dysfunctional families

I know a family which facetiously claims to put the “fun” in “dysfunction.”  They’re a large family… with individual, unique skill sets, passions, and opinion.  Sometimes they share their opinions with one another respectfully, and well, sometimes they don’t.  But they’re “family,” so they are committed to working even the tough things through, challenging and emotional as they may be.


They’ve had a tough road in recent years.  There are days it at least appears that there is more that divides them than actually holds them together; it’s on those days that remembering they are family is especially important.


Like most families, while there exist multiple causes of conflict, the number one argument stems from managing their finances.  Yes, families fight — we fight — about money.  The dysfunctional family in question fights about money — seemingly, arguably, all the time.


Now prior to sharing more insight and analysis regarding this dysfunctional family, I must offer a semi-humble caveat.  Remember:  it was in the early years of the Intramuralist where one commenter strongly suggested I wasn’t “smart enough” to run a lemonade stand.  (Granted, it should also be noted that I took a bit of sarcastic satisfaction in the fact that the not-so-gentle gentleman misspelled the word “lemonade.”)  I share that to acknowledge that there exist different opinions on how to navigate via a family’s finances.


This dysfunctional family is in debt.  Massive debt.  What denotes “massive” is that (1) they have spent more than they have taken in for years, and (2) they have zero specific plan to pay it back.  After putting food on their table and paying the electricity bill, when they don’t have enough money to pay for their cell phones, kids’ gymnastic lessons, and/or cable TV, they simply borrow more money.  In other words, no one wants to go without something they already have; so instead of sitting around the family table, having an undoubtedly painful but necessary conversation about where they can and must save, the dysfunctional family only asks how to get their hands on more money.  My sense says there is no “fun” in that level of dysfunction.


Let’s be sure we give great grace to one another here, friends.  I mean, the reality is that this is hard.  We all would prefer to spend instead of save.  None of us like asking the question of “what can we do without” or “where can we cut?”  We are far more comfortable asking others to give than addressing our own sense of entitlement.  That’s true for far too many.


That sense of entitlement is an authentic challenge…  I need my cell phone… we need cable TV; have you seen how few channels come without it??… and exactly, my especially talented kid needs those added lessons!  The challenge is that we allow our wants to pose as needs, thereby hoping that no one would actually consider cutting something that has now evolved into perceived necessity.


In order for any family to become less dysfunctional, when discussing family finances, there needs to be an accurate assessment of the problem.  There needs to be a comprehensive acknowledgement of all that has contributed to the dire financial straits, as opposed to only focusing on the issues that my side of the family is most passionate about… the issues that my side of the family has prioritized.


We can’t simply keep borrowing.  We can’t simply quit spending.  It is very possible that the family patriarch may need to find a higher paying job or other members of the family might need to go to work.  But netting a larger salary or finding a better job will only equate to an applied Band-Aid if the spending problem is not seriously and significantly dealt with.


We cannot keep allowing our wants to evolve into needs — and then omit that evolution from our conversation regarding responsible finances.


Otherwise the family will remain dysfunctional…


… with no “fun” included whatsoever.





Even after the transparent admission last week that Christmas is “my favorite time of the year,” I must also acknowledge a strong fondness for New Year’s Day.  Not the festive and frolicking New Year’s “rockin’” Eve — although toasting to friends and family both near and far is certainly sweet — but the actual initial day of another year.  Why?  Because I love resolutions!


