Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Christmas is Coming....

What, you say? It's time to focus on Noisemakers and Resolutions? Wal-Mart has heart-shaped boxes of candy in the seasonal aisle now, so Christmas is past?

If I counted right, today is the Sixth Day of Christmas.

Anyone have any fresh goose eggs they want to share?

Um, didn't think so.

Yes, we're bucking the whole country...but Christmas isn't over at our house. In fact, Christmas hasn't even really been experienced at our house yet.

We braved frigid temps, freezing rain (when it's raining and the temp is 17 degrees Fahrenheit, you bet it freezes on contact. Not what you want to experience whilst driving on US 31 North. That was one of the scariest four and half hours of my life...all I can say is, God is good, and I appreciate the obviously very heavy angels He sent along to sit on the top of our van to keep us on the road as we saw other folks exploring the side ditches), snow, high winds, fog that had us squinting from one telephone pole to another...oh, and thunderstorms to spend the last week with family.

And it was a wonderful visit. The highlight may have been the Caroling Party (the reason we were driving on the ice -- we had to be there in time to sing!). I've mentioned the Family Caroling Tradition before (most recently in The 2nd Advent Study), and this year we did it a bit differently.

As near as we can figure, the last time we gathered to carol was six years ago. The senior members of the two-family choir are finding it more and more difficult to get out and about in the cold and the snow, which was a large reason why we haven't gone lately. But this summer we began planning and we decided whoever could make it would meet and carol to our parents.

Which is what we did. There were 7 of the 'kids' and 5 'grandkids' representing both of the families that slyly met and went unannounced to parental doorsteps. My Dear In-laws were worried about us being in so late, with the road conditions the way they were, but they got over it pretty quickly once they saw what was going on. They were the third of three sing-to-parents stops and the snow was just changing over to sleet in Elkhart as we sang to them. They stood on the steps and sang with us...and said we had to invite them next year. So perhaps the caroling tradition will not fade away just yet.

But, that was there. Here at our house, the stockings have yet to be filled and the tree has yet to have gifts under it. So we will be celebrating Christmas at home on New Year's Day...the day of New Beginnings...the 8th day of Christmas.

Tonight we're eating pizza and watching 'The Muppet Christmas Carol'. Finally.

Merry Christmas ;)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Friday Flashback # 25: Am I hungry?

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

Here's an entry dated Feb. 14,2008. I was reading through John Bevere's book Drawing Near at the time, but I don't know if this is a quote from the book or a revelation the book stirred in me:

Hunger is the key element to whether or not we pursue God.

A hungry soul will seek Him; a religious soul will go through the motions to give an appearance of seeking Him.

I think that's true...but I also think there are times when even a hungry soul must seek Him from an act of will. Sometimes, when I'm working hard on a project, I will neglect to eat. If I neglect to eat long enough, I lose my appetite and don't *want* to eat. I think spiritually we get like that too...if we let ourselves get too busy, even in the kingdom, to make sure we have some time to feed our own spirits from His table, we reach a point where we're not aware of being hungry. In both cases, taking nourishment is done as an act of the will, from the wisdom of knowing we must feed ourselves, rather than from hunger.

That isn't to be confused with a person who merely goes through the motions of religious activity in order to fulfill someone else's expectations. On the one case, there is still a receiving of spiritual insight...which will result in at least a small amount of change or growth. On the other, a duty is discharged but nothing changes.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Expectant Season: An Advent Study

We've Been Waiting....

posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

Lesson 4: Dec. 16 We've Been Waiting....

There was one other advent carol in the hymnal of the church in which I grew up...'Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus', written by Charles Wesley and set to the tune 'Hyfrydol.' It was one of my favorites, too...another good alto line.

But, if you look at the words, it is not about a coming baby...although it does reference His birth:

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 ev'ry nation
Joy of ev'ry longing heart.

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.

Now, look at them again. It isn't even about a physical kingdom...on earth OR in heaven...at all.
set Thy people free...release us from our sins and fears...deliver us, reign in us forever...bring your kingdom...rule in our hearts, raise us to your throne.

