Thursday, September 21, 2017

That's the Point, 2

As a Catholic school principal, I would often approach all-school gatherings from the standpoint of what could potentially go wrong. Whether it was hosting an hour-long, all-school assembly in our social hall or trying to move our Middle School students out of the cafeteria during an emergency drill, I would try to anticipate all of the potential problems that could arise and then come up with strategies to either prevent them from happening or mitigate their effects should they occur.

For example, during all-school gatherings, I knew that any time we asked students to move we would run the risk of delay, injury and/or misbehavior. If I would play music, I knew that PreK would need help in getting settled back down. If I needed students to exit so as to get back to class quickly, I needed to give clear instructions and have a plan for doing so. If our ceiling-mounted projector wouldn't display the presentation, I had a portable one with me and available so that we could continue with our program somewhat uninterruptedly.
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In his book, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We do in Life and Business, Charles Duhigg calls these potential pitfalls inflection points. These inflection points are the moments that would derail a presentation or result in a student getting pushed or tripped.

Duhigg recounts a study from Scotland in the 1990s, where researcher discovered that some patients who had undergone hip or knee replacement surgery would start to walk again twice as fast as others. The researcher uncovered that those quicker-to-walk patients wrote out detailed plans that focused heavily on what they would do when they encountered inflection points - moments of extreme pain or frustration that would cause them to want to quit or give up. From something as simple as taking the first step after getting up to mapping out every potential obstacle and its corresponding contingency plan, those patients who intentionally planned for setbacks were more likely to overcome them (p. 142 - 143).

Having a plan for painful inflection points is one of the ingredients that makes companies like Starbucks, the Container Store and Deloitte Consulting such shining business examples of success. Starbucks' LATTE method for dealing with an angry customer (Listen, Acknowledge, Take Action, Thank Them, Explain the Cause) and repetitively role-playing potentially stressful scenarios with employees, helps to ensure that Starbucks stays in, "the people business serving coffee" and not the other way around ("the coffee business serving people") (p . 145).

Excellence happens on purpose and as educators we must purposefully plan for those potential speed bumps, road blocks, detours and accidents - inflection points - that we may encounter and then script out how we will respond should one of these inflection points occur.

As educators, considering situations like angry parents, flopped lessons, unruly students, or a last-minute schedule change and having a specific plan of action for when these and other inflection points occur can help maintain professionalism, maximize instructional time, and enhance student learning. In this way, we are not planning for our lessons, assemblies or any other school activities to go poorly. Instead, we have a plan to get things back on track in the event that something does go wrong.

Having a plan and rehearsing it for automaticity can make it much more likely for it to be executed when inflection points arise. This can happen on the school (what would happen in a real fire that would block a potential exit path?), classroom (how do you respond to someone who is being mean to you or to others), and individual levels (for administrators, teachers and students).

If check-points help us to take stock of where we've been and ensure we continue to head where we intended, inflection points, when strategically anticipated and accounted for, will do little to keep us from reaching our destination.

It's yet another lesson in building self-awareness and how harnessing this ability to meta-cognitively navigate life can lead to great success.

Similarly, anticipating moments of weakness and temptation (exhaustion, stress, extreme emotion, boredom, contextual cues) and then having a plan for those inflection points can likewise keep us moving in a positive spiritual direction. If you're trying to lose weight, going to a fast food spot is a slippery - and not just because of the grease - slope. If you're hoping to remain disciplined in your prayer life using an app on your phone to pray may lead to distraction or a tug to wander to other apps or sites. Anticipating these inflection points and then having a plan to prevent or mitigate them - opting for a side salad instead of fries, turning off notifications while praying - can help ensure that our behaviors align with who we want to be.

St. Josemaria Escriva called the moment when you first wake up in the morning the heroic minute:
The heroic minute. It is the time fixed for getting up. Without hesitation: a supernatural reflection and... up! The heroic minute: here you have a mortification that strengthens your will and does no harm to your body (#206).
Too often we hit snooze, crawl back under the covers and push off the start of our day. This daily inflection point can cause us to miss workouts, arrive late to work, and potentially set off a chain reaction of cutting corners throughout the course of our entire day.

In this way, every inflection point carries with it a heroic moment - the moment where we can either allow the inflection point to make us cower under the covers of the challenge or rise up and conquer it.

Believe that you can do hard things and then get to work doing them.

Be purposeful.

