what’s really real anymore?

“It is an illusion that youth is happy, an illusion of those who have lost it;
but the young know they are wretched for they are full of the truthless ideal
which have been instilled into them,
and each time they come in contact with the real,
they are bruised and wounded…”

W. Somerset Maugham

Between the books I’m reading, the barrage of breaking “news” stories,
our caustic and even catastrophic political world..add to that those issues that
scream for our attention yet go woefully ignored….
throw in a good dose of life, seasoned with “this time of year”…
and something or maybe everything is leaving me a bit unsettled..

By all outward appearances I am going through all the proper motions…
I am saying all the right things while doing all the necessary things.
Nothing would lead anyone to suspect that anything was awry.
And yet something unseen continues to pull at my sleeve as I unconsciously try
pulling back….such that the unconscious is almost becoming conscious.

Am I just becoming Ebenezer?
Perhaps more Grinch than Scrooge?
Or am I simply now jaded beyond repair?

After thinking about the two posts I wrote earlier this week—
the first being about meat and potatoes vs purposeful yet empty noise and distraction….
with the second tale being about of the continuing saga of the annihilation of
the oldest, as in the very first group of collective Christians, I have found myself wrestling with what it is that we think we’re passing off as Christmas.

Whoa.
Sacred cow now being looked at sideways…

I’ve allowed this thought to ruminate as I’ve chewed the cud over it.

Christmas is for children….that is a certain absolute..as in for sure.
And I have loved Christmas–both past and present as I anxiously await
sharing it with a new granddaughter next year…..
but…..

Christmas, for me and mine, has basically been a joyous time of melding
tradition and custom with Biblical teaching.

But something is starting to really trouble me….
There are…
Advent wreathes with the lighting of candles while there are “Advent” calendars
counting down the days until Christmas—with more and more equating simply to
good food, family and presents…..

There is…
Santa Claus Christmas
and there is….
Jesus Christmas.

Hummmm….

I have Jewish friends who have decorated Christmas trees, stockings on their mantles,
a menorah in the kitchen as they take the kids to Santa for pictures
and wrap up gifts and goodies in red and green paper to nestle under the tree.

I know nonbelievers who have decorated Christmas trees, stockings on their mantles
and presents wrapped in red and green under the tree…as their children, along with
those Jewish children, leave out cookies and milk for Santa.

Christmas.

Expectation verses Expectancy
Lights verses Light.
Gifts verses Giving…

Has it all gone too far?
Have we allowed it to go too far?
Have we been sucked into a lie?

I think that which is tugging at my sleeve is the Holy Spirit Himself.
I am being reminded that what I’m seeing as Christmas has nothing to do with
Christ’s Mass….nothing to do with the expectant waiting of the birth of Salvation.

And so I wrestle—where do we as Believers now draw the line?

Do we do so silently…or…a bit more loudly?
Loudly as in no longer just riding merrily along in the sleigh with everyone else
jing jing jingling into the oblivion of Currier and Ives… or rather do we say
a collective “hold up”…

First and foremost Christmas is about one thing…and one thing only….
and that is the birth of Christ…
So don’t try to pass this societal thing you’ve created off as anything
other than secularism masquerading as the Christmas of Christ.
You want your Yuletide but you don’t want the Christians to have their
Christ’s Mass…
You want your goodies and your holidays but you don’t want to acknowledge the
Savior of all mankind…..

And so while wrestling with this gnawing notion rolling around in my thoughts
and heart, I caught the latest offering by the Wee Flea Pastor
David Robertson….talk about reading my mind…

It is the tale of fake news verses real news…..

Is Christmas Christian?
….But what about as a Christian festival?
It can be argued that Christmas becoming a secular/pagan festival is just
returning to its pagan roots.
It was the Church that took over the midwinter festival and turned it into a
celebration of the birth of Jesus
(who was not born on December the 25th – more likely to have been a day in April).
Was this a bad thing?
Some of our ancestors thought so –
and famously refused to celebrate Christmas.
Even in living memory there are those who can recall Christmas just being a
normal working day – with New Year being the main festival.
Most Free Churches still do not have a Christmas Day service
(unless it is on a Sunday) but we do have a New Years Day.

