Monday, December 31, 2007

Ruby's Words of Wisdom

- When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.
- Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joyride.
- Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure ecstasy.
- When it's in your best interest, practice obedience.
- Let others know when they've invaded your territory.
- Take naps. Stretch before rising.
- Run, romp, and play daily.
- Thrive on attention and let people touch you.
- Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.
- On warm days, stop to lie on your back on the grass.
- On hot days, drink lots of water and lie under a shady tree.
- When you're happy, dance around and wag your entire body.
- No matter how often you're scolded, don't buy into the guilt thing and pout! Run right back and make friends.
- Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.
- Eat with gusto and enthusiasm.
- Be loyal. Never pretend to be something you're not.
- If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.
- When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by and nuzzle them gently.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Incomparable Anne Lamott

I love Anne Lamott. She has long been one of my very favorite writers. Operating Instructions, Bird by Bird, and Traveling Mercies are some of my very favorite books.
Attached is a link to an online interview with Anne Lamott and Steve Brown. Excellent, excellent interview. She talks about writing, her liberal political leanings, grace, and her love of Jesus. Just wonderful. (And also really really funny...)

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Ralphie Would Be Proud

Well..... yesterday was Christmas. My kids got all kinds of stuff. Brand new bikes, books, clothes, video games, etc.
AND my 11 year old son got the One Thing that he really wanted (and the one thing I really DIDN'T want him to have). Yes, that's right. The coveted, much ballyhooed Red Ryder BB Gun (as in "You'll shoot your eye out, Ralphie!"). Yes, that's the one. I think his father, who BOUGHT this dubious present, was just as thrilled as our son. They spent Christmas afternoon out in the woods in our backyard shooting things... the wheelbarrow, empty bottles, clay discs, etc.
My son was beaming. Ralphie would be so proud.

Monday, December 24, 2007

What I've Learned from George Bailey

It's once again that time of year to watch my very favorite movie, "It's A Wonderful Life". It always makes me laugh, cry and, most importantly, it always makes me appreciate the life I already have. I guess I love George Bailey because I see myself in some of his struggles: depression, discouragement, anxiety, etc.

As the movie unfolds his guardian angel (the sweet, simple Clarence) helps him to see that he already possesses a truly Wonderful Life, if he'll only open his eyes and see it.

Here are the 3 Big Things (and very simple lessons) I've learned from George Bailey over the years:

  1. Money, careers, cars, houses and the acquisition of More Stuff don't matter.... the only things that matters are your relationships with people; and your relationship with God. (Matthew 6:24; 1 Peter 1:24-25)
  2. Your life touches so many others' lives, in ways you don't see and can't even imagine. Remember to love God, and to love others (and don't forget to love yourself). (Matthew 22:36-40)
  3. Your life is important to God, and He has a plan for you. (Jeremiah 29:11; Psalms 139: 13-14; Luke 12:6-7)

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Chris Turnbow's Christmas Miracle

Below is a beautiful story about the the power of love, and the power of family. The story itself is amazing, but the audio clip is definitely worth a listen. (It even made me cry.... and I almost never cry.....) What a wonderful Christmas blessing for this family. Enjoy, and count your blessings.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Joseph, Jesus' Earthly Dad

Ever think about Joseph? He was kind of ignored in the whole scheme of things, wasn't he? Jesus and Mary, well, they were obviously the center of attention, but what about Joseph? What must he have been feeling? Speechless? Overwhlemed? Without a doubt.
I can only imagine what he thought when he realized that he and his wife Mary were going to be the earthly parents of the Messiah.

That's some Heavy Stuff.

None of us really know what Joseph thought, of course, but I think Max Lucado probably came very close to capturing it with the lovely piece he did below.