Be prepared.

Be heroic.

Duhigg, C. (2014). The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. New York, NY: Random House Trade Paperbacks. 

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Bigger, Better and More Boldly

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My daughters Elizabeth (age 6) and Catherine (age 4), constantly create. Whether coloring blackline pictures, drawing freehand, cutting things out, glueing, taping, dancing or singing, they create incessantly.


At times, this creative spirit will inspire them to build - with blocks, Legos, cups, plastic containers, pillows, and just about anything else either my wife or I deem permissible. Prior to the mobility of their brother Gabriel (9 months), these structures would only crumble from a hastily placed object, over-ambitiousness in height or foundational stability, or a careless - albeit accidental - foot or elbow. Gabriel has brought an additional source of destruction.

Regardless of causality, though, their response to a tumbling tower has remained consistent:


“That’s okay, we can build it again bigger and better.”


Their zeal for creating inspires them to boldly dream of something bigger and better, and then get to work bringing this vision into the reality of our home.


The Congregation of Holy Cross embodies the same bold and unwavering zeal for their work within the Catholic Church, at the University of Notre Dame, and across our world. The words of Bl. Basil Moreau, the C.S.C.’s founder, “Zeal is the great desire to make God known, loved and served, and thus bring knowledge of salvation to others” animate the order and their ministry. Bl. Moreau continues:


I am convinced that Providence, which has in the past done everything necessary for the development and perfection of its work, will continue to bestow on us most abundant blessings. To ensure this, we must be animated by the spirit of zeal and generosity which so holy an undertaking requires.


It is this spirit of zeal that saw the Congregation grow rapidly from its inception in 1837. It is this spirit of zeal that allowed Bl. Moreau to weather the financial and organizational challenges that this exponential growth caused and respond:


Therefore, even should persecution redouble rather than diminish as is the case now, there would be no reason to fear God’s work. All the malice in the world and hell cannot change the will of the Lord, nullify his sovereign rights, render useless the work of his power, or make foolish the designs of his wisdom (Moreau, 452).


Similarly, upon hearing that the dome had burned to the ground in the spring of 1879, it is this spirit of zeal that emboldened Fr. Sorin, founder of the University of Notre Dame, to proclaim:


If it were ALL gone, I should not give up. The fire was my fault. I came here as a young man and founded a university which I named after the Mother of God. Now she had to burn it to the ground to show me that I dreamed too small a dream. Tomorrow we will begin again and build it bigger, and when it is built, we will put a gold dome on top with a golden statue of the Mother of God so that everyone who comes this way will know to whom we owe whatever great future this place has.


As we begin this new academic year, let us dream dreams that are worthy of our Lord and His Mother, Notre Dame. Let us, despite any challenge we may encounter or any disaster that may level our work, shrug our shoulders and try again.  


Let us, with zeal, begin building (Nehemiah 2:18)!


Bigger.


Better.


And more boldly than ever before.


-Garwych, A., & Grove, K. (Eds.). (2008). The Cross, Our Only Hope: Daily Reflections in the Holy Cross Tradition. Consequences of growing up poor. Notre Dame, IN: Ave Maria Press.

-Moreau, B. (2014). Basil Moreau Essential Writings: An introduction to the life and thought of the founder of the Congregation of Holy Cross. Garwych, A., & Grove, K. (Eds.). Notre Dame, IN: Ave Maria Press.

Friday, September 1, 2017

That's the Point

Our brains are constantly looking for patterns. Innately, our brains are programmed to solve-problems, make predictions and ultimately categorize and make sense of our world. Our brains will try to group information together to aid in speed and efficiency.
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In this way, though, our brains are slackers - they look for ways to turn on autopilot and coast. In his book, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We do in Life and Business, Charles Duhigg states, "Left to its own devices, the brain will try to make almost any routine into a habit, because habits allow our brains to ramp down more often" (p. 17 - 18).

Duhigg goes on to detail the story of MIT researchers in the 1990s who discovered that as rats became more familiar with a maze over time, their mental activity while navigating that maze decreased, writing, "As each rat learned how to navigate the maze, its mental activity decreased" (p. 15). Stored in the area of the brain called the basal ganglia, these patterns and habits allowed the rats to run faster and faster through the maze, while the rats' brains worked less and less.

