Friday, December 31, 2010

Remembered Inflections

   Every Christmas my grandfather would leave us a beautiful gift by reading us the story of the birth of Jesus from Luke. The sound of his inflections, the way his voice carries over the wood floor and through the room stilling all of the conversations is something that lasts with me. “And it came to pass, in those days…” The words are so familiar and warmed me every year, the memory still does.

   I didn’t make it home this year to hear my grandfather read the words. Instead, I heard my pastor reading them during a beautiful Christmas Eve service. The inflections were completely different, the accents were regions apart, but the words struck me again. Memories flooded back of the years of celebrations.
   Those familiar words are a comfort, then when I need them they come back again.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Provisional Nudge

   God amazes me. I mean really knocks my socks off amazes me. I think that without even intending to, I shrink God down to the size I can handle, which is pretty small. Then, when He does something to provide I stand back just amazed.

   I was seventeen when I graduated from high school. A typical teenager in many ways, especially as hormones went up and down and so did all the emotions that went with it. I remember walking the halls of my high school feeling so alone, out of place, and not fitting in at all. I buried myself in my books and music, and I knew how to put on a good face. What I didn’t know at seventeen was that some of the people I was meeting then would be the moment of provision fourteen years later!
   Sometimes, you need the right word of encouragement and of wisdom to share. But, it’s like the words that get stuck on the tip of your tongue. You try and try to figure out what the word is, but it remains stubbornly on that tongue tip and refuses to come out. Does it start with a C? Maybe an R? End with ly or ing? The words of wisdom are sometimes like those stuck words, and I wrack my brain trying to come up with the right thing. I feel like some weird vocabulary cheerleader – come on words, you can do it! Rah, rah, sis, boom word! Then, I felt a nudge. Go ask that person you know.
   “Lord, are you sure? I don’t want to be a bother? Will she think I’m nuts?”
   But, let me tell you, I obeyed the nudge and God provided again. I watched the words stuck on my own tongue come flowing from her so beautifully. My heart leaped with joy as I had the opportunity to see God provide again! Seventeen years old, I never would have thought it. But, here we are and I’m thanking him for crossing the paths of us then, and now.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Snow Quiet

One of my favorite things about snow is the quiet.  It just hushes everything.  So, instead of writing, I thought I'd just share a few of my photos instead.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The New Years Mirror

   There seem to be a great many sayings about looking backward, hind sight, and all of that. As New Years approaches, that seems to be the direction that receives a lot of attention. New Years Resolutions, ideas for what can be in the coming year becomes the focus. So, with all of that discussion, I started wondering if there were any direction of looking forward or back through life. I stumbled on a couple of verses in 2 Peter and thought that they were kind of interesting.
   2 Peter 3:2 says “I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles.” To recall, to look back. It’s like looking into the year’s rear view mirror. Recall the words, think about the commands that were given. There seems to be a time and place to look back. Then I noticed that in looking back, it wasn’t just a random direction. It was a specific place to look back to, not being lost in memory but with purpose. When I look back, I can look with regrets of might have been or could have been. Or, I can look back at was set in motion for a purpose, and a good one at that.
   Now, I can’t always be looking backwards. If I do, I’m going to run into something. It would be like trying to drive forward by looking through the rearview mirror – not much help! So, we drop down to 2 Peter 3:13 and “But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.” Looking forward to something wonderful and new is the direction. Think of the excitement and anticipation that is built as you look forward to something wonderful! And by looking forward, you are moving towards it.
   So, I guess I get to look backwards and forwards – with purpose and anticipation.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Empty Mall

   Our shopping mall isn’t really quite the hot spot of mercantile activity that others are, but still, there are a few stores and a movie theater. The day before Christmas is known as a major shopping day. There are the last minute gifts to buy, the just so perfect outfit for that party, and the last bit of décor for the dinner. So, I thought that this mall would be at least a hot spot of the last little bit of festive planning. A Santa picture place was staged, a few trees were set up here and there for decoration. Carols played over the loud speakers. But, the halls were fairly empty minus the people who actually worked there and had to be there. A few shoppers were there, but they looked rather humdrum at best. It was an empty, depressing sight.

