embrace Christmas...

Not having grown up in the church, most of its history has bypassed me so a newspaper article titled, Christians didn't always embrace Christmas holiday was intriguing. The Associated Press goes on to talk about how the church was slow to change.

The change didn't happen overnight. Though much of the 19th century, school and businesses remained open. Congress met in session and some churches closed their doors, lest errant worshippers tried to furtively commemorate the day... From the book, Christmas: A Candid History, goes on to explain that the major denominations - Presbyterians, Baptists, Quakers, Methodist and Congregationalists either ignored the holiday of activity discouraged it until the late 19th century

The article goes on to explain, When Christmas began its march toward dominance among holidays, it was because of a change in the culture, not theology.

In America, the saying is that the minister follows the people, the people don't follow the minister. Christmas was more of a sociological change than a religious one. The home and the marketplace had more sway than the church..

Interesting stuff. We all have to grow and change, even the church. Am reading Velvet Elvis/Rob Bell and he talks about faith. The short version is that faith should look more like a trampoline than a brick wall. If faith is a brick wall with no give, if one of the bricks comes apart - the whole wall falls down. If faith is like a trampoline it will bounce and no harm done.

I like that analogy. I like the idea of my faith jumping up and down on a big trampoline. It might get bruised and tossed about but remains in tact - and in the middle of all that bouncing, comes Christmas. There is a place to embrace it in each of us and that is my wish for you this Christmas. May you land soundly and safely and stand up to embrace again.

Going take some time off - will be back January 2. May each of you have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Love you all...zalaine.

a day of sanity....

Actually it is our once a year Christmas/Sanity Day. Now that we have done it twice, it has become a tradition. My friend and I do some Christmas shopping, lunch at Cheesecake Factory and alot of talking. Walking around the mall, people coming and going - standing in line to see Santa, like we had done a few days ago.

We have known each other for over 25 years and even though she is much younger than I, we connect on the same level. We are in different Seasons of life but spiritual, are in the same ball park. We talk as we shop - and pick up right where we left off after a purchase is made. It is one of those relationships that you cherish.

I am done with my shopping and she works more than a full-time job so we tried to conquer her list and got quite a bit done in 6 hours but I imagine she would agree with me when I say the most important thing we shared today was our lives with each other.

We talked about everything and some things, twice. We share hurts and joys. We took turn asking deep questions and being honest with our answers. In friendships like this one, you get to the nitty gritty pretty fast and that is when the real thing happens. I can't help but think the Holy Spirit is hanging out too and working through the conversations, long after they are over.

While the day is planned, what happens, is not. We are both able to be in the Moment and because of that, mixing both Christmas and Sanity comes quite naturally, a major accomplishment in itself.

I walked away from the day, a better person. Better - because she challenges me and made me think. Such a confusing time of the year and any clarity I can find is warmly welcomed. Christmas and Sanity - isn't that the ultimate oxymoron? Not in this case. This one is as smooth as butter...

Ding dong, Avon calling...

DH brought the newspaper in the other morning and included was a little present from the Avon lady. I have no idea who she is but have her email address if I need her.

Avon, reminds me of my high school days. I would have spent every dollar I had on Avon products. It seemed like we got brochures every week - what are they called, Ah, campaigns, that's it. The one I received says we are on Campaign 25 - 26 which tells me that they actually come every two weeks. I can't remember if we always got two - 1 large brochure and 1 small one.

The small one is 14 pages and aimed at apparently those who need flip-flops this time of year. One page of clogs, a couple of shoes with matching purses and a lot of flip-flops. Maybe we have a large demographic of cruise people. There was a page of slippers but I already have mine for the winter. Actually, several pair - in case these that I have on wear out.

The large brochure has 196 pages. 196! How in the world would one find time every 2 weeks to read through this? I remember that the Skin So Soft were pretty much toward the front of the book - they don't even appear until page 178! In fact, between make-up, perfume and other lotiony products, they only make up 81 pages. The other 115 pages are devoted to stuff you can buy at Walmart. There is jewelry, coffee cups and more slippers. Cherished Teddies, Snowbabies, the M&M guys, Harley Davidson and the NFL also make a showing. Dora, Diego, Spiderman, Pokeman, the Disney Princesses and the ever lasting Hannah Montana are a part of this 115 page extravaganza. It is making my head hurt and to do this every 2 weeks!!!

