Tuesday, December 24, 2013


The Lord is come!

I love this song. 
It's such a song of 
of victory, 
of might!

It sings the arrival of our King
and is appropriate at Christmas, 
but something in me begs to sing it at 
Easter as well. 
To herald the arrival 
of our king
on His throne!

I've been surprised this whole advent season
how much my heart has turned to
I seem to be having a hard time 
separating the two.

But, do I have to?

Monday, December 23, 2013

Right Here in This Manger

Just after Thanksgiving, I gave my grandson a Fisher Price manger set.  It didn't make sense to wait until Christmas for such a gift.  There were other nativity sets in the house, but this is one that can be handled by little hands – loved and held and even combined with the Fisher Price zoo set. 

In Aidan’s re-enactment of the first Christmas, there were gorillas and bears in addition to the standard cow and sheep.  There was the baby, Jesus, of course, and his earthly father, Joseph, and his mother, Mary, a yet-to-be-named zookeeper, and an angel, conveniently named Mary.  Three wise men traveled a great distance to be there, riding on one camel and two elephants.  I’m pretty sure that Mary - the mother, not the angel - arrived on the zebra, because the donkey was on lookout duty on the top of the stable.
This particular donkey, though, is quite musical.  From his perch on the top of the stable, you simply pat his back, and music floats down as “the little Lord Jesus lays down His sweet head.” and “the stars in the sky look down where he lay.”  Perhaps at the direction of the zookeeper, “the cattle are lowing.”  And no doubt, given the sweet sounds from an inquisitive two year old, “the baby awakes.”

Dear Jesus, not just at Christmas time, but all through the year, please:

“Bless all the dear children in thy tender care,
And fit us for heaven to live with thee there.”

May the blessing of the Christ child come to all: barn animal and exotic, human and angelic, child and child-like, as we bow at Jesus’ lowly manger.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Name That Tune

Peace on earth will come to all

We all long for peace.
On earth,
in our workplace,
in our homes.
In our hearts.

If we just follow the light.

The light of the Christmas star
at Christmas,
or the light of Christ,
all year.

So let's give thanks to The Lord above,

Thank you for your son.
Thank you for loving us to that amount of sacrifice.
Thank you that you sent him as a baby
so we could have this time to open
our hearts to that precious one.
Thank you for making Him available
to us at all times.

'Cause Santa Claus comes tonight.

Or that.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Give the Guy a Tissue, Please!

Dominic the donkey has a German hoofed cousin named Rudolph.  You’ve probably heard of the little guy with the perpetual cold.  I’m sure Kleenex with lotion was created with him in mind.  Poor little four footed tike – always being teased for lack of appropriate nose wipes.  My nose would look much the same if I lived at the North Pole.  I could have been famous!!  But I digress…

Unlike Merry’s blog yesterday, I didn’t do any added research into this song.  You see, the words of the song are true:

You’ll go down in his-tory.
And indeed, he has.  Kids today still watch the same documentary of his life that I did – ummm – LOTS of years ago.  Same singing snowman who sounds like Burl Ives – except they don’t catch that connection.  Same lamenting Santa waiting for salvation from a sniffley reindeer.  Again, I digress...

So coming back to the point - the point being Jesus.  I have to admit: Ruddy has little to offer.  Jesus would have shared his lodging with the dear deer, as he did with so many other four legged friends.  Perhaps the Babe would have giggled as He reached out to touch the glowing red ball.  Of course, then the sinuses would have been healed and the nose would have faded to black.  History would have been re-written.  No, strike that - history was re-written when that Babe touched this Earth!  That’s the point of Christmas!

Sorry, Rudolph.  You are a side bar at best – lovable and loved – but not historical.  Hope Santa brings you Kleenex!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Dominic The Italian Christmas Donkey

When Lory and I first discussed this project
many of the usual Christmas Carols
came to our minds.
Lory said, however, they don't *have* to
be church carols. 
Maybe there is something to be found
Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer
Frosty The Snowman.

Maybe the only one we couldn't work with
would be 
Dominic The Italian Christmas Donkey.
Although, there were 
donkeys at the manger.....
So I have challenged myself 
to find some redeeming qualities
in Dominic.
It will be pretty hard because the first thing
I learned was that 
the studio production of 
the song was financed by the
Gambino crime family. 


OK, well, the donkey is helping Santa
because the reindeer can't climb the 
Italian hills.
He's a helpful donkey!


Apparently there is a no fly 
zone over Italy on Christmas eve?

Also, is 
a racial slur these days?
For sure all the "da"s instead of 
is some sort
of offensive, right?


I think Dominic is a lost cause. 
You got anything, Lory?

