Sunday, December 31, 2017

Prayer



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 here today.  Listening and learn from this moment.  Find insight on this last day of the year.

As tomorrow dawns and 2018 arrives like an unpainted canvas on which you will start to color and create your life...

I pray you will breathe.

This is not a test.

There is no one right way.

You are not defined by your resolutions or resolve, you are a beloved child of God.

So may that truth and may God's grace guide you every day in this New Year.

Grace and peace everyone. 

Friday, December 29, 2017

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 joy...it 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, and harm for ages past.  Over the years, these weigh down the luggage of our life.  Over the years, these can (whether intentional or unintentionally) crowd out the space where we might otherwise carry the grace and good in life.  Yet, we do need to name, notice, and negotiate our way through the struggles/strive.  Most wisdom teachers tell us that even the pain has something to teach us.  Yet, we are quick to race, run through the valleys where the shadows loom large.  We are quick to cover up our hurt with the word, "I'm fine" (usually said unconvincingly with exasperation that at once wants both the person asking to drop it and for that person to dive in deeper to help us when we feel like we are drowning).  So where is that kind of stuff rummaging and roaming around your life?

For me there is both an external and internal declension here.  External in the difficulties I have in turning on the news or in relationships or scars from the words of others that won't heal.  And those external parts seep and soak into my soul along side the perfectionism drive and what Kent Dobson often describes as the "loyal soldier syndrome" ~ where we are continually trying to please others.  Together this can be an intoxicating cocktail of daily life.

Again sit with this.  But not like a scale.  Too often we want to say the good outweighs the bad or keep adding to the good side to tilt the scale that way.  Or too often we are quick to judge which side of our list ~ the good or the bad ~ has more items there as if life was about keeping score.  Just sit with this past year.  When you are ready ask the question ~

What do you have to teach me?

Listen. 

Breathe and be.

Listen for more than a trace of God's grace.

Listen.

Amen.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

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 ask, "How are you feeling?"  

Yet, we often nod when we hear these details in church, rather than raising an eye brow and exclaiming, "What in the name of all that is holy?!"

But that is part of the point...God's ways don't always make sense, but they do make a difference.  God's ways don't always go with the flow, but they teach us the flow of God.  God's ways (like parting seas and calling to people of questionable character and confounding us) are perhaps the most beautiful Carol of them all.  I pray that you will continue to listen to the music of God in your life.  Continue to be open to God's wisdom which may sound odd and peculiar but is certainly holy.  Continue to hold lightly onto the truths we have encountered, for they still have much to teach us every day in  2018.

Grace and peace ~~ 

Monday, December 25, 2017

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 ~~


Sunday, December 24, 2017

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 ~~

Saturday, December 23, 2017

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 our soul's full worth, however, we cannot contain that or keep it to ourselves.  If our soul is worthy...so is our neighbors...(note the line, "His way is love and his gospel is peace").

In some ways, for me, this Carol is the cliff notes, compact version of the Gospel. This is what is all about.  Knowing that grace embraces all of us, changes us (and even challenges us).  For a few fleeting moments on Christmas Eve, we know this to be one of the truest truths in the whole world.  The challenge is transformation, letting this notion really sink into and saturate everything we do and say and who we are.  Just as it is a journey to Bethlehem to behold this truth, so too is it a journey to live this truth every day.  We rarely get it right all the time.  But within grace is forgiveness and a call back to our full, authentic, soul bearing selves.

I pray this Carol causes you to sense God's presence so close this day and as we anticipate the holy night tomorrow.

Prayer:  Let us see, sense, be open, and moved by the holiness of every single night.  Amen.

Friday, December 22, 2017

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.

Enjoy.

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.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

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 different tune to our hearts.  One that reminds us of sacred interruptions...remember Mary and Joseph didn't go to Bethlehem to visit relatives, they were forced.  One that reminds us that life is not perfect...remember Jesus was born in a barn.  One that reminds us that God's arrival doesn't depend on us, Christmas comes regardless of what you or I do or buy.  Perhaps that is why this Carol still sings us to the manger every year.  We come, holding a candle, because God's light of love has just been born anew, afresh in our hearts.  We come, drenched in light amid darkness of Christmas Eve night, because that moment speaks more than a sermon ever could ~ God is always creating and crafting, dancing between light and darkness.

