Sunday, November 28, 2010


Advent is the period preceding the Christmas season. It begins on the Sunday nearest November 30, the feast day of St. Andrew the Apostle, and covers four Sundays. Because the day it begins changes from year to year, so does the length of each Advent season.

The word advent, from Latin, means “the coming.” For centuries, Advent has been a time of spiritual reflection as well as cheer and anticipation. Even as the Christmas season has become more secular-with advertisers urging holiday gift-givers to buy and buy some more-Advent still brings joy and the observance of ancient customs. Christian families find quiet moments lighting candles in the Advent wreath, and children use Advent calendars to count the days until Christmas.

Advent has probably been observed since the fourth century. Originally, it was a time when converts to Christianity readied themselves for baptism.

During the Middle Ages, Advent became associated with preparation for the Second Coming. In early days Advent lasted from November 11, the feast of St. Martin, until Christmas Day. Advent was considered a pre-Christmas season of Lent when Christians devoted themselves to prayer and fasting. The Orthodox Eastern Church observes a similar Lenten season, from November 15 until Christmas, rather than Advent.

Many Christians still view Advent as a season to prepare for the Second Coming of Jesus. In the last fifty years, however, it has also come to be thought of as a time of anticipating the Nativity, on Christmas Day.

Advent wreaths have their origins in the folk traditions of northern Europe, where in the deep of winter people lit candles on wheel-shaped bundles of evergreen. Both the evergreen and the circular shape symbolized ongoing life. The candlelight gave comfort at this darkest time of the year, as people looked forward to the longer days of spring.

Later, Eastern European Christians adopted this practice. By the sixteenth century, they were making Advent wreaths much as we know them today. An advent wreath traditionally contains four candles-three purple and one rose. Purple dyes were one so rare and costly that they were associated with royalty; the Roman Catholic Church has long used this color around Christmas and Easter to honor Jesus. The three purple candles in the Advent wreath symbolize hope, peace, and love. These candles are lit on the first, second, and fourth Sundays of Advent. The rose candle, which symbolizes joy, is usually lit on the third Sunday.

FIRST CANDLE – (purple) THE PROPHECY CANDLE or CANDLE OF HOPE – We can have hope because God is faithful and will keep the promises made to us. Our hope comes from God. “And again, Isaiah says, ‘The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; the Gentiles will hope in him.’ May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:12-13)

Friday, November 26, 2010

Black Friday...

Am I the only person that thinks there is something wrong with calling the first official day of Christmas shopping "Black Friday"? It sounds kind of sinister to me. Perhaps it's because I'm not a "shopper". I am a buyer. I decide what I want, or what I need to purchase and then I go buy. Whether it's groceries or Christmas gifts...I just don't "get in to" the whole wandering around and looking for a deal. Needless to say, with the relative ease of "on-line" shopping, I visit the stores less and less.

Now for those of you that cannot begin the Christmas season without the marathon of shopping that is Black Friday, I say have fun! Hope you find everything you need or want. I pray that you are safe during your travels on the highway and through the stores! While I know you won't miss me...know I will be thinking of you while I'm home decorating my tree.

And as this is the first official day of Christmas (even though Advent doesn't start until Sunday), one of my all time favorite Christmas Carols...

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Come, ye Thankful people, Come

Come, Ye Thankful People, Come
Come, ye thankful people, come, raise the song of harvest home;
All is safely gathered in, ere the winter storms begin.
God our Maker doth provide for our wants to be supplied;
Come to God's own temple, come, raise the song of harvest home.

All the world is God's own field, fruit unto His praise to yield;
Wheat and tares together sown unto joy or sorrow grown.
First the blade and then the ear, then the full corn shall appear;
Lord of harvest, grant that we wholesome grain and pure may be.

For the Lord our God shall come, and shall take His harvest home;
From His field shall in that day all offenses purge away,
Giving angels charge at last in the fire the tares to cast;
But the fruitful ears to store in His garner evermore.

Even so, Lord, quickly come, bring Thy final harvest home;
Gather Thou Thy people in, free from sorrow, free from sin,
There, forever purified, in Thy garner to abide;
Come, with all Thine angels come, raise the glorious harvest home.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Pilgrim Daughter

Story by Dr. Ralph Wilson...

We searched for the ghost of fifteen-year-old Constance Hopkins in the bowels of the reconstructed ship "Mayflower II," rolling gently aside a pier in Plymouth harbor. Where volunteers dressed in period costume answered tourists' questions, Constance had once huddled, miserably cold and damp, as fierce storms buffeted the ship.

