Tuesday, December 25, 2007

YO, It's December 25!!

For those of you who aren't having a good Christmas, who don't have family or are too far away from them (my sister, my daughter.....) and can't get together with them -it's almost over!!! And after all, I have spent a couple of Christmases alone - and I found that knowing my Savior made all the difference in the world. He was with me, and while everyone was running themselves ragged and dysfunctional families were fighting the urge to choke each other, I was at peace next to my little Christmas tree with it's multi-colored lights. I was happy in a serene kind of way - that was actually my second Christmas alone. My present husband and I dated for many years, and there were rocky patches along the way when we didn't see each other for awhile - that was the serene Christmas when Jesus Christ was more than enough to fill me with quiet joy.

My first Christmas alone was right after my divorce, when my daughter went to be with my ex-husband's family, who were multitudinous and fun, as opposed to.....me.....depressed and solitary and not so fun for a child. That Christmas day when I sat drinking rum and cokes and feeling sorry for myself, I met my present husband. He was freshly divorced also, and in as much pain as I. So we met at a Denny's type place for pie and coffee and then we went to the movies. We had been on a Bible discussion board for a few years - back then there was no internet, but there were BBS's - "bulletin boards" where you called in and connected to a group where you could leave messages and read others. It was kind of like discussion boards now, but instead of clicking on a web address, you actually had to program your computer to dial a phone number to connect to the BBS. Once in, it was like being in a room with other people coming and going and talking. I became addicted to it and my present husband was also a member of the Bible BBS to which I belonged. We started out as friends trying to navigate the treacherous waters of divorce and all that entails - and now we are VERY happily married to each other.

So - if you know the Savior, He has you in the palm of His hand all the time - and He promised never to leave you or forsake you. If your Christmas isn't full of people and events, it can still be full of Him.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Merry Christmas!!

It's December 23 and we're not getting a cold front down here in Warmland, Florida. Darn it!! I can see on the weather map that there is lots of snow in the upper Midwest, and maybe later on in the Northeast. I'm not wishing for snow, but it sure makes it feel more Christmasy when it's cold here. However, I'll not let that stop me from enjoying the season.

Since I have back issues - I have Scoliosis and as I get older it really bothers me - I purchased a Homedics chair massager. It is fabulous!! I get such pains in my back and legs because one leg is longer than the other (not actually longer, but the muscles in my crooked back make one leg longer) - and the one leg that takes all my weight gets very sore. After cleaning yesterday and finishing shopping today, I whipped that chair massager out, my wonderful husband put Biofreeze (like Ben Gay only much better) all over my aching back, and I lay back with the heat on and the little massage balls kneading my back muscles up and down. It put me to sleep - and I wasn't trying to fall asleep. It was that good.

Finally, I have 2 weeks off from work, the house is all decorated, the Christmas lights are lit, the presents are all wrapped and under the tree - and I can rest - most of all, I can think on the birth of the Savior all those years ago, and be wildly thankful for Him.

No matter what the weather, may your Christmas be peaceful and bright, warm and filled with the knowledge that He has come.

Sunday, December 16, 2007


Now that it is Sunday night and I have to get up at 6AM to get ready for work, I can't sleep. I napped this afternoon, and now, at 11:33 PM, I'm ready to stay up and enjoy music and the internet for hours. I'll have to force myself to go to bed. We're having a cold front tonight, and it's supposed to get down to 50 degrees before morning. I'm making sure to keep the window over my side of the bed opened just a bit so that the fresh, cold air can seep in and touch my dreams. Well - here goes - to bed.

My All Time Favorite Christmas Carol

Many years ago when my daughter was a baby - about 1985 - I purchased a Christmas cassette called, "An English Christmas". I henceforth went back and bought as many copies as the store still had because it came to define my idea of Christmas music. There were medieval carols, Polish carols and the star of them all - Gerald Finzi's "In Terra Pax, Opus 39". I had never heard this before and it was one of the most beautiful Christmas arrangements I had ever heard. It is a story set to music. Here is what prompted Gerald Finzi to write "In Terra Pax":

From this web site and article:

"In terra pax is probably Finzi's best known work. It is a setting of Robert Bridges' poem Noel: Christmas Eve, 1913 into which a portion of the Christmas story from the Gospel of St. Luke has been interpolated. Finzi began work on the piece in 1951 but it was not completed until 1954. Finzi gives the somewhat introspective words of the poem to the baritone solo, while the soprano solo and chorus take the part of the angels in the biblical text. The poem reminded Finzi greatly of a particular Christmas Eve party he had attended as a young man living on Chosen Hill Farm in Gloucestershire. They had all come out at midnight into the crisp, cold air, and had heard bells ringing across the countryside from all the villages. These bells became the wonderful "glory to God in the highest" section of In terra pax. After the baritone solo reflects on the angelic song, the chorus enters again, softly repeating "and on earth peace, good will toward men." In terra pax sadly figured indirectly in Finzi's death. During the Three Choirs Festival in 1956, Finzi took Vaughan Williams up to Chosen Hill to show him the spot where he had taken his inspiration for In terra pax. They stopped in at the sexton's cottage, unaware that the sexton's children had recently come down with chicken pox. Finzi, already severely weakened by Hodgkin's lymphoma, radiation therapy and an experimental splenectomy, contracted an encephalitic form of the disease and died on September 27, 1956."