Duhigg describes this process as chunking - when the "brain converts a sequence of actions into an automatic response" (p. 17). This chunking is vital to the educational process. It's what allows emerging readers to blend fluently during decoding. It's what allows us to memorize math facts, historical events, scientific theories. It's how we perform tasks like writing with a pencil and paper, type on a computer, turn in papers - just about anything. Imagine how difficult every aspect of life would be if you performed any task as if it was the first time you were doing it!

While this chunking allows educators to scaffold skills and for students to move from basic to more complex concepts and activities, it also can lead to the formation of bad habits, careless errors, and an inability to successfully complete a procedure.

It's how your brian may not have noticed that the word brain was misspelled earlier in this sentence.

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By Mohammadreza Farhadi Aref [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0) or CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
As educators, we must consider that the brains of our students are looking for the moment to check-out. Stimulated at the beginning of class (what will we learn today, where is my homework, what is the bell-ringer activity I need to do) and at the end (finally - I get to move!, what's for homework, where am I going next?), throughout the course of a typical 45 or 50 minute class our students' brains will most likely settle into cruising altitude for about half of it.

Purposefully incorporating check-points that can offer moments of metacognition, stimulation, reflection and even re-direction and clarification can help to keep students' brains appropriately engaged and active. Whether this centers on classroom management procedures or instructional activities, intentionally including check-points can help to keep students' brains engaged, enhance their self-awareness and can help fight against the lethargy and errors that result from auto-pilot-syndrome.

This is not to say that every moment within a classroom needs to be amusement-park-engaging. In fact, it shouldn't be. But, it is to say that we must build students' capacities for work by offering to them frequent check-points that can help them to process, that can help scaffold complex tasks and concepts, and that can re-activate their brains for learning.

As a Catholic, creating habits of prayer and spiritual activity are essential in our walk of faith. However, we can become so set in our habits that we can start to automatize our faith. Mass becomes a Sunday stop on the way to other activities, the Rosary just a recitation of a script. Incorporating check-points can help to advance us on our spiritual journeys. Scheduling and taking a retreat, speaking with a spiritual advisor or trusted mentor, or just taking time to reflect on your faith-life and its overall health can keep you from falling into the habits of wandering aimlessly or remaining stagnant - despite some hearty activity - in your faith.
This is the difference, as described by Fr. Mike Schmitz, between training and working out. When we train we have an end goal (running a marathon, making the football team, dunking a basketball) with smaller, check-point goals (running 10 miles, gaining 20 pounds through diet and exercise, touching the net) that help propel us to the finish line.

When we workout, though, we often just go through the motions and endure to the end of the session to cross it off of a list. There is often no growth or progress. There's no need for a check-point, because there really isn't a destination.

In our classrooms and our lives, keep training.

Keep pushing.

Keep moving forward, but not without stopping to check that you and your students are on the right path.

Because getting to the destination, well, that's the point.

Duhigg, C. (2014). The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. New York, NY: Random House Trade Paperbacks. 

Friday, August 18, 2017

Teaching Peter

As the beginning of the school year gets underway, principals, students, teachers and parents are undoubtedly filled with the simultaneous and conflicting emotions of hope and dread, excitement and anxiety. The life of the new year wrestles with the pending death of summer vacation.

And, much like sports teams beginning their respective seasons undefeated, every school year begins afresh - ripe with the hope that this year will be the year. The year that every student succeeds, the year that my son reads at grade level, the year that my daughter makes lasting friends, the year that I stay out of trouble, get an A, make the team, earn highest honors, and become Student Council President.

For some, this newness will last well into the fall or even winter. No tardies. No missing homework assignments. No demerits or detentions or strikes or whatever punitive behavioral mark your school uses. No loss of patience. No less than stellar lessons. No "wing it" Wednesdays. No "I'm closing the door of my open door policy" Februarys.

For some it may even extend into the spring and all the way into the summer of 2018! These success stories, though, most often result with very little effort. These are the students who are successful in spite of their academic situations. Naturally intelligent and driven, these are the students that would succeed even if they were to teach themselves! These are the teachers whose favorite color is sunshine and who don't drink coffee - not because they don't like the taste but because "they don't need it"! These are the parents that seem to be able to work full time, run their own business, support a successful mommy-blog, volunteer at every event, coach sports that even their children don't play and always dress as if they just posed for GQ. These are the administrators - at Catholic schools at least - whose seats, budgets, endowments, test scores, student organizations and seemingly every other aspect of the school is full. They are early to every administrators' meeting and don't have to run back to their building upon the meetings' conclusion.