I hope my new Avon lady doesn't come a calling. I am afraid I will have to watch out for her and not answer my door if she shows up. Even though I understand that Skin So Soft is FABulous for mosquito bits, I'll just pick up some OFF at Walmart the next time I need some. It seemed so much easier when I was a kid...

The truth about Christmas Programs...

There is nothing quite like a children's Christmas program. There is just Something about them that makes us, almost swoon. It makes our holiday season seem more complete and gives us the warm fuzzies that tells us, that all is still calm and bright.

Then you have the reality of the whole thing. A church has to start looking for a Christmas program director while we are all still wearing shorts and flip flops. The music must be chosen and the cast assembled. After Thanksgiving, the race is on. Practices on most Saturdays of December, the angel wings and halo es must be constructed and the sound man is tested to the edge of his sanity. All of this, in search of the Perfect Christmas program and this year, I think I have finally figured it out and here is the deal for all of you program people.

We all want a Christmas program but we know the Story... Even if you only go to church once a year, you already know the Story. I do believe that people watching children's Christmas programs can be overwhelmed and may see the baby Jesus in a new light but basically, we are all there for the same reason...to see our kid sing, dance while seeing how cute they are. That is it, We want to take their picture with the rest of the kids as a background. That is why we show up 45 minutes early, save 10 seats and guard them like crazy. That is our goal. (I overheard the director yesterday trying to explain to bunch of little kids about her goal for the program - swoosh, right over their heads)

Pictures of them in their angel wings and haloes, picture of them in their Christmas outfits - that is all we want. I am just telling the truth here - Dear Christmas Program Director - Teach the kids a song, line them up 10 at a time on the stage and let us see our kid sing and take their picture. That would make us so happy and take a lot of pressure off of you.

After the program, the pastor gave a great sermon about letting all people in. We are not to judge who may or may not be worthy - that is God's job. As he spoke, I thought about one little angel who was not allowed to participate in the program because the wings and halo were just too much to handle.

Should you be able to still sing in the christmas program if the costume doesn't work for you? Absolutely.

If you march to the beat of a different drummer, should you be left behind? Absolutely not

The Story of Christmas is age old and no matter what the theme of the program may be, the Message is always there. No one ever walks away from a christmas program in confusion about what they saw. It is pretty straight forward but has tremendous ramifications and to see that acted out by their own, would make it even more powerful. I understand that there are lots and lots of logistics involved but Sometimes we get lost in the details and forget the Big Picture. Forget goals, forget structure - let each child be heard as they bring the Story of Christmas to their own and see what God can do...

Christmas is here but Easter coming...

There was an question that I was asked this week that really threw me. I kept coming back to it - it made me think and it made me smile.

What are three to five issues that you won't ever change your mind about?

The three to five made me smile. Don't know if they thought I would have a list of 100 or what. I started to make a mental list - issues, that's where I ran into trouble. Did they want to know if I would ever change my mind about restroom enthusiastic Larry Craig's antics or releasing Charles Manson from prison? Maybe they were trying to figure out if I lean toward a Left or Right way of thinking. Despite my confusion, I loved the question. I thought back on things I thought I would never change my mind about - God, being one of them and look how that turned out. It is dangerous to never say never but it is equally dangerous to not stand for something.

Anyway I would answer that question, would come back to this video. It was sent by my friend and that it came when it did, was not a coincidence. Between all the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season, we forget that in a few short months - we will be faced with Easter. If you are a follower of Christ, you have to include both Stories and embrace all that they both bring to your Table. May your Table be full and your heart overflowing with what He has for you...

a child shall lead them...

If the true Christmas Story starts with a small child, this will certainly be a different take on that Story. He was known as the kid with the hat all evening. He had a slow start but since he had backed up, you knew what was coming. He brought his A game and no one was disappointed. Our SIL's aunt leaned over to my DH and told him, He must get that from your side of the family. I could not be prouder...

He is a lively child. Paul and Kim - you KNOW what I am taking about. Last Sunday, I was trying to get some video of Hollie and Robyn singing Oh Holy Night and Gage was doing his best to distract me. What I didn't know is that he was entertaining some of the people around us. Tickling me and making faces were his modes of choice and I would give him the Look, and he would just grin - now you can see why.

