Home for Christmas

“I’ll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams.” –from the song “I’ll Be Home for Christmas
With the passing of Dad this past summer, the family home that our family has grown so familiar with over the years since Dad married my stepmother back in 1979 has been sold, and it is now no longer a part of the family. In other words, there is no physical “home” to go home to anymore.

When Dad died in June, the last member of that generation in my family died, too. While my two brothers have their own families, and they have their own homes to celebrate Christmas with their children and grandchildren, I have been single all of my life, so my “home” is literally found in the statement, “Home is where the heart is.”

I’ve moved a lot over the years and I’ve lived in three different states due to my profession. Yet, I’ve always made wherever I was living at the time feel like a “home” to me even though I’ve lived in apartments all of my life. Originally from the Midwest, since 1992 I have lived in Southern states (primarily Florida for over 20 years and now in Texas). I’m not entirely sure you can ever take the “Midwest” out of a Midwesterner no matter how many years one lives in another part of the country, especially in the South where customs and even language takes on a new flavor and meaning. I still have not learned to be “Southern” yet, and I’m not sure I will ever be successful at it.

I ran across an article published on December 21, 2015, titled My Heart is Where My Home Is,” by Lynn Soots (although at the bottom of the article it credits Julie Ostrow as the author), that gives a defining experience as to what I mean about being a transplanted Midwesterner living in a Southern state. Here is what she wrote:

What does it mean to ‘go home’?

I recently had the opportunity to visit the town where I grew up. I haven’t lived there in decades, yet, I visited two weekends in a row. One weekend was reconnecting with the past—my high school reunion. The following weekend was spent sharing my present—leading an improv workshop at the Grand Rapids Improv Festival and being interviewed on a local morning show. Funny thing…and believe it or not, I was somewhat shy in high school. I didn’t take a single acting class or ever performed on stage in high school. Yet, decades later, I appear on TV and teach an improv workshop in my hometown.

Attending my high school reunion brought unexpected connections and friendships. New and renewed friendships. Classmates I was friends with before are now in my life again. We shared laughter and stories of old and new.

It felt like I never left-sort of

Having been away from Grand Rapids, Michigan through the years left me with a constant longing for home. Being uprooted after my freshman year of college and embarking on an adventure to Raleigh, North Carolina with my mom and dad, this youngest of six was forced to make a home wherever she was.

Moving from a Midwestern town to a Southern town was a culture shock for this once 18-year-old. I was told I talk funny by people from all over the Southern United States. For those of you not aware, just like there are different Midwest accents—from Illinois, Michigan, and Minnesota—there are various Southern accents—from the mountains to the beach of North Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama.

Although my Southern friends and I had a few communication “mishaps,” we always laughed and poked fun at our language differences. Not to mention the different colloquialisms. I was feeling at home with my new friends.

Just as I was starting to feel like I could plant roots in Raleigh, my parents uprooted once again. My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer during the summer after my sophomore year of college. After having her mastectomy, she and my dad moved back up to the Midwest exactly one year after the three of us moved to Raleigh. From then on I was on my own.

Constant journey toward home

I realized that throughout my life, I continued to listen to my inner voice, my intuition, and follow my passion and my joys. Multiple times I have had to push myself beyond my own boundaries and limitations. Sometimes by my choice and sometimes because of circumstances beyond my control. As I pushed myself through new experiences, one feeling remained the same…my desire to connect with others, to have a sense of family, and to belong.

My Heart is Where My Home Is

No matter how long and hard I look outside of myself and beyond my inner circle for connection, I am reminded by my loved ones that I am loved, I do belong, and that we are family.

As I reflect this holiday season, I bask in the feeling of knowing that I am home. (Quote source here.)

And here is another article published on June 14, 2016, titled, Home Is Where The Heart Is, by Zanteria Nelson, who was a student at the University of West Florida at the time this article was published. Here is what she wrote:

Home is where the heart is.

That statement is much more profound than it appears because it means that your home can be anywhere on this spinning orb. It means your home will always be the place where you feel the deepest affection, no matter where you are. It means you can find a home with your family in your hometown, when you are alone overseas, or anywhere in between. It means the place you long to be. It means that you could be homeless, living in a nomadic life, and find a home everywhere you go in every experience you have. It means you can find a sense of home in a friend’s hug, in exploring the unknown, in a familiar tingle of love, in a warm bed or in the midst of a joyful run. It means that your home is wherever you take your heart, and if you are like me and you live with your heart and for your heart, then you will forever be at home. You will never be homeless, and will always feel at home.

In others words, “Home is where the heart is,” is not just a mere phrase. It means so much to your life, my life, and the lives of others. Home is not necessarily your house. Sometimes during our walk of life, we do not understand where we belong in this world. We tussle with the fear of not belonging to anyone or anything. Of course we have families, but our families do no not dictate the way our life should be.

It is our innermost soul that guides our lives, and that soul lives in our hearts. Whatever our heart expresses it truly represents who we are. Wherever our heart lays is truly where we belong. Our heart is a spiritual source that connects to the things that are most beneficial for us.

To be honest, in many ways, I myself have been feeling lost, lost in a spiritual and emotional sense. These feeling are evident in the most unexpected moments, moments where I find myself in my car, at the beach floating in waves, or sitting at a table.

Surrounded by unfamiliar faces, and I start to think. Where do I want to be? Where do I feel the most relieved? Why am I here? What is my meaning? What is my truth? What is my purpose? What is my path? What is my bliss?

