Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Quiet Days, Celebratory Nights

This week is vacation week. We are hanging out with family, reading, doing some shopping and baking, and watching lots of football. Among the things I'm not doing:
- writing papers
- reading professional journals or books
- answering emails from people at home (no offense to my friends, because I am Spacehooking a bit...)

Even though it's cold and windy, the sun is shining and I am reveling in the birdwatching and "doing nothing" agenda for today.

Across the lonely beach we flit,
One little sandpiper and I,

And fast I gather, but by bit,

The scattered drift-wood, bleached and dry.

The wild waves reach their hands for it,

The wild wind raves, the tide runs high,

As up and down the beach we flit,
One little sandpiper and I.

-Celia Thaxter

Sunday, December 27, 2009


It's kind of a visual cleansing breath, isn't it?

Friday, December 25, 2009



Verse 1
It's still a mystery to me
That the hands of God could be so small,
How tiny fingers reaching in the night
Were the very hands that measured the sky

Hallelujah, hallelujah
Heaven's love reaching down to save the world
Hallelujah, hallelujah
Son of God, Servant King,
You're here with us
You're here with us

Verse 2
It's still a mystery to me, oh,
How His infant eyes have seen the dawn of time
How His ears have heard an angel's symphony,
But still Mary had to rock her Savior to sleep

Hallelujah, hallelujah
Heaven's love reaching down to save the world
Hallelujah, hallelujah
Son of God, Servant King
Here with us
You're here with us
(Ohh, mmm, here with us)

Jesus the Christ, born in Bethlehem
A baby born to save, to save the souls of man

Chorus (2x)
Hallelujah, hallelujah
Heaven's love reaching down to save the world
Hallelujah, hallelujah
Son of God, Servant King
You're here with us
You're here with us

Thursday, December 24, 2009

From one Advent to the next...

Love divine, all loves excelling,
Joy of heaven to earth come down;
Fix in us thy humble dwelling;
All thy faithful mercies crown!
Jesus, Thou art all compassion,
Pure unbounded love Thou art;
Visit us with Thy salvation;
Enter every trembling heart.

Breathe, O breathe Thy loving Spirit,
Into every troubled breast!
Let us all in Thee inherit;
Let us find that second rest.
Take away our bent to sinning;
Alpha and Omega be;
End of faith, as its Beginning,
Set our hearts at liberty.

Come, Almighty to deliver,
Let us all Thy life receive;
Suddenly return and never,
Never more Thy temples leave.
Thee we would be always blessing,
Serve Thee as Thy hosts above,
Pray and praise Thee without ceasing,
Glory in Thy perfect love.

Finish, then, Thy new creation;
Pure and spotless let us be.
Let us see Thy great salvation
Perfectly restored in Thee;
Changed from glory into glory,
Till in heaven we take our place,
Till we cast our crowns before Thee,
Lost in wonder, love, and praise.

Words: Charles Wesley

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Dug out and running around...

We did indeed have over 18 inches of snow. Our best guess is that our snow depth was about 20 inches. For here in suburban Maryland, that's just paralyzing. Our street never did get plowed! It was only because a neighbor had connections to a friend with a snowplow on his truck that we are able to slide down the hill.

Here's a few photos of the beauty...

I'm already tired of the shoveling and it was only about 8 or 9 inches deep...

The mailman never made it. The newspapers did!

Cold tree. Warm lights...

Cool shot across the street... (taken by Reedy Girl.)

Papa Fir Tree with a blanket.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Friday Five: Christmas Traditions

Jan at RevGalBlogPals writes:

Christmas traditions vary from family to family and from regions afar. I've been pleased that my oldest son's wife AA loves to be with our family for Christmas, though I don't think we do anything out of the ordinary. It helps that DC has one brother and two sisters to liven up our home.

Since I finally decorated the Christmas tree and have started baking Christmas cookies, I am thinking of Christmas only being one week away.

So for this Friday Five, tell us five things about the traditions in your family. Think of...

1. Traditions you always do...
A tree, stockings from "Santa," an Advent wreath, pretty tablecloths and linens, presents under the tree, and putting up creches.

We never really pushed the "Santa" story, but used it as an opportunity to teach doing things for each other. Our stockings have things in them that are fun and useful, silly and imaginative. Our creches are from various places. One is from Bearded Brewer's grandmother. Another is made of olive wood from Bethlehem, and there are also animals from Africa and India represented. There are many German decorations (arches, painted wooden ornaments and pyramids), and music boxes. And there are a lot of things for cats to knock over.

King Henry with part of the creche. He brought "purrrs."

2. Traditions you always cook or eat...
Gazillions of Christmas cookies (usually at least one batch of sugar cookies), chocolate in many ways, peppermint and some kind of good meal on Christmas Day. It depends where we are what it is (if we are at the beach, it's seafood!)

3. Traditions you would like to start...
Reading the Christmas story together.

4. traditions you would like to discard...
Well, since I am not going to get to them this year, Christmas cards. I guess I will do some kind of eCard.

Reedy Girl and I doing "quality control" on cookies...

5. anything about your family Christmases... Bearded Brewer and I give to some organization as our Christmas gift to our extended family. Depending on the year, we choose an organization we want to support. We have given to Amani Ya Juu, The Heifer Project, International Christian Concern, The Salvation Army, and various relief projects with the Mennonite Central Committee. It's never a lot of money, but we know it is the gift that "always fits" and it is something of a legacy from our parents, who taught us to care about the less fortunate.