And we are called to offer a few words that sing of the sacred simplicity; we are called to stand next to the outcast shepherds, because we have our issues too; we are called to be.

Be in God's presence.

Not just four days from now...right now.  God with you.  That is the grace that guides us every day, the love that leads us if only we let it.  That is always the invitation...so let this Carol sing to you one more time, beckoning you to the manger where God arrives in the "regardless-ness" of our imperfect holy lives.

Prayer:  Present God...help us focus less on what is under the tree and more on the gift of Your movement in our midst here and now.  Amen.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Carol Ten: O Little Town of Bethlehem




Enjoy this jazz version of one of my top three favorite Carols...as 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 glad tidings tell
O come to us, abide with us Our Lord Emmanuel
O come to us, abide with us Our Lord Emmanuel

This Carol was meant to be played as jazz in my non-musical opinion.  There are lines in this Carol that stop me every time I sing them.  Words like, "the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight."  What hopes do you carry with you to the stable this year?  What fears?  We live in a world where all too often fears ride in the front seat of our lives picking the radio station (to use an image from Elizabeth Gilbert).  Too often our hopes seems like wishful thinking (even foolish).  Why do we spend more time talking about the struggles (which are real), than we do talking about the ways God is still creating/crafting in our lives?

I also love the line that talks about how silently God enters into our lives.  It isn't with clamoring commotion, but in the still small silence of love.  So often, it can be hard for God to get a word in edgewise when we are always filling any space with either the sound of the television or even the visual noise of constantly checking our cell phone.  What...I am in line at the store, I should fill this void with seeing what is going on Facebook?  By the way, I totally resemble that remark!

But it is that final line, for God to abide with us that sinks so deep into my heart.  For me to embrace and be embraced by the here-ness of God not only when I sing these words and goosebumps race up and down my arms...but in the middle of March when I am just trying to get by or the middle of July and I am sweltering or next September when one of my kids will be in high school! (Good Lord, how did that happen??)

The abiding God...that is one of the truths of Christmas.  The abiding God is really what we are preparing with great anticipation to welcome.  Not because God hasn't been in our lives ~ surround and sustaining us ~ but because in the blur of every day, I am not always great at noticing the traces of God's grace.

Listen again...let the soulful jazz sing to our soul as if from the lips of God right next to you.

Prayer: Enter in, O God, even if my heart resembles a teenage bedroom.  Enter in, O God, even to my cluttered soul.  Make Yourself at home, I pray.  

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

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 say.  How do you really explain God's love?  Certainly not with the scientific method...it cannot be proven.  How do you tell someone else the holiness of God awakening the sacredness within us?  Certainly not with a graph or Powerpoint presentation.  How do you point toward the ineffable and indefinable and indescribable grace upon grace when others simply shrug?  

What happens within us, to us, and around us at Christmas is a wonder beyond words.  What happens within us, to us, and around us is at once sacred and scary...why do you think we give lip service to letting this last all year long...then promptly turn to taking control again by making New Year's resolutions?  It is vulnerable to encounter, experience the vulnerability of God.  We'd rather cling to a God who is in charge...like a CEO.  We'd rather talk about a God who is about power rather than weakness.  A God who likes rules rather than relationships.  A God who is distance rather than so close.

But if we wonder as we wander out under the star-filled sky...the mystery...hauntingly beautiful... really can find space and place in our heart to make us different.  Wouldn't that we wonder-filled holy kind of moment?

Prayer:  God, keep us open to You.  Amen.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Carol Eight: Angels from the Realms of Glory


Just because I want to complete the angel trifecta...here 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 rising too.  Look out a window right now...what is creation's story telling or trying to teach you?  Again, in a place where I am always surrounded by green (albeit shades of that color), I do notice that the grass is dormant compared to just a few months ago.  I notice that plants have slowed their growth.  While there is life, it is singing a softer tune and telling a slower story.  To align my circadian rhythm with creation invites me to slow down.