This is about the Kindgom Jesus talked about over and over in his earthly ministry. Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, "The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, 'Here it is,' or 'There it is,' because the kingdom of God is within you." - Luke 17:20-21 NIV. The kingdom is, as I've heard said, wherever the King reigns.

So...if I say 'Come, you whom I have been expecting for a long time,' I kind of have to admit to myself that maybe I've been just expecting Him to come when I should've been opening the door upon which He has been knocking.

I once had a dream that was rather odd in many ways, but I remember one line that has stuck with me. Someone in the dream asked me what I thought about the kingdom of God, and I replied, 'Jesus said the kingdom of God is within us...so I think that it behooves all of us to do what we can to enlarge His kingdom by bringing more of ourselves under His authority and dominion.' I've pondered that and pondered that...I can enlarge the Kingdom of God by allowing Him to increase in my own life.

Or, as John the Baptist put it when he was looking for the coming of the Messiah, 'He must increase and I must decrease'.

And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit -- 2 Cor. 3:18 NIV

And I look at my house, which is not exactly modeled after Better Homes and Gardens (someday I want to subscribe to a magazine titled Good Enough Homes and Gardens) and I look at how I have spent my last few days...weeks?... running to do What Must Be Done, and I see a lot that is not terribly glorious.

But you know, it's not so much the circumstances that need to change, it's my attitude. Because I kind of have the feeling that once I bring *that* completely into His kingdom, the rest will follow.

So yes, Lord, come into my perspective, my perception, so that I see circumstances through Your eyes. Bring Your kingdom into my actions and reactions. From my fears of rejection and judgment, and my sins of selfishness release me, so that I can find my rest in You in the midst of whatever I have to deal with each day. Unseat my 'self' so that you alone rule in my heart and I know who I am in You...one who has access to the throne itself.

And God Raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. - Eph. 2:6-7

Amen. Even so, come Lord Jesus.


Introduction: Nov. 18

Lesson 1: Nov. 25 Prepare Ye

Lesson 2: Dec. 2 Look at that Rose

Lesson 3: Dec. 9 The Chant

Monday, December 15, 2008

Jubilee Monday #20: Family Reunion

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

...each one of you is to return to his family property and each to his own clan.

That's a family reunion, folks.

Every Christmas we go through a decision...do we make the drive to visit parents, or do we stay home?

The older I get, the more appeal staying home has.


We had a major family reunion this summer; it was great to see everyone.

Without going into a lot of detail, we already have one name who will not be at the next reunion. Someone from our generation...a shock.

You'd better believe we're glad we managed to get together.

A reunion every fifty years guarantees family connections will be made once in every generation.

And our decision to go to our parents every year it is possible guarantees at least a partial family reunion at least once a year. It's good to keep the connections as current as possible.

Because you never know.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Friday Flashback #24 - Not the End

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi
Here's an entry from April 13,2005, when I was in a very discouraged spot:

I went to church hopeless, almost certain we'd missed God somewhere and were stuck in a huge mess.

IN the midst of worship -- from my will, rather than from my heart -- I suddenly thought of Hinds' Feet in High Places and the little scene in which Much-Afraid, sheltering in the cave on the last night of her journey and certain that all the Shepherd promised her was gone and empty, dumps her little bag of memorial stones, thinking they are not worth hauling around. Yet, as she looks at each one, she has to admit to herself that they are too precious to cast aside, even if it has all been a colossal waste. One by one, she picks the stones up, decides she cannot part with it and returns it to her bag - and picks up one more stone as a memorial. Of course, after her sacrifice, she is healed and restored and all the stones which she had almost discarded became jewels which the Shepherd set in her crown.

I realized the despair I felt was a close cousin to the despair Much-Afraid experienced -- and I remembered what happened after.

What looks like the end is not the end.

