HEalthy living


Teach a Child

Posted by Mary Jo Hudson on OP5er @ 5:39 PM

Teach A Child


Last week I wrote about my basketball tournament tradition of cleaning the coils of my refrigerator.  Now I want to encourage you to share the duties of household maintenance.  Here’s why.


Growing up on the farm, we learned to be helpers at an early age. There were usually bottle babies to feed or cats and dogs for which to care.  There were always household tasks that we could do from setting the table to doing dishes.  There was no question about whether or not we could work.  The only question was which chores were age appropriate.


When I was twelve, my mother was pinned beneath a heavy garage door.  It was a weight activated door and as she was walking under the door, the weight fell off and her spine was broken in several place.  She was paralyzed for some days.  The nuns in the Catholic hospital prayed over her continuously for days. The trauma of seeing her in this hospital was exacerbated since my dad’s sister had died in the same building just weeks before.  


For the weeks she was in the hospital, running the household and attending school was my responsibility.  My dad was busy with spring farm work.  Making meals and doing laundry landed in my lap.  We boarded the bus at 6:45 every morning and returned home at 5:30.  It was that very week that the wringer washer decided to die.  


This experience motivated me to teach my children basic tasks so they could survive should such a tragedy befall our household.  They learned to take dirty clothes to the laundry area if they wanted them washed.  In time, they learned to sort into appropriate and color-coded baskets. Eventually, their clothing was sorted into their individual containers and they could fold and store as they wished. By high school, they did their own laundry.


As youngsters, eager to help, they learned to set the table, unload the dish washer, use knives safely, bake, cook, and clean up. When they went off to college, they were astounded that new friends were clueless on cleaning rooms, managing dirty clothes, or even time management skills.  


It's thrilling for me to see young moms teaching their children basic domestic skills today.  Here’s why:


Chores develop a work ethic. Learning to start and finish a task is important.  Seeing a job complete creates a sense of accomplishment.  Life involves work.  School, earning a living, day to day life doesn’t come with a butler in our culture. It’s important to learn that life takes effort.


Children are excellent observers.  They watch everything we do.  Littles normally want ‘to help’ because they want to grow up to be like mom or dad. Let them.  Work beside them.  Give them opportunity to try things.  Yes, it takes longer.  Yes, there are more messes to clean up.  Yes, they develop a sense of accomplishment by assisting.  There is research to show that doing chores can helps kids be more responsible, develop high self-esteem, and even delay gratification.


Chores help children learn skills and become independent.  Learning how to do things gives the natural inclination to want to learn new things. It’s the carrot to higher learning. If a child is confident in knowing basic life skills, he will have every confidence to strike into new territory as an adult.  It’s an important reason to start early.  Honestly, by the time middle school rolls around and sports or activities in school occupy their lives, it’s too late to start.  Begin when they are little.  


Find an outside motivator if you need.  Our children participated in 4H.  There are a host of opportunities for children to learn new skills.  Scouting and many spring break classes or camps offer other ways to teach children specific skill sets.  Use them for things that don’t happen in your house.  Your child wants to learn to bake bread but you don’t?  There’s probably a class for that.


Let’s arm our children with the confidence and skills to be productive and engaging in their adult lives.  It’s our job as parents to train them up in the right way. You never know when it will be an important aspect of your family’s survival.



What Lies Beneath

Posted by Mary Jo Hudson on OA7er @ 7:42 AM



The state basketball tournaments, held this week and last, are full of tradition.  In rural Iowa, following the home town basketball games was a tradition almost as sacred as church service on Sunday morning.  If you lived that, you know what I mean.  


My elementary years were in a small town that encouraged girls sports.  Somehow, they managed to make practices between the two gymnasiums for both girls and boys.  Perhaps they didn’t have middle school sports.  I don’t really remember.  We moved to a larger school the year before a basketball career could begin for me and the larger school focused on multiple sports for only boys.  So, I didn’t play.  But, I loved the sport and enjoyed watching the games.  