Sometimes, I am lost in the sense where I find myself wondering what the point of this life is. If everything eventually fades, if we all eventually die, if nothing is permanent, then what is the point? My heart answered all of these questions for me. For wherever my heart leads me, I am truly home. For your home is where your heart is, and my heart is with me. (Quote source here.)

Of course, for those of us who are Christians, our heart is owned by another–Jesus Christ. And He is exactly who Isaiah so clearly described in Isaiah 9:6-7:

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
    there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
    and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
    with justice and righteousness
    from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
    will accomplish this.

In an article published on OnePlace.com titled, When Jesus Came to Town–A New Beginning,” by Greg Laurie, author and senior pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, CA, he write:

In his excellent little book,My Heart, Christ’s Home,” Robert Boyd Munger writes of Jesus coming to his home and describes his sense of embarrassment when the Lord begins walking around. Imagine what it would be like to have Jesus come to your home and actually visit, especially if you weren’t expecting Him?

The Bible unfolds this very scenario in Luke 19 and introduces us to a man named Zacchaeus. Into his home walked the Creator of the universe in human form.

Zacchaeus was a successful businessman, a chief tax collector. In those days, there were three primary places where taxes were collected: Capernaum, Jerusalem, and Jericho. Zacchaeus, being the chief tax collector in Jericho, was over one of the “Big Three.” He was head of a tax farming cooperation with collectors who extorted the people and paid him before he paid the Romans. You might say that he was the kingpin of the Jericho tax cartel. He was hated, despised, and isolated by his fellow Jews.

But Jesus had a different view of Zacchaeus. He assessed him this way: “The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10) In other words, Jesus saw the real problem with Zacchaeus. He did these things because he was lost.

As Jesus came into town, Zacchaeus could not see over the crowd. So, he sprinted down the street and scurried up a tree, trying to catch a glimpse of Him. In this culture, it was considered undignified for an older man to run. If you were a government official, you did not do something like this. It was not appropriate. But Zacchaeus didn’t care. He wanted to see Jesus.

Here came Jesus with the crowd. They were pushing and pulling, amidst a lot of noise and excitement. Suddenly, as the Lord passed by, He stopped, looked up at Zacchaeus, and called out his name.

Everyone stopped and looked at Zacchaeus. I doubt they were looking at him with love. They were probably thinking, “Let’s cut this tree down with this creep in it.” But I believe Jesus’ look was different than the rest. I think His look was one of love and compassion.

Jesus told him, “Make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” Can you imagine the excitement that filled the heart of Zacchaeus? He probably came down that tree a lot more quickly than he went up.

Jesus and Zacchaeus momentarily disappeared from the crowd. They had a conversation that changed the course of this chief tax collector’s life. Something dramatic happened during that visit, but Scripture doesn’t reveal what it was. It is clear that Zacchaeus came out a different man than when he went in.

Zacchaeus realized that Jesus was not merely a guest in his home, but in reality, the host. How important it is that we make this same discovery: once we have given our lives to Jesus, we are under His command.

When we have placed our faith in Jesus, we are no longer our own. It is not even correct for a believer to say, “my future, my life, my plans, my career, my family.” Rather, a believer should say, “Now I belong to the Lord, and I want to do what He wants me to do.”

The Apostle Paul prayed for the believers in Ephesus, that Christ would dwell in their hearts through faith (Ephesians 3:17). A literal translation of this statement would be, “My prayer is that Christ would settle down in your heart and finally be in your home, that He would settle down as a family member.” It was the idea of Christ being at home in their hearts and lives.

Clearly, this change had taken place in Zacchaeus. Salvation had come to him. He was no longer the same man.

Can someone see by the evidence in your life that salvation has come to you? Jesus may be calling your name right now, wanting to settle down in your heart. Maybe you are treating Him like a guest, an honored guest, granted, but a guest nonetheless.Is Jesus at home in your life right now? Does He have free reign? Can He do what He wants to do?

Jesus wants to help you and change you. Like Zacchaeus, welcome Him into your life and let Him have His way. If He does throw something out, just know that He will put something better in its place. (Quote source here.)

For Christians, Jesus gives us a whole new meaning to the word “Home”

And home…

Is where . . .

The heart is . . . .

YouTube Video: “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” by Rascal Flatts:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here
Photo #3 credit here

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A Gift That Keeps On Giving

“Carpe diem. Seize the day. Make your lives extraordinary.” –John Keating, played by Robin Williams in the movie, “Dead Poets Society.”
With only a couple of weeks left before Christmas, if you’re still wondering what to get that one person you have no clue what to get them, there is a gift you can give that doesn’t cost anything, but it could just change your perspective on life.

Yesterday I found a hardback copy of a book published in 2000 that was in new condition for only $2.00. There isn’t hardly anything that thrills me more than finding a gem of a book in a used bookstore at a very cheap price and in excellent condition. The title of the book is Reflections on the Movies: Hearing God in the Unlikeliest of Places (2000), by Ken Gire, author of more than 20 books, and founder of Reflective Living, a nonprofit ministry devoted to helping people learn how to slow down and live more reflective lives. An introduction to the book written on Amazon.com states the following:

Can a movie feed your soul?

Stories. Be it a parable of Jesus, a C.S. Lewis fantasy, or a movie such as “Saving Private Ryan,” stories have been around since Creation; a means of both education and entertainment. By far, our favorite way to listen to a story today is at the movies, whether in a theater or a family room. Indeed, says Ken Gire, movies are the parables of our culture—earthly stories that sometimes have heavenly meanings.

