Saturday, December 31, 2011

Sliding into 2012 and Recreating Self

I love the end of the year because it is a natural time to review whats been going on in life and to plan for the year ahead. Some people call them resolutions--I prefer to think of them a goals.

Da Boys
I had a goal of being of being lighter at the end of 2011 than I was at the beginning--and amazingly enough, I am. Not as light as I was in the middle of the year--but overall lighter. Success.

Some of the goals for 2012 include travel--Houston, Sarasota, Orlando and somewhere else yet to be determined.

And other as yet to be determined goals, will undoubtedly arise over the next few days.

Each year could be considered a new beginning. A chance--or a natural opportunity to recreate myself.

Lucas in His Helmets
I was reviewing the images of 2011, and ran across one from Christmas Eve--Jeremy and the boys. I reminded me that we have a really cool family and that for 2012, I want to continue to make he family closer together so I can enjoy things like major Nerf gun wars in the yard and everything else that goes with getting together.

 And so, for the last blog entry of 2011, I want to leave with this image of Lucas in his makeshift helmets. I think he looks a lot like a Star Wars rebel fighter.

But he has it down and this is my resolution for 2012--take each day as it comes, smile a lot and try to brighten the day of those around me. Don't worry too much about the small stuff and when the big stuff comes--duck or put make sure I have a good hard hat, so it rolls off.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Friday, December 30, 2011

Endings and Beginnings

2011 is almost gone to assume its place in the history of the world. I tend to think of it now in terms of endings--the things that happened and that are done, gone, and hopefully not forgotten.

Today, for instance, I know people who are ending their careers--they are retiring after decades (yes decades, like four or five) of service to this country. On one hand, it seems like an ending.

But it is a beginning, too--a chance to start over and begin the next chapter of their lives. I am sorry to see them go, but I am excited for them and the opportunities that they face for the future.

I look back on the year and I recall some of the great events and moments that we will remember years into the future--like ending our involvement in Iraq, the end of Usama bin Laden, the Arab Spring which saw millions free themselves from tyranny, Libya and Gaddafi, the end of the US space shuttle program, the Japanese earthquake, the Maryland earthquake, and the world population exceeding 7 billion--just to recall a few.

There were deaths of many great people--famous with notoriety as well as not so famous and close and personal.

But there were also births--those clean slates of humanity ready, whether they want to or not, to lead us into the future in a few decades.

Endings followed by beginnings.

There was sadness--but there was also joy.

For my family, 2011 was a great year. We grew closer together, we celebrated, we traveled together, and we at times walked with each other in the face of some really serious and deadly diseases to provide each other support.

I found heroes in our family--those who stepped up to the challenge of cancer, or other disease on a daily basis and said to themselves--I am better than that and this is not going to beat me. I know--I take that approach every day with my NDPH.

Will 2012 be better? God alone knows.

But I know this--it will be full of endings and each ending will be accompanied by a beginning.

So good-bye 2011, your time has run its course. Hello 2012--what promise do you hold?

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Do you believe in angels or God?

What an interesting question posed by and 18 year old Austin, Texas teen on December 19th--who subsequently died on Christmas of a heart attack. The question was posed at the end of a You Tube video (in two parts) that described his life and how he had cheated death three times. I believe the video was his attempt provide comfort to those who love him as he knew his time was short and also to be a means to provide hope to those who are afraid of death and do not know God.

The teen's name is Ben Breedlove and he answered the question simply, "I do." He should know, had died already twice--possibly three times during his short life.

I watched the videos this remarkable teen produced. They are on You Tube and are titled simply: This is my story (part 1), and This is my Story (part 2).

I was impressed with this young man who I believe had a pretty good idea that his days were numbered and wanted to leave us a message of hope.

I am also heartened by the media coverage associated with his life and passing.

I have talked to not a few people lately who say they are spiritual--but in my mind don't have a good grasp of the full implication of what they are saying when they use the word. I am glad they are spiritual, that is a start. My hope and prayer is that they move from an impersonal spiritualism into a deeper relationship with God.

Maybe Ben will help some of them to come to that place.

The Christmas season is a good time to find a closer relationship with God. What a great way to start the New Year--knowing the creator of the universe.

Happy New Year and God bless you!

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The In Between Week

This week is the in between week, the week sandwiched between Christmas and New Years. It is a week full of recovery from Christmas and planning for the New Year celebrations. It is amazing what kind of things happen during the week which continue to keep us busy.

I did have the chance to check out some of the gifts I received. The Photoshop program for the images I collect seems really cool. I also enjoyed test flying my radio controlled hawk--but it was raining too hard outside to actually try to fly it for real.

The excitement for the day was to see the Tin Tin movie and enjoy the big screen bringing to life the boy reporter that Patrick enjoyed so much as a child. It was nice to go to a movie during a weekday afternoon. And since it was raining it both got me out of the house and encouraged a walk around the mall--which I fully circumnavigated.

I will be reading through my 2011 blogs this week and coming up with the best images and stories of the year mostly as a way of recapping my activities and thoughts.