   Standing at the window of the mall, doing a bit of people watching, it struck me that for too many of us, our hearts are much like that mall. If we could see inside, it would look empty of joy and with only the required actions taking place, just enough to function. How sad it is to have an empty heart, to have a sense of life that is withered not with age but with emptiness and coldness. It struck me over after hearing a conversation take place not soon after about how Christmas was just another Saturday. Sitting on a mall bench, talking on the cell phone – this individual apparently didn’t have anyone that they had been invited to spend Christmas with. That is quiet sad in and of itself; but to remain so insular when there are so many people who have such needs that could be reached out to and to remain isolated anyway.
   I encourage you to reach out, make the decision to contact others and open up those heart doors.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Heard his Voice

   Christmas morning and all is quiet. My grandparents are in the kitchen cooking up sausage gravy, eggs, and biscuits. My mom is finding Christmas music for the celebration to come and distracting me with plans of impromptu caroling. The dogs are all quiet, stretched out for their morning naps. The door to the kitchen is closed, keeping them from being underfoot (as they are such happy helpers). Then suddenly, they heard my dad’s voice and each got up with tails a-wagging, happy faces in joyful anticipation of seeing him. The door is still closed, but there they stand. They recognized the voice and moved in anticipation of seeing him.

   It struck me in that moment how we have a door, a “glass, darkly”, that is a barrier between us and viewing God in His fully glory. But, when our master approaches from the other side, how wonderful it is to hear his voice. Knowing that “now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” On this morning on celebration, amidst the music and foods and packages, my ear turns to hear the voice of Jesus.

(1 Corinthians 13)

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Impact – Christmas Eve

   Today is Christmas Eve, the last day prior to the actual Christmas day. I’ve been reading an advent prayer every day as a way to focus my thoughts on Jesus and his birth. As the list of things to get done, go do, and go see are crossed off, I find my minding becomes less focused on the things and more focused on the day and event in itself.

   That really hit my heart yesterday, with the words of familiar Christmas carols playing over the radio in my car. Silent night and the angels sang, Gloria, Shepherds watch their flocks, Away in the Manger… I felt like I could just have been knocked over by a feather as the amazing facts of the birth of Christ came hitting fresh. Gratitude flooded my heart as I thought of the preparation Jesus must have made to leave His heavenly home, knowing the humble circumstances he would have on this earth.
   I hope that you have a pleasant Christmas Eve and a wonderful Christmas that is full of the joy and gratitude of Christ’s sacrifice.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Impact of Community

   The story of the birth of Christ tends to find it’s center around Mary and Joseph and that wee baby. But, there were others there in the pages. Zechariah, Elizabeth, the shepherds, Simeon, Anna – the names I’m sure that are just a sampling of those who formed a community around the new parents. The people who surrounded Mary and Joseph provided a support for them. Perhaps there was advice offered, wisdom, how to’s, and questions answered about babies.

   Community can have a great impact, to strengthen a person or people. When a community is strong, the individual is stronger because of it. We learn to rely on each other, to use our strengths and the strengths of others. I think back to part of my own community –there are five of us. Five women who have worked together, laughed and cried together, grown together, and searched together. A community which has brought me great joy and times of great prayer shared. Together we are stronger, more able to handle the worlds difficulties. The strength of the tender heart is balanced with the practical, the worrier is balanced with the one gifted with faith assurances. We are not a perfect community and I do not seem them nearly as often as I would like – but we are a community nonetheless.
   Who is in your community? Is it a healthy community? Perhaps you need to move to a different “part of town” so to speak. Is it a wonderful community that you can rely on and be relied on in return? If so – that is a wonderful thing. Enjoy and be blessed by it. In the meanwhile, remember this:
  Luke 2: 15-20
“When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’ So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.”

