Monday, December 28, 2015

It's A Wonderful Life--Really?

When I was growing up, I couldn’t understand all the hub-bub (yes, I just said that) about Frank Capra’s classic, It’s A Wonderful Life.  As an omniscient teenager, I thought, “Yeah, this is great.  George has a really bad day at work, comes home, hollers at his kids, belittles his adorable wife, berates an undeserving schoolteacher via telephone... and then, he goes out and gets drunk.  That’s so wonderful.”  A really feel-good movie.  Fun for the whole family.  As long as you’re not his family.

As the plot progresses, he’s involved in a hit and run (poor tree), fleeing the scene of said accident, and resists arrest.  Whee--this is a delightful picture.  Quite the role model, he is.  Now before you string me up with those eighty-percent off twinkle lights that you bought at Target’s After-Christmas sale, please realize that I do come to my senses.  Eventually.  It takes a bit of life-living to appreciate good ole George Bailey.  And his obvious skill at lassoing the moon. 

Enter Clarence Odbody, Angel, Second Class.  If he helps George Bailey straighten out his act, he will earn his wings.  He definitely has his work cut out for him.  George has reached the end of his rope, having lost sight of the moon.  And, his Buffalo Gal.  And their painfully adorable offspring.

The adventurous George finds himself tethered to a town, a family business, a staying put that he never intended.  Upon his father’s untimely death, he “mans up”, sends his younger brother to college with the funds intended for his own European adventure, and weds the lovely Mary.  Instead of using their “honeymoon fund” for a whirlwind week in The Big Apple, Mary offers up their little nest egg to keep the family business afloat--on their wedding day.  Ah, Mrs. Bailey.  And, then the “wedding night” in the old estate.  Complete with turntable-cum-rotisserie, candlelight, and singing cops.  Just the beginning of their “bricks without straw” life together.   But what they built was far more significant than they could ever dream.

George has the unimaginable opportunity to see what life would have been like if his whiskey-induced blather of “I wish I’d never been born!” had come to fruition. He sees a town gone to pot, dilapidated shanties, burlesque bars, and seedy characters.  His mother becomes a hardened boarding house mistress, having lost her only son in a wintry drowning accident--George was not there to save him, of course.  The lovely Mary is now the old-maid librarian and the despicable Mr. Potter runs the whole show. 

You never realize how many lives you touch--until see those lives devoid of your impact or influence.  George’s life of sacrifice, while exceedingly difficult at times, when the grass seems greener “anywhere but here”, was for something.  Someone. Somebody.

He may not live in the most cosmopolitan of cities, in the finest mansion, driving the latest in automobiles.  His passport may lack stamps of entry.  But, he has a wife who is devoted to him, children who think he could truly lasso the moon, and a community of friends who give out of sacrifice and loyalty, often saying, “If it hadn’t been for you, George...”  The Savings and Loan is saved--by those whose lives have been changed, not because of a signed check; but, because someone believed in them.  Gave them a chance.  All those diamonds in the rough.

And, Clarence earns his wings.  And, how do we know this?

The hub-bub is justified.  It’s A Wonderful Life--Really.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas: A Candlelight Carol

Candlelight Carol

How do you capture the wind on the water?
How do you count all the stars in the sky?
How do you measure the love of a mother
Or how can you write down a baby's first cry?

Candlelight, angel light, firelight and star-glow
Shine on his cradle till breaking of dawn
Silent night, holy night, all is calm and all is bright
Angels are singing; the Christ child is born

Shepherds and wise men will kneel and adore him
Seraphim round him their vigil will keep
Nations proclaim him their Lord and their Saviour
But Mary will hold him and sing him to sleep

Candlelight, angel light, firelight and star-glow
Shine on his cradle till breaking of dawn
Silent night, holy night, all is calm and all is bright
Angels are singing; the Christ child is born

Find him at Bethlehem laid in a manger
Christ our Redeemer asleep in the hay
Godhead incarnate and hope of salvation
A child with his mother that first Christmas Day

Candlelight, angel light, firelight and star-glow
Shine on his cradle till breaking of dawn
Silent night, holy night, all is calm and all is bright
Angels are singing; the Christ child is born

~John Rutter

With gratitude to our Minister of Music for sharing this beautiful piece with us. 

Thursday, December 24, 2015

It Was Not A Silent Night...

"It was a labor of love.  
But, the baby in the womb
He was the maker of the moon,
The Author of the Faith,
Who could make the mountains move."

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Fourth Candle of Advent: Bonhoeffer

“...And then, just when everything is bearing down on us to such an extent that we can scarcely withstand it, the Christmas message comes to tell us that all our ideas are wrong, and that what we take to be evil and dark is really good and light because it comes from God. Our eyes are at fault, that is all. God is in the manger, wealth in poverty, light in darkness, succor in abandonment. No evil can befall us; whatever men may do to us, they cannot but serve the God who is secretly revealed as love and rules the world and our lives.” 

~Dietrich Bonhoeffer, God Is In The Manger

Now, we wait.  Preparing Him room.  And heaven and nature will sing.  

And, the fourth candle is lit.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

20/20: An Anniversary Post

Recently, I read a quote that said, “In our deepest moments, we say the most inadequate things.” As we’ve approached this milestone for which the traditional gift is china, I have found that I, the overly-verbal, oft-times emotively-outspoken member of this duo, simply can’t find the “right” words to encapsulate these twenty years of life together.  Is it enough to say my heart--and my life--is full?  Full of memories, laughter, silence, tears, challenges, joys, and many dates spent at local bookstores?  “Two-step” newlywed apartments, a baby boy, our first home bought, a baby boy, job changes, tornadoes, and wild Blaze roses that grow in spite of us.  