When tournament weeks roll into town, I watch the schedule to see if there are any teams of friends whose children or grandchildren play.  It helps me select a team to cheer on to victory.  My family doesn’t care one way or another about basketball.  I had to force one of my children to attend the state tournament when her high school played.  She enjoyed the environment but didn’t know enough about the game to enjoy the details of accomplishment.


Consequently, I relish just listening to the game and commentary, the interviews, the general celebration of youth in Iowa who gain the privilege of playing at this level. So, I go to the kitchen, close the door and get busy.  You see, I’ve started my own tradition during the basketball games.


I’m not certain how it started but one year I determined to get my spring cleaning done.   I knew it was important to vacuum the coils from under the refrigerator to help it work more efficiently.  I took off the front panel and could see more than dust on the coils.  


I remember pulling out the refrigerator and vacuuming the dust off the floor and the back and trying my best to clean.  I could tell there was more dust under a cardboard ‘plate’ in the back.  My helpful husband removed the plate and I found dust bunnies the size of grown rabbits that had accumulated in 27 years. I suppose no one takes the back off the refrigerator, but I had spied these dust bunnies while trying to remove dust off the coils from the front.


 These days, my refrigerator is older than 27 years and I want it to function for a long time more.  We had to replace our ‘extra’ refrigerator last year.  It replaced one that was only 8 years old.  My old-timer has a few dings in it, but I’m keen to do what I can to preserve its life for as long as possible.  Keeping the coils free of dust is just one way I attempt to keep that baby humming.


If you haven’t started spring cleaning, I recommend you take the front plate off the refrigerator and see if you can vacuum the coils.  You might want to pull it out and clean behind it as well.  And, if you team the cleaning with something remarkable, like a basketball tournament, it will be easy to remember when you last did it!  I need all the help I can get at remembering things.

Over It

Posted by Mary Jo Hudson on OA11er @ 11:07 AM

Over It


You know that I plan a menu and it keeps me on track and avoids the last minute scramble of ‘what’s for dinner?’.  I’ve even resorted to making a two-week menu to make fewer trips to the store and hopefully reduce our grocery bill. But, I’m almost over it.  Every time I put soup on the menu, we have a snow storm.  


This week, my husband assured me that winter was almost over.  I really had not complained.  I like the purity of snow covering the undulating contours of my back yard.  I can recognize the tracks of various wild creatures who come to forage or walk through the yard on their way to the water source, a few blocks from our home.  I was actually glad we had that last snow storm.  Why come this far and not set a new record?  


But, really, I’m about done with winter.  It’s time to plant seeds and think about new life and growth.  I’m ready to clean drawers and do what I consider spring cleaning, with the understanding I might not get back to the deep cleaning till November, when the growing and preserving season draws to a close.


This week, it seems everything I think about takes me back to the scripture that says, ‘See, I am doing a new thing.’  (Isaiah 43:19). It began in late December when I was pondering what the next year would hold; what I should focus on for my personal growth.  That scripture not only came to my mind but it was on my Face Book Page, and everyone seemed to be noting this scripture.  I was taken aback and wondered what I should do.


So, the question is ‘what is the new thing?’  And, how do I prepare or what do I do with it?  Is the ‘new thing’ a record amount of snow fall for the month of February?  Is the new thing the new food forest I want to establish in my yard?  Is the new thing just the blooming of (more than I want to admit) tulip bulbs I planted last fall?  


It seemed to be underscored with the Adoption stories from Sunday:  a new thing:  new siblings, new families, found families.  New revelation of how God sees us.  A new thing. 


What is the new thing in your life?  What is the urging you have to grow or rest or find a different season?  


I haven’t pinpointed my ‘new thing’.  I could tell you what I HOPE it is, but I cannot be certain my hope and God’s plan are the same thing.  But, I want to leave myself open to His direction.  So, maybe my ‘I’m over it’ attitude toward winter ought to also be present in the daily menu of my life so that I can be alert and aware of the ‘new thing’ God wants to do in my heart and the body as believers I’m a part of. Let’s join our hearts and our hands and watch for the new thing.  




Posted by Mary Jo Hudson on OP10er @ 10:50 PM



You probably think I don’t know how to spell that word, don’t you?  Actually, it’s the brand name of our treadmill.  And, the treadmill taught me a valuable spiritual lesson last week.


