Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Most Unusual Christmas

I just read a post by Matt at The Church of No People about Christmas Vegans. They are the people who make you feel guilty for the way you celebrate Christmas (could also apply to other cultural/religious holidays). It made me reflect back on some memorable Christmases past.

There was the Christmas when we were deep into reconstruction on our old farmhouse and we learned of a missionary family (with 4 kids) who needed a place to stay during the month of December. We invited them to stay with us and our 7 year old son. One of our daughters had just gotten married after Thanksgiving, so her bedroom was available, and we moved our son into a hallway. His bedroom became a dormatory for three of the other kids, while their baby slept in their room. Our oldest daughter was coming home from college for Christmas, and we had constructed a new bedroom for her in the new basement. There was no flooring in the new kitchen or dining room, just plywood subfloor. The original kitchen was a "black hole" in the middle of the house, with the living room just beyond. Carpenters coming every day. And into that mess, we inserted 6 more people (strangers), our college student daughter, and also a German student from the local Bible school. She got the cot in Gail's room. Everybody was stretched, or compressed, depending upon how you looked at it. It was a truly memorable Christmas. Probably the kind with which Jesus could identify.

What was your most memorable Christmas experience?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

100 Things Meme

Blogging for the lazy blogger....Just the thing when I'm too busy to think! This came by way of Alan Knox at The Assembling of the Church (and he's not too busy to think!). Just copy the list and highlight the things you've done. Give your readers MUCH more than they ever wanted to know about you.

1. Started your own blog
2. Slept under the stars (backyard camping)
3. Played in a band
4. Visited Hawaii (layover on the way to Asia--I've never seen it by daylight!)
5. Watched a meteor shower (while sleeping under the stars)
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sang a solo
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm (best done in August from the front porch)
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch (needlework)
15. Adopted a child (37 years ago...seems like yesterday!)
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown your own vegetables (and canned or froze them)
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight (not recently, though)
22. Hitch hiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill (easy to do when you're self-employed)
24. Built a snow fort (with tunnels)
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse (a little scary--I was just a kid and not expecting it)
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset (I prefer sunsets :) to sunrises)
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise (Alaska)
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person (majestic, but noisy)
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors (the North of England & Holland)
35. Seen an Amish community (in Indiana)
36. Taught yourself a new language (bits of Spanish)
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied. (Contentment is a blessing from the Lord)
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke.
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight (Lake Michigan)
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had your portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain (it must have been raining at least one of those times)
53. Played in the mud (no kissing, just mud)
54. Gone to a drive-in theater (the cheap date of the '60's...only thing cheaper was a walk along Lake Michigan)
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business (1. sold antiques 2. Scents of Home...custom-blended potpourri, eye pillows, designer decorator pillows, beeswax ornaments)
58. Taken a martial arts class.
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies (does selling cookies at 4-H bake sales count?)
62. Gone whale watching (in Alaska)
63. Got flowers for no reason (the first dandelions of the season from my kids and grandkids)
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma (O positive)
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check (not on purpose!)
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy (belonging to my children)
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten caviar
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone (in my foot)
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car (willow green '66 Chevy Nova--what were we thinking?)
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper (always the worst possible pose)
85. Read the entire Bible (what a blessing to begin to see the whole picture!)
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating.
88. Had chickenpox (also measles, mumps, German measles)
89. Saved someone’s life.
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one (my Dad this past August)
94. Had a baby (birthed 2, adopted 1--adopting is easier on the figure :))
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a mobile phone
99. Been stung by a bee (now that hurt!)
100. Read an entire book in one day (one of those days when I "called in sick")

That actually took longer than thinking. Now you try it, and tell me a little about yourself.
BTW---I'd like to know more about the lurker from Tempe, AZ.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Rebel Jesus

Lately I've been listening to Christmas songs and have been thinking a lot about how we approach not only the Incarnation of our Lord, but His on-going incarnation in believers today. How do we live out Christ's life on earth? How do we live His love and sacrifice before the world today?

The song that really convicted me to examine my own life is one that Jackson Brown sings on the Chieftains' "Bells of Dublin" album. Read the lyrics and tell me what you think.

All the streets are filled with laughter and light
And the music of the season
And the merchants windows are all bright
With the faces of the children
And the families hurrying to their homes
As the sky darkens and freezes
They’ll be gathering around the hearths and tales
Giving thanks for all God’s graces
And the birth of the rebel Jesus

Well they call him by the prince of peace
And they call him by the savior
And they pray to him upon the seas
And in every bold endeavor
As they fill his churches with their pride and gold
And their faith in him increases
But they’ve turned the nature that I worshiped in
From a temple to a robbers den
In the words of the rebel Jesus

We guard our world with locks and guns
And we guard our fine possessions
And once a year when Christmas comes
We give to our relations
And perhaps we give a little to the poor
If the generosity should seize us
But if any one of us should interfere
In the business of why they are poor
They’d get the same as the rebel Jesus

But please forgive me if I seem
To take the tone of judgement
For I’ve no wish to come between
This day and your enjoyment
In this life of hardship and of earthly toil
We have need for anything that frees us
So I bid you pleasure
And I bid you cheer
From a heathen and a pagan
On the side of the rebel Jesus.

