Wonder Boi Writes

25 Songs of Christmas: Dec 20 – Christmas Day

I virtually never do this, but I am going to play two songs from the same album, on back to back days. There are so many amazing Christmas songs out there. So, why make the exception now?  Well, because I want to.

There have been 100 things threatening to crash my joy in the season. I’ve talked about them all before.  You all know the many things weighing on my heart right now. So, with so many things bringing me down it was really nice to have two artists I really like come together to sing a fun song listing all the awesome things that bring people joy during this holiday.  It made me smile.  It made me feel excited for the coming of Christmas day.  Maybe sometimes that is all I really need.  No great sermons.  No life altering reflections.  No need to change the whole world in every single minute.  Maybe sometimes it’s okay to just stop and take a few minutes to just enjoy the good things.  The rest of it won’t go away. The world with all the good and the bad and everything in between will still be here in six more days.  And so will I.

For tonight though I am going to enjoy some time with my family.  I am going to eat food that will make me fat.  I am going to listen to this song, probably more than once.  And then before I go to bed I will pray for peace, and strength, wisdom.  And then I will do my best to sleep soundly in the assurance that God has been answering prayers like mine for Millenia. Isn’t that the reason we celebrate Christmas in the first place?

December 20, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

25 songs of Christmas: Dec 19 – Almost There

I am pretty well versed in Christmas songs, as least the Christian ones. I was raised on a lot of contemporary Christian music and in a traditionally religious household. It’s rare that I find new ones at all, much less new ones that speak to me like the ones of my youth, but it happened today. I have to admit, it came from a pretty likely source in Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith, two artists I grew up with. I had an almost teen fanboi moment when I saw they had a new duet this season, but felt a bit of disappointment that it wasn’t one of the classic hymns. I should have known better.

But before I go into the details of the song itself I feel like I need back up and admit I had a bit of a relapse yesterday after several days of growing in The Spirit and the joy of the season. I’ve been able to take some really positive steps with my family like focusing on hand made gifts, and donating food and goods to our favorite charity. Jackson has begun to sing sweetly with our nightly carols. I’ve seen signs of hope in the news of the expansion of the Olympic Charter and my home state’s move to ban hydro fracking, and the normalizing of relationships with Cuba. Spending Hannukah with a little friend helped too. I was on a good run.

Then I hit a wall.

I’m not sure why I slipped so far so fast again, but I am human. I am fallible. My to do list caught up with me. Another news story wrecked my emotions. Things took longer than I expected or just plain didn’t get done. My son had a rough day (He’s probably as over stimulated as I am). I ran out of good teachable moments for that creepy little Elf. I looked at a calendar and freaked out. Just before bed last night I snapped at my wife. I said I just wanted this holiday season to be over.   Then I felt terrible.  Ashamed.  Broken.

I’d lost it all again. The joy. The Hope. The Peace.

But today is a new day, and with it came with a new song. Fresh words from familiar voices. A renewed call. A new prayer. At a time when I thought I could not longer be surprised, came a new hope. The Spirit moves even in the darkness. God still speaks.

A lonely road, a willing heart
Pray for strength to do your part
You’re almost there, you’re almost there
Trust the Father to provide
Bread of heaven prophesied
You’re almost there, you’re almost there

You’re almost where the waiting ends
Delivering the life within
The answered prayer, Emmanuel
You’re almost there

You’re almost where the journey ends
Where death will die and life begins
The answered prayer, Emmanuel
You’re almost, almost there

A whispered Thank you, left my lips at the echo, “you’re almost there.”

Even when it doesn’t seem like it. Ready or not. Worthy or not. Even on the bad days, the time grows near.

You’re almost there.

The voice drawing my forward, telling me again what’s ahead, what’s at stake, gently pleading we me to hang on, just a little farther. Just a little longer.

You’re almost there.

Accompanied by a reminder that I am not alone. “Trust the father to provide, Bread of Heaven, prophesied.” He’s heard the prayer. And even now the spirit is moving. “The answered prayer, Emmanuel.”

You’re almost there.

And once again, I believe.

We’re almost where the journey ends
Where death will die and life begins
The answered prayer, Emmanuel
We’re almost, almost there

December 19, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

25 Songs of Christmas: Dec 18

Today is one of those days where I want to let the song largely speak for itself.  This version is called “Come and Worship” but it basically just a new take on a 200 year old hymn called, “Angels From The Realms of Glory.”  It’s one of those songs that always moves me.  No matter what else I am doing during this busy season when the first strains of this song filter through my hectic scattered brain it’s like my body just stops and says, “Oh yeah, all this other stuff is just a distraction.”  Like the Shepherds in the field who left their flock, surely I too can step away from whatever task I had been focused on a take a few minutes to worship God.

