Almost a year ago, I wrote a post linking to Veronica over at Toddled Dredge because I was impressed that she decorated a cake with Nutella frosting.That alone qualifies her as a kindred spirit.Then I noticed her tagline: “Contemplative mom with crackers.”Once again, I felt a connection–this time with the contemplative thing. Well, and the crackers. Because my kids and I do like crackers…especially with Nutella.I popped over recently and discovered that she is writing devotional, Bible-study-style posts throughout the 12 days of Christmas. I’ve been impressed by her in-depth analysis of the geneology of Christ as recorded by Matthew.She introduces the 12 Days of Christmas posts here.The first day is, appropriately enough, about Jesus, the son of David.Second, about Tamar.Third day, Rahab.Fourth, on Ruth.Fifth, she was unable to post. Too bad for us, but I totally understand.Today’s is the Sixth, regarding Bathsheba.Now, if we were referencing the song, today would be the six geese a’laying.Years ago, I had heard somewhere that the Twelve Days of Christmas may have intended to use the catchy, repetitive tune and numbers to remind people of various scriptures, books of the Bible, and basic beliefs and truths of our faith. I couldn’t remember what each of the numbers stood for, however, so…a click over to Google, tippity-tap, t-w-e-l-v-e-d-a-y-s-o-f-c-h-r-i-s-t-m-a-s.*SEARCH*I arrived here. It provides the possible correlations for each of the numbers.Today’s six geese can remind us of the six days of creation, confessing God as Creator and Sustainer of the world.This morning at church, I shook hands with the gentleman sitting next to me and hoped he would have a happy new year’s celebration. He responded, “Well, technically we’re in the midst of the twelve days of Christmas, so we can still say Merry Christmas!”"Ah, that’s true,” I said. “Until January 6th, right? Epiphany?”"That’s right!” Our church doesn’t follow a liturgical calendar. I think he was a little surprised that I knew what he was talking about. I should have mentioned the little cake with the bean or almond baked in it–perhaps that would have made even more of an impression. It helps to have married a European. We were in Belgium one year for Epiphany, so The Belgian Wonder’s family went to the bakery to buy a little King’s cake so I could see what it looked–and tasted–like. I guess it was tasty. I can’t remember anything except marveling that they actually baked a bean inside it. One of his nieces got the piece with the bean and triumphantly wore a flimsy paper crown. But, as usual, I digress.”What’s today?” I asked the man this morning at church. “Is it the fifth day?”He hurriedly counted and agreed that he thought maybe it was. “Five golden rings, eh?” I said.He nodded. “Yes, yes. So…Merry Christmas!”"Merry Christmas!”I know we were off a day, but do you know what the five golden rings were to remind us of?You can try to guess. Then click on the link if you haven’t already and scroll down.With that, late on this sixth day, I bid you good night.Oh, and as the man at church pointed out, I can still wish you a very Merry Christmas!
Not to be confused with United Nations Resolutions, New Year’s Un-Resolutions can be a helpful tool during this season of dreaming and goal-setting.In U.S. News & World Report (December 31, 2007/January 7, 2008, p. 50), they suggest that people make a “Not-to-Do List,” determining what they don’t want to do.The thought behind this is that time is finite–if we make a list of things we want to start doing, we’ll need to find the time. One practical way to do so is to develop a corresponding list of things to stop doing. If, for example, we want to read more, then we could write on our un-list that we will first eliminate several hours of TV watching or Internet surfing.Also, listing what we do not want to do helps us focus on our primary calling, whatever that may be. This exercise scrapes away the time-wasters and side-trackers that pull us away from our top goals. It’s a reminder that there are a lot of things that suck away our time and attention and keep us from achieving our top resolutions and goals.So as you think through this year’s intentions, goals, resolutions, dreams, etc., come up with a corresponding not-to-do list of un-resolutions.Write them down.And then….Don’t do them.