Yes, yes… I realize that last line prompted many a sigh or perhaps even a “so long” for this post this day.  My apologies.  I do not desire to evoke such a lack of energy or entertainment value.  Note, however, that my relishing of resolutions evolves not from the actual, annual intentions…


… I want to be healthy… exercise consistently… pray more… love others better… be less judgmental… be respectful… eat better… figure this “God stuff” out… work harder… listen more… talk less… be more giving, selfless — less selfish… read a new book… ask for recommendations… ask for directions… read the Bible… be teachable… save more… spend less… go to the spa… hug my kids… teach my children well… get on the scale less… focus more on people instead of things… write a letter… spend less time on Facebook… take more walks… get more sleep… focus on the important things in life… get more organized… take a daily vitamin… work on my abs… quit smoking… get a better job… be nicer… take a vacation… volunteer… read a classic… fast… get out of debt… spend more time with my family… drink less… count my calories… make a new ‘to-do’ list… throw away my old ‘to-do’ list… do away with ‘to-do’ lists… seize the day… be less busy… read the Intramuralist more… stop and smell the roses… appreciate the beauty of the sky… apologize… forgive… forgive again… and again… commit to living wisely… be more humble… be healthy…


Now the reason the sighs and “so long’s” are so often prompted lies within the reality that for most of us, the above are only intentions — as opposed to permanent changes in our behavior.  Our intentions are too often temporary.  Hence, if they are temporary, what’s the benefit of making the resolutions to begin with?


Ah, and therein lies the fondness for the Intramuralist.


What would life be like if we encouraged the above, positive behavior change, but yet, we also allowed ourselves the freedom (for lack of better words) to “screw up”?


In other words, what if we recognized that much of the above is hard? …too hard, in fact.  Much of the above — even with earnest intent and commitment — may be or appear too difficult to do.  With that honest recognition, how would our resolutions be altered?  Would we then simply refrain from ever making them?  Would we give up on the process, noting that while the behavior would certainly be a positive change, that the degree of difficulty makes our pursuit fruitless?  … that with desired consequences unlikely, resolutions are futile and therefore unnecessary?


Friends, as realistic as such sounds, my greater sense is that such logic misses the beauty forded on New Year’s Day.


It is not the actual resolution that possesses greatest value.  True, eating healthy is a good idea; it has great value.  So does taking a daily vitamin, being humble, and appreciating the beauty of the sky.  Those are good things!  But the benefit of the resolution is the growth that comes via the process.  The more we focus on being humble — whether or not we actually, ever, totally and truly get there — the more we focus on being less judgmental and exercising more consistently, the wiser we will be.  The healthier we will be.  And while we may not actually “get there,” the pursuit moves us closer to where we want to be.  The pursuit — and thus the intent — is good.


The reason the Intramuralist so appreciates New Year’s Day is because it’s a clean slate.  Once again, we are given the abstract opportunity to focus on what’s most important.  Yes, we need to give ourselves great grace in the process; know now that we will most likely “screw up” somewhere.  But thanks to the freshness and attractiveness of a clean slate, we are more willing to make the resolutions that we know would be wise to embrace.


Happy New Year, friends!  Time for this semi-humble blogger to hit the elliptical.




the year in review

As we pause to glance back and reflect on the year in review, I’m struck by the events, circumstances and people which made us collectively pause during 2012…


From the London Olympic games to an incredibly expensive American election to the December elementary school shooting…


From the so-called “Arab spring” that turned into the summer of discontent that turned into a seemingly constant state of volatility and unrest…


From the “Occupy” protests to the Super Bowl champion, almost-missing-the-playoffs Giants to Wendy’s overtaking Burger King to become the second best selling hamburger chain…


From the murdering of the American ambassador in Benghazi to the Aurora, Colorado Batman shooting to the recognition of some of the specifics within Obamacare…


From the return of James Bond to Clint Eastwood’s odd, non-talking chair to the “Avengers,” “Hunger Games,” and still-grossing “Hobbit”…


From the books that grabbed our attention, again from “The Hunger Games” to new stories from both Grisham and Baldacci to all those “shades of grey”…


From the overspending in the United States to the overspending in Greece to the overspending in much of the entire European Union…


From the weak attempts to fix the overspending in all of the above — recognizing that spending is always easier than cutting no matter who is currently in charge…


From the arrest of the Pope’s butler to the shocking power of Hurricane Sandy to the inactive global response regarding the ongoing Syrian civil war…


From the additions to our vernacular — via “tebowing” or “kardashianed” — to entire new phrases — such as “Gangnam Style,” “fiscal cliff,” or so-called “legitimate rape” — to a growing supply of JoeBidenisms.