I like to think of myself as purposeful.  By that, I mean, I like to have a purpose for everything I do.  My knitting serves a purpose:  to give a gift or make a useful tool for our home.  Three seasons of the year, my yard and garden give me great purpose. Not only do they provide beauty for my eyes; rest for my soul; food for our table; spiritual insight as I am alone and pondering; and exercise for my body.


But the winter months fail to create much exercise.  There is snow scooping but my husband hates to have me scoop snow.  I actually enjoy it.  He despises it but he feels like less of a man if he lets his wife do the lifting.  So, I let him use his snow blower and leaf blower to accomplish the task and I watch. Honestly, reading and knitting, and even housework have not offered me much physical exercise during the non-gardening months of the year.


We have had a treadmill for a decade or more and I’ve resolved to use it and failed in the long term application of my resolve.  I do well for a few days or even a few weeks and then fall out of the routine.  This year, I’m trying to do better.  I try 5-6 times a week to walk and I’m happy if I can get 3-4 sessions completed.  I’m also working on my ‘just do it’ attitude because it is very easy for me to find other things to do first.  I don’t love it.


I dug out some ancient CASSETTE praise tapes made for walking and found my little pocket sized cassette player to keep me stepping.  Intent on making the most of this 30 minute event,

I moved the speed up and increased the incline.  I did fine for awhile and then I decided to take my pulse.  This requires holding a special handle.  I found that it was easier to walk when I was holding on to something.  


Not only was it easier to trot along, I could close my eyes and keep up.  I focused on the music which was really an opportunity for me to praise the Lord right along with the lyrics.   When I opened my eyes, the first thing I saw was that label: Sole.  And, it occurred to me that my soul is in better shape when I focus on two things:  praising the Lord and holding on to Him.  


You see, I tried closing my eyes and walking and I stumbled because I wasn’t hanging on to a handle or the pulse bar.  The treadmill must be 24-30 inches wide.  It isn’t a narrow path, but when I wasn’t watching some distant point while I was stepping or holding on to the side rail, it was easy to lose my balance and fail to stay upright.  But, I could close my eyes and hang on to the side rails and the pulse bar and listen to that music and focus on the One who has me in His hand.


Lest you think I was just walking on a flat surface, the incline was greater than 50%.  It was a steep climb for a little old lady.  It generated some aerobic activity from my heart . But the most important lesson was what I hang onto to keep my balance; remind me to focus; live my life the way it is supposed to be lived; and do more than just get through it all.  


Today and since then, I kind of look forward to that Sole.  I feel as if I am accomplishing a little something.  And, if I can avoid moving into a larger pant size, I’ll really rejoice!

The New Neighbor

Posted by Mary Jo Hudson on OP6er @ 6:49 PM

The New Neighbor


The snow fell (again) just after the driveways cleared from the melt the previous weekend.  It was the light, fluffy kind of snow, easy to move with the leaf blower or a snow shovel, depending upon what one had.


Matthew and I watched out the front window as the new neighbor across the street, donned in his winter gear, came out with his ergonomically correct snow shovel to master the driveway.  I commended him for his work, mentally, as he cleared the driveway so the woman who comes and goes from his side of the building would not have to step into a snowbank when she returned from wherever she had driven earlier in the day.  


I asked my son how he would approach the same driveway.  It’s a duplex with a covered stoop.  Each unit has space for one or maybe two chairs on either side of the entry door.  From the stoop, a short sidewalk extends to the expanded concrete which offers parking and composes most of the front yard.


The other neighbors had 3 cars parked on their side of the concrete slap.  The scooping neighbor moved his snow methodically.  He even shoveled behind the neighbor’s vehicles, perhaps because it expedited the ability of his car to enter or exit regardless of whether they pulled in or backed into their single parking space.


