The Quiet of Christmas

A moment of anticipation, Christmas 2009.

A moment of anticipation, Christmas 2009.

I woke early this morning, memories of past Christmas mornings causing me to expect to hear the sound of our sons talking in low whispers as they pick through their Christmas stockings. Instead I hear the silence that comes with the gentle rise and fall of my wife sleeping, and not a peep from the living room that sits beyond the closed bedroom door.

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The Day After Your Answer Dies

So here I sit on the day before Easter, thinking about what the disciples were doing on THATjesusonthecross-2925 Saturday some 2,000 years ago.  I know there is an historical argument for what day of the week Jesus was actually crucified on – but that’s not the subject or point of this post.  I’m simply putting myself in the place of that group of men (and women) and wondering what they were thinking.

The Gospels don’t give us much detail about what took place on that day.  We do know historically it was the day of preparation between Israel’s weekly Sabbath and the annual Sabbath that took place during Passover.  What does that tell us… it means there were normal things  they needed to do in the midst of their questions and grief.  It also tells me during those times we wonder where God is or what He is up to – yes, even in the darkest of hours – life still goes on.

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‘Til He Appeared and the Soul Felt It’s Worth

Christas Tree 2012Christmas is my favorite time of the year.  Yes, I know it is for many (or at least we say that) – but for me it really is.  But even with all of the anticipation, I’m still a purist and want to wait for the season to arrive for things like not playing actual Christmas music or wanting to see Christmas commercials on TV until after the end of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  And yes, it bugs me that the big stores put their Christmas stuff out before Halloween these days, when you used to wonder why you’d see it just before Thanksgiving!  But this year I’ll have to admit that I was ready very early for the joy that comes with Christmas – and I broke a few of my rules when it came to those traditions.  I’m chalking it up on such a long political season that just put such a damper on the country, added to working a ton of overtime to make things work.  Whatever the reason, I was eager to experience that Christmas “magic” earlier than normal.

Even with my strictness about most things surrounding Christmas, one thing you’ll hear from me throughout the year is Christmas carols!  Well, not me SINGING them, but WHISTLING them.  There is just something fun about whistling a Christmas carol!  I don’t know if its the variations in tempo or all the note changes, I’ve just always loved to whistle them and you’ll hear songs like Jingle Bells or Deck the Halls from me as much in the month of June as in December.  But again, this year has been a different one… and it’s not just a tune to whistle that has gripped me – but a single phrase from the song O Holy Night that keeps ringing over and over not just in my head, but deep within my spirit.

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A pocket full of change.

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens…” – Ecclesiastes 3:1

In the first 13 years of my life my family lived in 6 states – one of them twice!  I was born in Alabama, but within a few months we moved to Massachusetts (where generations of my family are), then to Rhode Island, Iowa, New York, back to Massachusetts, and then finally to Florida.  No, we aren’t gypsies.  My dad’s job as a business management engineer involved contracts which lasted just 2-3 years at a time, and at the end of those contracts we picked up and moved to wherever the next one was.  Personally, I loved it.  I loved traveling to new places, making new friends, living in a new house every few years.  I guess you could say, even early on in my life I started to accumulate a pocket full of change.

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I have this crazy dream.  It’s not the normal thing that a guy who has lived most of his life in Florida would probably want to do, but I want to do it anyway.  I want to go on a cattle drive.  You know – riding like a cowboy on a horse, yelping and making noises as I try to get cattle moving in the right direction.  Boots, the hat, the whole thing.  Now, I did the “City Slickers” thing and told myself I would have it done before my 40th birthday – well I’m 41 now and I haven’t done it yet.  Funny thing how money is always involved.  But it’s still inside of me rumbling around wanting to be done – and I just KNOW that someday I am going to do it.  I guess this probably leaves you wondering why any sane person would want to do something so unusual, right?  That’s an easy-enough answer… It’s God’s fault.

If you’ve been reading these posts, by now you know I love history… and maybe you’ve also picked up a bit on that part of me that yearns for the big, sweeping, and epic moments of life.  I love movies like “Dances With Wolves”, “Glory” and “The Patriot” – anything full of big, wide, panoramic shots of the openness of America, all packed in with historical moments and zipped up in an overwhelming sound score.  Something in me craves to know that there is more out there than the laid out streets of our neighborhoods.  When I was a child, I had a subscription to Arizona Highways magazine – just so I could look at the pictures of the Grand Canyon and life “out West”.  I would also play for hours alone in the woods near where we lived with an old WWII-era training rifle, letting the hills and streams of Delmar, NY and Walpole, MA become the battlefields of Bunker Hill and Normandy.  Fallen logs would turn into the walls and ramparts at the Alamo or the fences surrounding Gettysburg.  I don’t think that there was a major battle in our nation’s history that I didn’t fight in.  I covered a lot of ground for a kid in the 4th grade. Continue reading

Gaining a fire through the Forge…

I spent the week between Christmas and New Year’s this year pretty much in bed.  I woke up two days after Christmas with a bad bug and spent the next few days either in bed sleeping or in the bathroom being sick.  The first time I can ever remember being sick like that was when I was in the third or fourth grade and we lived in New York.  I just remember being so sick that I could barely get out of bed.  Three decades later and I can still remember how uncomfortable it was, and the delirium and strange dreams that always accompany these kinds of sicknesses.  It seems like those dreams are the strangest when you lay there watching television, so this latest time I at least made sure it didn’t come on until the intensity of the bug had passed.  Either way, it felt like an almost prophetic way to end 2011.

“I am sick, discontented, and out of humor. Poor food, hard lodging, cold weather, fatigue, nasty clothes, nasty cookery, vomit half my time, smoked out my senses – the Devil’s in it; I can’t Endure it.  Why are we sent here to starve and freeze?  What sweet felicities have I left at home: a charming wife, pretty children, good beds, good food, good cookery – all agreeable, all harmonious. Here all confusion, smoke and cold, hunger and filthiness…” – Surgeon Albigence Waldo, Valley Forge, December 14, 1777 Continue reading

Go home or keep going…

In the last six years or so, I have had the opportunity to take part twice in a winter retreat of pastors from all over the greater New York City area.  This retreat, organized by Concerts of Prayer Greater New York, brings together pastors from every denomination and is held in a quaint retreat center in the country located on the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware River.  I remember more than once sitting on a simple bench looking out over that cold, icy, winter river and, being a history-buff, thinking about what it was like for George Washington and his men to cross this same river near Trenton some 65 miles or so away.  We are all taught in school of that famous crossing that Washington made on Christmas night, 1776, and how important the capturing of the city was for the war effort.  What most never learn is, just a week later most of Washington’s troops were ready to give up and go home.  As a matter of fact, up until that famous midnight crossing and defeating of the Hessian troops, that’s what a lot of the Continental soldiers had already done.  Continue reading