Songs, quotes, and poems abound.   It’s all of them--and yet none of them.

So, in true, ESFJ-style, I present you with a list.  Of lessons learned.  Unsolicited tips.  Big bag of duh discoveries.  There is no formal title--perhaps just points on which to ponder and reflect.  It’s stuff.  Life stuff.  “We have made a life together” stuff.

1.  Don’t take yourself too seriously.

2.  Read aloud to one another.  Seriously.  It’s fun.  Scripture.  Winnie-the-Pooh.  Whatever.

3.  Hire a good wedding photographer--and let them make your album.  The likelihood of  you making your proofs into a real album is slim.  

4.  Eat meals together--it’s habit forming.

5.  Seek out seasoned couples for mentoring--and perspective.  And good food.

6.  Laugh often.  Preferably not at inopportune moments.

7.  Encourage each other’s “out of the ordinary” endeavors.  Like running a half-marathon.  Baking a cake from scratch.  Finishing a dissertation.  Going on a mission trip with twenty-five junior high kiddos.   

8.  Learn that silence is okay.  Quiet is good.  'Tis a hard lesson to learn for extroverts.

9.  A “just because” card goes a long way.

10.  Washing the dishes or making the bed is just as sexy as a dozen red roses.  It’s a gift, ladies.  

11.  Sometimes, you just need a hug.  

12.  Ask for his opinion.  And actually listen.  

13.  Slow dance in the kitchen.  Spotify on the nearby Mac is a beautiful thing.

14.  Establish traditions--even the smallest of rituals can smooth out a rough day.

15.  Find a foolproof chocolate chip cookie recipe.  And a go-to salad.  

16.  Watch “Everybody Loves Raymond” every so often and give thanks that you are NOT married to Ray.  

17.  Learn the difference between entertaining and hospitality.  A bowl of popcorn and an old movie is golden.

18.  A gentle touch, in passing, is a lovely thing.

19.  You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.  

20.  Put away the distractions and listen.  Or just be.  No iPhone.  No laptop.  No Book of Face.  No nothing.  Less is so much more.

And, yes, in keeping with the traditional gift for these two decades, we plan to dine at our favorite local Asian eatery.  

We’re nifty like that.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Light of Joy--Third Candle of Advent

While shepherds watched their flocks by night, all seated on the ground.
An angel of the Lord came down and glory shone around.

Joy to the World, the Lord has come.
Let Earth receive her King.

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
~Psalm 16:11

The third candle is lit.

Friday, December 11, 2015

I Wish I'd Said That...

"...The pagan gods were not there to be known; they were there to be feared.  They were not there to be loved; they were there to be placated.  They were many, and they were temperamental.  The people lived in fear of these forces, which could lavish great prosperity on their households but could also scorch the earth beneath them.

But, Israel's God was different.  He was definite, and his character was immutably fixed.  And they were to love him for it with everything they had.

They were to love him with all their heart.   In the seat of their deepest dreams and desires, in the place where they wrestled with their sorrows and clung to flickering hopes, they were to love him.

They were to love him with all their soul.  In the place that made each individual unique, in the inner court of the mind where decisions were made, in the forming of the bonds between friends and lovers, as well as in the coming together of a community, they were to love him."

~Behold The Lamb of God:  An Advent Narrative
Russ Ramsey

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Hump-Day Hilarity: Santa Claus Has Joined the Mafia...

Really.  Think about some of our traditional carols, says Tim.  For example, "Do You Hear What I Hear?".  Consider these lyrics.

"A child, a child, shivers in the cold,
Let us bring him silver and gold."

How about a blanket? 

Monday, December 7, 2015

Behold The Lamb of God--The True Tall Tale

About a decade ago, a young newly-wed couple gifted us with Andrew Peterson’s Behold the Lamb of God (10th Anniversary--2-Disc Set, of course).  It was a treasured favorite of theirs and they wanted to share it with us.  I liked the look of the cover--a nod to Van Gogh’s “Starry Night”.  So, we gave it a listen.  Again. And again. And yes, again.

It has become a staple of our Advent celebration.  He Who is Now Taller Than I learned the “Begats” song by heart.  And not to be outdone, so did Mini-Hooper.  As a mother, I completely resonated with “Labor of Love” and it is my favorite song on the disc.  Likely, it is one of my favorite Christmas songs.  Actually, it is.  Top Ten. 

For those unfamiliar with this “true tall tale of the coming of Christ”, it was written by Andrew Peterson and friends.  He invited a host of uber-talented musicians (Jill Phillips, Andy Guilahorn, and Ben Shive, to drop a few names) to make this happen.  They go on tour, each Advent season, bringing “Lamb” to a concert hall, sanctuary, or auditorium near you--hopefully.  In 2010, the Tour made its way to our neck of the woods, providing a wonderful mom-and-son date for the aforementioned Tall One.  No, I’m not showing favoritism.  The Tour has not made it back here since Mini-Hooper was old enough to appreciate it.  Let me know if you hear otherwise!

Lighting the first candle of Advent, musically-speaking, the singer invites us to “Gather Round, Ye Children Come” and listen to the old, old story.  He starts from the beginning--which is a very good place to start.  We walk through the Egyptian captivity until the Passover.  And, then we find ourselves in the desert.  With Moses.  And, then Saul. And then, King David.  

Lighting the second candle.  O Come, O Come Emmanuel.  And ransom captive Israel.  That mourns in lonely exile here.  Until the Son of God appear.  Rejoice.  And, the second candle is lit.

But, wait, there’s more.