Can we discern God’s voice in the modern parables of film? Yes, it is there, sometimes loud and crystal-clear, sometimes barely a whisper, sometimes even despite the filmmaker’s intent. In “Reflections on the Movies,” Ken helps us:

• sensitize our “eyes to see and ears to hear” God speaking,
• develop the skills to understand movies and their themes, and
• learn to reflect on the medium as a form of spiritual enrichment.

In 1999, Ken was one of thirty Christians selected for a month-long study under some of the film industry’s top talent in Hollywood. He has led numerous spiritual retreats where he has used movie clips to illustrate his messages.

Reflections on the Movies and Ken’s previous books in this series—The Reflective Life,Reflections on the Word,” a devotional, andReflections on Your Life,” a journal—are designed to help you become more spiritually sensitive to the everyday moments of life. (Quote source here.)

In his book, Gire reflects on 14 major movies produced in the latter half of the 20th Century. Of the 14 movies mentioned, the reflection that I turned to first is one of my favorite Robin Williams’ movies titled, Dead Poets Society,” a 1989 film starring Robin Williams as an English teacher named John Keating. “Set in 1959 at the fictional elite conservative Vermont boarding school Welton Academy, it tells the story of John Keating, a progressive English teacher, who encourage his students to break free from the norm, go against the status quo and live life unapologetically” (quote source here.)

Gire opens the chapter titled, “Reflections on ‘The Dead Poets Society,'” with the following:

The battle cry of the summer of ’89 was “Carpe diem,” from the Latin phrase for “Seize the day.” It came from “Dead Poets Society,” an unlikely summer hit move about a group of prep school boys. Some audience members reported making new life decisions as a result of seeing the film. Teachers were inspired. Everyone fondly remembered the teachers of their past. Virtually no one walked out of the theater unmoved or unaffected. (Quote source from “Script to Screen” by Linda Seger and Edward Jay Whetmore as quoted in “Reflections on the Movies,” page 159.)

Gire continues on the next several pages with the following:

Film invites dialogue. That, I think, is why this movie was particularly life-changing for a lot of people. It engaged them in a dialogue about their life.

There were pauses the director structured into the film that gave the audience an opportunity to enter into that conversation. I especially remember the one classroom scene where Professor Keating talks to his students about passion, huddling them all around him. “The powerful play goes on,” he tells them, “and each of us can contribute a verse.”

Keating pauses long enough to let that thought sink in, then repeats it. “The powerful play goes on, and each of us can contribute a verse.”

Another pause, then a question.

“What will your verse be?”

Keating looks right at Ethan Hawke’s character when he asks it. That is where the director lets the camera rest for maybe an extra beat longer than might be expected. In that extra beat, you are not wondering what Ethan Hawke’s verse will be, you’re wondering what yours will be.

And you’re not sure.

Which would be okay, except you’re not a kid in prep school. You’re a thirtysomething or a fortysomething and should have a verse by now. But you don’t, and that’s a little unsettling.

At some point in that powerful play, our character steps onstage. Between our cue to “Enter” and our cue to “Exit,” we have a part in the unfolding drama of redemption. But none of us really knows how big a part.

If I were to audition for a part in a story, say,To Kill A Mockingbird,” I would want to play Atticus Finch, the lawyer everyone respects, who has a great part to play and great lines to deliver. God, of course, may have different casting plans. Maybe He’s looking for someone to play Boo Radley, a misunderstood man with the mind of a child. He has only a few short scenes. We see him in his house, in the shadows, hiding behind the door in Jem’s room, and finally sitting with Scout on a porch swing at her house. Boo has no lines to speak. His purpose in the story, as determined by the author, is to save Scott and Jem from the vengeance of Bob Ewell, which in the end he does. Who would have thought Boo would have ever amounted to anything, least of all a hero?

But then, who would have thought Rahab would have amounted to anything either? When Moses sent two men to spy out Jericho, they hid in the house of Rahab the harlot. When the king of Jericho learned this, he ordered her to hand over the men. At great risk to her own life, she told him the men had already left. As the soldiers roamed the city in search, she lowered a rope from her window, allowing Joshua and Caleb to escape. She had only one scene and only a few lines in that scene. Her entire story amounted to a little over a page.

And how about the thief on the cross? He had only one verse: “[Jesus,] Remember me when You come into Your kingdom” (Luke 23:42). A seemingly insignificant verse, heard by only a small audience. And yet, how many prisoners awaiting execution have come to Christ because of that one verse? How many people on their deathbeds have looked to that thief, thinking that if he had a chance at getting into heaven, maybe there is still hope for them? And maybe this Jesus would accept them on the basis of such a simple expression of faith, who knows?

The life of the thief on the cross was pulp fiction. Rahab’s life was a Harlequin romance. Paul’s life, before the Damascus Road, was a Pulitzer Prize-winning autobiography. Yet none of those were God’s story. If you were able to ask the thief, I’m sure he would say he’s rather have that one sentence in God’s story than a thousand pages in his own. 

It’s a humbling realization that sometimes a fragment of our life is all that is useful to God in the story He is telling. When I think about my life, I think of it in terms of a miniseries with a to-die-for role that Richard Chamberlain is chomping at the bit to play. I think those things until I see my life from God’s perspective, as did Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Lutheran minister who openly opposed Hitler during World War II.

