". . . little shall I grace my cause

In speaking for myself. Yet, by your gracious patience,

I will a round unvarnish'd tale deliver . . ."

(William Shakespeare's Othello, I.iii.88-90)

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

"A Decade and Its Crises"

From Sammy Benoit of American Thinker:

When we look back at the decade 2000-2009, we may well define it by three crises: the crisis that didn't happen, the crisis that wasn't supposed to happen, and the crisis that we don't realize is happening. We haven't learned the lessons of the first two, and our ignorance of the third may doom us to be slaves to our government, rather than the other way around.

Click here to read the rest.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

To Read

I'm adding this one to my reading list. Here's the Amazon link and here's the publisher's link. Has anyone out there already read it?

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Morning

We didn't get home until almost 1:00 a.m. Christmas Eve (actually Christmas morning). We finally woke him up at about 9:30.

Heading down stairs (wish I had closed the coat closet before taking the picture).


First, the stockings. Looks like Caitlin has already gotten into hers!



A little help from big brother.



Let's see, what have we here? A slinky, some candy, some stickers and some Play-Doh (not pictured).

Now for the tree!

New play food and castle accessories!


Santa didn't forget Shiloh.



Merry Christmas!


Friday, December 25, 2009

The History of Santa Claus

Here's an excellent summary of the historical roots of Santa Claus from American Thinker.

Fear Not

At last night's candlelight communion service, my pastor reminded us of the true meaning of these words. The message to the shepherds was not merely that they didn't have to fear the blinding light, or the ear-splitting noise, or the specter of unidentified flying objects in the sky. The message of the angels was that they--and we--no longer have to fear the Law because with the birth of the Savior we are delivered from our sin and made perfect creatures in Christ. So rejoice in the glad tidings of great joy! Christ has come and you are forgiven! Alleluia!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Don't forget . . .

. . . to listen to Lessons and Carols tomorrow morning broadcast live from King's College in Cambridge at 9:00 a.m. CST! I will be listening with my cup of coffee at my right hand, my address book at my left hand, and my Christmas cards, letters and envelopes front and center!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Thought for the Day

"Every man has his secret sorrows which the world knows not; and often times we call a man cold when he is only sad."--Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Garrison Keillor Asks Non-Christians to Leave Christmas Alone

As much as I have enjoyed listening to Prairie Home Companion over the years, I am not a fan of Garrison Keillor's politics. I think he had Bush Derangement Syndrome to the extreme. But I respect that he speaks his mind, even if it means enraging his leftist, intellectual, elitist public radio friends. Here he is doing so in spades, going after the president of Harvard University, Ralph Waldo Emerson and the Unitarian Church in Cambridge (which recently rewrote "Silent Night" to make it more politically correct). This column has sparked a mini-controversy and has left various people wondering if he even meant it to be taken seriously. I think he did. He may be a leftist, but he's also a Christian (a Lutheran like me, albeit from the more liberal branch of Lutheranism).

Here's an excerpt:

Unitarians listen to the Inner Voice and so they have no creed that they all stand up and recite in unison, and that's their perfect right, but it is wrong, wrong, wrong to rewrite "Silent Night." If you don't believe Jesus was God, OK, go write your own damn "Silent Night" and leave ours alone. This is spiritual piracy and cultural elitism, and we Christians have stood for it long enough. . . .

Christmas is a Christian holiday - if you're not in the club, then buzz off. Celebrate Yule instead or dance around in druid robes for the solstice. Go light a big log, go wassailing and falalaing until you fall down, eat figgy pudding until you puke, but don't mess with the Messiah.

Christmas does not need any improvements. It is a common, ordinary experience that resists brilliant innovation. Just make some gingerbread persons and light three candles and sing softly in dim light about the poor man gathering winter fu-u-el and the radiant beams and the holly and the ivy, and you've got it. Too many people work too hard to make Christmas perfect, find the perfect gifts, get a turkey that reaches 100 percent of potential. Perfection is a goal of brilliant people, and it is unnecessary where Christmas is concerned.