Thursday, December 19, 2013

O Little Town - The Remix

I’ve lived in the ‘burbs of Chicago for over 30 years now, but in my heart, I’m still a small town girl.  I spent several of my formative years in a little bit of a village, population 199.  Directly across the street out our front door was a corn field:  black dirt with green fuzz in the spring, lush waving stalks in the summer, turning to brown in the fall, and snow covered stubble in the winter.  From that town we moved to a sprawling metropolis with 4000 inhabitants.  Being the preacher’s kid, it was impossible for me to be anonymous.  Everyone knew me and knew my business and had an opinion about me and passed pertinent information on to my parents.

A man walking into town with his VERY pregnant wife riding on a donkey did NOT go unnoticed in the little town of Bethlehem.  Even if his was the only door Joseph knocked on, it wasn’t just the innkeeper who denied them lodging.  People politely nodded and then turned from the small procession, hurrying home to tell friends and family.  If there is one thing I know about small towns, it's that everyone knew about the new inhabitants in the barn at the edge of town before the angels told them.

Of course, to be fair, Bethlehem was overrun with visitors at the time.  It is quite possible that there were other babies born during that census who were also far from their homes.  And even though it isn’t recorded in the Bible, I am confident that Bethlemites brought food, clothing and parenting advice to the young family in days to come.  That is, after all, one of the things that small towns do best.

I’m not trying to judge Bethlehem harshly.  My heart is, after all, a small town heart.  I grew up there.  I am that.  I have spent time in gossip before (hopefully) moving on to action.  I have politely observed and turned my head when I should have offered assistance instead.  I am exactly the kind of person that Christ was born to save.  No, I am the person that He was born to save – one of them, at least.

Happy Birthday, Jesus.

Welcome into this small town heart.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Good News

Close your eyes, fold your hands
For a moment let your sorrow fade.

 Why or why are you afraid?
Has this world stripped you of your faith?

The world can beat you up. 
God sent us peace.

Close your eyes and on bended knee,
listen to an angel pray

And once again prepare the way, 
so you'll see a gift that's given.

It's a gift that is given anew every
Christmas day but is available
to each of us every day of the year.

The child grew up to wear a cross
The child grew up to pledge a life

We come to the cradle every Christmas
 but the way is open all year long.
It's by way of the cross.

Good News, Good News, an Angel
brings Good News
Good News, Good News, I leave you
with Good News!

I can't find it anywhere on Youtube to 
link it in case you haven't heard it.
You will just have to go buy her Christmas CD. 
It's amazing and you won't be disappointed.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Sounds of Silence

Simon and Garfunkel sang to us about the sound of silence decades ago.  Silence like a cancer, words falling like silent raindrops.  It sounds like that sometimes – like loneliness even amid a crowd.  I have heard that silence, probably most of us have at one time or another.

But silence has another sound as well.  It is snow falling peacefully, blanketing the earth with pure whiteness.  It is the first ray of morning light, the one that catches even the birds sleeping.  It is the sound parents hears as they watches the rise and fall of their child’s chest in sleep.  Silence is the sound of your reflection in a calm mountain lake on a still summer afternoon.

O little town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by

We can, with little effort, ignore the sound of silence all together.  The world clamors on and we are caught up in the hustle.  We plunge ahead, ignoring the noiseless shouts of the peace we profess to want, but pointedly ignore.

How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heaven.
No ear may hear His coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive him still,
The dear Christ enters in.

Shhhh…wishing you silence…

Monday, December 16, 2013

O Holy Night

The weary world rejoices.
It's interesting to me how many people
who don't practice a faith at 
all will celebrate Christmas.

I know it's been secularized, 
Long lay the world in sin and error pining.

I think people are searching for that savior,
 whether it be Santa, 
or an elf.
Christ is the Lord! Oh praise His name forever!

You won't find salvation in 
that gift, 
that fruitcake 
or that eggnog.
The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger.

Let all within us praise His holy name!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Mary Did You Know?

A little over 33 years ago, I found out that my eldest child would be a son.  It wasn’t a heavenly revelation, but a medical one – ultra sound.  When his kicking woke me up at night, I would imagine an athlete – maybe a football player.  When my stomach rolled like the ocean waves, I imagined my boy with a kind but intense spirit.  When Colin was born and I kissed his dark curls for the first time, I imagined the girls who would twirl those curls in their fingers.  I imagined…but I didn’t know.  Some of my imaginings came true, but by keeping them general enough, some were destined to occur.   Besides his gender and the name we chose for him, what did I know about my son before he was born or even shortly after birth?  Not much.  His personality needed time to grow and develop.  But I knew I would always love him, and that was knowledge enough.

