Who needs a bucket list?

Fly fish in New Zealand. Kayak in the San Juan Islands. Eat lunch in Istanbul. I have a list of things that I want to do — one day.

The Jack Nicholson – Morgan Freeman movie, The Bucket List was about two men with terminal cancer nearing the end of their days. They escaped their hospital rooms so they could finally pursue things they had delayed their whole lives.

Their list had things they wanted to die before they “kicked the bucket.” The term made its way into our vernacular and even today I hear people about “Putting the things on my bucket list.”

The problem with bucket lists is that the deadline is death – and that’s an uncertainty. Do you really know how long you have?

Bucket List
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Photo by Pete Prodoehl via Creative Commons

The big question

I come from a long line of Norwegians on one side and Jewish Poles on the other. Both sides are hardy with low blood pressure, clean living and good teeth. Most of  my relatives lived well into their 90’s. But that’s no guarantee. I could pass away in dozens of different dramatic deaths (I’ll tell you about a few of my close calls sometime) or through a variety of maladies.

But this human flesh is vulnerable and ultimately weak. I had a friend cut some carpet and the knife  broke the skin on his leg and he ended up dying of a flesh-eating bacteria that was in the carpet. I had another friend simply not wake up one morning – no explanation.

On the other hand, I had a close friend who’s mother came close to death at least a half dozen times, only to fight back for another six months of good living. You never know.

Although I’ve known Rick Dawson for a decade know, I’ve never met him. However we’ve enjoyed a certain kinship though sharing of writings and notes. He loves CCM and is reflective about life in ways I share.  He’s in recovery, a guitar playing grandpa, and a lover of God. Rick is a brilliant writer because he’s simply honest. His Planned Peasanthood blog is a constant source of joy and insight.

RIck is a cancer survivor – but now it’s back, picking off body parts at will.

The “C” word is devastating to most any of us, but to someone who’s beat the dragon back for so long, to hear that it’s returned can be crushing. The fight is brutal and once it’s sulked away, one would think it’s forgotten about you.

A knock on the door, and it’s back, this time to stay.

It’s a diagnosis, not a destination

Rick wrote this upon hearing his diagnosis and being told that the end is likely near. “Cancer is a diagnosis, not a destination.”  Those are words I’ll never forget.

Thus, the problem with Bucket Lists. We think that to really experience things, we have to grasp everything this planet has to offer. So we eat to excess, slip into sensuality, travel without satisfaction, and buy with no regard. We act as if this is everything.  We mark them off, one by one. But in the end, all we have is an empty list – and an empty heart.

C.S. Lewis in the Weight Of Glory put it best. “We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

To Rick—and every other person facing bad news—I want you to stick around. I want to add you to my bucket list to spend just one more day, have one more conversation, make one more memory. But my desire is selfish.  I’m keeping you from the last item on your list — an audience with the creator.

Show me how to walk toward the light. No shadows. No pain. No fear. No deceit. No shame. No curse. No grief. No sadness.

And, no need for a bucket list.

Show me the way, friend.

Groundhog Day: Winter of Despair or Spring of Hope?

Today it’s supposed to be 56. Yesterday it was snowing. Why is this time of year so undecided?

“Will it be the winter of despair or the spring of hope?” asked Charles Dickens in a question that transcends the weather. In a thousand different ways in a thousand different times I’ve heard the same cry of the heart. How many times have I asked, “am I going to make it?’
Punxsutawney Phil, the erstwhile groundhog in Punxsutawney, PA, saw his shadow this morning. But the bigger questions at hand are not being asked by this overgrown rodent. All he knows is that the food supply is dwindling and the sun needs to start shining.

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These days we stand on the precipice of seasonal change. For some, winter was harsh with its cold and snow, wet and wind. It seems like it never ends. For years, I lived in a Wyoming climate that guaranteed five months of snow on the ground.
But when the sun broke through and temperature broke 40, it might as well have summer. Young men took their shirts off and threw Frisbees despite the mud. Dogs chased balls and mothers strolled their babies. It was winter, but it felt like spring. Hope was alive.
Dickens continued to write of in A Tale of Two Cities.