If you’ve been busy, overwhelmed, or stressed out, take the next four minutes to lay it all down.  It’ll still be there when the song ends.  For now, just for these few minutes, take a seat, take knee, take a couple deep breaths and let your heart, your mind, and you soul do nothing but worship Christ the new born king.

December 18, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

25 Days of Christmanakkah: Dec 17 – Miracle (Hanukkah Song)

Do you believe in Miracles?

Earlier in the month I gave what was likely an unnecessary disclaimer about not being Catholic so I feel I should probably do the same ting here and state right up front that I am not Jewish.  Duh, Right? Hence the great many blogs about the birth of Jesus.  However, as a Christian I think it’s the hight of hypocrisy not to acknowledge the Judaeo roots of my Christianity.  Am I not also raised on the stories of Abraham, Issac, Moses?  Do I not see the prophesy of Christ in the words of Isaiah?  Do I ignore the fact that Jesus was celebrating the passover on the night of His arrest? Am I to believe that a G-d who so loved the world that He sent His own son to seal our salvation would then turn his back on the people with whom He’d first formed a Holy Covenant?  I think not.

So with that being said, I really love Hanukkah!

While we are being perfectly honest there;s something about a holiday that plans it’s menus around fried food that really speaks to me.  But more than the Latkes and donuts I feel drawn the Festival of Lights for, well, the Lights.  The miracle of light outlasting the darkness is a message I really need this season. We started celebrating at sun down yesterday which required me to look and see when the sun actually set in my area.  It’s 4:45.  That’s early.  That makes for a long night.

A reflection on the physical darkness led me to think once again about the long night we’ve been experience culturally.  The violence, the oppression, racism, homophobia, the gun culture, the rape culture, I’ve made it perfectly clear in previous blogs that this time has been one of darkness for me. The news yesterday offered no reprieve, and yet the story of Hanukkah did.

In the story of the Maccabees overcoming the Greeks I am reminded that no odds are insurmountable when you follow a holy call.  But even more than that I took faith in the reminder that when the fight lingers longer than any single battle G-d stays with us. As we survey the shambles, as we wonder how we can possibly begin to rebuild the worlds we occupy, we don’t have rely solely our own strength and resources. We can rest safe in the assurance that G-d will sustain us. We can be secure in the knowledge that whatever we have, when given over to the Glory of G-d, will be enough.  Enough to sustain.  Enough to strengthen.  Enough to light the way through any darkness the world may throw at us.

As I have grown weary almost to the point surrender, I cling to the idea that G-d can and will use whatever tiny reserve I have left to burn through these darkest of nights.  Yeah, that’s a miracle I need right now.

And I do believe in miracles.

December 17, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

25 songs of Christmas: Dec 16 – Strange Way To Save The World

In keeping with the theme of trying to identify with the Christmas story, in all its facets, (especially the ones that go beyond the similar Christmas card scenes of glowing light and golden hay) I offer up to you a Christian contemporary standard: A Strange Way to Save the World.

I am going to utterly butcher this quote I should have memorized, but C.S. once said that unlike other parables, the salvation story doesn’t make good logical sense to most people.  He went on to talk about how that actually bolstered his faith, because if the salvation story had been a perfectly convenient fit for all men, he would have thought it was likely to have been invented solely by men.  A man-made salvation, though likely easier, wouldn’t actually be very Godlike at all, because God is complex and magnificent and supreme beyond our understanding.  The salvation story hardly has to make complete sense to humans in its entirely; it’s rather more important that it makes sense to God, in God’s entirety, as that is who is ultimately offering the salvation.

I always think of that quote, or my vague memory of it, when I hear this song.  How many times have I looked at the circumstances around Christ’s birth and thought, “that doesn’t make any sense”? It was too long ago. Too far from the seat of power. His community unprepared. His scope too small, or in the words of Andrew Llyod Webber, “If you’d come today, you could have saved a whole nation. Israel in 4 B.C. had no mass communication.”

Such a strange way to save the word. Such a backward time in such a strange land. Why then? Why them? And yet, the story has gotten out pretty well, has it not? Two thousand years later, are we not still brought together by the story? Do we not still sing songs and gather in houses of worship to hear of the night love came down.

I don’t know about you, but asking those questions about the Christmas story always leads me to wonder about all the other times I have asked them about my own life. How many times have I asked God, “Why me? I’m just an ordinary person. Why now? There’s so much more to be done. Why here? Surely you have such better platforms at your disposal. Surely there is always a better place, some better way, some better time, and most of all some better person. It doesn’t make sense to me. But am I really one to second guess what angels have to say?

For whatever reason, God uses some strange ways to save the world, ways that don’t always make sense to the smallness that is our understanding of the infinite wisdom. And yet, those ways are not so high, so grandly removed from our humanity that even the lowliest of shepherds cannot play a big part. If God managed to offer the gift of salvation to the entire world though a carpenter, an ordinary girl, a tiny town, an even tinier baby, who is it say he can’t also work miracles through each an every one of us?