Second, the image of sages leaving your contemplations...it is easy for me to get stuck in my head.  After all, it is where I have some of my best insights and ideas.  But to leave what comes naturally or feels normal for a new place.  That is really what Scripture attests to over and over again.  Abraham and Sarah leave the only home they knew for some undisclosed location; Moses leaves his father-in-law to go back to Egypt where he was an outlaw; Elijah flees for his life and gets called back to the people who wanted his head on a platter; prophets are called to speak truth to those in power (which throughout history rarely ends well); Jesus leaves his home to travel to people who are lost, lonely and feel left out/left behind.  Leave seems to be one of God's favorite words.

If you had to leave right now...could you?  Would you?  I might say, "But my kids have finals this week."  Or, "I have Christmas Eve services to get ready."  Or maybe leaving isn't always physical but to leave behind that which is no longer helpful.  Can I leave behind worry and fear?  Can I leave behind working and wanting to prove myself?  Or do I think they will just follow me to Bethlehem and beyond to 2018?  Perhaps, but you never know if you don't start out.

So come...come and worship the One who is out in front beckoning and calling to us.

Prayer: God of the road less traveled, help us find pathways that respond to You, even when we have to let go and leave behind some of the luggage we've grown accustom to carrying.  Amen.  

Sunday, December 17, 2017

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 much.  

So, join me in listening to this again, letting the melody awaken our imaginations and may you sense God is near, in the now, and here in your life.

Prayer:
Here I am, God.
Here You are, God.
Here we are, together.  Amen.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

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.  We so often think of God as out there, separate, different and distinctive and distant.  God can't be here in our lives! We exclaim.  God can't be here when this isn't perfect.  God can't be here with all the racism, sexism, discrimination against LGBTQ brothers and sisters.  God can't possibly put up with us like this.  Obviously, if God was here, things would be better.

A couple of things to such a line of thinking.  Kent Dobson reminds us that, "We are not a problem to God."  We are not some burden, some obligation, some mistake.  Just as God is a mystery to us, I believe, we can be a mystery to God.  Yes, God fashioned, formed, loved us into being.  But I believe we are endlessly interesting to God.  Consider God close as our next breath wondering, "Curious that Wes decides to do this or say that..."  Or God with joy saying, "Yes, that whole unconditional part of love might actually be breaking through words like, 'worthiness' or 'expectations'".  After all, what part of unconditional do we not get?

God enters in not when everything was at its most perfect.  Remember, Caesar was still oppressing and crucifying people.  Herod was still a tyrant.  Life was still stressful and painful.  People still fought and biases built walls between people.  Suddenly, I am not just describing then and there two thousand years ago, I am talking about here and now.  We still let unprocessed pain get passed along, we still hurt and harm one another with careless words, we still are saying, "They...those people... are the problem."  But, if Kent is right, then not only are you not a problem to God...neither is that person.  Perhaps that is why we still hold the mystery of the incarnation...God's love coming so close.  Because good news like that can't be controlled or confined...it breaks out and breaks down any conditions we want to put on it.  And if it is good news for us and others...that could change everything.  And the truth of this Carol proclaims...is that it still does.

Prayer:  God, let Your presence with me help me notice and name that You are also with all people.  Amen.  


Friday, December 15, 2017

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 singing, Silent Night on Christmas Eve.  The point is not for me to be exhaustive or prescriptive, but descriptive that there is a wide range of ways we can find ourselves in this season.

Take a moment to name and claim what can help you enter the mystery of this sacred season.  Have you been able to participate in that yet?  Can you consider this permission to go and do that now?  It's okay, I'll wait.

By the way...I like extra sprinkles on my sugar cookies.

Sometimes we tend to divide the world that anything active this time of year is clumped together in the category of "hustle and bustle".  But don't forget that God entered in to our world amid crowded, chaotic streets and when the buzz (unholy hum) of people frantically trying to get somewhere.  It doesn't have to be either or.  Yes, God can be found in the silence and stillness, but God can also be found thoughtfully/prayerfully shopping or cooking or decorating.  It is our attention and intention that opens us to the holy of every moment.  

So, again...what is that moment that can help you usher in Christmas this year?  Let's go do that.

