Friday, December 30, 2005

Christmas Quotes and Our Tree

Two quotes from this site and a picture of our tree:

Eva K. Logue
A Christmas candle is a lovely thing;
It makes no noise at all,
But softly gives itself away;
While quite unselfish,
it grows small.

Martin Luther
Good news from heaven the angels bring,
Glad tidings to the earth they sing:
To us this day a child is given,
To crown us with the joy of heaven.

God bless us, everyone...

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

One Snow Day

My son, J, wrote this story:

One cold snowy morning, I went outside, and it was really snowy! I came back inside and asked my mom, "Is it a snowday?"

"Yes, it is."

Then I went outside again and yelled, "YES!" I got my jacket, gloves and toboggen. I went sledding for a while. I came in freezing like an ice cube. I sat by the fire drinking hot cocoa. It was really good.

Then my brother finally woke up. I scared him and said, "It's a snowday"

"How do you know?" he asked.

"I asked Mom. I remember last year when you fell off your sled. It as funny. I love snowdays."

Monday, December 19, 2005

Evil Dinosaurs

The ministers at our church do our "Children's Moment" in a rather unique way. (Can something be 'rather unique?' Probably it is unique or it isn't...) Each week one of the children brings a cloth bag to church that he/she was given the week before. In it is an item of the child's choosing. This item becomes the centerpiece of the next week's children's moment.

This week, our associate pastor, Carol, centered the moment around the toy brought the week before -- a Power Ranger.

"What do Power Rangers do?" she asked the children.

"They fight off evil...they save people"

Already you can see the obvious comparison.

"Power Rangers fight evil. What does Jesus fight against?"

Answer from one child, "Evil Dinosaurs."

To us it seems like the child was mixing metaphors -- Jesus and King Kong, perhaps. But really, I think he was right. What do we fear the most? Perhaps to this child, evil dinosaurs are the ultimate in scary. What could we give to God that we are trying (and failing) to handle ourselves? What are our evil dinosaurs? And isn't it time to hand them to our Power Ranger?

Isaiah 11:6 -- The wolf shall dwell with the lamb,and the leopard shall lie down with the kid,and the calf and the lion and the fatling together,and a little child shall lead them.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Handpainted Village

Many years ago, before G was born, I painted several houses, stores, buildings, etc in order to create a Christmas village. I have three more buildings that need painted, but now that we have the boys, I don't have time for such messy hobbies -- acrylic paint EVERYWHERE. But I do add to it with purchased trees, roads, and lightposts. We weren't able to set it up last year -- ran out of time, but we got it set up this year. It always looks peaceful to me -- a seaside town (there is a lighthouse that isn't visible in the picture) with a little red schoolhouse, a movie theater, a craft store, book store, post office, flower shop, and stone church. S, the wonder with a lightbulb, lit it up for me, so each building seems to glow with warmth.

Always Winter, Never Christmas

Our Sunday school class and youth group went together to see The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe last Saturday. The movie was very good and seemed to me to be faithful to the book. The line which really stood out to me from both the book and the movie is "Always winter; Never Christmas."

I was reading a blog yesterday written by a mom who took her elementary-aged son to see the movie. She said that he hadn't been raised with the "Christian mythos," so he only saw the movie as a fantasy, without the symbolism that Christians attach to it. I think that sometimes we do the same thing to Christmas. I think that it would be a very empty holiday without Christ in it. I wonder how those who are not part of the "Christian mythos" (as the woman so cynically put it) survive the holiday -- really, what would be the point? I also think that even we Christians sometimes strip away the Christ-celebration from the holiday in our efforts to make it "perfect."

As I read different blogs across "blogland" I see a lot of evidence of this affliction. One person today said she was knitting for Xmess. Another, a few days ago, was obviously struggling through the season as she suffered through divorce. Haven't you ever felt that way? As if winter would continue forever, unrelieved by Christmas? Sometimes I think we get so wrapped up in the holiday, that we miss the holiday altogether.

It sounds trite; it sounds cliche, but it is so true. What is Christmas after all, if we celebrate it as a holiday, and forget the purpose? It becomes everybody's birthday, celebrated all on one day, with lots of decorations. It might sound pretty good on the surface, but it is just a recipe for Xmess.

We talked at Emmaus about a God-sized hole in our lives. Christmas, for those who don't believe in God, or who miss God in the season, must seem like an unrelieved winter -- without Christ, it's just stress. I have very little shopping done; we have one tree decorated, and one tree with ONLY lights (I kind of like it that way), and nothing wrapped. We still need to send gifts to S's brother and family, plus my Dad. However, I'm trying to remember the Christ in Christmas. I'm thinking about Christmas, I'm listening to carols, I'm reading my Bible (another legacy from Emmaus -- I said I would, so I am). The four of us (S, the boys and me) drove around the neighborhood a couple of weeks ago with hot chocolate and music to look at the decorations. We didn't plan it; it just happened, and it was great. Last night, I stayed at church and listened to the choir rehearse music for this Sunday -- it was wonderful. Stress told me that I should have been shopping or hanging decorations on our bare tree; Christ told me to stay and listen, so I did.