"According to the usuall manner," the old records relate, "many were afflicted with seasicknes." As the ship had only the crudest of conveniences and no sanitary facilities of any kind except the traditional bucket, the air in the narrow, crowded quarters below deck must have been nauseating at worst and at best simply staggering.

Constance and her younger brother were responsible to keep track of their three-year-old sister who was always scampering among the various families camped side by side in the hold's cargo compartments. It was all their mother could do, great with child, to brace herself as the "Mayflower" heaved in the heavy Atlantic storms. As Constance watched a tiny brother was born on the high seas, christened "Oceanus."

Since the "Mayflower" had left England nine weeks behind schedule, the New World's harsh weather threatened their very survival. The men went ashore in December to construct rude shelters; women and children spent the winter aboard ship anchored in the bay.

Winter took its toll. Journal entries feature the same melancholy theme week after week, for months on end:

"... Aboute noone, it began to raine ... at night, it did freeze & snow ... still the cold weather continued ... very wet and rainy, with the greatest gusts of wind ever we saw ... frost and foule weather hindered us much; this time of the yeare seldom could we worke half the week."

That winter more than half the heads of households perished. Aboard ship only five of eighteen wives lived through the ravages of scurvy, pneumonia, and tuberculosis. An entry for March 24th reads:

"Dies Elizabeth, the wife of Mr. Edward Winslow. N.B. This month thirteen of our number die. And in three months past dies halfe our company ... Of a hundred persons, scarce fifty remain, the living scarce able to bury the dead."

My daughter Annie, a descendent of Constance, tried to imagine the terrors of that winter for a young teenage girl. When not lying sick herself, she would doubtless be tending whimpering children, preparing food for their stricken mothers, and comforting the increasing number of orphans aboard the "Mayflower."

But spring finally came, and by the third week in March the weakened survivors rowed ashore in the longboat to take up residence in New Plimoth.

How could the Pilgrims talk about thanksgiving in the midst of life's most difficult trials? we wonder. Why not just curse God and die? They gave thanks for God's presence in their adversities because they knew that struggles did not have to make them bitter; struggles could make them better. These remaining Pilgrim daughters and sons, mothers and fathers, placed their trust in their God and laid the enduring foundations of a nation. Thanksgiving Day, 1621, did not just celebrate wild turkey and Indian corn; it celebrated the human spirit reaching out to God in gratitude for the blessings the Pilgrims still did possess.

"Yea, though they should lose their lives in this action," ancient documents say, "yet they might have comforte in the same ... All great & honourable actions are accompanied with great difficulties, and must be both enterprised and overcome with answerable courages."

No, the Pilgrims did not lack for courage.

Our family poked around in a windswept burying yard until we found the tombstone of Constance Hopkins Snow, age 72 years. And as my wife and daughter laid a bunch of hedge row wildflowers on her grave, we stood for a moment of silence, meditating on our brave and very personal link with that first Thanksgiving.

I had the great, good fortune to visit the Mayflower II several years ago. As I wandered the decks and spoke with the period actors, I was truly amazed that 103 passengers (not including the crew) could survive for 66 days in such cramped quarters on the raging, merciless Atlantic ocean. We could all learn a lesson from their faith and courage.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Math, Wow!

I am not one that is mathematically inclined but this is worth watching!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


So how many read the title of the article and thought Country Music Association awards? CMA has a deeper, more honorable meaning...

The Medal of Honor

The Medal of Honor is the nation's highest medal for valor in combat that can be awarded to members of the armed forces. It sometimes is referred to as the "Congressional Medal of Honor" because the president awards it on behalf of the Congress.

The medal was first authorized in 1861 for Sailors and Marines, and the following year for Soldiers as well. Since then, more than 3,400 Medals of Honor have been awarded to members of all DOD services and the Coast Guard, as well as to a few civilians who distinguished themselves with valor.

Medals of Honor are awarded sparingly and are bestowed only to the bravest of the brave; and that courage must be well documented. So few Medals of Honor are awarded, in fact, that there have only been five bestowed posthumously for service in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Under a bright Afghan moon, eight U.S. paratroopers trudged along a ridge in the Korengal Valley, unaware they were walking right into a trap. Less than 20 feet away, a band of Taliban fighters executed the ambush plan perfectly, enveloping the paratrooper squad in an explosion of bullets and grenades.