Did that make you uncomfortable? Also, check out my post at Adven-urous.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Blog Comment Day

For those of you participating in blog comment day, you might check out the following blogs:

They are in no particular order, and it's a pretty eclectic list of interesting blogs. I've already commented on some of them--maybe you'd like to, too.

Get your mind stretched!

Sunday, November 30, 2008


It's been nearly a year since I've posted anything. Health issues...mine and other's, a career transition for my husband, the return of our kids from the mission field, and my father's death have really consumed my time. This has been a season of both loss and great blessing. And, through it all, God has been, and is, good. Truly I have much for which to thank Him.
As we begin to focus again on the miraculous and gracious birth of our Lord, I would like to share the following with you.
The Return of the King

One night, long ago when I was but a child, a curious figure sat awhile at our fire.

The December wind roared and whistled down the chimney, and we huddled close to the fender to grasp at the flame’s warmth. Cold crept silently in beneath the ancient windowsills and through the keyhole. Dark had fallen early; snow was swirling and dancing over the moors when the knocker clattered against the splintery oak door.

“And who can this be on such a night?” Mother wondered as she lifted the brass latch.

Blown in by the wind itself, a gnarled old man entered, accompanied by an aged sheepdog. Then the door slammed shut like some medieval portcullis, and our little castle held the winter storm at bay once more.

“Let me take your coat!” Father had already begun to brush the fine snow from the old man’s shoulders, as he led him toward the fire. The old dog plodded along behind like a faithful retainer accustomed to walking in his master’s shadow. He sank down beside him as Father offered the man an arm chair close to the hearth.

The old man said not a word as Mother brewed a fresh pot of tea and cut and buttered slices of fragrant soda bread. He warmed his hands at the smokey peat fire and seemed somehow to draw strength from it. We children hung back at the edges of the drama that was unfolding, not wanting to miss any of it.

Finally, as Mother set the tea tray on the little folding table next to his chair, he turned and spoke.

“Aye, and ‘tis a comfortable fire on a cold night. ‘Tis not everyone who would take in a stranger on such a night…Nor would they welcome his companion.”

“It would be a poor neighbor, indeed,” Father answered, “who would turn away either man or beast in this foul weather. What brings you to brave the elements tonight?”

“A lamb has strayed from my flock, and if ‘tis not recovered quickly, it will perish in this snow and wind. King,” he said, indicating the dog, “has led me as far as your door, and if we may rest awhile and warm ourselves, we will continue to search for it.”

“Surely,” said Mother kindly, “you are welcome. Stay as long as you must.”

The man quietly broke a piece of bread and bowed his head for a moment, then reached and shared it with his dog, scratching behind its ears affectionately as they ate. When he had finished eating and had at last set his teacup back on the tray, he turned to us again.

“You have been generous and kind,” he said, “and if you permit I will repay that kindness. Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have, I will give you.”

And with that, he began his tale.

“There was once a ruler,” he said, “ who returned to his own kingdom after doing battle in a far country. Mounted upon a pure white steed, he pranced along, clad in a snowy robe, jeweled sword at his side, golden spurs upon his heels. Heralds marched before him to trumpet his arrival. As they descended the mountain overlooking his capital city, they could see it bathed in light, haloed by its reflection from the clouds above.

Advancing to the thoroughfare leading to the main gate, they found it congested with traffic of all sorts—carts and wagons, horses, people on foot. Pilgrims were resolved to enter the city before nightfall; no one paid any heed to the king, though the heralds blew their trumpets and shouted to get their attention. Unguarded, the city gates stood open, and travelers crowded into the capital.

The open market was busy, busier than usual, and throngs of people were pressing toward a throne set in the center. There on the king’s golden throne sat a stranger, dressed in crimson velvet robes edged with purest white ermine. He had a benevolent smile, and a hearty laugh as he saluted those who milled about the throne, but his eyes were cold…black and steely. Parents seemed to be offering up their children for the usurper to bless as he beckoned them to bring the little ones to him. One or two perched on his knee, fascinated by his curly white beard, and whispered in his ear as he bent toward them.

The fragrance of precious spices and herbs—cinnamon and ginger and peppermint—mingled with heady musk and attar of roses. Bells chimed in the distance. Long lines of buyers crowded ‘round the stalls, jostling for attention, as they purchased imported foods, expensive clothing, exotic perfumes, and amusing trinkets for their children. Many struggled under their burdens as they carried bags of gaily wrapped parcels back to their homes, brushing past the king as though he were invisible. They seemed not to notice him at all in their anxiousness to leave the frenetic sights and sounds of the marketplace.

‘You, there!’ the king interrupted, as he tapped one man on the shoulder. ‘What is the occasion for all this frenzy? And who sits on the throne of the king?’