At an open house held after the Christmas Eve service, I took note of a beautiful cuckoo clock hanging on the host’s family room wall.”A cuckoo clock!” I exclaimed.”I grew up in a home with a cuckoo clock,” the host explained, “and I wanted my kids to enjoy one, too.”I looked at The Belgian Wonder. He looked at me.”Do we still have it?” he asked.”We sure do,” I answered. And when we got home, I rummaged around the basement and found the small cardboard box housing our own small cuckoo clock. We bought it on our honeymoon when we passed through Germany, and toted it all the way home in a carry-on bag.We’d hung it in our old home, but took it down when our little kids found the dangling chains irresistible and would tug at them. It’s been in storage for years.The Belgian Wonder tapped a nail into the wall and we hung it yesterday. We started up the pendulum and slowly turned the hands to mark the hour.The little door flew open and the plastic bird poked out its head. He wheezed.”Oh, phooey,” I complained. “It’s lost its song.”"Well, it still ticks,” observed one of the girls.To set the time, I had to work my way around the clock, so the bird got a lot of exercise. By the time I got to eleven o’clock, he started to utter a breathy ”khoo.” “(pause)-khoo…(pause)-khoo…(pause)-khoo.”Later that night, I was standing near the clock when 10:00 p.m. rolled around.Out popped the bird.”Cuckoo! Cuckoo! Cuckoo….”"Hey! Hey, did you hear that?” The rest of the family rushed to listen to his little song. After years of neglect, he finally found his voice. He just needed to warm up and get some practice.He must have puffed out whatever dust was holding him back. What a delightful moment, hearing the little bird come to life!The cuckoo made me think of a story I read recently. FlyLady had directed her subscribers to it. It was about a pastor who, after teaching the parable of the talents, entrusted each adult congregant with $50 and each child with $10. They were given seven weeks to double the amount, the proceeds going toward their missions program.The article goes on to highlight story after story of people resurrecting dusty, forgotten gifts and talents in order to raise that money. They invested their $50 in the supplies or materials needed, and then, drawing from old abilities, they built and sewed and cooked and created all kinds of objects and opportunities that they would never have thought of, had the pastor not issued that challenge.As I read about those people, I wondered if I’ve stuffed away some old skills and abilities. I wonder if I’ve neglected some talents and with a little exercise, they could sing again?I remembered how I used to enjoy baking bread. And I did notice a needlepoint project stuffed in a plastic storage box in the basement. And in another container sat a half-finished afghan I started to crochet years ago. Oh, and I saw my old clarinet case on the floor in the closet this week.So I just wonder….maybe it’s time to reacquaint myself with some fingering charts or thread a needle and see what pattern I selected over a decade ago to stitch?As I typed this, the cuckoo cheerily announced the hour. How happy to be out in the open, dusted and free to express itself!I wonder if I would feel the same, were I to bring out the types of projects I used to enjoy?Perhaps we all would enjoy revisiting old pleasures–just grab a dust rag and be prepared to wheeze a little while warming up.
Here are several ways to accomplish both goals:
You can buy an overpriced corporate-designed concept as a belated Christmas gift for the blogger hoping to follow through with fitness resolutions. It’s called The Walkstation, a treadmill rigged up with a laptop, and users claim that if you walk slowly enough (evidently the Walkstation won’t let you go fast even if you want to), you can type and walk at the same time, burning around 1,000 extra calories per day without breaking a sweat. Here’s a rather uninspiring but short video of a businessman trying it out…at least you can see the setup…and how slow the treadmill rolls.
There’s a similar product called Walk N Work for about $500, and…
Here’s yet another item called The Net Runner , a strappy thing that costs around $100, made of webbing that supposedly attaches any sized laptop to any treadmill-type console (I guess it can work for a bike, climbing machine, or elliptical as well as a treadmill).
So, what do you think? Could you do it? Could you walk and type and concentrate at the same time? Or do you think you would lose productivity and focus?Or, worse yet, do you fear that you would lose your balance and slip even at an unbelievably slow pace?