Prayer: God who offers a variety of ways for us to find You, move in our midst with an openness to You wherever and however we find You at this time.  Amen. 

Thursday, December 14, 2017

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't belong to them) come and adore their baby?  Do you think they held the child?  While we are at it, why weren't the shepherds involved in the census?  Could it be that no one really cared about shepherds...save God who invited them over for a party?  Who brings a baby incense and myrrh?  I mean, a jell-o salad and casserole, yes, but these gifts are just plain odd, except the gold. 

But then there is that line.

The line that gets me all choked up.

The line that stops me cold in my tracks.

"The silent Word/Wisdom/God is pleading.  This...this is Christ our King."

You see, Christmas isn't some test we have to cram for hoping and praying we pass.  Christmas is the invitation to listen, to lean in to the truth that God, who is comfortable in a barn can even find a place in my messy life, and then to live that truth every single day of the new year.  

How?

That is a great question. Maybe, just maybe, if you listen to the Carol and re-read the words again, God might be found in the spaces in-between the words and notes and in your very life.

Prayer: God who provokes such powerful questions, let us live them, lean into the questions, and find You, not as the One who supplies all the answers, but the One willing to live in the messy mystery of life.  Amen.  

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

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 fruit cake."  I don't understand how this is still an item you can purchase.  But I have digressed and took an exit ramp.  These words give voice to something important, especially as we inch closer to the longest night on December 21.  These words give voice to the reality that right now not everyone is holly, jolly, merry and bright.  Too many people have had their candles of hope blown out and peace seems about as possible as us colonizing Pluto.  Too many people this time of year, do put on, plaster, a smile for the sake of appearances.  Too many people are weak and weary and need to rest by the side of the road.  That is exactly, why I wanted to share this verse, because it calms me down in the midst of too much busyness.  I need a single piano to invite me back to the beautiful simplicity of God.  I need to breathe and be in this moment, even with all of its imperfections. There is a great prayer I was taught some time ago that goes, "Here I am, God."  As in here, I am, God in my stumbling and bumbling, still have not found a gift for my wife kind of brokenness.  Here I am, in my worn down-ness and wondering if Christmas can really come without tags. Can it come without packages, boxes or bags? (Again, bonus points for getting the Grinch reference that you might have expected today).  The second part goes, "Here You are, God.  Here we are together."  Togetherness in the here-ness and now-ness, even when it isn't perfectness.  Just let that sentence find some wiggle room in your life right now.

God's entrance was amid the hubbub and hectic, but the not the cause of it.  Caesar thought he was in charge.  He thought he was the puppet master making everyone move around, but what he really unearthed and unsettled was nothing short of the sacred entering into our world.  Caesar thought he was in power amid his palace, but God's grace broke in another way, albeit out of the way place called, "Bethlehem".  This story needs space to sit and sink in.  So, go ahead and play this brief video again inviting God into your messy, worry, frazzled, even frantic self.  Because of God can be comfortable in a manger and barn, then God might find room at the inn of our hearts, if only we notice God's desire to come in and stay for awhile.

Prayer: Come, o come, God into this moment, messy and disorganized, not to help me fix everything but to be with me here and now.    

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

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 one of blessing.  They come to pronounce peace to all, in response there is a stillness of the whole earth.  That is a kind of liminal space where both song and silence co-exist.  A space between sound and stillness.  A space that is rare in a world filled (overflowing) with noise.  As I type, outside someone is cutting trees, the sound of chainsaws mix and mingle with the words Ella sings.  I could be frustrated by this.  I could go find a good pair of noise canceling ear phones and shut out the world.  Or I could remember that the first night of God's arrival was not as silent as we sometimes have made it out to be.  There was a crowded streets, voices filling the air waves, just the noise of everyone being together.  There was a hum hovering in the air that night.  That is the space the angel's song enters into.  It was a weary world that the notes of the angels broke into.  My hunch is that many did not hear the song or feeling the blessing.  It is easy when the weariness of this world gets too much of us, when we are constantly on the go, always moving, that we miss the music of mystery God is still singing.  The Carol references, "Babel", which is what a lot of what we hear today might be classified as.  Yet, the invitation is to listen closer, for even amid the noise, noise, noise (bonus points for those who just got my Grinch Stole Christmas reference there), there is a sacredness.  The Grinch reminds all of us that sometimes what we are expecting to hear is not actually what we encounter.  The Grinch thought after he stole Christmas from the Whos down in Whoville there would be weeping and gnashing of teeth...but he gets a hymn.  A hymn that doesn't come down, but raises up.  A hymn that disrupts and interrupts (just like the workers using those chainsaws).  Sometimes it isn't always sweet, sentimental music that God sings, but a melody we were not expecting, but nevertheless lets us know that we are in the presence of God.  May these Carols continue to help guide us in ways that what we are hearing around us truly teaches and tells us about God's presence that is here and now in our lives.

