Showing posts from December, 2017


As we arrive at the door way to 2018 ~

May the lessons from your life this last year teach and tell you ~ may your ears, hearts, and soul be open to these truths.

May you let loose your grip on pain and fall into the way of forgiveness ~ knowing that forgiveness is not forgetting nor excusing nor just a one-and-done moment but it is realizing that you need to stop drinking the poison of anger and expecting the other person to hurt.

May you hold fast to the holy and whole moments of your life this last year ~ for those are what can be a small flash light in your life in the days and months to come.

Let the rear view mirror...the hindsight of 2017 guide you.

As we cross over, with one foot in 2017 and the other in 2018, let this threshold of the present day teach and tell you something.

Life is full of such thresholds where we are not fully finished with one thing and the new things is not fully yet reveals.  In-between is a state of life that we often take up residence.  So, linger he…

New Years Preparation

As we arrive at the threshold of a New Year, take a moment to ponder prayerfully this past year.  Hold the events, encounters, and experiences in the palm of your hand.  I pray as you do, you might know that you are being held in the palm of God's hand.  As you rewind and remember, think first about those moments of great joy.

For me it was our family vacations; a retreat in South Carolina, baking cookies with my daughter, connecting with church members in meaningful ways, Sunday morning worship, moments when I felt the warmth calmness, and times when I saw/felt/heard more than a trace of God's grace.

Linger here on the moments of is so easy to want to rush to the resolutions.  We can take the turn to negative too quickly.  So, sit and stay awhile in the good.  Maybe even go back and keep adding to the list, especially as we now turn to starting to process the pain from the last year.

Because we often carry with us the anger, anxiety, annoyances, brokenness, hurt, an…

Bonus Carol: The First Noel

The First Noel...first two verses:

The First Noel the angel did say Was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay; In fields as they lay, keeping their sheep, On a cold winter's night that was so deep.
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel, Born is the King of Israel.
They looked up and saw a star Shining in the east beyond them far, And to the earth it gave great light, And so it continued both day and night.
We sometimes miss the more controversial or scandalous parts of Christmas.  Exhibit A is that God's grand entrance plan is in a barn?!  In the immortal words of Timone from The Lion King, "Talk about your fixer uppers!"  I am from Iowa, I don't enjoy barns...might be one of many reasons I am no longer there.  Exhibit B is that guest list for witnessing this holy interruption are shepherds, who were seen as shiftless.  To follow a star might be Exhibit C.  Imagine telling a friend that you are going to follow this amazingly bright star to some undisclosed location...they might…

Carol Thirteen: Joy to the World

On this Christmas Day...enjoy this beautiful version of the joy to our whole world.

I pray you have found these past twenty-two days as much as I have posting about these beautiful carol.

May this day offer you more than a trace of God's grace...fill you to overflowing with God's unconditional love...may laughter come easy...and joy fill your heart.

With love and blessings ~~

Carol Twelve: O Holy Night

On this night when Christ is born...
On this holy night...
On this silent night...
When our prayer of O come, o come Emmanuel is fulfilled in a stable!
When the long expected one enters in afresh and anew.
So, come all ye faithful to encounter, experience
This mystery that came upon a midnight clear.
When Hark! the Herald angels sings and angles for the realms of glory invite us to sing with gusto.
So let us wonder as we wander to...
O Little Town of Bethlehem.

I pray the Christmas Eve service fills you with the hope that God brings life in unexpected ways, peace in peculiar moments, love in serendipity and joy for our whole world.

Most of all, I pray you sense more than a trace of God's grace tonight for a thousand holy nights to come.

With much love, grace and peace ~~

Carol Twelve: O Holy Night

Listen to this beautiful rendition of O Holy Night...

My favorite line of this hymn...that sends goose bumps racing up and down my arms ~ shivers down my spine is at the first stanza

O holy night the stars are brightly shining
It is the night of our dear Savior's birth
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth

And the soul felt its worth...that is what this whole season of Advent is about.  And not just for one holy night would our souls feel their full worth, but every single day and night.  To reiterate, we are not a problem to God.  God's entrance into our world was to teach and tell us about love made incarnate, in the flesh, real, tactile and tangible.  The sacred love, however, that preaches acceptance, unconditional grace, and radical equality is always going to step on the toes of the powerful who prefer to divide and conquer...who prefer fear-based messages...that everything is someone else's problem.  When we feel ou…

Carol Eleven: Silent Night

Practicing what I preached...wrote...last time about just being in the midst of the holy.  I invite you simply to listen to this beautiful version of Silent Night letting it wrap around you with a warm embrace that lets you breathe and be.