This isn't the way I planned it, God. Not at all. My child being born in a stable? This isn't the way I thought it would be. A cave with sheep and donkeys, hay and straw? My wife giving birth with only the stars to hear her pain?
This isn't at all what I imagined. No, I imagined family. I imagined grandmothers. I imagined neighbors clustered outside the door and friends standing at my side. I imagined the house erupting with the first cry of the infant. Slaps on the back. Loud laughter. Jubilation.
That's how I thought it would be.
But now. Now look. Nazareth is five days' journey away. And here we are in a . . . in a sheep pasture. Who will celebrate with us? The sheep? The shepherds? The stars?
This doesn't seem right. What kind of husband am I? I provide no midwife to aid my wife. No bed to rest her back. Her pillow is a blanket from my donkey. My house for her is a shed of hay and straw.
The smell is bad, the animals are loud. Why, I even smell like a shepherd myself.
Did I miss something? Did I, God?
When you sent the angel and spoke of the son being born--this isn't what I pictured. I envisioned Jerusalem, the temple, the priests, and the people gathered to watch. A pageant perhaps. A parade. A banquet at least. I mean, this is the Messiah!
Or, if not born in Jerusalem, how about Nazareth? Wouldn't Nazareth have been better? At least there I have my house and my business. Out here, what do I have? A weary mule, a stack of firewood, and a pot of warm water. This is not the way I wanted it to be! This is not the way I wanted my son.
Oh my, I did it again. I did it again didn't I, Father? I don't mean to do that; it's just that I forget. He's not my son . . . he's yours.
The child is yours. The plan is yours. The idea is yours. And forgive me for asking but . . . is this how God enters the world? The coming of the angel, I've accepted. The questions people asked about the pregnancy, I can tolerate. The trip to Bethlehem, fine. But why a birth in a stable, God?
Any minute now Mary will give birth. Not to a child, but to the Messiah. Not to an infant, but to God. That's what the angel said. That's what Mary believes. And, God, my God, that's what I want to believe. But surely you can understand; it's not easy. It seems so . . . bizarre.
I'm unaccustomed to such strangeness, God. I'm a carpenter. I make things fit. I square off the edges. I follow the plumb line. I measure twice before I cut once. Surprises are not the friend of a builder. I like to see the plan before I begin.
But this time I'm not the builder, am I? This time I'm a tool. A hammer in your grip. A nail between your fingers. A chisel in your hands. This project is yours, not mine.
I guess it's foolish of me to question you. Forgive my struggling. Trust doesn't come easy to me, God. But you never said it would be easy, did you?
One final thing, Father. The angel you sent? Any chance you could send another? If not an angel, maybe a person? I don't know anyone around here and some company would be nice. Maybe the innkeeper or a traveler? Even a shepherd would do.

I wonder. Did Joseph ever pray such a prayer? Perhaps he did. Perhaps he didn't.
But you probably have.
You've stood where Joseph stood. Caught between what God says and what makes sense. You've stared into a sky blackened with doubt. And you've asked what Joseph asked.
You've asked if you're still on the right road. You've asked if you were supposed to turn left when you turned right. And you've asked if there is a plan behind this scheme. Things haven't turned out like you thought they would.
Each of us knows what it's like to search the night for light. Not outside a stable, but perhaps outside an emergency room. On the gravel of a roadside. On the manicured grass of a cemetery. We've asked our questions. We questioned God's plan. And we've wondered why God does what he does.
No, the Bethlehem sky is not the first to hear the pleadings of an honest heart, nor the last. And perhaps God didn't answer every question for Joseph. But he answered the most important one. "Are you still with me, God?" And through the first cries of the God-child the answer came.
"Yes. Yes, Joseph. I'm with you."
There are many questions that we won't be able to answer. Many times we will muse, "I wonder . . ."
But in our wonderings, there is one question we never need to ask. Does God care? Do we matter to God? Does he still love his children?
Through the small face of the stable-born baby, he says yes.
Yes, your sins can be forgiven.
Yes, your name can be written in heaven.
Yes, death has been defeated.
Because God has entered the world.
Immanuel. God is with us.
--Max Lucado

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Steve Brown's Christmas Blog

Below was taken from Steve Brown's blog at
I love Steve Brown - not only does he have a fabulous radio ministry, but his dry wit (and honesty) are so refreshing!

I can't believe it's December again! Didn't we just "do" Christmas a couple of months ago?
Christmas! That means I have to get out the tree and the decorations. If I had known that this was coming around so fast, I would have never taken them down from last year. It would be like not making up the bed in the morning because you're going to have to unmake it in the evening.

Christmas means that sad people will be sadder, joyful people more joyful, busy people busier, religious people more religious...

...and it means war.
Yeah, war!

The "Prince of Peace" calls every Christian to man the ramparts and to prepare for battle against the forces of evil who would reduce "Merry Christmas" to "Happy Holidays" and remove any reference to Christ in the public square beginning with Christmas.

It's called the "War on Christmas" and John Gibson's book, The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday is Worse Than You Thought, gives the horrifying details. He, of course, is right.
Annie Gaylor, co-founder of the Freedom From Religion Foundation says that the "real" reason for the season is winter solstice. They have a plaque that reads: "At this season of the winter solstice may reason prevail. There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds."

A couple of years ago, Tom Piatak, wrote in The American Conservative: "The result of sanitizing Christmas is now within sight: an undistinguished, uninspiring public celebration, devoid of religious or cultural significance or indeed of beauty, with nothing left but multiculturalists pap and tawdry commercialism."