Mary, too, knew she carried a son.  She knew His name – Jesus.  And she knew His destiny – to become king.  When she kissed His dark hair for the first time, did she wonder who His queen would be?  Or did she understand the world of sorrows He would inherit?  How could she have known the miracles her son would perform?  Though it was at her urging that He performed His first public miracle – turning water into wine.  Did she think everyone would love Him as she loved Him?  That they would follow Him as she followed – even to the foot of the cross?  Even at that end of His 33 years on earth, did she know what came next, how God would fulfill His promise even as her son’s lifeless body was taken away to a borrowed tomb?

There are things Mary certainly did know from her Bethlehem vantage point:
a mother’s hope for her child,
the wonder of a world full of promise,
and faith in the One who sent her precious son.
She knew the overwhelming love of a mother for her son.

She knew enough…

Saturday, December 14, 2013

There's A New Kid In Town

God wants us to relate to Jesus.

After all he was just a
 new kid in town.
he created everything, 
including that town.

I don't live like royalty
and he was
lying in a manger down the road.
He is my King.

He was a tiny baby.
Just another baby, I suppose.
But that baby was going to take on 
the sin of the world.

There's a new kid in town 
and he came to make 
ALL things new.

"Baby Jesus" by Jennifer Hickey

Friday, December 13, 2013

The time has come...

When I was little, my dad played the part of Mr. Babcock in the musical "Mame" in the Community Theater in Washington, Iowa.  I remember thinking he was such a star with so many people coming to see him.  I remember wondering how he could see to walk across the stage without his glasses on.  I remember at one point his line was "Damn it, Mame", or something equally scandalous to my third grade sensibilities.  And for all the aforementioned reasons, I've always had a soft spot in my heart for the song "We Need a Little Christmas Now". Ironically, though, it's not really a Christmas-time song, as you can tell from the words:

But Auntie Mame, it's one week from Thanksgiving Day now.
It hasn't snowed a single flurry,
But Santa, dear, we're in a hurry;

Here we are with Christmas less than two weeks away.  It is bitterly cold, and there is snow at my house. Planning and shopping and wrapping are all in full swing.  The tree is up and cookie baking with my bestie is tomorrow!

Slice up the fruitcake;
It's time we hung some tinsel on that evergreen bough.

And in the middle of the hustle and bustle, I find myself longing for a little Christmas.  I want to drive slowly through neighborhoods gawking at the flashing lights.  I want to mentally wad up the "to do" list and watch my grandson "blow out" the Christmas tree - and magically blow it back on again.  I want to listen to Christmas carols - not as background music while I accomplish other tasks, but to really listen!  I want to bounce out of bed in the morning and mark another day on the advent calendar.  I want to anticipate the coming of December 25th and gifts given in love, brightly wrapped beneath the tree reminding us of the child whose birth heralds such festivities.

For we need a little music,
Need a little laughter,
Need a little singing
Ringing through the rafter,
And we need a little snappy
"Happy ever after,"
Need a little Christmas now.

Yep, it's time.  I'm going to celebrate a little Christmas

Thursday, December 12, 2013

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

It Came Upon The Midnight Clear
never mentions 
or the Christmas story, 
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
tells the whole story.
With tidings of comfort and joy.

These men dropped everything and went.
From my understanding shepherds would
not have been terribly educated
but this much they knew,
when God calls,
you respond.

Is God calling you and me to the manger?
Are we willing to drop everything to respond?

I believe
He is calling us every day,
comfort and joy.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

I Wonder as I Wander

We float around on a rock circling an unimpressive star in an obscure section of a random galaxy.  That God would take note of us is amazing.  That He would spend millenniums wooing us is incomprehensible.  That He would send His own flesh and blood to redeem us is unfathomable. 

When Mary birthed Jesus 'twas in a cow's stall
With wise men and farmers and shepherds and all
But high from God's heaven, a star's light did fall
And the promise of ages it then did recall.

That He would herald His son’s birth with a fearsome choir of the angelic host echoes His royalty.  That kings would come bearing gifts to bow at the crib echoes our meager response.  That cows lulled the baby to sleep while hay poked his tender skin echoes our impoverished ignorance.

If Jesus had wanted for any wee thing
A star in the sky or a bird on the wing
Or all of God's Angels in heaven to sing
He surely could have it, 'cause he was the King

That Jesus would know the love of family - the lullabies of His mother, the protection of His father - shouts His humanity.  That people would flock to Him - as a baby in a manger, a child at the temple, a rabbi, a man, a teacher, healer, hope of the world – shouts His true ancestry.  That we would beat Him, hang Him on a tree, and kill Him shouts our depravity.