Prayer: (inhale...counting to three) (exhale...counting to four).  (Breathe in peace...breathe out worry.)  (Breathe in hope...breathe out the need to micromanage, control.)  (Breathe in joy...breathe out smiles.)  (Breathe in love...and be/belong to that love.)  Repeat as many times as needed or necessary ~ caution ~ may be all day.  Amen.

Carol Eleven: Silent Night

On Christmas Eve in 1818 a blizzard stranded the tiny village of Ogledorf nestled in the Austrian mountains. That same day the people of St. Nicholas' church found their organ broken.  So the priest and organist began composing a song that could be sung without an organ yet beautiful enough to express their Christmas joy. All day and all night long they worked and at midnight the gentle carol Silent Night was born. The pure clear tones echoed through the hills and the world has been captured by the beauty of that simple song ever since.

It is easy in these last few days before Christmas to make a mad dash toward perfection.  To get caught up in a flurry of over-functioning.  To let all the worry of whether the now-wrapped present of the tree is really what the person wanted, especially since s/he just hinted about something that would have been awesome...why...o why...did s/he not say that four weeks ago, for all that is good and holy!

The sacred simplicity of this Carol sings a d…

Carol Ten: O Little Town of Bethlehem

Enjoy this jazz version of one of my top three favorite you listen, let these words soak, simmer, and sit in your soul....sing to your heart ~~

 O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie! Above thy deep and dreamless sleep  the silent stars go by. Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting light; the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.
For Christ is born of Mary and, gathered all above, while mortals sleep, the angels keep  their watch of wond'ring love. O morning stars, together proclaim the holy birth, and praises sing to God the King,and peace to men on earth.
How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is giv'n! So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His heav'n. No ear may hear His coming, but in this world of sin, where meek souls will receive Him still the dear Christ enters in.
O holy Child of Bethlehem Descend to us, we pray Cast out our sin and enter in Be born to us today We hear the Christmas angels The great gl…

Carol Nine: I Wonder as I Wander

Listen as the hauntingly beautiful solos of the clarinet and tenor invite us draw near to this holy mystery.  Here are the words to follow along:

1. I wonder as I wander out under the sky, How Jesus the Savior did come for to die. For poor on'ry people like you and like I... I wonder as I wander out under the sky.
2. When Mary birthed Jesus 'twas in a cow's stall, With wise men and farmers and shepherds and all. But high from God's heaven a star's light did fall, And the promise of ages it then did recall.
3. If Jesus had wanted for any wee thing, A star in the sky, or a bird on the wing, Or all of God's angels in heav'n for to sing, He surely could have it, 'cause he was the King.
The closer we get to Christmas, when the smell of the straw first starts to ride the airwaves to our senses, the stars faintly twinkle over our heads, and we realize what we have been preparing for is about within our reach... The closer I get to Christmas, the less I feel like I can sa…

Carol Eight: Angels from the Realms of Glory

Just because I want to complete the angel is Angels from the Realms of Glory...and here are the words for you to join the choir to sing along:

Angels from the realms of glory,  wing your flight o'er all the earth;  ye who sang creation's story  now proclaim Messiah's birth:  Refrain: Come and worship, come and worship,  worship Christ, the newborn king.
Shepherds, in the field abiding,  watching o'er your flocks by night,  God with us is now residing;  yonder shines the infant light: [Refrain]
Sages, leave your contemplations,  brighter visions beam afar;  seek the great Desire of nations;  ye have seen his natal star: 
A few of these lines leap out and land in my lap as I listen.  First, the image of the angels singing creation's story.  I love that creation has a story, albeit one that right now is heart-breaking as we witness ice caps melting and the earth's temperatures rising.   Moreover, living as I do in Florida, I am well aware that the sea level is r…

Carol Seven: Angels We Have Heard on High

As you listen to this playful version of the Carol...I pray it brings a smile to your face and you find yourself singing out with gusto these words (just be careful if you are in public while reading/watching this...but you totally have my permission to belt it out...and if I am there I will join you in singing too!!)

