Thursday, December 29, 2011

Feast of St. Thomas Becket

St. Thomas Becket was born in AD 1118, in London. He studied in both London and Paris, and became a great friend to King Henry II of England. The two of them indulged in all sorts of unseemly behavior. In 1162, when King Henry appointed him Archbishop of Canterbury, no one was more surprised than Thomas. He took to the job right away, living meagerly so that others could have more. He proved a very powerful archbishop, and his unswerving self-confidence and stubbornness shone through in his labors.

It was the same self-confidence and stubbornness, however, that caused King Henry to grow angry with him. The two disagreed on many issues, including taxation and the balance of power between church and state. But Thomas and Henry both refused to back down. Though the relations between them had been repaired after a while, Thomas excommunicated several bishops for coronating King Henry's son without first seeking Thomas's approval. Henry flew into a rage, and shouted, "Who will rid me of this turbulent priest?" Four of his knights took this to mean he wanted the Archbishop dead.

An eyewitness account states:
...The wicked knight leapt suddenly upon him, cutting off the top of the crown which the unction of sacred chrism had dedicated to God. Next he received a second blow on the head, but still he stood firm and immovable. At the third blow he fell on his knees and elbows, offering himself a living sacrifice, and saying in a low voice, 'For the name of Jesus and the protection of the Church, I am ready to embrace death.' But the third knight inflicted a terrible wound as he lay prostrate. By this stroke, the crown of his head was separated from the head in such a way that the blood white with the brain, and the brain no less red from the blood, dyed the floor of the cathedral. The same clerk who had entered with the knights placed his foot on the neck of the holy priest and precious martyr, and, horrible to relate, scattered the brains and blood about the pavements, crying to the others, 'Let us away, knights; this fellow will arise no more.

After this horrific act, performed in 1170, Thomas became a martyr, and in the following year, King Henry served public penance in apology for the deed.

Having read somewhat extensively on King Henry II, most authors note that Henry was heartbroken that he allowed his anger to murder a friend...but he repented a little too late to save St. Thomas Becket.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

I'll be home...

When my daughter was young she wrote a letter to Santa (published in the local paper) asking that her uncle come home for Christmas from Germany where he was serving in the USAF. We had worked hard to prepare her for the fact that he was not going to be there that year. She was undaunted and repeatedly told us he would be there. Unknown to us, 2 hours before liftoff an officer approached her Uncle with a ticket and a leave pass. Needless to say, when he showed at our Christmas Eve celebrations (he arrived only a couple of hours before we gathered), she was the only one who wasn't surprised. She knew he would be here...

A much more recent story...hankies at the ready!

Christmas in Antarctica...

South Pole, Antarctica (CNN) – Modern men and women often live under the illusion that they are in control of their lives. Science and technology have brought us far beyond the superstitions of ancient civilizations. Confident in our abilities and achievements, we feel secure. Outside of the occasional environmental or personal tragedy, we feel self-sufficient and safe.
Antarctica blasts this illusion of control. As one of the managers at the South Pole told me, “Antarctica is boss.” Anyone who loses respect for this savage continent is in danger of paying the ultimate price. As local lore has it, “Antarctica is constantly trying to kill you.”...

It felt like an easy trip to the pole this time, but the next day the winds began to howl and everything turned white. All air traffic ceased. I spoke to the weather people. Things didn’t look good. I was locked in at the pole, and there was absolutely nothing I or anyone else could do about it. A common feeling on the continent swept over me I was helpless....

Antarctica puts you in your place. We are not in control here. Planning is difficult, and people are constantly adjusting. But on a larger scale, it reminds me that in general we have little control over much of our lives. Antarctica can remind you of that. Try as we might, we have little control over most of the events that impact so heavily upon our lives. This seeming arbitrariness can be frightening.

Some believe that their lives and very existence are a matter of random chance or simply the result of cosmic and biological processes. Behind such processes, they do not see any hand guiding it all. Much of the astounding science that occurs on Antarctica is immersed with understanding the origins and health of our planet. But it cannot answer fundamental human questions, “Why am I here?” “Is there a plan for my life?”
On this icy, frozen continent, we are humbled. It reminds us of our frail humanity. When I entered the South Pole station and I took off my thick goose-down parka, my clerical collar and lettering on my shirt saying “chaplain” were clearly visible. I walked down the corridor of the South Pole station, and there were more than a few faces that smiled and welcomed me. They said they’re glad I’m here.

This morning, as the flights out were canceled again, I walked into the manager’s office. We looked at the weather and she said, “Looks like you might be here for Christmas.” She told me that they have never before had a chaplain here on Christmas Day. She said, “We would be fortunate and grateful.” This morning, several people smiled broadly when they heard I might be at the pole with them for Christmas.

One could see this storm as a random event and my being weathered in at the South Pole simply as an act of nature. But it may be that, for the first time, a chaplain will be here on Christmas Day to celebrate the birth of the Son of God. I cannot plan it; I can only accept whatever comes. Each day, we will look out and see what has been planned for us.

Isn’t this the case for each of our lives?

Read the rest of the story:

The Mystery

The mystery of Christmas speaks to every human heart. To those who have no religious faith, it reveals God’s closeness, His intimacy. To those who have drifted away from their faith, Christmas is a vivid reminder of simple truths and better times. To those who practice their faith in a routine or half-hearted way, Christmas can help reawaken the flame of life in Christ. And even for those who are fervent in their practice of the faith, Christmas is a chance to deepen and solidify a childlike humility and a Christlike generosity.

Christmas helps each of us realize in new and life-changing ways the paradox of God’s presence. Although He seems absent, He is closer to us than we are to ourselves. Although He is all-powerful and steeped in majesty, His coming is utterly simple, an act of supreme humility. As we pray in the Liturgy of the Hours, “A little child is born for us today; little and yet called the mighty God.”

The feast of Christmas, as we have come to know it, was strongly influenced by the devotion of St. Francis of Assisi. “The special warmth we feel at Christmas,” Pope Benedict writes, “did not develop until the Middle Ages. It was Francis of Assisi who helped bring this novelty about through his deep love for the man Jesus, for the God with us.” Quoting an early biographer of St. Francis, the pope says St. Francis “celebrated Christmas more than any other feast with an indescribable joy.” The saint’s biographer goes on to say that St. Francis “embraced with great affection and devotion the images that represented the child Jesus and stammered words of sympathy as children do words of affection. The name of Jesus was sweet as honey on his lips.”

St. Francis longed for the nearness of God. He wanted to experience the joy of Christmas directly. As Pope Benedict tells us, “He wanted to experience up close the birth of the child Jesus and to tell all his friends.”

by: Archbishop Robert Carlson

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A message of Hope

Queen Elizabeth II speaks of the year, the season with hope, faith and family:

Feast of St. John

John, son of Zebedee and Salome, and brother to James, was one of the first disciples Jesus called. James and John were "in the boat with their father ... mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him" (Matthew 4:21-22). Along with Peter, James and John formed the disciples' inner circle.

Jesus nicknamed the brothers "Sons of Thunder." Along with Peter, James and John formed the inner circle of the disciples. They accompanied Jesus when he healed Jairus' daughter, were present at the Transfiguration, and triggered a discussion on who would sit at Jesus' right hand (Matthew 20:20-23, Mark 10:35-45.) James and John stayed with Jesus while he prayed in Gesthemane but fell asleep.

After the death and resurrection of Jesus, John was a leader in the Jerusalem church community. He preached with Peter, was arrested, and later traveled with Peter to Samaria. John is credited as the author of the fourth gospel (thus, the repeated references to John as "the Beloved Disciple" and the one Jesus loved best). He may also have written two epistles and the Book of Revelations.

The New Testament gives no evidence of John's death.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Good news of great joy!

Joy is the banner that flies over the castle when the King is in residence.  anonymous

“Do not be afraid! I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:10-11

Have you ever noticed the word "you" in these passages before? It doesn't say Christ was born to says a Savior has been born to YOU. In order for a child to be born to you, the child must belong to you. In the case of Christ, the only way that the child belongs to you is if you belong to him.

It is not insignificant that this message was given to shepherds. They were considered in the lower classes of society. They were dirty, they handled sheep, they smelled, and supposedly couldn't be trusted. And yet, the angels tell the to Mary, Joseph and Elizabeth, they are the first to know. It is thought to bear out what Mary says in the Magnificat, "He hath put down the mighty from their seat, and He hath exalted the humble". If you consider the Jewish shepherds and the gentile Magi, this may well have been the first declaration of God's intent to spread His message to all the world.

He has been born so that we may live in relationship with Him along with the Father and the Holy Spirit. He is our intercessor, He is our shield, He is the Light of the World...belong to Him and He will belong to you!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Bishop's Wife

One of my absolute favorite Christmas movies is "The Bishop's Wife"
It was released in 1947 but is a humorous, touching story that resounds today.
 Especially Henry's Christmas Eve message (that was actually written by Dudley)...

Christmas Eve 1914

The meeting of enemies as friends in no-man's land was experienced by hundreds, if not thousands, of men on the Western Front during Christmas 1914.  Today, 90 years after it occurred, the event is seen as a shining episode of sanity from among the bloody chapters of World War One - a spontaneous effort by the lower ranks to create a peace that could have blossomed were it not for the interference of generals and politicians.

Imagine you are standing knee deep in the slime of a perpetually waterlogged trench.  It is the evening of 24 December 1914 and you are on the dreaded Western Front (which started at the North Sea and stretched to the Swiss border with France).  

You wade across to the firing step and take over the watch.  You exchange pleasantries with your colleague as he shuffles off, bleary eyed toward his dug out. 

You listen for a few moments and your confusion gives way to surprise as men from both sides start singing carols and songs.  Next you hear requests not to fire your weapon...could it be a truce?  Why yes, it is! Along many parts of the line the Truce was spurred on with the arrival in the German trenches of miniature Christmas trees - Tannenbaum.  The sight these small pines, decorated with candles and strung along the German parapets, captures everyone's imagination, and soon the unthinkable happens: you start to see the shadowy shapes of soldiers gathering together in no-man's land (between the trenches) laughing, joking and sharing gifts. 

Many have exchanged buttons and cigarettes, the lit ends of which burn brightly in the inky darkness.  Plucking up your courage, you haul yourself up and out of the trench and walk towards the foe...

On Christmas Day the truce was initiated through sadder means.  Both sides saw the lull as a chance to get into no-man's land and seek out the bodies of their comrades and give them a decent burial.  Once this was done the opponents would inevitably begin talking to one another.

The 6th Gordon Highlanders, for example, organised a burial truce with the enemy.  After the gruesome task of laying friends to rest was complete, the fraternisation began. With the Truce in full swing up and down the line there were a number of recorded games of soccer, although these were really just 'kick-abouts' rather than a structured match. Sadly,
it was not long before the fighting began again.

Today, many see the Truce as nothing more than a temporary lull induced by the season of goodwill, but willingly exploited by both sides to better their defenses and eye out one anothers positions.  Still others believe the Truce was an effort by normal men to bring about an end to the slaughter.

In the public mind the facts have become irrevocably romanticized and perhaps this is the most important legacy of the Christmas Truce today.  In our age of uncertainty, it comforting to believe, regardless of the real reasoning and motives, that soldiers and officers told to hate, loathe and kill, could still lower their guns and extend the hand of goodwill, peace, love and Christmas cheer.

Friday, December 23, 2011


Shepherds are not just important to the Christmas story, they're still a vital part of our world today...

Each Christmas Eve when he hears the familiar account of the shepherds’ angelic visit, Glen Fisher has good reason to sit up a little straighter in his pew.

The United Methodist has herded sheep for more than 30 years on his ranch near Sonora in southwest Texas, and he is a respected leader in his profession. In January, Fisher will complete his two-year term as president of the American Sheep Industry Association, the national organization that represents the 82,000 sheep producers in the United States.

Sheep remain an integral part of U.S. agriculture. Farm flocks are raised in all 50 states, providing wool for mills as far away as China and meat for dinner tables closer to home. Fisher’s home state of Texas has the nation’s largest share of the industry, with more than 10 percent of the nation’s sheep producers and some 830,000 sheep and lambs as of this past January.

Read the rest here...

They weren't expecting it...

The shepherds would never have dreamed they would be a part of the miraculous birth. And yet, they were...a significant part.
Luke 2:13-14 tells us “13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and  saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.

Imagine yourself a shepherd in the is night and you are tending your sheep. There is safety in numbers so several of you stand guard around the flock to keep the predators at bay...or perhaps you are rounding them up to put them in a makeshift corral for the night but still you stand guard. The evening is quiet, the stars are bright. Perhaps you've noticed the one star that seems to stand seems so close...just above you.

An angel appears to call attention to the star and to explain it's meaning. This would have been a most terrifying sight! Close your eyes and imagine...a bright angel, floating above the earth and speaking directly to you! After his message, you are sure to think that nothing could top that! But then...a great company of the heavenly host appears...don't know about you but to me, a great company means a lot of angels and they are praising God! If you weren't already kneeling with your face to the ground because of the first angel, I suspect you would be now! How bright, how LOUD, how joyous it must
have been! It had to be one of those moments that make the hair stand on the back of your neck.

The Bible tells us the shepherds then made their way to see the Child. And to spread the Word...they had to spread the Word...they must have felt compelled. And all who heard it marveled (which means “to cause wonder or astonishment”)! Are you approaching the Birth of the Child with joy? Do you marvel at God's love for us? Do you feel wonder, or are you astonished? We are 2,000+ years removed from the event, but it's power over us is no less than it was then. Let us be the shepherds of our time and spread the marvelous Word.

Thursday, December 22, 2011


From The Telegraph

Laughter is contagious and thankfully there is no cure...

It's unclear what the joke that sparked the mass hysterics was, but mobile phone footage uploaded to the video sharing site has caught the imagination of many online viewers.
The origin of the laughter appears to a blonde woman sniggering at something on her phone. She is soon joined in her mirth by most of the other passengers.
The video, posted by a user called amerking has been viewed more than 1 million times in a week.

Winter Solstice

In the Northern Hemisphere today is the longest night and shortest day of the year.

In ancient times, the winter solstice may have been immensely important because communities were not certain of living through the winter, and had to be prepared during the previous nine months. Starvation was common in winter between January and April, also known as the famine months. In temperate climates, the midwinter festival was the last feast celebration, before deep winter began. Most cattle were slaughtered so they would not have to be fed during the winter, so it was almost the only time of year when a supply of fresh meat was available. The majority of wine and beer made during the year was finally fermented and ready for drinking at this time. The concentration of the observances were not always on the day commencing at midnight or at dawn, but the beginning of the pre-Romanized day, which falls on the previous evening.

In modern times Christians all over the world celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ on Christmas, which falls on December 25. It is believed that this date was chosen by the church to offset pagan celebrations of Saturnalia and Natalis Invicti. Some believe that celebrating the birth of the “true light of the world” was set in synchronization with the December solstice because from that point onwards, the days began to have more daylight in the northern hemisphere.

Christmas is also referred to as Yule, which may have derived from the Norse word jól, referring to the pre-Christian winter solstice festival. Yule is also known as Alban Arthan and was one of the “Lesser Sabbats” of the Wiccan year in a time when ancient believers celebrated the rebirth of the Sun God and days with more light. This took place annually around the time of the December solstice and lasted for 12 days.
The Feast of Juul was a pre-Christian festival observed in Scandinavia at the time of the December solstice. Fires were lit to symbolize the heat, light and life-giving properties of the returning sun. A Yule or Juul log was brought in and burned on the hearth in honor of the Scandinavian god Thor.

A piece of the log was kept as both a token of good luck and as kindling for the following year’s log. In England, Germany, France and other European countries, the Yule log was burned until nothing but ash remained. The ashes were then collected and either strewn on the fields as fertilizer every night until Twelfth Night or kept as a charm and or as medicine.

French peasants believed that if the ashes were kept under the bed, they would protect the house against thunder and lightning. The present-day custom of lighting a Yule log at Christmas is believed to have originated in the bonfires associated with the feast of Juul.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


According to the predictions, we are one year away from the date the ancient Mayan Long Count calendar supposedly marks as the end of an era and the end of humanity. Many archeologists argue that the 2012 reference on a 1,300-year-old stone tablet only marks the end of a cycle in the Mayan calendar. Perhaps others have added "the end of humanity"...seems so many of us are attracted to apocalyptic ideas and always assume the worst. Although it is interesting to try and interpret the writings of ancient civilizations, I believe 12/21/12 will be the Winter Solstice for 2012...nothing more.

The History channel has more information:

The cat rocks the cradle...sort of...

This video shows a baby fretting, and the cat soothing him back to sleep. Who knew cats were such good babysitters?


This is a "just for fun" during the holiday season:

This Holiday season is no different, with a few seasonal twists recently added to Google Search.
In your Firefox or Google Chrome browser, visit Google’s Search page and perform a search of the words Let it snow to see a cascade of snow fall from the top of the browser window, rapidly filling up (and fogging up) your display. The effect is most prominent if you go full screen (typically F11 on your PC keyboard - you’ll have to manually zoom on a Mac.)

Use your mouse to wipe the snow away, or wait for your screen to become obscured enough for a Defrost button to appear, clearing it all up. Could I have one of those for my car please?

So far, I have not seen the snow fall effect work on Internet Explorer or Safari (Are there Scrooges at Redmond and Cupertino standing by, ready to ruin my Google Christmas fun?)

Performing a search for Hanukkah will provide a nice string of Stars of David to decorate your search results. Try out Santa Claus or Christmas Lights to get an old-fashioned string of lights instead. These low-tech options should work on all browsers.


The video below is an explanation of the Jewish celebration of Hanukkah (or Chanukah) is the first day.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011


Advent reminds us that our salvation comes from something small, weak and hidden. One might have expected God to present His only Son to worldwide fanfare. Although He was announced by angels singing, only the shepherds heard. Although He had His very own star, only the Wise Men saw.

When we despair, we need to look for the small signs of God's presence. The smile of a baby, the play of children, the blooming of a flower, the love and encouragement of friends. Today the world tries to overwhelm us with noise but it is the still, small voice of God that deserves our complete attention.

This season is marked by a spirit of expectation, of anticipation, of preparation and of longing. All of which are fulfilled with the birth of the Child. Celebrate His birth with unbridled joy!

Angry Birds???

We are Angry Bird fans at our house but never would have thought of an interactive light display! 

Christmas restored...

This story reminds us that there are people out there who want others to see the Christ in Christmas...

A similar random act of kindness happened at a Kmart in Indianapolis, where a young father wearing dirty clothes and worn-out boots, stood in line at a layaway counter alongside three small children.
He asked to pay something on his bill because he knew he wouldn't be able to afford it all before Christmas. Then a mysterious woman stepped up to the counter.

"She told him, 'No, I'm paying for it,'" recalled Edna Deppe, assistant manager at the store in Indianapolis.

"He just stood there and looked at her and then looked at me and asked if it was a joke. I told him it wasn't, and that she was going to pay for him. And he just busted out in tears."

Before she left the store Tuesday evening, the Indianapolis woman in her mid-40s had paid the layaway orders for as many as 50 people. On the way out, she handed out $50 bills and paid for two carts of toys for a woman in line at the cash register.

"She was doing it in the memory of her husband who had just died, and she said she wasn't going to be able to spend it and wanted to make people happy with it," Deppe said. The woman did not identify herself and only asked people to "remember Ben," an apparent reference to her husband.

Deppe, who said she has worked in retail for 40 years, had never seen anything like it.

"It was like an angel fell out of the sky and appeared in our store," she said.

The full story is here...

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Christmas Story

You may have seen this before but it's worth another watch...
from New Zealand...


Fra Giovanni Giocondo was a Renaissance pioneer. He was an accomplished architect, engineer, antiquary, archaeologist, classical scholar and Franciscan friar. He wrote the following letter to Countess Allagia Aldobrandeschi on Christmas Eve, 1513. It still speaks to us today...

I salute you. I am your friend and my love for you goes deep. There is nothing I can give you which you have not. But there is much, very much, that, while I cannot give it, you can take. No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in it today. Take heaven!

No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this present little instant. Take peace!

The gloom of the world is but a shadow. Behind it, yet within our reach, is joy. There is radiance and glory in darkness, could we but see. And to see, we have only to look. I beseech you to look!

Life is so generous a giver. But we, judging its gifts by their covering, cast them away as ugly or heavy or hard. Remove the covering and you will find beneath it a living splendor, woven of love by wisdom, with power. Welcome it, grasp it, and you touch the angel's hand that brings it to you. Everything we call a trial, a sorrow or a duty, believe me, that angel's hand is there. The gift is there and the wonder of an overshadowing presence. Your joys, too, be not content with them as joys. They, too, conceal diviner gifts.

Life is so full of meaning and purpose, so full of beauty beneath its covering, that you will find earth but cloaks your heaven. Courage then to claim it; that is all! But courage you have and the knowledge that we are pilgrims together wending through unknown country, home.

And so I greet you. Not quite as the world greets you, but with profound esteem and with the prayer that for you, now and forever, the day breaks and the shadows flee away. 

Friday, December 16, 2011

Happy Birthday...

To two favorites of mine...

Ludwig van Beehtoven (1770 - 1827)
A German composer whose profound deafness during the last ten years of his life makes all the more remarkable his renowned musical achievements. These include nine symphonies, 32 piano sonatas, two Masses, a violin concerto, and five piano concertos.

One of his best known pieces:

along with The Fifth Symphony Moonlight Sonata, Ode to Joy , The 6th Symphony in F Major Opus 68 (one of my very favorites) and too many others to name.

Jane Austen (1775 - 1817)
A well known and much loved English author, her fans today number in the millions and her stories are regularly captured on film. Books such as Sense & Sensibility, Pride & Prejudice, Emma and others.

From a piece she wrote called "Prayer":
"Give us a thankful sense of the Blessings in which we live, of the many Comforts of our lot, that we may not deserve to lose them by Discontent or Indifference."

There's some good...

If you've read the Lord of the Rings or seen the movies then you know that Sam is the character with the pure heart. He is the virtuous and trustworthy soul...and he never gives up. Many days it seems as if there is no good news to be heard anywhere in the world...but there is...

Thursday, December 15, 2011


Good news...for the first time in decades, people who marry are staying married longer...
According to the Washington Post:
Three in four couples who married after 1990 celebrated a 10-year anniversary, according to census statistics reported Wednesday. That was a rise of three percentage points compared with couples who married in the early 1980s, when the nation’s divorce rate was at its highest.

They believe the reason is that people are postponing marriage until they're older...
Again, according to the Washington Post:
The proportion of adults who are married has plunged to record lows as more people decide to live together now and wed later, reflecting decades of evolving attitudes about the role of marriage in society.

Just 51 percent of all adults who are 18 and older are married, placing them on the brink of becoming a minority, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of census statistics to be released Wednesday. That represents a steep drop from 57 percent who were married in 2000.

I know that everything trends one way or the other but I'm not sure what this says for the state of marriage today. Although I don't believe anyone should ever "rush" into marriage, does living together really guarantee a long marriage?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Make straight

Yesterday's post from the Upper Room included Isaiah 40:3 in a message from Mike Ripski:

Advent asks all of us that same question. Isaiah called people to "make straight" a way for the Lord. The modern equivalent of the prophet's image is heavy earth?movers and dynamite. We prepare for God to come by bulldozing away and washing away all that is unholy.

Read the rest here...

Saint John of the Cross

Today is the feast day of St. John of the Cross...
Born in Spain in 1542, John learned the importance of self-sacrificing love from his parents. His father gave up wealth, status, and comfort when he married a weaver's daughter and was disowned by his noble family. After his father died, his mother kept the destitute family together as they wandered homeless in search of work. These were the examples of sacrifice that John followed with his own great love -- God.

When the family finally found work, John still went hungry in the middle of the wealthiest city in Spain. At fourteen, John took a job caring for hospital patients who suffered from incurable diseases and madness. It was out of this poverty and suffering, that John learned to search for beauty and happiness not in the world, but in God.

After John joined the Carmelite order, Saint Teresa of Avila asked him to help her reform movement. John supported her belief that the order should return to its life of prayer. But many Carmelites felt threatened by this reform, and some members of John's own order kidnapped him. He was locked in a cell six feet by ten feet and beaten three times a week by the monks. There was only one tiny window high up near the ceiling. Yet in that unbearable dark, cold, and desolation, his love and faith were like fire and light. He had nothing left but God -- and God brought John his greatest joys in that tiny cell.

After nine months, John escaped by unscrewing the lock on his door and creeping past the guard. Taking only the mystical poetry he had written in his cell, he climbed out a window using a rope made of strips of blankets. With no idea where he was, he followed a dog to civilization. He hid from pursuers in a convent infirmary where he read his poetry to the nuns. From then on his life was devoted to sharing and explaining his experience of God's love.

His life of poverty and persecution could have produced a bitter cynic. Instead it gave birth to a compassionate mystic, who lived by the beliefs that "Who has ever seen people persuaded to love God by harshness?" and "Where there is no love, put love -- and you will find love."

John left us many books of practical advice on spiritual growth and prayer that are just as relevant today as they were then. These books include: Ascent of Mount Carmel , Dark Night of the Soul and A Spiritual Canticle of the Soul and the Bridegroom Christ .

Info from

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


As we all know, Advent is a time for waiting...I was struck by this simple yet poignant prayer from The Advent Door...

Blessing for Waiting

Who wait

for the night

to end

bless them.

Who wait

for the night

to begin

bless them.

Who wait

in the hospital room
who wait

in the cell

who wait

in prayer

bless them.

Who wait

for news

who wait
for the phone call
who wait

for a word

who wait

for a job

a house
a child

bless them.

Who wait

for one who

will come home
who wait

for one who

will not come home

bless them.

Who wait with fear
who wait with joy

who wait with peace

who wait with rage
who wait for the end

who wait for the beginning

who wait alone

who wait together

bless them.

Who wait

without knowing

what they wait for

or why

bless them.

Who wait

when they

should not wait

who wait

when they should be

in motion

who wait

when they need

to rise

who wait

when they need

to set out

bless them.

Who wait

for the end

of waiting

who wait

for the fullness

of time

who wait

emptied and

open and

who wait

for you

o bless.

- Jan Richardson

Take a moment to read the rest of the post at the link above...

God locks the door...

 I just read the piece by that name earlier today at Conversion Diary blog...

After we said goodbye, as I watched them walk away I glanced over at the Adoration chapel. “Could it be…?!” I thought. “No way.”

Could it be that the door was locked because I was meant to talk to those sisters? Were we meant to meet that day and God arranged for the door to be locked to stall me, because they hadn’t arrived yet? I laughed at the silliness of the thought and started for my car again. But then I stopped, turned around, and decided to give it one more try. “If that door is unlocked now…I am going to freak out,” I thought.

Back in front of the door, I crossed myself with holy water again, took a deep breath, and pushed down on the handle. There was no resistance. I pressed it all the way down in one fluid motion, and the door to the Adoration chapel swung open.

I would encourage you to follow the link and read the entire piece. Needless to say, it is what I needed to hear...when I needed to hear it! Too many times, I have given in to the despair. Who knows what opportunities I have missed in doing so...because unlike the author, I don't believe in coincidence.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Our Lady of Guadalupe

Wearing an emblem of the Virgin Mary on the front of their elaborate costumes and a guardian angel on the back, young dancers kick, march, stomp and swing their arms along with the beat of a tip-tapping drum.
"Each step is like praying the rosary," said Manuel Sanchez, leader of a 40-person group of matachines, or devotional dancers, from St. Leo the Great Catholic Church in Aldine.

Their dancing is a centuries-old tradition among Mexican-Americans to honor Our Lady of Guadalupe, whose Dec. 12 feast day celebrations fall in the midst of the Advent season, when Catholics are preparing to celebrate Christ's divine birth.

...The matachines wear signature-style, giant headpieces and traditional, Aztec-style dress, and they entertain thousands of Houstonians each year with their synchronized moves and almost hypnotic rhythm, but the real purpose of the dancing is spiritual. The matachines are faithful Catholics first and dancers second.

What a colorful more here

Sunday, December 11, 2011


 Isaiah 61: 1-2a, 10-11
The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor,
to heal the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives
and release to the prisoners,
to announce a year of favor from the LORD
and a day of vindication by our God.

I rejoice heartily in the LORD,
in my God is the joy of my soul;
for he has clothed me with a robe of salvation
and wrapped me in a mantle of justice,
like a bridegroom adorned with a diadem,
like a bride bedecked with her jewels.
As the earth brings forth its plants,
and a garden makes its growth spring up,
so will the Lord GOD make justice and praise
spring up before all the nations.
The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor,
to heal the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives
and release to the prisoners,
to announce a year of favor from the LORD
and a day of vindication by our God.

I rejoice heartily in the LORD,
in my God is the joy of my soul;
for he has clothed me with a robe of salvation
and wrapped me in a mantle of justice,
like a bridegroom adorned with a diadem,
like a bride bedecked with her jewels.
As the earth brings forth its plants,
and a garden makes its growth spring up,
so will the Lord GOD make justice and praise
spring up before all the nations.

Be still...

Somehow this seemed appropriate on the third Sunday of Advent...

Advent Week 3

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Advent Wreath

Advent is about more than marking an event 2,000 years ago and the wreaths help make that clear. Progressive lighting of candles symbolizes a two-part hope surrounding Jesus's first coming into the world but also the anticipation of his second coming to judge the living and the dead. The very word Advent means "coming" or "arrival."

The four candles represent the four weeks of the season. Three are purple — symbolizing prayer, penance, preparatory sacrifices and goods works. One is rose, a sign of rejoicing because the faithful have arrived at the midpoint of Advent, when their preparation is now half over and they are close to Christmas.

The season of Advent is a late comer to Christian tradition. The early church focused on the paschal mystery and Christ's return. By about 325 A.D., Christians began formal Christmas celebrations. Gradually, a season of preparation built up and combined the two comings of Christ — in Bethlehem and at the end of time.

The wreath tradition is linked to pre-Christian Germanic practice, when villagers lit candles as a sign of hope for warmer and brighter spring days. In Scandinavia, candles were placed on a wagon wheel, an invitation to the gods to turn the earth back toward the sun.

By the Middle Ages, Christians adapted the tradition and used wreaths as part of Advent. By 1600,  both Catholics and Lutherans had more formal practices surrounding the Advent wreath.

The wreath came to carry multiple symbolic meanings. The circular shape is seen as a reminder of God's presence and mercy, which has no end. The green symbolizes of hope for renewal and eternal life. Candles signify the light of God coming into the world, and remind worshipers that they, too, are called to be light in the Kingdom of God.

For centuries, Advent was a time of penance and fasting. As the notion of penitence gave way to a theme of expectant preparation in the 20th century, Advent wreaths had a resurgence in many Catholic and Protestant churches.  "Anything that helps us focus on something beyond ourselves is good, especially in this age when we are so material.

The center candle is white and is called the Christ Candle.  It is traditionally lighted on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day with all five candles continuing to be lighted in services through Epiphany (Jan 6). The central location of the Christ Candle reminds us that the incarnation is the heart of the season, giving light to the world.

Life holds no...

Life holds no sweeter thing than this:
To teach a little child the tale most loved on earth;
And watch the wonder deepen in his eyes;
The while you tell him of the Christ Child's birth;
The while you tell of shepherds and a song,
Of gentle drowsy beasts and fragrant hay;
On which that starlit night in Bethlehem,
God's tiny Son and His young mother lay...

Friday, December 9, 2011


Advent is a time of anticipation, of waiting and making ready...just in case you need a reminder that it is worth the wait. Everyone and everything has a part in the making ready...

1. People, look east. The time is near
Of the crowning of the year.
Make your house fair as you are able,
Trim the hearth and set the table.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the guest, is on the way.

2. Furrows, be glad. Though earth is bare,
One more seed is planted there:
Give up your strength the seed to nourish,
That in course the flower may flourish.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the rose, is on the way.

3. Birds, though you long have ceased to build,
Guard the nest that must be filled.
Even the hour when wings are frozen
God for fledging time has chosen.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the bird, is on the way.

4. Stars, keep the watch. When night is dim
One more light the bowl shall brim,
Shining beyond the frosty weather,
Bright as sun and moon together.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the star, is on the way.

5. Angels, announce with shouts of mirth
Christ who brings new life to earth.
Set every peak and valley humming
With the word, the Lord is coming.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the Lord, is on the way.
Words and Music: Eleanor Farjeon (1881-1965)

Church on Christmas

I was surprised to hear that some churches will not be holding worship services on Sunday, December 25th...because it's Christmas. Huh?

Here are actual reasons given by the pastors of those churches:
  • too few people will come and it will hurt our worship attendance figures.
  • we won’t even take in enough to cover the cost of the heat and lights for the day.
  • we don’t want to compete with “family time.”
  • we’ll have our big attendance and offerings on Saturday night.
  • people will get their fill of worship on Christmas Eve — we don’t need to overdo it.
  • I’m not going to put a lot of effort into an extra sermon that almost no one will hear.
  • it makes people angry if we hold church at inconvenient times.
  • I view Christmas on a Sunday as a paid day off.  Everybody else gets it as a holiday – why shouldn’t I once a decade?
What has Christmas become? Have our values been so warped by modern culture that Christmas no longer has anything to do with the birth of Christ? Is Christmas about us and the gifts given and received or is it something bigger than that? What better place for a Christian to be than in church on Christmas morning?

I am oh, so happy to say that our church is having our usual 11am worship service on Christmas morning. Not only that, but there will be (2) Christmas Eve services (at 5pm and 11pm). I'm happy to say that my children, grandchild and possible future daughter-in-law will be in the pew with my husband and me (my children live about 8 hours away). I am happy that we can rightfully sing "Joy to the World" because we will be celebrating that the birth has actually occurred! And I will lift up those who do not have this opportunity in their own congregation and give thanks that our Pastor sees to it that we do!  In my mind, there really is no question as to whether we should worship on December 25th. After all, Christ is the greatest gift we can receive.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Advent Calendar

From the Advent calendar at Busted Halo:

December 8th, 2011
The sun never says to the earth, “You owe me.” Look what happens with a love like that. It lights up the whole sky. — Hafez
Spend some time outside today and take a look at the earth and sky God created.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


I think I've lived my whole life like this...but I'm probably not alone!

An historic day...

National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, which is observed annually on December 7, is to remember and honor all those who died in the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. On August 23, 1994, United States Congress, by Pub.L. 103-308, designated December 7 of each year as National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day. It is a tradition to fly the Flag of the United States at half-staff until sunset in honor of dead patriots.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

St. Nicholas

Did you know he was real? Did you know that today is his feast day?

Saint Nicholas was born in 260AD in Patara, a coastal town in what is now Turkey. The poor knew him throughout the land for his generosity, his love for children and being associated with ships, the sea and sailors. He was eventually consecrated Bishop of Myra, just miles from his hometown.


Our western tradition of Santa Claus and Father Christmas originates with the beloved saint. Many Christian churches and many countries observe December 6th, his feast day, with great celebrations, processions, services and gift giving.


Many legends surround his life. During the reign of the Roman emperor Diocletian, Bishop Nicholas was imprisoned and tortured for his beliefs but he never forsook his faith. The new Emperor Constantine eventually released him. Tradition has it that Bishop Nicholas attended the Council of Nicaea in 325 with many other bishops, a meeting that produced what we today call "The Nicene Creed".

The name St Nicholas lives in the hearts of people all over the world, young and old alike. His faith and his actions make remembering him important even in our day. He is our Santa Claus and Father Christmas, and we must remind people today of this fact. To this very day St Nicholas (Sinterklaas) arrives in Holland each November, dressed in a Christian Bishop's vestments, and rides through the streets to the enjoyment of thousands of onlookers, to begin his investigation into the behaviour of the children.


St Nicholas Day falls in the season of Advent and with the tradition of his bearing gifts, he became associated with Christmas as well.

Secret Santa...

Just in case the holiday season is not what you'd hoped it would be...just in case you've begun to question the world and how we view Advent...just in case you just needed it...

Here is the story from the local paper...


The history of names is so ancient that no one knows the beginning of the story. Since written history began, and as far back as oral history reaches, people have had names. It is therefore impossible to do more than guess at how the earliest given names were chosen. Most names appear to have had some sort of original meaning, usually descriptive, rather than being simply a pleasing collection of sounds.
These descriptive names developed both from nouns and adjectives. Examples of name descended from nouns are the Irish Gaelic names Conan "hound, wolf" and Aed "fire." Irish Gaelic names derived from adjectives are such names as Fial "modest, honorable, generous" and Finn "fair, bright, white." A more elaborate descriptive naming practice is exemplified in the Bible, when Rachel names her last son Benoni or "son of my sorrow" and his father Jacob renames him Benjamin "son of the right hand" (Genesis 35:18).
Many early names were compounds. For example, the following Frankish names are compounds: Sigibert (victory­shining), Childeric (battle­powerful), Fredegund (peace­battle) and Radegund (counsel­battle). Sometimes such compounds in pagan societies referred to their gods. For instance, the ancient Norse had many names which were compounds containing the name of the god Thor. Among the male names were Thorbjorn, Thorgeir, Thorkell, Thorsteinn and Thorvald, and among the feminine names were Thordis, Thorgunna, Thorhalla, Thorkatla and Thorunn.

Early in prehistory some descriptive names began to be used again and again until they formed a name pool for that particular culture. Parents would choose names from the pool of existing names rather than invent new ones for their children. As time went on the language changed and in many cases the words that formed the original name passed out of use, leaving the fossilized form in the name. This is why we do not recognize the meanings of many names today. Their origins are in ancient languages from words that have passed out of use. For instance, the name Edwin was originally composed of the Old English words ead, which means "prosperity, fortune, riches" and wine, which means "friend." Both of these words have passed out of the language in the intervening thousand or so years. On the other hand, a word which has not radically changed forms the first part of the Old English name Wulfgar. The word may have changed spelling somewhat, but the word wolf is still recognizable. (The second element gar means "spear.")

With the rise of Christianity, certain trends in naming practices manifested. Christians were encouraged to name their children after saints and martyrs of the church. The oldest of these names were Jewish and Greco­Roman names. The names of the apostles and other prominent early Christians mentioned in the New Testament were often Jewish, such as Mary, Martha, Matthew, James, Joseph and John. The early Christians lived in the Roman empire, and it is among the other peoples of the empire that they first began to convert non-­Jews. As a result of the persecutions in the early centuries, many Greco­Roman names entered the Christian name pool in commemoration of the martyrs and saints, such as Anthony, Catherine, Margaret, Mark, Martin, Nicholas and Paul.

These early Christian names can be found in many cultures today, in various forms. These were spread by early missionaries throughout the Mediterranean basin and Europe. At the same time pagan nations newly converted to Christianity did not abandon their original name pool. Native martyrs and saints soon arose in every culture and their names would be added to the pool of Christian names available to Christian parents. The Christian name pool sometimes preserved names that would have otherwise fallen out of use. For example, most Anglo­Saxon names fell out of use within two centuries of the Norman Conquest of England. One that did not, because it was the name of a famous saint, is the name Edward, which is still in use today.

By the Middle Ages, the Christian influence on naming practices was pervasive. Each culture had its pool of names, which were a combination of native names and early Christian names that had been in the language long enough to be considered native. The naming pools did continue to evolve, so that a selection of ninth century Frankish names bears little resemblance to a selection of twelfth century French names. The interesting thing is that the "early Christian names" changed the least in most name pools.

Surnames developed from bynames, which are additional identifiers used to distinguish two people with the same given name. These bynames tend to fall into particular patterns. These usually started out as specific to a person and became inherited from father to son between the twelfth and sixteenth century. The aristocracy usually adopted inherited surnames early on and the peasants did so later. Some of the specific types are: the patronymic (referring to the father or mother), a locative or toponymic (indicating where a person is from), an epithet (which describes a person in some way) or a name derived from occupation, office or status. (Information taken from this article...there is much more if you'd like to check it out)

One person lived who had more names than any other. They followed the patterns shown here and were descriptive in many ways...

Monday, December 5, 2011


This post has absolutely nothing to do with Youth, church or spirituality but it's here because I just love to wear scarves! In talking to friends, I've found the reason most don't wear them is that they don't know how to tie them. Leave it to You Tube to have a post showing you how...

Now what's your reason for not wearing them?

I'm Sorry...

Saturday, December 3, 2011


When you read the geneology of Jesus in Matthew 1 below, notice the names in purple...

 1 This is the genealogy[a] of Jesus the Messiah[b] the son of David, the son of Abraham:  2 Abraham was the father of Isaac,
   Isaac the father of Jacob,
   Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,
 3 Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar,
   Perez the father of Hezron,
   Hezron the father of Ram,
 4 Ram the father of Amminadab,
   Amminadab the father of Nahshon,
   Nahshon the father of Salmon,
 5 Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab,
   Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth,
   Obed the father of Jesse,
 6 and Jesse the father of King David.
   David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife (Bathsheba),
 7 Solomon the father of Rehoboam,
   Rehoboam the father of Abijah,
   Abijah the father of Asa,
 8 Asa the father of Jehoshaphat,
   Jehoshaphat the father of Jehoram,
   Jehoram the father of Uzziah,
 9 Uzziah the father of Jotham,
   Jotham the father of Ahaz,
   Ahaz the father of Hezekiah,
 10 Hezekiah the father of Manasseh,
   Manasseh the father of Amon,
   Amon the father of Josiah,
 11 and Josiah the father of Jeconiah[c] and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon.
 12 After the exile to Babylon:
   Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel,
   Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,
 13 Zerubbabel the father of Abihud,
   Abihud the father of Eliakim,
   Eliakim the father of Azor,
 14 Azor the father of Zadok,
   Zadok the father of Akim,
   Akim the father of Elihud,
 15 Elihud the father of Eleazar,
   Eleazar the father of Matthan,
   Matthan the father of Jacob,
 16 and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah.
 17 Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah.

The names in purple are of women!  They break in unexpectedly and have unorthodox and unplanned significance. It is worth a few moments of your time to read the stories of Tamar, Rahab (x 2), Ruth, Bathsheba and Mary.

As you read, you may come to realize that the genealogy you might expect for someone as important as the Messiah has been “tainted” — by women! Women who were outside acceptable norms for the time. All but one (Mary) is from another land. Their marital status is certainly questionable. Their stories are filled with pain and suffering resulting in the births of sons. They represent the common experience of all women in some way... for how many of us have suffered what they suffered.

This genealogy implicitly reminds us that from the very beginning of God’s interaction with us, women have been a very important part of His plan. Their place is not as celebrated, not as obvious, and not recorded as much as God’s interaction with men. But that's not God’s fault. It is due to the domination of women by men.The importance of women in God’s plan continues to be illustrated throughout Jesus’ life. Women testified to the reality of Jesus in unique ways in the Gospels and experienced His healing ministry in very special ways: Elizabeth; the woman with the hemorrhage; the woman who anoints Jesus’ head; the Canaanite woman; the Samaritan woman; the daughter of Jairus; Mary Magdalene.

Jesus’ genealogy makes it clear that there is Someone who sees the bigger picture. We can know that this relentless pattern can be and is shattered when we allow God’s promise to be fulfilled in our lives — the promise that the consequences of sin have been overcome in Jesus. This is the promise that Mary fulfilled by allowing God to shatter everyone’s expectation for her and for her Son. Jesus' ancestors tell us that God is breaking the expectation that we women have become used to — the consequences of sin — and God is restoring our original dignity. His promise is the final word, if we but live it out.

Nativity Sets

If you ever wanted to view the 27 worst Nativity sets...check it out here

And yes, I actually do have this one! The Youth made them as a craft a couple of years ago...

Holiday decorating....

is always time consuming. Just imagine if you had to decorate the White House?

                                           In the hallway...
                                           In the Red Room (with a hand made Bo)
                                           Trees made of paper...

                                                    And in the Blue Room...

Good thing there are lots of helpers. There are more beautiful pictures here...

Friday, December 2, 2011

Sister Dorothy

Sister Dorothy Kazel was born in Cleveland in 1939. From the time she entered the Ursuline Sisters in 1960 she reached out to disadvantaged and marginalized populations as a teacher to hearing impaired children. Papago Indians, and troubled girls.

Dorothy began her service in El Salvador in 1974, traveling to remote villages to develop lay leadership, teach reading and writing and nutrition. She once said of El Salvador, "This is a country writhing in pain - a country that daily faces the loss of so many of its people - and yet a country that is waiting, hoping, yearning for peace". After El Salvador's civil war broke out in 1977 Dorothy gave support and counsel to people whose loved ones had been butchered by death squads and whose villages had been destroyed. "I am committed to the persecuted Church here," Dorothy said.
Other church workers made similar commitments, including Maryknoll sisters Maura Clarke and Ita Ford, and lay missionary Jean Donovan, who refused to return to the safety of the United States despite the dangers they faced as they worked with refugees of the war.

On December 2, 1980, Sisters Dorothy, Maura, and Ita, and Jean Donovan (who was only twenty-seven) were abducted, interrogated, raped, and murdered by five National Guardsmen, then thrown into a shallow grave. Their savage deaths resulted in international investigation into El Salvador's death squads.

Bethlehemian Rhapsody

For all the Queen fans, someone has re-written the Bohemian Rhapsody to tell the story of Christ's birth. Some people are just too talented...

Thursday, December 1, 2011


No matter how ridiculous they are, I think the Allstate commercials are too funny...I'm not surprised they made one for the holiday season...

Things that make you go hmmm....

What do these things have in common?
a) stick
b) box
c) string
d) cardboard tube
e) dirt

Read this article and find out!

Santa's Lap

A little fun and silliness for the season...

From the creative people at Improv Everywhere!