Do you know how I feel about all of that?
I don't care!
I'm not anybody's mother and, frankly, I don't care what unbelievers do about Christmas. I'm not their boss, their judge or their leader. They can dance naked around a fire celebrating winter solstice if they want to, say "Happy Holidays" to their hearts' content and ignore God whenever they want. I just don't care. I don't even know their names.

My not caring may be because I'm tired; it could have something to do with being old; it could be just my "default" cynicism directed at pagans who are offended by the name of Christ and also at those who sell books and get ratings faking anger directed at pagans who are offended by the name of Christ.
But I really think my not caring has to do with Jesus who said, "Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God" (Luke 9:60).

When I said I don't care, that's not exactly true.

The Christmas season is a grand and glorious time to offend a pagan. I take perverse delight in saying "Merry Christmas" to pagans, in asking Target store managers why they are offended by the Salvation Army, and in handing out "Jesus is the Reason for the Season" bumper stickers to my humanist friends. That's not because I'm a "Christian solider." It's just like to irritate.

Now that I think about it, there's another reason it isn't exactly true for me to say that I don't care. I think I just don't get upset with "an ant crawling up an elephant's leg with murder on his mind." It's sort of like the fly, sitting on the cow's tail, that said, "I'm leaving you now," to which the cow replied, "Oh, really, I didn't even know you were there."
Paul said in 1 Timothy that Jesus Christ is "the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords" (6:15) and to the Philippians he wrote that the time was coming when "every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (2:10-11).

Take Jesus out of Christmas? Are you crazy?

The King goes wherever he wants and does whatever he wants whenever and however he wants. The Freedom From Religion Foundation folks are dreaming. There is nothing sillier than the growl of a toothless tiger...except for maybe powerless people pontificating and not even knowing how powerless they are. They don't know it, but they really don't get a vote and I find it hard to get my underwear in knots over toothless tigers or powerless people.
As I've written the above, I've found myself with another feeling too. I'm sort of surprised because what I wrote was about all that I had planned to say.

Do you know what else I'm feeling? I'm feeling a profound sadness. Maybe that's one of the reasons I'm such a Scrooge at Christmas (it's a real disconnect, by the way, if a Scrooge like me looks like Santa Claus). When I listen to, as it were, toothless tigers growl, there is something so heartrending and depressing about it that I can hardly stand it.
Do you remember what C.S. Lewis said about Narnia in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe? He said that Narnia, under the power of the White Witch, Jadis, was a place where it was "always winter and never Christmas." In fact, Lewis had an alternative title for The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. He was going to title it The Hundred Year Winter.

A hundred years with snow, ice, dark and cold...and no Christmas.
Is that sad or what?
That's the profound pathos of those who want Christ out of Christmas. Without him, there is no Christmas. There is just the cold, hollow, empty silence of meaninglessness and hopelessness.

Think what it would be like to be guilty and have no one to forgive you, to be thankful and have no one to thank, to be afraid and have no one to go to, to be lost in the universe with no reality but your lostness, and to be mortal and have nothing to which to look forward except the grave. How heartbreaking to have no flag to follow, no King to whom to pay homage but yourself, and no reason for the life that you've been given.
If there's no God, there's no value. If there's no value, there's no meaning. If there's no meaning, then you're a turnip to eventually return to the soil from which you came.
Turnip types don't celebrate Christmas. And because their state is so incredibly sad, they don't want anyone else to either.

The old hymn lyrics come to mind:
Let those refuse to sing who never knew our God;but children of the heavenly King may speak their joys abroad.
In other words, don't get angry. You don't have to fight in a war that's been over for two thousand years. Shed a tear and say a prayer.

Then, in the name of Christ, get down! Celebrate, party, sing, rejoice and laugh because...
"The Word became flesh and dwelt among us!"

Mrs. Claus' Cookbook

Christmas Cookie Recipes Galore.... :-)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Outrageous Beauty

To me, one of the irrefutable "proofs" of a Benevolent Creator is the outrageous natural beauty that our planet is replete with. (And, come to think of it, this beauty is wholly unneccessary from a functional perspective..... yet another arrow pointing towards a Creator?).

So, to that end, I thought I would attach just a few photos.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Winter Blessings

To every yin, there is a yang......
Interestingly, my melancholia has been tempered the past day or so by life's little blessings that seem to have stood up and "declared" themselves to me. There is nothing earth-shaking here; simple things, really, and things that would be quite easy to take for granted.

However, I'm trying hard to see the simple gifts that are tucked into every single day. So, here they are.... the Small Blessings I've noticed over the past couple of days:

  • The feel of really soft, freshly laundered flannel sheets on my skin as I get into bed after a long cold day.