I will continue to enjoy the in between week--but I am working two days, unlike other years. I did a better job of scheduling my use or lose leave this year. I remain amazed at the mild nature of  December 2011's weather for Maryland.  Despite the rain yesterday--temperatures continue to be mild and overall pleasant. I am sure that the storms of winter will soon be upon us--but I have to continually remind myself that we are really experiencing a pleasant time weather-wise.  It makes the promise of spring--now less than 90 days away, very real.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Nerf Guns and World War

Christmas provided a wide variety of activities for the family to participate in and to enjoy each other.

One of the coolest gifts of Christmas was the remote controlled tarantula--no doubt, but getting nearly everyone in the family Nerf guns has also provided a lot of fun as well. It is amazing the killer instinct that some members of the family have when holding one of these things.

And then there was the Holiday game of Axis and Allies--the new version which went for another seven or so hours before the Allies were able to assure victory by capturing Tokyo after the Axis player made a grave strategic mistake. The fortunes of war, so they say.

If the holiday is about relationships, then we have truly cemented ours as a family. Fortunately, Nerf bullets are soft and generally make us laugh when we are hit.

I was amazed how quickly the Christmas music disappeared from the radio stations. Over a month of playing the songs and carols and then gone--in a flash, even though it is really the third day of Christmas, as the old song goes.

For now though, I'm going to hunker down and watch the torrents of rain expected in the forecast and enjoy some of my new toys. and get my truck repaired.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Monday, December 26, 2011

Monday Musings - December 26, 2011

1. For Christmas and family and the time spent in preparation--give thanks!

2. It was fun being on the roads yesterday driving at the early break of dawn--the roads were empty and the first rays of the sun were just beginning to grace the eastern sky with a red hue that brought joy to my heart and I was celebrating the birth of Jesus so many years ago.

3. Christmas is really for the young at heart--because it is about new life and new hope.

4. I woke up this morning and I cannot believe that Christmas was yesterday. What a great holiday and family day.

5. It was nice to take a day off from the crush of life, I did not even check out the news yesterday. So I am behind today.

6. Christmas in not over though--it is just continuing every day.

7. We have been blessed with a great December in terms of weather and temperatures. Who would have believed that the entire family would be outside yesterday afternoon having a Nerf gun war. Yes--the best gifts of Christmas were Nerf guns for everyone. We payed until the sun went down and it got really cold.

8. I think I have handled my truck dying pretty well. I am pretty sure it is the fuel filter and I'll get on it tomorrow.

9. Christmas returns and gift cards--yeah, the shopping continues. Ugh!

10. I have a problem with packaging. Have you noticed how much is wasted by excessive packaging? And children's toys are the worst. I struggled with many toys yesterday including using some sophisticated tools to get into the toys. Ugh. The pile of packaging in the garage is overwhelming. We need to reduce packaging to save resources.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Coolest gift so far

The remote controlled tarantula. Makes people get out of the way.

Merry Christmas 2011

God bless you all.

May you find peace and joy that surpasses anything you could have imagined.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve 2011

Consider, for a moment the traditions and the things we do which get us through the Christmas holiday.

Today, for instance, my family gathered for a Christmas Eve breakfast--a chance to get together and celebrate at the beginning of the two day celebration, rather than later when we are all tired.

We are blessed by a glorious day--fair temperatures in the 50's and sunny, blue skies.

We are doing activities directly related to the holiday--be that cooking, or wrapping, or in my case brining the turkey. I have already delt with a broken down truck and got that into a place where it won't affect thee rest of the holiday--meaning I'll deal with it later. I did, however, enjoy the ride in the tow truck.

Soon, we will get together again for worship and then go separate ways for the evening. Even those who are out of town have called to be part of the festivities.

Tomorrow--the real fun begins with gift exchanges private and larger family events. A massive dinner, and time together are also part of the day.

The kids make the holiday--but connecting with family, including extended family strewn across the country, will also be an important part of the day.

This year, Monday the 26th is the second day of Christmas in that the Axis and Allies will again recreate WWII and ttempt to chang hostiry once again while feasting on leftovers and not a few beers.

The reason for the season? It is there in the love that we all share.

I had a great discussion a week ago about God and religion and I reminded the people I was chatting with that what really matters is the relationship. If we foster a strong relationship between our family members, we are reflecting the kind of relatiionship God wants with us. And that friends, is the season's reason.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Prayer 2011

Father in Heaven, thank you for the year almost completed. You have blessed me in ways that I cannot comprehend.

My family has prospered and I see your hand in everything that has happened in my life and with my family. Thank you for the things you have provided to me.

I come before you this Christmas to celebrate again the gift of your Son which provides the path to eternal life. I know the world is an evil and dangerous place; but I also know that I too am hard and unforgiving. I fail to show your love to those around me so that they can see your reflection in my life. Forgive me.

Father, as the celebration begins I realize that there is much work to do in my heart, my town, my county, this state and country, and throughout the world.

I ask that the eyes of those who do not understand the reason that I celebrate the birth of the Savior of the World be opened.

Remind me daily of Your love--which I may see reflected in the lives of those around me.

Help me to be an instrument to show someone in need that love is not just words or feelings, but that Your love is action.

I have learned about sickness and disease this year in my own life and in the lives of others. Comfort those who are afflicted. Give them hope in the middle of the night when all seems dark and and they feel alone. Provide them the assurance of your love. Heal us, Lord.

