Wednesday, December 29, 2010


Yes…I know it’s not Tuesday.   Unfortunately, it got too late in the day for blogging yesterday.
So…today I’m back on track and would like to talk about TRADITION.
Tradition is meant to help us identify what is sacred in life.
-Joan Chittister
Over this past weekend TRADITION was observed.  For our family on Friday night Kim, Gabe & I traveled to be with my parents.  My Mom’s TRADITION is to prepare Christmas Eve dinner for everyone.  On Saturday night, Christmas Day, we trekked our way to my in-laws for their TRADITION of Secret Santa and the always fun White Elephant Gift Exchange (AKA: Chinese Gift Exchange; FYI- The China reference is unclear.  One suggestion points to the Chinese concept of destiny).

So exactly what is TRADITION?  Here’s Webster’s definition:
1 a : an inherited, established, or customary pattern of thought, action, or behavior (as a religious practice or a social custom) b : a belief or story or a body of beliefs or stories relating to the past that are commonly accepted as historical though not verifiable. 2: the handing down of information, beliefs, and customs by word of mouth or by example from one generation to another without written instruction. 3: cultural continuity in social attitudes, customs, and institutions. 4: characteristic manner, method, or style <in the best liberal tradition>.

Interestingly, at both the Christmas Eve dinner and Christmas Day evening gathering we built on the celebration of family and friends coming together in fellowship and fun.   We made TRADITION.

The TRADITION of Christmas is much talked about.  Seemingly, it starts earlier and earlier each passing year, but typically (I almost typed: traditionally) you start hearing Andy Williams, Burl Ives and seeing all the trimmings as soon as the jack-o-lantern and goblins begin to fade in late October.  The onslaught of consumerism piles on where Halloween and Thanksgiving have left off.   Countless advertising around the TRADITION (used it that time!) of the retail industry’s ‘black Friday’ and  economist predictions fill the airwaves as well as this whole attack or war on Christmas phenomenon; Scrooges on both the left and right basking in their own humbug political posturing.   What happened to the supposedly, ‘most wonderful time of the year’?  Is there anything to be ‘holly and jolly’ about?
YES there is.   TRADITION.   What’s important is the time spent together away from all the noise and humbug.   So this year TRADITION begins anew for both sides of our family.

After dinner on Christmas Eve, as we all gathered in front of our tree I asked my 12 year old nephew to read aloud the Christmas story found in Luke from our family heirloom bible.  It gave him an appreciation of history, family and TRADITION.  I felt a sense of pride coming from him as he read, stumbling over a word or two here and there, but excitement that he’d been asked to perform this task and to begin this TRADITION. 

 The next night was even more interesting as my father in law gathered us all before the gift exchange fun for what he called quiet time.  He explained that he wanted to do something different this year.  Then after a few words he produced a loaf of bread and cup to which he called on me to give the words of institution; to tell the story of holy communion.  There on the porch the family shared communion together.  We all came forward one by one, all at different places in our faith journey, but together united in celebration of birth and resurrection in a meal of historic and spiritual TRADITION.

Do you and your family have a TRADITION?  

Peace be with you and Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Peace on Earth, Goodwill Toward Men

Our tree. Cross ornament made in El Salvador
As Christmas approaches I've been thinking about how special this holiday is for Kim and I as we celebrate with our son Gabriel for the first time.

We're looking forward to spending time with family and friends remembering the importance of promoting peace on earth, goodwill toward men.

Something we look forward to sharing with our boy as he grows is the experience of Native American culture.  Kim and I have been blessed to be a part of mission and cultural work in New Mexico near the Navajo Nation.

Dzil na odillii mesa near Bloomfield, New Mexico
We've made many close friends there and we look forward to sharing the excitement of our little boy, who, in honor of our service and connection to those extraordinary people, have given the native name of 'Kicking Boy', cause he loves to kick!

I've been thinking about all this because of the important spiritual significance and awesome celebration of Jesus' birth, it's always a time of year that I remember my Navajo friends, John & Emma Henderson and other Native Americans.  For me the Dineh people of the southwest are wonderful examples of what Jesus teaches about peace on earth, goodwill toward men. 

Entrance to Wounded Knee Cemetery
So, how many of you know what the significance of the date December 29, 1890 is?