While Bonhoeffer was imprisoned in a German concentration camp, he reflected on his life, wondering what the deeper meaning of it might be. It seems to him so confusing. The fragments of his life seemed disconnected, like sentences in search of a story. A few months before his execution, he came to this conclusion, “It all depends on whether or not the fragment of our life reveals the plan and material of the whole. There are fragments which are only good to be thrown away, and others which are important for centuries to come, because their fulfillment can only be a divine work. They are fragments of necessity. If our life, however remotely, reflects such a fragment… we shall not have to bewail our fragmentary life, but, on the contrary, to rejoice in it.”

When we look at our life from that perspective, even the most fragmentary parts may have eternal significance. What “Dead Poets Society” does particularly well is to challenge us to look at life from a little different perspective than what we are used to, as in the scene where Professor Keating has his students stand on their desks to look at the classroom through new eyes. In the process of looking at life from a different perspective, it causes us to look at our own lives from a different perspective, too. The movie does this primarily through the character, Professor Keating.

Keating, himself a graduate of the boarding school where he now teaches, is new to the faculty. It is his romantic view of life that sets up the conflict between himself and his more traditional colleagues, eventually leading to his dismissal. He is, in every sense of the word, a nontraditionalist. You know that the very first day of class. He enters the room from his office in front of the class, walks past a row of students, whistling while he walks, and leaves the classroom. He steps back in and calls to them, “Well, come on.”

The boys hesitate to follow, but one by one they do. As they spill into the hallway, Keating is standing in front of the trophy case. Once he has their attention, he asks Mr. Pitt [one of the students] to read a page from the textbook on poetry:

Gather ye rosebuds while you may,
Old time is still a-flying.
And this same flower that smiles today,
Tomorrow will be dying.

“The Latin term for the sentiment is ‘carpe diem,'” he tells them.

He asks for a translation, and one of the students says, “Carpe diem, seize the day.”

“Why does the writer use these words, ‘Gather ye rosebuds while you may”? Because we are food for worms, lads. Believe it or not, each and every one in this room will one day stop breathing, turn cold, and die.”

As Keating tells them this, the camera becomes their eyes and they study the faces on an old, faded photograph of a bygone basketball team. “Look at the pictures in the trophy case. Same haircuts. Same raging hormones. They believe they are destined for great things, just like you. Invincible, just like you. Eyes full of hope, just like you.”

Their eyes drift to a team picture of football players.

“These boys are now fertilizing daffodils. If you listen real close, you can hear them whispering their legacy to you.” As the students lean in, Keating whispers the haunting words, ‘Car-pe . . . car-pe . . . carpe diem. Make you lives extraordinary.'”

It is the most memorable moment in the film. One generation face-to-face with another. Looking through the glass at one another. Studying one another. There is great drama in this moment, and when Keating whispers their legacy, the effect is powerful…. (See the YouTube video at the end of this post for the scene in the move described above.)

Here’s what I struggle with in that scene. I don’t know about you, but the thought of my life being fertilizer for daffodils doesn’t seem the most compelling argument for making my life extraordinary.

The argument is a fashionable form of hedonism, wearing a coat instead of a toga. Seizing the day because we’re all going to end up as food for worms is not exactly the same as “eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” But it’s not a whole lot different either.

There are other philosophical options for seizing the day that are, in my opinion, better than the one the movie gives us. Jesus promised to give us not only life but life in its fullness, its richness, its abundance. That should be our reason for seizing the day. The day is a gift, given us from the generous hand of God. And we are to receive it as the incalculable treasure it is, take hold of it, and enjoy it to the fullest.

Just as we have gifts to receive from the day, we also have gifts to give. Gifts of love. Of understanding. And compassion. Of kindness. And forgiveness. Of wonder. And gratitude. This, I think, is how we make our lives extraordinary. By the gifts we give and joyful generosity with which we give them. (Quote source, “Reflections on the Movies,” pp 160-165.)

And those are the gifts we can give to anyone this Christmas. They are priceless, and we can keep on giving them throughout the days, weeks, months, and years ahead. They are the gifts, as Gire states, that make life “extraordinary.”

I’ll end this post by quoting the last line in a movie clip from “Dead Poet’s Society” in the YouTube Video below: Carpe diem…

Seize the day . . .

Make your lives . . .

Extraordinary . . . .

YouTube Video: “Carpe Diem–Seize the Day” –a movie clip from “Dead Poets Society”:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

I’m Dreaming Of A Bright Christmas

“I’m dreaming of a white Christmas with every Christmas card I write…” — lyrics from “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas,” composed in 1942 by Irving Berlin (1888-1989), famous and prolific American composer and lyricist.

With only a few more days until Thanksgiving is here, I’m already thinking about starting on my Christmas card project that takes me several hours to complete every year. Also, since I live in a southern state where snow is a very, very rare occurrence, dreaming of a white Christmas is more of a pipe dream then anything else. Irving Berlin’s very famous song published in 1942 titled, “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas,” is good if you live in an area where it snows in the winter, or plan to travel there for Christmas; however, I’d rather dream about having a “bright” Christmas which isn’t dependent on snow… 🙂

And speaking of dreams, I rarely remember most of the dreams that I dream, and those that I do remember are very few and very far between. Research shows that everybody dreams every night whether they remember their dreams or not according to an article published on VeryWellMind.com on October 7, 2019, titled, 10 Interesting Facts About Dreams, by Kendra Cherry, Educational Consultant, author, and speaker; and medically reviewed by Claudia Chaves, M.D., Associate Professor at Tufts Medical School, and Medical Director at Lahey Clinic Multiple Sclerosis Center. Here is that article:

Dreams can be fascinating, exciting, terrifying, or just plain weird. While there is no clear consensus on why we dream, researchers have learned quite a bit about what happens while we are dreaming. Here are 10 things you should know about dreams.