For the heroes who are returning from war, help them to find peace and healing.

For those still overseas in harm's way, protect them from the forces of chaos and evil.

For the families of those who have fallen in service to this country, give them comfort.

For our nation, restore our government and make us, as a people, an instrument that you use in the world for good and peace.

For our leaders, protect them and give them wisdom to govern this nation according to your will.

As I am here in Your presence, Lord, I see in my mind parents praising, angels singing, shepherds coming, magi arriving, and the baby upon whose shoulders the hope of the world was laid laying there to repair the relationship between mankind and You. Make me part of the story and not just an observer.

Your story of love is active, not passive. I want to be an active part of Your plan and to carry the joy of this season into my life all the year long.

I ask this all in the name of Your Son, Jesus, whose birth I celebrate.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Path to Destruction

The beginning of the end is upon us here in America, I am afraid.

We are heading down the slippery slope of becoming like the great socialist societies of Europe with incredibly high taxes, universal health care, ineffective militaries, and unbalanced and hopelessly out of balanced budgets.

By the time we are done--there will be no middle class left in America. There will be the very rich and those dependent upon the government for everything.

And the sad thing is--we are getting exactly what we elected--which by extension means we are getting what we wanted.

Here is some of what I have read in the news the past couple of days:

A city, Central Falls, Rhode Island, wants to slash the retirement plans of already retired police and firemen because they are facing bankrupcy and failed to put enough funds into the retirement fund in the past. Note, this is not a change to still on duty retirement plans--but to those already retired.

Those who have served and put their lives on the line are being forced to serve again in their retirement. Really? And this trend is not new--it has been looked at in California in cities like Hollywood and San Jose. And if you read the article--the police and firefighters in Central Falls did not contribute to Social Security--and therefore are not eligible to collect benefits under that program either.

Then I read an item from right here in Maryland--which is on track to become the highest taxed state in America. It seems that lawmakers are not happy with the Homestead Exemption which caps the amount of tax increases that can be passed along to homeowners living in their houses. The state and local governments are not getting enough revenue it seems. So one of our bright delegates is going to propose tying property taxes to ability to pay--or income. Really? My home is going to be taxed at a higher rate because I have some success in life? Delaware and Florida are looking better every day.

My pay is already frozen for the third year in a row, but my taxes, medical costs, and costs of living continue to climb.

I am expected to pay more taxes just because I live in the third most prosperous county in the United States.

And Congress is trying to nickle and dime me even more as I read about new taxes, increasing payroll taxes, and reduced services. When will the fire sale happen?

Maybe I should just give up and head south to the beach. If I have no earned income, at least the government will give me money to stimulate the economy. I mean after all, my needs are pretty few--warm sun, sandy beach, and a drink in my hand. Although I do like to have someone come by every so often to refresh the drink--but I might be able to sacrifice that.

Face it--at our request, government has become too big. And now the gravy train ride is over and the bills are due. Similar to opening the credit card statements in January after Christmas--except we can't just print more money to pay the bill.

We are rapidly sliding down that slippery slope into irrelevance and destruction.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Surviving Christmas Shopping

This year I didn't wait until Christmas Eve to start or complete my shopping. I headed off to the mall last evening to risk my life and wallet at the retail outlets.

Amazingly, I survived.

It was touch and go for a bit, but after a rocky start, I managed to pull it together and remember everything on my list. Did I say list? Well, I didn't really have a list, more like a collection of unrefined gift ideas.

It was an experience, and I was even able to assist Chris with a purchase via the magic of cell phone technology--so I knocked a gift off her list while I was out.

I admit that it was fun to be out with the crowd--lots of families rushing to complete their shopping. People are different at Christmas. I think it is because they are thinking outside of themselves by looking for gifts for others--it changes perspective from inward focused to outward focused.

That is not to say every experience was good. In one store, I stood in line for 10 minutes to check out and then they forgot to offer me gift boxes so I had to go back later to get those. Admittedly, it was my first stop and I wasn't fully in the shopping "zone" yet.

My shopping experience spanned about three hours, and by then I was ready to call it a night. Except that I needed to make three stops on the way home--ugh! That is what I hate about shopping--there is always one more stop to make.

I do love shopping on Christmas Eve though. The rush knowing that the end is in sight coupled with the panic of trying to find the right items from the picked over shelves mingled with the time crunch. It helps to get me in the Christmas mood.

For now though--the shopping is done and I can begin to find the real Christmas mood.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge. MD

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

'Tis the Season for Lists

Just a note--five days until zero hour.

Lists, lists, and more lists.

Seriously, I do not think there is anyone in the world who makes more lists than Santa--except my wife.

I know she is going to think I am picking on her--but the lists work for her. She has a full accounting of who is naughty and nice! Down to the minute detail. And I am in awe of her lists--even to the point of digging through the recycling last evening to find a list that was feared to have been accidentally discarded.

Her lists keep Christmas straight, even and most of all--equitable! Everything is catalogued in terms of number and price. Gifts are deconflicted, swapped among recipients, and even returned before the main event should a need arise. And the need arises quite a lot as gift ideas are changed or better sales appear in the ads..