If you ever want to learn the true story of what happened to Native America, go out and get a copy of Dee Brown's historic book, 'Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee'.  Read the book.  Learn the truth.  

As you think about the importance of the season, remember what happened to a people during the holiday season of 1890. 

Have a merry Christmas and happy New Year.  Spend time with family and friends, celebrate Jesus' birth and think about how important the phrase, 'peace on earth, goodwill toward men' is to you.

...and now here's some music from Johnny Cash:

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Do They Know?

PIC of the Week: November 2010 view near Concord, VA
It's cold and winter hasn't even officially kicked off yet.  Things have been quite frosty the last several days here in the Old Dominion.  We've even got a bit of the white stuff on the ground...just enough to cover the grass, but the extra cold temps are keeping it around.   I even heard a report of the rare occurrence of Chesapeake Bay effect snowfall on the Eastern Shore peninsula of Virginia!

A couple of things are on my mind this Tuesday.  First off, I really don't understand all the political hubbub regarding whether compromise is capitulation or that capitulation is compromise.  'Do they know it's Christmas time at all?'

Secondly, Elizabeth Edwards, former wife of the presidential candidate, John passed away after a courageous battle with cancer this week.  Sadly, her funeral was marred by some sick minded protesters we're all now too used to seeing be disrespectful at other such celebrations of life; espousing untruths in God's name.  As a 'Jesus Follower' I've come to realize through love, grace, peace and fellowship with other disciples that it's imperative to get the truth outAgain, I ask the disrespectful (among many other questions) 'do they know it's Christmas time at all?'

So as we get closer to the celebration of Christ's birth let's forget about the things that really, when you seriously think about it...don't matter.  The importance of giving, family, friends and time spent with them during the Christmas season and all year round is what it's all about.  I've always known when it's Christmas time, but for some reason now...this year...I really know it!

So, who remembers this great tune?  Enjoy!


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

So Many More Important Things

PIC OF THE WEEK: View from Varina-Enon Bridge looking toward Hopewell, VA (2007)
So I'm yawning...yes...yawning as I get around to writing a little something for the blog.

Remember that movie...or line from a movie...'If it's Tuesday This Must Be Belgium'?  If it's Tuesday it must be blog time.  Really?  It's Tuesday?  Do I have time?

Yes...this week we went back to work and our son began his daycare experience.  Today is day 2.  We're getting used to a whole new way of going to and coming from work.  There's another in our lives now that we are responsible for, someone depending completely on us.

I'm sleepy, my back hurts, I'm not ready to be back at work, but...there are so many more important things in this world than all the noise and hate.

Today marks the 69th year since America entered the Second World War. To this day, oil still oozes from a sunken ship beneath Pearl Harbor, Hawaii where the Sunday morning "dastardly attack" as President Franklin Roosevelt called it, took place.  Someone 18 years of age that December 7, 1941 was born in 1923 and is now 87 years of age.  The memories of that day are fading.  Of course, history will never forget, but as those who lived through it and happen to still be alive on this day and those folks continue to increasingly pass on, the significance and the importance wanes and the infamy subsides.  The stories live on, but it's weird...I can sense the diminished significance with each recurring December 7th.   It's understandable, but for those who lived in it, were part of it, who had a loved one lose their life, who immediately upon hearing the news come over the radio or by word of mouth, went to their local induction center or who ultimately give the full measure in some other violent episode between then and August of 1945, December 7, 1941 will always be a day of sadness and reflection.  The 20th century's equivalent to 9/11.  I'm thankful for what many now call the 'greatest generation'.

I feel the most significant part of December 7, 1941 is that for many forgiveness has now taken root in their hearts for the transgressions perpetrated that day.

I pray that in many years from now humanity still remembers December 7th, 9/11 and the all too many other tragic occurrences of history in the hope we learn that violence is not the answer.

So as politicians fume and grumble about not getting their way on the right or the left...remembering December 7th, those who died and the ultimate forgiveness that has come about since then should be the order of the day.  Don't they know there are so many more important things in this world than all the noise and hate?  Yep...just like with my back hurting and I'm tired, but then all I have to do is look at my beautiful son and the pain and sleeplessness all goes away. 

We should all take time to look at ourselves and realize the really important things in life...since Gabriel's arrival...I know I do.