I wonder as I wander out under the sky
How Jesus the Saviour did come for to die
For poor on'ry people like you and like I;
I wonder as I wander out under the sky

That God would allow this heralds His holiness.  That Jesus would bear this confirms His deity.  That we would turn and bow and worship is our only  appropriate response.  

Will we?  
I wonder…

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

It Came Upon The Midnight Clear

I did a some digging on this one. 
The language is a little 
different and I wanted to be sure
 I wasn't missing something.
Turns out the song is missing something.

It's a good song. 
Filled with social commentary. 
It has angels. 
It calls for peace among men.

Just not a thing about 
Or Bethlehem. 
Or Christmas.


Monday, December 9, 2013

The First Noel

I’m a preacher’s kid.  Sometimes during the Christmas season, my dad would let the congregation pick a few songs to sing.  There were always lots of hands in the air.   So in order to leave time for the sermon, we would just sing the first verse or two of the song.  Your might have experienced something different, but most of us only know the first verse or two of Christmas carols.  By the third or fourth verse, it’s vaguely familiar.  And you are pretty sure there is no fifth or sixth verse of ­any Christmas carol.
I bet you all can sing the first verse of the First Noel without even thinking about the words.  “…the angels did say…”  It’s a song about angels and shepards (verse 1), and the star (verse 2), and the wise men (verse 3), and seeing Bethlehem (verse 4), and seeing the babe (verse 5).  It’s all about observing the different facets of Christmas.  And you might not know all the words, but you are nodding right along – like I was!
 Until verse six – BANG!  The punch!  The whole point of Christmas:

Then let us all with one accord
Sing praises to our heavenly Lord,
That hath made heaven and earth of nought,
And with his blood mankind has bought.
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel
Born is the King of Israel.

It’s about atonement – it’s about forgiveness – it’s about sacrifice – it’s about a gift beyond calculation.  It’s about God breaking into our world to provide a path back to His holiness.

The First Noel – the first Christmas – the greatest gift the world has ever seen – sleeping in a manger.

Born is the King.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Silent Night

Somehow I just don't think it was a silent night.

There were a bajillion people in 
town for the census. 
So many, in fact, 
 that all the inns were filled up.

And out in the fields shepherds were being
scared half out of their wits by
angels with trumpets.

I'm just sayin......
...not so silent from where I'm sitting.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

May the Bells Remind Us

When I am with my grandsons, any one or all four of them, there is JOY!  I cannot help but smile - and all is right with the world, even if it isn’t.  I see their budding personalities (especially the 8 year old) and their developing sense of humor (the 2 and 3 year olds), and the wonder of their trusting smile (the 7 month old), and life is just good!

But there are times, in the still of the night, when they come to mind.  They are all home sleeping in their beds, peacefully, I assume.  But dread for their future creeps in, and I fear the world they will inherit.

And in despair I bowed my head:
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

No doubt my grandmother had the same midnight fears for me, as did her grandmother before for her.  In the end, I must put my faith where generation before have placed theirs – in the everlasting, unfailing, all-powerful baby in a manger.
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

Those are Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s words.  But I think he got the idea from God, who recorded it a couple of millennium earlier in 1 John 4:4, “The one who is in you (God) is greater than the one who is in the world.”

A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,
Of peace on earth, good will to men!

Sleep well, Bryce. 
Rest in Jesus, Aidan. 
Grow to change the world, Tyler. 
The Spirit will be with you, Josiah.  
God holds you each tenderly…

Friday, December 6, 2013

Angels We Have Heard On High

Sweetly singing o'er the plains.
The story of the shepherds in their fields
at night is told in  
Luke 2:8-14.
Luke 2:9 tell us the shepherds were

Somehow, I don't think angels look quite
like we like to depict them.
All sweet and cherubic.
Any time someone in the bible comes
face to face with an angel they 
seem to fall flat on their faces from fear.

So while we reflect on this sweet little 
baby in the manger, 
let's not forget the 
mighty warrior
he is and the war he 
wages for our salvation.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Go Tell It on the Mountain

Without great effort, I can’t just say those words out loud.  It’s an easy enough sentence, and other than the final one, only 2 to 4 letters per word.  But it is a command - to action, but also to song!  Be honest, can you even think those works without the familiar lilt resonating in your mind? 

The song is not particularly profound, except in its simplicity.  And it’s not very long, either.  There is a reason for that.  This is a song that was passed down through singing, a spiritual sung by slaves as they worked.  It has a rhythm you can work to, especially if you are doing a repetitive task like tending a field or chopping wood or beating laundry on rocks.