Me? I'm lucky to have what I will call "gift" clarity five minutes before I need to make a purchase. I think about gifts--but I do not make lists. I have enjoyed shopping on Christmas Eve as the panic of being down to the wire comes up against the crush of the crowds. But, I have found that this is not a good recipe for success. Although, I have obtained some pretty nifty third options by shopping that way.

And I even rely on dumb luck--like this year, already. I recently learned that a major gift that I was going to purchase for someone had already been taken by others. Just through casual conversation.

So given everything happening in my life, it has been determined that tonight is my night--the night I finalize Christmas for those for which I am responsible. It, fortunately, is a short list. I have been given tonight for this activity due to playing some absolutely uninspiring racquetball last evening in the league tournament. I didn't make it out of the first round, and based upon how I was playing, I didn't deserve to make it to the semifinals.

So as a reward for failure on the racquetball court--I will sojourn into the crowds with my list to complete my Christmas shopping.

Wish me luck in my task--Christmas depends upon it. Too bad I can't just depend upon Santa to do the job.

BTW--I'm a terrible shopper.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Monday, December 19, 2011

Monday Musings -- December 19, 2011

1. Six days to go. I hope all of the shopping is done and everything is ready for the main event.

2. The fortunes of football continue to be fickle. The Ravens decided to give up being in the driver's seat for the season and the playoffs and give it over to the Patriots. Along with their loss and the Packer's loss went my hopes of a Fantasy Football championship.

3. And in the category of wierd things happen when we least expect them, Kim Jong Il, the leader of North Korea is reported to have died overnight. Just what we need--instability in another part of the world.

4. The final family birthday before Christmas has been celebrated and now it is time to slide feet first into the all encompassing Holiday Season.

5. We had an interesting talk in church yesterday about the Magi who sought the baby Jesus. Aside from all of the great teaching, that trite phrase kept creeping into my mind-- "Wise men seek him still!" And it is true. We need to question and understand the depth of the relationship that God wants to have with us.

6. Cold. The weekend was cold. I did almost nothing outside; but I did go to the grocery store three times!

7. Chris is working on the words of a song using the Twelve Days of Christmas tune. The opening verse is, "On the first of December my true love said to me, 'Yay it's the holidays.'" I can only guess where it is heading--but it is sure to be funny.

8. What do you get when you put together five small children, two dogss, two cats, and 10 adults? Nope, a birthday party!

9. My hope is that you find peace and joy during this season of holidays. Enoy the lights. Enjoy the parties. Most of all, enjoy being alive to be able to be part of life and able to enjoy the season.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Brinkmanship and Government Shutdowns

Amazingly enough--Congress got their act together again at the last minute to avert a government shutdown that had the potential for completely destroying our economy.

I continue to be amazed that the Congress is so dysfunctional that every couple of months it brings our country to the brink of disaster but failing to pass a budget. Here is the rub--the budget was due to be in place by October 1. It is late-December with Christmas upon us and last-minute deals are required to preserve the economy and the functioning of our government.

What is wrong with this image?

Yet, we Americans are beginning to accept this approach to budgeting as the norm. It happens every year. But, this approach is incredibly wasteful. I believe that if the Congress could get a budget passed before the start of the fiscal year that governmental agencies could better manage their resources and provide increased levels of efficiency. As it is now, countless peeople are engaged in multiple levels of contingency planning to prepare for and mitigate the effects which would occur as the result of a total government shutdown.

That, folks, is waste--effort which could and should be applied elsewhere.

I am reminded of the potential impact on the budget by something so ubiquitious as a computer log in.

Go with me on this hypothetical example.

There are about 4.43 million (including military) government workers making an average pay of $67,600 per year. These figures are according to some quick research I did on the net and you should be able to easily replicate these numbers. That means that the average pay is about $32.50 per hour.

Now, if the login time for these workers to access the computer network necessary to do their work is increased by 15 seconds every day, that means that the effective cost in term of lost producticity is about $599,000 per day. Over the course of the year that equates to over $1.2 Billion (yes billion). For a 15 second change.

Think about how much time is being wasted every year because Congress can't get their jobs done on time.

And then add to that the increasingly oppressive oversight and reporting requirements that Congress levies on the Executive Branch. The overhead costs of doing business are becoming so great that productivity is eroding.

Brinkmanship costs us, the taxpayers, money. Real money.

We need to impress upon our representatives that they are expected to get a budget passed before the start of the fiscal year. It is one of the required items on their report cards--and then we can begin to streamline the overhead associated with operating the US Government.

"We the People" need to help our leaders channel their energy more wisely.

--Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Christmas Songs Sound All Alike

Radios blare the tarnished tunes
like silver set out for the feast
once a year, the songs are played
then stored away again.

The tunes have played too many times
sentiment lost, still the words I sing
frozen tunes, the melodies strive
to stir the season in my soul.

Snowmen and Santas and coming home
the words repeat too many times
meant to help spread peace and joy
yet now are just more air.

I heard Longfellow's famous words
of old familiar carols play
too familiar it seems today
their notes ring all too hollow

Songs frozen in times long gone past
drape the season in familiar clothes
I come back again each year
to seek anew the season's reason.