Seldom do these year-long success stories result from intense and sustained effort or after the inevitable failures, mix-ups, missteps and mistakes that usually spiral into habits of these negative outcomes. A winning streak is hard to maintain because it's fragile. A losing streak, though, is sticky because it's hopelessness it is so contagious and addictive. After a while, the mud doesn't seem so dirty or unpleasant. Wallowing is easier and somehow less painful than the effort involved in getting back up, brushing off the grime and trying again - especially because you may just end up falling back down.

As I reflect on the beginning of this school year (my first outside of a K-12 school in 16 years) and all of its promise of hope and fear of failure, I am struck by the example of Peter throughout the New Testament. In Peter we have the epitome of mess-ups. He continually finds himself putting his foot in his mouth, misinterpreting a sign or teaching, sinking into the water, and even worse: lying. In Peter, though, we also have the epitome of transformation. He was able to break through and overcome the stickiness of the losing streak and experience a remarkable turnaround. Simon to Peter. Betrayer to worthy of trust. Follower to leader. Ordinary to miracle-maker.

As I think of the Peters that we will encounter within our schools - the students who will make mistakes, the parents who will drop the ball, the teachers who will want to pitch tents to capitalize on the Transfiguration, the administrators who will act more like a sheep than a shepherd - I wonder what made the difference for him? I wonder how he was able to break out of the losing streak that had him pitted as a by-name-betrayer in the Creed. I wonder how, at the end of his time with his Teacher, he was able to stand successfully on the footsteps of the Church he helped to establish.

My response is simple: prayer and love.

Undoubtedly, Peter must have been the subject of at least one of Jesus's conversations with His Father. It brings me great comfort to imagine Jesus praying for one of His closest friends - praying and interceding on Peter's behalf. Jesus stated there is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends - Jesus died for friends and foes alike - He most certainly would have prayed for His friends, too.

Jesus never stopped loving Peter. He never missed a chance to forgive him. He capitalized on the bright spots, reinforcing to Peter a job well done. Jesus continued to teach Peter, with love and about love, even after Peter's greatest fall. Jesus showed Peter his potential and then helped him reach it.

God is in the business of refurbishing broken things and making them new. He is versed at turning death into life, making last place feel like first, forging the greatest comeback of all time.

Educators must be in a similar business - taking broken things and making them new. Turning the death of ignorance into the life of knowledge. Changing the students who struggle the most into the greatest champions within our schools.

As we encounter Peter in our schools this year, let us approach him with the same love that Jesus approaches all of us - unconditional, intense, unwavering, relentless. Let us see the Peter in our midst with the same eyes that Jesus sees all of us - full of potential, made for greatness, built for holiness, destined for sainthood.

Let us pray for our Peters. Let us offer them 2nd, and 3rd and 49th chances. Let us offer to them the same transformational love that Jesus offers to us all.

Prayer + love = transformation. 

St. Peter, on the cusp of this new school year, pray for us - especially those of us most like you.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

The Hearts of Apostles

I believe that God speaks to us through the Mass.

In every Celebration of the Eucharist, there is some message being proclaimed to us. Might be in the Gospel. Might be in a song. Might be in a homily or Mass part or just a thought that comes to us in prayer. 

Of all of the Gospel readings that there could have been for your Graduation Mass, you had this one. For some reason God intended for you to hear it. But, I believe that God also intends for you to hear this message, too. 

Jesus tells of the trials we will face as His disciples:

"If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first.
If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own;
but because you do not belong to the world,
and I have chosen you out of the world,
the world hates you.

Can somebody say, huh?

Some of you have just spent the past 10 years at a school whose mission says that it keeps with the tradition of inspiring "disciples of Christ".

Why? If we know that a result of following Christ is that we will have to bear our cross and travel up to our own Calvary, why on earth we would follow Him? 

In this, the liturgical season of Easter, we hear of the story of the first apostles. We hear of the miracles performed in Christ's name by Peter and Paul. We hear of miraculous escapes from prison. We hear about how thousands of people came into the faith as a result of the witness of the apostles. We hear about them being led by the Spirit to give their lives for their faith, in the same way that their Teacher, Jesus Christ, did.  

Those that witnessed the Resurrection lived lives so courageous, so on fire for this faith, that they would still be willing to call themselves Christians after seeing the end of the one called the Christ and knowing that it could be their end, too.   

