Make the time

by Annette Bridges. ©2009. All rights reserved.

Our gathering almost didn’t happen. Full agendas and busy schedules were dictating the days ahead. The Christmas season can be that way. Countless parties, invitations and things to get accomplished leave little room for adding anything else to our calendar.

How many times have you said, “We’ve got to get together sometime?” But that time never happens. And we have good reasons, too. There are just not enough days in the month of December to do everything we wish we could.

It was at the glowing insistence of a little child that we moms compared calendars and schedules to see if we could find a day that would work for our little get together. We found one day that was more-or-less “open” for both our families, and it was in fact the very next evening. So we said, “Let’s do it!” And after some quick planning for an easy meal, our evening soon arrived.

We decided we would share a favorite story, poem or passage in addition to singing holiday favorites.

I selected a book I’d bought some years ago and had not read in a long time. It was titled, “A memory of Christmas tea” written by Tom Hegg. It’s a sweet story with a lesson I needed to hear.

We learn in the story that the heroine had received a great aunt’s Christmas china, and each year the niece displayed the china along with her other Christmas décor. But the china was given with a condition — that the niece share a cup of Christmas tea with someone else in the same way her great aunt had shared with her for many years.

This was a promise she had not kept with anyone. She had many reasons — excuses — that leapt to her mind. “Not enough time” pretty much sums up her list!

The niece recounts what sharing a cup of Christmas tea with her great aunt was like. Apparently, when this aunt sat down at tea, the niece had her undivided and complete attention. She listened to and lovingly encouraged her niece. And the niece felt the love and high expectations her great aunt had for her. Time seemed to magically stand still when the two of them shared a cup of Christmas tea.

Needless to say, the story has a happy conclusion. One evening while the niece is alone in her house with a stack of work brought home from the office, someone knocks at her door. And soon she fulfills her Christmas promise to her great aunt and shares a cup of Christmas tea with a guest. Forgetting about all she had to do, she soon gave her guest her full attention and said, “All I knew of time was that the time was ours to share.”

After reading the story, I was grateful for the reminder to slow down and focus on what is most important in our lives.

We didn’t share tea with our friends, but we did have eggnog. And time did magically stand still while we enjoyed every minute of our evening together — with no thought of anything else. And all we knew of time was that the time was ours to share with some very dear friends.

Time spent with family and friends is truly the best gift we can give and receive. The blessings and benefits last a lifetime. So make the time, my friends. Nothing is as important, precious and memorable as moments shared with those we hold dear. And there is no better time to be together than the present.

Peace among enemies

by Annette Bridges. ©2009. All rights reserved.

The “season of goodwill entered the trenches” were words that I read describing what some call the “Christmas Truce of 1914.” Others refer to the event as a “shining episode of sanity from among the bloody chapters of World War I.”

While the details of this event have often been embellished in hindsight, there is one conclusion that is never denied — the fact that Christmas managed to bring so-called mortal enemies together as friends for a time.

Some say the soldiers exchanged cigarettes and cake. Some say they joined in song and in a game of soccer. Whatever, it is indisputable that at least some of the men who were lined up in trenches along the Western Front — sometimes no more than 30 yards away from each other — on the first Christmas of the first World War, ceased fire and had the courage to meet one another face to face in no-man’s land.

The beauty of this moment was that it was spontaneous, unplanned, not orchestrated or scripted. With no interference by generals and politicians, the lower ranks — whose life expectancy during World War I was maybe two weeks — figured out how to create peace.

No, the peace did not last. Generals on both sides eventually ordered that the fighting continue. And there would not be another Christmas truce in the next four years of war.

I came upon this information only recently and I don’t recall ever learning it when I studied history in school. Most history books I’ve looked in since, only give the incident a fleeting mention as if it was pretty much inconsequential. But the more I ponder it, the more hope-filled I become.

I’m reminded of an email forward titled “Polar Bear: I come in peace” that made the rounds months ago. It was a collection of photographs featuring a polar bear’s approach to a team of tethered sled dogs in the wilds of Canada’s Hudson Bay. It was noted by Stuart Brown that the photographer, Norbert Rosing, was sure he was soon to see the demise of his dogs. But that didn’t happen.

The photos he took, to our point of view, might conclude that the bear and dogs played together. And it was said that the bear returned many nights to “play” with the dogs. Some dispute the interpretation of “play” and say rather the animals were just being curious of each other. Regardless, nobody died during the exchange — the point that captured my attention at the time.

And again, it seemed that peace was possible — dare I say natural — among supposed enemies.