It was the best of times, the worst of times.
It was the age of wisdom; it was the age of foolishness.It was the epoch of incredulity; It was the season of light. It was the season of Darkness “

We all live in that contrast. If not personally, we certainly experience it interrelationally.
When things are going well for me, I’m often cautious about expressing my joy. Who knows who is in the throes of despair and I don’t want to dance alone. Conversely, when darkness descends on me, I’m reticent to talk about for fear I’ll extinguish their hope.
Why is that I can endure my own despair, but I can’t really handle someone else’s hope?
We walk in a world of contrast, light and dark, good and bad, beautiful and ugly. The great philospher Arlo Guthrie once said, “If you don’t ever know the darkness, man, you’ll never really appreciate the light.”
That’s why the first bulbs of spring give such delight. We have seen the short, cold days of a long winter and we just don’t like it. The buds of promise push through to our hearts and warm us up to the thought tomorrow.
Come Spring! Come hope!

Why you can’t run away from your problems

I grabbed my backpack, took an apple from the bowl on the table, pocketed  two of my favorite Hot Wheels and marched out the house.
 I wasn’t going to take it anymore! I was eight and I was a childhood runaway.I made it all the way to the Dutra’s house where they had a secret hide-out in the back yard. I sat down and rested. It was a quick stop, a layover, a resting point before I made my final dash to freedom.  It had been a long journey so far, and I had a long ways to go. It was just eight houses away, but it was a first step away from my problems.The day was warm and the emotions were strong, and before you know it, I had fallen asleep, the excitement of being a runaway overcoming me.  Mrs. Dutra woke me, seeing my tear-stained face. “Just go home,” she said.

What was I thinking? Where would I sleep? What would I eat? What would I wear? I burst through and I told my Mom I had run away and I was sorry and I wouldn’t do it again. She smiled and pushed some cookies and Kool Aid toward me. “Welcome home.”

 When you want to run

Running away sounded like it’s a great big adventure but in the end, it was a big flop.

Every time I’ve run away since, I’ve had the premise of rebellion and adventure and finding something better. The green grass, the bliss, the peace all call from the other side.  It’s the ultimate escape when things don’t go my way.  I constantly hear the urge to drop everything and go. But it never fails to fail me.

runaway childI see runaways every day and I want to tell them to just go home.  When the marriage rumbles, and words are minced by emotion and actions are misread by every whim. Run.

When things at work are difficult and the boss is demanding and no one understands. Run.

When the church doesn’t pay any attention to my ideas and the music gets loud or the preacher doesn’t honor some deep-seated belief. Run.

When the friendship needs a little more work and it’s not all fun and games. Run.

When the words are harsh and cutting and the bandages run short. Run.

Five years ago I had a wife turn and run. Urged by her friends and modern culture, she thought life would be better without me. Turning on God, her vows, and the safety and comfort of a lifelong relationship, she bolted.

Everyone it seems has an escape plan. They think they can survive as a runaway from life and it will be better on the other side.

And I run from God too. When the hard sayings teachings make me wobble, the internal self against the eternal truth should be an easy choice. But it isn’t.  Running from truth doesn’t make it any less true.

I pack my knapsack and announce that I’m leaving. But it never lasts. Maybe for a couple of hours, or days, or weeks. At one point in my life it was for an entire year. But before long, the call for home is too loud.

 Earnestly, tenderly

There was an insurrection against Jesus outlined in one of the Gospel teachings. When the masses realized that he wasn’t going to be a meal ticket, they left in droves. Jesus turned to the disciples and asked, “Will you leave too?”  They looked around and said, “Where else would we go?” and “You have the words of life.”

To know you cannot run is both frightening and comforting. I want to hide, but I desperately want to be found.

”Where can I flee from your presence?” asked King David.

And he still finds a way to minister to my heart, even when I run. He ra

ins manna while I wander in my desert. He prepares a banquet table while I’m still slopping pigs. He whispers to me while I shiver under the broom tree. He teaches me in the belly of the whale. He cooks breakfast for me after I return to my nets.

Now that I’ve seen the Promised Land through the haze of mystery, I cannot forget that this is my homeThere’s nowhere else I want to go.

Have you ever run away? How did it work out for you?

Let me tell you a story

Chris was a character. You know the type — fun, engaging, and always right at the edge of trouble. On one hand, he was a fount of information, intensely loyal to the company and indispensable. On the other hand, he was subtle, clever, and at times, irreverent. As low-level clerks, we were enamored with the complexity of this man.

He knew enough about the company political structure to make things happen. He was smarter than any of his superiors – and they knew it. That’s why they gave him plenty of free-reign knowing his work ethic superseded any downside.

