Madison Avenue – Vanguard for Crass Christmas Commercialism

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Madison Avenue has always been the vanguard for Christmas commercialism. Over the decades, it has moved the cultural needle on Christmas from a religious holiday to one that is secular. I have watched this trend over the years but I was not prepared for what was presented to the public this holiday season. I probably should have seen it coming but I didn’t. Madison Avenue gave us its ultimate goal in crass Christmas commercialism…egocentric giving.

You heard it right. Over the Thanksgiving weekend, the majority of commercials on television sent out the message loud and clear. The goal for this season is to give yourself the gift you want. It started with a commercial for a luxury model car. Every person in the commercial had given themselves one for Christmas. Just in case the gullible consumer was not picking up on the message, one man’s car had a tag on it that said : To James, From James. This commercial has continued to air on prime time during the month of December.

The second commercial only lasted a few days. Was there an outcry from the public that it was completely over the top? A woman went into a store and as she passed the kitchen appliance section, she hesitated, then she put one item after another in her cart until it was full. She essentially had spent her entire Christmas budget on herself. Was it too ludicrous for the public to believe? I don’t know, but it was pulled after a few days.

I could give you another example but I know you get the drift. The geniuses on Madison Avenue want us to be completely egocentric in our giving. To say their approach to Christmas is crass is an understatement. There’s not much we can do except contact the company who bought the ad and express our displeasure at the sentiment. 

I for one will reject these not so subtle messages to become egocentric in my giving and I have one word for Madison Avenue this Christmas…REALLY?

BrokenHearted

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It’s the Season of Lights and most people are excited about the holidays. They are running around buying presents, planning parties and they have a feeling of good cheer about them. But what if that isn’t you? What if you are experiencing a broken heart this season? Maybe you are experiencing grief because of loss. It may be the loss of a loved one, a job, your health, a house, or a dream that had been dear to you for many years. 

I have been there a few times. Personal grief and loss has left me experiencing a broken heart at this time of year. While everyone else was enjoying the bright lights, I was living in the shadows. Where could I turn to find someone who could help put the pieces of my heart back together again?

What I needed was a physician, a specialist, one who could heal my heart and bring me hope. In my darkness, I found one who was able to do just that. His name is Jesus, He is the Great Physician and He specializes in healing broken hearts. Take in the words He spoke about Himself more than two thousand years ago: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; HE HAS SENT ME TO HEAL THE BROKENHEARTED, to proclaim liberty to the captives, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” Luke 4:18-19.

Unlike other physicians, there is no copay, deductible or waiting time. You can call on Him at any moment and He will be there to help you. He was certainly able to help me. Yes, my heart has scars and you can see where He has mended my heart. It may not look like others who may have a perfectly whole heart, but my heart is healed now and I am able to function. I can experience joy again and look forward to what life has to offer.

Call out to Him. I promise He will be there to help you.

Course Correction

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Several days ago, a friend read something I had written. It was an allegory, and I thought what I had written was very clear. Funny thing was, she didn’t get it at all. In fact, she thought that what I had written had a completely different meaning than what I had intended. We visited, and after I assured her I wasn’t going to the dark side, she suggested that I insert the meaning of the allegory in the story.  I thought about what she had said, shared it with my husband and of course, she was right. I did need to explain what I was writing about. If someone I know and trust did not get it, how could I be assured that everyone reading it would also get it? I needed to make a course correction on that particular piece of work.

Sometimes, we can be a click off. You know, not a lot…just a little. It doesn’t seem like much but if not corrected, we can be way off further on down the line. Did you know that if you are only one degree off on your trajectory from earth to the moon, that by the time you should have reached the moon, you would be 4,169 miles off? You wouldn’t miss your expected destination by a little, you would miss it by a lot. 

It’s hard to listen to correction from someone, but many times, we need that objective voice to speak into our lives. I really appreciate my friend’s opinion on the piece, that’s for sure. What if 4,169 people read it and didn’t get it? I would be so sad that I had given people the wrong idea. 

What about you? Has someone spoken into your life and you are not listening? Are you balking at the thought of making a course correction? It’s not easy to consider another opinion on your work or the direction of your life, but we must do it if we want to stay on our expected trajectory. After all, we don’t want to miss what we are aiming for!

“Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” Proverbs 27:6

Collateral Damage

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When our defense department is planning an operation, many areas are evaluated. Among them are cost, number of assets needed, and last but not least, collateral damage. When we hear the words collateral damage spoken by the defense or intelligence communities, we know it is government-speak for casualties. Defense operations are not the only place where collateral damage happens.