Monday, December 20, 2010

Impact of Strength

“Be strong and courageous” “Be strong and very courageous” “Don’t be afraid” “Take courage”

   The phrases are found in many places over the Word of God. What could possibly have caused such fright that people needed this constant bolstering of their courage? There were invasions, famines, enemy rulers, and idol worship to content with. However one of the largest seems to be the courage to do what God has asked or commanded His people to do.
   He asked his own son to give up his heavenly home, a perfect place, to come here as an infant – powerless to the care of human parents. That must have taken quite the goodly amount of courage. The actions seem to take as much courage as the other factors affecting people in the Bible.
  Today is not that different. We are asked as Christ followers to act according to God’s purpose. It takes courage to do this. It is the courage to stand firm, to speak up, to know the difference between kindness and wishy washy’ness. It leaves us on the outside of many things, on the odd side or minority side of many choices. But we put off the things of this world and bear up with courage that God supplies knowing that in the end, it is worth it.
   It was an impact of strength those many years ago. Mary, Joseph – they were given a choice and chose to be of courage. We have the same choice today. Take heart, be strong and very courageous – go and see the impact of God’s strength.
   (Deuteronomy 31:6; Judges 1:7; Matthew 14:27; Acts 23:11)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

   I seem to be putting off wrapping this year, mainly because I just haven’t gotten to it yet. But, as the days trickle down to the actual day, my fingers are starting to worry that they haven’t felt the tug of scotch tape and the sound of paper being cut. So, with that in mind, the paper will be hauled out soon – if I can convince all of my doggy helpers to go to bed and not “help”.

   In the meanwhile, I’m thinking back over the last few days and a moment that really struck me. Before heading out for dinner with friends, my car needed some fuel. So, a quick stop at the gas station took care of that problem. It is cold outside, the ground is wet and slippery, it was evening and dark outside. Standing beside the car as gas was being pumped into the tank, I looked around at the other people who were also caught there in the cold. One woman’s eyes caught mine and we found each other shivering and smiling in mutual understanding of our chilly noses and the feel of the wind tugging at our coats. It lasted just a moment, a simple nod and smile. But, in that moment we had a clear understanding of the feel of the temperature that each were experiencing.
   Isn’t it interesting that there are moments where mutual understanding exists?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Impact of Friends

   I’m trying to think about how I can impact the people around me. Today I kept waiting for a way to do that. Though the grand gesture was very appealing, it was a combination of conversation and laughter with friends of dinner. It wasn’t anything in particular, just a listening ear and a caring heart amongst friends that really do listen and care.

   Listening and caring may not seem like an impactful thing, but I believe they can be. We can be so busy and have so many different sounds that our caring and listening gets muddled. It took time for one of our friends to plan this, to help us clear a time and set it aside for this dinner. She made an impact. It took focus to listen to each other, especially in a busy room. It is an impact.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Impact Today

   A child born thousands of years ago had an eternal impact on our history. He lived, grew, died, and lived again – lives still. My impact on history, I have no doubt, is going to be smaller than that. In fact it will be considerably smaller than that. But, I can have an impact none the less.

   So the difficulty I’m having is how? I’m a busy girl. Places to go, people to see, presents to wrap, puppies to chase… There is work, activities, church, family, friends, some time for growth, study, me, time for creativity, time for prayer, time for studies. Where does that make an impact get slotted in?
   There are only a few days left until Christmas and as my to do list seems to grow rather than shrink, I stand between feeling as if I am making progress and just treading water. Make an impact, that vague statement gets moved down my list to a lower and lower number just because it’s difficult to act on something that is vague and unscheduled.
   So, between now and then, I’m challenging myself to make an impact each day and I’ll tell you about my successes (or failures). I’ll toss out the challenge to you as well. Maybe together, we can truly a large impact on our communities.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Impact

   I’ve been blogging about the concept behind the community that was impacted by their involvement in eternal history. A baby is born and it ripples the history of the world for a family, generations even perhaps. But, after so many many years, the current significance wanes and it becomes historical impact instead. Then, there was a child born that changed the precedent and made such an impact that it forever changed history and our current lives.