Angels we have heard on high, sweetly singing o'er the plains, and the mountains in reply echoing their joyous strains: Refrain: Gloria, in excelsis Deo! Gloria, in excelsis Deo!
Shepherds, why this jubilee? Why your joyous strains prolong? What the gladsome tidings be which inspire your heav'nly song? [Refrain]
Come to Bethlehem and see Him whose birth the angels sing; come, adore on bended knee Christ the Lord, the new-born King. [Refrain]
As we cross the threshold to the last week before Christmas...I offer this hymn to you just as a playful and joyful reminder that what we are about to experience cannot ever be confined or contained by words...which is why I love Carols so…

Carol Six: Hark! the Herald Angels Sing

As you listen to this beautiful version...prayerfully pay attention to the second and third verses...that go:

Christ by highest heav'n adored, Christ, the everlasting Lord, late in time behold Him come, offspring of the virgin's womb. Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; hail the incarnate Deity, pleased as man with men to dwell, Jesus, our Immanuel. Hark, the herald angels sing,  “Glory to the newborn King!”
Hail the heav'n-born Prince of Peace! Hail the Sun of Righteousness! Light and life to all He brings, ris'n with healing in His wings. Mild He lays His glory by, born that we no more may die, born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth.

The thought that springs out of this version/video for me is that line: "Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, hail (praise) the incarnate (in the flesh) Deity, pleased as us with us to dwell, Jesus our Immanuel (which means God with us/God for us)".  Those line take a life time to really soak in, saturate, sink into our soul. …

Carol Six: Hark! the Herald Angels Sing

For a second time, with a mixture of nostalgia and love that the Peanuts gang sings looking up...listen to this version of "Hark the Herald Angels Sing"...and soak in the blissful joyfulness.

Hark! the herald angels sing,  “Glory to the newborn King. Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled!” Joyful, all ye nations, rise; join the triumph of the skies; with th'angelic hosts proclaim, “Christ is born in Bethlehem!”
Watching A Charlie Brown Christmas is one of the signals and sign posts for me that Christmas time is here (which is a reference to one of the opening songs in the cartoon).  What helps you usher in, know deep within this season?  Maybe it is making cookies with recipes that have been passed down generations.  Maybe it is going out to look at Christmas lights.  Maybe it is decorating the tree with ornaments that the moment you touch them take you back to the places and people from which the ornament came.  Maybe it is standing awash in candle light si…

Carol Five: What Child Is This?

Listen and let the words of this beautiful, haunting Carol, sing to your soul on this day.

What Child is this, who, laid to rest, On Mary's lap is sleeping? Whom angels greet with anthems sweet, While shepherds watch are keeping? Chorus: This, this is Christ, the King, Whom shepherds guard and angels sing: Haste, haste to bring Him laud, The Babe, the Son of Mary!
Why lies He in such mean estate, Where ox and ass are feeding? Good Christian, fear: for sinners here The silent Word is pleading.[Chorus]
 So bring Him incense, gold, and myrrh, Come, peasant, king to own Him. The King of kings salvation brings; Let loving hearts enthrone Him.[Chorus]
One reason why I love this Carol is it gives, grants us permission to ask questions.  To ask, what kind of a child is this?  What kind of God would enter into the world in a barn of a backwards town known as Bethlehem?  What kind of parents would like shepherds (who were seen as shiftless and thieves because they let their sheep graze on land that didn…

Carol Four: It Came Upon a Midnight Clear

Listen to this beauty piano arrangement of "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear."  First, let the melody move into your ears, minds, travel down to your heart and knock on your soul.  Second, listen again, this time, read through the third and fourth verses.

O ye beneath life's crushing load, Whose forms are bending low, Who toil along the climbing way With painful steps and slow; Look now, for glad and golden hours Come swiftly on the wing; Oh rest beside the weary road And hear the angels sing.
For lo! the days are hastening on, By prophets seen of old, When with the ever-circling years Shall come the time foretold, When the new heaven and earth shall own The Prince of Peace, their King, And the whole world send back the song Which now the angels sing.
Okay, I totally understand that these are not exactly the most uplifting lyrics.  I get that in someways it is like unwrapping a present today to find a fruit cake.  And you plaster on that phony smile and say, "Oh, how exciting, a frui…

Carol Four: It Came Upon a Midnight Clear

Listen to Ella Fitzgerald soulfully sing to us about the mystery of God's arrival.  Let the words of the first two verse wash over you, breathing in their promise and possibility.