Prayer: God, in the melody of the voices I hear around me, help me hear and discern Your still singing voice in those I encounter.  Amen.  

Monday, December 11, 2017

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, "God isn't sitting around all week anxiously waiting for our Call to Worship."  But what God longs for is a connection that is life-giving and life-changing.  When we come, with faith spilling forth from our lips, that is what we are joining.

 Second, there is a joy-filled-ness to this version that beckons me and draws me close.  When the group sings about "coming joyful and triumphant," it is more than words, they become a lived reality. When you consider that the Word/Wisdom is becoming flesh, as John 1 says, I hear that/experience that promise in this version.  Words are more than simply vehicles that convey an idea.  Words (as Rabbi Heschel said) do create worlds.  Sometimes those worlds are ones where we want to dwell.  Other times, I would rather put up a for sale sign and move out of the world a person's words created.  Sometimes are words are exciting, other times boring, lulling us to sleep.  Sometimes words open up possibilities and other times they slam shut the door.

If you had to describe the world that this particular Carol created, what would it be?  Not just this version, all three together.  Would it be a colorful world or one of gray serious somberness?  Would it be a world where you would want to live or excuse yourself?  Would it be whimsical or cause weariness?  And, as always, why?  Why that reaction?

The world these words create for me has Dr. Suess like shapes and playfulness.  I come not as a command or demand, but dancing joyfully (even though I can't dance).  I come for the fun and because my soul suggests that such an invitation doesn't always come my way, so I'd better make good on this one.  The world these words create as me to do more than observe, I am pulled into singing out at the top of my lungs.  It is a world where I want to linger and live.  And while the world that the words of the news and headlines create might sing another song, it isn't as though one is true and the other false.  Both/and might help us sense God's word made flesh here and now.  So, come on, play the video again and join me in singing.

Prayer: Beckoning God who creates and crafts music that sets our souls soaring, thank you for the constant invitation to sing along.  Amen. 

Sunday, December 10, 2017

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 again...as you exhale let out a very loud sigh.

Breathing is central to singing and to life.  If we join with the choir of angels belting out in gusto to God, we need to breathe to support and sustain the notes.  We need to breathe in order to support and sustain our very life.  We need to breathe in God's presence here and now in this moment as these words wash over us.  We need to breathe and simply be.

So, listen again breathing rhythmically with this hymn...and if you want to join in singing, that would be even better.

Prayer:  Help us pray twice this day, O God, as we let these words of prayer and praise guide us closer to the barn where You are born.  Amen.  

Saturday, December 9, 2017

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 coat...car...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, people in my church...but what commercials are trying to tell us at this time of year is that somehow we can buy that adoration on Christmas morning with a piece of jewelry or Lexus with a big red bow in our driveway.  I am not sure where the person was keeping that car until Christmas morning or who exactly buys a car for Christmas?  Not exactly my experience!  But adoration...like love and respect as the Beatles and Aretha Franklin respectively taught us...cannot be purchased and don't come pre-packaged ~ as though those qualities are manufactured somewhere else.  Adoration - love and respect - are made in our lives...in our words and daily actions.  