You can read the entire column at the link above.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Random Winter Thoughts

When someone tells you "I'm sorry" it's usually nice to respond with "I forgive you."

I have no problem with respecting diversity. But is it really worth "celebrating"? Doesn't it make more sense to celebrate the things that we have in common, that bind us together, and that we share rather than the things that separate us?

The older I get the more I prefer "learning" to "education." Learning is something we do for ourselves; education is something that is done to us.

If you have ever doubted that God has a sense of humor, consider the snowstorms complicating both the Global Warming Summit in Copenhagen and the Democratic-controlled Senate's effort to pass a health care bill before Christmas.

The Andy Williams Christmas album is one of the best ever recorded, right up there with the soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas and Take 6's He Is Christmas. Christmas is not complete in our house without all three.

Laundry and dishes do not take a Christmas vacation.

I'm really glad our photo greeting cards say "Love always" rather than "Merry Christmas," seeing as how they probably aren't going to be delivered until January.

Our Christmas gift list has been getting smaller the last few years. It will be nice when it starts getting bigger again.

I love having kids who can cook supper.

I need to go Christmas shopping tomorrow. It's the last Saturday before Christmas. Someone tell me that it's going to put me in the Christmas spirit to get out in the snow and fight the crowds. Go ahead. I'm waiting. Tell me.

The tree is up. That may be the only decorating we do this year, and that's okay.

I have a totally amazing family.

My kids have totally amazing friends.

Sometimes I wonder if I have the beginnings of Alzheimer's. Seriously. My stupid quotient (the number of things I do wrong divided by the total number of things I do) is getting higher by the hour.

I think anger may be the most difficult emotion to deal with. When you're sad you can cry. When you're happy you can laugh. When you love someone you can show it. But you're not supposed to act on anger. You're just supposed to be nice and behave yourself and keep it all in. And when the person who has offended you is no longer around for you to talk to about the offense, what is one to do? No wonder so many of us have ulcers and insomnia and addictions and tumors and headaches and [fill in the blank with the malady or syndrome of your choice].

Christians write the best music.

Jesus came for sinners. Jesus came for me.

Monday, December 14, 2009

"E'en So, Lord Jesus, Quickly Come"

As many of my readers know, organist and composer Paul Manz died earlier this year. Here's our adult church choir this weekend singing his best known work.



Peace be to you and grace from Him
Who freed us from our sin
Who loved us all, and shed His blood
That we might saved be.

Sing holy, holy to our Lord
The Lord almighty God
Who was and is, and is to come
Sing holy, holy Lord.

Rejoice in heaven, all ye that dwell therein
Rejoice on earth, ye saints below
For Christ is coming, Is coming soon
For Christ is coming soon.

E'en so Lord Jesus quickly come
And night shall be no more
They need no light, no lamp, nor sun
For Christ will be their All!

My Day

I don't have enough brain energy to think through a meaningful post. So I will just report on my day. Starting at 5 a.m. this morning, here's how it went:

Wake up
Get ready for work
Go to work (choir accompanying at high school)
Leave work early to go to church day school Christmas program practice
From program practice, drive to junior college to pick up son from his math final
Drive home, have lunch
Drive back to day school for afternoon choir practice
Stop by post office on the way back home
Teach piano lessons
Have supper
Drive son to church for bell choir
Drive back home
Clean up the supper dishes, watch a Tom and Jerry cartoon with 6-year-old and do a load of laundry
Now it is almost 8:00 and I have to get back in the car and go to church for an instrumental rehearsal for the Bach cantata we are doing at church Wednesday night. I hope to get to bed by 10:00, but that is pretty iffy.
Tomorrow it's 5:00 wake up followed by early morning hours at the high school again followed by another Christmas program practice followed by the program tomorrow night. This on top of the week I've just had.

I don't know how much longer I can keep this up. The house is falling apart and I am exhausted. Why does December have to be this way?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

"Salvation is Created" - Pavel Chesnokov

Another Advent moment for your consideration. I highly recommend this listening experience.