The joy of birth, new life and hope
Of angel's songs and God come down
of gifts, and love, and seeking men
of peace on earth; good will to all

Shake off the tired striving songs
cast out the ghosts of Christmas past
for God came down on that great night
to live with us--and hasn't left.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The War is Over--Military Leaves Iraq

Iraq is done. Nine years later we can claim success and come home.

Why aren't the church bells pealing?

Why aren't we sponsoring parades and clamoring in streets? Today marked the handover of the last US base in Iraq to the Iraqi people.

At the conclusion of a war we should be celebrating peace and a new beginning. But, in this case, we are still at war in other places--this is but one success in a chain of wars and operations.

It has been a good year though--Usama Bin Laden has found his way off the planet to his eternal reward and the war in Iraq has concluded.

It is Christmas and although many of our military are deployed around the world continuing the fight against terrorism and the forces of darkness, the good news this holiday season is that we have left Iraq--just as was promised so long ago. Whether Iraq is viable as a country is now in the hands of the Iraqis.

Next up? Afghanistan! Let's win and come home.

I like to think--that for all of the families of service men and women returning home for the holidays, that this is a great Christmas gift.

So let the church bells chime and let us celebrate a new beginning--at least for today.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Christmas Pets--Caution

I see them everywhere, pets being offered a Christmas gifts.

Giving a pet for Christmas is dangerous because unlike other gifts, pets require constant work. Yes, they provide companionship--and I admit, having been the recipient of a Christmas puppy three years ago, they can be among the best gifts given and received during the holidays.

But the downside is that they reqquire constant work and attention. In the case of puppies, there is requisite training and multiple times per day walks to allow the pupppy to take care of business.

I remember when Makayla was still being trained, I drove home at lunch every day to let her out and give her some mid-day companionship. I was lucky to live close enough to where I work to be able to do that.

Even now that she is a wonderfully trained dog, Chris and I still consider Makayla's needs at the end of the day before heading off to shop or play racquetball. I stop by the house most evenings to let her out and spend a few minutes with her before rushing off to play racquetball. And when we are out on successive evenings, I feel very guilty about leaving her alone for so many hours.

And so, my caution is this--consider the entire situation when considering a pet as a Christmas gift. Pets are a longterm investment, and while the return can be worth much more than the effort, for some people there just is not enough time in life for a pet.

Cuddly and small on Christmas morning grows quickly into a demanding task--and if not done properly, the pet will be the ultimate loser.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Not Everyone Watches Football on Sunday Afternoon

On Sunday afternoon, when the guys are watching the NFL on TV and sipping on soft drinks and munching on popcorn, not everyone in the house is doing the same thing.

This past weekend, as Mike and I were watching the Redskins almost defeat the Patriots, and the women were out shopping, one guy in the house was marching to the beat of his own drummer.

Jax was in bed faking sleeping upstairs, but I found Ethan curled up on the sofa with an iPad amusing himself, despite the activity occurring elsewhere in the house.
It was kind of nice to see Ethan just hanging out doing his own thing in the quiet of the house.

He was oblivious to the struggle we were watching on the TV in the next room. And that was good because the outcome was not good for the home team.

Everyone needs some alone time.

Even E. Way to go. We all need to take note!

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Christmas Songs

You have heard them, I am sure.

The Christmas songs on the radio, ugh!

I am so burned out on Christmas songs already I think that if I hear "I'll be home for Christmas" one more time I will gnaw through my steering wheel.

Why am I burned out on Christmas already? I am not sure, but the songs seem the same. Even Nat King Cole's "Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire" is making my gag reflex go off.  And I used to love that song.  Really!

Maybe it is where we are headed.

The songs sound tired to me. I've heard them and they have not grown. I have grown! Christmas is different to me now than when I was a child, but the songs are still the same.  And, they are tired.

I think it is because the songs keep Christmas fixed in time, and the spirit of Christmas is alive and vibrant. Every year is new and every Christmas is a new beginning. The old tired songs just do not do it justice. The secular songs just cannot change either--I mean, how many times can we sing about "In the meadow we can build a snowman?" Truly, how many people even can envision what that scene looks like today? What is a meadow?

Christmas is alive. It changes every year as we grow deeper into the meaning of the season.

This year, I have a friend who has helped me see that the sappy songs of Christmas do it a disservice because the baby born in the back roads of the Roman Empire has changed everything.

We do Him and the season a disservice by not growing deeper into the true meaning of the season, the meaning that God came down on Christmas to save the world--and was rejected by many of the people He came to save.

Sadly. I have grown tired of the "O Holy Night" sentiment that traps Christmas. I want a more upbeat sound to revive my soul and remind me of the grace, the peace, and the hope that the season is all about.

I went to a performance of "The Messiah" by Handel the other night and was reminded of the mission that that baby was on--the baby who grew into a boy and then into a man, and then was killed because the people of the time were blind to His perfection.

He has called me friend and He has called me brother.

God came down on Christmas day.  No religion in the world believes that their God ever came to walk with them. And to understand the crush of everyday life.

That is why Christianity is not a religion, but rather a life style.

Today, why not thank God for the gift of Christmas, His son?