You probably know that the King James Version of Luke 2:14 reads like this:”Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”Good will toward men.You can imagine the six or seven drafts of Goodwill-themed posts that have run through my mind in the past few days.But since I wrote about Goodwill recently without even mentioning the Christmas story connection, and I mentioned the Christmas story recently without even mentioning the Goodwill connection, I’ll just leave it alone.
He was—is—Christ the Lord.
This was a sign to the shepherds: They found a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.
And then a great company of the heavenly host appeared praising God and saying,
Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men
on whom his favor rests.
And to think that’s just part of the story!
I know you’ve heard it before. You may have just heard it this past week on the Charlie Brown Christmas special when Linus recites it. We heard it read at the Christmas Eve service this very evening by the elder with the flannel-blanket voice. It’s great to be read to by someone with a voice like flannel, so smooth and reassuring.
But even if your own elders read it from the front of the church on Christmas Eve, it bears repeating, that old, old story; so I thought I’d just remind you here in the blog, in case you’re drowning in ribbons and wrapping paper and it slipped your mind.
The heavenly host sang Glory to God in the highest to those shepherds in the fields, while nearby in the town of Bethlehem lay God in the lowest, lowly, in the manger.
Glory to God in the highest for being willing to stoop so low!
Glory to God in the lowest; that is, God with us, down here, in the muck and mire of life, fully God, fully human as a newborn. Immanuel.
As Jesus, He came from the highest to walk with the lowest. To those who walked with Him and ran to be near Him, he offered truth, healing, and eventually, by way of suffering and blood and death on the cross, he offered forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life for all who believe.
He rose again. He ascended to heaven to sit exalted at the right hand of God the Father…He is in the highest again, sending His Spirit to hearts that receive Him still.He made the impossible possible, in an impossible way. Today, still, the impossible is possible.
Nothing is impossible with God.
No wonder the angels sang.
Glory to God in the highest
and on earth peace to men
on whom His favor rests!
It’s after midnight here in the Midwest, so….Merry Christmas!
If you haven’t been to Goodwill for a while–or ever–here’s an idea:This weekend, see if you can locate one near you (or a Salvation Army or other large second-hand store).And then, on your way home from the mall, just step inside the doors of the Goodwill. You don’t have to buy or even touch anything if that creeps you out–just step in and look around.As you scan the racks of clothes and aisles of toys and plates and fondue pots and exercise machines and purses and belts and lamps and alarm clocks, think to yourself:Is that Ann Kroeker over there trying on roller blades?No, I’m kidding. Well, I’d kind of like roller blades, as that was one of the risks I intended to take this past year and never attempted. But I digress.Try thinking this to yourself, instead:Once upon a time, many of these items were Christmas presents. And now….A year ago, or two or three, somebody drove all around town looking for just the right thing. He found it, wrapped it up, and gave it to the person on his list. It was given with love, let’s hope, and was fully enjoyed, let’s hope; but, eventually it made its way here.Don’t get me wrong–it’s sure fun to give gifts to the people we love. I think about my family while I’m in the stores, wondering if this or that would be the right gift and hoping they love what they open from us on Christmas Day. I don’t think there’s anything intrinsically wrong with that–in fact, I think that’s the delight of the gift exchange part of Christmas.When the giving and receiving flows from a deep appreciation of God’s love, there’s another layer of meaning–the gifts we give each other are a small symbol of the love we received from Him, through Jesus, whom we seek to honor during this time chosen to celebrate the Incarnation.But in the end, the stuff, the items that we can obsess and fret about during this stressful countdown to Tuesday, “all just goes to the curb eventually,” as Shalee said in the comments of my last post.Or, as a friend of mine told me one time as she quoted an African who visited America for the first time, “It’s all gonna burn.”And in the meantime, before hitting the trash can or burning up in the End Times, that elusive item you’ve been out shopping for may very well make a stop at Goodwill one day in the future.And, actually, there’s a good chance that it will sojourn at my house if I find it in the mountain of donated goods, because I’m guessing you gave a cool gift that I would enjoy even if it’s scuffed up a bit.But my trips to Goodwill and the shopping in “real” stores this season remind me how fleeting these worldly goods are compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus.They’re so empty compared to the relationships God has given us on this earth in which we give and receive, celebrate and struggle through, love and serve.We’ll go ahead and shop, of course. We’ll enjoy expressing love through giving.But if we can’t find just the right thing, or we’re not sure about the color or size, or if the traffic is maddening, or somebody reaches past us to grab the last item on the shelf…the very item we were searching for…We’ll think of Goodwill.That very item will be sitting on one of its shelves one day.And that always gives me healthy perspective.Before I log off, though, I can’t help wondering: What did you buy this year?I’m just curious, because I might keep an eye open for it myself.In a year or two.At Goodwill.