Everything else will get done, but I don't want a God-sized hole in Christmas. I don't want always winter, never Christmas. I don't have to make it perfect; God already did that. I think that unless I make a deliberate decision to ignore the voice of stress, and pay attention to the voice of God, I won't find Christmas; I'll be in an Xmess.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

After the Angel's Visit

I don't write poetry. I've never been interested in writing poetry. I play around with words sometimes and have been known to shove them together into a short story, but poetry has never appealed to me.

Imagine my surprise when I found myself writing poetry. I was driving, listening to Christmas carols, and thoughts came to me about Mary, and what it must have been like to be told that she would be the mother of Jesus. I sat down, read the passage from Luke about Mary's visit with an angel, and started to type a poem on the computer. Eventually, over the next several days, I wrote the other six poems that follow, all about what happens after a visit from an angel. I don't write poetry, so I don't believe that I wrote these by myself. What a wonderful Christmas gift this has been to spend this time with God.

The seven poems seem to belong to each other as a group, which is called "After the Angel's Visit." I think they are best read in the following order, although this is not the order in which I wrote them (Zechariah's poem was written fifth, but I think should be first). To read the series in order, click on the "A Priest's Sadness" link. At the end of each poem is a hyperlink to the next one in the series.

I read scripture before writing each poem. I have included a hyperlink to the scripture that I read before I started writing.

Have a wonderful and blessed Christmas, and remember that even after angels go home, God never leaves.


The Return

Matthew 2:19-23

Every star was visible
As if the black sky
Had been punctured with thousands of holes
To admit the light of heaven.
The couple sat in the sands of the desert,
Resting for the next day’s journey.
The baby, radiating health like a strong candle
Lay in Joseph’s lap
While Mary leaned against his shoulder.
Playing with tiny toes.

This is not where they wanted to be.
Egypt had meant safety, security, peace.
To leave and return to danger
Was unsettling.

They had wanted to stay in safety.
With each step they wished to turn the other way.

But an angel had visited him.
And had told him the anticipated. The expected.
And he had said yes.
Why must they risk their beloved son?
Why must they risk everything?

In the dark of the night.
Lit only by countless stars and a full moon,
They watched Jesus’ eyes slowly close
As he drifted off to sleep.
In the stillness that all parents understand
And refuse to break,
They heard a whispered voice
And felt a presence.
They knew that it was God.

He is beautiful.
Don’t you think so?

He is truly a gift.

He is the Word
And has been a part of me since the beginning.
Now he is my son; the only son of God.
I am pleased that he is also your son,
And that you love him so well.
Hold him, kiss him, touch him
As only humans can
As every human needs.

Why must we take him back to danger?

He is the son of God
And has a mission. A purpose.
You will risk him,
And he will risk everything.
All must be lost
So that all can be found.
I will stand with you, Mary
As his blood runs;
As the pain devours him.
As his body is broken,
Our hearts will be broken.

Why must it end in death?

Life must end
So that life can begin.
The lamb will be sacrificed
So that the truth will be known.
Death is not the end.
I cannot – will not – allow death
To be the last word.
Not for him.
Not for you.

Broken hearts shall be mended
Broken bodies shall be made whole.
God will never let go.
Those who were once creations of God
Will become children of God.
Heirs with the Son.
The full light of heaven
Will fill the darkness.
We will know the love of God.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005


Matthew 2:13-15

The rooster was crowing
Just before morning.
A dim light lit the sky.
The world was colorless
Black, white, gray
It had yet to adjust to the light
Which was just beginning to arrive.
A husband woke a wife
And told her of a visit. A warning.
They gathered all they had.
Fleeing danger; protecting their child.

The young mother held the child
Cradled against her breast.
Keeping him warm, sheltered, cherished.
As they road a donkey.
The father lead the way
Watching for danger.

The plan was for escape.
The destination was Egypt.

They had been waiting.
Time had been spent pondering
All that had happened.
Visits by shepherds and travelers.
A tiny son, born in a stable.
The wonder of a star,
And the glory of new life.

An angel had visited him.
And had told him of danger. Of terror.
And he had said yes.
Who was he to question an angel?
Who was he to question God?

As they walked away from what was known,
He placed a hand on his wife
To reassure her. To reassure himself.
Over the sound of the donkey’s steps,
They heard a voice.
They felt a presence
And knew it to be God.

You are doing well, my children.
Remember always that I walk with you.

