Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Christmas with R.'s family ... then Christmas Eve, Christmas Morning (featuring the joint Birthday gift for Ab and AA - a restored go-kart)...and finally, closing out with a somewhat louder Christmas with my family....
Meanwhile we are enjoy some holiday downtime. Talk more later!!
Friday, December 25, 2009
Maybe hundreds of little surprises I might have planned; Kind words and wished I have left unsaid.
But it's done.
Christmas - the only holiday with a built-in deadline - is here. It arrived just a few moments ago.
The cat and I are the only ones up, though I have two kids that have tossed and turned and fretted about going to sleep . . . Ab may still be awake at this moment.
The gifts are awaiting them under the tree which still stands as a twinkling sentinel in the corner.
And for this moment it is . . . still.
Before fatigue takes over, perhaps I will be able to contemplate the season.
Do you remember when you first brought that newborn baby home and they finally drifted off to sleep? How quietly they lay. How peaceful.
Do you remember that tiny smacking of lips?
If you were like me, you were mesmerized by that little miracle.
Now imagine the same situation in an entirely different setting than your bedroom or nursery.
Imagine the Christ Child asleep in tightly swaddled cloths, protected from the cool night breezes by the sides of the feed trough in which He sleeps.
While I believe Jesus was both man and God and therefore He presented the typical problems a newborn ... diapers, crying, etc. - I believe there was some point that first night in which He was. . .
. . . still . . .
And perhaps Mary used those small snatches of time to unpack those thoughts she "pondered in her heart".
Stillness: it is God's occasional gift to us that allows us to process the significance of all the events around us.
.... the message of a Christmas Eve service - to join the Song of Redemption and take the light of Jesus Christ that is within us, to a dark world . . .
...the stories that have been shared during recent gatherings - which ones should be passed on to our children....
....the quiet cries for help from people too proud to ask . . .
. . . the seemingly insignificant remarks of my children . . . remarks that may need to be explored as I get to know them better ...
...the love of God that is proclaimed in so many songs in so many places during this wonderful season. . .
...the question of how I will pursue the purpose God has determined for me; and how will I lead my family to boldly do likewise?....
These are things worth pondering as Christmas comes and I am ....
Sunday, December 20, 2009
Friday, December 18, 2009
R. suggested we get one like my Granny and Pop's trees - scrub cedars decorated with the big lights. I jumped at the idea.
We found it in the woods near our house. It truly was a "Charlie Brown Tree" ... and still is.
I had 3 Christmas tree stands and went through all three and about 2 additional feet of tree before I was able to get the tree to stand in the house.
Then a day or so later - it fell.
More repairs were performed (don't ask) and eventually we had the old fashioned tree I have often told the kids about.
I think there are some things we will remember about the experience - but I don't think it is one I will be quick to repeat.
Enjoy the pics and Merry Christmas!!
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Sunday, December 13, 2009
How about you - is that what the holidays mean to you?
A reading of the original Christmas story reveals that there was a whole lotta' shakin' goin' on.
In fact one of the characters was said to have been "startled and gripped with fear".
We are pretty comfortable with angels. We see them everywhere, especially this time of year. And not too long ago, angels were sort of a fad: there were television shows and movies centered around angels, stickers, mugs, posters, greeting cards ... you could find angels most anywhere and they were generally considered to be a "good thing".
Apparently the angels of the first Christmas story were quite different from those floating around on your Christmas tree right now. The accounts in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke tend to leave us with the impression that angels were - well - scary.
Each time they appeared folks were afraid, or "troubled" or "sore afraid!"
I am learning that oftentimes as people are about to launch into something big, they start out by being afraid. I don't know that it always happens that way - but at least it does sometimes.
What I really noticed this year as I began to focus on the Christmas story was the parallel between Mary and her uncle Zacharius.
Both were destined to be recipients of a miraculous birth - Mary, a virgin, would bear a child; Zacharius, an old man with an old wife, would father a child in his old age.
Both were visited by an angel (possibly the same angel, Gabriel) to be informed about their role in the upcoming saga.
And both were troubled.
But they each responded in a slightly different way: Zacharius' response was couched in doubt - "how can I be sure of this?". Granted his doubt was probably self-doubt - but doubt just the same.
Mary, on the other hand, gave a response that assumed that the angel's message was true ... " How will this be?". She never doubted that the Word sent from heaven was true - she just asked about the details.
As you may recall, Zacharius received a sign - probably not one that he would desire - he was struck "dumb" (incidentally, most parents of teenagers have suffered the same curse at least until their kids reach their mid-20's).
It is interesting to read the encounter, you can almost hear the clipped tones with which the angel tells him that he will be unable to speak until the child is born, because of his unbelief.