Impatiently, the man answered and gestured with his free hand at the festively decorated lampposts, ‘‘Tis the king’s birthday, sir. Ye must know that we celebrate always at this time of year—unless ye be an alien. ‘Tis always been done, ever since he left us to do battle against the dragon. And M’lord Niklas,’ he said, indicating the man on the throne, ‘he is regent here while the king is away. We do him homage, and he dispenses the king’s blessing in his place.’ Having finished his speech, the man shifted his load to the other shoulder. ‘Might I go, sir? My wife and little ones await me before nightfall.’

Dismissing him thoughtfully, the king dismounted and began to lead his horse through the hoards of people until he reached the pleasure dome, the source of the light that had attracted his eye when he first sighted the city. A glittering marquee invited him to enter…HAPPY BIRTHDAY…HAPPY BIRTHDAY…HAPPY BIRTHDAY… it beckoned.

‘Ah, I have been expected after all,’ the king murmured. ‘Perhaps word has come of my arrival, and my subjects will greet me here.’

At that, the doors opened and a group of revelers emerged, laughing and carelessly elbowing past the king. ‘Happy birthday!’ they shouted to each other as they went their separate ways, ‘Happy birthday!’ Yet, strangely, none seemed to notice the one whose birth they were celebrating.

Inside, bodies whirled as boisterous dance music blared from the ballroom. Lights oscillated with the sound as they reflected from gold lamè and shiny satin. The dancers’ garments vied for attention with the king’s royal robes; the heralding trumpet was lost in the beat of the drums and the resounding notes of the keyboard.

Disappointed by the dancers’ failure to recognize their own sovereign, he turned and led his horse farther along the street . His subjects all seemed to be celebrating the day of his birth…Had no one prepared for the day of his return?

Through the cold, crisp night air, the sound of singing reached his ears. Further down the street, he could see a band of people singing as they walked along. Occasionally they paused before one house or another and sang until the occupants opened their doors and blessed them with food and good will. As they came closer, the king could see that they were dressed alike, wearing the garb of his own household, each wearing the emblem of the king’s coat of arms upon his heart. They were bantering and laughing, singing birthday songs, and yet…and yet, they passed him by as though they did not even know him.

Houses glowed inside and out with strings of multi-hued lights and colorful figures depicting scenes from his own life. One bore a scene of his royal birth…but another boasted a spot-lighted figure of the pretender who sat upon his throne in the marketplace. Even the trees themselves were leaved with lights, each trying to outshine its neighbor and glorify its own master.

Within, he could see more trees decked with lights and banked with brightly wrapped presents that were being opened by both children and adults. It was a festive, cheerful scene until he heard the voices. Children whined with selfishness and discontent, adults snapped with irritation at each other and at their children, all in the name of the king’s birth. Saddened, he turned away.

Finally, he approached the great cathedral at the end of the city square. Angelic music poured from brightly lit doors as people entered to worship. The scent of incense mingled with pine boughs as he mounted the marble steps to that great chamber where he had been christened so many years ago. Now, on the anniversary of his birth, he was entering it again as the victorious defender of his people. Waving his heralds aside, he stepped confidently into the cathedral. He saw there, hanging above the altar, a portrait of himself as a infant. Surely here he would be recognized and welcomed! But, no, as he neared the sanctuary, an usher barred his way and said that all the seats had been filled. There was no room for him.

Rejected by his subjects, the king mounted his horse and rode to his palace. Crenulated walls and turrets loomed darkly before him. There was no halo of light there, no merry or inspiring music, no gaiety, no gifts. The place stood bleak and deserted except for a shaft of light from the window of the gatekeeper’s cottage and a curl of smoke from its chimney.

Dismounting, the king approached the weathered door and knocked. Immediately, the door was flung open and the face of the old gatekeeper lit up in surprise and welcome.

‘Your Majesty!,’ he shouted happily, ‘You’ve come back! I always knew you would! Come in, come in!’ At that, the loyal old man bowed himself to the floor before his sovereign.

Reaching down, the king gently grasped the man by his elbow and raised him up. ‘Of all my subjects,’ he said. ‘only you have faithfully awaited my return. You celebrate not my birth, but my victorious return to reclaim my kingdom. Today, I will sit with you at your table…and tomorrow, you shall sit at mine. Well done, good and faithful servant. No more will I call you servant, but friend and brother.’”

The fire had burnt low, and although I was tired, my heart was stirred by the story the old shepherd had told. We urged him to stay till morning, but he insisted that he and the dog must continue to search for that one lost sheep. So, with a slice of Mother’s good bread wrapped in a napkin in his pocket, he and King set off into the snowy darkness. But he promised some day to return.

And I…I am waiting.
© Kathleen Wynveen
Please contact me for permission to use this if you wish.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Foolish? Won't Get Fooled Again!

Think you can improve on God?
Go there--read this. This is one of Alan Knox' best posts yet!