Wednesday, December 31, 2008
For me, these are easy things, as they fit into my everyday life pretty easily, considering I work at a Christian school where I am grateful every day for the kids who make me laugh and the colleagues with whom I pray and serve. But she also suggests keeping a gratitude journal where we spend 15 to 30 minutes a day freely contemplating the things we appreciate and are grateful for in our lives. This forces us to focus on the good things and let go of the trials and frustrations.
Her discussion of faith cited studies that confirmed the healing power of prayer, and not just prayers you pray for yourself, but those you pray for others, too. Having many times experienced the power of prayer, both in my personal and professional life, I do not wonder at, or doubt, these studies.
And so, as the waning minutes of 2008 tick away, I am counting down the top five blessings in my life. And while I'm contemplating them, I am also offering up a prayer for continued health and wholeness in this new year.
5) I am grateful for the opportunities that come my way to make a difference. I pray that I do not fail to notice or follow up on them.
4) I am grateful for the friends in my life, both near and far, old and new. I pray that I can be as much a blessing to them as they are to me.
3) I am grateful for the work I've been given to do, for the people I work with, and for the way God has blessed us in that work. I pray that we will continue to grow in scope and influence.
2) I am grateful for my family, for our close friendship, for the relative good health of each. I pray for continued health and happiness for years to come.
1) I am grateful for the gift of life, eternal life, that we celebrate at this time. I pray that my life, and the life to come, will not disappoint the One who gave His all for each of us.
Happy New Year! Make it Bright!
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
I am your greatest asset or heaviest burden.
I will push you up to success or down to disappointment.
I am at your command.
Half the things you do might just as well be turned over to me,
For I can do them quickly, correctly, and profitably.
I am easily managed, just be firm with me.
Those who are great, I have made great.
Those who are failures, I have made failures.
I am not a machine, though I work with the precision of a
machine and the intelligence of a person.
You can run me for profit, or you can run me for ruin.
Show me how you want it done. Educate me. Train me.
Lead me. Reward me.
And I will then...do it automatically
I am your servant.
Who am I?
I am a habit.
Monday, December 29, 2008
Another blog I was reading today suggests choosing a single word to focus on instead of making a list of New Year's Resolutions. She says that narrowing down what you want to work on makes it more manageable, and more likely to be accomplished.
The idea of a vision board is a little bulky for my already too-small space. I'm trying to de-clutter, not add to it. The blogger had a solution for that, though, and that was to make a vision journal instead of a board. And, in a way, I've been working on such a thing for the past several years, I just haven't put it together. So...perhaps that's something I can do.
But I have to admit to liking the one word idea best. You can take it out and look at it anytime, anywhere...in your mind or on paper, whenever needed. To that end, I've been trying to figure out what word I would choose. Christine Kane has a long list of words to choose from and one that I like is "Courageous." Have the courage to stick to it, whatever it is that I need/want to do, and not waiver, not give in...kind of goes along with our school theme this year that says "to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."
There's something in me that does not want to yield. In theory. And yet I give in all the time to things I don't want to do. I've got to fight that tendency. I've got to have the courage not to yield.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Our family has several traditions that have developed over the years, especially since my sisters got married and then had children. Christmas Eve, they go to their in-laws and I go to my parents. The three of us usually have soup and homemade bread for supper, then we listen to music, open presents, and watch Christmas programs.
In the morning, we have a light breakfast and then wait for everyone to arrive in the early afternoon. We open presents, have watercress soup and homemade rolls and breads, play games, listen to music. We all spend the night, sleep late, have brunch and open stockings on Christmas Day.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Until I wander'd through the world
I did not know that even in Bethlehem,
Falls the white, soft snow.
Then I did imagine how
A morning long ago
Reflected light from all the land
Flooded through the door
And lit the spidery rafters
Above the sleeping child
Whose eyes were lifted up to a mother mild.
And such a radiance was around
On ass and munching cow
Some said because
A child was born,
And some because of the snow.
Herbert Read (1893-1968), From Moon's Farm
Published as set to music by Alan Ridout, 1963
Monday, December 22, 2008
Sunday, December 21, 2008
This weekend our church celebrated Christmas and Hanukkuh in the same service. I thought it was a profoundly beautiful service that not too many people enjoyed, thanks to heaps of snow pouring down from the sky. We had wonderful music (that included my sister, her husband, and two children, all cellists) throughout the service.
Then a Russian scholar of Judaism talked about the origin of Hanukkuh and connected it to the Messiah and Salvation. It was fascinating. He brought with him a handwritten scroll of the Torah that took nearly two years to write. It was very old (don't remember how old) and fragile, but we were allowed to see it up close.
It had started to snow Friday afternoon and didn't stop much over night until early morning. Then it started again in the afternoon and kept on snowing all night and all day. It's still snow, in fact. Many things were canceled becasue of the snow, but not the Patriots' game. If you watched it, you saw how crazy it was out there. I went to a game once, years ago, in the snow. We had sleeping bags and heavy blankets to keep us warm, but there were some who didn't have as much protection. And still they stayed. My eyes watered so much, and then the tears froze on my face and my feet were blocks of ice, in spite of the covering we had. But did we leave? Of course not! That's a New Englander for you =)
All the same, school is already canceled for tomorrow. That's because it has now turned to ice on top of all the snow and is very dangerous. Tough, yes. Wreckless, we're not.
