Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

[Edit 12-18-2008 – Replaced video as the old one had been removed.]
This year, this song has struck me more than any other Christmas song. I particularly like this Amy Grant version with the full orchestra rising to the crescendo for the 3rd verse. The video is from 1992, but it’s only here for the music anyway.

Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see; hail the incarnate Diety
Pleased as man with men to dwell, Jesus, our Immanuel

Stop and ponder that for a minute. Whoa.

Come, desire of nations come! Fix in us thy humble home.

Amen to that.
Merry Christmas.

Hero Girl

No commentary required:

Little girl saves mom
: A 7-year-old Detroit girl with learning disabilities was critically wounded when she took six bullets intended for her mother. Alexis Groggins was with her mother, Selietha Parker, in an SUV when Parker’s ex-boyfriend, Calvin Tillie, allegedly jumped into the vehicle and started firing a 9 mm pistol. Crying, “Don’t hurt my mother,” Alexis threw herself in front of her mother and was hit by six shots. One bullet pierced her right eye, and other shots hit her chin and jaw. Her mother was struck by two bullets but sustained less serious wounds. Groggins’ classmates at Campbell Elementary School have placed a teddy bear at her desk, awaiting her return. They have named the bear Hero.

From The Week Magazine (subscription required – and worth it).

Google Streetview Tour of Our Life in Michigan

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Thanks to Google Streetview and the new ground level photos of the Detroit area, you can now see the first house Maria and I lived in in Dearborn. Not only that, but go ahead, take a walk around the old neighborhood.
The small (around 800 square feet) two bedroom was just right for newlyweds. The bedrooms were so small that we couldn’t vacuum around the furniture, the vacuum wouldn’t fit.
That front porch was relatively new when we lived there nearly 15 years ago. It seems to have help up well. I also remember there being a rather large tree right by the road which should be blocking the view. I guess in 15 years trees get cut down.
What’s odd is that I recall the house being brick, but it’s obviously sided now. Maybe it was that old fashioned ‘brick look’ asphalt siding and my memory is just a little fuzzy.

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We lived there for a year and then moved to this townhouse in Century Square apartments in Taylor, right off of Racho road. That’s our place with the white chairs in front of it. Racho road was a two lane country road then, they widened it after we lived there.
This is where we lived when Jessica was born. This is also where someone (not too bright) tried to steal my 1988 Nissan Pulsar SE and only managed to disable it, costing me a couple hundred dollars to replace the ignition lock. Funny the things you remember.

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We couldn’t stay put, so after a year and a half in Taylor, we moved to this apartment in Riverview. That’s our building, right next to the pool. We were on the second floor, on the far side. That sidewalk is where I dropped Jessica on her face in the snow when she was a baby. She didn’t like that much, but seems to have survived without any permanent effects.
I won’t bore you with the places Maria and I worked or anything more. We left Riverview for Columbus OH in 1996. Funny, except for the white siding on the first house, things look pretty similar to what I remember.

Happy (Belated) Birthday to Me

I had great intentions of marking the occasion when it happened, but, well I didn’t. Pinakidion’s birthday post reminded me.
A couple of weeks ago, I had a birthday. Nov. 27th to be exact. Same day as Jimi Hendrix, only 25 years later. 27 years after Bruce Lee and 12 years after Bill Nye the science guy. 872 years after Pope Urban II launched the first crusade. Yippie.
For those of you good at math (and history), you may have figured out that this was a big year for me. Yep, the big 4-0. I’m officially over the hill at this point.
The number itself wasn’t a big deal. I don’t suddenly feel old now that there’s a 4 in front of my age. No, it was the circumstances of life that did it. 😀
The extra 25-30 pounds that have gathered around my mid section in recent years, for one.
Seriously one of the real things that hit me as I approached 40 was the realization that I had nothing to look forward to. What I mean is, as you grow up, you have all these things you look forward to doing. For me I looked forward to graduating from college, getting married, having kids, getting my career going, getting a new car, getting a classic car, buying a house, etc. I realized that I’ve done all that stuff. In some sense, I find myself standing here, right where I wanted to be, saying “Now what?”
Of course there are things to look forward to, I guess I just need to change gears. Getting the kids through school, baptising them, seeing them through college, seeing them married and of course grandkids (That last one was a bit scary to type!). OK, I’m getting a little ahead of myself, but I guess it’s time to shift my perspective. A new decade, a new perspective.
40 down, another 40 or so (I hope) to go. It’s a little sobering to think that I’m at or near the point where the years I have left are fewer than the years that have past. Of course it’s not real healthy to think of things that way, but it is reality.
Certainly, these realizations have played into my rather melancholy, introspective mood of late. I didn’t intend this to be a downer post, I know there’s plenty of good things ahead. Life does not end at 40, but it seems a fair bit of it comes to a head.
It does make one pause and think a bit.