   You are most likely familiar with parts of the Christmas story. Maybe it’s the touch of the mother Mary holding her new baby. Or perhaps it’s through the beautiful and ear catching tunes of the season. But, there are many details that we are not privy too. And thinking about the impact of that life, the birth of God’s son, I cannot imagine the community being impacted in anything less than dramatic and impactful. We are not told the story of the how the shepherds retold the story of that night filled with angels for years to come. We do not know what the actual sight of the birth was like, who heard the cry of a woman giving birth, who heard the sound of a brand new baby. Who held him and watched him blow bubbles as all babies do or roll over for the first time? Did Joseph pace or sit near Mary, encouraging her. Perhaps he was squeamish and removed himself from the birthing area. Were there others there to help her? Zechariah was part of Mary’s life and no longer silent after his son John was born. How did he share that story, with whom?
   In my own community, there are many who are preparing to celebrate. My own hands are feeling the tired strain of writing Christmas cards, knowing that my a’s and e’s and starting to blur together in cursive writing. Trees are decorated, presents are purchased (though not yet wrapped), there are parties and programs, choir concerts, friends and dinners. Such a hubbub of the next few weeks. Obviously, that birth still impacts us in a tangible way now. But, what about our hearts, does it impact our hearts? The birth was a miraculous thing. It entailed the sovereign Son of God relinquishing his total control, total power to a mother and father who did not have a manual in how to raise him. There was no magic wand that could be simply waved over his head and wah-lah – it’s all done and good. It took work and care. Today, the relationship with Jesus still takes work and care. And the effort that is plied into this will be reimbursed many times over, in an eternally impactful way.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Artist

   First of all – let me just say, that is just my musing. Please go back to the Bible to read the true and complete account of the birth of Christ.

   I find images in stone and wood, hidden in the mediums in front of me. My tools are extension of my hands, on a good day. On a not so good day, well – let’s just say that stone can take an unfortunate chip or crack. But, today is a good day and I have just heard that one of the governor’s servants is arranging to commission a carving. He wants the statue of a woman to grace the entry of a new bath that is being constructed. It will of course be in the Roman style, as he will prefer. I spend hours on my art, planning and studying the stone. Of course I want people to admire it, enjoy it. But, mostly I carve out the pieces because I can see them and they call to me from within the stone.
   I heard something the other day that caught my imagination for a new piece, an angel. There is this fellow I grew up with, Joseph. We have been close friends for years. Well, he came in here the other day to visit before he left with his betrothed, Mary, for Bethlehem. What a story he had to tell! An angel came to Joseph and told him about Mary’s rather delicate situation. I suppose I sound like the town scold, but I’m rather relieved that I’m not in my buddy’s shoes right now. Anyway, he told me the story – about the angel and Mary being pregnant. I admit it’s just too much for my mind to take in. But, the description of that angel ; now that stuck with me. I have a piece of marble I’ve been saving for something special. I think that this will be just the thing. An angel, who would have believed?

Monday, December 13, 2010

I Wonder

   When I come home from work at lunch time, there is a postman making his rounds. The regular collections of cars are parked at the school. I wave to my neighbors. I know the face of the people at the check-out at the store, the pharmacist, the UPS driver, and the lady who makes the great sandwiches at the Avenue Subs. I have a general idea of the different positions and jobs within the community, and know some of who make them up. In a smaller community, I can imagine that this network would be even tighter. So, this is really where my curiosity is presenting itself.

   We have the telling of how Christ was born into our world, His world, as a baby. But, as a community is born and lives, it is multi-faceted creature where connections have various levels of density and relations of linkage. Understanding though that things can happen in a community which creates a ripple effect, moving the links in waves of news and information, serves to fuel my curiosity. What did that community think, not only in the days of the actual birth of Christ, but in the months leading to it?
  What was the reaction to the silence of one man, the compassion of another, the obedience of a woman, the awe of another? What did the neighbors think; the shop keeper, the priest, the family, the people who moved through the lives of Mary and Joseph?
   I’ll kick off again trying to explore that concept and will continue to explore that in the days to come, but I just wanted to pause and think about how information moves through my own community. In many ways it is vastly different than the community of these parents, but in other ways very similar. We share news and ideas, we hear a broadcast of something that has happened and share the information. I wonder what our reaction would be, what the ripple effects would be.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Foot Soldier

   First of all – let me just say, that is just my musing. Please go back to the Bible to read the true and complete account of the birth of Christ.