Chris was at his best at break-time. We would all grab spots at tables and chit-chat about the day’s events. But something special happened when Chris would say, “Gather ‘round. Let me tell you a story.” It was the line we all waited for.

He would open up his book of memories and tell tales – some taller than the others. He spun yarns of legendary employees from decades ago, big projects that helped win wars, or stunning defeats that caused people to lose their jobs.

There was tremendous power in simply getting together. The stories resonated with me, because they taught me about the organization, about the forces that influenced decisions, and how my miniscule efforts actually could contribute. These tales often served as insights into my own fears and dreams.

As I have grown in in my faith, I have learned about the power of story. My own experiences have a place in the workplace, in society, and in my community.

While I’m not the character Chris was, I am not afraid to those younger than me, “Let me tell you a story.”

***

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Photo by Diane Bailey. Design by Jennifer Dukes Lee.

 

This is a part of a linkup for the High Calling, “Rediscovering Community.” There, you’ll find similar stories where writers reflect on the power of community in the workplace, in society, and in our world.  You can add your voice here.

How should a Christian living in Colorado react to legal marijuana?

Everywhere I go across the country, I’m hit with the pot question. No matter where you live, you’ve probably heard that here in Colorado, marijuana is legal to purchase and grow for personal use. The question usually starts with, “Dude….”

It started out insidiously a few years ago with the medical marijuana justification. Nearly every medical doctor could write prescriptions for marijuana which could then be “Filled” by the neighborhood “dispensary.”  It wasn’t long before “doctors” set up shops next to dispensaries and began writing scripts by the padfulls to otherwise healthy 22 year old males with “persistent pain.”

Once medical marijuana gained a foothold and was societally accepted, advocates pushed it out to the public for a vote on personal use of the drug. It passed with more than 62 percent of the vote.

It’s true. You can grow up to six plants for personal use. You can’t take it across state lines. You can’t ship it. You can’t sell it. You can also buy it from pot stores, with some heavy regulation. It’s taxed, ironically, to help fund schools.

Medical marijuana is now legal in 21 states. Mark my words, recreational pot is coming to your state, your neighborhood.

So now that it’s legal  — or soon to be legal near you — , how should a Christian respond? For years, parents have used the illegality of drugs to scare their children away.  Now, we need to grapple with this with sound doctrine. Should a Christian toke up? Can a person of faith use marijuana? What does the bible say about weed?

It’s interesting to me that some of the same people who have vilified tobacco use are pushing marijuana.  “It’s natural,” they say.  Well, so is tobacco. And hemlock.

It’s all about the mind

I appreciate the words of Pastor Shawn Johnson who pastors Red Rocks Church in Golden, CO.  This is one of the fastest growing churches in America, with more than 8,000 in attendance. Their audience skews young and they are particularly focused on bringing Prodigals home. That means it’s a messy church with attendees who don’t have clean pasts or perfect presents. No doubt, there are users who attend. And for all us in Colorado, if you don’t use, you know someone who does. There is a big downside for a church preaching on these kinds of subjects. But charging into the lion’s den, he went On the Record.  “My job isn’t to be popular,” he said. “It’s to lead.” Bravo.

For Pastor Johnson, it comes down to the mind. Marijuana users smoke dope to get high. Marijiuana impacts the body, but most of all it impacts the mind. That’s why it’s called getting high, because it sets you apart from the current reality.

There may be some claimed medical uses, but often those could be met with medicinal alternatives like Marinol that use the THC extracts that give the medical benefits. There may be other medical benefits and I’m not going to get too deep into that. Let’s be honest — a small minority of users have a medical necessity.

For the Christian, it’s the escape or alteration of the mind that makes it wrong. Jesus summed up all the expectations of God when he said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind and all your strength” (Mk.12:30).  The mind is the intellect, but it’s also the intuitive power to analyze, to have intuition, to understand, to react to others, and to respond to God’s leading. Pot ruins all of that.

Many advocates claim that pot is not addictive. The National Institute on Drug Abuse says about 1 in 10 users are addicted. But I think it’s how we use the word. It isn’t heroin, but neither is it like Skittles. The bodies of pot smokers may not be addicted, but their minds are. Other addictions – like food, pornography, gambling and sex work in a similar way.  Looking for an escape from reality, the mind grabs onto the vice.

