Twin holiday tragedies this past weekend have preoccupied both the news media and the nation. We’ve all seen the pictures. The Metro-North Railroad train, its locomotive and seven cars upended, splayed and flung beyond the tracks and nearly into the Harlem River. Four dead, 60 injured. Just as tragic was the fiery crash of actor Paul Walker, star of the “Fast and Furious” movie franchise. A security camera captured the Porsche Carrera GT’s explosion after slamming into a tree and concrete pole, killing both the actor and his friend and driver Roger Rodas. Investigations are ongoing, but preliminary evidence suggests that excessive speed was the cause of both accidents. The Metro-North train was traveling 82 mph in a 30 mph zone around that sharp bend in the Bronx. Whether either accident was the result of human error or mechanical trouble is yet to be determined. Definition of speeding—the accelerating velocity of an object. Even a society, a culture, a civilization can speed with acceleration toward an unintended end, can’t it? The speed with which poverty is overtaking the human race is breath-taking. The speed that natural disasters now spread carnage across communities and countries is stunning. (BTW, Paul Walker, a practicing Mormon, formed the Reach Out Worldwide relief organization with his friend Roger Rodas to provide aid to global catastrophes—they were returning from a fund-raising event for the Philippines typhoon recovery when both were killed on Sunday.) Speed. Given the velocity of national and global change—economic and social, technological and ecological—not to mention personal change, consider these two admonitions. First, slow down. Real life is both fast and furious. Which means it takes will power to intentionally slow down your pace. Slow it down at times even to a crawl—locking the door to your room or your office—and crawling into the corner of your chair, your bed, your private space and closing your eyes, catching a nap, or simply savoring the quiet. Fifteen to 20 minutes—that’s all it takes, as research shows, to revive your spirit, energize your mind and boost your productivity. During this frenetic but joyful holiday season, slowing down can be a life-saving strategy. Second, stay alert. Reports indicate that the train engineer may have fallen asleep at the controls early Sunday morning. Spiritually speaking, falling asleep at the wheel is a disaster. “Keep a cool head. Stay alert. The Devil is poised to pounce, and would like nothing better than to catch you napping” (1 Peter 5:8 Message). Naps work in the physical realm, but in the spiritual realm, Peter is clear—you snooze, you lose. The stakes are exponentially higher. So stay alert. Especially in this season of good food, great friends and lots of fun—it’s easy to drop your guard and lose your spiritual edge. That’s why I recommend for the holidays adding some time to your daily conversation with Christ. Another fifteen minutes beyond your usual—just you and Jesus alone in the Gospels—one story a day to relive with Him (click onto the “New Way to Prayer” banner here at this website). So go ahead—slow your pace, catch your breath, calm your heart. “Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest” (Matthew 11:28 Message). What better Gift this Christmas than Him?