Salvatore Giunta, a 22-year-old Army specialist from Hiawatha, Iowa, was knocked flat by the gunfire; luckily, a well-aimed round failed to penetrate his armored chest plate. As the paratroopers tried to gather their senses and scramble for a shred of cover, Giunta reacted instinctively, running straight into the teeth of the ambush to aid three wounded soldiers, one by one, who had been separated from the others.

Two paratroopers died in the Oct. 25, 2007, attack, and most of the others suffered serious wounds. But the toll would have been far higher if not for the bravery of Giunta, according to members of his unit and Army officials.

Those who serve in the military know that Medal of Honor recipients do not wear their medals to bring to mind their own heroic act, but to honor ALL who have served to defend freedom. Thank you Staff Sgt. Giunta!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Church...

From Msgr. Charles Pope

The hatred of the Church is growing in our culture and many of the ring leaders claim to know Christ and think they can find him only in purer air, a room of their own choosing. But Christ is found where he is found. The Pharisees expected to find the Messiah on their terms. But Jesus was found where he was found. He was not from the educated in Jerusalem, but of the peasants in Galilee. He spoke with a Galilean “hick” accent and walked among the poor, the nobodies, the sinners, the uninformed and unenlightened.

Today, the menu is a little different. In Jesus’ time it was a religious aristocracy that sneered at his followers. Today, the world is secular and those who sneer see believers as simple-minded, unscientific, unenlightened and intolerant. And we are sinners to be sure. Some of the charges against us are true. Actual sinners are we. The Church is a hospital for sick people who need a doctor. Some of the other charges of our sinfulness are less deserved: that we are collectively intolerant, hateful, bigoted, etc.

But despite all this, I know by faith that this is where Christ is found. Those who want Jesus without his Church not only seek him in vain, they risk reinventing him altogether. He is found where he is found.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Christians in Baghdad

Surely you've heard of the recent attacks on Christians in Irag...The Anchoress tells us the story:

Exactly two weeks ago, late on a Sunday afternoon, a young woman named Raghada al-Wafi ran to her local church, with some wonderful news to share with the priest who had married her: she was going to have a baby. She asked the priest for a blessing.
He was happy to give it.
It ended up being one of the last acts of his life.
Moments later, the priest, Raghada and her unborn child were slaughtered. They were among the Catholic faithful killed by terrorists at a Baghdad cathedral – Our Lady of Salvation — on October 31st. [...]
One week after the attack at Our Lady of Salvation, the people who worship there went back. But it wasn’t like before. And it wasn’t like just walking into this church today. They had to walk past police barricades and military trucks. They had to pass a security checkpoint and be frisked for weapons. But, incredibly, they went back. They had to. They walked into a sanctuary pock-marked by bullet holes, with bloodstains on the ceiling, bloody palm prints on the walls. They removed the pews. And they set out candles in the shape of a giant cross.

One of the parishioners put it so simply, and so beautifully. He said that he returned because the week before he hadn’t finished his prayers. I need to finish them, he said. A woman with a bandage around her knee told a reporter “We forgive them. We’re not afraid. They gave us blood and we give them forgiveness.”

But then, a wonderful idea from another blog:

This morning, Maria Teresa Landi, friend of a friend, came up with an extraordinary idea: send letters of encouragement to the Christians of Baghdad, who are suffering horrible persecution and killings. They are the Church's modern-day martyrs.

By day's end, the Nuncio at the United Nations was offering his diplomatic pouch (direct mail). He proposed to have all letters and messages sent to him by Tuesday night in a package and he will send the package to the Nunciature in Iraq on Wednesday morning. Please address your emails to the families to His Beatitude Emmanuel Delli, Patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church in Baghdad at He will print out the emails and put them in the pouch.

What would be our response if such a tragedy had happened in our beloved church? Would we be brave enough to enter it's doors again? Would we rise up and defy those who would send us into the shadows? We send e-mails daily...hourly...why not take a moment and send a word of encouragement to these fellow Seekers of Christ...As was stated above...these are some of the church's modern-day martyrs.

