, writing

Inspired: Alfie, the Christmas Tree – a poem by John Denver

Happy Christmas

This is one of my favorite Christmas poems. It’s such a beautiful reminder of what this season is all about—unity, love, and kindness. Happy Christmas.

Alfie, the Christmas Tree
Did you ever hear the story of the Christmas Tree
who just didn’t want to change the show
He liked living in the woods and playing with squirrels, he liked icicles and snow.

He liked wolves and eagles and grizzly bears
and critters and creatures that crawled.
Why bugs were some of his very best friends, spiders and ants and all.

Now that’s not to say that he ever looked down on the vision of twinkling lights,
or on mirrored bubbles and peppermint canes and a thousand other delights.
And he often had dreams of tiny reindeer
and a jolly old man and a sleigh full of toys and presents and wonderful things,
and the story of Christmas Day.

Oh, Alfie believed in Christmas all right, he was full of Christmas cheer.
All of each and every day and all throughout the year.

To him it was more than a special time much more than a special day,
It was more than a beautiful story. it was a special kind of way.

You see, some folks have never heard a jingle bell ring,
And they’ve never heard of Santa Claus.
They’ve never heard the story of the Son of God. And that made Alfie pause.

Did that mean that they’d never know of peace on earth
or the brotherhood of man?
Or know how to love, or know how to give? If they can’t, no one can.
You see, life is a very special kind of thing, not just for a chosen few.
But for each and every living breathing thing. Not just me and you.

So in your Christmas prayers this year, Alfie asked me if I’d ask you
to say a prayer for the wind, and the water, and the wood,
and those who live there, too.

Christmas, holiday

Inspired: Fun Christmas trivia

Leon McBryde after giving the other Santas a class on techniques and props for home visits, Oct. 18, 2014. Photo by Ian C. Bates for Al Jazeera America.
Leon McBryde after giving the other Santas a class on techniques and props for home visits, Oct. 18, 2014. Photo by Ian C. Bates for Al Jazeera America.

In honor of the holiday, here are some fun pieces of Christmas trivia. Enjoy!

-When Dr. Seuss wrote How the Grinch Stole Christmas, it took him 3 months to figure out the ending. Finally, he got a flash of an image that depicted the Grinch sitting at the Who dinner table carving the roast beast and he wrote backward from there.
– Some people advised Charles Schulz to remove the scene in A Charlie Brown Christmas where Linus tells the story of Christ’s birth because they thought it was too religious for a children’s movie. Schulz insisted on leaving it in.
– Some legends trace the making of the first candy canes to India while others trace them to Germany.
– Santa Claus was a saint who lived in what is now Turkey in the 300s.
– The Statue of Liberty was a Christmas present from France to the U.S.
– While some people think Xmas is sacrilegious, it’s not at all. It comes from Greece and the Greek symbol “X” means Christ.
– 1:3 people in the world celebrate Christmas.
– The retailer Montgomery Ward brought Rudolph to the public eye. It was written by Robert L. May, a copywriter for the company. The retail chain distributed 2.4 million copies of it in booklet form during the 1939 holiday season. Rudolph’s original name was Rollo. The executives at the company didn’t like the name, and May’s daughter gave him the idea of the name Rudolph.
– Charles Dickens wrote the novella A Christmas Carol in six weeks.
– If you’re an aspiring Santa, there’s a school for that. Charles W. Howard Santa Claus School is in Midland, Michigan.

choices, Christmas, community, gifts, philanthropy

Inspired: All I want under the tree this year isn’t for me

Send a girl to school for a year for $58‘Tis the season to drain our bank accounts and buy a lot of useless merchandise that won’t mean anything come, oh, about December 28th. We have an embarrassment of riches in this country. I don’t need 99% of them.

I really appreciate that my friend, Leah, posted this link a few weeks ago from the International Rescue Committee. $58 buys a year of education for a young girl in Afghanistan, Lebanon, or Congo. $18 provides a mosquito net for an entire family that prevents malaria, a disease that impacts half the world’s population and kills one child every 60 seconds. $25 is enough to provide an innovative solar lamp and charger to those in places such as Iraq and Syria who have to flee from violence with little or no access to electricity.

Similarly, gifts can be made to local food pantries, homeless shelters, and schools. I’m blessed beyond belief to have everything I could ever want or need when it comes to material possessions. I don’t need anything else. I’m guessing many of you don’t either. We’re the lucky ones. This holiday, let’s give and receive gifts that count, gifts that help others who really need our care and compassion.