During a quick stop at Target today, my oldest daughter and I bumped into The Boy’s preschool teacher from last year.I asked about school, and she admitted it was a hard year. One of the moms, she said, passed away this week after a long battle with cancer.”They were believers,” she said, “and modeled to all of us what really matters. They lived well. They made every moment count. They spent so much time together making memories.”But that wasn’t all. She reminded me of a tragic local story associated with our recent snowstorm–a van slipped down a slope and into a retention pond. Nobody made it out.The victims were her neighbors.This was not the typical Merry Christmas exchange I’ve enjoyed while out and about–nor has it become the typical Merry Christmas blog post, now that I’m relating it here–but her words were powerful to me. Prior to crossing paths with her, my daughter and I had been thinking about games and gifts.”Kind of puts all this in perspective, doesn’t it?” I said. “All of this [I gestured to the products hanging on the wall next to us] is just….stuff.”She nodded. “It’s true. I keep telling my kids that we don’t need this. We need to be sure we’re focused on each other. That’s what counts. None of this [she, too, nodded toward the aisle] matters.”Suddenly aware of how serious our conversation had become, she forced a grin and suddenly said, “Well! You all have a very Merry Christmas! No more snow, right?”I nodded. She didn’t have to pretend to be “up.” I appreciated the honesty. I needed the reminder.As I finish my shopping this week, I, too, need to remember that it’s all just stuff. I don’t know if my daughter needed to hear that, too, but she was standing there the entire time.It’s all just stuff.In the midst of the rushing, fretting, ordering, and wrapping, don’t forget about the best gifts, the truest, most precious gifts of family, friends, and faith.They, not those items tucked under the tree, are the treasures.For actual tips, return to Rocks In My Dryer’s last-minute Christmas edition.Or poke around my collection of past Works For Me Wednesday ideas.
Snowed in until about 10:30 a.m. this morning by low priority, unplowed subdivision roads, we skipped church.Sunday School classes were cancelled, but I think that they went ahead and held church for anyone who could make it. A lot of people live in the surrounding neighborhoods, so they might have had a good turnout from them and the bolder folks who crave a little adventure.We, wimpier in winter than most Hoosiers, live about 20 minutes away on a dry-pavement, low-traffic day. The cars wore a layer of ice over everything from the windshield wipers to the door handles. It would have taken us a while just to get inside. A while longer to shovel the driveway. Then there were the drifted streets.I, wimpiest of all, proposed that we stay home and make Jesse Tree ornaments.Everybody cheered and stayed in their jammies. We ate oatmeal and English muffins. I made hot tea; The Belgian Wonder brewed some coffee. The kids poured juice.I printed off some devotional thoughts with Scripture passages along with some line drawings that the kids could color.It was all very relaxed and spontaneous.The trouble with spontaneity is that things don’t always go smoothly. While the Jesse Tree idea had potential, I think that by throwing it together, I held it back a little.First, as I said, I printed off this simple devotional, which goes with these preprinted ornaments. I should have just used that combination and kept things simple.But the kids wanted to cut and color, so instead of the preprinted ornaments, I substituted these extremely simple line drawing ornaments. The drawings and the readings didn’t match. That was a bit confusing for the kids.We read some of the passages and talked about the original story. Then I improvised some questions that led to a discussion about how each story pointed to Jesus (these were not always in the devotional itself). The ram represents the story of Abraham sacrificing Isaac, but there’s no mention of Jesus’ sacrifice. Similarly, they included the Passover Lamb story, but didn’t point out that Christ is our Passover Lamb. They may do this on purpose, expecting the parents to do a little more work.I was impressed with the children’s ability to tap into their years of AWANA Bible memorization and Bible stories read at home and retold with felt figures in Sunday School. They made all kinds of connections between the