Everybody Dreams

Adults and babies alike dream for around two hours per nighteven those of us who claim not to. In fact, researchers have found that people usually have several dreams each night, each one typically lasting for between five to 20 minutes.

During a typical lifetime, people spend an average of six years dreaming.

You Forget Most of Your Dreams

As much as 95 percent of all dreams are quickly forgotten shortly after waking. According to one theory about why dreams are so difficult to remember, the changes in the brain that occur during sleep do not support the information processing and storage needed for memory formation to take place.

Brain scans of sleeping individuals have shown that the frontal lobes—the area that plays a key role in memory formationare inactive during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, the stage in which dreaming occurs.

Not All Dreams Are in Color

While most people report dreaming in color, there is a small percentage of people who claim to only dream in black and white. In studies where dreamers have been awakened and asked to select colors from a chart that match those in their dreams, soft pastel colors are those most frequently chosen.

Men and Women Dream Differently

Researchers have found some differences between men and women when it comes to the content of their dreams. In several studies, men reported dreaming about weapons significantly more often than women did, while women dreamed about references to clothing more often than men.

Another study showed that men’s dreams tend to have more aggressive content and physical activity, while women’s dreams contain more rejection and exclusion, as well as more conversation than physical activity.

Women tend to have slightly longer dreams that feature more characters. When it comes to the characters that typically appear in dreams, men dream about other men twice as often as they do about women, while women tend to dream about both sexes equally.

Animals Probably Dream

Many think that when a sleeping dog wags its tail or moves its legs, it is dreaming. While it’s hard to say for sure whether this is truly the case, researchers believe that it’s likely that animals do indeed dream.

Just like humans, animals go through sleep stages that include cycles of REM and non-REM sleep.

It’s Possible to Control Your Dreams

A lucid dream is one in which you are aware that you are dreaming even though you’re still asleep. Lucid dreaming is thought to be a combination state of both consciousness and REM sleep, during which you can often direct or control the dream content.

Approximately half of all people can remember experiencing at least one instance of lucid dreaming, and some individuals are able to have lucid dreams quite frequently.

Negative Emotions Are More Common

Over a period of more than 40 years, researcher Calvin S. Hall, PhD, collected over 50,000 dream accounts from college students. These reports were made available to the public during the 1990s by Hall’s student William Domhoff.

The dream accounts revealed that many emotions are experienced during dreams.

The most common emotion experienced in dreams is anxiety, and negative emotions, in general, are much more common than positive ones.

Blind People May Dream Visually

In one study of people who have been blind since birth, researchers found that they still seemed to experience visual imagery in their dreams, and they also had eye movements that correlated to visual dream recall.

Although their eye movements were fewer during REM than the sighted participants of the study, the blind participants reported the same dream sensations, including visual content.

You Are Paralyzed During Your Dreams

REM sleep is characterized by paralysis of the voluntary muscles. The phenomenon is known as REM atonia and prevents you from acting out your dreams while you’re asleep. Basically, because motor neurons are not stimulated, your body does not move.

In some cases, this paralysis can even carry over into the waking state for as long as 10 minutes, a condition known as sleep paralysis.

While the experience can be frightening, experts advise that it is perfectly normal and should last only a few minutes before normal muscle control returns.

Many Dreams Are Universal

While dreams are often heavily influenced by our personal experiences, researchers have found that certain dream themes are very common across different cultures. For example, people from all over the world frequently dream about being chased, being attacked, or falling. Other common dream experiences include feeling frozen and unable to move, arriving late, flying, and being naked in public. (Quote source here.)

In another article published on HuffPost.com that was updated on December 7, 2017, titled, 14 Common Dreams and Symbols and Why They’re Important,” by DreamsCloud, Contributor, the following information is provided. This exact same article is also available under the title of Dream Meanings at Evangelical Christian Academy:

For 90 minutes to two hours or more each night, every single person on Earth dreams. Sometimes, the dreams are straightforward in their meaning to the dreamer: a long-lost friend reappears, a tropical beach beckons or the lottery jackpot is within reach.

But dreams don’t always tell a simple story, and the field of dream research becomes even more fascinating when people from different cultures and backgrounds report having similar dreams.

“Dreams are a universal language, creating often elaborate images out of emotional concepts,” explains Suzanne Bergmann, a licensed social worker and professional dream worker for more than 16 years.

Bergmann, who is part of the experienced team of Dream Reflectors at DreamsCloud that provide feedback and insight about dreams, has identified 14 common images found in dreams posted to the DreamsCloud user-generated dreams database.

“There’s no single, definitive meaning for symbols and images in dreams,” Bergmann notes. “But just as a smile usually means that someone is happy, these dream images are so common, that they do have a generally accepted meaning.”

1. Being Chased

This is one of the most commonly reported dreams. Mostly because the anxiety we feel in the dream is so vivid, that it makes it easier for us to remember them. Often, the reason for these dreams comes not from the fear of actually being chased, but rather what we’re running from. Chase dreams help us to understand that we may not be addressing something in our waking lives that requires our attention.

2. Water

Water frequently represents our emotions or our unconscious minds. The quality of the water (clear vs. cloudy; calm vs. turbulent) often provides insight into how effectively we are managing our emotions.