   I’m stationed in Bethlehem. It’s my first real assignment away from my own home in Oppius. We took a ship from Rome to the port here in Judea. I admit, it’s been a tough transition. I can’t keep the different people groups apart; from Pharisee to Sadducee and everything between. The laws that these people have are strict and completely foreign. I wouldn’t admit it to my own peers, but I do admire how stubbornly the Judeans are clinging to their own beliefs and cultures.
   Caesar has called for a census. It seems that he wishes to know exactly how many people there are within his kingdom. Of course there are other purposes, taxes and government. But, I do wonder how much of it is ego. Not that I would share that either.
   In the meanwhile, this was thought to be some grand adventure. Now that I’m here I’m not so sure. There is the unfamiliarity, but there is something else. There seems to be something going on, an undercurrent running through the street. There is an excitement, a sense of something building, but I’m not sure what.
   This little town is packed full of people. I even heard of some sleeping in the stalls at an inn’s stable. I suppose that you get shelter where you can. But, whoever heard of people making such reverent trips to see someone in a stable? Do all of these people act this way around a new baby or is this something special. And really, who defines this as special if born amongst hay and pack animals. Still, there is something going on…

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Elizabeth’s Neighbor

   First of all – let me just say, that is just my musing. Please go back to the Bible to read the true and complete account of the birth of Christ.

   You know, I always thought they were a bit strange. I mean perfectly respectful and well liked in the community, but a bit odd. Elizabeth and Zechariah, standards in the neighborhood, the local children love them. Elizabeth is always so quick to help out though, right there at the neighborhood garage sale and making cookies for the bake sale. And, Zechariah – he’s a very devout man. He seems to have a special relationship with the Sovereign Lord.
   Of course, the strangeness has only intensified the last several months. Zechariah went to the temple for the yearly sacrifice. He prepared as normal, and truthfully, I didn’t think much about it. I mean we had a ton of things goings on. The house was being remodeled, the kids were just getting over terrible colds, and my husband was having some problems at work. So, with all of that, you can understand why the news of Zechariah preparing for the time at the temple was not really a surprise, but just not something high on my pay attention list. Well, that all changed when he came back, struck completely dumb! I mean it, the man couldn’t utter a single sound. Then we find out, Elizabeth is pregnant. I’m very excited for her. She has wanted a child for so long, but at her age? To top it all off, Elizabeth’s family member Mary, she arrived pregnant and unwed. And what a story that child has, something about an angel?
   Odd I tell you...

Friday, December 10, 2010

Joseph’s Mom

   First of all – let me just say, that is just my musing. Please go back to the Bible to read the true and complete account of the birth of Christ.

   Her memory of Joseph, starting with his birth, was filled with many sweet memories of growing up and watching him become a man. The first day that Joseph toddled into his father’s carpentry shop, he tumbled right into a pile of wood shavings and came out filthy and smelling of fragrant wood. But, that was years ago. Now, her boy, her baby, was grown and making his own choices. She thought that that Mary girl was going to be a good wife. But now, with the baby coming, she just didn’t know.
   Joseph had sat them both down, she and her husband, to tell them the news. She remembers her heart leaping into her throat, what? An angel said what? God’s son coming in this way? How does one go about being a grandparent to God’s son? She felt her hopes and dreams of being a grandma of her son’s children, watching them grow and learn, crash. But, God’s son was going to be her grandson… Well, that would show that infernal neighbor woman down the street who was always bragging about her children!
   She chuckled to herself as she thought back over the torrents of thoughts that had streamed into her mind and the moment of realization that had struck. Her son, her baby was being asked to raise God’s son. The realization struck like a knife and pierced through all of the thoughts. Her breath was taken away. How could this be? What would this mean?
   She didn’t know and waited instead with baited breath to hear of the labor of Mary, to hear about the birth of this much thought of baby.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Innkeeper

   First of all – let me just say, that is just my musing. Please go back to the Bible to read the true and complete account of the birth of Christ.