We are heading to Bethlehem for adoration...which brings up the second meaning of this word...'to worship or to venerate.'  This kind of prayer posture...we bring our love and respect to a vulnerable baby because this is God's love and respect for us in flesh, breath, and bone.  What is evoked with Emmanuel is what love and respect and worship looks like, smells like, and feels like.  An adoration that is honest and open and uncontrollable.  This is why I so love the passion of Nat King Cole's voice, I not only want to listen - but sing along. Which is really the whole point of this Carol...not to just sit back and be entertained, but to enter the fray and be part of the joyful worship of the One who beckons all of us to come to Bethlehem so that our soul might feel its worthy and sing out joyfully.

Prayer: As we come, inch closer, O God...come near to keep us moving faithfully forward.  Let each step toward the straw be filled with love, respect, and worship.  Amen.     

Friday, December 8, 2017

Carol Two: Come Thou Long Expected Jesus


Listen to this version of our second Carol...pay 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 guess we can talk about humble beginnings. But the point of Jesus is Christmas is not something to leave behind.  It is actually the key to the whole story.  If we don't want to linger in the scratchy straw, next to shepherds of questionable hygiene, we might be missing the point.  This is more than likely why we repeat Advent every year, because this big, bold, scandalously truth needs to keep working and wearing on us - day after day - year after year.

Let that Spirit make room in Your heart this day...and listen to this beautiful rendition again because it makes me smile and warms my soul better than a sugar cookie straight from the oven.

Prayer: Enter in my heart, O God, for You alone are the One who can strengthen and steer and sustain my whole life.  Amen.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

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 feel a surge of ideas...it is the fear of failing kicking in.  But fear isn't always great.  It can blur our vision and blind our thinking.  So often fear teaches and tells us that either the brokenness is always your fault OR it is always someone else to blame - those people.  So, Gilbert, says you need to take fear on your journey but it cannot ride in the front seat or pick the radio station!

To be released from fear is a prayerful plea for people in all times and places.  In Jesus' day the cross was a symbol of fear - a way to keep the masses in line.  In our day we have been taught to fear the other.  When we are constantly surrounded by bad news, good news always seems like a bit of a fairy tale.  

What fears do you need to leave behind this year?
What sin (that is to say brokenness - or anger you keep feeding/fueling - or pain) do you need to leave in this year have so next year (which is waiting for us at the back barn door when we exit the stable) can sing a new song to your heart?

Listen again to the Carol holding onto these thoughts/ideas/insights as you do.

Prayer: I long for joy of God, so help me set down the other shards of life to make room for You, O God.  Amen.


Wednesday, December 6, 2017

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 is true for these December days.  Intentional prayerful-ness matters.  Thoughtfulness and carefulness matters.  It is easy to get swept into the hustle and bustle rather than the savory-ness of God's pace.  Which is why I think it is a good practice to start each day by listening to a Carol, and more to the point, listening to what God might be trying to sing to us through that Carol.  So, where do you need the shadows of night to be dispelled?  Where might you long for the hearts of all humankind to be bound up in grace/love/peace?   Those questions matter and can help us as we take another step toward Bethlehem this day.

Prayer: Journeying God of wisdom, light, and love...help me slow down enough to Your pace today rather than demanded You keep up with me.  Let that truth compel and care for my whole life.  Amen. 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

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 first thought.  

God journeys with the People of Israel through the wilderness.  God tents with them ~ with is an echo of the Gospel of John saying that, "The Word became flesh and moved into our neighborhoods."  God journeys with us through the wilderness of our life.  Then, when the time was right, God and Moses chit chatting on Mount Sinai through a cloud.  But it wasn't only majesty and awe, but also fear.  Fear because having God that close and personal isn't exactly what the church has taught us.  We have kept God up and out rather than down and in.  We preach God as the stern judge, rather than the compassionate, caring One right next to us.  We do this so God stays distant and we can still feel in control/charge.  

Are there ways you keep God at arm's length?  I don't ask that to awaken any guilt.  So, just go ahead and set that aside.  I'll wait.  I keep God at arm's length when I race through my day rather than starting in prayer.  When I want to race to my conclusions rather than pausing to ask, wait, for what God is up to?  I keep God at arm's length when I think it is all up to me, rather than leaning into the ever lasting arms of God.  

Listen for the coming of Emmanuel right into the messy middle of your life today.  Let God rummage and roam around...not like a drill sergeant pointing out the flaws but as a co-creator who can help us envision another way of living.  One of my favorite quotes for Richard Rohr is that, "We cannot think our way into a new way of living (see post from yesterday), we have to live our way into a new way of thinking."  That is a what Advent is all about if we let, trust in the slow work of the Spirit.

Prayer:  Enter in, O God, with a tenacious love and tender grace I need for this day.  Amen. 

Monday, December 4, 2017

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 is better, but I still enjoy one every now and then.  We know that certain behavior (smoking or excessive drinking or shopping on credit we cannot pay off) has negative ramifications on our lives.  Yet, those problems still exist...not because of a lack of information, but a lack of ability for transformation.

You see, the wisdom I long for transforms my life.  A kind of truth that not only nudges me, a truth that takes me by the hand and says emphatically, "You will go here."  And yet, God's wisdom doesn't insist, it exists...it doesn't demand but invites us into a holy mystery. 

How do we listen for the knowledge of God to teach us?  I think it means slowing down and truly listening.  I find words of hymns and poems to be some of the most helpful ways of hearing, really hearing, what God is up to in my life.  Listening for the words that wrap around my soul with bands of love.  I invite you to write down the places you long for wisdom.  Perhaps in a relationship with a family member or a situation or an event or way to be.  What are those places and people for whom you would like wisdom/knowledge/God's guidance?  Then wait.  Not passively as though God will text you, but wait actively and attentively.  Read some poems, keep listening to music, slow down so your own shy soul can get a word in edge wise.  It may not come immediately, but over the course of days and weeks leading up to Christmas, I believe the work of the Spirit works in our lives.

Prayer:  God of wisdom slowly entering our lives, help us patiently and persistently be open to You in these December days.  Amen.  

Sunday, December 3, 2017

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 sound of your own voice as you toss that word gently out into the universe.  In this way, we are longing deeply for the arrival of something/someone.  Like medical test results, a relative to walk through the door, or a relationship to be healed/made whole.  In this case, the word, "Come" doesn't fall from our lips as though we are in control/charge, but spoken in such a way that we realize our own limitations and that this single syllable word might be our own chance.  Do you sense the difference?  Do you have moments when you have shouted out, "Come" and times when it has been your hail mary prayer toward God?  

What we are longing for, preparing for, wanting to come in the season of Advent is the arrival of God's presence in our life.  The paradox is that: God is already here right now.  Maybe what we are longing for is actually our own awareness of that truth.  Maybe it is less about preparing a space for God, but rather making more room for God in our crowded lives.  The deeper paradox is that we try to do this amid the hustle, bustle crowded calendar, overflowing, racing, running around time known as December.  When the world seems collectively in a frenzy and frazzled, we slow down.  We do this not because God cannot keep up with us, but because the truth is that the blur of life can cause our soul to wheeze and our minds to whirl and our hearts to feel wiped out.  We slow down lest we miss the traces of God's grace.  

So, go ahead, listen to music and watch the video again letting that one word, "Come" sit on the tip of your tongue.  What is that longing, restlessness, waiting prayer you pray will be answered with some arrival in these December days?

Prayer:
Come, O God, not as a demand or decree, but as our most heartfelt prayer to awake and be aware of the nearness of thee.  Amen.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

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 for space so you could first name your favorite Carol (after all that is what is most important)...and secondly because I want you to get into the groove of listening.  Really listening.  I want us to hear these words....let goosebumps race, run up and down our arms.  I want these words to be breathed into your being.  John 1 says that, "The Word becomes flesh"...that is what I want with these Carols.  Let them get caught up in your DNA so that you are singing them all day.  Let them guide you prayerfully to the manager, the container for God that bursts into a barn (which we will talk about as the most ludicrous moment ever...because it worked and still works).  God entering in not when everything was perfect, but an absolute mess.  God not in a place of power, but poverty.  God not among even good church people like you and me, but among shepherds.  Really?  This kind of truth has be to told with a slant (thanks to Emily Dickenson for that image).  So, this will take time.  To listen.  To listen again.  To listen a third time and prayerfully reflect each day on these carols.

Alright now we can begin.

Really, I mean it.

Grace and peace everyone....