From the downfall of Lance Armstrong to the upstart of Paul Ryan, Gabby Douglas, and Pinterest to the excitement surrounding Corey Booker, Susana Martinez, and Marco Rubio…


From the loss of Whitney Houston, Joe Paterno, and Thomas Kinkade…


To the loss of Davy Jones, Donna Summer, and Dick Clark…


To the loss of Mike Wallace, Nora Ephron, and Neil Armstrong…


To the loss of Chuck Colson, Roy Bradbury, and Rodney King…


And the loss of Andy Griffith, Ernest Borgnine, and Sally Ride…


Not to mention Marvin Hamlisch, Andrew Breitbart, Phyllis Diller, Davy Jones, and the Rev. Sun Myung Moon…


Or George McGovern, Larry Hagman, Helen Gurley Brown, Charles Durning, Jack Klugman, and Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf…


It is wise to pause and reflect… to remind and remember… from the good to the bad… from the healthy to the unhealthy… recognizing what we will miss and what we will not… to thus learn from and move forward… prepared for the learnings and growth from the wisdom awaiting in 2013…





Writing from the midwest this day, a funny development occurred.  It snowed.


It wasn’t just a little snow.  It was big…  perhaps not “big” to those living in the mountainous East or West, but here in the heart of America, it was big.  “Big” equates to enough to make life stop (… and to impose upon many the dreaded fear of running out of a gallon of 2% milk).  Yet contrary to popular belief, life stopping is good.


I know, I know.  I hear you…


Do you not realize the plans this all messed up?


I have things to do — important things!


I’m frustrated… bored.  I can’t do what I need to do!


Exactly.  Important things.  Stuff we need to do.


I wonder sometimes, no less, if what we claim to be important is really, truly, somehow lesser…  if we prioritize items and issues and activities that are lesser in value and wisdom than reality — than things of greater value — than things, so-to-speak, of a more enduring “bottom line.”  An insightful friend of mine, who has bravely initiated a ministry designed to generously pour respect into the lives of men and women, often says, “We have to keep what’s most important most important.”  But yet we don’t.  Society doesn’t.  We often get off track…


… in our homes… in our hearts… in Washington… and in the world.


In Washington many of those who contributed to the decades-old pattern of financial fragility are currently seeking to solve it.  But to solve it, they would have to collectively, fairly-permanently agree to spend less money than they take in.  In other words, with a national debt of over $16 trillion, reducing the debt by $2 trillion over 10 years — one of the current options on the table — will make little dent in the debt.  It doesn’t solve the problem.  Solving the problem is what’s most important — not adhering to lobbyist groups that simply attempt to shout loudest for their special, special interest.


Friends, hear me on this, please.  With all due respect, congressmen from both parties and the President each have those special interests in the back of their minds; they have issues and entitlements which they have individually — and often partisanly — prioritized.  As long as those interests maintain an entitled grip on a politician’s motivation, the politicians collectively will not solve the fiscal problem.  If they do not solve the problem, they are not keeping what’s most important most important.  And dare I suggest… if they are not keeping what’s most important most important, they are not serving — at least the entire country — well.


It’s hard, however, to cast stones upon Washington when we maintain similar struggles in our own homes.  In fact, at Christmas, especially, many of us also have prioritized things of lesser importance… like…


… presents over people…

… things over relationships…

… materialism over the meaning of the day…


We all do it.  We all struggle with keeping what’s most important most important.  And it matters not how brilliant nor intelligent nor worldly or wealthy we are; the struggle remains real.


And so sometimes, perhaps, in order to make us slow down — to make us pause and reflect upon what means most — we are given opportunity — if we are humble enough to actually “get it” — to re-prioritize what’s most important.  Hence, sometimes, life stops.


