December 15, 2009 | The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner
Your Christmas PresentI have seen several different productions of "A Christmas Carol" throughout the years, and one of the things I enjoy is seeing how the three Christmas ghosts (past, present, and future) are portrayed by the different directors.† There is plenty of room for creative expression when it comes to creating the characters of the ghosts, and each time I've seen "A Christmas Carol" the ghosts seem to get bigger and more frightening. †
You and I are the directors of our own Christmas stories each year, and we too, are allowed plenty of creative expression when it comes to how we will cast the ghosts of Christmas past, Christmas present and Christmas future.
We are each visited by the ghosts of "Christmas past" this time of year.† Wonderful memories of Christmases past fill our hearts and are often accompanied by sadness as we realize what has passed and will never be again.† Our grief, of course, goes hand and hand with our gratitude for what has been.† "Christmas past" also fills with joyful memories, especially when we reflect back to the magic of Christmas when were children.†
If we are not mindful, any grief that visits us from "Christmas past" may also cause us to worry excessively about "Christmas future."† We may worry that Christmas will "never be the same again".†† We may find ourselves having a hard time enjoying the holiday season this year because we are so focused on how "this is probably the last Christmas that............."† Grieving over the past, or worrying about the future, are places where any of us can get stuck.
The key to not getting stuck in the past or the future, is to fully embrace "Christmas present."† We do this by "loving what is,"† by fully entering into the delight--and perhaps the challenges--that this Christmas means for us.† Our faith assures us that God's Love is equally present in the best of times and the hardest of times, and isn't that after all what the celebration of Christmas is all about?† I overhead a person say this week, "I'm the one in our family who is responsible for making Christmas happen."† I understand what they meant by that, but if they take that too literally, they are vulnerable to exhausting themselves and those around them.† We are all wise to remember who is truly responsible for making Christmas happen, and trust that this power, this presence, is what allows us to relax and receive the gift that is Christmas present this year.
A Special Year End Note From Samaritan:
As we approach the end of 2009 I want to thank each of you for being a reader of Samaritan's Weekly Words of Wellness.† I so enjoy sending these to you each week and especially enjoy your feedback and comments.† Samaritan Family Wellness is dedicated to doing all that we can do to enhance the lives of individuals, couples, families and organizations through whole-person wellness services and these weekly Words of Wellness are just a sample of what we offer in our community.
In light of this week's words, we would like to take a brief moment to reflect on our own past, present and future.† "Samaritan past" extends back to May, 2008 when we opened our doors.† We were blessed to have begun with a generous endowment gift that has funded the development of our community and church-based family wellness programs, as well as our sliding fee scale counseling services.
The story of "Samaritan present" is that we are well ahead of the goals we had set for ourselves in terms of the number of family wellness programs and counseling services that we are currently offering.†† We are honored to be able to provide these services throughout the Greater Milwaukee area; from the inner city to the suburbs, in churches, schools and other non-profit partnerships.† The demand for our services has recently become greater than we can currently meet given our current capacity.
Our "Samaritan future" envisions us growing at a steady pace through the creation and launching of several new whole-person/family wellness initiatives that are currently being created by the leaders of Samaritan.† The Living Compass Program, created by Samaritan,† is a program that has been piloted this fall and the response to it has been very positive.† In the beginning of the new year, we will be piloting The Living Compass Program in collaboration with the YMCA in addition to several additional churches.† In the summer of 2010 we will begin spreading this program out to the wider community by providing opportunities to "train the trainers" as we teach leaders of churches, schools and non-profits to provide the Living Compass Program in their own settings.† Within three years our goal is to spread the impact of the Living Compass Program to churches and other organizations well beyond the Milwaukee area.
In order to make this "Samaritan future" a reality we will be initiating a broad fundraising effort in 2010 to fund the initiatives that we will be launching.† I am delighted to announce that we have just been given a matching gift of $125,000 to jump start our fundraising efforts, which means that every additional dollar we raise up to $125,000 will be matched dollar for dollar.† In light of this exciting gift we want to invite any of you who wish to make a gift to Samaritan before this tax year ends, to please do so, knowing that every dollar you give will count for two.† We also wish to make clear that every dollar given, including the matching dollars, will go directly to funding new programs, and not to operating expenses.† We at Samaritan thank you in advance for your generosity as do the families that your gift will allow us to help. †
Blessings galore to you,† your friends and your family, for a most Holy Christmas.
Samaritan Family Wellness
500 W. Silver Spring, Suite K270
Milwaukee, WI† 53217
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