Archive for December 2012


December 17, 2012

The List

by Steven J. Callis

The List.  Have you made yours?  Have you received one from somebody else? The origin of The List is unknown, but it must certainly date back more than a century.  There are even websites today that publish someone’s list to help spread the word.  What is on your Christmas Wish List this year?

Actually, it is helpful and convenient to have someone’s list when preparing to be a gift-giver.  These hints and suggestions make the occasion quite safe; how can I go wrong, giving someone a gift they asked to receive?  On the other hand, I have learned some things about The List that often are overlooked.

For example, if someone gives me something from my list, I may have missed out on something else that I had not considered; something they thought about on my behalf that never crossed my mind.  That was often my Christmas morning experience as a child.  Few, if any of those items from my list found their way to the Christmas tree, but I was always thrilled with my presents on Christmas morning, giving no thought to what I did not receive.  My mom and dad were so good at gift-giving; many times, in fact, I liked their ideas better than what I had listed.

Using the list also has the potential to steal the joy of the occasion.  The giving and receiving of gifts taught me early in life – with the help of mom and dad – to appreciate the giver more than the gift.  Someone chose to gift me, gave thought and consideration to that gift, and then searched until finding exactly what they had in mind for me.  Taking the idea from the 1988 novel, The Alchemist, the journey – that process – is part of the gift.

The List eliminates that process by selecting the specific item, and even allows for ordering it online to save shopping time.  In this manner, The List easily can lead to a sense of obligation rather than joy, and the focus is more about the object given, rather than the source of the gift.

I cannot help but wonder if that idea has been adopted in our prayer life, as well.  Christmas is about God’s gift to us: the Savior, His Son, who brings eternal life.  His giving is always perfect, yet we tend to take our wish lists to Him in prayer, rather than being open to what He wants to give us.  Do we approach Him with a list of demands and expectations, or with open heart and mind, ready to receive?

I heard the story of a little boy who entered a church one weekday to pray.  The pastor noticed the boy and went to ask him what he was praying about.  The boy replied, “I’m not asking God for anything. I just wanted to tell Him hello.”

He knows who you are.  He knows where you are.  He knows what you need. God wants to give you His very best.  Will you let Him?

I Was Afraid of That!

December 7, 2012

I Was Afraid of That

Steven J. Callis

Among the longest words I have ever seen: hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia.  If you are still reading, then you likely are not plagued by this mental disorder.  The 15-syllable word is the term used to identify persons who have an overwhelming fear of long words.  Like symptoms associated with many other fears, a person with this disorder may experience dry mouth, panic, crying, shortness of breath, increased heart rate, and so on.

I have not found a website or institution that identifies the exact number of registered phobias, though one article suggests that there are more phobias than there are people!  These phobias are more than simple fear, but an overwhelming anxiety that cannot be controlled.  They include something as common as a fear of heights (acrophobia) to the almost nonsensical arachibutyrophobia (the fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of one’s mouth).

Even if they are merely perceived, fears are real to the person experiencing them.  And while you may not suffer from a debilitating phobia, all persons experience some level of fear in certain situations, based on a real or perceived threat or danger.  One imagined solution would be to call on that super-canine who always spoke in rhymes, “There’s no need to fear, Underdog is here!”  But is there a more realistic answer?

The Bible’s repetitive exhortation to not be afraid appears not as a chastisement, rather, it is a word of hope and encouragement, in that it usually appears in context with the promise that the Lord can be trusted in every circumstance.  Peace, like fear, is an emotional reaction to one’s state of mind, which is strengthened by confidence in God’s power, wisdom, and grace.

I was shopping in a store last week where there was a sizable display of cowboy knickknacks.  There was a John Wayne coffee mug with this quote on it: “courage is being scared to death – but saddling up anyway.”  Take heart today in the promise of Jesus to those who follow His Way, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” You can trust Him today.

Are You a Good Waiter?

December 7, 2012

I remember my childhood Decembers seeming exceptionally long as I awaited that exciting morning when we would gather around the Christmas tree to open presents.  The slow progression of the preparation for that day can be difficult for a young child. Gradually, the number of gifts beneath the tree would grow, and then during the night before Christmas, the number of presents seemed to double overnight! The waiting was really difficult, but well worth it!

Recently I spent almost an entire 5 minutes searching internet sites (our favorite fool-proof resource) to discover that the average person spends approximately 5 years of life waiting.  That number includes 6 months waiting at traffic lights, but the article said nothing of waiting on the phone for an available customer service representative from my internet provider.

For something we seem to practice often, some of us are not very good at it.  However, we must endure periods of waiting: for our food order, to see a doctor, standing in line for a purchase, auto repair, and so on.  There are some people who plan ahead in order to use those moments productively, so that the waiting is filled with activity and helps to pass the time.  Some restaurants help the cause by providing complimentary peanuts, chips, bread sticks, coloring sheets, or golf tee puzzles.  I aim to be one of those conscientious persons who use time wisely, but sometimes my body and mind simply need that down time.  There are times we just need to stop.

Of course, the Christmas season brings with it a busy schedule and a to-do-list that only Santa could fill.  Shopping, parties, school programs, church programs, community events, visiting friends, decorating the house, wrapping gifts, baking goodies – the website mentioned earlier claims that we spend 6 years of life eating!

Come December 26, many people are glad it is over, along with the hustling and bustling that takes its toll on our bodies and emotions.  In this light, it is interesting that the Christian term, Advent, literally means “coming,”  and that the four Sundays leading to Christmas day are a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the birth of Jesus at Christmas.

In this sense, the waiting becomes productive only as we prepare ourselves for the coming of Christ.  Amid the hustle and bustle of the season, what are you doing to make room for Jesus?  More important than any gift I could give or receive is the spiritual preparation for receiving Christ in His fullness, and allowing Him to be the Pilot of my life, rather than simply one of the many travelers on the plane. Yes, Jesus is coming, and if you are ready, He will come to you in a fresh and unique way this Christmas, and the waiting will be worth it!