Friday, November 12, 2010


While I'll admit that no one knows the "date" Jesus was born...long, long ago the church chose a day to celebrate this miracle. And, while I know that our constitution allows freedom of religion (which also means freedom from religion)...a sign like this one just makes me sad...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

He says it better than I...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

thank you, veterans
in the interest of full disclosure, let me start this way:

i hate war.

i hate the idea of war. i hate the word "war." i hate thinking about or imagining or watching films or newsclips about war. the very idea of two nations disagreeing enough to send their young men and women to go and try to kill the young men and women of the other nation is beyond staggering to me. i am admittedly pretty comfortable in my own little corner of the world, with all my freedoms and luxuries and apparent entitlements. so i acknowledge that it's pretty easy for me to hold that position.

but when it comes to veteran's day, it's a different story. all i have to do is imagine one lonely soldier, standing in a field in korea, or vietnam, or germany, or iraq or afghanistan. all i have to do is imagine them standing there in camo, armed, maybe afraid. all i have to do is imagine that human being standing in the midst of God's good creation, wrestling with all the uncertainties and yet feeling certain that something is worth protecting. all i have to do is imagine you, dear veteran of war, and i am compelled to say thank you.

thank you.

thank you for saying yes. thank you for facing your fears. thank you for holding a gun for me. thank you for putting yourself in a place where you had to send letters to your loved ones, and hope..pray..wait for a letter to return - a letter you surely held to your nose as you tried to absorb the home you were certainly fighting to protect. thank you for those early mornings and those uncomfortable nights. thank you for the countless mess hall meals and friday nights spent in foxholes. thank you for facing the really difficult questions of life and death and protection and freedom that i don't usually have to think about. thank you for your sacrifice. thank you for being willing to face the ugliness of life, even though you would have probably rather stayed at home with your friends and family. thank you. on this day, at the very least, i realize that, though i'd rather not have to think about it, it is because of you and your willingness to sacrifice that i enjoy the life i lead today.

Posted by Greg at agentorange

Veterans Day...

Monday, November 8, 2010


I just started reading a book that was's called "Chasing Francis" by Ian Morgan Cron...

Sometimes books start off with a bang...sometimes they take a few chapters to draw you in...on page 24 a child has died...I read..."Maggie ran her fingers over the outlines of Iris's knobby legs, limp and quiet beneath the white sheets, and whispered, "O child," as though her child had only bumped her head and run home to mama seeking solace. It was a keening that could make the universe bow its head in sorrow and accord."

Oh my...the tears started falling. Although I have experienced the death of loved ones...mostly they have been expected and inevitable. I have never had to face the loss of a child of mine. I do no know that I would have the strength to continue if I had to let one of them go...or the extraordinary grandchild that shares our home.

It has been many years since I've heard the word "keening"...but at that moment I felt it. Sometimes an author has the ability to make you feel...for better or for worse. Or perhaps this was God getting my attention. Whatever the reason, it felt as though my own heart were breaking for a child in a novel.

"Dear Lord, please be near those who have suffered such loss. Give them strength and courage but most of all your tender them through the dark days. But also, dearest Father, give those of us blessed with healthy, vibrant children a heart for those who have lost. Keep us open and ready to reach out and hold them when they need us...forbid us from turning away because it is too hard to put ourselves in their shoes. Amen"


Sunday, November 7, 2010

All Saints Day

Sunday, November 7th, we'll be celebrating "All Saints Day" at our church...

For some of us, this song from the 80's is relevant:

The Living Years
by Mike & the Mechanics

Every generation
Blames the one before
And all of their frustrations
Come beating on your door

I know that I'm a prisoner
To all my Father held so dear
I know that I'm a hostage
To all his hopes and fears
I just wish I could have told him in the living years

Crumpled bits of paper
Filled with imperfect thought
Stilted conversations
I'm afraid that's all we've got

You say you just don't see it
He says it's perfect sense
You just can't get agreement
In this present tense
We all talk a different language
Talking in defence

Say it loud, say it clear
You can listen as well as you hear
It's too late when we die
To admit we don't see eye to eye

So we open up a quarrel
Between the present and the past
We only sacrifice the future
It's the bitterness that lasts

So Don't yield to the fortunes
You sometimes see as fate
It may have a new perspective
On a different day
And if you don't give up, and don't give in
You may just be O.K.

Say it loud, say it clear
You can listen as well as you hear
It's too late when we die
To admit we don't see eye to eye

I wasn't there that morning
When my Father passed away
I didn't get to tell him
All the things I had to say

I think I caught his spirit
Later that same year
I'm sure I heard his echo
In my baby's new born tears
I just wish I could have told him in the living years

Say it loud, say it clear
You can listen as well as you hear
It's too late when we die
To admit we don't see eye to eye

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Daylight Savings Time

Spring forward, Fall back...