Monday, December 12, 2011

Monday Musings - December 12, 2011

1. I think I am getting burned out on Christmas music already. If I hear "I'll be Home for Christmas" one more time, I may run away.

2. It is getting colder out every morning, I guess winter is getting closer. It is 20 degrees outside this morning.

3. Less than two weeks to go until the big day.

4. The Presidential primaries are beginning to get interesting. I wonder who will be elected.

5. Traveling during the holiday season can get very interesting. TSA wants to keep us guessing about what nonsense item they will focus on next before allowing us to get to our gates. Important safety tip: don't wear backbrace, it may be confused with a money belt, which we all know are illegal. Interesting article about two senior citizens who had a very bad experience.

6. I can tell the NFL season is almost over, my Fantasy Football league playoffs begin next week and my team is stumbing in after losing 3 of the past four weeks, ugh! And I am still going to be the number 3 seed.

7. Looks as if there is a problem in space. The Russians have given up on their sick Matrian probe and it looks as if it is going to come crashing back to Earth.

8. For those of you who were wondering, spring training for baseball is just over two months away. Some teams have pitchers and catchers reporting as early as February 18th.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Cold Sunday Morning

I was watching the weather person on the news this morning trying to describe how cold it was outside. I had to laugh when she said it hadn't been this cold since December 2nd.

Really? Just over a week? I was expecting something more profound, like February.

I had noticed the cold while walking Makayla. It really was cold and I probably should have worn a coat--but I hadn't. Really cold, of course, is anything below freezing. Today, my thermometer registered 21 degrees.

I did notice the white, cold, full-moon shining through the branches of the trees. I was mesmerized by the naked branches of the trees and remembered how just a few short months ago the leaves would have hidden the moon from my view.

The light the moon cast though, was sufficient for me to clean up behiind Makayla as she took care if some business. I prefer thaat to using the small flashlight on the end of her leash.

We are closing in on winter.

Cold will be prevalent everywhere--and even some snow and ice by the time spring rescues us from the grasp of the dark days.

Two weeks from today, Christmas Day, the rush of the season will culminate with a day of intense celebration. And then on to the New Year.

Despite the cold, I pray you will be warm and surrounded by love.

The dawn has broken and it is time to start the day. Make it a good day.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Weekend Respite and a Happy Ending

The pace of life has truly picked up during the past week.

I'm not sure if it is due to the Christmas season or whether things are just cruising along more quicky and it is becoming harder and harder to keep up.

I relish weekends when I can catch my breath.

I'm sitting here with the cat who came back, Riordan, in my lap after just watching the end of a sappy Hallmark movie whith a yellow dog in it. I am a sucker for dog and horse movies--so I was immediately captured when I saw the movie and even more when it was a yellow dog (Lab).

I took a few minutes out of a shaping up to be an incredibly busy Saturday two weeks before Christmas to enjoy a story and look for the happy ending. The stories always seems to have a happy ending and the movie maker's twist is to make me wonder if my desired happy ending will be the one they choose.

I know life sometimes doesn't seem to have happy endings in everything. But that doesn't keep me from trying to find the happiness and joy in things.

On the other hand, I haven't even bought Cristmas cards yet.

So I am hoping to catch my breath this weekend and prepare for another fast paced week.

And help Chris get some things done to ensure a restful Christmas. Is that possible?

Happy Holidays. Truly. Take a time out to enjoy the season and the decorations.

I hope you can find the happy ending in the season which is really devoted to happy beginnings.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Friday, December 9, 2011

Phineas & Ferb

If you know who they are. Then you are definitely young enough for admittance.

Winter's First Causality

And so it has happened already. The first causality of winter. A couple of year old plant in the garden has not made it, already. Three months ago it was green and vibrant, yet today is it brown and dead.

I can hardly believe the carnage that the rainy weather is having on my gardens.
I certainly hope that springtime comes soon--despite knowing that we still have not officially entered the winter season. The last two days have been very cold, though.

Too cold.

Yet, there is more cold and foul weather ahead of us before we break into the warmth and earthy smells of the springtime.

I know of at least one pant that I will be replacing.

I guess it gives me something to look forward to--a trip to the nursery. I wonder if I should leave the dead plant there as a testament to how much I dislike winter?

Nah, I'l dig it up. It is too depressing to look at the once green plant and wonder way it died before its time.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Christmas Stories

What a season!

There are stories everywhere about the season. Stories of hope and peace and love and joy abound.

Some of the stories though are hard, and the happy miracle ending that I want to see happen, isn't happening.

Even in those situations where the endings aren't what I would want to see occur, the rest of the story is written in how I respond to the endings and the new beginnings.

The spirit of Christmas is in how I respond to others in the good times and the hard times. And at Christmas, I am more forgiving, more loving, more tolerant, and I realize that life is a team sport, I do not and cannot walk this life alone.

I know people for whom this season is a season of sorrow and pain. I grieve for them. Real life is not all bows and ribbons. I dearly wish it could be. But life is like that.

The TV programs and the commercials would have me believe that spending a bit more money can overcome anything.

It isn't true.

There is real sadness and no matter how hard I can hope that there is a way to turn sadness into joy, it is not that simple. If only the worst thing that happens during the season was that I ran out of egg nog.