Why would someone wish to harm a baby?

The thirst for power is sometimes unquenchable.
The consequence of sin is sometimes death.
I have sent my son to save a world
That will kill him.
His only protection right now is you.
Listen for me.
Listen to me.
And I will lead you.

Can we keep him safe?

For a little while
Until the time is right.
I understand the love you feel for this child
For I feel it, too.
For him.
For you.
I have trusted him to you,
And for now, for this moment
He is safe in your arms.

What will happen next?

You will take another step.
Each step you take will bring him closer
To his mission. His purpose.
Your salvation.
The time will come when the baby you carry
Will be a man. Son of God.
The impossible.
I have given you laws. Prophecy. Visions.
I now give you my son.

A light has come into the world
To vanish darkness.
To show the face of God.
Love will bring color to the world.
One new life will bring new life to everyone.
Everything will be changed.
We will know the love of God.


A Priest's Sadness

Luke 1: 5-22

The rain poured down
Changing the hard packed dirt to mud.
Pounding on the roof of the house
Where the old man sat.
His whole body ached
with the years that were piled on his shoulders.
His mind was burdened with responsibilities.
His heart was heavy with regret.
He had served his God all his life
And now he felt alone.

His whole life had been wrapped
In his belief in God.
His faith had been his salvation.
His home, his wife, his time,
All had belonged to God.

He had been given an opportunity,
A chance to sing praise to God.

An angel had visited him
And had told him the unexplainable, the ridiculous.
He had said no.
How could he possibly be the father of a prophet?
How could he possibly be a father at all?

In the gloom, in the heavy darkness
He sat despondent, silent, deserted.
As the rain pounded down
Leaving behind mud and disappointment.
The only sound its impact.
He heard a voice
And felt a presence
He knew it to be God.

What is it, Zechariah?
Why are you so sad?

I have failed you.

I sent an angel, my son
To bring you great news
An answer to your prayers,
And you doubted the evidence of my favor
Even though it stood right before you.
I meant to bring you joy,
And I was disappointed in your doubt.
But you have not failed.

Have you abandoned me?

I will never leave you.
I am your God; you are my child.
I am sending you a son
Who will bring you great joy and desperate sorrow.
The love you will feel for John
Will encompass you; will overflow your soul.
But it will pale compared to the love I have for you.
Could you ever stop being a father?
Then believe the same of me.

Will you forgive me?

Set aside your guilt, Zechariah,
Turn away from your doubt.
Accept that you are already forgiven.
Your son will be a herald
Clearing the path for my own son.
One will follow the other into death.
And we will mourn together.

Hope will spring from blood,
And forgiveness will cover all like rain.
Washing away guilt.
The silent will shout with joy.
Burdens will be lifted
And pain will disappear.
We will know the love of God.


Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Wisdom of a Wise Man

Matthew 2:1-12

The sun was rising
With the promise of a new day.
It was a time when possibilities were endless.
He was a wise man,
A man who knew his wisdom.
Who some treated like royalty.
He had studied and planned
Then he had followed a star
To find a baby.

He needed no one.
He had crossed the world,
Consulted with kings.
And reached his destination.
He had knelt in a stable
And given gold to a humble child
Asleep in a manger.

He had been anxious to return to his own world
And confess to himself his disappointment.

And then an angel had visited him.
And told him a warning. A command.
And he had said yes.
Who was he to need help from an angel?
Who was he to need help at all?

The breaking dawn lit his face
The sun shared its warmth
He heard a voice
And felt a presence
And knew it to be God.

What is it, my child?
Why are you waiting?

I expected more.

What you had hoped for
Can not even begin to describe
What I have given you.
Your dreams are too small.
Your trust in me is too weak.
My gift to you is myself;
My son.
He will provide everything you need.

What could a baby give to me?

Set aside your self-reliance.
Turn away from your pride.
You knelt at the side of God
Only because I called you
Only because I brought you here.
Your knowledge of the world is nothing
Compared to what my son provides.
He will teach you about me
And give you gifts beyond your imagination.

What do I do now?

The world is open to you
A new day is dawning.
Take a different road
Than any you have ever traveled.
Begin today to know
That you are not alone
You are my child
If you ask, if you trust
You can do more
Than you ever believed possible.

The world has changed
New roads have been opened.
God has come into the world
As one of us.
Possibilities are endless
The gift is unimaginable
And after the sun hides its face in grief
Tremendous, unmitigated joy will come.
We will know the love of God.


Monday, December 05, 2005

A Sleepless Shepherd

Luke 2:8-20

It was twilight.
The sun had disappeared;
One star was shining brightly.
Time seemed to stop.
In this margin that was neither night nor day
The shepherd lay on the ground
Trying to sleep
But was instead lost in his thoughts.