If you haven't read Hinds' Feet in High Places (by Hannah Hurnard) I highly recommend it...it's a fabulous allegory and has reminded me many times of the Shepherd's love and care and of the fact that I have to trust Him...and not be fooled by the way things appear.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Expectant Season: An Advent Study

The Chant

posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

The Expectant Season: A Blogged Bible Study

Lesson 3: The Chant

One of the few advent carols in the hymnal of the church in which I grew up is adapted from plainsong or gregorian chant, which, according to Wikipedia, is the oldest music known as it is the first repertory to have been adequately notated in the 10th century. The haunting minor melody, in the rise-and-fall cadence of the chant, has always evoked a contemplative mood. That it is still part of the Advent/Christmas tradition all these centuries later is testimony to the continuing pertinence of both the melody and the lyrics.

However, this truly is an Advent carol...not speaking of the coming of a baby at all, but of the coming of Messiah

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lowly exile here
Until the Son of God appear.

Of course, when this particular set of lyrics was written (the hymnal I have in front of me attributes the words to the Psalteriolum Cantionum Catholicarum of 1710), Israel *was* in exile...there was no Jewish homeland. Now Israel is once again a nation, but it is pressured on every side and fights daily for its survival.

But this is not just a look for the Messiah to deliver Israel...

O come, thou Dayspring, Come and cheer
Our spirits by thine Advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death's dark shadows put to flight.

O Come, Thou Wisdom from on high
And order all things far and nigh
To us the path of knowledge show
And cause us in her ways to go.

O Come, Desire of nations, bind
All peoples in one heart and mind;
Bid envy, strife and quarrels cease;
Fill the whole world with heaven's peace.

We all yearn for the day when 'deaths dark shadows' are put to flight, but...consider what the impact is of the coming of Messiah. If He orders all things far and nigh, that includes each of us. How willing are we to be ordered? Even by the Son of God? We forget the price of Christianity; it has become so easy to declare oneself a Christian and believe one fulfills one's duty to God simply by attending church services regularly but continuing to live our lives as we please, telling ourselves 'God understands.' But look at that third verse...we ask to be shown the paths of knowledge and then be 'caused' to go that way. That means we cannot plead ignorance of what God expects. Do we want God's Kingdom? Can we stand being one heart with all peoples? Lay down our individual rights? Because if Heaven's peace is going to reign, it's going to be according to Heaven's standards...not mankind's.

Yet it must be Heaven's peace that fills the world; history shows that mankind's peace lacks staying power.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. - John 14:27, NIV

This Advent season I'm finding myself confronted over and over again with my own selfishness...not big, obvious, loud, demanding, overriding selfishness that makes others cringe, but the small, moment-to-moment selfishnesses that keep me from fully walking in Heaven's peace in my own heart. Things that grieve me at the end of the day because I frittered it away on insignificance.

So, in my own heart, my prayer is 'Oh come, Thou Wisdom from on high...order me inside and out, so that I walk in accordance with the knowledge You have already given me. Do not let me fail to do the good that I know to do.'

But the song reminds us with every chorus:
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel!

Because when He comes for Israel, He also comes for all who believe:
This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus. - Ephesians 3:6, NIV

He does know my weaknesses, but He will give me knowledge that I do not have to be bound by my weaknesses forever. And, if I'm willing, He will cause me to walk in the way of knowledge...and that is the where His peace is found.

With all my heart, I want to be willing.


Introduction: Nov. 18

Lesson 1: Nov. 25 Prepare Ye

Lesson 2: Dec. 2 Look at that Rose

Lesson 3: Dec. 9 The Chant

Lesson 4: Dec. 16 We've Been Waiting....

Monday, December 8, 2008

Jubilee Monday #19: Firing Day

We finally got to Part 3 of the pottery making process...firing...this past Saturday.
I wrote about actually making the pots in Pottering Around back in October.

For some reason I didn't write about glazing the pieces, which is what we did in November's class. I guess I didn't really have too much to say about it...other than I learned it was easy to make a piece of pottery that was beyond my reasonable ability to glaze! The little flower bowl had teeniny spaces and curliques that I just couldn't get the available glazing brushes into. I had to just do the best I could...which included trying to drip the glaze into the little spots. I'm hoping I got it all covered, but after some discussion with the class leader, Mr. S., we decided that those little curly things would be better served by a higher-temp firing than what he does in his backyard. So that piece wasn't fired Saturday; it has been taken to another place to be high-fired and I will hopefully get it before the end of the month.

