Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Memories – Good and Not So Good

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Today’s Blog Post

Christmas Memories – Good and Not So Good

I truly believe that all good memories come from my childhood. It wasn’t until I became older that I started to realize that all Christmas Memories are not all good. I could say some were bad or even very bad… but there is always something that comes from the memories even during the dark times – that is good.

In dealing with this thought I made a list. I tried to list 10 of my top, very good Christmas Memories. Then to try the other side of it all… I listed the 10 Memories that were not so good – or even bad. Next I listed the very top 3 of each of these lists. In other words the ones that still stand out after years have passed. With the six now listed I removed the 14 others by shoving them aside.

A simple little exercise for sure but with it I found myself looking at a mixture of emotions that even now stand out sharply in my mind. In fact there was so much emotion mixed with these Christmas Memories that I am having some difficulty dealing with them at times. Memories that hang around that way are my are the basis of my nightmares.

Now I could ask you to do the same exercise before I go further telling you my story.

Have you made your list yet? Good. No? Try it to see what happens.

I found that the not so good memories almost always happened near or at the same time the really good ones took place. Or another way to say it… the bad reminded me of the very good ones that took place.

I will give you an example.

Our family had moved from Canada to Hong Kong in very early 1981. The move started right after Christmas 1980 and ended just at the end of our youngest daughter’s birthday. The day we climbed on the aircraft to fly across the Pacific Ocean and the International Date Line was her birthday. No sooner had the stewardess brought her a birthday cake we crossed over the date line and the birthday was over. Really weird.

That 1980 Christmas in Saskatchewan was very hard. No, not very hard… it was almost impossible to deal with. I had just left a well paying job where I was very well known. I was leaving the National and International Leadership position of a huge group of leaders all over Canada and the World… to become someone that no one knew. I was heading to a country and apart of the world that knew very little of how important I was in my huge world. That Christmas time I was unemployed and down low with emotions on one side. However my new job was waiting for me in Hong Kong with a new salary that was 1/3 the size of the Canadian salary!

I was also leaving our family behind. We knew when we climbed on that airplane that we would not be able to go back home for at least 4 years. That actually turned into 5 years at the end.

During that first six months an uncle that had meant much to me, died. Three other close friends in our lives died suddenly… and then my dad had a massive heart attack that almost took his life. We heard about it by way of a slow letter that came a few weeks later. There was no email then and telephones were not possible on my salary.

The next Christmas, 1981, was very tough as we thought of my dad and mom back in Saskatchewan. I don’t think that I could have been any more homesick than at that time. Uncertain health conditions in your family kind of kill the jovial spirit. We were into the throws of culture shock. The language study was going slowly. The internal politics of the new job and position was affecting a whole lot of people.

These people that I went to work with hated each other’s guts to say the least. They were all older than I was and each tried to pull me their way to begin hating the other. I was in the middle of the worst political and structural hatred I had ever experienced. Two different Canadian factions hated each other and had major power struggles between each other weekly. Two more Chinese factions also hated each other and one of them hated all things Canadian – or I should say “white”.

Now all of these factions were the top Christian Leaders of the Christian Organization that I worked for! Good Lord if that was Christianity at its best – who would want it!!!?????!!!

That 1981 Christmas was very bad. But in the midst of it all… Alida and I with Dana and Anda – our two daughters, had the best Christmas with each other. With next to no salary, as it seemed, we had to make do with much less. Yet we did things and saw things that none of our Canadian friends saw back home. It took us about two months to save for the Christmas dinner that we had and shared with four other lonely Canadians that Christmas morning.

That was so good with so many good memories mixed together with some really ugly ones.

In 1982 my dad had his quadruple bypass surgery and recovered well. By Christmas time he and mom were in Hong Kong with us. Talk about exciting. I can think of no greater time in my family’s life. We were together again. Dad had not died. Mom was doing great and our daughters had the two most important people in their lives with them at Christmas. And their Grandpa and Grandma brought special Canadian Christmas presents! WOW

But I was busy with the new ministry(work load) that I had taken on. I was wanted everywhere… and was becoming way too popular. The two “hating groups” still hated each other. My popularity with the Chinese People that came to us was cutting into their little kingdoms and now I was being hated more and more by these leaders. Oh Crap – this new position was supposed to be fun!

On that very strange Christmas day in 1982 we ate noodles on a boat in the middle of the Hong Kong Harbour.

 I had been requested to do a Christmas Baptismal Service in the middle of Harbour onboard floating barge that served as a school and church for a different tribe/group of Chinese people that lived only on boats and seldom came ashore.

On the large barge they had a huge steel tank welded together. I climbed a step ladder to get into the water that had kind of been warmed up before hand. The outside temperature was about 10 degrees C… and there was a cold wind blowing in from the ocean.

As the 30 some people each came into and out of the tank to be immersed in the water for their baptism, each climbed up over the ladder and down to where I stood. Each gave a long testimony to the surrounding crowd before I dunked them.

I was already shivering by the time the 6th person came into the water. I was wet. The water was now lukewarm and I was not enjoying this anymore. By number 30 I was nearly frozen… and was turning from a white man to a blue man.

They helped me out of the tank and I walked stiffly over a gang plank to the next barge where my dry clothes were waiting. The cold ocean water looked up at me from below the gang plank and smiled. I almost fell in!

We ate hot noodles with the happy congregation for the Christmas dinner. I returned home with an already bad cold that eventually turned into pleurisy – taking a huge toll on future breathing.

Boxing Day my dad and I walked through the tunnels and embattlements that the British Soldiers had established in the mountains to defend against a possible Japanese invasion. It was also where hundreds of them died that horrible day when the Japanese invaded Hong Kong.

My dad’s great pleasure was to see the History that he knew so well… and was a wonderful gift to me.


The good mixed with the not so good memories have flooded back to me.

Oh you want some more of mine..? Sorry – the Blog is already too long. The rest will likely be in the book that should be written by me… that is kind of getting to the stage of being written.

The Hong Kong chapters could now be written as the angry and horrible old Christians are now all dead.

Some of the rest are yet to die and their chapters will have to wait a little.

A book comes from memories – good and not so good.

~ Murray Lincoln ~

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