It’s not wrong to celebrate Christmas,
and its not wrong not to celebrate.
Let each be persuaded in their own minds.
What however is wrong is to turn the birth of Jesus Christ,
into an orgy of commercialism, greed and drunkenness.
The idea that people will get themselves into enormous debt to buy things
they don’t need in order to celebrate the birth of the one who though he was rich,
yet became poor, for our sakes, is grotesque.

We are able to use our building to proclaim the good news of Jesus,
as opposed to the ‘fake news’ of the secular Christmas.
In that respect I love what the angels told the shepherds as they looked
after their flocks
“Do not be afraid.
I bring you good news that will bring great joy for all the people.
Today in the town of David,
a Saviour has been born to you.;
he is the Messiah, the Lord”
.
(Luke 2:10-11).

Great Joy for all the People – The Christmas Record

heightened senses….

“Memory believes before knowing remembers.
William Faulkner

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(Victorian Christmas Greeting card)

Every memory seems more keen.
Every sight seems more bright.
Every tear seems more heavy.
Every scent seems more strong.
Every sound seems more bold.
Every heartache seems more piercing.
Every loss seems more painful.
Every joy seems more complete.
Every touch seems more dear…

Each year, finding ourselves standing before what makes Christmas just that,
Christmas…
Our senses,
our thoughts,
our tastes,
our recollections…
seem hopelessly more intense, more sharp, more profound…

Be that a blessing
or
be that a curse.

Pain is greater.
Suffering is more fierce.
Joy is more contagious.
While satisfaction hangs precariously in the balance.

There are those who gravitate toward this more mystical and magical time
full of giddiness and glee…
while others wish to close their eyes,
not openning them again until mid January.

The sensory overload can be overtly overwhelming or palpably underwhelming.

And yet it is in that overload, be it over or under,
that we actually become more….
raw…
more open…
and even more vulnerable.

And it is in that vulnerability that the ego slightly abates….
the guard slips ever so quietly,
While pretense evaporates as the dew in first light…
As we are splayed wide open.

And it is in that moment of pure raw vulnerability that
the heart finally realigns,
beating rhythmically for the first time since the tragic Fall,
as it is once again, albeit briefly, in sync with all of Creation…

For no word from God will ever fail.”
Luke 1:37

Beware the gators

“Because we focused on the snake, we missed the scorpion”
Egyptian Proverb

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(image borrowed from web of a gator crossing an interstate near Naples, FL)

Maybe you’ve heard about them…
or
maybe you haven’t…

Interstate alligators…

And no, I’m not talking about actual alligators crossing the road as in the image above…
Rather I’m talking about something that is equally as dangerous and equally as deadly…
The only caveat is that it’s just not a living creature.

So now that your interest is piqued and you understand that we are not discussing reptiles…
I will explain what exactly an interstate alligator is all about.

An interstate alligator is the dubious moniker for the remnants of the shredded tires from tractor trailer trucks.

shredded_tire_roadside

More times than not, those big rigs, which are driving on very worn tires, will lose the most worn tires off their rigs to the rigors of constant wear and tear…all while driving on car infested roadways.
As they race up and down the highways, freeways and interstates across this grand country of ours, these worn steel belted tires will basically begin to disintegrate and shred while the truck is clocking 70 to 80 mph.

semi-tire-blowout
(image courtesy Real Truck Driver Blog)

Add to that the heat of summer, as the pavement reaches deadly hot temperatures…
With worn tires riding along an inferno of cement and asphalt, we’ve all got troubles!

Imagine huge chunks of tire being slung off a spinning rim, most often unbeknownst to the driver, as the driver isn’t about to be slowing down or moving over to the far right lane in order to exit or move to the emergency lane in order to stop…

Next imagine being the cars behind and beside these big truck as the tire is shredding.

Needless to say there have been many a damaged vehicle as there have been many a fatality as a result of these shredding tires.