We get addicted to the comfort, to the ability to run from our problems and hide. That’s not how we take on life.

Pastor Shawn said, “Weed is a dream killer.” If you are smoking, ask yourself, “How’s my ambition?”

What’s the difference between pot and alcohol?

Pot smokers right away point to alcohol. “What’s the difference? Why is that legal and pot isn’t?”

First of all, I can have a drink and not got “high” or “drunk.” So that sets the two apart. Can you smoke dope and not get high? I guess if that were the case, then this line of reasoning disappears. I don’t know the answer, but maybe you do.

I grew up in a church that forbade alcohol use. But a closer examination of Scripture shows clearly that it’s drunkenness that it warns against. So, I can freely drink alcohol and not sin, as long as I don’t fall to drunkenness. And we all know that drunkenness leads to all kinds of things – death, drunken driving, violence, sexual activity, and all kinds of other activities. That’s why we don’t disassociate our mind from our reasoning with a foreign substance.

I believe that increased marijuana use and acceptance is a terrible trend for our children.  Teenagers under 17 who use cannabis daily are 60 percent less likely to complete high school or get a degree than peers who have never taken the drug. They are also nearly seven times likelier to attempt suicide and are almost eight times likelier to use other illicit drugs later in life. And a large long-term study in New Zealand showed that people who began smoking marijuana heavily in their teens lost an average of 8 points in IQ between age 13 and age 38

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How should a Christian react?

If you are a Christian and believe otherwise, I don’t condemn you. I just ask that you be open to God’s leading.

Romans 14 says this, “Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don’t see things the way you do. And don’t jump all over them every time they do or say something you don’t agree with—even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department. Remember, they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently.

If you aren’t a Christian, hear this. Smoking pot won’t send you to hell. But let me tell you this. You are missing out on so much more. Jesus said this, “The thief comes to steal, and kill and destroy. But I have come that you may have life have it abundantly.”

So there’s the choice. And with great love, it’s offered freely to you.

——-

Watch or listen to the whole message by Red Rocks Church Pastor Shawn Johnson here.

Who needs a Happy New Year?

He sweeps the confetti from the sidewalk into a dust bin. The empty cup sits in a pool of stale beer. He pushes the collected trash into a heap and tosses it into the dumpster.

“Happy New Year,” he mocks. “Happy Friggin New Year.”

It’s been a tough year. Six months ago, his wife left the keys on the counter along with a note. “I’m finally happy.” 16 years invested and this is the final reward to a relationship. It’s a little strange that one person’s happiness so easily translates into another’s misery.

***happy new year

She tosses her hair back and laughs at the silly joke. But when no one looks, she turns her face to the ground and grimaces, biting her lip. There’s pain deep in her heart, but she’s trying not to show. The party rages around her. The libations are flowing. Raising glasses to a toast to happiness, it sure doesn’t feel that way.

***

We are told that happiness is what really counts, even invoking the name of God into the argument. We plunge into affairs, buy new cars, collect shoes, and indulge in substances all in the pursuit of the grail that isn’t so holy in the end.

I have chased happy. You name it, I’ve thought it would fulfill. Sex. Possessions. Relationships. Money. Power. Position. I thought all of them would satisfy, that they would make me happy. But they carved the ravine in my heart deeper still, and the tears could never fill the hole.

We constantly tell ourselves that it’s a love or a relationship that makes us happy, or just a little more money, or a better job. Sometimes it’s a drag, or a sip or two. Sometimes it’s losing ten pounds, or twenty. It can be a vacation or an hour of sheer pleasure. But really, happiness like this really never lasts.

I choose joy.

Joy isn’t dependent on a situation in life. It doesn’t need another person to complete. It’s free and without strings. And best of all, unlike happiness, it doesn’t require detox or botox or lipo in the end.

I don’t have achieve it, earn it or work for it.

At the end of the chase, looking for pots of gold and nirvana and bliss, I wheeze in, breathless and spent.  Joy sits, legs crossed at the end of the path, twirling a piece of grass. “Where have you been?

“The hope of the righteous brings joy” Proverbs

Jesus Daily: A Good Start to the New Year

I’ve been using Jesus Daily: 365 Interactive Devotions for the last couple of weeks and have found it to be a unique, modern approach to the daily discipline needed for spiritual growth.

