It is Friday, December 23rd, and I have been trying desperately to get into the Christmas spirit. It was a particularly funky calendar year, so I've gone deep into my bag of sensory memory tricks, inundating myself with the sights sounds and smells of the holidays. I've been burning every Yankee Candle Christmas scent, filled the house with cookies and cakes, and downed enough egg nog to bring on jaundice. I've even watched hours of specials and commercials from the 70s and 80s in an attempt to recapture the most innocent magical kind of Christmas.

(Note to reader: What did T.J. NOT do? Hold onto that thought).

The reason for the funky year ranged from bad to spectacular.

Financially this has been an awful year, with a slight move to the black the past few months. Personally, I have been blessed with the greatest of gifts as my wife gave birth to our second perfect healthy daughter, and both are doing great. There was a whole lot in between. Up-down-up-down.

This morning, just as I was getting my brain and my heart into the Holly Jolly mode...just as my Grinchy Scroogey mood was lightening up to a more festive jingle jangle...just as I was laying out my gay apparel, my ATM was declined. 6:15 a.m. KABOOM. Lights out. Mr. Grinch please report to your cave! Mr. Grinch...I must have looked like I saw the Winter Warlock.

In one fell swoop fear, anger, depression and all the other demons were front and center. It was early morning and I couldn't get any answers from my bank. All I knew was that it's two days to Christmas, and I am negative cash-broke.

Within a few hours, I got to the bottom of things...I didn't find tons of cash, but things were resolved. Regardless of this, my new found Christmas spirit was gone and I was numb, down for the count.

Then I received an email.

I have a dear buddy whom I grew up with, we'll call him Rob. A couple years ago Rob was diagnosed with late stage colon cancer. He has three gorgeous children and a heroic beautiful wife. Rob is walking around with every single thing I fear, and about 10 other things I haven't had time to be afraid of yet. Rob is fighting. He is smacking this disease around like that blow-up Bozo punching thing we all had many Christmases ago.

My ATM card was declined, and I went into a depression in 45 seconds flat. Rob is entering year 3 in a Stage Four fight, and this is the original piece he wrote:

"A tree stands on a hill. The winter comes and a heavy snow falls weighing down its branches and the tree sometimes struggles to stand.

Its boughs bend downward and are near breaking. People see this and climb the hill to help out. They have busy lives but they go out of their way to offer help. They shake the snow from the branches to ease the weight and provide some relief. But it snows again and... again and the burden is there every day. The tree is constantly under strain but people continue to come and help out.

The tree realizes something. The snow which is a burden to the tree also shows all the footprints of the people who come to help. Every day, the tree sees the footprints, big and small, of those who come to offer relief. The tree still has a burden but it chooses to focus on the footprints because they are what truly matter.

I just wanted to say thank you to all the footprints I am blessed to see every day; you warm my heart with your generosity and fill my soul with hope and joy. Big and small, I see nothing but footprints everywhere I look and I am very thankful. Have a safe and very Merry Christmas everyone!"

Shame on me. How dare I be so shallow. Where's my prayer? (How many guessed that?) Where's my faith? Where are my eyes? What the HECK was I THINKING?

This evening I'm going to get into the Christmas Spirit the proper way.

When I get home I'm going to write a grateful list. I'm going fill my nose with the newborn scent off my baby's forehead. I'm going to bake cookies with my 3-year-old. I'm going to read the story of the Nativity in The Book of Luke. I'm going to hug and kiss my wife and thank her for all of the above.

I'm going to pray for the whole world, no exceptions...especially my buddy Rob and that amazing family of his. Please join me in those prayers.

Merry Christmas.