About the best I can do is to link to a playlist - I hope it works. If it does, treat yourself and listen to #1 and #2 on the list - together those are my favorite Christmas music.

When my daughter was a small child, one of our favorite Christmas traditions was for her to put on her pajamas, bring a blanket, and we'd ride around neighborhoods admiring Christmas light displays and playing Christmas music. It was especially effective on a chilly night, a rarity in South Florida, but one which reminded me of Christmasas of my Northeastern childhood. Those English Christmas cassettes each became overplayed and warped in turn until I could no longer listen to them. Later, my husband had a CD made of many of the carols that were on the cassette, but the Gerald Finzi piece could not be found. Until now. I've purchased it on Itunes and will make a new CD for myself - as much of a copy of the old cassette as I can. Between purchasing from Itunes and copying from the CD my husband made I should be able to recreate the best Christmas music collection I've ever had - and enjoy some beautiful music that I feared was forever lost to me....the internet is a wonderful thing, indeed. And the CD won't warp!!

The following are the words of Robert Bridges' poem "Christmas Eve, Noel 1913" as they are incorporated into Finzi's work:

And from many a village
In the water’d valley
Distant music reach’d me
Peals of bells aringing:
The constellated sounds
Ran sprinkling on earth’s floor
As the dark vault above
With stars was spangled o’er.

……marveling could not tell
Whether it were angels
Or the bright stars singing.

But to me heard afar
It was starry music
Angels’ song, comforting
As the comfort of Christ.

Between the verse that ends "o'er" and the one that begins, ".....marveling" is where Finzi interpolates the story of the first Christmas from Luke's Gospel. Isn't Bridge's poetry lovely? I can just see in my mind's eye the crisp, cold night far from the city, where the stars carpet the sky with brilliance.......perhaps Our Lord was born on such a night.

The Snowman

Every year at Christmas I watch the Raymond Brigg's film, "The Snowman". It is a breathtaking animation thst reminds me so strongly of what it is REALLY like when it snows. I've lived in South Florida since I was 24 years old - and I'm 51 now, so you do the math.......I've been in snow just a few times during those years, but nothing like the charm and wonder of my schooldays in upstate New York winters. At the beginning, when the man is remembering the biggest snowfall of his youth, he uses the words, "I awoke to a room filled with light and silence". That is what I remember best - waking at night and see the strange light sky, not caused by streetlights and city lights, but by the white clouds and white snow. I remember the exciting thought that perhaps the next morning would be a snow day and the whole family (my parents were both teachers) could snuggle under the covers instead of braving the elements and the cold. I went to YouTube and found the film, so you can enjoy it too. The music of the young boy's choir is amongst the most haunting and beautiful I've ever heard and adds to the magic.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

"From Scenes Like These"

The title of my post is the title of a book published in 1945 by someone named Ethel Wallace. I Googled the name and found references to an artist Ethel Wallace in NY, but I don't think it's the same person. There are other references to articles referencing Ethel's book, "From Scenes Like These", but you have to pay to read them.

In any case, "From Scenes Like These" has a subtitle - "Life in a Christian Family". Ethel grew up in Philadelphia in the very early 1900's. She assisted with nursing during the great flu epidemic of 1918 and was a young woman at that time, so that gives you some idea of the time period of her story. Her childhood home was outside the city limits and there was forest behind the house. What fascinated me was the way families lived at that time - several generations in one home. Often elderly aunts and/or uncles who were unable to care for themselves were taken in. In Ethel's case, there were two great-aunts, her grandmother, who needed a trained nurse, Ethel's four siblings, her parents, and assorted pets over the years. The home was three stories and the top story was occupied by her great-aunts who had adjoining rooms. One of the great aunts was the "fading violet" type and the other had a job all her life in a Christian publishing house. All were cared for by the patriarch, Ethel's father.

My friend, LaVerne, of whom I have made reference on this blog before, grew up in similar circumstances. The great difference for her was that there were no men in the house. LaVerne's father and grandfather had died, and she lived in a three story home with her grandmother, great-aunts and her mother.

I'd just like to quote some portions of "From Scenes Like These". The forward to the book is as follows:

"To the Millions of Christians who in this day, as my parents in theirs, follow humbly in the footsteps of Him Who went about doing good. To them belongs the making of a better, freer world. "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty."

Since this book was published in 1945, Ethel was thinking of the great conflagration of WWII when she wrote that forward.