As St. Julie Billiart states, 
There must be nothing little about us; we must have hearts of apostles.

Because even though Jesus warns us of the difficulty of a life devoted to Him, He also tells us that He came so that we may have joy and that this joy may be complete. He tells us that if we follow Him we can do the things that He did and even great things than those. 

And to me, that's the type of life I want to live. A life of passion, purpose and possibility. That's the type of life that's filled with adventure. 

It's the stuff of heroes

But, I know what you're thinking. You don't have the heart of an apostle. Those stories and that kind of faith is for someone else - not you. 

That you haven't been given the keys to the kingdom. 

Jesus hasn't blinded you by knocking you off of your horse. 

He hasn't changed your name. 

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI stated, 
The world promises you comfort, but you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness.

ICS Class of 2017, you were not made to walk gingerly through this life, passive and afraid, on the safety of the shore. You were made to walk tall with purposeful steps and push out into the deep waters and leave a footprint on this world that will echo through eternity. 

You were made for greatness, holiness, sainthood. You are a diamond - strong and pure - that is meant to reflect God's glory for all to see. 

Let there be nothing little about you. You do not honor our God by playing small. 

You were created on purpose for excellence. 

Jesus has given you the keys to the Kingdom. You're here, graduating from a Catholic elementary school. You have been given the opportunity to learn about Him and His teachings. You've been invited to His table. You were created in the same fashion as Peter - on purpose and for excellence. Jesus's plan for your lives is no less heroic than Peter or any of the saints. 

He is building His Church upon you. You are a Rock - solid and firm. 

Jesus has knocked you off of your horse. In some cases you've fallen far and hard. In others, the fall has been softer, more subtle, but not any less impactful. Jesus is molding you into a beautiful home. And, He's not just an interior decorator. He's knocking down walls. He's building 2nd, 3rd, and 14th floors. He's making you into something majestic. He's re-constructing you into a palace. And, friends, He plans to live there. 

He's building you into His Church. You are a Cathedral - beautiful and inspiring. 

Jesus has changed your name. He has chosen you. For those of you that have been confirmed, He has given you a new name. He has given you a purpose. He has placed upon your heart a passion. He has given you the hope of possibility. He has spoken to you. In some cases it's been a whisper, in other's Jesus has used a conversational tone. For a few, He's shouted! He's stirring into flame the spark that you received at baptism. He is kindling the embers within your heart until it is on fire for Him!

He's building you. You are His - His beloved child. 

Royal blood courses through your veins and is pumped by your heart - the heart of an apostle. 

Let there be nothing little about you. You were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness. Greatness isn't mediocre and it doesn't come easily. But that's okay, because and you can and must do hard things. You are made from eternal stock. There is a depth and resolve to your Spirit. Grit your teeth, dig in your heels. Grab your hard hat and your lunch pail and get to work! Go! Run to do the work that God has set out before you and do it with everything that is within you. 

ICS Class of 2017, you were created on purpose for excellence. 

You have a part to play. 

He's called you by name. 

He's given you purpose. He's filled your heart with passion. He's given you the hope of possibility. 

And while Jesus tells us that the world will hate us because of our love for Him, He also tells us, "In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world."

You follow a God who has conquered sin and death. You believe in a Lord who offers unfailing life. You know that even though it may be Friday that Sunday's coming! 

ICS Class of 2017, follow in His footsteps so that, like the apostles and all of the holy men and women who have gone before you, you can leave your footprint on this world. Let there be nothing little about you. You were made for greatness. You have the hearts of apostles. 

*Graduation address to the ICS Class of 2017. Congratulations, Class of 2017!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Dreams

Let us remember that the reason that we had yesterday off from school and work was to honor the heroic work carried out by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and other courageous men and women to bring about equality and justice in our country. 

As such, let us be inspired by the work and words of this great man. As Fr. Stephan Brown, SVD,  proclaimed during a homily on January 15, 2017: "Let us be drum majors for justice. Let us be drum majors for peace. Let us be drum majors for righteousness." 