   A census was called, and the innkeeper started looking around the family business to see that all the supplies and materials were in place. Soon people would be flooding into the town of Bethlehem. The days passed and the crowds converged. The innkeeper could feel his stomach tightening up again, every time he saw the Roman soldiers appear in the street, the fears and frustrations of an occupied nation. But looking on the bright side, business would be good. The customers would be grumbling though, this census would probably be used by Caesar Augustus for the tax registration list.
   The innkeeper continued to check supplies, mentally trying to figure what would be needed and what could be kept in stock. As people trailed into the city, dusty and smelling of their travels, he wandered out and over to the stable. The food trough was set up with adequate supplies for the time being. Moving back to the inn, the gentlemen greeted his guests. They kept coming, returning to their family home. Soon, the entire place was full. People, dust, animals, baggage, the place filled up. The inn was full of people and the innkeeper was now in a place where he had to turn people away. He hated to do that, they looked tired and would wander off looking for someplace else to go.
   A young man came to the door and knocked, looking for a room. The innkeeper felt his heart sink as he looked past the man to the young and very pregnant woman behind him. There were no places let, what could he do. The innkeeper finally offered up the only suggestion he had, the stable.
   The innkeeper walked them out to the manger. He heard about the journey that the couple had made. It wasn’t going to be very comfortable, but the innkeeper tried to do what he could. He made a mental note to send his wife later to check on the young mother to be.
   Later that evening, exhausted from the hustle of the day, the innkeeper finally prepared for rest. Following his last minute evening rituals, he lay his head down and felt sleep drift over. He lay much this way until the middle of the night when a cry pierced the night. That young woman, she must be about ready to deliver the child. The innkeeper woke his wife and she returned to the stable to help as she could. Several hours later, the child was born and a tired, but happy woman returned to tell her husband the good news.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Christmas – Nativity, Round the World Style

I heard something on the radio today that sounded like a neat idea.  A family wanted their children to learn about the birth of Christ, something more than the traditional TV specials and night time reading messages.  To do that, they each explained the story from the perspective of someone inside the story.  I love that concept!  There is such a different understanding inside of a thought than from the outside.  So, with that thought – I think I want to try that as well.  So in the next few days, barring any major puppy stories, that is what I’m going to try and accomplish.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

It’s a Good Thing He’s Cute

   It’s been such an adventure the last few days managing a puppy with one person shy what is normal. Yesterday, after having a lunch break in which Buddy had the opportunity to get out of his crate, run around like a little mad man, and eventually had to go back into his pen; he decided that he would share his displeasure. First it was normal puppy rowdiness. Puppies are rowdy, especially labs. They are sweet and cute, but they can be quite mischievous when given the chance. Well, this was mischievousness inspired. The evening went something like this….

   Buddy piddled in the floor three times before we managed to get him out the door. He did more outside (I don’t know where he stores all that liquid). Coming back in, he did the same thing! After a thorough scolding, he sat down and practiced his best pouty put out sorry face. The problem was that he was so darn cute that it took everything I had not to laugh, let alone be upset with him. In the meanwhile, the paper towels were flying, the Woollite doing it’s best imitation of a short squirting fountain. When the flood passes, I find the pup doing an army belly crawl across the chairs at the dining room table. Retrieving the squirmy furry boy, he was placed amidst his toys. He peed on one of these as well. Oh my goodness!!! Out come the paper towels, cleaner, and we head outside again. More scolding heading out, more praise as Buddy does business outside. I take the opportunity while he is paused in a moment of concentration to remind him that it’s a good thing he’s cute. Upon entering the house, Buddy curls up on the couch. Finally, a sweet moment for cuddles and loving on a puppy. But wait, my pants are wet where I have sat. My pants are wet? Buddy!!!!
   There are sometimes that you have to laugh. I know that this is his way of saying, I don’t appreciate being put into my kennel while you are at work. I don’t much care that you have to go to work, you should be at home playing with me! I mean, come on – look how cute I am! So, I laughed, headed to the bathtub as quickly as possible, and reminded the little furry terror once again, “it’s a good thing you’re cute!”