The forward continues:

"Many are writing today about their families and the incidents of their childhood. This little book, differing from those which hold up relatives to ridicule, and resembling thousands that could be written, tells of the Christian home in which I was reared. The Bible does not omit the shortcomings of the saints, so I have written of the frailties as well as the virtues of my family. They were not angels, but sinners redeemed by the grace of God - a fact they would have been the first to acknowledge.

Several years ago a friend brought out for my inspection a recently finished patchwork quilt made up, as is the way of patchwork quilts, of squares, some gay colored, others dark, stitched together at random. As she spread it out on the bed, she said, 'this is the patchwork of my life. Each square was once part of a dress which is associated with what was for me a momentous occasion. My mother cherished my childhood garments and preserved them. That white muslin with the tiny tucks was my very first dress, this china silk with the hand-embroidered pink roses was the robe in which I was baptized, that pale blue my first party frock, this heavy satin my wedding gown and my mother's, this was the last dress my darling Eva wore, this black velvet is the material out of which was cut the gown in which I christened the battleship last month. I shall hand the quilt down to my children's children.' The following pages are my patchwork - squares some gay colored, others dark, happenings of long ago and of today, placed together at random.

As from the vantage point of years I view the world today, I see that it is a very different world from the one in which I grew up. We cannot return to the old world and in some ways we would not if we could. But in that day many more Americans lived close to the rudiments - to the Christian beliefs, principles, and inhibitions upon which this country was founded, which made it great, and which for a long time remained its very bone and fibre. If we return to them as individuals and as a nation, we shall be enabled to meet War and Peace, Death and Life, unafraid. 'Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them,' said Jesus, 'I will liken him unto a wise man which built his house upon a rock; and the rains descended and the floods came and the winds blew and beat upon that house; and it fell not for it was founded upon a rock.'"

This author was nostalgic for the early 1900's, in the face of the 1940's world. Today, we are nostalgic for the seemingly far more innocent 1940's.

In actuality, I would have said in the past that every generation is longing for the simpler life of earlier times, although I doubt if the pioneers in any era longed for something simpler than their experiences. Today, I look at the history of the 1800's and 1900's and I believe there is a clear progression to, perhaps, the "end times", if you want to call it that. No one knows when the "end times" will come, but the Bible gives some criteria as to their character. In any case, rather than a continuum from time immemorial of generations longing for their parent's past, I believe there IS a beginning and an end, a progress of decay that can be seen. Granted, this is just my opinion, but what better place than my own blog to present it.

I think that in the 1890's, the United States reached the apex of it's existence. Prosperity was at an all time high and the civilized aspect of society was also at an all time high.

As we traveled into the 20th century, man's arrogance began to believe that we had it made. The Titanic simply couldn't sink, they said - but sink it did, and with spectacular loss of life. To this day, people are fascinated with a kind of dread by the story of the inevitable fate of the luxury liner.

Back in the mid 1800's Darwin and other progressives began to paint a world without God in their evolutionary theory, and more liberal "theologians" began to pooh pooh the inerancy of the Bible. And so it begins. The general public didn't pick up on these novel ideas for a good 50 or 60 years. World War I was horrific enough to make the general populace begin to embrace the ideas of the intellectuals and liberal theologians. The Bible was an antiquated book of human myths, suitable for literary study only. Those who retained shreds of religion believed in God, but in a nominal, vague way. In general, society began to become more and more degenerate. The things that Baptist ministers railed about at the beginning of this century - moving pictures, short skirts, bobbed hair, women drinking liquor and smoking cigarettes, the ideas of free love and anarchy - all of this, like a field ripe with weeds, became much more widespread in the society of the 1920's.

We all have seen documentaries on the Roaring 20's, and we laugh at how daring they thought they were. In the face of today's disintegrated family it seems somehow quaint to be shocked at the excesses of the 1920's.

So here we are in the 2000's, headed for the end of the first decade. Poor Ethel Wallace would have looked around her at present day Philadelphia and fallen over in a dead faint - perhaps not at the urban sprawl so much as at the everyday lack of morals and values. Imagine her seeing the typical dress of a teen or preteen girl these days! My daughter calls the especially precociously dressed ones, "prostitots".

For myself, I love reading books like this. I can spend an afternoon going back in time to a gentler more sentimental era, when extended families lived all in one house, and there were no old age homes or adult living communities, and the youth were taught respect for their elders and learned valuable life lessons from them right in their own homes every day.

Homes like Ethel's had huge porches in front and sometimes, all around the sides, with ample room for rockers and hammocks. People actually sat on the front porches and greeted passers-by. I know this is true because I've read some of LaVerne's mother's letters to her, speaking about just that - sitting on the front porch and greeting former students (LaVerne's mother had been the equivalent of today's middle school teacher) as they walked by. I can't even imagine what this would be like, to live in a friendly community of people I know and who know me, where we all follow the same rules of etiquette and attend the same churches and social activities. It sounds a bit like heaven, and I can understand Ethel looking with longing back at her childhood full of love and family, security and safety.