It came upon the midnight clear, That glorious song of old, From angels bending near the earth, To touch their harps of gold: "Peace on the earth, goodwill to men From heavens all gracious King!" The world in solemn stillness lay To hear the angels sing.
Still through the cloven skies they come, With peaceful wings unfurled; And still their heavenly music floats O'er all the weary world: Above its sad and lowly plains They bend on hovering wing, And ever o'er its Babel sounds The blessed angels sing.
There is a liminal space that this season invites us into.  A space between.  It is like standing at the threshold of a door where you are not inside or outside, but in the middle of each where both be experienced.  There are a couple of poignant lines to this Carol.  First, the hymn the angels sing is on…

Carol Three: O Come All Ye Faithful

Listen to this acapella version of O Come All Ye Faithful version.

I include this version for a few reasons.  First, I am always amazed what the human voice is able to do.  The sounds we can produce are vast and varied.  The longing to communicate with another person is powerful and profound.  When we have something we want to express, so often we rely on words.  But poems, paintings, photography, cave drawings, even a grunt or glance can sometimes communicate volumes.  Words might be our the preferred or prevalent means by which we try to express ourselves.  But sometimes, it is good to step outside our comfort zone and communicate in another way.  For example, I can talk or tell you about grace.  Or I can make you my grandmother's homemade sugar cookies that, for me, communicated grace, joy, and love in ways I can never fully explain.  So, when we come, we don't need eloquent speeches as if God only desires a dissertation from us.  Or as Brian McLaren once quipped, "Go…

Carol Three: O Come All Ye Faithful

Listen to this more modern version of the classic Carol as you do pay particular attention to the second verse:

Sing, choirs of angels; sing in exultation; sing, all ye citizens of heav'n above!  Glory to God, all glory in the highest!
Part of the power of Christmas Carol is that they shine a bright light on the well known phrase that "To sing is to pray twice."  To sing we need to breathe deeply, breathe in the very breath of life that God first breathed in.  To sing we need to breathe deeply, remembering that when God gave God's name (YWHW) to Moses at the burning bush that name sounds like the sound of breathing.
Breathe in right now.
Breathe even deeper with your hands on your stomach.
Breathe with your arms like you are holding a yoga ball, letting your arms expand wider as you inhale.
Breathe with your arms reaching for the ceiling and drop them as you exhale.  Now you exhale let out a very loud sigh.
Breathing is central to singing and to life.  If we…

Carol Three: Come All Ye Faithful

I am a huge fan of Nat King Cole...and while I apologize that you cannot see him passionately singing this beautiful Carol...maybe you can close your eyes and feel not only the warm of the fake fire but the warmth of Nat's amazing voice.

The first version is another variation on the word, "Come"...a beckoning for us to bring our whole selves.  Here are the words:

O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant, O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem!  Come, and behold Him, born the King of angels! Refrain: O come, let us adore Him;  O come, let us adore Him;  O come, let us adore Him, Christ, the Lord!
Adore, like the word, "Love", might be weakened by its overuse in our world today.  We say, "We adore those shoes...or whatever."  We are trying to say we really, really like it. But I wonder if we are missing something with such use in our everyday lives.  Adore means, 'to love and respect.'  So, I do adore my wife, my kids, my family, peop…

Carol Two: Come Thou Long Expected Jesus

Listen to this version of our second attention to the final verse:

Born thy people to deliver, born a child and yet a King, born to reign in us forever, now thy gracious kingdom bring. By thine own eternal spirit rule in all our hearts alone; by thine all sufficient merit, raise us to thy glorious throne.
I am so struck and taken by that second line ~ born a child and yet a King.  In the manager there is a puzzling paradox ~ God in the flesh.  Not among the princes or powerful...not in palaces or even religious temples...God in a barn.  This is not how the story is supposed to go (and don't even get me started on the ending of the story on God's Friday where God's love incarnate - in the flesh - is hung on a cross, really?)  The story is supposed to be about climbing the ladder of success.  More loaves and fishes miracles, less of that 'picking up your cross' stuff if you really want to lure people to your movement.  And this whole born in a barn beginnings, I…

Carol Two: Come Thou Long Expected Jesus

Listen to the above Carol, especially the first verse which goes like this:

Come, thou long expected Jesus, born to set thy people free; from our fears and sins release us, let us find our rest in thee. Israel's strength and consolation, hope of all the earth thou art; dear desire of every nation, joy of every longing heart.
This Carol, for me, sets the word, "Come" into a different tune and texture than our first Carol.  I especially love that third line, "from our fears and sins release us."  What we are talking about in the near-ness and now-ness of God, Emmanuel, with us and for us is that life as we know it can be completely changed.  Too often we let our fears grip us.  Elizabeth Gilbert reminds us that fear is necessary, even helpful.  It was good so that our ancestors knew that the lion over there was not exactly a nice kitty cat to go befriend and be petted.  Fear is tangled and twisted with our creativity, which is why people who procrastinate can sometimes …

Carol One: O Come, O Come Emmanuel

Before you listen to this version...consider the final two verses of the beautiful Carol that has ushered us into the season of Advent:

O come, O Bright and Morning Star, and bring us comfort from afar! Dispel the shadows of the night and turn our darkness into light.
O come, O King of nations, bind in one the hearts of all mankind. Bid all our sad divisions cease and be yourself our King of Peace.

