When my kids were small, I bought them
remote-control cars for Christmas. I loved them. Uh, I mean, they loved them. It was fun to show my son how to lovingly pester his mother and show my daughter how to playfully exercise the dog in circles.

The best part was simply pushing a lever to dictate the car’s direction. Being in remote control meant I didn’t have to endure the bumps and the jolts. I was into control — the more controlled remotely, the better.

My kids are older now, and I’m still into remote controlling. If I could find a way to push a button and make one child finish her college hours or push another button and send my son away from harm’s way he’s so anxious to enter as a new Marine, I’d have the best Christmas ever.

Of course, that ain’t happening.

So, this Christmas, I’m resolving to live by the serenity prayer. I have to. I have no choice. “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change! (And cannot remotely control.)

In short, I’m resolving to do what most of us do a dozen times each evening in the couch cushions — lose the remote control.

Checking your list

I know you carry an S-List.

No, wait, not that kind of list!

I mean a Santa list –for all the “good boys and girls.”

Unfortunately, I have to confess this past month, I found myself composing the other kind of S-list.

I know. Tisk, tisk. I’m a chapLain, and I’m not supposed to carry a list like that. Truthfully, though, I was angry at several people involved in a predicament. My natural inclination was to compose an S-list.

I remembered what a friend in recovery had told me when he heard me starting the list: Anyone can make an S-list, but few people know how to make a Gratitude list.

I remembered he had challenged me to spend a half hour in prayer composing a list of all I was grateful for — a G-List, so I did. At first I sounded like Tiny Tim, “Thank you for mommy and daddy, and sister and dog — blah, blah.” It felt phony and insincere, but the more I worked on the list, the list started working on me.

At the end of the prayer, I not only found myself with a new Christmas list, but gratitude came hand-in-hand with its two best friends, forgiveness and grace.

What do gifts prove?

Have you ever felt like you had something to prove with your gift giving? Maybe you tried to prove you love the grandchild as much as the other grandmother. Maybe you blew your paycheck on something sparkly to prove your love to your wife. If so, you let your Christmas tree become the proving grounds for your affection.

I was headed that direction recently when I stopped in the chapel to pray. “God, help me to stop trying to prove my love and help me to become the gift of love to someone who needs it today. Amen.”

I’m not making up the next part.

As I left the chapel, I nearly ran into a woman who was wearing a T-shirt that said, “Nothing to prove.”

As she passed, all I could do was shake a finger to the sky to say: “You’re funny, God. You’re just plain hysterical.”