The book is compiled by Aaron Tabor, an MD who started the Jesus Daily Facebook page in 2009 as a place for him to record his own daily observations. In just a few years, he has more than 27 million followers.

The book takes some of those observations and puts those into a traditional bible reading and commentary devotional format. What makes this different is the “connect” section at the end. There are suggested online, social media, and face to face ways to put the lesson to use.

For example, today’s devotional is called “Count on His Presence” and talks about the Jesus dailypromise of God to never leave our side and a reminder that the New Year often causes people to have “fear and anxiety” of the uncertainty of days ahead. The connect section encourages the reader to share their resolutions with others – and commit to pray for theirs, giving accountability and support.

On other days you’ll be asked to share a prayer request online, or post a status on Facebook, or host an event in your home. There’s a great variety, which I appreciate.

The theology isn’t deep, but the encouragement in the devotional is timely.

I have an extra copy of the devotional that I’ll send to one commenter who needs a new direction for this next year. Just leave a comment and I’ll pick one by random

 

 

What a two-year old taught me about letting go at Christmas

Her eyes were wide with delight. “Again,” she said. “Again.”

Amazed at her language and reasoning skills, I pushed the button for the 12th consecutive repeat of the song from Frozen.

Her head bobbed at the tune while watching the animated princess. And then the chorus came. “Let it go. Let it go.”

My heart melted, wishing she was mine. Wishing she could sing that song every day for the rest of my life.

Simple joy.

Letting go of strife

Back home, two-thousand miles away from this little girl the everyday burdens of life bear down.

Not one car is broken, but two. How many hundreds of dollars will that be? It seems like every visit to the shop starts at $300 and just goes up from there. There are other financial burdens that weigh on my midnight hour, the uncertainties dance in my brain.

And I’m facing the reality that I have arthritis in one of my hips. The idea of limited mobility frightens me. I treasure my trails and fishing and daily walks. Will that have to change? And the bigger question. Am I actually old enough to have these kinds of issues?

The kids are all grown now. They are older and on their own for the most part. They each have lives and some have their own families. The ideal in my brain of generations of families woven together is suddenly not so tidy. Divorce and dysfunction have affected all of us at one point.

The lines are not neatly drawn.

My grown children don’t share the same faith fervency, swallowed by ambivalence and the gods of the age. I am constantly dogged by the jarring facts of disbelief and I wonder if I contributed in any way.

My own relationships with family and friends often stutter like an out-of-tune auto. I over think my words and deeds, replaying the scenes in a stop and start freeze – frame. The broken relationships outnumber the healthy. Where did I go wrong?

Is there peace to be found? Can I let it go?

 The Bells of Christmas Day

The poem is 150 years old, a reflection of a nation torn by Civil War. The bells ring out, telling a  story that goes back two millennia.

 I heard the bells on Christmas Day

Their old, familiar carols play,

and wild and sweet

The words repeat

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom

Had rolled along

The unbroken song

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,

A voice, a chime,

A chant sublime

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,

And with the sound

The carols drowned

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,

And made forlorn

The households born

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;

“For hate is strong,

And mocks the song

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;

The Wrong shall fail,

The Right prevail,

With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

Longfellow wrote the song, his own son paralyzed from a bullet taken in the Civil War. His wife had previously died from a fire. And still, he found peace. The story behind the song is a must read.

Between this simple poem and a little girl singing out of innocence, I have two lyrics on my heart this day.

“Let it Go” and “Peace on Earth”

This is my message song. How about you?

Hark: What am I supposed to hear?

Hark

I’ve sung the word a thousand times. Maybe more. I can recall many moments, the carol rolling off my lips. Standing outside homes in the chilly night, singing inside nursing homes to old men with welling tears, or in darkened santuaries. Angels singing, imploring the shepherds, and us to “hark.”

All of these years, and I never really thought about the word.

Hark. 

Hear. 

Listen

Today’s Christmas season is all about noise. The sounds of the season come on the airwaves, Bing singing White Christmas and Alvin and his chipmunks trading high pitched barbs. The Salvation Army volunteer ringing bells nonstop. Even in July, I can hear Christmas in my head.

And usually, it’s loud.

But the other night I stood out in the cold just before dead. A million – no a billion stars poked through the blanket of dark. My breath hung heavy and I was struck by the silence.

What is there to hear to when there’s nothing to hear?

Hark.