What interested me, though was what he did not do.  He did not scoop the 3 feet of sidewalk from his neighbor’s side of the stoop to the concrete parking area.  I turned to Matthew and asked him, ‘What kind of a man is he?’  My husband approached the window and I asked him if he would have run the scoop over the neighbor’s sidewalk.  He acknowledged he would have.  I was not surprised.  I’ve seen him help our elderly neighbors and even the new kids who live next door, void of much snow moving equipment.


My opinion of what kind of a guy he was formed from what I observed in him.  A man who would go beyond what was required but not by much. Then, another storm blew in.  He faithfully scooped his sidewalk and driveway. But, the second time, he DID scoop the extra three feet of his neighbor’s sidewalk.  


The story doesn’t stop there.  Storm #3 arrived just days later.  He not only scooped his own driveway and the neighbor’s sidewalk.  He also scooped around each of his neighbor’s three cars. 


What a great reminder as I watched the progression of his workmanship.  Observing him over the course of several snowstorms gave me a glimpse into his heart.  Perhaps he had a time deadline the first time he shoveled.  Maybe he had a conference call to get to.  Or, maybe he is studying for a test and put himself on a ‘take a break’ time that was ending.  I don’t know why he only did a little extra work the first time.


What this demonstrates to me is that we are known more by what we do than what we say.  I’ve yet to meet this fellow.  He and his housemate have only lived in the neighborhood less than a month.  I’ve never spoken to him.  The cold and weather mean we get outside long enough to do what we need to do and head back to the comfort of the house as soon as possible.  


Furthermore, I’m not suggesting that our ‘works’ are what gain us favor.  Our works are an outward expression of an inward attitude.  Even though my neighbor is still a stranger, I have developed the idea that he is a nice guy because he has gone the extra mile to help his adjacent neighbor out of the goodness of his heart.  (Maybe she is reimbursing him for his effort.  I don’t know the facts.)  


Let’s be good examples because our hearts are in the right place.  Because the world doesn’t care how much we know until it knows how much we care.  

Soup's On

Posted by Mary Jo Hudson on OP1er @ 1:32 PM

Soup’s On


At our house, the coldest week of the winter clamors for soup.  It’s easy to make; refreshing to eat; filling; and nourishing.  The varieties of soup span the globe from oxtail to legume; from vegan to meaty.  


Soup is a great way to use the bits and pieces of leftovers for delectable reruns.  Use the little bit of roast beef and the broth left from cooking it, mixed with bone broth, all the vegetables in the crisper, time in the crock pot and dinner is done in a dash.


After reading a couple of books by a food author who studied culinary arts in France, I decided to follow their lead and save the vegetable peelings by storing them in a ziplock bag. When the bag is full, everything is dumped into my large crock pot and covered with water.  It simmers for 12 or more hours before being drained.  The cooked vegetable pieces go into the compost pile and the broth is strained and stored in quart containers in my freezer till I have a recipe asking for vegetable broth.  It is effortless and frugal.  Every batch yields a different flavor based on the variety and ratio of different vegetables.  And, broth is ready for the next batch of soup.


This week our menu boasts soups:  oxtail beef and vegetable; spicy split pea and ham; chicken gumbo, chili,  and black bean.  Most of them require some kind of broth or advance planning.  It’s one of the reasons I make a menu.  When I include something that has beans in it, I write in my ‘to do’ list for the day before ‘soak beans’.  I defrost the broth from the freezer the night before soup assembly. It takes some extra planning to make it all come together, but none of the steps require much time.


My husband finds soups satisfying and filling.  Served with a side salad, crackers or biscuits, and a fruit, we comply with our nutritional needs and leave the table not wanting another bite.  


When the temperature refuses to rise above zero, there is something comforting about sipping hot soup. It warms from the inside out. Give it a try this week.



Winter Has Arrived

Posted by Mary Jo Hudson on OA10er @ 10:00 AM

Winter Has Arrived


We missed the white Christmas this year.  It became a joke in our house.  I have a January birthday and some of my children wanted to come home and help me add another zero to my age.  I objected because as a child all I asked for on my birthday was a blizzard.


This is very logical when one lives in the country far from school.  A blizzard translates to a day off school in the rural areas.  As I finished school, I noted that mid-January usually ushers in a blizzard.  