But life is how we respond to each other and how we affect each other. Friends support friends--no matter what.

And the joy of the season is in assuring others who are experiencing hard time and difficult situations theat they are loved and not alone, no matter what.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Intolerance--the Initial Reports are In

I read an interesting article in the New York Times the other day titled The Price of Intolerance.

The article raises some interesting points about how the developing mood in our country against immigration and cracking down on illegal immigrants is having some very clear negative impacts to our way of life.

The scene for this article is in Alabama, and the impact of the loss of the lower working class of the population is significant--not just on the farmers who have crops rotting in the fields--which by the way will not make it to market and therefore drives up the price of food for everyone, but on the businesses which cater to the immigrant population. And here was the punchline for me--"there is no evidence that Alamabaians in any significant numbers are rushing to fill the gap left by missing farm workers or low wage laborers."

So why do it?

The intolerance is resulting in a situation where they are cutting off their nose to spite their face.

I worry about the current intolerance I am seeing across America. I see threads to another time in other countries where classes or groups of people were blamed for economic or national failure. The ressulting scene was not pretty and had some horrific outcomes. We experienced it in our own country with the McCarthy era communist hunts which caught many innocent people up in situations which our Constitution should have protected them from.

I worry about the intolerance of some of the laws being proposed by our leaders in knee jerk reactions to the economy. So far, in my opinion, many of their attempts to fix the economy have only made it worse. I know I am no better off now than I was two years ago.

Our current problems are causing us to look in the wrong places for remedy.

We are not an intolerant people--but we are becoming a scared population which will fling itself against anyone or any idea which offers a glimmer of hope.

We have entered election season--I am afraid that the rising intolerance factor will drive us to elect not the best person for the job, but perhaps the most radical and narrow-minded person who merely has a good-sounding proposal.

And if we are not careful--our whole economy will be rotting in fields right alongside the unharvested crops in Alabama.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

December Rain

It rained overnight.
At least it wasn't snow.

The temperatures are still above freezing and
although the days are short,
I enjoy the prospect of being outside,
even if only briefly.

I know the snows will come,
too soon.

And with the snow,
the cold and ice.

But for now,
I'll enjoy the mild weather
as December slides into January.

The dark is oppressive,
I noticed it last evening
as I was leaving work.

I experience the dark now
on both ends of my daily journey.

But this morning, I am thankful
for the rain is not snow.

And the leaves which still remain on my lawn,
are mixing with the Christmas decorations.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Monday Musings - December 5, 2011

1. My how quickly the year is passing, it is already December and 20 days until Christmas.

2. Writing of Christmas, the next time you are afraid to say "Merry Christmas" to someone and defer to "Happy Holidays" go check the name of the Federal Holiday we celebrate on December 25th.

3. I read this on the net--there is a new law being considered for the internet called the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), and under that law, reportedly, you could get 5 years in prison for uploading a Michael Jackson song--which is one more year the the doctor who killed him got.

4. So far this December the weather has been fabulous. I spent a lot of time outside this weekend doing yard work--something I couldn't do during October and November. Chris reminded me that I am actually getting springtime chores accomplisheed. I wonder if I should open the pool? Or would that be pushing it a it too far?

5. Is having two Christmas trees at home excessive?

6. Spending a day alone with a three-year old really provides a new perspective on life.

7. You know you are losing your eyesight when you read a sign and are convinced that a store is open until 11 pm only to find that the sign really said 10 pm -- and you are pulling up in the lot at 10:15 pm. Thank goodness for 7-11.

8. The hardest question I have to answer this itme of year is: "What do you want for Christmas?" I sincerely, don't have a clue.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Decorations for the Darkness

The neighborhood is bursting with Christmas decorations to provide light during the night.

The decorations are nice to look at--although the one house that always over does the decorating has not yet joined the fray. They tend to make it seem a bit gaudy and detract from the season.

Although we tend toward the simpler approach, many of the houses are now sporting the inflatable trees or snowmen--I'm not sure I appreciate those decorations as much as the people who install them do.

And the LED lights--wow, they still seem to be from an alien planet to me with their other world illumination. I much prefer the softer glow of the incandescent bulbs--which soon will be sold no longer, I am told.
Christmas Decorations
to Drive Away the Darkness

What seems to be missing more and more from the decorations. though, is a reference to the real meaning of Christmas. More and more the decorations seem to be advancing the idea of snow men and Santa Claus at the expense of the one who was the first gift.

I love the scene from The Polar Express when Santa holds his hand high above his head and announces the first gift of Christmas--which was a simple reindeer bell. That bell turns out to hold the magic of Christmas in its ring, which adults and many children cannot hear because they do not believe.

It is similar to when the angels announced the birth of the savior of the world two thousand years ago--a newborn baby boy in a garage in a backwater part of the world called Bethlehem. Didn't seem like much of at the time. But,  much like the bell, the people who cannot or will not believe that our God came to earth for them miss the point of the event--and likewise the season. Those of us who recognize the importance of the event continue to marvel at the simplicity and majesty of the plan to save the world from itself.