But my little braid bowl was glazed last month, and it was fired Saturday. The whole process fascinated me.
It was a very chilly day for North Alabama; I don't think the temperature got out of the 30's. I know the ice in puddles in the shady spots around where we were working didn't thaw! So we were bundled up, and one of the things Mr. S did was to put the glazed pieces on top of the kiln for a bit, rotating them around to pre-warm them before putting them into the firey furnace. Even though this was raku-firing and a lower temperature than food-use pottery is fired at, it was still unbelievably intense.
It was really neat to watch them through the little vent hole in the top of the kiln; the glaze would puff and bubble, then start running like caramel syrup. Once it began to run, then we pulled them out.

Mr. S wanted us to pull our own pieces; he actually gave me a bowl and the tongs to practice picking it up before he pulled the cover off the kiln for me to pull my bowl. The glaze is sticky and shouldn't be bumped against another piece or the side of the kiln when it's pulled out...sorta like the game 'Operation', if you ever played that as a kid (I don't think I did much...I hated that buzzer!)

Then, as soon as the piece comes out of the kiln, it is plunged into a container of combustible material...in this case, wood chips/sawdust. Of course, it flames up instantly, but what is desired is the smoke from that fire, so there's a lid placed over the container so that it smolders and smokes for a while.

I forgot to take a photo of what the bowl looked like when we pulled it out of the cinders of the sawdust. Not surprisingly, it was black, but not coal black...sort of an irridescent black, with some metallic shimmer in it. I thought that was what I would end up with, but after it cools enough to handle, the next and final step is to take it to a bucket of water and scrub it down. I thought I'd just clean some of the gunk off of it...I was astonished to see blue shimmer through.

Of course, now I can't remember just exactly what I did when I glazed it...I know I did an oxide wash on the braided part, so it would have a little more definition, and in my ignorance I got it too wet with that wash and I had trouble getting the glaze to stick properly. I think my original plan was to use a blue metallic glaze on the braid and a copper glaze on the bowl, but because I was having trouble with the glaze sticking I'm not sure what I ended up with. (The bright red bits are reflection of something off camera; and it really has more color than shows up here. A lot more. The sun was shining extra bright on the back porch, I guess.).

Raku is like that, though: even if you carefully document what is done, and dab the glaze on meticulously, it still has so many variables in the equation that it's impossible to tell what the final result will be.

I can find all kinds of spiritual parallels in this whole process and I think I'll sign up for another series of classes! This is fun!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Friday Flashback #23: Then and Now

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

Ok, this isn't a journal entry but indulge me ;)

The first picture is probably my favorite photo of the kids when they were young. I don't have a date for it, but based on the size of the Flute Player, who appears to be about 7 or 8 months old, I'd place it in February or March of 1997. Just one of those random days when I picked up the camera and took a picture.

We were in the process of trying to get family photos taken for our Christmas Letter this year and I just got a wild notion to repose the photo.

Wow. Time flies.... ;)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Expectant Season: An Advent Study

Look at that Rose

posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

The Expectant Season: A Blogged Bible Study

Actually, this is more like 'An Advent Reflection' than it is a 'Study', but, well, it's what seemed to work...

For several years (over 20?) one of the events of the season was a caroling party. My Sweet Baboo's family is *extremely* musically talented, and one couple among his folks best friends and their children were (ok, are...) also *extremely* musically talented. The year before MSB and I got married, my inlaws and this couple and their respective early adult kids decided to go Christmas caroling to some of their mutual friends. My Sweet Baboo, who became my Dear Fiance over that holiday, was the only offspring not there. As it happened, they had such a good time that they decided to do it again next year and it was a highlight of Our First Christmas Together...and an event that repeated itself until the logistics of collecting far-flung families with children became too complicated to work out.

But we all met at my DInlaw's house one night just before Christmas 1980 for a yummy meal, then carol books were pulled out, passed around and we divided ourselves into sections (let me think...there were 7 of us and 6 of them...13 people that year, I believe) to practice just a bit before we headed out in a borrowed church van.