The alligator part comes into play when the remnants of these tires are left where they fly then fall—that being the middle of lanes, along the shoulder of the road…just anywhere they finally lose the momentum of flight—as they now lay in wait, lurking and waiting for those poor unsuspecting drivers who are on top of them before being able to slow down or swerve safely out of the way while attempting not to ram into a fellow driver…

Today’s journey to Atlanta, on its infamous perimeter, was like navigating a backwater bayou at full speed while trying to dodge and miss a plethora of both big and small gators all before it being too late before an impending collision.

Cars were slamming on their brakes, erratically changing lanes, hoping the cars beside and behind could get stopped in time.

Holding on for dear life as I made my way through the cement minefield,
I smelled it before I saw it as the air was rife with the acrid smell of burning rubber.
Dodging debris big and small, I soon road past the culprit. A big rig’s second to the back tire was disintegrating faster than he could move over and slow down.
Tire was slinging left and right as cars did their darnedest to dodge the deadly shrapnel.

As I miraculously made my way past the truck and the sea of tire parts without being hit, without running over anything and without being hit by my fellow dodging drivers, I was struck (not literally thank God) by the sheer magnitude of how things can change in one’s life from good to disastrous in literally the blink of an eye.
A ‘now you don’t see it, yet now you suddenly do’ sort of life’s scenario..

Yet we don’t much like thinking of life in that regard.

We don’t like to dwell on the possible and potential negatives of life…
those ‘could be’s’ or those ‘what if’s’ in life…
but what of the sudden and sheer catastrophic…??

We don’t want to live life constantly fretting and worrying.

Yet we do need to always be ready…
Ready for those very instantaneous what if’s.

As in…what if I’m taken out by this interstate monster right here, right now—am I ready for that?
Am I ready if my life is snuffed out just like that?

There’s no time to think,
No time to suddenly and quickly introduce yourself to a God you’ve just kind of always kept in the back of your head…
Kind of like a Santa Claus—
calling on Him in a pinch or when you really need or want something….

This isn’t like the “oh please God don’t let me get caught by that red light again” sort of thing…
Rather this is…there’s a big black chunk of rubber and steal, that’s just come up out of nowhere, hurdling through both time and space with lightning speed right for your windshield and face sort of thing, leaving you nowhere to turn, nowhere to run, leaving you nowhere to duck and cover….

Your relationship with God cannot wait.
It’s that dire, that urgent.

Not because you need to be saved from flying projectiles or hungry debris alligators who are lurking and waiting for when you lest expect it…but because time will not always afford you the luxury of waiting, pondering and deciding, if you want your soul to be lost or to be found…

There is true comfort in knowing that no matter what happens in this life…no matter the dangerous and deadly perils that await us…the catastrophes, the accidents, the random horrible things …
that in and through it all…God is yours and you are His…forever and ever…Amen!!

May you travel in safety my friends…

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
1 Peter 1:8-9

the frivolity of the frivolous

Thus it is necessary to commence from an inescapable duality:
the finite is not the infinite.

Hans Urs von Balthasar

The spirit of man can endure only so much and
when it is broken only a miracle can mend it.

John Burroughs

DSCN0241
(statue on the grounds of Christ Cathedral, Dublin, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Tis the season to be merry and bright, happy and light, warm and fuzzy…
Christmas and Santa.
It’s all neatly rolled into one within the wrappings of December.
The giddy frivolity of a season which gives way to making merry while paying homage to the birth of a child.

Yet let us look more closely at a single word…

Frivolity– a noun meaning lightness, gaiety, fun, the making of merriment

yet counter that with

Frivolous–an adjective–flippant, glib, lacking worth or merit

One word divided into two of its variations, its various grammatical formations and contexts–each with very different meanings…

Christmas–the olde English—Cristes Maesse–or Mass of Christ
The sacred celebration of the Nativity or birth of Christ…the birth of the One proclaimed as the savior of mankind.

And then there is Christmas of the ho ho ho, jolly ol’ St Nick, the giving of gifts kind of Christmas…

With the introduction of Saint Nicolas, who evolved over time from a 3rd century Greek Catholic saint whose real life story of giving and providing paved the foundation for today’s more secular jolly older bearded, reindeer driving, present giving, hero of both young and old…Christmas the holy joined with Christmas the worldly, as the two became synonymous, joining as one.