3. Vehicles

Whether a car, airplane, train or ship, the vehicles in our dream can reflect what direction we feel our life is taking, and how much control we think we have over the path ahead of us. Vehicles can give us the power to make a transition and envision ourselves getting to our destination — or highlight the obstacles we think we are facing and need to work through.

4. People

Seeing other people in your dream often is a reflection of the different aspects of the self. The people in dreams can relate to characteristics that need to be developed. Specific people directly relate to existing relationships or interpersonal issues we need to work through. Dreaming of a lover, in particular, is frequently symbolic of an aspect of ourselves, from which we feel detached.

5. School or Classroom

It’s a very common situation for people in dreams to find themselves in a school or classroom, often confronted with a test that they aren’t prepared to take. This is a great example of a “dream pun” — the mind using a word or concept and giving it a different definition. The “lesson” or “test” we face inside the school or classroom is frequently one we need to learn from our past — which is one reason these dreams are often reported by people who have long since finished school.

6. Paralysis

Unknown to most people, the body is actually encountering a form of paralysis during dreaming, which prevents it from physically performing the actions occurring in their dreams, therefore dreaming about paralysis frequently represents the overlap between the REM stage and waking stage of sleep. Dreaming about paralysis can also indicate that the dreamer feels he or she lacks control in their waking life.

7. Death

Although death is often perceived as negative, it’s often more directly related to dramatic change happening for the dreamer — the end of one thing, in order to make room for something new.

8. Flying

Flying in a dream, and how effectively or poorly it’s done, relates to how much control we feel we have in our lives, and whether we are confident and able to achieve our goals. High flying is one of the most euphoric dreams imaginable, while flying or “skimming” low to the ground or being caught in obstacles like power lines can be immensely frustrating.

9. Falling

Not all falling dreams are scary and negative. Some dreamers report a type of slow falling that indicates serenity and the act of letting go. Often, falling uncontrollably from a great height indicates something in waking our life that feels very much out of control.

10. Nudity

Emotional or psychological exposure or vulnerability is very often expressed in dreams through nudity. The body part that’s exposed can give more insight into the emotion that our dreams are helping us to understand.

11. Baby

Dreaming of a baby often represents something new: It might be a new idea, new project at work, new development or the potential for growth in a specific area of our waking life.

12. Food

Food symbolizes energy, knowledge or nourishment and is directly related to our intellect, emotions and spirituality. Food can also be a manifestation of idioms like, “food for thought,” and reveal that we may be “hungry” for new information and insights.

13. House

Houses frequently represent the dreamer’s mind. Different levels or rooms may relate to difference aspects of the individual dreamer and different degrees of consciousness. The basement often represents what has been neglected, or what the dreamer is not aware of in his or her waking life, while bedrooms relate to intimate thoughts and feelings — those closest to the dreamer’s core self.

14. Sex

Sex in dreams can simply be an outlet for sexual expression. But dreams about sex can also symbolize intimate connections with one’s self and others, and the figurative integration of new information.

Despite the commonality shared by many dream symbols, it is important to point out that only the dreamer can truly interpret the meaning of their dream and how these symbols and their meanings may connect to the specific events occurring in their waking life. (Quote source here and here.)

At least now I know more about dreams then I did before, and I hope you do, too. However, given that the Christmas season has already started in most stores and malls around the country, and that the season will officially get underway right after Thanksgiving, perhaps many folks in areas where it snows in the winter will start dreaming of a white Christmas, and the rest of us not living around snow or planning to visit areas where it snows at Christmas can dream of having a bright Christmas right where we live.

I’ll end this post with the last line from the song, I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas”; however, I’ve changed the very last word to also accommodate those of us living where there is no snow at Christmas. Here goes… ( a little music, please )–May your days be merry and bright…

And may all . . .

Your Christmases . . .

Be BRIGHT (too). . . .

YouTube Video: “I’m Dreaming Of A White Christmas” by The Drifters:

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A Journey of Forgiveness

“When you forgive, you in no way change the past, but you sure do change the future.”Bernard C. Meltzer (1916-1998), radio personality. (Quote source here.)
I just published a blog post titled, The Season for Second Chances,” on Sara’s Musings, and it includes four excerpts from articles on the topic of forgiveness.  I ran across a fifth article on forgiveness that I thought would be good to post on this blog due to the fact that forgiveness is often a journey that can take a very long time, and a journey that often needs to be revisited over and over again.

The article is titled, Forgiveness: A journey filled with choices, by  Emily Snell, a freelance writer in Nashville, TN, and published in the March-April 2015 edition of Interpreter Magazine, a publication of The United Methodist Church. She writes:

All that’s needed for forgiveness to take place, sometimes, is for the victim or survivor to have permission not to forgive.

The Rev. Anne Robertson discovered this to be true early in her ministry when a young woman came to her office, saying she couldn’t be a Christian any more because she couldn’t find it in her heart to forgive her abusive father.

“‘I can’t forgive him, and the Bible says I have to. I can’t, so I can’t be a Christian any more,'” Robertson said the woman told her.

But forgiveness is not something that can be forced, Robertson told the woman.

“She had a choice. He was not entitled to her forgiveness,” said Robertson, a United Methodist clergywoman who is director of the Massachusetts Bible Society. “She left my office forgiving him and sort of floating on a cloud. All she needed to forgive him was the permission not to. She was physically different when she left that office. It wasn’t anything I did. It was just letting her know that forgiveness is a gift.”

Forgiveness will look different depending on the specific details of each person’s circumstances and relationships, says the Rev. Marjorie Thompson, but there are common aspects in every situation. Thompson is the author of two books on forgiveness.