I can’t help but think that among the disciples of Jesus were also some unlikely friends — fishermen, political activists and a tax collector who might never have become friends if not for Jesus. Jesus often associated with and helped those that some among him would have defined as their “enemy.”

And I can’t help but remember when Jesus was captured in the Garden of Gethsemane when a disciple cut off the ear of one of the arresting soldiers. Jesus stopped his disciples from fighting and healed the soldier’s ear. (Luke 22:51)

Jesus had much to say about those we perceive as our enemies including, “Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.” (Luke 6:27-28)

Oh I know we live in difficult times these days when such instructions may seem impossible or crazy. We don’t often know who to trust. And there are those who are so consumed by their fears, hatred and misconceptions, that all they can think about is killing their enemies. How can peace be possible with such people? How could we ever be friends with people who want to kill us?

Almost ten million died during World War I and millions more were wounded. I suspect among those killed were many of the same ones who found a way to create peace on Christmas in 1914. If only they could tell us how they did it. Apparently both sides wanted peace that Christmas — if only for a day.

I suppose wanting peace is a good beginning.

For me, the Christmas Truce of 1914 showed that living in peace is the most natural action for humankind. Peace is our God-given nature that Jesus aptly illustrated for us during his lifetime. And if peace is more natural than war, then peace among all enemies is possible.

Surely if peace is possible for some — if possible in the midst of battle — then peace under any circumstances and at any future point in time can be a reality. We can live in the manner God intends for His creation. The thought of this peaceful possibility gives me hope.

Ready for Christmas!

by Annette Bridges. ©2009. All rights reserved.

I admit it. I’m one of those people who is happy when radio stations start playing Christmas music. I don’t care if it’s before Thanksgiving. And I don’t care if stores start stocking their aisles with holiday décor before Halloween.

I had my Christmas cards made weeks ago. So if you’re on my list, mine may be among the first you receive. My closet is already half filled with gift boxes waiting to be wrapped. And yes, I have already started playing my Christmas CDs — much to my husband’s dismay I suppose. In fact, I’m listening to one right now!

The reason is plain and simple. I’m ready for Christmas! This has been a rough year on many fronts. And I’m ready for how the Christmas season makes me feel.

My life at Christmastime has not always been the picture of a Currier and Ives card. I’ve had family members pass on in December as well as family members be away from home on military deployments. I’ve not always been home for Christmas, and I’ve sometimes had little money to spend on gifts. I’ve been without a special someone in my life, and I’ve spent holidays in the hospital.

Still, Christmas has always been a season that can totally consume my mind, body and spirit with hope and peace. Gazing at the lights on my Christmas tree calms my weariness like nothing else can. I feel like I’m basking in God’s light. The twinkling lights never fail to remind me of His gentle ever-presence giving me encouragement and comfort. And I know He is lighting my path on this journey of life. And that’s reassuring!

So bring it on Christmas! I’m ready for you!

I’m ready to laugh with Rudolph, Frosty, Garfield and Charlie Brown. I’m ready to dream of a white Christmas, although that rarely happens in my neck of the woods. And I’m ready for my biggest decision of the day to be what kind of cookie I will bake.

I like to get my Christmas cards out early because I can’t wait to hear back from friends and family. I know I should stay in better touch all year long, but where does the time go? Days and months pass, and I still haven’t written or called. I hate that about myself. But I promise my Christmas card will be one of the first you receive sincerely wishing you a blessed holiday season.

“It’s that time of year when the world falls in love,” Karen Carpenter is singing. For me, one Christmas was spent dreaming about falling in love. It was my final Christmas without a boyfriend. But I wasn’t feeling sad. All those holiday romance songs and movies were a promise of what could happen to me someday, and I loved dreaming about the man I would marry. The next Christmas I was announcing my engagement to the man I have been married to for almost thirty years. Both are endearing Christmas memories for me!

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” sings Andy Williams. I agree! It’s that magically special time when friends, family and strangers come together to celebrate and make memories — when lending a hand, sharing a smile, showing more tolerance and patience comes naturally. If only we could all do those Christmas things all year through!

So although it’s been said many times, many ways, my friends, a very Merry Christmas to you! May your New Year’s dreams come true! And may you feel God’s peace and love embracing you and yours at Christmas and always!


Who doesn’t want to feel God’s presence?

by Annette Bridges. ©2009. All rights reserved.

Are you struggling with depression, loneliness or fear and wondering where God is? You’re not alone, my friend. Even David asked in one of his psalms, “How long wilt thou forget me, O Lord?” (Psalms 13:1)

It’s on dark and weary days that we desperately want to feel God’s healing presence more than ever.