I find two applications here: One is that our initial response can make such a difference - may mine (and yours as well) always be like Mary's - a response couched in faith. Secondly, I notice that while Zacharius' unbelief buys him some difficulty for a time - it is not mentioned to him again.
You don't see the angel perching on his shoulder the rest of his life, whispering -"yeah - but do you remember that time you doubted?". The punishment was issued and the deed forgotten.
I love grace. I think I have misjudged it most of my life and underestimated it, but God gives it out so freely.
I hope you will thing a little differently about angels this season. I am going now to check out the countenance on some of the ones on my tree.
Saturday, December 12, 2009
You will also see and hear some segments from the "Winter Arts Festival" at Unity Christian School. AA is in the first cut, Ab is in the other two.
Finally, Ab & AA were required to present a concert as part of their music training, so Grandmother, Papa and an easy-going cousin attended.
Friday, December 11, 2009
R. has been busy - shopping online, updating her own posts, and working on some Christmas creations that are sure to bring joy to several folks.
For me - the inspiration I sense on my drive in to work each morning has usually fizzled by the time I get to a computer in the evening.
I think we may have simplified our Christmas a little this year . . . we do not seem to be quite as scattered and frenetic as usual and the things we are doing seem to be enjoyable. But I have already had some "that's enough" moments.
I took an extra day off today and while I was busy most all day - I was with R. and with my kids most of the time so it was enjoyable.
I hope to post some pictures soon.
Thanks for sticking around.
I just thought I would let you know.
Saturday, December 5, 2009
Meetings can provide a serendipitous moment when the group gels in their thinking and move as a unit toward a common goal; recently I went to lunch with someone and there was - for me - a sense serendipity - I found value in the conversation.
Christmas lends itself to serendipity. I mean, look at the original story: shepherds go about a "normal" night's work and suddenly something happens to make their world anything but normal! The whole thing - the way the story unfolds, the location for the event, the timing ... it all displays God's gift of serendipity.
In Christmas gatherings, serendipity can just occur (because of the Reason we are gathering) or they can be manufactured. The "manufactured" kind of serendipity doesn't necessarily have to mean that it is false or superficial - it just means someone PLANNED to throw some value into the mix.
This is what happened at a gathering I was involved in last week.
One of the smaller hospitals with which I am associated has an annual Senior Citizens Breakfast to sort of kick off the Christmas season each year. Physicians and hospital staff work extra hard to serve these local citizens with a great breakfast, some inspiring Christmas music and a visit from Santa.
I have been a participant in the event's choir from time to time and I had the opportunity to sing this week. No matter how much preparation has gone on ahead of time, the choir is always filled with last minute possibilities: this year, the musician phoned the night before to say they couldn't make it and about ten minutes before time to sing, there were only about five singers present.
Nurses were quickly recruited to sing as well as other people that just looked as if they might enjoy singing -or at least appearing to sing - Christmas Carols with a group.
The program is unapologetically Christmas - right down to the reading of the Christmas story from St. Luke's Gospel. Some of us really pasty white people even waxed a little soulful as we sang "Go Tell It On The Mountain!".
Finally it was time for Santa Claus. The deal is that Santa has always come in, done something funny and handed out gifts to all the attendees. This tradition has gone on for years and until recent years, Santa was portrayed by a local physician who was well known to all in the area. Since his retirement, a gentleman has taken over. This guy has also been associated with the hospital for many years and his own father was a professional Santa Claus (what a career!!).
This guy has a great "stand-up" delivery and he is always a hit with some Jerry Clower style stories and some inspiration.
This year he got me with a story about a 92 year old man who had recently died and how as an orphan in the early 1900's, he had been given his greatest Christmas gift - an orange.
That's a great story and left a lump in my throat that felt to be the size of that orange - but the real serendipity came as he begin to talk about "fears" people were facing this Christmas:
- for some, they were fearful that guests would be disappointed somehow in the meals they would prepare for various gatherings
- some would be fearful that gift selections would be incorrect
- the discouragement of these economic times would leave many afraid
- many are afraid about the future
- some - he said - have friends or relatives that they are not speaking to . . . they would like to take a step to reconcile that relationship but they are afraid...afraid of rejection.
Then he indicated that they needed the very first GIFT of the Christmas story and he began to quote from Luke's account....
. . . and the angel of the LORD appeared unto them and the GLORY of the LORD shone round about them - and they were sore afraid; but the angel said unto them
The first message of the first Christmas, and the first Christmas gift was when the angel said "do not be afraid".
That is something of great value to me this Christmas.
I hope that you will find that first gift valuable as well,
and may all your Christmas gatherings hold some possibility for serendipity!
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Ab, AA and I took part in our annual after-Thanksgiving Day-tradition of a Waffle House Breakfast!