“I think the outcome of forgiveness is a sense of peace, a sense of empathy and compassion for the other person, and a sense of inward freedom from carrying around the burden of feeling wounded or resentful,” Thompson said.

A way of life

Sometimes forgiveness is viewed in its simplest form as accepting an apology, but the Rev. L. Gregory Jones of Duke Divinity School says there is much more involved.

Forgiveness “is a way of life that involves words, feelings and gestures,” he says. “We often think that forgiveness is largely about saying something, and we don’t pay enough attention to both the emotions that are involved and the actions or gestures that need to be offered.”

Everett Worthington Jr., a clinical psychologist and professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, said he thinks forgiveness, unlike reconciliation, “happens inside people’s skins, not in relationships.”

Worthington offers two categories of forgiveness. Decisional forgiveness, he explains, occurs when one person makes “a decision to not seek vengeance and to treat the person as a valuable and valued person, regardless of what the person has done.” Emotional forgiveness, he continues, is “a gradual erosion of negative unforgiving emotions–resentment, bitterness, hostility, hatred, anxiety and anger–and their replacement by positive emotions like empathy, sympathy, compassion or love.”

Forgiveness is a choice

Some Christians sometimes perceive that Scripture teaches forgiveness is required, but these experts say it is not something that can be extended out of obligation.

“God makes us free to forgive or not forgive,” Thompson said. “There is nothing automatic about forgiveness. It is either from the heart or it is not real. Forgiveness costs us something, as it cost Jesus. Most forgiveness involves a journey of some kind. I don’t think we should expect ourselves to instantaneously forgive someone when we are wounded.”

While the journey toward forgiveness should not be rushed, there is plenty of evidence to prove forgiveness is a good thing for which to strive.

“We forgive because we will never really find freedom or peace of heart without it,” Thompson said. “Holding onto bitterness is corrosive to our own soul.”

According to research, Worthington said, forgiveness contributes to better physical health – such as better immune function and less risk of heart problems; better mental health due to “less rumination, and thus less depression, anxiety and anger;” and better spiritual connection.

There are biblical reasons to forgive.

“We forgive because that has been modeled for us,” Thompson said. “God’s design ultimately is for reconciliation and harmony within and among the human family. Forgiveness isn’t just about amending the past; it’s about building a road into the future. I think the design of God is reconciliation, and God is urging us toward that greater harmony and empowering us to engage with each other for that purpose.”

Unconditional forgiveness?

Jones, author of “Embodying Forgiveness: A Theological Analysis,” agreed, saying forgiveness is “the only way in which we can show what it means to be forgiven and to be people capable of love. We need to be committed to developing the habits and practices of forgiveness as a way of life.”

Knowing the specifics of those practices is, he said, “a matter of wisdom and discernment in any situation.”

And there are certainly times when forgiveness should not be given unconditionally.

“There are lots of contexts in which I would say we need to practice loving enemies,” Jones said, explaining that unconditional forgiveness of those who intend to do harm only perpetuates a dangerous cycle.

In instances of abuse, for example, he said, “the fullness of reconciliation can’t be experienced because the other person is not repentant.”

Worthington agreed.

“For Christians, we can and should forgive everything, as a decision,” he said. “But, we might not reconcile with many people. If it is dangerous, risky, unwise, reconciliation is not called for.”

Forgiven again–and again

Ultimate forgiveness and reconciliation are found in Christ. Though we have already received his forgiveness, we come to him again and again, acknowledging our failings and our need for grace.

Confession helps us grow, Robertson said, as we examine our imperfections and strive to be more like Christ.

“What God is looking for is honest repentance, that we honestly want to change,” she said. “The only way we become better is if we are conscious of the things we’ve done wrong. When we hear ourselves repenting of the same thing night after night, week after week, that can begin to speak to us in a way that it doesn’t if we push it aside. While it may not make a difference in the forgiveness we get ultimately from the hand of God, it does make a difference in our becoming more Christ-like in our daily lives.”

Worthington, who is a fellow in the Religion and Spirituality division of the American Psychological Association, shared similar thoughts.

“While Christ’s death for us, and Resurrection, are free gifts, we receive the gift by acknowledging our neediness of forgiveness, by asking,” he said.

“It’s not a question of whether God is willing to forgive us; it’s a question of how we need to be reshaped in our lives,” Jones said. “It’s not that we are changing God or that somehow God is maybe not going to forgive us. Our own change of life is part of what it means to receive forgiveness, and that is learned by us naming it in relationship to God in prayer and to people.”

There are two reasons to ask God for forgiveness, Thompson said.

“One is to recognize and acknowledge our failing and our need for the forgiveness that is already given in Christ,” she said. “There is the necessity to recognize those moments when we need it and to seek it, understanding that the gift is already given. The second is to appropriate it–to take into our minds and hearts again that gift, to really allow it to give us courage and to heal us and restore us so that we can learn and grow from our mistakes.” (Quote source here.)

As I ended my blog post on forgiveness titled,The Season of Second Chances,” on my other blog, it’s a good reminder in which to end with on this post. The words actually come from Ephesians 4:32 which states: Be kind to each other, tenderhearted…

Forgiving one another . . .

Just as God through Christ . . .

Has forgiven you . . . .