Don't know about you, but I LOVE the day we "fall back"...although it means I'll go to work in the dark and generally come home in the dark for that one day it's like I've been given a gift.

The gift of being able to re-live one hour of my life (now, if it just happened when I wasn't sleeping I might be able to do something constructive with that hour)...

Don't forget to turn your clocks back tonight!

Now, why exactly do we do this?

Daylight Saving Time was instituted in the United States during World War I in order to save energy for war production by taking advantage of the later hours of daylight between April and October. During World War II the federal government again required the states to observe the time change. Between the wars and after World War II, states and communities chose whether or not to observe Daylight Saving Time. In 1966, Congress passed the Uniform Time Act, which standardized the length of Daylight Saving Time.

Daylight Saving Time is four weeks longer since 2007 due to the passage of the Energy Policy Act in 2005. The Act extended Daylight Saving Time by four weeks from the second Sunday of March to the first Sunday of November, with the hope that it would save 10,000 barrels of oil each day through reduced use of power by businesses during daylight hours. Unfortunately, it is exceedingly difficult to determine energy savings from Daylight Saving Time and based on a variety of factors, it is possible that little or no energy is saved by Daylight Saving Time.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

What does God look like...

to you?

It is a weakness of human nature. In order to relate to God, we must see Him as someone and usually that someone looks a lot like us. It is only natural that we give Him a face, hair, a voice...perhaps we imagine his build or the size of His hands. After all, when I think of being comforted by someone, I relate to how they hug. Whether it is a casual arm around the shoulder, a quick clasp and then back away or someone who pulls you close and holds you fiercely when you need it or lovingly when you need that.

As a child I imagined God to be like my Grandaddy. He was big, but not so much so that he couldn't bend down and kiss my head or touch my cheek. He had big hands, or at least they felt that way to me...big, but oh so gentle in the way he held mine. He had a deep voice that was soft and caressing when I was hurting or loud and booming when we shared a laugh. As a child, I tried very hard to love God like I did my Grandaddy. Although I know now that Grandaddy was a man and very human...for a time He ranked right up there with God...If Grandaddy had known, he would have been the first to point out that he didn't measure up but somehow I don't think God and I would have agreed.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


This is not a political blog...but I really feel this goes beyond the realm of politics...or perhaps not.

The attached article tells us that San Francisco...the city, not a family named San Francisco, has banned all restaurants (with an emphasis on McDonald's) from including a toy in a meal that has more than 600 calories and doesn't include this, that and the other.

While I do realize that a child does not need a steady diet of Happy Meals...the occasional treat hurts no one! If there are parents feeding their children fast food on a too regular basis, it is a failure in the parenting skills, not the fault of the restaurant! Everyone who knows my grandson knows that he loves Chicken Nuggets and Fries...and when we eat out at restaurants that serve them, he is allowed to have them. Since we eat the majority of our meals at home around the table, he might get to have this treat once a week...His grandfather and I take his health very seriously and do not see how this will adversely affect him in the long run. Notice I said "we" take it seriously..."we" don't want or need someone legislating what we're allowed to feed him.

Sorry for the rant, I really feel that this has gone too far!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

November 2, 2010

An election day prayer by Reverend Robert McDowell:

Almighty God, to whom we must account for all our powers and privileges: Guide the people of our country and local communities in the election of officials and representatives; that, by faithful administration and wise laws, the rights of all may be protected and our nation be enabled to fulfill your purposes, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Each election day I lift up prayers that God's Will will prevail in the hearts of the people. But in order for the voice of the people to be heard, you must even though it is a mid-term election and there are probably 1,001 other things you could be doing today...take a few moments and cast your vote...It is a right and a privilege that too many take for granted and that too many others in the world merely dream of...

It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.
Winston Churchill

Monday, November 1, 2010


I remember being in the car with my parents, riding somewhere...the radio was on with the "News of the Day"...and they said it out loud! John Lennon was quoted as saying that the Beatles were more popular than God. I can't tell you how those words affected my childlike sensibilities...How dare he? How could anyone say something like that about God? Being a child, I didn't realize at the time that God didn't really need me to defend Him...He can take care of Himself.

As much as I have enjoyed the Beatles music over the years, and although I am older (not necessarily wiser) and recognize that his statement was not an attack per se...I have never forgotten how I felt at that moment.

I have never truly liked the song "Imagine"...his description did not sound like a place I really wanted to live...Elizabeth Scalia from The Anchoress puts this in words much better than I it here.