Monday, December 6, 2010

Christmas – Rich in Memory

   I had planned on tackling Christmas decorations this weekend, trying to get as much done as possible; and must say, overall I am pleased with the result. The house looks quite festive, and is gradually becoming the Christmas looking place that we want it to be. My determination to get as much done as possible started flagging about 6 o’clock Sunday evening. I was becoming overwhelmed with memories, like a rich dessert it was something that a small taste of was plenty.

   A white angel is hung on a branch that came from my great grandmother. Little white clay snowmen, made by a cousin, are hung on another set of branches. A cloisonné bell rings a beautiful little tune and sits next to a porcelain nativity and a crocheted angel. So many ornaments as they were pulled from a container as my hand would touch it, the memory would touch me. A family gathering, a gift, someone who is no longer here, music, meals, gifts, trips; memories are rich with sound, color and texture.
   As I hang the ornaments, I find myself thinking about those who are no longer here to celebrate with. I wonder what their Christmas memories were. Were there favorite foods, a special song, or a tradition? I wonder about Mary, what her memories were from that first Christmas, the birthday of her son – of God’s son. Her memories would have been different, those of a mother.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Christmas – Discovery

There is a smattering of snow on the ground. Not enough to cover the longer blades of grass, but a sufficient amount to create a powder sugar dusting effect over the lawn and driveway. This is the first snow for the puppy and it was an eagerly anticipated moment to see what the reaction would be. Sleepy indifference led to focused investigation as the puppy discovered everything he could about the snow. I cautioned him to stay away from any snow that isn’t white, but other than that – let him jump from snowy paw to snowy paw.

A puppy’s first snow is a time of great discovery. They plow through little drifts that reach the tips of paws and poke their curious noses into the white wet and attempt to determine why all the smells have changed. This was no exception. I had to laugh when Buddy found out that if he pushed the snow across the driveway, his mound would grow to a towering height of about three inches. At that point, he could attack it with his pink tongue and great puppy vigor. Sticks were even more fun as they were discovered laying in snow, thus serving a duel purpose of toy and a wonderful way to help with teething gums. I look forward to many days ahead of discovery for Buddy as he discovers his first winter and Christmas. The enthusiasm and excitement he finds for each of these new things is such fun to watch.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Christmas – Choir

   Here in town, an annual event is held every December, the Holiday Stroll. The downtown main street is shut off from all boot foot traffic, and the town comes out to kick-off the holidays. Music, hot chocolate, window displays, and many people come out to meet, greet, and enjoy the festivities. As a kick off to the event, local choir kids sing from the second story of a local bank down into the lobby. Microphones set to project voices, they sing carefully practiced choir pieces of jazz, traditional carols, and some beautiful arrangements of acapella music.

   Listening to that music, watching with others as our faces turn up to the young people standing and singing, I was reminded of how the faces of shepherds must have been turned up on that far ago night. An angel appeared to shepherd and brought them the news that a Savior had been born. Imagine that as the sky filled with a host of angels singing and praising God, how the faces of the shepherds were tilted up. Jaws dropping down, eyes reflecting the light around them, shocked sighs escaping their mouths. Just imagine the excitement on the part of the angel choir. Perhaps they had practiced long for this moment, with joy and exhilaration they stared down at the shepherds. This was the moment they had waited for, the performance of an eternal lifetime.
   As we hear various school programs, listen to the concerts and carolers, may our music reflect the joy of that concert, heralded in a shepherd's field.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Christmas – Blanket