My objection to having my children plan to come for my birthday was simple:  they would not make it and my anticipation would be dashed.  So, with sibling conference calls, the singletons convinced the married with child to come the weekend before so there would be an overlap of visitors from the 3 different states and we could have 3 generations together on one weekend.


That was a lovely weekend in many ways.  The temperature was mild.  Everyone was under one roof.  Two of the family units joined me at church.  And, someone else made dinner one night.  We took many walks with the dog who comes with one of the singles and we enjoyed it all.  And, my son, whose main focus in life is teasing anyone who is near him for the reaction wanted me to ‘eat my words’ about a blizzard near my birthday.


Low and behold, the next weekend, just one day after my birthday, the snowfall came.  It was just a normal snowfall here but where our married daughter lives, snow fall estimates ranged from 12-17 inches.  They would not have made the trip.  I sent pictures to the tease and reminded him that my predictions were only off one day.


Despite the cold and blustery weather, being outside in the winter is a good idea health wise.  I was surprised to learn a significant amount of research has gone into the benefits. Rather than be a bear and hibernate in the winter, it’s a good idea to head outside, let the cold air invigorate your body. Whether you are out to scoop the sidewalk, help a neighbor in distress or sled with the children, it will do your body good.  Be wise. Dress for the event.  Take breaks if you are working in the weather.  



 Being outside will increase your serotonin levels because of the increase exposure to light. “Physiologically, we know serotonin levels in the brain are lowest in winter. Going outside can increase positive mood and alleviate depression,” says Kathryn A. Roecklein, Ph.D., associate professor, Department of Psychology at the University of Pittsburgh. 


It increases your vitamin D absorption.  Less sunlight in the northern hemisphere during the winter season also means less sunlight in the house.  Being outside increases the vitamin D, even if much of your body is covered.  Ten minutes outside can increase the amount you absorb.


It helps you be mindful:  leave the cell phone turned off and put it in your pocket.  Better yet, leave it in the house.  Be wise to be safe.  If you are walking in the woods, having a cell phone available is probably wise, but don’t walk and use the cell phone.  Unplug and observe nature or the city around you.  Listen for sounds.  Watch for colors and shadows to refresh your brain.



It can improve your memory.  A study done in Michigan showed that memory improved 20% in individuals who spent time walking in an arboretum vs. the group that didn’t.  "People don't have to enjoy the walk to get the benefits. We found the same benefits when it was 80 degrees and sunny over the summer as when the temperatures dropped to 25 degrees in January. The only difference was that participants enjoyed the walks more in the spring and summer than in the dead of winter."



It charges your immune system.One Japanese study measured the ability of “forest bathing,” or a short, leisurely spin around a forest, to improve immunity. Researchers found that forest bathing decreased stress hormonesand increased intracellular anti-cancer proteins. Plus, exercise, even walking out in the cold, may help keep illness at bay because it flushes bacteria out of your airways and lungs, according to MedlinePlus, a website from the U.S. National Library of Medicine.


If you are headed out to remove the last 6 inches of snow from the driveway or sidewalk, consider the benefits besides a clean driveway.  And, contemplate a warm mug of hot cocoa and the toasty sights and sounds of a crackling fire in the fireplace when you come inside.  Put the kids to work.  Be smart and live well.





The Daily Mile

Posted by Mary Jo Hudson on OA11er @ 11:59 AM

The Daily Mile


We all hear about the epidemic of obesity.  Iowa now ranks in the top five for states with a high population of obese residents. We all know we should make wise food choices and exercise.   It’s just hard.


It was with great interest I learned of a program developed by pure happenstance in Scotland that solved an obesity problem.  A principal at an elementary school noted that many of the children in her school were not very fit; obesity reigned; and only one in five children were physically fit.


As an experiment, she asked every student in her school to spend 15 minutes each day running in the school yard.  It was not meant to be a competitive run.  The children needed to run the entire time and they could go as slow or as fast as they desired.  The fifteen minutes turned into an average of one mile.  The program is now called, ‘The Daily Mile’.


It isn’t surprising that some of the children were competitive.  Others ran at a pace that allowed them to stay with friends. Whichever method was selected was fine. They just had to move the entire fifteen minutes. 