These prayerful words sing, speak to my heart.  In these December days, I long for comfort and for the shadows of brokenness to be made whole and drenched in holy light.  I long for our sad divisions to cease.  Part of why I started and set out with this Carol to Bethlehem is that how you start a journey matters and makes a difference.  If you start off in a frame of mind that is stressed, it stays with you.  For example, ever left home wondering if you turned off the iron??  You know that it isn't until you get back and see that your home is still standing that you finally breathe easy.  Same …

Carol One: O Come, O Come Emmanuel

First, listen to this version of O Come, O Come Emmanuel, listening particularly the second verse of this rendition which goes like this:

O come, O come, great Lord of might, who to your tribes on Sinai's height in ancient times did give the law in cloud and majesty and awe

I love that this verse draws from the past ~ a reminder of how God was with God's people in the time of Exodus.  Remember the second book of the Bible details how a people were captive to the Egyptian insatiable demand for more and more bricks.  Just as we today can be captive to our demands for the latest, greatest iphone or vacation or car.  And the God of liberation entered in, led that out of that place, through a Red Sea ~ which initially blocked there way - they feared there was no way out - but suddenly the sea parted.  Suddenly we sea after the phone is in our hand or we are back home from vacation or the car gets a scratch/dent...that the promises those things made were not as true or trusted as we fi…

Carol One: O Come, O Come Emmanuel

Listen to this instrumental version of O Come, O Come Emmanuel and as you do let the words of the second verse of this Carol sit, simmer, and sing to your heart, especially as the violin draws you in:

O come, O Wisdom from on high, who ordered all things mightily; to us the path of knowledge show and teach us in its ways to go. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to you, O Israel.
I find these words incredibly profound and poignant, especially if you dig deep beneath the words.  First, Emmanuel means God with us and for us.  God ~ not distant ~ but here and now in your very life.  Second, the call for wisdom speaks deeply to my soul in these December days.  I need, crave, long for, and am restless for wisdom.  This wisdom is about more than simply knowing something.  I crave, need, long for and am restless for wisdom that impact and influence how I live my life.  I can know something mentally and yet it doesn't make a big difference.  I know that diet soda is not great for me, water …

Carol One: O Come, O Come Emmanuel

First...listen to this beautiful instrumental version of O Come, O Come Emmanuel.  As you let the notes sink down deep, what images come into your mind?  If you had to color this song, would you reach for bright/bold colors or muted/soft colors or some combination?  Why?  If you had to write a story based on the emotions this melody awakens what kind of scene/plot do you hear unfold?

Listen...breathing in these notes.  Listen and be in the midst/middle of this hauntingly holy hymn.

Second...pray the first verse with me.
O come, O come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel that mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appear. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to you, O Israel.
Consider the word, "come".  That is a word that can be spoken in a variety of ways.  It can be said with a passionate, insistence as in when I call out to my dog.  This word can be a demand, but it can also be a pray-filled plea softly whispered. "Come" said so you can barely hear the so…

Introduction take two

Okay...I find it so annoying when an author gets you all set up and ready to go in the introduction and than has another forward or prologue or another series of introductory remarks.

So, please accept my apologies on this.

Really...I mean it.

But before I launched head long into what I want to say...
Before I take you on this ride through a few Christmas Carols like looking at Christmas lights...

I want you to pause...ponder what is your favorite Carol?  I even want you to go play your favorite Carol right now.

Really....I mean it.

I will wait.

Did you go play the Carol?

It is okay....I really want you to.

I will wait (after all I published this a few days ago and I am not really here typing anyway!)

Okay...thanks for that.  Because I want you to ask yourself, "Why do you love that Carol?"  Is it the words?  The melody?  Some memory that it awakens when your grandmother would sing that Carol in the kitchen while making cookies?

You see, I needed a second introduction both …