   A soft red blanket waits for me on the bed or the back of a chair. It was a Christmas gift, soft and fuzzy, and perfect size to toss over my shoulders. On these cold wintry mornings when I am reluctant to leave my warm and comfortable bed to get up and face the day, that blanket becomes the last warmth that I take with me to take the dogs out or to pull myself together for the day. This is the same blanket that is the perfect temperature when I am sick or need one more layer.
   The Psalmist wrote Psalm 147, including how the “earth is covered with snow like a blanket of wool,” just in obedience to God’s word. As the snow flurries fly, that blanket of warmth is an extra comfort and source of heat. If you have ever been chilled, you know that it is a condition that causes your muscles to tighten and restrict the movement. But when you become warm, your eyes may grow heavy with the tiredness that hits. Your body relaxes and you find yourself at rest. The Peanuts character Linus was always a great demonstration of this. Linus carries around his blue blanket out and on for the ball game, during school, activities etc…
   If the snow is snowed in obedience, then how much more can I show to the maker of the snow itself? A blanket is provided for the earth while it prepares itself for a new year. We have the option of doing the same thing. We can be growing, preparing, sending our roots deep and seeking out nutrients, even while there is a blanket of snow. But, when we are covered in the blanket of faith in Christ, we can relax again and find that the security is true and real.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Christmas – Light and Dark

Every year I look forward to the winter solstice, as the day that marks when the light will be returning for longer periods, stretching the sun spilled day longer and longer. As someone who enjoys snow and moon, it is also the perfect blend of blue skied sunny days with all of that light reflecting off a thick Midwest snow. When that occurs, I head out with my camera, tripod, and thick winter coat, to see what images I can find as the light changes from brilliant to soft and subdued. The trees cast shadows as if they were giant fiddle players, bending and creaking in the breeze. Light spills from decorations, windows, and lamps, adding more layer and dimension to the landscape. The crunch of my boots in the snow leaves foot prints, now micro catchers of light and shadow on a new scale.

   Light and dark, shine and shadow: these powerful things which change the perception of the very world around us and how it is shaped. From the subtle and subdued shades of moonlight, starlight, and snow to the blinding brilliance of sun on snow, light is an incredible creation. We are also called to be light. That seems that it should be easier this time of year, with many different opportunities to share caring with others. And yet, it is often quite difficult. Yesterday alone, I felt off and on all day that I was behind. How could that be? It’s December 1, I’ve got nearly all my shopping done, Christmas cards are started, and two of the trees are built. How could I be behind already? The feeling is persistent though, as I wonder when in schedules I will fit this and that and the other activity into the next few weeks. With such a packed calendar, I become worried that my light is rather covered with wrapping paper, calendars, and Christmas decorations.
    “‘You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.’”Matthew 5:14-16. This reminds me that I must clarify the reason for the activities, prioritize (a lot), and constantly look to be a light. Otherwise, I will be stuck in shadows.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Christmas – Towns

   O Little Town in Iowa, how still I see thee lie… Yes, I know that that is not how the song goes. Coming out of work tonight, in the dark, the snow was flitting down, and swirling around the curbs. The light posts have been wrapped in evergreen swags, bright red bows, and white lights. Store displays are starting to show the Christmas cheer with wreaths, poinsettias, glass bulbs, and brightly colored tinsel. Nativities are out in display, the big plastic light up kinds that go in yards. I love the decorations, the mood that everyone seems to be in, as the streets are a bit brighter and so carefully prepared.

   I wonder what Bethlehem looked like on that far ago night, when Joseph and Mary were getting settled in a busy town for the birth of a baby. Most certainly there were not electric lights, and I doubt that there were shops with such displays. And a space filled with the animals of travelers doesn’t seem the most festive or hygienic place for a baby to be born. I wonder if they tried to decorate it, or at least make it feel more comfortable.
   As you trim your tree, light up some vanilla or pine scented candles, and pull goodies from the oven, this is a good time to remember why we decorate. As well as the humbleness of that first town, I’m sure it was not tinsel draped.