He was on a quest
To find a manger
A baby wrapped in cloths
A king in a stable.
As incredible as it sounded
He believed the news
But not in himself.

He was just a shepherd
Caring for his sheep.

Angels had come to visit him.
And had told him the incredible. The fantastic.
And he had said yes.
Who was he to seek the Lord?
Who was he to look for God at all?

In the timeless twilight
He huddled under a thin blanket.
Unclean. Unworthy.
Loved by no one.
He smelled like sheep,
And felt like dirt.
His only light a bright star.
He heard a voice
And felt a presence
He knew it to be God.

What is it, my son?
Why can’t you sleep?

I am nothing.

You are wrong.
You are mine.
I made you from dust.
Into a creation of God.
I have made you worthy
By my breath
By my love.
By my touch.

How can I face God?

Set aside your doubt, my child.
You believe in me.
Now believe what I tell you.
I loved you before you existed.
I knew you before you knew yourself.
You can face God
Because I have made it possible.
And because I am calling you.

Why must I go?

You will seek my son
Because he is expecting you.
He will be waiting for you.
He has been sent to find you.
I will keep loving you forever.
I have given my son to the world
To find you.
I will never give up searching for you.
You mean that much to me.

Doubt will drift away.
Light has come into the world
To find all that are lost.
To make clean all that feel unworthy.
A son will be a shepherd
And no sheep shall be lost.
He will bring time to an end
As eternity begins.
We will know the love of God.


Friday, December 02, 2005

A Father's Fear

Matthew 1:18-25

The sun beat down
Upon the hot, dry earth.
He tried to shove his anger into the wood
As he labored with it.
He planed away pieces of it
To lay scattered and broken in the dirt.
As if the wood could absorb all of his misgivings
His resentment.
His fear.

He was betrothed to a young girl.
His dreams, his plans, his honor
Were tied together into his marriage to her.
But she was pregnant
And he had not touched her.

He had had it under control.
He would set her aside.

But an angel had come to visit him
Telling him the impossible. The unbelievable.
And he had said yes.
Who was he to act as father to God?
Who was he to be a father at all?

His anger, his resentments and his fear
Mingled with his sweat
As he slammed the plane into the wall.
Silence beat into the ground with the heat.
He heard a voice
And felt a presence
He knew it to be God.

Joseph, my son, what it is?
Why are you so angry?

She was mine, and now she is not.

She is still yours,
But you both are mine.
She will be a wife to you
Who will love you, comfort you
And be the mother of your children.
She is the wife that you need.
As you protect this woman today
You will find your future.

Why must I be the one?

You will be the father
That my son will need.
You will teach him
How to work with his hands,
How to care for his family.
You will teach him what it is to be human.
As you protect this boy as he grows
You will find the salvation of the world

How can I do this?

Set aside your anger, Joseph,
And put aside your fear.
You can do this because you are not alone.
You belong to me.
I love you, and will hold you close.
I will never forsake you.
Your faith and trust in me
Will give you the strength you need.

Fear and anger will fade away
The dry, hot earth will receive living water.
When the worst does come
And the wood absorbs His blood
What is broken shall be whole.
We will know the love of God.


Thursday, December 01, 2005

A Conversation

Luke 1: 26-38

The night was silent.
Darkness had settled like a shroud.
It was that part of the night when nothing is awake.
When stillness covers everything
And doubt obliterates even the stars.

The ground around the tiny house
Was trampled down, worn with use.
Inside, a young girl lay in her bed,
Crying, doubting, afraid.

Why did I say yes?
What will happen to me now?

An angel had visited her earlier
And told her the unbelievable, the miraculous.
She had said yes.
Who was she to be the mother of God?
Who was she to be a mother at all?

In the quiet
In the darkness
In the midst of her doubts,
She heard a voice,
And felt a presence.
She knew it to be God.

What is it, Mary?
Why are you crying?

I am afraid.

Set aside your fear, Mary,
Know that I am with you.
Through this night, into tomorrow,
Through everything that will happen.
You are not alone.
I know that you are afraid tonight,
And it will not be the last time.
But even through the worst,
I will comfort you.

Why have you chosen me?

You have been chosen
Because you are the mother that
Our son will need.
Your faith and your trust in me
Will give you strength.
And even through the worst,
You will comfort me.

Why are you doing this at all?

I do this because I love you.
I do this because you are mine.
Through our son you will see me.
It is the only way to make you understand.
Perhaps if you see me, if you know me,
Then you will realize how much I love you,
And you will allow me to save you.
All of you. Each of you.
And through the worst,
You will know me.

Death will slink away
Darkness will be lifted.
Doubt and fear will be quenched,
The trampled ground will heave a sigh of relief,
The star will shine brightly.
We will know the love of God.