It is the story of God breaking in to our lives:
 “Behold throughout the heavens,
There shone a holy light…”

Of salvation being born a laid in the manger:
“And God sent us salvation,
That blessed Christmas morn…”

And our response to humbly seek:
“I seek the Lord to help me,
And He shows me the way…
And if I am a Christian,
I am the least of all…”

And more to the point, celebration:
“Go Tell it on the Mountain
That Jesus Christ is born!”

‘nuff said…

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

We Three Kings


It's basically a song about the gifts
they brought Jesus.
And it reminds me of a 
great idea Mike and I had when
the kids were little.

We were trying to get a little less
in the holiday and a little more
To that end, we told the kids that as the 
Three Wise Men
brought three special gifts to the Christ child
so would Santa bring each of them three
gifts on Christmas mornings.

Michael was about 4. 
We were in the car when we were discussing this,
a few minutes later a little
voice from the backseat says, 
"what's myrrh?"

And where, Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh were highly
valued in Jesus' time,
and Gameboy, Pokeymon and micro-machines
were highly valued in Michael's time,
what gift of value can I give to Jesus now?

My time?
My attention?
My heart.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

My Little Drummer Boy

It’s such a sweet little song!  Can’t you just see the newborn King snuggling down in the straw with a sleepy little infant yawn?  His mommy is watching over him.  Every new-born mom knows the feeling of awe and wonder, but Mary, doubly, so!  She knew this child of hers was something special – a gift from God like no other.  Not just a gift to her, but to the whole world!  And she came from poverty, so when a poor child approached to honor her son with the gift of song, surely she would have understood.  I’m sure she would have responded most graciously…
I have a grandson, almost three years old.  He loves to play the drums, which is another way of saying he will bang on anything in sight with anything he can get his hands on.  He is so happy with himself, and he makes me smile.  Five minutes of smiling is about all I can handle…
Back to Mary, another thing every new-born mom knows is to let a sleeping baby sleep.  As babies go, I believe that Jesus was better than most.  As a parent, I can’t believe he didn't give Mary a sleepless night ...or twenty. 

Shall I play for you, pa rum pum pum pum,
On my drum?


Mary nodded, pa rum pum pum pum

 (How often do I praddle on in prayer, musically off-center and redundant, to the same Christ?)

Then He smiled at me, pa rum pum pum pum

 (Thank you, Jesus, for listening!  Thank you so much more for hearing my heart!)

Me and my drum.

Monday, December 2, 2013

What's In A Name?

I started out looking at
O Come, O Come Emmanuel
and what struck me was the various 
names given to The Messiah:
Lord Of Might,
Rod of Jesse's Stem,
Desire Of All The Nations.

And that got me thinking about another
It really is a list of Jesus' various names:
Wonderful Counselor,
Lord Of Life, 
Lord Of All, 
Prince Of Peace, 
Mighty God, 
Holy One.

And then there's the rap that 
has been making it's way though churches,
Jesus In Every Book Of The Bible:

Seems we've been trying to hang a "hat" on
Jesus since
the 12th century.

He is my 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Do You Hear What I Hear?

Last year Merry and I were so blessed by a deliberate contemplation of the Christ Child that we decided to do it again this year – with Christmas carols:  familiar words, sung with gusto, generally without much thought to the meaning behind the words.

Said the little lamb to the shepherd boy,
Do you hear what I hear?

I have some pretty good singers in my family, though not all of us carry that distinction.  When I was a child my grandmother commented on my mother’s voice being less than perfect.  Grandma’s comment was of the throw-away variety, but I remember it still.  I think it was the first time I had an inkling that my mother was less than perfect in any way (obviously before my teen years).  My mom would belt out songs in church like she was singing directly to the Lord Almighty.  I thought it was beautiful. 

A song, a song, high above the trees
With a voice as big as the sea

If you ask my sons, they will tell you that I resemble my mom in many ways.  Two of them are:  I am less than perfect (they have made it through the teen years as well) and I like to sing loud but I’m not particularly good at it.  It is especially embarrassing when my voice cracks, like a twelve year old boy.  It makes me blush and laugh.  It’s like God is looking down saying ‘yeah, I heard you, now let me hear someone else!’  But He smiles when He says it.  I hope every once in a while, He pokes the ribs of a nearby angel and asks with pride, “Do You Hear What I Hear?”  I have faith that rather than the notes, He hears the music my heart is singing to Him and to His Son.

Melodious (albeit off-key) Worship. 

We invite you to join us this Christmas season to hear the music our hearts are singing in the familiar carols we all share leading up to the birth of the Christ Child.

The Child, the Child, sleeping in the night. 
He will bring us goodness and light!