  • Snuggling up next to my still-asleep husband early in the morning, while the house is still dark and quiet.

  • Having complete peace in the evening after the children have gone to sleep, and having time to read my book and sip a cup of hot coffee laced with a bit of Grand Marnier. (Yum.)

  • Seeing the wonder and excitement in small children's faces when they see Santa ("the man") at the mall.

  • Having legs that work. (Each time I see someone confined to a wheelchair I am reminded to whisper a prayer of thanks that my body functions as it should.)

  • My 11 year old son and 10 year old daughter, who are two of the funniest people I know.

  • My sweet dog Ruby, who truly believes the sun, the moon and all the planets orbit around me.
  • Having an evening bubblebath with a glass of wine and a really good book.

  • The austere beauty of a tree's barren branches against a cold, hard-blue Winter sky.

  • Watching my husband build a fire and being convinced, yet again, that he is just the best looking man on the planet.

  • Singing my favorite hymn ("I Stand Amazed") in church this morning while standing next to two of my good friends and realizing all 3 of us are crying because we're all simultaneously overwhelmed by God's love. Now that is cool.

Friday, December 14, 2007

December Melancholia

I can count on it every year, like clockwork. The days get shorter, the temperatures get colder and, a week or so into December, it hits me..... sort of like a grey twilight fog that descends quietly and persistently over my psyche and refuses to lift... until after Christmas is over.

I have no idea why this happens. I have absolutely no reason to suffer from the Christmas Blues. Perhaps it's the fact that God's voice and the spiritual significance of Christmas get completely drowned out under the overwhleming cavalry charge to Buy More, See More, Do More, Consume More, and Have More. Just too much, all the time, force-fed. Yuck.

Was Christmas always this way?

I have been listening quite a bit this month to "Wintersong", Sarah McLachlan's fabulous CD of holiday songs. There is a clear melancholy streak that runs through much of her music, and this CD is no exception. However, these selections are also incredibly beautiful. Her voice is haunting; a beacon of sorts to those of us who are melancholy this time of year. Below is a link to the video of "River", her gorgeous re-make of Joni Mitchell's classic. I love the lyrics..... she sings that it's "comin' on Christmas" but yet she wishes she "had a river that she could skate away on".

I can relate.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Logan, the Sky Angel Cowboy

Get your Kleenex out before you watch the below clip. It's a tear jerker.
The wisdom this little boy possesses is far beyond his years.
As they say, "...out of the mouths of babes..."

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Thoughts on How to Live

Follow the 10 commandments.
Live the Golden Rule.
Believe in yourself; you know just as much as most people.
Showing up is 90% of life.
Don't say anything about others that you wouldn't want them to know you've said.
Discipline your children. Inspire them for good.
Don't get bullied into following political correctness.
Being yourself is always better than pretense.
Call your relatives, tell them you love them, even when you don't want to.
People's lives behind closed doors rarely looks like what you think it does.
What you do everyday is way more important than what you do occasionally.
Never compare yourself to the image others project.
Say positive words ten times more than negative words.
Stop assuming it's about you; it's probably not.
Do what you are afraid to do; your fear will frequently vanish.
Act as if you'll be successful. Remember: what the mind believes, the person achieves.
Make a habit out of smiling. People will smile back at you!
Lipstick and sunglasses do wonders.
People live up or down to the expectations you put upon them. Be optimistic and expect the best.
Words can't be taken back, so choose them wisely.
A glass of red wine makes the evenings much better.
Hug your children and your spouse at least three times per day.
Tell your friends and family all the nice things you are thinking about them.
When anyone walks into your presence greet them with a smile.
People are just doing the best they can.
Everyone craves encouragement and love.
No one really wants your opinion, unless they have specifically asked for it.
Supporting others’ success doesn't lessen your chances to succeed.
Most problems won't matter next week, next month, next year.
More Stuff doesn’t equal More Happiness; it never has and never will.
Don't yell at other drivers while you're behind the wheel. You just wind up ruining your own attitude.
Complaining about things is the sad hobby of life's losers.
Remember that life is a gift and can be gone in a flash. Treasure every day.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

as delicate and beautiful as a snowflake

somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond any experience, your eyes have their silence: in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me, or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look easily will unclose me though i have closed myself as fingers, you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens (touching skilfully, mysteriously) her first rose

or if your wish be to close me, i and my life will shut very beautifully, suddenly, as when the heart of this flower imagines the snow carefully everywhere descending;

nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals the power of your intense fragility: whose texture compels me with the colour of its countries, rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes and opens; only something in me understands the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses) nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands