Friday, December 31, 2010

The Twelve Days of Christmas: Day Six, End of the Year

Thy goodness has been with me during another year,
leading me through a twisting wilderness,
in retreat helping me to advance,
when beaten back making sure headway...
I hoist sail and draw up anchor,
With thee as the blessed pilot of my future as of my past.
If I have to pass through tempests of persecution and temptation,
I shall not drown;
If I am to die,
I shall see thy face the sooner;
If I am to be cast aside from the service I love,
I can make no stipulation;
Only glorify thyself in me whether in comfort or trial,
as a chosen vessel meet always for thy use. 

- Year's End Prayer, "The Valley of Vision"

But as he considered these things, 
behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, 
saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, 
for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 
She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, 
for he will save his people from their sins." 
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 
"Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, 
and they shall call his name Immanuel", which means, 

Matthew 1:20-23

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Twelve Days of Christmas: Day 5, The Apple Tree

The tree of life my soul hath seen,
Laden with fruit and always green,
The trees of nature, fruitless be,
Compar'd with Christ the apple tree.

This beauty doth all things exel,
By faith I know, but ne'er can tell
The glory which I now can see
In Jesus Christ the apple tree

For happiness I long have sought,
And pleasure dearly I have bought
I miss'd for all, but now I see
'Tis found in Jesus Christ the apple tree.

I'm weary'd with my former toil,
Here I shall set and rest awhile;
Under the shadow I will be
Of Jesus Christ the apple tree.

With great delight I'll make my stay,
There's none shall fright my soul away;
Among the sons of men I see,
There's none like Christ the apple tree.

I'll sit and eat this truth divine,
It cheers my heart like spirit'l wine;
And now this fruit is sweet to me
That grows on Christ the apple tree.

This fruit doth make my soul to thrive,
It keeps my dying faith alive;
Which makes my soul in haste to be
With Jesus Christ the apple tree.

- Jesus Christ the Apple Tree from "Divine Hymns, Or Spiritual Songs", reprinted from 1797

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Twelve Days of Christmas: Day 4, a Song from the Muppets

Bless Us All

Life is full of sweet surprises, every day's a gift
The sun comes up and I can feel it lift my spirit
Fills me up with laughter, fills me up with song
I look into the eyes of love and know that I belong

Bless us all, who gather here
The loving family I hold dear
No place on earth compares with home
And every path will bring me back from where I roam
Bless us all, that as we live
We always comfort and forgive
We have so much that we can share
With those in need we see around us everywhere

Let us always love each other
Lead us to the light
Let us hear the voice of reason singing in the night
Let us run from anger, and catch us when we fall
Teach us in our dreams and please, yes please,
Bless us one and all

Bless us all with playful years
With noisy games and joyful tears
We reach for you and we stand tall
And in our prayers and dreams
We ask you bless us all

We reach for you and we stand tall
And in our prayers and dreams we ask you
Bless us all

- From "The Muppet's Christmas Carol"

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Twelve Days of Christmas: Day 3, Lewis Quotes

"The Christian story is precisely the story of one grand miracle, the Christian assertion being that what is beyond all space and time, what is uncreated, eternal, came into nature, into human nature, descended into His own universe, and rose again, bringing nature up with Him. It is precisely one great miracle. If you take that away there is nothing specifically Christian left."

- From "The Grand Miracle"

"The Eternal Being, who knows everything and who created the whole universe, became not only a man but (before that) a baby, and before that a fetus inside a Woman's body. If you want to get the hang of it, think how you would like to become a slug or a crab."

- From "Mere Christianity"

"That time He was creating not simply a man but the Man who was to be Himself: was creating Man anew: was beginning, at this divine and human point, the New Creation of all things....The miraculous conception is one more witness that here is Nature's Lord. He is doing now, small and close, what He does in a different fashion for every woman who conceives."

- From "Miracles

All quotes by C.S. Lewis.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Twelve Days of Christmas: Day 2, a Glimpse at G.K. Chesterton

Christmas Poem

There fared a mother driven forth
Out of an inn to roam;
In the place where she was homeless
All men are at home.
The crazy stable close at hand,
With shaking timber and shifting sand,
Grew a stronger thing to abide and stand
Than the square stones of Rome.

For men are homesick in their homes,
And strangers under the sun,
And they lay their heads in a foreign land
Whenever the day is done.

Here we have battle and blazing eyes,
And chance and honor and high surprise,
But our homes are under miraculous skies
Where the yule tale was begun.

A child in a foul stable,
Where the beasts feed and foam;
Only where He was homeless
Are you and I at home;
We have hands that fashion and heads that know,
But our hearts we lost- how long ago!
In a place no chart nor ship can show
Under the sky's dome.

The world is wild as an old wife's tale,
And strange the plain things are,
The earth is enough and the air is enough
For our wonder and our war;
But our rest is as far as the fire-drake swings
And our peace is put in impossible things
Where clashed and thundered unthinkable wings
Round an incredible star.

To an open house in the evening
Home shall all men come,
To an older place than Eden
And a taller town than Rome.
To the end of the way of the wandering star,
To the things that cannot be and that are,
To the place where God was homeless
And all men are at home.

- Gilbert Keith Chesterton

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Twelve Days of Christmas: Day 1

The idea of traditions has been in my thoughts lately. It seems that there should and can be a good balance between accepting the new and observing the old. If you lean too much towards one or the other, then there is an imbalance of either capriciousness or stagnation. 

Chris and I established three traditions for us to celebrate year to year as a family at Christmas. It won't be the end of the world if they change some day, but it would be nice to have a few things that are "us". My mom, stepdad, and sister were with us this year, so that was absolutely wonderful to have them be a part of building our traditions. They are:

1. Watching "The Muppet's Christmas Carol".
2. Home-made tacos for dinner on Christmas day.
3. A Peppermint Pig.

One of my greatest friends and her husband used to watch this movie every Christmas; it's my and Chris's favorite holiday film! Tacos are just one of the best things ever if you know how to make them right, and with my mom's training I think I'll be able to pull it off now. The Peppermint Pig is better explained by this website: 

Anyway, I was curious about the Twelve Days of Christmas tradition. After doing some research on the Twelve Days of Christmas song, I found two important facts: nobody agrees on what the meaning of the lyrics signifies, and everyone is pretty sure that the original meaning has been mostly lost. It appears to be a cheerful song that celebrates the Christmas season with imagery of bygone seasonal gifts. The one thing that most do agree on is that the Twelve Days start after Christmas and end on Twelfth Night, usually January 5th, after which begins Epiphany. 

The first day of the Twelve is Boxing Day; it is mostly observed across the United Kingdoms rather than America. Several cultures give presents on each of the Twelve Days, culminating with a celebration on Twelfth Night, which is also called Three Kings' Day or just Kings' Day. Some traditions say that Christmas decorations may be taken down anytime during the Twelve Days, but the last day to put away the holiday trimmings is Twelfth Night (supposedly it's bad luck if you leave decorations up past Epiphany). There are also the traditions of the Yule Log, the King Cake, wassail, and plum pudding.

In the interest of doing something interesting for the Twelve Days of Christmas, I will post something each day relating to Christmas and the season of rebirth as we approach the New Year. Here is today's selection, my favorite retelling of the Christmas story and an introduction to one of my heros, John. 

In the beginning was the Word
And the Word was with God
And the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God.
All things were made through him
And without him was not any thing made that was made.
In him was life, and the life was the light of men.

The light shines in the darkness
And the darkness has not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God whose name was John.
He came as a witness 
To bear witness about the light that all might believe through him.
He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.

The true light which enlightens everyone was coming into the world.

He was in the world
And the world was made through him
Yet the world did not know him.
He came to his own
And his own people did not receive him.
But to all who did receive him
Who believed in his name
He gave the right to become children of God
Who were born not of blood nor of the will of the flesh
Nor of the will of man
But of God.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

We have seen his glory
Glory as of the only Son from the Father
Full of grace and truth.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Inner Victory

Yesterday while walking past a book table at the institution where I'm auditing a class on the constitution and government, I saw a book called "Ordering Your Private World" by Gordon MacDonald. There were several passages that looked interesting, so I skimmed through it to see what was there. Then I bought it and read it in depth that afternoon.

MacDonald's words have definitely had an impact on my thoughts. His premise is that only when the inner self is organized, balanced, and kept in proper order will a person be able to live a life of public effectiveness. Many people who are in the public eye appear to be mature and wise, but if you look at their inner soul, it is empty or full of turmoil. So much emphasis is placed on having a shiny, clean looking outer life; what about what goes on in your mind, in the deepest places, when you are all alone without distractions of busyness, entertainment, people, or society? What do you have inside to sustain yourself through the hard times? What is your inner purpose, your motivation for getting up in the morning? Who are you, really?

Even though the next week and a half will be extremely busy for me (lots of preparation and performances for my students and myself, traveling before the holiday, etc.) I will be thinking hard about these questions. Maybe I'll write more about how the book is affecting my thoughts during the winter break. 

In the meantime, I highly recommend MacDonald's book to everyone willing to ask hard questions of themselves. 

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Lust, Love, and Lyrics: Some Thoughts

"Lust claims that love without sex is impossible and that sex without love still satisfies. But both claims are wrong. Paradoxically, the profligate is more frustrated than fulfilled. 
Expressed more positively, the biblical view of sexual intercourse is that it is not only procreative but expressive. It is the ultimate expression of intimacy, of complete and unconditional unveiling, of which two human beings are capable. As such, it is an act that is misleading and damaging outside marriage, which is the only setting that is totally self-giving.
Like food, sex is of course good in the biblical understanding. But at certain times in the Christian past, its goodness has been severely undervalued, chiefly because of a dualism inherited from the Greeks who saw the mind as positive and the body is negative. From this warped viewpoint, we worship with our minds and sin with our bodies... From the biblical point of view, however, the challenge is quite the opposite: We worship God with our bodies as well as our minds and hearts, and we sin above all with our minds, not our bodies.
At the same time, sexuality has been freed from its former ties to procreation, setting the stage for the isolation and exaggeration of the sexual impulse. This movement reaches its climax in the advocates of sexual mysticism who regard sexual intercourse as the ultimate revelatory breakthrough between human beings- as if love-making were the equivalent of Mt. Sinai or the resurrection...
Lust essentially "uses" and dehumanizes another. But the users deceive themselves, too. Lust-driven seduction without personal engagement ends only in the void of empty-armedness and even deeper longing." 

- Os Guinness, "Steering Through Chaos: Vice and Virtue in an Age of Moral Confusion"

"Love bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back,
Guiltie of dust and sinne.
But quick-ey'd Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,
If I lack'd any thing.
A guest, I answer'd, worthy to be here:
Love said, You shall be he.
I the unkinde, ungratefull? Ah my deare,
I cannot look on thee.
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
Who made the eyes but I?
Truth Lord, but I have marr'd them: let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.
And know you not, sayes Love, who bore the blame?
My deare, then I will serve.
You must sit down, sayes Love, and taste my meat:
So I did sit and eat."

- George Herbert, "Love (III)"

"Wasted time. I can not say that I was ready for this.
But when worlds collide, and all that I have is all that I want,
the words seem to flow and the thoughts they keep running.
And all that I have is yours. 
All that I am is yours.

Painted skies. I've seen so many that can not compare
to your ocean eyes. The pictures you took
that cover your room. And it was just like the sun,
but more like the moon. A light
that can reach it all. 
So now I'm branded for taking the fall.

So when you say "forever" can't you see?
You've already captured me."

- Lyrics from Everglow, "The Sun and the Moon", by Mae

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Potter Theory

"Jane had gone into the garden to think... "Religion" ought to mean a realm in which her haunting female fear of being treated as a thing, an object of barter and desire and possession, would be set permanently at rest and what she called her "true self" would soar upwards and expand in some freer and purer world. For still she thought that "Religion" was a kind of exhalation or a cloud of incense, something steaming up from specially gifted souls towards a receptive Heaven. Then, quite sharply, it occurred to her that the Director never talked about Religion; nor did the Dimbles nor Camilla. They talked about God. They had no pictures in their minds of some mist steaming upward: rather of rather of strong, skillful hands thrust down to make, and mend, perhaps even to destroy. Supposing one were a thing after all- a thing designed and invented by Someone Else and valued for qualities quite different from what one had decided to regard as one's true self? Supposing all those people who, from the bachelor uncles down to Mark and Mother Dimble, had infuriatingly found her sweet and fresh when she wanted them to find her also interesting and important, had all along been simply right and perceived the sort of thing she was? Supposing Maleldil on this subject agreed with them and not with her? For one moment she had a ridiculous and scorching vision of a world in which God Himself would never understand, never take her with full seriousness. 

Then, at one particular corner of the gooseberry patch, the change came.

What awaited her there was serious to the degree of sorrow and beyond. There was no form nor sound. The mould under the bushes, the moss on the path, and the little brick border, were not visibly changed. But they were changed. A boundary had been crossed. She had come into a world, or into a Person, or into the presence of a Person. Something expectant, patient, inexorable met her with no veil or protection between... There was nothing, and never had been anything, like this. And now there was nothing except this. Yet also, everything had been like this; only by benig like this had anything existed. In this height and depth and breadth the little idea of herself which she had hitherto called me dropped down and vanished... 

The name me was the name of a being whose existence she had never suspected, a being that did not yet fully exist but which was demanded. It was a person (not the person she had thought), yet also a thing, a made thing, made to please Another and in Him to please all others, a thing being made at this very moment, without its choice, in a shape it had never dreamed of. And the making went on..."

Exerpt from "That Hideous Strength" by C. S. Lewis