Growing up with my mother taught me many lessons. I saw her overcome being homeless and jobless while having little means, education or so-called working skills to do so. I saw her conquer fear and uncertainty as she moved across country with her daughter following a difficult divorce. I saw her work her way out of poverty one day at a time — without government help I might add. One precious lesson can be summed up by the following Scripture — often quoted by my sweet mother: “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.” (James 4:8)

Of course — actually — God is always close by as the Psalmist concluded. “I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence! If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave, you are there. If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me and your strength will support me.” (Psalm 139:7-11)

God is forever near — holding us, leading us and lighting our path away from dark troubled roads. So since we can’t really be out of God’s presence, I think it’s more about us needing to direct our thoughts God-ward that helps us feel and experience His presence.

I was reminded of this recently as I listened to a song by one of my dearest friends. She and a friend produced a beautiful CD titled, “Inhabiting Eternity.” ( I’ve listened to their CD on numerous occasions, and every time a certain song begins, I have to stop whatever I am doing and get very still so I can be fully embraced by its message.

The song is titled, “I will come before the Lord.” Its lyrics describe God as “my song.” It reminds us, much like the Psalmist did, that whether in the stillness of morning, brightness of day, hush of the evening or darkness of midnight, God is our song — forever near giving inspiration, strength, hope, guidance, peace.

This is comforting news. So whether I am looking for solutions, clarity, calm, or freedom from stress, sorrow or pain, I know there is a powerful divine presence that can meet any need. And this gentle presence is so palpable that when I divert my thoughts to the divine whole-heartedly, I feel the angels of His presence assuring me all will be well — that all is well.

It’s sometimes far too easy when overwhelmed by problems and worries to give up or give in to whatever doom is on the horizon. But I’m learning not to do it!

When I don’t know which way to turn or what to do, my first step these days is again to get very still in order to tune in to God.

Whether we have hours or only a few moments, we can be filled with the nearness of His presence, power and love. We can feel the might and majesty of His goodness. And we will experience the power of His presence giving us the spiritual light we need.

You are never alone or forgotten, my friend. Turn your mind toward God and you’ll find He’s right there by your side lifting you up so you can find the answers you need. May you feel God’s love and presence in every moment during the upcoming holiday season and the New Year ahead!

You can make a difference

by Annette Bridges. ©2008. All rights reserved.

Do you believe this?

Usually on Christmas Eve, my family watches the movie, White Christmas, but this year we opted to change our tradition and watched Frank Capra’s legendary It’s a Wonderful Life. Honestly, it had been years since I had seen this inspiring movie.

The story focuses on the desperate and despondent George Bailey played by James Stewart. As you may recall, George mistakenly believes that those he loves will be better off if he were dead, and while contemplating suicide, he even asserts that it would be better for his friends and family if he had never been born.

Fortunately, George has a guardian angel who comes to his rescue and illustrates what the lives of his loved ones and his entire town would have been like if he had never been born. And it’s not good! It turns out that George made the lives of those in his town “wonderful,” and without him people he cared about would either be dead, ruined or miserable.

In one example that illustrated the connectedness of our lives, George saved his younger brother from drowning in childhood, which led to his brother saving the lives of hundreds during World War II. The angel shows George that if he had never been born, his brother would have drowned and hundreds of people would have been killed in the war because his brother would not have been there to save them.

As I think about the new year that is upon us, this movie has reminded me how united and conjoined our lives are to one another — that your life and mine are important and matter to those around us. And I am pondering how my life can indeed make a more positive difference to others during the year ahead.

Imagine the paradigm shift if everyone understood the impact of their actions and words. I cannot help but think that if we believed what we say and do really “matters,” we would destroy apathy and foster empathy and compassion, turning inaction into effective, healing acts.

The movie, It’s a Wonderful Life, beautifully demonstrates the importance of our lives and how we have the potential to make a great difference in the lives of everyone with whom we meet and interact.

Jesus taught the importance of each one of us in his parable of a hundred sheep. He asked, “What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he finds it?” And he continued, “And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.” (Luke 15:4-6)

Truly each of us is precious in His sight — equally important, needed and necessary! Not one is expendable. By our very existence, we make a difference in the world. With every word we speak and every action we take, we impact those around us for better or for worse. Our opinions, beliefs and prayers affect those we embrace in our thoughts. Indeed, we each have the power to make a positive difference in the lives of others.

The life of George Bailey is an example of how we make a difference in the lives of everyone around us whether we believe we do or not. But imagine the possibilities when we understand that we do make a difference and that we want that difference to be good.

Therefore friends, if you take the words of Mahatma Gandhi to heart and resolve to “Be the difference you want to see in the world,” what a wonderful New Year this will be!