Old Testament stories and Jesus’ fulfillment of the Law and Prophets.I kept thinking about the two on the road to Emmaus. The risen but not yet ascended Jesus started walking alongside them, but they were kept from recognizing Him. They told Jesus all that had just transpired in Jerusalem. He responded, saying, “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?”And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.Wouldn’t that have been wonderful, to hear the Lord Himself explain how all of the prophecies and stories pointed to Him? No wonder their hearts were burning within them! This Jesse Tree discussion made me think of that story in Luke, as we tried to look back to Moses and the Prophets, hunting for the clues that were there all along; signs that this Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God and Son of Man, the Savior of the World.And it was all happening at the Kroeker’s kitchen table.We called out stories and Scripture passages that we thought might relate, each child taking turns retelling the stories. Then we would corporately ponder how accurate or probable the connections were. It was a wider perspective than we usually take during Advent. I enjoyed the exercise very much, as the stories were unified by Jesus Himself. Then came our minor problem–the kids colored in confusion, wondering where the missing ornaments were, and what were the extras? They would hold them up and ask, “Is this one with the wheat supposed to be about Joseph saving the people from famine? Or is this coat supposed to be his?” We sorted them out and made sense out of it as they colored and cut, punched holes and placed them on the little tree I’d set up in the corner of the dining room.Overall, the experiment in Jesse Tree devotions went well, but I recommend not trying to invent something on the fly. Instead of attempting to mix and match, stick with a package concept–one (showing the line drawing versions with their respective devotional), or the other (the preprinted ornaments with their devotions), or something else entirely.That last one, by the way, has a devotional page written at a higher level for the parents to ponder. I haven’t studied it, but at first glance it looks informative.Tonight after dinner, we’ll light the next Advent candle. As I mentioned last week, the candle could represent:Joy, Shepherds, or John the Baptist.Since the angel of the Lord that appeared to the Shepherds said, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people” (emphasis added), I think with one story we can cover two out of the three symbolic possibilities.Rejoice!
To celebrate a birthday in our family, we all went to an indoor water park.We arranged this special outing long before we knew a winter storm warning would be in effect for our area, but the destination was close to home; we figured we could inch home if we had to.When we arrived, the lifeguards were on a break and everybody was sitting around waiting for them to blow their whistles. My kids, staring at the clear, heavily chlorinated water, danced and hopped, unable to contain their excitement.”This is the best day of my life!” exclaimed the birthday girl. She hadn’t even yet dipped a single toe in the water. After ten years, she finally has her wish–a pool-centered celebration.While performing something like an impromptu jig, The Boy observed, “I have no need for caffeine–I’m using happiness for energy!”Happiness: the natural high. If only it were possible to capture and bottle some of that jiggling, high-energy happiness to fuel me on a low day…or to share with others…The whistle blew, and, fueled by happiness, they splashed, swam, dove, slid, screamed, bobbed, and floated away the day while on the other side of the windows, we could see snowflakes pile up on each other in the parking lot.We had escaped to an artificially sustained bubble of denial for a day, but eventually we had to pull on long pants, long sleeves, long coats, and tall boots in order to return home and shovel the driveway. The roads weren’t bad, in spite of the weather predictions. We made it home splattering our way through a kind of slush.As dreamy as it is for this Midwestern family to fantasize about a warm climate, we live in a part of the country that spits sleet and drops snow and cranks down the temperatures into the single digits.Unfortunately, this is reality.And, after a day of high-energy bliss, we have returned to it, shivering.Still happy, but shivering.