Russian:

Spaséñiye, sodélal yesí posredé ziemlí, Bózhe. Allilúiya.

Cпасение coдeлaл еси посреде земли, Боже. Аллилуия.

English:

Salvation is created in the midst of the earth. O God, Our God, Alleluia.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

At the Christmas Tree Farm

















I am so glad we did this before the BIG FREEZE. We have not decorated yet--too busy right now--but it looks pretty just the same, don't you think?



Monday, December 7, 2009

Slow Down

If you're caught up in the December rush like I am (see previous post), stop for three minutes and be blessed by this stunning setting of William Blake's "The Lamb" by John Tavener as sung by the King's College Choir, Cambridge, in 1998. If you can't take the time now, come back later. You won't be sorry.

Text of the poem:

Little Lamb, who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee?
Gave thee life, and bid thee feed
By the stream and o’er the mead;
Gave thee clothing of delight,
Softest clothing, woolly, bright;
Gave thee such a tender voice,
Making all the vales rejoice?

Little Lamb, who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee?
Little Lamb, I’ll tell thee,
Little Lamb, I’ll tell thee:
He is called by thy name,
For he calls himself a Lamb.
He is meek, and he is mild;
He became a little child.
I, a child, and thou a lamb,
We are called by his name.
Little Lamb, God bless thee!
Little Lamb, God bless thee!



The December Rush

It's Advent, a penitential season during which Christians seek quiet in which to prepare for the coming of the Christ child. Can someone please tell me, then, why the world seems to throw so much more at a person during this time? Here is an outline of my week that contains just the things that are out of the ordinary--special events, rehearsals, and such that I would normally not have.

Yesterday:

Voters' meeting at church (to which I didn't go because of the next item)
Nursing home performance with my community children's choir
Staff Christmas Party

Tonight:

Dress rehearsal for next weekend's children's choir concert

Tomorrow night:

Evening concert at the high school I play for

Wednesday:

Two daytime concerts and one evening concert at the the junior high I play for

Thursday:

Chamber orchestra practice for the Bach cantata that my church choir will be performing for midweek Advent service next week, plus an extended adult choir practice for Advent/Christmas

Friday:

Yay, I think it's a normal Friday!

Saturday:

Full dress rehearsal for children's community choir concerts on Sunday
Daughter has Tae Kwon Do evaluation
Son has chess tournament

Sunday:

Sunday School Christmas program
Two performances with the community children's choir

I realize that Christmas is coming, and there are certain things, like Sunday School programs and staff parties and special church services, that are to be expected this time of year. I'm not complaining about those--they're part of the joy of the season! But I find myself wondering: all these secular school and community groups that I play for--groups that may sing Christmas songs here and there but are careful to balance them with other traditions and to point out that they are singing them for the sake of art and not faith--why do they all have their big winter concerts in December, right before Christmas? Why not in January, in the lull when people don't have so many things vying for their attention? Why now?

I suppose the choir directors would say they need to do it now because they would lose ground with their singers over the Christmas ("winter") holiday. But I'm not so sure. The school break is only two weeks. They could revisit the music for a couple of weeks when the students return and have a very fine performance. And having the winter concert in January rather than December would address all the nervousness that secular institutions feel about being seen as embracing Christmas too much.

And best of all, it would make my life a little less crazy and my Advent preparation a bit more peaceful and reflective. But seeing as how I'm not the one who designed the schedule, I should probably bid you all farewell until next week. In the meantime may you breathe deeply and slowly of the Christ Child's grace!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Second Sunday in Advent

"Prepare the Way of the Lord" (from Taizé) accompanied by guitar, synthesizer (my son), accordion (my husband), & hammered dulcimer. This was sung as the Verse at our Saturday evening service tonight. Poor sound quality (I really need a better recording mechanism than my cell phone), but maybe sufficient to give my readers who are interested a sampling of what a "contemporary" liturgical ensemble at Bethany might sound like. The hammered dulcimer player (largely inaudible on the video) is on the left; she was a surprise guest, not a member of our congregation but a friend of the guitarist who sat in just for tonight. The guitar at first and later the accordion sound a lot louder in the video than they did in the service, and because I was sitting right by the musicians you mostly hear them and not the congregation (which was a Saturday night crowd so was small anyway). The accordion drops out on the final repetition.