And sadly today we see that the world of consumerism has run away with the latter of the two….creating part of our problem.

One word’s united meaning, the celebration of the birth of Christ, as well as the season of Santa and the giving of gifts….
Yet today the word is painfully becoming estranged, polarized and oh so sadly divided.

The Christian faithful throughout the ages have always had a wonderful way of melding traditions taken form the various seasons and times of the year from their various cultures and countries, coupled with the more traditional pagan / secular celebrations of those various countries and cultures, uniting and embracing all with their Christian teachings with the end result being those yearly holy observances which blend both the religious/ holy with secular celebrations.

Lest we forgot the story from the other week regarding the celtic cross…
As St Patrick used the circle around the traditional latin cross as a bridge between the Celtic worship of the sun–uniting both sun and Son together…in turn creating the iconic Celtic Cross.

Yet mankind frustratingly always has had a knack for messing up, distorting and even destroying good intentions.
What was once a time affording all a collective remembrance of the young and less fortunate during a time which was also witness to the faithful’s remembrance of the birth of the Savior—has now tragically morphed into a self consuming monster of advertising, marketing, consumerism and a big business feeding frenzy of madness.

Couple that with the now secular overt political correctness war of words of holiday and winter celebration with the keeping of Santa, as that’s good for the economy, while in turn booting the holy Christ Child totally out of the picture as that has nothing to so with the economy….

Seems as if we greatly prefer material gifts and presents verses the one true gift of a Savior….

It is indeed a truly sad kettle of fish we have going on as law suits now abound where once stockings were hung by the chimney with care—
As the word Christmas is no longer welcomed or allowed to be associated with this “special” time of year… especially in our public governmental sector, schools, colleges, etc—
If it receives any sort of federal funding or assistance, than you can forget Christmas and the whole birth of Christ associated with it.

Lest we offend the Atheists, the Jews, the Hindus, the Muslims, the Satanists, the Wickens….who if the truth be told, buy and gather to give those “christmas” gifts…

A long long time ago when I was in elementary school, way back in the early 1960s…My school had a healthy mix of both Jewish and “Christian” kids.

When it came to Christmas, with our teacher bringing in the small tree for our classroom, as we excitedly and joyously made ornaments in order to decorate the small tree— ornaments which now poignantly hang on my own tree today, the excitement of one and all was palpable.
Names were drawn for the classroom secret santa party which culminated on the last day of school before the Christmas break.

Our teachers, in their infinite wisdom, did something great.
In addition to our classroom Christmas tree, we also had a classroom menorah. Our Jewish classmates would, for the eight days of Hanukkah, share with us their
“holiday” along with its traditions.

Excitedly each day of Hanukah we’d ooo and ahhh, as only kids in the innocence of wonder do, over the lighting of a single candle—hardly able to contain the excitement until all 9 candles were lit.
It was a reverent event and we appreciated as well as respected the importance that the lighting of those 9 candles meant and what that 8 day observance represented to our Jewish classmates… just as they appreciated our reverence for our classroom’s small nativity scene.

A marvelous teaching tool and key to helping our young minds understand, tolerate, respect as well as allowing us to develop an appreciation for one another’s spiritual customs.
As the spirituality within man is a key component to being human.

We loved hearing our classmates excitement as they shared with the entire class the receiving of each gift on the night prior during their familiy’s observation of the Festival of Light.

We were taught the dreidle song and would play for the chocolate coins while we in turn shared the various customs of Christmases form around the world…
As we would buy our Jewish classmates their secret santa gifts as they, in turn, would buy us ours—
Never was there any resentment, no forbiddance to the right to observe, share or worship, no jealousies, not animosity….but rather a collective joy found in the frivolity of a season so merry and bright, yet sadly now seemingly steeped in what has become the frivolous, the polarized, the secular, the forgotten, the worldly and the empty….

DSCN0240
(statue on the grounds of Christ Cathedral / Dublin, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

Luke 2:8-14