Sometimes it even snows.




my favorite time of the year

Borrowing from none another than Kenny Rogers…


How wise the wise men must have been

To find the Child in Bethlehem

He lives again and draws us near

Christmas time is here.


A tail of love that never dies

The laughter in the children’s eyes

The child in me is always there

Christmas is my favorite time of year.


The mist of wonder lies under my tree

The gift of memories is waiting for me


The day will come and soon depart

The spirit stays to hear my heart

With love for people everywhere

Christmas is my favorite time of the year.


Christmas is my favorite time of the year…


Yes… with love for people everywhere… recognizing that all sorts of varied emotion accompanies this day.


Merry Christmas, friends.  May we always focus on what’s most important.




… with great peace and an even greater joy…



making our lists

We’re making our lists and checking them twice.  Maybe even 3 or 4 times.  There’s so much to do!


Yes, isn’t that the irony of the season?


As the holiday has evolved — knowing evolution often distorts meaning and potentially reality — perhaps our most significant progression of the meaning of Christmas is that we’ve centered so much of the meaning around what we are doing as opposed to who we are being.


What do we do?


Hang the stockings with care.

Fill them.

Roast chestnuts (ok, so maybe not really… remember the distortion of reality…)

Wrap presents.

Wrap more presents.



Call our mothers.

Dress up like eskimos.

Run to the grocery.

Stand in line at the post office.

Finish up work.

Purchase one more gift card.

Deliver those gift cards.


Eat some more.

And more.


The point is that we focus on the doing.  Truth is, that seems our human nature.


As the events of the past week have unfolded — as we’ve grieved the horror of happenings in Newtown, Connecticut — in our passionate, admirable need to respond — we continue to focus on what we can do…  establish tougher gun control laws… put guns in every school… invest more in mental health… tinker with the 2nd amendment… etc. etc. etc.  The point is that it seems our innate human response is to attempt to do something… as if we, yes, we, can control it.  We can stop this from happening if we only do something.


It is a far more ambiguous, intangible — albeit rewarding, growth-oriented — practice to focus on who we are… who we are and what we were created to be.  It takes more time; it’s not as black and white; it’s less legalistic.  It also causes us to be still… to pause, reflect, and take both ownership and responsibility for our individual strengths and weaknesses, our right and wrongful thinking.  Newsflash, friends:  we each have all of the above.


That’s hard to wrestle with.  It is challenging indeed, for example, to actually wrestle with what caused that gunman to snap, mercilessly murdering those innocent children.  What was in his head?  Where was the wrongful thinking?  How has society contributed to that?  Where have we morally accepted what is not good and true and right?  Where is my wrongful thinking?  Where am I not acting and behaving and thinking as wisely as I should?


In order to answer those questions accurately, I need to be still, wrestling with the rawness of the answer.  Wrestling, though, often makes us uncomfortable.  Hence, we jump into doing — because doing is actually easier than being.


The coming of Christmas is not about candles and cookies nor even chestnuts nor children.  The meaning of Christmas centers around the incarnation of a God who loves us because of who we are — not because of anything that we do.


Who are we?  Persons with individual strengths and weaknesses, even right and wrongful thinking… persons tempted to do.




the end of the world

It’s the end of the world as we know it.
It’s the end of the world as we know it.


Truthfully, long before R.E.M.’s popular, 1987 musical refrain, many have consistently experienced the end of the world as they know it…  long before R.E.M… before and after the revelation of the new age translation of the currently publicized Mayan Indian prophecies.


Briefly, for those of you unfamiliar with Mayan prophecy — noting that this specific calculation is not adhered to by professional Mayanist scholars, yet predicts a series of unknown cataclysmic events — the world is scheduled to end this Friday, December 21, 2012.  (In other words, if your Christmas shopping isn’t complete, feel great freedom to forgo it.)


