Archive for December, 2012

T’was the Night Before Christmas

T’was the night before Christmas
And all though the house
Not a creature was stirring
Not even a mouse

And then the little ones wake up.  And your peaceful night of sleep is interrupted.  Again.

I hate Christmas music.  I just don’t like it.  I guess I’m just another Ebenezer Scrooge.

The thing about Christmas is that I feel our culture has lost the meaning of the day.  It’s not all about the lights and the gifts.  It’s not even about attending Mass or a church service.  All we see are Christmas Trees, sweets and a whole lot of colors.  Even us Christians have lost our way, focusing so much on the material aspects that we forget what this day really means.

I don’t feel the need to spend hours fighting for a seat at church, only to hear a message about all the “Christers” who only show up for Christmas and Easter and how we need to attend services regularly, support our local congregation, and maybe hear an off hand comment about why we are gathered this day.

To say that I truly hate Christmas music would be a lie.  I just don’t enjoy it unless I’m in that “Christmas Spirit.”

Christmas is a powerful time of the year.  We celebrate family and faith, honoring our Heavenly Family that descended down to live among us as an innocent child.  We celebrate the coming of our Savior and King who would one day give his life for us all, to die a death that we deserve.

Every year I find myself farther and farther from our society’s view of Christmas.  While I enjoy giving and receiving presents, the thing I want most each year is to be close to family and friends, those that truly love me for who I am.  Those that support me no matter what.

Throughout my journeys, I have always had a place to come back to.  I do not consider it Home, but it is where I belong.  I’ve been fortunate to have family that support me, where I can return and rest knowing that although my feet will take me on this journey of life, my roots are rooted in the love of family.

Christmas is a time where I am able to return to family.  It is a time where friends gather and enjoy the company of one another.  It is a time where we love unconditionally because we have made it through another year together.

It is a time where we reflect on the birth of this little one we will call Lord and King of Kings.  This babe, Jesus.

At times, I find it hard to focus on the true meaning of Christmas, the birth of Christ, when I’m focused on what is around me.  I find that I cannot focus on what’s truly important until I find myself back where I belong, among those I call home.  Home is not a physical place anymore, but where the heart can be found.

Over the past several days, I have come to rediscover the meaning of Christmas as I listen to the laughter and squeals of my niece and nephew.  I have figured out that true love is more than holding one close to the heart, but letting go and allowing them to be free.  I have found the Christmas spirit that I didn’t have before, through the gentle reminders of love and acceptance.

God could have come down onto this world wielding fiery swords and destroying all those that opposed him, but yet he came down in the form of a child, to show us what true love really is.

Let us not forget, this same child died for our sins on the cross.  This same child will come again.

So, this Christmas, hold your loved ones close to your heart and let their feet take them on the path that God has set before each one of us.  Be reminded of the laughter of children and the loving care of our Father in Heaven.

God Bless and PEACE

Remembering Giants

Yesterday, I took the oportunity to go across the harbor and into lower Manhattan.  I ventured out by myself in the early hours of the morning, camera in hand, because I knew there was something I needed to see, somewhere I needed to go.

It’s been over eleven years since our nation was attacked that fateful day in September.  Eleven years and for once, I was in the same city with a day off.

I’ve seen the walls of the Pentagon.  I’ve walked the memorial, read the names on the plaques dedicated to those lives lost on those hollowed grounds.

I’ve never gotten the chance to pay my respects to those that lost their lives at Ground Zero.  The First Responders.  The passengers.  The innocent men and women that were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

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It’s interesting walking up to the grounds where those giants once stood.  We forget how small of an area it actually is, until you stand still and turn around, taking in everything around you.  The construction workers.  The noise of the city.  The hundreds of individuals that line up around you to see, to walk the ground that was ripped apart by hatred.  The same ground that brought our nation together.

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We survived that day.  We continue living on.  And we are haunted by the ghosts that surround us.

I didn’t have a spiritual awakening as I walked throught the 9/11 Memorial.  I didn’t feel the pain of regret that I was not there.  I did not come to a greater understanding.  I did not find peace.  It was like everything went silent.  And all I heard was the rushing waters that crash down endlessly.

It was like the empty pit.

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There was something different about that place.  I didn’t feel closer to God.  I didn’t hear their whispers.

I felt the pride and arrogance that makes us who we are.  It makes us Americans.  And I couldn’t help but cringe at the smiling faces and the cameras.  I heard the laughter and I asked myself why I was there.  And I found that I did not have an answer.

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We are a resilient nation.  For days, weeks I have seen the Freedom Tower rise above the Manhattan skyline.  It’s unmistakeable.  I still remember the first night that its lights were lit up after Sandy came ashore.

And every time I can’t help but think of a giant middle finger to the world, instead of the symbol of peace that the Twin Towers reflected.

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The memorial is beautiful.  It has a peacefulness about it that stills the chaos that surrounds it.  Where I found emptiness, others have found strength.

I see a nation that is still holding onto the past, that has yet to learn how to forgive.  And all these years later, blood is still being shed around the world by the brave young men and women that serve and defend our nation.  While the the mastermind of the attacks no longer walks this earth, we have not moved on.

The scars remain marked in the ground and in our hearts.

God Bless and PEACE

Unknown Disaster

When Superstorm Sandy made its way ashore it left destruction in its wake.  It slammed into the New Jersey coast and sent a wave of water into the heart of New York City.  As the storm surge plunged the land beneath the waves, the nation watched in horror as flames broke through the darkness and consumed whole  communities.  And the worst part: There was nothing we could do.

As the rising waters cut off emergency responders, neighbors saved neighbors by any means necessary.  By luck people were plucked one by one out of the waters that raged around them.  The waters that had once rushed in departed, leaving behind foundations ripped from the earth.  Everything that once was was left in ruins.

Over the past several weeks, I have worked in the Rockaways, an area that was completely covered by the rising waters, but never lost.  With the fires out in Breezy Point, we have seen the devestation day after day.  Hour after hour.

You enter into Manhattan, Brooklyn, the big city of New York, and the destruction that once was.  We all watched as the flood waters poured into Ground Zero and through the tunnels that run beneath the great city.

Several weeks later, while the Rockaways remain in ruins, tourists flock into NYC where there is barely any trace of the waters that had poured through the streets.

I ask myself how this can be.

There are some that are comparing this storm to Katrina and the 9th Ward.  I stand knowing that every disaster is different.  This storm was the biggest storm in our history, the perfect storm.

You can compare it to any other, but you will find that there has never been anything like this before.  We see the two extremes and here I am stuck in the middle of it with my team.

Its weird being in a city that seems like nothing has happened.  Life goes on, but too many times we forget what just happened.  Our society just keeps going, but here we stand trying to help rebuild, recover.  We are surrounded by electronics and technology and the bright lights of the city, but yet hundreds are still without power.

The nights have become darker and people are still asking themselves what is going to come next.  Will we recover?  Or will we be forgotten?

We can never forget what we have seen.  We can never stop remembering that night that the storm came ashore.  And although my team was not here to see the rising waters, we live it every day as survivors tell us their stories.

I can never forget it.

Yet sometimes if feels like we are the only ones that remember…

God Bless and PEACE