I ran upstairs for something as they were completing the organization and as I returned they started singing the first carol:

Lo, how a Rose upspringing
On tender root has grown:
A Rose by prophet's singing
To all the world made known.
The Rose 'midst winter's cold,
A lonely blossom bearing,
In former days foretold.

I was struck dumb on the stairs. I was familiar with the carol; it happened to be in the hymnal of the church in which I grew up, but hearing my new family and their friends singing it a capella in four-part harmony in the living room literally took my breath away. It was beautiful. I'd always sort of liked it (it has a very nice alto part), but at that moment it jumped to one of my favorites and has stayed there ever since.

Not so much an Advent carol about expecting the Messiah, but certainly a song reflecting the prophetic groundwork laid for His coming.

This makes me think about all the prophecy in the Old Testament that proclaimed the coming of the Savior.

And about all the scholars of Scripture who missed it.

When the Magi showed up in Jerusalem, the scholars were able to tell them exactly where the Holy One would be born...but they didn't make the short journey to Bethlehem to see if what these foreigners were talking about had any merit.


Because they had it Figured Out. Reading the Scripture through their own experience and expectations, they were expecting Messiah to come...differently. Certainly not as a normal-looking baby born in a barn to poor parents. And certainly not without God telling *them* it had happened. A sign, there should be a sign! (That was what the Pharisees kept demanding from Jesus later..."Give us a sign!")

He told them exactly what the sign would be, but it wasn't the one they were looking for and they rejected him.

This tends to make me just a little pensive...

In what way have I got it 'Figured Out' how God will come and work in my life? What if He doesn't come as I expect, and do what I'm looking for? How will I deal with that?

Look at that Rose...it is not a triumphant king, not yet, but a thing of tenderness and purity. I can't remake Him to suit my expectations...I have to allow Him to remake me.


Introduction: Nov. 18

Lesson 1: Nov. 25 Prepare Ye

Lesson 2: Dec. 2 Look at that Rose

Lesson 3: Dec. 9 The Chant

Lesson 4: Dec. 16 We've Been Waiting....

Monday, December 1, 2008

Jubilee Monday #18: Girl Talk

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

While I'm not aware of any guys that stop by here, if someone of the male gender wanders in by accident, may I suggest skipping this entry? I'm pretty sure you won't relate.

Ok, to address the gorilla in the middle of the room...y'know, the Topic of Great Discussion amongst All Women in their Late Forties, which I am not going to spell out because I don't want to trip a bunch of internet searches from folks who are looking for other information, but you know what I mean.

The shutting down and mothballing of the whole hormonal assembly line that we women deal with for years and years and years...

And it *is* a Jubilee entry, because it comes part-and-parcel with the fiftieth year.

And, while I'm sure there are some wonderful and profound things I could write about, one not so wonderful thing is staring me in the face.

Suddenly I hate my bathroom scales. Now, I was sort of expecting a spike after Thanksgiving...but I didn't expect it to jump 5 pounds the month before we cut the turkey. Certainly not in two literal overnight steps of 3 and 2 pounds each.

Now I'm wondering if that sudden expansion has anything to do with the fact that I spent September and October flapping my tops to cool off. One power surge to the hour was the going rate for a while.

I'd gladly flap my collar if it meant those pounds would go back to wherever they came from.

This is just bad timing. If the scales jumped at any other time, I could do something about it. But going through the Christmas Party season (there are 2 this week already!) trying to lose weight is a sure fire way to have a *horrible* December. Walk past the plates of once-a-year goodies? Squeeze time in an already overcrowded month to exercise?

I'm afraid it's either that or I'm going to have to devise a new wardrobe for myself; even my fat clothes are snug now.

So, back to Jubilee. The fiftieth year. The year of restoration and renewal. I'm just going to have to do the best I can to be *moderate* and plan to work extra hard after the New Year and all its festivities go by. Eating what is provided is, after all, one of the injunctions of Jubilee.

And maybe I'll throw in a couple of extra trips up and down the stairs each day.

I'll give myself permission to enjoy the fellowship of friends and family, trusting God for provision...and trusting God to use that provision for health, not for, um, girth.

And trust Him that the elastic waists will make it until January. ;)