It’s the end of the world as we know it.


Any time the end of the world is definitively foretold, it always gets me thinking, as it’s long been humanity’s habit to proclaim our unique omniscience, especially — for some reason — in grandiose matters.  From Y2K to 2011‘s Harold Camping to Pompeii, Italy to the arrival of Halley’s Comet, humans have long specifically predicted the date and time of the bloody end to the planet.  Uh, best I can tell, with all due respect, of course, to date, they’ve all been wrong.


I do chuckle inside somewhat…  I mean, the historical scriptures affirm that no one will know the hour nor the day; somehow, however, people continue to miss that rather obvious point.  In light of the current December doom, in fact, I also chuckled at NASA’s response.  The government space agency released a statement saying that Friday will actually not be Earth’s end.  Hmmm… My sense is that if no one knows the actual hour nor the day, then the ancient Mayans couldn’t have known it… and NASA — smart as those scientists may be — wouldn’t know it for certain either.


It’s the end of the world as we know it.


For the moment (dare we) — perhaps only for posterity’s sake — let’s entertain this idea that Friday — or today or Sunday or even next Wednesday or Thursday — actually is the end of the world; how would we live differently?  … beginning today?


How would we act differently?

What relationships would we invest in?

What would we be more intentional about?


We’d hug our kids a little tighter.

We’d tell our loved ones that we love them.

We’d affirm those around us, focusing on their strengths, as opposed to chastising their weaknesses.

We’d be less partisan.

We’d offer generous grace.

We’d omit no truth with that full application of grace.

We’d quit spending more than we take in… (wait… since those bills wouldn’t arrive until after Friday…)

We’d listen more.

We’d take time to figure out who God is and who we are in relation to him.

We’d be still.

We’d give more.

We’d take less.

We’d be aware of the beauty of the moment.

We’d look at the skies and be in humble awe of creation.

We’d give thanks.

We’d forgive.

And we would love lavishly and generously… no matter what.


If we did all that, we could belt the last line of R.E.M.’s refrain — remaining unfazed by events out of our control.  Intentional living is good and true regardless of world events… from the tragedy of Newtown, the wrangling in Washington, and yes, even those ancient Mayan prophecies.  It doesn’t matter when the world will end, as intentional living girds us with peace; we can be fine.  Fine?  Actually, that’s the last line of the song…


It’s the end of the world as we know it.
It’s the end of the world as we know it.
It’s the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine.


Fine it is.  P.S.  Hope you read this before Friday.


Respectfully… always…


a hope that lasts

Still 4 days later, it’s hard to focus on something else…


We could focus on the number of shopping days left, but they pale in comparison.


We could focus on solving the so-called “fiscal cliff,” but that, too — even with its almost unimaginable depth of debt — pales in comparison.


We could focus on all sorts of things; each would pale in comparison…


… except maybe…

… just maybe…

… the meaning of Christmas.


I realize to many the story is simply too old.  A baby, born in a manger, in swaddling clothes with no room in some ancient inn… what exactly are “swaddling” clothes, anyway?  Let’s face it:  the story is old.  The meaning, however, is timeless.  In the aftermath of Connecticut, when we continue to rush to justice — when we definitively aver that these horrific events must never happen again, when we find some solace in our own, at least perceived resoluteness — we need a lasting message… a truth that is timeless.  No speech nor warm wish, nor legislation, movement, or monetary investment compares to the lasting, old meaning of Christmas.


That babe — born some 2,000 years ago — is said to be the only being ever capable of fully and ultimately ushering in peace and bestowing goodwill to men.  Fascinating in the study of world religion, no other proclaimed deity has fulfilled the profound prophecies of Jesus Christ.  No other faithful figure has made the claims he’s made and been able to back them up.  For no other have the words come true.