This experiment was not part of the physical education program.  Sometimes, one class would run.  Other times, the entire school would run at the same time.


The experiment lasted one month:  4 weeks; 20 days.  There was a complete change in the student body.   Independent research observed the students were physically stronger. Mental health improved.  Better classroom performance was observed.  The children interviewed loved the improvement they saw in their own classroom ability as well as the social component.


More than half of the schools in Scotland have adapted this method.  It has spread through thirty-two countries.


Principal Elain Wyllie commented, ‘Something which we didn’t plan, arrived by serendipity and almost accident and has turned out to be a silver bullet for children’s health. It’s easy to scale up and implement across schools.’ 


Schools in Finland use physical activity as a learning tool.  They incorporate MORE recesses for the primary schools.  Teachers believe the opportunity to move burns off excess energy; allows for better concentration in the classroom.  Rather than eliminating outside time to focus on academics, they increased physical activity to improve classroom performance. Fewer minutes per day are necessary to teach science, math, language arts with an increase in academic results.


In the book SMART MOVES, research underscores that physical activity helps memory.  It improves retention.  This is one of the reasons people who take notes remember main points better.  Writing the main idea ignites the brain in new avenues.  Hearing is one way to gain information; recording it helps improve retention; reiterating it is another layer of learning.


One of my children was a kinesthetic learner.  This child needed to move and touch whatever the concept was for retention.  As the teacher, I could force said child to sit at the desk until a bit of work was memorized or hand the child a ball and say, ‘Repeat this while you dribble.  Return to me when you have it learned.’  The difference in time required could be an entire school day. With the dribbling exercise, five minutes was probably the optimum time necessary.  Without dribbling, the brain just didn’t remember and the poor kid could sit at the desk and never learn.


This child could sometimes look at me and say, ‘My legs are going to explode if I don’t move.’  A five minute recess to shoot some basketball hoops would be all that was necessary to alleviate any explosion and return to the classroom ready to absorb information again.


It isn’t difficult for me to understand the benefits of physical activity for learning.  What IS more challenging for me is the application in my own life.  I do know I sleep better and less during lawn and gardening season.  Winter requires more intentionality for movement on my part. 


Some of us are exceptional at the physical fitness regimen.  The rest of us just need to commit to the concept of ‘The Daily Mile’. Here’s to a healthy effort for this year.

Holiday Hangover

Posted by Mary Jo Hudson on OP10er @ 10:40 PM

Holiday Hangover


For me, the months of November and December look like the graph from an EKG.  There are ups and downs that are as regular as my heartbeat. Now that we are in the twilight years of our life (meaning 2/3 of it is behind us), it takes more energy to do just about everything.


We spend more time thinking and planning than we did.  We might be less spontaneous because we consider the cost in terms of energy required and exhaustion.  


Preparing for the holidays is like climbing a mountain.  There is a lot to do.  We gift our children with money these days so they can buy what they want with no exchanges for color, size, or preferences.  They can take advantage of post-holiday sales, or finally purchase  something on their wish list.  It makes shopping almost non-existent.  Aside from the trips to the grocery store and food preparation.  That seems to be the big change when the children file into town.


Dietary restrictions create a challenge for me.  Several family members have discovered them and it means making menus that accommodate our traditions minus some of the main ingredients.


Honestly, the mountain of preparation overwhelms me some days.  And, then my children arrive and none of it seems to matter.  Because they are home.  We are cramped in our little bungalow but we know it won’t be forever. It’s the peak of the graph for me as long as it lasts.


The descent comes when they start to depart and return to their own lives, homes, and schedules.  The mountain top experience is so grand and all my concerns in advance of their arrival were unfounded.  I am able to enjoy their presence, quirky sense of humor, engaging manners of affection to and with one another.  And, then they leave.


Once the avalanche of laundry is caught up and the inventory of refrigerator left overs is complete, I’m left with an empty house.  My heart vacillates between the memories we made and the longing I feel when they are absent.  Our house seems to echo silence.  


