Facing challenges is a universal human experience; it is impossible to live life without them.  It is also impossible to grow or evolve without them.  I know I’m stating the obvious, but it appears to me in this age of convenience and excess that  if when presented with a challenge or obstacle, that somehow it’s a punishment from God…or the government.  There is a sense of entitlement that is rooted in an elementary belief that if I am good and follow the rules, nothing bad will happen.  Now I don’t know about you, but I stopped believing In Santa Claus a long time ago.  It doesn’t mean I’m a cynic, I still believe that what you put out there eventually comes back to you, but come on, if our faith is never tested we never grow and learn either.

There was a great book written by Harold Kushner entitled “When bad things happen to good people ”  that helped me change my attitude about the suffering that often accompanies challenges by not asking why me, but what can Ido about the challenge to give it greater meaning in my life.  We certainly live in a time where challenges exist in abundance, from the economy to the environment.  There is no way around it, challenges are everywhere.  But challenges don’t always have to lead to something negative.  I know many of you could slap me for saying that, but just hear me out.  We do have the choice to turn difficulty into riches, depending on what we learn and what doors they may open.  Of course there are all sorts of legitimate feelings that come from hard times, and overcoming difficult obstacles that should always recognized, but never dwelled upon.

None of us are perfect either.  I know rationally this as an obvious fact which should mean that we’re all works in progress to which challenges are simple opportunities to evolve into something closer to our best selves.  Emotionally, though, it is easy to believe that other people are more perfect that we are, making it seem that we had to work even harder to catch up.  Just look at our obsession with surface beauty.  The perfection myth is just an easy way to keep gullible people down.  All of us are broken in one way or another…and keeps the door open on mercy and humility.

Many years ago, I discovered that I had an irreparable injury to my spine…(yes, that is a recent picture)  if you follow the vertebrae downward, you can see how they stack upon one another evenly in a gentle curve, with the facet joints (those little toggles/wings that connect them together) keeping in line…until the last one, then you can see how the facet joint is fractured right through, leaving the vertebrae to slip way forward.  It is called a spondylolisthesis…and it really means that the top of my spine isn’t really connected to the bottom of my spine any more.  I’ve been active all my life, and this really was a devastating blow, at first.   When I stopped asking why me and instead asked what can I do now, a whole new world opened up to me.  I learned to refocus my energies and discover new interests in other areas of my life.  I had to exercise my faith in way that I had never had to before, I affirmed the belief that somehow all things would be well and that good can come from anything.  I can’t begin to explain how this difficult challenge brought me to such a greater place.  Most people don’t even realize that I have a permanent stress fracture  because I never let it define me, but I did bring it up specifically, because I empathized deeply with those of you out there facing your own particular set of challenges, but I also challenge you to use them to your benefit and not as an excuse to build up hatred and blame.

I am really saddened and frustrated by the atmosphere brought about by this troubling time.  In a time when most profess strong faith in God, we many are frozen in a mindset of fear and blame and that can never be a good thing.  It simply breeds bad behaviors.  I see it whenever I turn on the TV or open up a newspaper.   I’m tired of politicians and pundits targeting blame and disseminating inaccurate information to keep us desperate and fearful about the future.  I  keep thinking that we  should be better than this by now, given all that humanity has survived up to this point in our history.  The mess that our world is in right now didn’t come about on its own, we are all culpable in some measure.  I can also be sure that it won’t be fixed on its own either.  We need to look forward with hope in our hearts,  in this season of light.  We all can bring the light into darkness, to not ask why me, but what can I do.  We can offer a helping hand instead of pointing a finger and join together to build a stronger structure.  That is my Holiday wish, to use the challenges presented to us to create a stronger future….

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