Sunday, December 23, 2012

All Things Testify of Him


[Note:  If you'll be offended that we don't do Santa, you might not want to read this post.]

If you know me well, you probably know that we don't "do" Santa at our house.  However, this year, to not be so abrupt about it, I've tried to focus on Santa as being someone who reminds us to watch out for and care for others. So, every time we see a Santa, we try and think, what can we do for someone else?  How can we help?

This not doing Santa really has its pro's and con's for very much the same con's as doing that Elf on the Shelf.  One of the most difficult things about not doing Santa is trying to get our kids to not tell other kids, at least when they're little.  Although we've not emphasized Santa at all, the funny thing this year is that our three year old asks every day when Santa is coming.  Rather than saying he's not coming, I've been saying, "Christmas is in three days.  We'll get some presents then, but Santa reminds us to watch out for others."  Honestly, I don't appreciate that others have indoctrinated her with Santa, but I'm glad I can give her not such a disappointing answer that Santa's not real.

I realized the other day, though, a flaw in me telling her that Santa is a reminder to do nice things.  It's great he's a reminder, but why don't I just tell her to think of other people when she thinks of Jesus?  Simply put, we don't need Santa to remind us of that; Christ has already done it.  I guess it's not PC to dress up as Jesus and walk around town, though.  There's a reason it's called Christmas (Christ Mass => Christ Celebration) and not Santamas.

So, I'd love to not have to deal with Santa at all, but since I can't beat the Modern-day Commercial Santa Machine, I guess I'll just have to continue pushing the caring for others idea. As I pondered this, I realized there are A LOT of Christmas traditions that have nothing to do with Christ.  Ironically, we've attached new meanings to these ideas to take them back to Christ.  I'd prefer we use more stars, sheep, angels, shepherds, light, etc. to help us celebrate Christmas, but I suppose I can ditch my desire for historical accuracy and take these new symbols along with their invented stories to help remind me and my family of Christ.

Along with Santa Claus being a symbol of Christ, other invented symbols include,

Tonight we read "Teach the Children" from Especially for Mormons, Vol 2, a story about Santa going to someone's house pleading with the parent to teach the children the true meaning of Christmas.  Here are a few more ideas on how to integrate modern symbols into the the actual past.

  • Red ornament - first color of Christmas; reminds of blood of the Savior; greatest color of all; symbol of the gift of God.
  • Tree - deep green a perfect background for the red ornament; second color of Christmas; symbolizes everlasting hope of mankind; youthful, hopeful, abundant color of nature; needles point heavenward (man's return toward heaven).
  • Bell - reminder to return to the fold; guidance & return.
  • Candle - shows thanks for the star long ago; mirrors starlight
  • Bow - spirit of brotherhood of man; we should be tied with the bonds of good will
  • Wreath - eternal nature of love; continuous round of affection; reminds us of all the things of Christmas.
Some of the above symbols may actually be "real," but I haven't researched them yet.  For now I'll try to make these modern symbols also testify of Him, but I guess I'm just more of an Alonzo Gaskill kind of girl.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Part of Life We Call Death

Saying goodbye to mom

After the tragedy yesterday in Connecticut, of course my first reaction was to hide, keep my children inside forever, and even homeschool them.  I also again had the thought that is's a wonder that we actually live each day, rather than die.  I'm serious.  This will sound really pessimistic, but there are so many things that could kill us.  I think the first time I thought of that concept was a few years ago when I'd heard of some car accident.  Just the other day on the Today show there was a story about when someone is threatening to drive home drunk, most people let him or her.  Women protest it more than men, but in the end, the drunk drives.  In addition to the shooting, there was a stabbing of 22 children and their teacher in China yesterday. A couple weeks ago my not-yet-retired neighbor died of a massive heart attack.  He was healthy and fit.  Any one of us could get cancer or some other disease and die.  In so many ways, it's a miracle we're alive every day.

So how do we not fear death?  I think the first thing we need is an understanding of the Plan of Salvation and specifically that there is life after death; we need a testimony that we will live again.  We need to know that death is merely a passage to the other side, just as birth was a doorway to come here.  Perhaps we were just as nervous of birth before we experienced it as we are of death.  Maybe once we die, we'll realize it's not such a bad thing after all.  If we thought of death as a baptism where going down under the water might be a little bit scary, but coming up out of the water was the most beautiful cleansing thing, we might not be so fearful.

I'm again recommitted to teach my children the Gospel of Jesus Christ so that they will be prepared when their time comes.  I'm determined to help them not fear death, and as a mortician's wife once told me, to make it a part of life.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The State of Working-Class Men

I almost just "pinned" this, but thought I'd better save a few of the quotes from The No Good, Very Bad Outlook for the Working-Class American Man:

  • Work, for men, means more than money: It connects them to their communities, makes them more attractive as mates and more successful as spouses, and is a linchpin of their self-esteem. When they don’t work, their role in the community tends to wither, harming the places where they live as well as themselves. Their family lives suffer, too. More and more often, less-educated men are strangers to marriage.
  • Both men and women have suffered from the disappearance of well-paying mid-skilled jobs in factories and offices. But they have responded very differently. “Women have been up-skilling very rapidly,” said MIT’s Autor, “whereas men have been much, much less successful in adapting.” Women have responded to the labor market’s increased preference for brains over brawn by streaming through college and into the workforce—one of the great successes of the U.S. economy. Men’s rate of completing college has barely budged since the late 1970s.
  • To women, men who either can’t or don’t earn a decent living are less necessary and desirable as mates; they’re just another mouth to feed. This helps to explain why rates of out-of-wedlock childbirth have risen to hitherto unimaginable heights among the less educated. Causality also flows in the opposite direction. The very fact of being married brings men a premium in their earnings, research shows, and makes them steadier workers, presumably because they have more stability at home. “Marriage is an institution that makes men more responsible in their pursuit of work and in their work-related duties,”
  • Low-earning men are decreasingly able to form stable families. That, in turn, harms their children and communities. “Social capital disintegrates as you have a combination of drop in participation in the labor force and the disintegration of marriage,
  • In 1970, more than three-fourths of men, no matter how much they earned, had wives; men at the bottom of the earnings scale were only slightly more likely to be single than were men at the top. Today, nearly half of the low-earning men are single, versus only a seventh of highly paid men.
  • Family structure, in short, has become both a leading cause and a primary casualty of an emerging class divide. At the top are families with two married earners, two college degrees, and kids who never question that their future includes a college degree and a good job; at the bottom, families with one (female) earner, no college, no marriage, and kids who grow up isolated from the world of work and higher education. And the two worlds are drifting apart.

This is really sobering, not just the economic side of it, but what it's doing to the family.