Peace.  Goodwill to men.  Lasting.  Many have tried to find a solution, to offer healing, to keep bad stuff from happening again — seeking means, movements, and monies that would at least put a better-feeling Band-Aid on those evil, earthly events.  The motive seems somewhat pure; we don’t want to hurt anymore; we don’t want innocent others to hurt either.  But none are fully capable; none carry a lasting, effective meaning.  Hence, no movement or legislation, well-intentioned as it may be, is capable of being more than a so-called Band-Aid.


When I think of the 20 kids who died in Connecticut, I need to be reminded of something I know will work… that I know will be an authentic solution.  I think of peace.  I need to know it’s available.  I think of goodwill… to all men.  I need to be encouraged to generously offer that goodwill.  Hence, I need a lasting hope to hold on to.  Why?  Because nothing temporary makes sense.  Even though potentially good and well-intentioned, “Band-Aids” are temporary.  And while temporary may seem necessary and helpful and may appease our passions for the moment, we forget that underneath the Band-Aid only exists a deeper scar.  My desire for each of us is not to adhere what covers up the wound — but rather, what wrestles with the deeper scar.


Did we cross some sort of line on Friday?

Did society finally go too far?

Did we pass a point of accepted immorality that no longer we can stand?


And better yet, did Friday’s horrific act finally get our attention?


Ah, great discussion… one that no doubt we would each benefit from should we engage in respectful, listening-prioritized dialogue.


My sense is no new lines of morality were crossed.  Instead, arguably, our senses and souls have been heightened with a renewed awareness.


For Band-Aids?


No, for a hope that will last.


Thank God.


Thanks for the coming of Christmas.




selective morality

As all times when we are so shockingly rattled, the race to reaction is furious and fast.  When scenarios and circumstance significantly disturb us, we immediately jump to the solution.  “If we only had tougher gun laws… eliminated the violent video games… cared more for the mentally ill… if we put an end to all the ‘war’ rhetoric…”  (note that the last of those suggestions seems oft hypocritically proclaimed, as violent rhetorical usage is often chastised until it’s convenient to employ for personal passion…)


The reality is, friends, that I understand the rapid reaction.  We probe possible cause and means of prevention.  We want justice.  The disturbance demands justice!  And when the victims are obviously, especially innocent — as in Newtown, Connecticut, where reportedly 20 of the victims are under the age of 10 — many of them kindergarteners — kindergarteners! — our need for justice is only magnified.


Thus, in our quest for justice, we attempt to find the way or the one thing that would solve the seemingly inherent problem, such as the gun laws, video game and rhetorical restrictions, etc.  “If we only had that!…”  Those are wise, appropriate conversations that we should have.  The challenge, however, is that none attack the root of the issue; none address the actual bottom line, and if we fail to tackle the bottom line, shocking scenarios will continue.  They may look a little different — possibly utilizing different weapons and words — but we will feel the same.  Still shocked.  Still rattled.  Still so disturbed.


How could someone actually do this?!”  It doesn’t make any sense.


It’s sad.  It’s grievous.  But evil exists on this planet.  I recognize that such is not a popular thing to either say or believe.  In fact, I have been a part of many discussions where at some point in the conversation in order to press home a point, one person inserts their passionate perspective that “all people are inherently good.”  Some may be messed up or mentally ill or a ‘switch is off somewhere,’ but for the most part, we’re all pretty good.


Popular or not, the Intramuralist respectfully disagrees.


Each of us have witnessed friends and loved ones make some rather confounding choices.  We’ve known persons who’ve engaged in violent crime, salacious infidelity, and unfathomable professional wrongdoing.  Simply put:  we’ve known people who have made bad choices.


What we now identify as a “bad choice” has somehow changed.


The closer people are to us, the more likely we are to offer grace and potentially, possibly, even alter our moral standards.  We have become, it seems, as I like to describe, “selectively moral.”  The closer we are to the perpetrator, the more morally selective we’re tempted to be; on the other hand, the more emotionally distant we are, the easier it is for our need for justice to trump any extension of grace.  What could instead cause us to attempt to offer full justice and full grace — simultaneously?  The recognition that none of us are “pretty good.”  It’s about capability; we are each capable of becoming confused in our moral standards — thus each capable of making bad choices.


Ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky.  The invisible qualities of an omnipotent creator have been made manifest.  Yes, evidence of God is all around us.  But yet, even though we’ve known God, we sometimes refuse to worship him or even give him thanks.  We begin to instead think up our own ideas of what God is like — as opposed to seeking what he says he is like.  We craft our own ideas — our own solutions — perhaps ideas that fit better with our individual experience and thus passions.  As a result, our minds can become confused.


When a person’s mind becomes confused, they typically come to worship or value something far lesser than the divine.  And my sense is when that happens — not knowing exactly how things work here on planet Earth — that at some point God abandons them to do whatever shameful things their hearts desire.  It’s similar to a parent/child relationship; we teach and encourage obedience, yet over time and the repetition of wrongful thinking and poor behavior, at some point, we give our children over to their own desires, hoping that they learn wisdom the hard way, potentially via the consequences of their own behavior.


As a result, therefore, of the shameful things in some persons’ hearts, people will do vile and degrading things.  That’s what we witnessed in Newtown on Friday.


It’s shocking.  It’s tragic.  And it doesn’t make any sense… even with our admirable demand for justice.


Respectfully… and with an incredibly heavy heart…


the misplaced comma

As I was pulling out and dusting off my fairly impressive collection of Christmas music — ok, wait; that is total “impression management.”  It’s actually, almost a bold face lie.  Sorry.  I mean, yes, my collection is impressive, but the truth is (confession time, friends) that I listen to Christmas music all year round.  I know, I know… many of you wish the triumphant tunes were confined to December days only — perhaps some of you will even pause your loyal readership for a few weeks — but there’s something about singing “peace on Earth” and “goodwill toward men” that puts me in a good mood all year long.


Recently, though, as I was again humbly, vocally accompanying the recorded artist on the CD (fathom that idea), I stumbled upon an error in the way contemporary culture sings a song.  In fact, the words are still the same, but a singular punctuation mark has been moved; it profoundly changes the meaning of the song.  Yes, I uncovered the misplaced comma.


We sing “God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen.”


The song, however, was originally written as “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen.”


Notice the placement of the comma.  That comma makes all the difference in the world.  We have changed the meaning of the song.


When we sing…


God rest ye, merry gentlemen

Let nothing you dismay

Remember, Christ, our Savior

Was born on Christmas day

To save us all from Satan’s power

When we were gone astray

O tidings of comfort and joy,

Comfort and joy

O tidings of comfort and joy!


… sometimes I think we act as if everything around us is happy…  like we are always happy.  “God rest you, happy people.”


Well, sometimes life isn’t happy.  In fact, a lot of days a lot of us have tough stuff to handle.  Life isn’t always happy, and a solid faith doesn’t necessarily make us merry.  While we may be able to tap into an inner joy and unparalleled peace — perhaps, something related to that peace on Earth — we’re still not always happy.  Christmas time, especially, is often a painful struggle for many.


Yet when we examine the misplaced comma and return it to its rightful place — “God rest ye merry, gentlemen” — and then we acknowledge that the 15th century carol, written in a minor, melodiously dark-sounding key — we see that the writer was not simply sitting back, believing it was so easy to be happy and merry.  The writer is encouraging each of us to rest in God’s merriment — in the joy available via the creator of the world — regardless of the darkness… regardless of that minor key.


I’ve heard it said that “if Satan can’t make you bad, he’ll make you busy.”  There’s a part of me that believes there’s a lot of truth in that.  Look at us running around these days.  We’re working and wrapping and buying and baking.  We’re spending so much time preparing for Christmas that we’re almost avoiding the meaning.


Hence, the encouragement to rest.


No matter what.


Resting in the merry.