If You’re in the Area …

Our church is doing a short play (that my daughter and I are participating in), written by our minister for our service this Sunday called Securing the Season. It’s a neat little story about how a lone little security guard made a difference for the folks he’s supposed to leave alone – the shoppers in the department store where he works.
The cool thing is that we aren’t just doing this for ourselves. We performed it for a nursing home last light and we’ll be doing it at Children’s Hospital tonight. We hope that this will be a springboard to a real arts ministry where those with talents can use them to bring hope and to honor God.
We’ll be at Grandview High School at 4 PM this Sunday if you’re in Columbus and care to drop by. We’ll be singing some songs and taking communion too. Directions and details on our church’s website. Make sure you say hi if you come.

Luke 2

Luke 2:1 – Caesar dictated that ‘all the world’ should be registered. Of course, not all the world, but all the Roman world. Interesting that they referred to it like that. Surely, they were not unaware that there was more to the world than the Roman empire. Yet, they said ‘all the world’.
I am confident that the phrase did not mean what we take it to mean today. I would think that, by extension, when Paul says later in Colossians 1 that the gospel is growing ‘all over the world’, he referred to Rome. It certainly wasn’t growing in South America yet, nor in Japan or Australia. In fact, in most parts of the world in century one, it was unheard of.
Back in the day, one of the silly things I took at face value was the proclamation that the first century Christians evangelized the world in one generation, therefore we should have that as our goal. First of all, there’s no evidence that they had that as a goal at all. More importantly, when they spoke of ‘the whole world’, they meant something different than what we think of regarding that phrase. More like us saying ‘ the whole nation’, it seems. That seems clear from this one verse alone, if you think about it for more than 2 seconds rather than just believing what someone tells you.
Luke 2:15-16 – They saw the angels and went to see. Much has been made that God chose to announce this birth to shepherds. I don’t want to take away from that, for certainly shepherds were special to God. Jesus compares himself to a shepherd and David was a shepherd. However, I wonder if perhaps the angels didn’t visit others that night as well. Perhaps they did, but those didn’t think the announcement was important enough to merit a trip to the city, or perhaps they decided that maybe they had had too much wine and were seeing things. No way to know, but I wonder. These shepherds heard and went.
Luke 2:19 – Mary was always thinking and wondering about stuff too. I think she and I would get along. 😀
Luke 2:22-24 – They went to Jerusalem to be purified and to offer sacrifices and dedicate Jesus to the Lord. I wonder how common it was for Jews to follow this ancient command at this time. Did most make this journey, or did they settle for something else that they could do closer to home? Perhaps they did because of all the angels and predictions concerning Jesus. i doubt it. More likely, God chose them because they were the sort of people to follow the ancient commands because they loved and respected the Lord.
Luke 2:35 – There’s something for Mary to ponder!
Luke 2:25-38 – First a man in the spirit and then a prophetess publicly proclaim greatness for the baby Jesus. I wonder what the crown present said or thought?

Christmas is Here

This was originally written for my guest post on NITU that I was awarded for knowin that both Santa and the Jolly Green Giant wee known for saying ‘Ho, ho, ho’.
Today (OK, last Saturday) was decoration day. Time to pull all the Christmas stuff out and decorate the house for the holidays. Maria is very into the holidays. Me, not so much. However, I do love the way the house looks when it’s done. We’ve got loads of animated and light up buildings, figures, trees, snowmen and what not. We’ve got several ‘countdown to Christmas’ things that the kids really enjoy taking turns doing. Everywhere you look there’s something moving, glowing or playing music. OK, mostly the music stays off (gets pretty annoying.)
Anyway, usually the first weekend after Thanksgiving is decoration day. My responsibilities are limited:

  1. Don’t be a grouch. You think I’m kidding? Maybe you remember the icicle light incident of three tears ago …(Maria every now and then starts singing “It’s the most wonderful time of the year …” or something as I get a little annoyed at the stupid tree. I appreciate that.)
  2. Plug my laptop into the surround sound so we can play all our Christmas music on random. I love technology.
  3. Bring all the tubs of Christmas stuff up from the basement.
  4. Assemble the Christmas tree.
  5. String the bead garland and put the ornaments on the top part of the tree. Aside from my 6′ 1″ frame, Maria’s the next tallest at 4′ 10″. If it weren’t for me, the top foot of the tree would be bare.

Other than that, it’s sit back and enjoy the show. The kids love every minute of it. By the time I’m done with getting the tree together, Maria and the kids have all the stuff out of the tubs and set up around the house.
Then it’s time for the tree. One of our traditions is that we buy the girls ornaments each year to set aside for their own trees one day. Either a set of simple ornaments or a single, more expensive fancy one. They’ve now each have an organizer with their ornaments in. Each year they pick out a certain number to put on the tree, the rest are Mom and Dad’s.
This year, we decided to let them go all out. The tree is all their ornaments. I’m not much on hanging ornaments, I’d rather sit back and watch. I enjoy watching how excited they get about finding the perfect spot for that special ornament.
Other traditions we have:

  • Santa fills the stockings and brings some of the presents, Mom and Dad bring the rest (but not at the same time). Growing up for me it was all Santa and our stockings were just for show.
  • There’s always an orange in the toe of the stocking. There’s also a new toothbrush, some candy (great combo, eh?) and some other goodies.
  • Since we usually head to Grandmas on Christmas eve, Santa comes early. The space under our tree is filled Christmas eve morning. I like that Santa is smart and considerate like that.
  • On Christmas eve eve, we read the Bible Christmas story and open family presents. One of them is always new ‘jammies for the girls. That way they look pretty for Christmas eve morning pictures. 😀 Growing up for me, Christmas eve was for family presents too, but it was Grandma and Grandpa presents.
  • Then, on Christmas eve afternoon, we leave for the Schaefer holiday tour. We start with a few days in Toledo with my family, including the traditional Christmas eve gathering. After Church, Mom and Dad open their home to a few friends with no family in town. After the Tom and Jerry’s (sweet, hot drink) and snacks, the guests go home and the adults open their presents. We take turns giving, the receiver of a present then becomes the giver next time.
  • After Toledo, we head to MO to see Maria’s family. Along the way, we stop for the night in IL and our good friends from WI drive down to meet us for a night. Swimming in the hotel pool, cards after the kids go to sleep and lots of laughs. I hope we continue to do this for many years.

  • Then it’s a late Christmas with Maria’s family. Presents are opened at her brother’s house, and as they are you’ll find folks hoarding the discarded wrapping paper. Why? Because after they’re all opened, the ceiling fan gets turned on and the wads of wrapping paper get tossed into the fan. Her brother finds paper wads behind furniture until summer time.

I’m sure there are more that I missed, Maria’s the tradition tracker. In fact, she’s the driving force behind most of them. And I’m grateful.
How about you? What are your traditions?

I’d Like Your Prayers

If you feel so moved, I’d appreciate your prayers from Maria’s Dad. He went into the hospital earlier this week with shortness of breath. He’s been in for a few days and only made marginal improvements.
His name is Robert. He’s in his mid 70’s and was a smoker for over 60 years. He started when he was 12 and didn’t quit until a couple of years ago. He has emphysema and has had throat cancer. He now has COPD and likely pneumonia, though his lungs are so damaged they cannot see for sure. He cannot even get out of bed without being extremely exhausted, yet he’s convinced that he doesn’t need to be in the hospital and wants to go home.
This has been very stressful and hard on the family. We are several hundred miles away, and Maria’s youngest brother is the only one of the four kids in town. It’s hard being this far and not knowing how we can help. We cannot just run and help, though it feels like we should (and we, or at least Maria, still may). We are certainly grateful of all her brother is doing on his own.
If your willing, pray of course for his health, for his doctors, for peace for Maria’s Mom Donna who is overwhelmed right now and strength and patience for her brother Adam.

Luke 1

Time to put my money where my mouth is on m Bible study. I’ve decided that a study of Jesus is in order. I don’t recall doing a study of Luke, which means it’s been a long time, so that’s what I’m going to do. As with Ezekiel, I’m reading from the ESV. One of these days I need to change the verse linking around here to point to the ESV. For now, it’s still the NIV.
Luke 1:6 – Before the grace of Jesus, two people were described as “walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord.” What that reminds me is that grace is not a concept invented at the cross, for certainly they were not sin free (Zechariah proves this in a minute). It was in God’s nature all along to look past the sin of those earnestly seeking him.
Luke 1:18 – After all that prophesy concerning his life (a baby, and a prophet!), he answers basically “Dude, how can I believe that? I’m an old man, and my wife’s old too!” It’s hard to imagine seeing an angel, hearing that prophesy and then questioning his intelligence. Actually, come to think of it, I can imagine doing that, being the judgemental dope that I am.
Luke 1:19 – Gabriel answers – “Hey – I stand in the presence of God and He told me to tell you!” and then puts him in his place. I have to wonder – was the making Z. mute Gabe’s idea or did God tell him to? I can imagine Gabriel being disgusted at the lack of respect and laying this on Zechariah on his own. Of course, he couldn’t have done so (assuming he did) unless God had given him such authority. I like the idea that God would do such a thing as give an angel the trust to discipline a man if he saw fit.
Luke 1:23-25 – There’s a comedic scene here that was left out. Zechariah comes home with the amazing knowledge of this vision and no voice to tell Elizabeth about it. Seeing that a new baby – a baby boy – was part of it, I imagine he was excited to, uh, make sure it was fulfilled if you know what I mean. But he couldn’t talk to her to make it happen. I’m thinking that might have been kinda funny.
Luke 1:34 – Notice the difference between Mary’s response and Zechariah’s. He asks how he’s supposed know that it’s true, she asks just “How?”.
Luke 1:39-45 – I wonder if these women really understood what they were a part of? Certainly, time would show it, but even then, did they understand the impact their sons would have? I would have liked to hear some more of their conversations from this meeting.
Luke 1:64-66 – I wonder if we would be impressed with something like this today. I think we are too jaded, too surrounded with special effects and medical miracles. I somehow doubt that this wold create the same kind of stir.
Luke 1:76 – “And you, child, …” Can you hear the pride in Zechariah’s voice? I can recall looking at my baby girls and wondering, what will this child bring? What does the Lord have in store for you, little one? I’m still not sure for mine and I wait to see it revealed. He knew that God has chosen him for a special mission, a one of a kind assignment. Imagine knowing that of your child.

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