YouTube Video: “Forgiveness” by Matthew West:

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A Journey of Hope at Christmas

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” –the Prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 9:6
Yesterday I published a blog post on my blog, Sara’s Musings,” on Advent–which started this week and ends on Christmas Day–titled, The Best News Ever.”  And, “the best news ever” is found in a succinctly written six-word sentence in the second article in that blog post that states, “Jesus in on a rescue mission.” And indeed, He is.

This morning I ran across a sermon that was published back in 1993 in an article titled, Meanings of Christmas: A Journey of the Heart to Hope, by Dr. John Habgood, a retired British Anglican bishop and academic who was Bishop of Durham from 1973 to 1983, and Archbishop of York from November 1983 to 1995. Here is the text from that sermon:

Have you noticed how the Christmas stories are centered on four journeys? There is the journey to Bethlehem, back to the place of family origins, back to Royal David’s City, the place of promise, back to the past. One might almost say, back to basics.

Then there is the journey of the shepherds to see this great thing which had came to pass, a journey made in hope and surprise and wonderment.

The journey of the Magi is a powerful symbol of the world’s search for an answer to its problems. The fact that the tradition alternates between wise men and kings somehow pinpoints the world’s dilemma about whether the answers lie in knowledge or in power. Finally, there is the journey into Egypt, the flight from Herod, but a flight which leaves a terrible trail of slaughtered innocents.

For many people today, I suspect, Christmas has this same character of a journey, a journey of the heart; a quest for some echo from the past, something remembered and partially lost; some hope and wonderment glimpsed, but only partially grasped; a search for meaning, with a star to guide us; or is it a flight from too much reality?

The journey of the heart may take us back to childhood, to Christmases as they used to be with their magic still untarnished. Or the journey of the heart may take us forward, beyond the tragedies and sufferings of today’s world to a scarcely expressible hope; a world in which neighbors no longer bomb and shoot each other; a world in which people no longer starve or die of neglect; a world in which people no longer hate each other.

Both journeys have their attractions at Christmas time. But whether we look backwards or forwards, there are dangers. Cynics might be right to dismiss the backward look as mere nostalgia. They might be equally quick to label the forward look as mere Utopianism. Despite the cynics, though, the search and the hope and the journey are not to be dismissed so easily. They represent a feeling out for something real, however elusive, which must not be abandoned, whatever the sneers, and whatever the disappointments.

I think particularly this Christmas of the search for lost innocence. With our consciousness of a society in deep moral trouble, it is the innocence of Christmas Day which grips the heart; the innocence of Virgin and Child; the innocence of murdered babies, which gives their feast day its name —Holy Innocents. And it is the shining innocence of Christ himself in the Gospel story, which both convicts us and uplifts us.

Yet innocence is not a quality by which today’s world sets much store. It tends to be equated with ignorance and gullibility. The innocent are pitied and ridiculed for not being streetwise, for what are presumed to be their sheltered lives.

Nineteen ninety three has faced us with gnawing doubts about the innocence of children. We are increasingly conscious of how disastrously young minds can be polluted with images of horror, and become well-educated in what the poet Traherne called “the dirty devices of the world.” And even where innocence exists, what can it do in face of the murderous struggles around it? What can the children of Bosnia or countless other troubled areas of the world hope for, except to grow up quickly, or escape?

The search for lost innocence can easily begin to seem like a vain and misguided dream. But if innocence entails the clarity of childlike vision, isn’t this what our world needs? ‘Back to basics’, if it means anything, must surely mean seeing our way through the murk and muddle of today’s confused values to a few simple truths about human life – that we are made for God, and made for goodness.

If innocence is about the purity of heart which sees God in everything, then surely this is the vital counterpoise to a world of self-interested calculation. If it is about seeing the best in people, rather than the worst in them, then surely we need a few innocents among the carping destructiveness of so much of what passes for public life.

Innocence is not about ignorance, though some forms of ignorance may be worth cherishing in a society avid to fill minds with the products of other people’s diseased imaginations. If we have that kind of ignorance, we can count ourselves lucky. But true innocence goes beyond this. It is all there in St Paul’s classic description of the love which thinks no evil; rejoices not in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears ill things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things’.

And today’s message is that such shining innocence is not a delusion. It has been made actual for us in the life of Jesus. And if we set out on a journey of the heart to Bethlehem, whether in wonderment like the shepherds or in puzzlement like the magi, we, too, may find its source. And in worship we shall taste its reality. (Quote source here.)

What Dr. Habgood stated in 1993 is every bit as relevant at the end of 2018 as it was back then. Innocence is about purity of heart, but it is not ignorant of what goes on in the world, though, as he stated, “some forms of ignorance may be worth cherishing in a society avid to fill minds with the products of other people’s diseased imaginations.” And given today’s technological wonders that were not available back in 1993, much of what he refers to as “other people’s diseased imaginations” have come front and center stage with a click on a laptop, smartphone, iPad, Chromebook, and other technology; and it is present in many of today’s movies and, of course, social media in it’s various forms.

However, true innocence, as Dr. Habgood also stated, goes beyond this to the Apostle Paul’s “classic description of the love which thinks no evil; rejoices not in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears ill things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” as found in I Corinthians 13.

As we make yet another journey to Christmas this year, let us reflect on what Dr. Habgood stated back in 1993: That such shining innocence is not a delusion. It has been made actual for us in the life of Jesus. And if we set out on a journey of the heart to Bethlehem, whether in wonderment like the shepherds or in puzzlement like the magi, we, too, may find its source. . .

And in worship . . .

We shall taste . . .

Its reality . . . .

YouTube Video: “Best News Ever” by MercyMe:

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