Christmas, happiness

Beautiful: On the Eleventh Day of Christmas, Let There Be More Joy

From Pinterest
From Pinterest

“Remember that your natural state is joy.” ~ Wayne Dyer

It doesn’t take any effort to be happy or joyful. It does take effort to unburden ourselves, to cast off guilt, disappointment, and sadness and that effort comes from not doing these things, from not taking them on. Joy is inside of us and it wants to shine. It wants us to take it on and wear it proudly. It wants us to embody it and spread it around to others. Joy looks good on everyone and we can never have too much of it so cultivate it in yourself and encourage it in others in great big glorious heaps for the holidays and every day.

This post is part of the “Let there be…” consecutive series of Christmas wishes

Christmas, freedom

Beautiful: On the Tenth Day of Christmas, Let There Be More Freedom

From Pinterest
From Pinterest

“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” ~ Nelson Mandela

Of course I want more freedom in the world, a greater sense of peace and much less conflict. Freedom in the world starts with the freedom of an individual’s heart. Freedom to pursue work we love. Freedom to travel, speak, write, believe along whatever path feels right to us, and respect that this level of freedom belongs to everyone, even those who have paths, beliefs, and dreams different from ours. That’s the kind of freedom I want for everyone – freedom to be whomever we are at the very core knowing that we will be accepted, celebrated, and appreciated for it.

This post is part of the “Let there be…” consecutive series of Christmas wishes

Christmas, passion

Beautiful: On the Ninth Day of Christmas, Let There Be More Passion

From Pinterest
From Pinterest

“We lose ourselves in the things we love. We find ourselves there, too.” ~ Kristin Martz

Let’s not temper our sense of passion, our enthusiasm. Let’s lay our hearts and minds on the line and wear them on our sleeves. Let’s share and encourage our deepest dreams. Let’s let the size of our hearts be the guidepost for the size of our efforts. We now have the tools to create a world that is exponentially better than the world we now call home. Technology, knowledge, medicine, and vehicles for communicating, organizing, and getting things done. To get their full utility, we must first commit to our own truest ambitions. We must decide the impact we want to have in the world and then roll up our sleeves to put our passion to work. Let’s do this.

This post is part of the “Let there be…” consecutive series of Christmas wishes

Christmas, inspiration

Beautiful: On the Eighth Day of Christmas, Let There Be More Inspiration

“May the space between where I am and where I want to be inspire me.” ~ Tracee Ellis Ross

Anything can inspire us. Art, music, words, actions, stories, food. It is everywhere and in every thing. We inspire and are inspired. Everything we do, everything we say, can be a light for someone else. We are often unaware of our impact, the power we have to shape and influence the paths of others. We don’t always see the connections between the dots, how our paths intertwine and connect. Sometimes we miss the dots altogether. What we can be sure of is that we matter. That others, all others, matter, in the deepest and most wonderful ways. Nothing is inconsequential. Every situation and every person in our lives, no matter the size of their role in our days, is here for a reason. To inspire, to teach, to learn, to help us evolve into the very best person we can be. In that way, we always have someone and something to be grateful for. We always have a reason for giving thanks, and that reason is inspiration.

This post is part of the “Let there be…” consecutive series of Christmas wishes

balance, Christmas

Beautiful: On the Seventh Day of Christmas, Let There Be More Balance

From Pinterest
From Pinterest

“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.” ~ Albert Einstein.

Balance doesn’t mean to constantly keep our lives in neutral. It is a beautiful dance. We constantly move between the act of speeding up and slowing down. We get happy and sad and happy again. We stand on the highest peak and descend into the lowest valley. We climb and fall. Balance is the act of moving between the extremes with the knowledge that this journey is part of the ebb and flow of life. We will have our emotions and our mistakes. We will falter and question the purpose and value of it all. Balance is our attempt to understand what happens, and why, and how to use the lessons we learn along the way. Balance is not perfection nor is it an ideal; it is the purposeful act of searching for alignment. It means standing as tall as we can in our current circumstances. Balance is not a destination, it is the journey itself.

This post is part of the “Let there be…” consecutive series of Christmas wishes

Christmas, grace

Beautiful: On the Sixth Day of Christmas, Let There Be More Grace

From Pinterest
From Pinterest

“I do not understand the mystery of grace – only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us.” ~ Anne Lamott

As long as we live and breathe, the pressures of life will always be with us. We will face stress, disappointment, and loss. There is no way out of that. As the great yogi Dolly Parton once said, “If you want rainbows, you gotta put up with the rain.” How we face our difficulties over time, how we reflect on them and allow them to shape us, depends upon our level of grace. They can make us better, or they can make us bitter. In the immediate aftermath of something upsetting, we process. We give space and time to heal. We grieve, and then hopefully we grow. We see other people grieve, and we extend our hands, hearts, and help. That is the power of grace – to support us in our time of need and then to give us the strength to support others when they need us most.

This post is part of the “Let there be…” consecutive series of Christmas wishes