This is the decision-making moment for me.  I can dwell on the depressing side of the issue, feeling sorry for myself that seventy-five percent of my children call other states ‘home’.  Or I can remind myself that my children are pursuing their passions and exercising their natural gifts and talents in places that need them.  I can thank God for the years we had with them, gifts from Him that continue to amaze and bless me (and continue to refine me). I can be thankful that they come home and we enjoy one another most of the time.


It’s a daily choice for me. Sometimes, it is a moment by moment choice.  Will I make my children and family my idol or will I remind myself that God is first and the family members are gifts from Him?  


This year, I have a new habit.  When I go to bed at night, I put my Bible on the top of my closed laptop computer.  It reminds me of what needs to come first. Because when I get that right, everything else seems to fall in the right place.  My heart beat continues in rhythm and regularity.  And, I know the source of it all.





Blast from the Past

Posted by Mary Jo Hudson on OP2er @ 2:20 PM

Blast from the Past


Frustrated with the tunes, I reached for the tuner on the radio and selected another station. Normally, we listened to classical radio but during the holiday season, I wanted more than Bach and Beethoven.


The Christian Radio station wasn’t playing anything unique to the season.  It was the same songs I’d heard in July:  not one note about the Christ child’s birth.  Another station blended the sacred songs I yearned to hear with the jingles I’d listened to as a youngster and through my growing up years. It stirred me to wonder why I was discontent with the Christian station.


The memories and familiar tunes, sacred and secular,  were part of what made the season alive for me.  It brought back the excitement Christmas elicits for a young child.  The mystery of gift giving: the joy of making or choosing a special gift; the anticipation of the response; the happiness of the receiver, all part of what makes the season remarkable.  We delight in giving.  All the senses are engaged as we meander through stores or plot to create. The songs on the radio delight our ears; the scent of cinnamon in the air and holiday baking reminds us of good things to come; the taste of hot cocoa after a cold day of running errands warms our inner being.  


 Andy Williams,  Michael Buble, Jim Brickman, and a host of other unknown artists sing songs that cause me to belt out the familiar cultural songs.  You have heard all about songs and the culture this year, I’m sure. Songs that are offensive.  We’ve been singing about Rudolph and his bullying companions for years.  Yet, he seems to have turned the other cheek to lead Santa and his sleigh.  It sounds to me that he took the high ground and his companions had to take a back seat.


Then, there is Baby, It’s Cold Outside:  the bell ringer for cultural shock this year.  Maybe you have read articles about the cultural nuances of the time in which the song was originally penned to understand it isn’t about coercion as much as a statement of how people viewed such proposals.


Which leads me to wonder how much of the Bible we really understand if we don’t have the cultural context.  So many parables are written in terms farmers, shepherds, carpenters of the day would understand.  There are no references to electronic games, media, Star Wars (though we could probably generate some galactical battles if we stretched it a bit).  So, how do we relate the Word to our daily living?  


We study the context. We have to dig deeply to mine for the treasures buried in the cultural context.  When we do, lights come on in our hearts and minds.  Perhaps during this season, when we are thinking about what we can give and how joyous the recipient will be, we might turn the situation around.


We might think of how delighted God was to send his very own son to live as a man, overcome the temptations of daily living in a victorious manner, and offer himself as the one way to relate to the Father, without being mindful of hundreds of man-made rules to avoid disobeying any of the ten commandments.


And, the Son simplified it so we just needed to follow two simple things:  Love God.  Love your neighbor.  


Consider the delight that God would have when folks like you and me listened to the Son and desired to have relationship by believing and following.  It’s so simple.  Regardless of the cultural context in which we view this, it is simple.  God gave the best gift.  The best gift showed us how to bless and be blessed.  


That’s the Reason for the Season.  Regardless of how much baggage we attach to Christmas with our silly cultural songs and traditions, the reason is simple.  It is profound.  It is amazing.

So, while you are busy creating memories for your littles, point them always to the Reason for the Season and keep it simple so their understanding is not encumbered with the culture that wants it to be just happy holiday.


From my family to the heart of yours, Merry Christmas! Joy to the World, the Lord has come!



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