December 16, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

25 songs of Christmas: Dec 15 – Joseph’s Lullaby

Today’s song is another one that tugs at this mother’s heart.  It’s called “Joseph’s Lullaby,” but really it’s a song that any parent could understand.  I’ve already talked this season about how much I love and identify with Mary, but I think Joseph is pretty awesome, too, though I find it harder to identify with him.  I just don’t think I’m that strong or good. I don’t mean to be crass, but if I had a dream about an angel telling me my fiancé was pregnant with someone else’s child, but I should go ahead and care for her and the baby anyway, I would assume I’d eaten something bad before bed.

I like to believe I would recognize the Lord in that encounter, but I am by no means certain that I would. I am even less certain I would be able to rise to the challenge.  Caring for a wife and child is hard work even when you asked for the job, even when you want it more than anything.  Marriage and parenting are hard work under the best circumstances.  Taking on that role when tired and poor and totally unprepared for even the possibility of fatherhood would have the potential to break a person. And then there’s the prospect of raising God thrown in to the mix.

I have a great kid, and I love him for so many reasons.  He is by all accounts pretty near perfect.  He is well-mannered and sleeps well and has a good sense of humor and is largely more self-sufficient than any 7-year-old has a right to be, and still some days he exhausts me.  Even when see my own actions mirrored in his own.  Even when I understand what made him who he is.  Even when I look into his eyes and see my own, I can still wonder, “What am I doing here? How am I supposed to raise this kid?” I barely feel up to the weight of that responsibility on my best days. Can you imagine doing that job without being able to even truly comprehend where your kid came from? Conceived by the holy spirit? That’s a lot to parent and yet, he did.

It takes a lot to be completely present for you child, but it takes something truly special to be that kind of influence for someone else’s.  When I think of Joseph, loving, kind, gentle Joseph, I see step-parents and adoptive parents and foster parents and grandparents who take on the role of parent.  I see non-biological gay and lesbian parents or families who conceive in nontraditional ways for whatever reason.  I see big brothers and sisters stepping into roles they never asked for.  I see teachers and mentors who go the extra mile before and after work and on weekends.  I see peace workers who put their own lives at risk to care for orphans in war-torn areas.  I see doctors who rock babies with Ebola or AIDS.  I see people who step up and guard children’s hearts so they can live peacefully, sometimes for their whole lives and sometimes just during the parts of their lives when they need it most. I am in awe of parents like that.

In Joseph I see the person each and every one of us is called to be, not just for our own children, but for every child who needs rest and hope and love.

December 15, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

25 Songs of Christmas: Dec 14 – Grown Up Christmas List

As soon as I started this holiday season, struggling with the pain and the sadness and the deep yearning for more peace, I knew this song would make an appearance on this year’s list.  It’s so beautiful, and it captures so much of what I want for the world right now. “No more lives torn apart, that wars would never start, and time would heal all hearts. Everyone would have a friend, and right would always win, and love would never end.”

Those gifts are so much harder to come by than the toys and shiny things children wish for. These are no concepts for children. It’s just easier for kids to wrap their heads around the idea of a new video game or Elsa doll. My Sunday school students understand those kinds of things. They don’t understand the things I have talked about in these holiday blogs. They don’t understand how rare the peace and joy of Christmas really are. They don’t see goodwill toward all as some radical message. They don’t understand that the end of war would take a modern-day miracle.

When I was a child, I thought like a child. My faith was simple, but as I became an adult I put away childish things, including the surface level understanding of the Christmas story. They see an exotic journey where I see the hand of an oppressive government. They see a warm stable where I see poverty. They see camels and donkeys and a kind innkeeper where I see the harsh realities of people living on the margins of society being turned away once more.  And yet as I helped our church children prepare for their Christmas play, I realized I wouldn’t trade their understanding of Christmas for anything.

Today I held our youngest nursery child (in his sheep costume) tightly to my chest. I pressed my lips to his sweet head and prayed that no one would ever discriminate against him for the color of his skin, that he would never go hungry, that he would never go to war or come to harm in any of the other ways I fear for our children these days. Then I set him down and watched him toddle off shouting “baaa” at the kids playing shepherds. As I watched them play, I realized that as I look at the Christmas story and see the evidence of all the things in the world that call out for a savior, those children see only that The Savior has arrived.  It’s not that they don’t get the true meaning of Christmas. They get it better than I do. They get the holiday, and they get the message.  These children still live in eternal hope and joy.  The idea of ending wars and loving neighbors, and lives always being whole and full are not great miracles for them or impossible dreams. They are real, honest gifts they see all around them.  Each and every one of them feels that if they listen and pray and sing and circle around that manger they will always have all the things we adults only dare to put on our grown-up Christmas lists. And I can’t help but think that they may be right.