This past week, I have heard several people talking about the approaching  holidays. When they share their dread and anxiety about inviting their relatives, they talk about what might happen if certain people come to their gatherings. Some of their relatives are known for sharing gossip, unforgiveness i.e. reminding them of past mistakes, and dropping emotional bombs when the extended family is present. When our relatives engage in this kind of behavior, they create a lot of collateral damage.  Rather than let this kind of behavior continue indefinitely, it might be worthwhile to spend time in prayer and contemplation in order to come up with ways to deal with our problem relatives in a more effective fashion. 

Are there practical ways we can deal with this kind of destructive behavior or do we even need to? First, we must ask ourselves if we need to invite them to the gathering at all? Perhaps if they were uninvited for a few holidays, they might begin to question themselves. When they call and ask why they were not invited, we can politely tell them we are downsizing our celebrations for the time being. If you think it is wise, you could share the reason they were not invited. 

Second, if they must be invited for the sake of family unity, how can we be proactive and prepare for their arrival? We can evaluate what seems to trigger their outbursts and be prepared to de-escalate and redirect the conversation when a hot topic is introduced. We can also evaluate the level of alcohol consumption that will be allowed. It might be wise to have an alcohol-free gathering if alcohol seems to loosen tongues that otherwise might be kept in check.

Third, we need to make sure we are not part of the problem. Do we have firm boundaries set up in our homes so that those invited know they are NOT allowed to criticize others when they are there? Can we stand up to the family bullies and let them know their behavior will not be tolerated? When we are setting up firm boundaries for the first time, it is only fair to let the offending parties know the rules several days in advance so that they can prepare themselves to be on their best behavior. If they then cross the lines, we can remind them of the “new rules” for family gatherings. 

The holidays can be brutal for some, depending on their relatives. We do not have to be victims and at the mercy of our relatives if they are toxic for us and our family.  Remember, our homes are not war zones and they do not have the right to cause collateral damage when they come to visit!

Illusion

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Last week, I was listening to a woman speak to a large audience. She had been dealing with cancer and had gone through chemotherapy. I knew she had lost her hair and was amazed at how good she looked. Her hair was beautiful and her skin was glowing. I thought, “Wow, she looks so healthy!” The next day I was able to look at her up close and realized she had on a wig and pretty heavy makeup. It was all an illusion. Who knows what she really looked like without the wig and the makeup? She certainly was well enough to speak to a large audience but had not progressed to the point that she looked like she had previously.

Have you ever looked at a model and thought, “She is just beautiful.” Later when you see her without her makeup, false eyelashes and wig, she looks pretty much like everyone else. You realize you were looking at an illusion, an image that was being projected. The thing about illusions is that we are looking at them all of the time. When we watch a television show or a movie, we are watching an illusion. The people are not really in a war, hospital or home. They are on a set creating an illusion. The industry has become so good at it that we don’t need our imaginations anymore to help us believe what we are seeing. The illusion looks like reality.

When I was growing up, my father used to say, “Believe half of what you see and nothing of what you hear.” I understood the hearing part but I struggled with the seeing part. Now, I am beginning to understand. Much of what I see is an illusion that is being projected as reality. In the case of television programs and movies, that is a given. However, when I look at people, that is not always a given. I need to look closer at them and attempt to see below the surface. Only then will I have a better understanding of what I am seeing. What about you? How’s your vision? Are you able to see a bit of reality beyond the illusion?

This 24

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I have a friend who went through a pretty rough decade. She lost a son by suicide, her husband after twenty-five years and her godly father passed. I remember calling her when her father was failing and I asked her how she was doing. She said she was hanging on. Then she said two words that have stuck with me…this 24. She explained to me that she only had to live this 24 hours. She held on to her faith through everything she was going through one day at a time. When she was deep in the valleys, she held on to God’s hand moment by moment, hour by hour and day by day.

I took her advice to heart. When I walked through valleys, I reminded myself of her words…this 24. I then tried to push back the angst about tomorrow and the regrets of the past and focus on the one day I had been given. Jesus said it best when he said, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Matthew 6:34

My friend continued to trust God, went back to school and became a Christian Counselor. She was able to help hundreds of people, either directly or indirectly, by sharing what she had learned in college and in her walk with The Father. Someone who has gone through the fire and come out the other side is a living testimony to the power and grace of God. Her experience has proved invaluable not only to me but to all the other people she has shared her wisdom with.

You may never get to know her or talk to her. That is why I am sharing one of the nuggets of wisdom she gave me about twenty years ago. If you’re going through a valley, I hope it speaks to you. Remember, hang on to the Father’s hand…you only have to live this 24!