What am I supposed to be hearing these next days? What is God saying, and I’m not hearing? Can I hear the cries of the oppressed, the sadness of the lonely, the yearnings of the lost?

What are you hearing? 

Christmas for the lonely

 

He walked out to the get the newspaper, just like he does every morning. He still gets the paper out of habit. And for something to do. He used to look at the sports section, but now watches ESPN until late at night, the updated scores streaming in real time across the bottom scroll.

Heavy and messy, today’s paper is stuffed with ads. It’s just one more reminder that Christmas is coming, as if he could possibly get away from that fact. The grocery store has been playing Taylor Swift Christmas songs since Halloween. And the mailbox has been reminding him of the dreaded day for weeks. Everything is red and green, oblivious to the fact he is color blind.

He just doesn’t see the fuss.

One piece of mail last week struck him hard. “Make this the One Christmas You’ll Remember,” the headline screamed just above the glittering diamonds circling around a woman’s head like a flock of doves. He ran the ad through the shredder.

After his wife left seven years ago his only daughter quit talking to him, even though she lives in the same town. He retired early, thinking it would bring him bliss. Instead its only magnified the loneliness. And he certainly doesn’t need another reminder about the joyous holidays.

I hate this blasted season

***

She rolls the bed comforter down, glad she has the added level of warmth. It’s going to dip down into the 20’s tonight and the heater just won’t keep up with the cold. After the cat disappeared one day into the vast fields on the edge of the neighborhood, the bed has been especially lonely.

She fingers the cards that have come in the mail. The photos of happy couples and their children are potent reminders that she has neither . Never imaging life would be this way, it is. Relationships were never easy. It’s too easy to blame her father and his disapproving stare or her mother’s absence when life’s questions about boys and bodies and emotions just started forming.

She put a little fake Christmas tree on the table in her living room. Lost in the Hallmark movie of the night, she figures out the plot in the first five minutes, but still she perseveres to the end – and weeps at exactly the right moment just before the Macy’s commercial closes out the night.

Who ever started this stupid day?

***

Lonely, but not alone

The culture tries to remind us that Christmas is all about wishes come true. But when your best plans have been derailed, one by one, it’s seems empty and hollow. I don’t know how you got here – or why you read this far. Maybe you see yourself in the story – or are afraid that someday you could be that person.

I know loneliness and it doesn’t always come from solitude. I’ve felt the coldness in the room of someone who says they just don’t care anymore. I’ve sat with an older person on Christmas as they wondered why the kids don’t call – or come by. It’s another day by the window with all the others who are feeling the sinking sense that no one cares.

While I know loneliness, I don’t always understand it. It seems particularly cruel, affecting the kind and the godly and the giving. It’s not dispensed fairly with any sense of justice. I’ve pleaded with God for answers to questions and I don’t really care for the answers.

How to pierce the darkness

This world is full of darkness. You see it in the workplace, in the home, in halls of politics, and in every community. But here’s a truth – light is stronger than dark. It has always been the ultimate symbol of hope. A single star pierces through a billion miles of space. A lighthouse can call out to the mariner surrounded by the black sea. A flashlight can illuminate the hidden path.

Even though your situation may seem dire, I still think this Christmas can be the best you’ve ever had : Be the hope. Be a candle. Light a match. And if the wind snuffs it out, light it again.

Find another lonely person and make their day. Pick up the phone, and call a friend. Show up at a shelter and talk to man grizzled by time and foraging for survival. Volunteer to sit in the lunchroom at a nursing home and talk to the woman who has lost her words to the sands of time, but eyes and ears still witness life.

It’s not about finding someone more miserable than you. That’s a loser’s game that selfishly makes you out to be the superior.

But when the tug on your heart sneaks up in the midnight hour, or in the prime time of another Christmas special, or in the silence of the room, remember this is the day that can be light to another. If you want to make your day, make their day. I had someone tell me once, “If you are looking for a way out of the hole you are in, first climb out of yourself.”

I can’t give you any words that will heal the pain you have. People are cruel. Life is unfair. I don’t have all the answers. I don’t pretend to know your situation – I get it. But I do know the best way out of a dark place is find a little light. It doesn’t have to be beacon or a spotlight or a thousand watts of brilliance. All the darkness in the world can’t snuff out the light of a single, simple candle.

And that might be just enough to change your Christmas.

And theirs.

Share with me one commitment you will make this Christmas to be a candle to the lonely?