Here's another--several stanzas of "On Jordan's Bank the Baptist's Cry" accompanied by piano, synthesizer and guitar. The sound quality is a little better here. The little voice you hear humming along is Evan. :-)



My husband says that next time I want to do a recording in church I should go to the other side of the sanctuary to get a more balanced, representative mix of the instruments and congregation. He's so smart. I guess that's why he's the Cantor and I'm not.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Lifers of the World Unite!

It's that time of year: time to watch It's a Wonderful Life (or not, as the case may be). Some people love it and make it an annual tradition; others dismiss it as "Capra-Corn"--sappy, silly sentimentality. (There's a Facebook group called The Society of People Who Don't Get All Freaky About "It's a Wonderful Life." I'm not joining. Just call me a freak.☺)

Why do I like the movie so much? Mostly because of what it has to say about vocation and being thankful in all circumstances. The message is one I can always benefit from hearing.

Here's an interesting analysis from Joe Carter of the First Things blog that compares and contrasts the main character of Life, George Bailey, with the main character of Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead and concludes that the movie--its American icon status notwithstanding--is way more countercultural than the book in celebrating a character that chooses service over self-actualization:

"The Fountainhead of Bedford Falls"

(HT: Gene Veith)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Looking for the Light

There is a house I pass almost daily in my travels, usually multiple times. It is located about halfway between my own house and my church. Its position, backing up to a greenway next to my regular route, means that I have a good view of the back of the house rather than the front.

We have been living in our current home for almost 10 years, so I have been driving this same route equally as long. And for all of that time, or as much of it as I can remember, this house has been lavishly decorated for Christmas. And the decorations are of the sort that I actually like--not those big plastic/inflatable monstrosities, just lots and lots of lights in many colors. It's unusual to see the back of a house decorated so extensively, but no doubt the owners realized that more people see the back of their house than the front. So for years they have provided those driving by with quite an impressive display.

That is, until last year. Last year Christmas came and went, but the lights never went up, and I assumed that the house had changed hands and that the new owners weren't continuing the tradition. Too bad, I thought. I will miss that daily dose of holiday cheer.

But lo and behold, last week the decorations were back! And they are identical to those we have seen on this house for years, so my assumption is that the house did not change owners after all (although I suppose it is possible the previous owner left the light display behind). Which leaves me to wonder:

What happened? Why were there no lights last year?

The possibilities are endless. Was there an extended illness? Cancer, maybe? Chemotherapy treatments? Was there a job loss? Was there a serious injury, a divorce or a death? Did someone deploy to Iraq?

Maybe there was a joyous event, like the birth of a new baby.

Or maybe they were just tired.

There is no way of knowing, but my gut tells me there is a story there. And as I look from that house to the next, and the next, and the next, and I think about how many houses I drive by every day, I can't begin to imagine the complicated stories playing out in each of them. It boggles my mind to think of how many people there are in this world and of the various trials they are facing. Really, it's a wonder any lights get hung at all! If we were outside decorators (we're not), you can bet our lights would not be going up this year.

But thanks be to God that there is a Light that doesn't need me to hang it up, plug it in, or turn it on. It is the Light of Christ, the Light that shoots like a laser through the darkest darkness, the Light that shines no matter the season, the Light that had no beginning and has no end. It is the Light we await this Advent, the Light that became flesh and entered our time-space continuum a little over two thousand years ago, the Light that suffered, died and rose, ascended into heaven, and promises to come again. It is the Star of Bethlehem, the radiant beams from the face of the Holy Child, the Light that shines from the throne of God and wraps itself with perfect love around His saints.

Whether or not you hang lights on your house this season, may you bask in the Light of Him who is Light, as that Light shines to you and through you for all to see.

Is the End In Sight?

Dick Morris predicts that the Republican party will take back both houses of Congress in 2010.