Friday, December 19, 2008
There are books that I reread over and over, books I know by heart in places because I’ve read them so many times. Some are books I teach, others are books I read just for myself. There are several that I both read for myself and teach because I think it’s important for others to know them too. One such book is the Bible. In English Literature, we study it both for its meaning and its method; from a spiritual as well as literary perspective. It stands up well, either way. And students respond to it’s beautiful message of love and the language that delivers that message.
A favorite story from the Bible is the one we embrace at this time. The story of Jesus’ birth is wonderful, any way you look at it. I like it straight from the King James Version. But I also love it through the music of Haydn in his Messiah, and in the words of others, including Marjorie Holmes in her inspirational novel Two from Galilee. This is a little book I read fairly often at Christmas time. It tells the story of Jesus from His parents’ perspective, simply yet profoundly. I’ve read it so many times I’ve gone through two books, underlining lines that speak to me, lines I want to remember, ponder over later. The ones that haunt me most are those where Joseph tries to analyze the meaning of true love even while he exhibits its meaning in his own life. “To suffer that others may live, as Mary had suffered in birth. To deny oneself for those who are dearer to us than life. That is the true union of those who love. And that—that in the end was what would bring man back to be united with his God.”
In my mind, that’s what Christmas is all about: revisiting the meaning behind all the activity, year after year, finding new meaning, bringing us back to be united with our God. This Christmas, I invite you to tell the story of Jesus to your children, your friends. Tell it over again to all who will hear. Tell them what it means to you. Put it in your own words, making new its meaning to you. Put it in your own rhythm and rhyme, making unforgettable music of that song in your heart. Put it down on paper to reread another day, another year. Learn and grow from it. And tell it over again and again. It’s that good a story. It’s that important a reality. Jesus came to earth to give us Hope and a Future. He has promised that our life with Him will result only in good. He lived a life on earth, showing us that it could be done. That’s the story you can tell, over and over again.
Monday, December 15, 2008
And here's a video of what he's doing now with his life, making beautiful music:
Friday, December 12, 2008
My parents, on the other hand, started losing power at 11 last night and didn't get it back until 1 this afternoon. Luckily, they have a fireplace and camp stoves and lanterns to see them through. My sister in central MA lost electricity and still doesn't have it. One of her colleagues had a tree go down on her house. No one got hurt, but it's going to be a mess to clean up.
On the other hand, even though it is destructive, the ice is quite beautiful. The pictures here were taken in my parents' back, front, and back yard. Rather magical looking wouldn't you say?
Many of my favorite carols were first poems written by English poets, now set to music. As I've mentioned before, Christina Rossetti is a favorite of mine and many others, but perhaps the work of a lesser known poet (at least to the general public), is that of 17th century genius Robert Herrick. Best known for his carpe diem poetry, he also wrote this beautiful carol that was first presented to the king.
My favorite setting of it is John Rutter's, maybe because I've had the privilege of playing under his baton a number of times, but I think more because of the peace that overcomes me when I hear the music and contemplate the impact of the gift of salvation that is implicit in the birth of Christ. For me, there truly is no sweeter music we can bring than a carol celebrating our Savior's birth.
Sunday, December 07, 2008
The concert took place in Boston's Symphony Hall, one of the finest concert halls in the world. It was, as you might expect, wonderful. This was the full Messiah, all 2 hours and 45 minutes of it. Truly inspiring. The soloists were quite good. We liked the men especially. The conductor, a guest from England, was beyond interesting to watch. He literally shaped the sound we heard, using every part of his body to do so. It was a riveting performance in every way.
Photos from the Handel and Haydn Society's website
Friday, December 05, 2008
Earlier today I had a message from a classmate in 8th grade. He is now a pastor in Wales, of all places. And even earlier a student who graduated 10 years ago came back to give a chapel talk to the students. In the 10 years since he graduated, he's made and lost millions, but just recently found his focus and is now a lay pastor for an area church. Such fun to see the current students learning from graduates!
The student from Michigan was in the very first American Literature class I ever taught 30 years ago. His family built boats (still does). Three years ago, he and his own family went to Peru to build a unique boat, a floating church for a congregation that lives on the Floating Islands of Lake Titicaca. Coincidentally, I took our senior class that year on a mission trip to the same region in Peru and we saw the church that this "boy" helped build. We literally missed each other by days. Another student in that first class was along on the trip as a doctor. I would love to have seen them, but it was quite satisfying seeing their work and hearing the excitement of the people as they talked about their new place of worship.
[I'll not mention, but briefly, that the internet was also re- sponsible for all but destroying my computer last weekend and it took the entire weekend to get it back (that and $145 to the guy who restored it properly...). It's a love-hate relationship I have, I guess.]
Pictures are of Lake Titicaca, Peru...taken in December 2005. These people literally live on straw islands that float in the middle of the highest navigable lake in the world. The floating church is docked for the moment, but it can float from island to island as needed, just like a boat! Pretty cool!