What if as we grew we didn’t learn the true meaning of Christmas. What if somewhere along the way we unlearned it?

Maybe it really is like the song says: What is this illusion called the innocence of youth? Maybe only in our blind belief can we ever find the truth.

December 14, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

25 songs of Christmas: Dec 13 – Joy To The World

Yesterday I had my first real pure moments of Christmas joy.  First Jackson’s class had their holiday concert which was obviously adorable.  Then in the evening we hosted our annual holiday open house with friends and family.  I got to see a lot of people I love. Kids ran around.  Adults shared food and drinks. There were hugs, and lots of laughter.  The best part was hearing Jackson and his young cousins laugh until their whole bodies shook. I was happy without exceptions in those fleeting moments.  That sort of thing is just good for the soul and therefore worth celebrating.  Christ came bringing good tidings of great joy, that is why we celebrate Christmas, and today I am celebrating the joy or having a little bit of joy.

December 13, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

25 Songs of Christmas: Day 12 – Lo, How A Rose E’re Blooming

So, I don’t normally take requests for specific songs blogs because 1) there are so many of them, 2) I am picky, and most importantly 3) I try to let The Spirit guide me in these meditations.

However, this year I got two requests for this specific version of this song, and it’s a pretty obscure version of a pretty obscure song.  Then last Sunday we sang it in church.  Seeing as how I am not a big believer in coincidence, I finally had to consider the possibility that The Spirit was at work there.

After reading all the lyrics to the hymn, I was particularly struck in how this one, more so than any other I have found, acknowledges Jesus’s humanity.  I’ve taken comfort in that idea this season as I have wrestled with my own.

So, without further ado, here is Linda Ronstadt singing “Lo, How A Rose E’re Blooming”

Lo, how a Rose e’er blooming from tender stem hath sprung!
Of Jesse’s lineage coming, as men of old have sung.
It came, a floweret bright, amid the cold of winter,
When half spent was the night.

Isaiah ’twas foretold it, the Rose I have in mind;
Mary we behold it, the Virgin Mother kind.
To show God’s love aright, she bore to us a Savior,
When half spent was the night.

The shepherds heard the story proclaimed by angels bright,
How Christ, the Lord of glory was born on earth this night.
To Bethlehem they sped and in the manger they found Him,
As angel heralds said.

This Flower, whose fragrance tender with sweetness fills the air,
Dispels with glorious splendor the darkness everywhere;
True Man, yet very God, from sin and death He saves us,
And lightens every load.

O Savior, Child of Mary, who felt our human woe,
O Savior, King of glory, who dost our weakness know;
Bring us at length we pray, to the bright courts of Heaven,
And to the endless day!

This Flower, whose fragrance tender with sweetness fills the air,
Dispels with glorious splendor the darkness everywhere;
True man, yet very God, from sin and death He saves us,
And lightens every load.

December 12, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

25 Songs of Christmas: Dec 11 – In The Bleak Midwinter

Some times I post this song without comment because I just love it that much. I can listen to it over and over and not get tired of it. In fact I love it so much that when I woke up after a terrible nightmare I couldn’t shake I resorted to singing these lyrics in my head.

You see this has felt like a pretty bleak midwinter to me. I am sure you all know by now that the culture of violence has really bothered me pretty badly as of late, to the point I have lost a lot of sleep and a lot of tears, mostly over my sense of helplessness. I feel the call, I feel the spirit stirring. But I also help hopeless about my lack of ability to actually affect the situation in a positive way. I know this world is crying out now as God people have called out through all of human history. I want so badly be a messenger of Christ’s love to the world. I want to be part of the voice crying out in the wilderness. I want to stop being part of the problem and start being part of the solution. I want to help foster real lasting change. And yet nothing I do seems to be enough to make a real difference. At this rate it will take millions of people working for another million years to turn things around and how many lives will lose before that happens?

And now you see why I have nightmares.

But as I lay awake, singing internally, trying to keep the dark images at bay, the beautiful imagery of these lyrics began to take over. Snow falling on snow, earth hard as iron, water like a stone. Cherubim and Seraphim. Angels and Archangels. A young mother’s holy kiss. These were certainly things better than what I’d awoken thinking about. But was it just a pretty escape? Did the world of the song fit anywhere in real world of my life? Was it even a dream I could dream right now? And if so, if I could dream it, did that mean I was called to peruse it in some way?

How could I ever contribute to ta world like that in the midst of such hatred and oppression? What could I offer poor, and tired and limited as I am? If I were a wiseone I would know my part. And yet, what can I give Him? Give my heart.

Yes, maybe that is simple. Or maybe the business of committing our hearts to something isn’t very simple at all. Maybe it’s the only way. Maybe it really will take millions of people millions of years working with all of their hearts all of the time, but if so let me be one of the million, let me give my heart.

December 11, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

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