There is still good work to be done. Let us be the people to do it.
The following "Found Poem" is inspired by the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:


Seared by the flames
Withering injustice
Crippled by manacles
Restricted by chains
A lonely island of poverty
A dark and desolate valley
Quicksands, sweltering summers, storms, winds - whirlwinds
A mountain of despair. 
But,
Let us not wallow there
Up let us rise
to the sunlight path, the majestic height,
the palace of invigoration
shaking the foundations
Until that day
The day we cash the check
Drink from the cup
And satisfy our thirst. 
This long night of captivity will end
Doors will be opened
The discord, transformed
And the symphony of churches, 
    pointing their lofty spires heavenward,
        will once again ring out...

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

That's Christmas to Me

In the words of Matthew Kelly, there is genius in Catholicism.

Catholicism recognizes that Christmas is such an incredible celebration that it throws an eight day party. The miracle and mystery of the Incarnation had been prophesied for generations. The Creator of heaven and earth left the first to inhabit the latter. Known as the Octave of Christmas, the period of time from Christmas through the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God (January 1) is an extension of Christmas. Every day throughout the octave of Christmas "reflects back on the Nativity, not just the birth of Christ but the impact, the reality of the birth".


Our great Mother Church follows the Solemnity of Christmas with a series of feast days that move us out of the manger and into the journey of faith.

December 26 marks the Feast of St. Stephen, the first martyr. This reminds us about the cost of discipleship. We move out of the "serenity" of the manger scene and into the harsh reality of being a Christian.

December 27 was the Feast of St. John, Apostle and evangelist. St. John, the beloved apostle, wasn't beloved because of anything he did. Instead, he was beloved which allowed him to do the things he did - take Mary in as his own mother and compose one of the Gospels and the Book of Revelation.

Today, December 28, the feast of the Holy Innocents, once again reminds us that the "peace" of the stable was juxtaposed with danger and cruelty. Joseph and Mary, on the tail end of an exhausting journey to Bethlehem, flee to Egypt to escape Herod's wrath. While Jesus was spared in this instance, we know that many more innocent children lost their lives to the evil of the world.

December 29 is the feast of St. Thomas Becket, another martyr, another reminder of the cost of following Jesus.

We celebrate the feast of the Holy Family on December 30. Jesus came into the world as a baby. Joseph and Mary undoubtedly experienced the same challenges faced by all families. They serve as a model and example of the importance of family in the development of faith.

December 31 is the feast of Pope St. Sylvester I, the Pope who supported the Council of Nicea in 325 that proclaimed Jesus as both fully human and fully divine - giving the mystery of the Incarnation even that much more weight.

Finally, on the eighth day of Christmas, we celebrate the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God. On this high feast we are once again reminded of Mary's monumental "yes" that changed the world.

As we reach the half-way point of Christmas (4 days in), let us continue to find joy in the Incarnation. Let us continue to recognize that Christmas is more than a day. Let us continue to sing, dance, visit with family and friends and pray. Despite the challenges of discipleship, may Christmas remind us that the world, because of His entry into it, is forever changed.

For to me, Christmas isn't about a man dressed in red.

It's about a baby who's story is meant to be read.

It's not about the children all nestled in their beds.

It's about a family with no place to rest their heads.

To me, Christmas isn't about the presents under the tree.

It's about His presence and what He means to me.

It's about present-less Whos still singing with glee.

It's about praising God and time with family.

Silent night? No crying He makes?

Christmas is about the flesh on which our God takes.

It's a travel-worn family, giving birth in a stable.

It's about shepherds and wise men coming to Him, giving gifts as they're able.

The picture we have of this holy of days.

Is not quite the picture I think Christmas conveys.

The Greatest Story Ever Told and yet do you hear what I hear?

Our Savior was born, choirs of angels were there.

Joy came to the world, a new star shone bright.

We should seek after Him with all of our might.

The celebration's not over, the season of Christmas continues.

Fall on your knees. Hear the angel voices.

Choose.

Choose to believe in Him who is true.

Believe in the One who can make hearts grow in love.

Believe that Jesus came down from above.

From Heaven, God's only Son. The Chosen One. Redeemer. Savior. Hero. Love. Light. Truth.

Real.

A real baby. A real birth.

A real postpartum trip to Egypt because of His worth.

He came into this world to give us His Word.

Mary said yes.

Joseph recognized his life, too, was blessed.

They embraced the real hardship, real struggle, real joy, and real love of being a family.

Shepherds flocked by night. A little boy played his drum for Him, for Him the boy played his best.

Angel choirs sang out, "Glory to God in the highest heaven and peace on the earth to those on whom His favor rests."

Jesus is born. Rejoice!