As time goes by, I am becoming more of a realist. Things that get done, get done. Things that don't -- well, they don't. As I type this, we are beginning a major snowstorm for our area. (Of course anything more than 6 inches is "major" around here!!) I was supposed to preach a student sermon tomorrow. Unless we travel by dogsled, it won't happen. So we will enjoy some time as a family and celebrate this season of Light and Hope and Joy and Peace...

And I pray that each of you finds these things too -- in Jesus, The Christ Child.


Thursday, December 17, 2009


I have come to really love this song...

Stables by Peter Mayer
From the album "Midwinter"

In Bethlehem a manger waits
Long ago and so today
Where hatred-weary people pray
Love will come and lay there

And so do countless stables stand
In hearts as harsh as desert lands
Rough shelters in the wind and sand
That love may come and stay there

Love that opens fists of hate
Heaps up gold on beggars’ plates
Love that shows a kindly face
To enemies and strangers

And the walls of stables tremble so
When the winds of fear and judgment blow
For a stable hopes in love alone
And knows that love’s the answer

O Love, the prophet’s only word
The only lesson left to learn
The only end of heaven’s work
And the only road that goes there

Love that sees with mercy’s eyes
Holds its arms out open wide
Threads its loom with separate lives
And weaves them all together

So may the lamps of stables glow
Brightly that their light may go
For miles in the darkness, so
Love will find its way there

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Milestone...

(Reedy Girl is on the left)

First high school concert for Reedy Girl... In the pre-concert chaos, I snagged one "mama-razzi" picture. She did very well and had a small solo. And I behaved and didn't embarrass her with overt photographic moments.

A milestone to celebrate!


Wednesday, December 09, 2009

God's Presence this Christmas...

My devotional readings are in The Ragamuffin Gospel and Watch for the Light this season. This quote in Ragamuffin spoke to my heart as I prayed for a heart that more clearly hears and sees God at work this Advent.

For what we need to know, of course, is not just that God exists, not just that beyond the steely brightness of the stars there is a cosmic intelligence of some kind that keeps the whole show going, but that there is a God right here in the thick of our day-by-day lives who may not be writing messages about himself in the stars but in one way or another is trying to get message through our blindness as we move around down here knee-deep in the fragrant muck and misery and marvel of the world. It is not objective proof of God’s existence that we want but the experience of God’s presence. That is the miracle we are really after, and that is also, I think the miracle that we really get.

from Frederick Buechner's The Magnificent Defeat (quoted in The Ragamuffin Gospel

If I were to get it into words, I don't think I could have said it any better. "The best gift is His Presence..."

How silently, how silently
The wondrous Gift is giv'n!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heav'n.
No ear may his His coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still,
The dear Christ enters in.
Phillips Brooks - O Little Town of Bethehem

Sunday, December 06, 2009

The fourth king...

King Henry, that is! He brought the gift of purrrss....

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Friday Five: Do-Nothing Edition

Sally from RevGals writes: List five things you won't be doing to prepare for Christmas.

1) Attending more than one Christmas concert at school since The Johnnie has graduated, and only Reedy Girl has a concert this month.
2) Perform in a Christmas concert or service this month. My schedule doesn't permit participating in Christmas Eve this year. It's really OK.
3) Giving in a gift exchange, white elephant or otherwise. (Hallelujah!)
4) Traveling down to The Mall in DC to see Christmas lights. (I've done it the last four years in a row; I'm exempt this year!)
5) Sending Christmas cards. I'm emailing, blogging and that's all folks.

Back to writing... and when I have brain-power, more blogging too...

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Advent Thoughts... Day 4

I'm not promising to blog every day this month, but I am doing readings in a book that I haven't read consistently at Advent in some time. It's titled Watch for the Light and is a collection of readings from many of my favorite authors. (It's on Amazon and while you're there you might like the Lent and Easter version titled Bread and Wine.

Today's reading featured a translation of a hymn penned by St. Thomas Aquinas:

Light of lights! All gloom dispelling,
Thou didst come to make thy dwelling
Here within our world of sight.
Lord, in pity and in power,
Thou didst in our darkest hour
Rend the clouds and show thy light.

Praise to thee in earth and heaven
Now and evermore be given,
Christ, who art our sun and shield.
Lord, for us thy life thou gavest,
Those who trust in thee thou savest,
All thy mercy stands revealed.

I had never connected this hymn to Acquinas. But as the days get darker and colder (particularly in the morning) the seasonal change back to the light is a mighty word picture of me of the dawning promises of God.

Yes. Today can be dark. For us as a family, there are some difficult decisions and work to be done. And later this week, we will have the graveside committal from the BCP for our life-long Episcopalian mom, mother-in-law and grandmother. And it was with a smile and joy that I read this reference to her present experience of the light...

Into thy hands, O merciful Savior,
we commend thy servant Marie.
Acknowledge, we humbly beseech thee,
A sheep of thine own fold,
A lamb of thine own flock,
A sinner of thine own redeeming.
Receive her into the arms of thy mercy,
into the blessed rest of everlasting peace,
and into the glorious company of the saints in LIGHT.

And so be it.