The first gift of Christmas, given in a barn so long ago, is the reason we celebrate the season. He is the reason to decorate and drive away the forces of the darkness which grow stronger--just for this season. We are children of the light--and we need to proclaim the light to those who are in darkness.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Penguins vs Messiah

What an interesting 24 hours I had that ended at 11pm yesterday.

Thursday night I, accompanied by Jeremy and Patrick, headed off to see the Penguins play (and defeat) the Capitals in D.C. NHL at its best.

Last evening, Chris and I headed off into Baltimore to hear Handel's Messiah performed by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. In a word--inspiring.

In a span of 24 hours then, I went from screaming "Let's Go Pens" to singing (under my breath) "and He shall reign for ever and ever. King of Kings, and Lord of Lords."

That friends, is a huge contrast.

The title of the blog today almost makes it sound like a campy movie (kinda like Cowboys vs Aliens).

But it is all good.

It highlights the complex person that I am--and, for that matter, how complex most people are. I have many interests and need to be careful to cultivate all of them. Yes, I love classical choral music. I admit it.

And with it being the Christmas season, there can be no better way than to review the entire story of Jesus than through the music of Handel's Messiah. Where else can I be reminded of the prophecy of his birth "the glory of the Lord will be revealed" (Isaiah 40:5) and then sing with the angels announcing the birth of Christ in the words "Glory to God in the highest." (Luke 2:14) And then to the joy of the resurrection in the words of the Hallelujah Chorus from Revelations 19:6 and 11:15. Finally, being reminded of his eternal reign in the words "Blessing and honor, glory and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb, for ever and ever." (Rev 5:12-13)

In reflecting upon the two evenings, I found that Penguins vs Messiah really isn't a big stretch. It is all just part of a complex and interesting life. A life that is filled with family and friends who keep me from being alone and boring--because left to my own devices, I am really a boring person.  Just ask my dog, Makayla.

Not to be forgotten though--the Penguins played their part, too. They delivered an early Christmas gift by defeating the Capitals. Kinda goes with the spirit of the season, doesn't it?

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Friday, December 2, 2011

Hockey Night in DC

It was a great evening, last night, traveling into the heart of DC to watch NHL hockey between the Capitals and the Penguins.

I witnessed a close game which was well played ending with the Pens defeating the Caps 2-1.
What was different was that I was cheering for the visitors. In most of my experiences at sporting events, I am usually cheering for the home team. But, as I am a Penguins fan, last night I was one of those guys. The fans from out of town. I am reminded of the Yankee or the Red Sox fans who invade Oriole Park every year.

Fortunately, there were a lot of fans wearing the colors of the Penguins, so I was not alone. The impromptu celebration on the steps of the museum across the street after the game may have been a bit over the top, but it was really neat to hear the gathered throng of fans yelling in unison "Let's Go Pens." we'll, it was all good fun until the DC police arrived to "protect" everyone.

I do want to note that the Caps fans were generally gracious. As always there are some who haven't matured yet above the street fight level, but on the whole, and given the cost of the tickets, everyone remained civil. This was especially nice to experience since the Capitals are currently in the midst of a streak where they are truly under performing.

It was fun to attend the game and sojourn into the heart of DC. Someone suggested that we go to Philadelphia for a game--but I'm thinking that's not a good idea. Even though Pittsburgh fans travel well--going into Philly is not such a good idea.

Best to leave well enough alone.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Hockey Night USA

Live from the Verizon center. Penguins versus Capitals. And I'm here in person with the boys. Missing Chris,but can it get any better than this?

Give Thanks--"In" is not "For"

Giving thanks in surgery is one of those hard things that the Apostle Paul tells us to do when he writes "Always rejoice, constantly pray, in everything give thanks." (1 Thess 5:16-18 NET Bible)

This does not mean to give thanks "for" surgery--I mean who really wants to have surgery? That means that there is something seriously (and  mean, seriously) wrong with the body. It is never a good thing o have to cut the body open and start removing stuff or repairing what's on the inside .

But, giving thanks "in" the surgery helps us to focus not on the bad that is unfolding, but the good surrounding the bad. While we are giving thanks in the surgery we are giving thanks for the skilled medical team, families, and friends. We also giving thanks for the prayers and the support and the speedy recovery from a successful surgery. And not to be forgotten, give thanks for the dreams that the surgery may be saving or restoring!

It is a different mindset. Focus on blessings in the middle of adversity and strife.

Sounds easy? No, not really, it is more like doing the impossible sometimes.

Why am I writing this today?

Because this morning (and much of yesterday) I am giving thanks for the prayer warriors who surround my nephew as he faced another surgery in his fight against cancer. I am giving thanks for the friends and the family supporting him. I am giving thanks for a good prognosis.I am giving thanks that Chris could be there with him to help support him and his Mom in person.

I, amazingly, talked to him yesterday afternoon after his surgery--and mind you this was surgery in his chest on one of his lungs. I give thanks for being able to talk to him and to hear his voice and hear the thanks in his voice for being able to talk to me and feel as well as he was feeling despite knowing that there are hard times ahead.

The real blessing of giving thanks "in" something is to be able to see around the circumstances of the now and to appreciate the "for's" that are everywhere shaping the tomorrow.

-- Bob Doan, Eldridge, MD
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