Not the traditional Christmas song nor moves but this is Christmas 2007 to me. Not the Wise men but Chuck Berry is a great substitute. He had been practicing and we didn't know until he started if he would pull it off but he was more than ready. This is what he had waited for. He told everyone he had to move backwards so he wouldn't hurt anyone - a soft spot for his fellow school mates.

We do not expect this at the church Christmas program this Sunday - what I really expect is some eye-rolling but if he does let loose - I hope people are paying attention. They may learn Something...

Tony, the dancing cop...

According to his web site, he has been dancing since 1984. Not bad for a sixty year old guy and he is available for parties - not clear what he does...

The holidays bring all kinds of good cheer in obviously, many different ways. We all make room in your hearts for it and can't help but smile when it comes out way. December 11 - two weeks to go. As each day goes by, the holiday seems to take it up a notch. We make great food that we don't have any other time of the year. Pioneer Woman has these club crackers/Parmesan cheese/bacon things that I can't wait to try. No other time of the year would a cookie made from pretzels. Hersery Kisses and M&M's sound like fun - except now.

I had over $15 dollars worth of peppermint bark and Knott's Berry Farm cookies in my cart the other day before good sense came back. Those Girl Scout-like mint cookies things are almost impossible to ignore and what a great snack as one is watching the dancing cop.

I am extra giddy today because tonight is Gage's Christmas program. We have been told that he is suppose to bust some moves - air guitar, to be exact. Miss Brandi says he has been practicing and if his shy side doesn't kick it - this should be good. Christmas time is the closest thing I experience to enjoy being an extrovert. I get how extroverts get their energy. It is exhilarating and you just can't wait to see what is next. On the introvert side, you can be a part of Everything and still be yourself - it is the best of both worlds.

So, like Tony - there is much to dance about. March to the beat of your own drum or join the party. It truly is the most wonderful time of the year...

bird's eye view...

I love taking pictures from above and until last week, didn't know that this kind of photography actually had a name - bird's eye view. I know some of the pros will stand up on a ladder or step stool and have their client look up - is a popular shot. Those shots are nice but I see it a little differently. I don't care to see faces. Maybe because it is more of an artistic shot - one that doesn't show a face but still tells a Story.

It all gives me a view of what it could look like looking down from the heavens. I wish I had a shot of Joseph and Mary and their baby with all the animals and visitors. I can only imagine what it would look like. Mary's hands tenderly holding her new baby in a strange place. Maybe we could see Joseph shaking hands with the Wise Men as he welcomed them to his make-shift, temporary home. While we may not see the faces of his parents, we probably would get a glimpse of the baby. I imagine we would never be able to pick him out of a crowd - there would be nothing outstanding about him. No glow or semblance of a crown in sight - just a baby, doing baby things.

Maybe faith is like living with a bird's eye view - you might now see specifics but you get the picture. What you see tells the whole Story, the Story as we need to know it. YOu may be missing out of some of the details but it doesn't distract from the real story. When I take these shots, I get on my tip-toes, put the camera over my head, hover around whoever I am shooting and start clicking away. There is no focusing or using the rule of thirds, just shooting from the hip and the seat of your pants. Not a bad way to take a picture or live your life...

the kingdom of God...

I spent the afternoon helping the kids trim their tree. With the Christmas music playing, there was serious imput on the placement of each and every ornament. With these many personalities, this task differed from person to person but the flow was undeniable.

When someone couldn't reach the perfect spot for their current ornament, help was asked for. There were a couple of runs at the tree without benefit of help but you know how that ended. Not very successful but thank goodness, no one was hurt in the decorating of the tree. As always. some of the ornaments didn't make it thru the process and their fate will have to be decided before it is time to put the decorations away for another year. Soon, our task complete, everyone went their own direction, on to the next thing.

We will decorate my tree this Friday during our sleepover. Practice for the Christmas program is early Saturday morning so after a big breakfast of pancakes and sausages, we will all head for the church and practice in their respective classrooms. Even Miss M has practice - Do two year-olds really practice? Could be a very long two hours.

I started reading, This Beautiful Mess by Rick McKinley on Friday while waiting in the snow storm for an oil change. He is talking about the Kingdom of God and how Jesus explained it was for the here and now - not some future time. I am familiar with the Kingdom of CNN. It is the one of bad news and horrific acts. It seems so real and it is but the Kingdom of God seems like something for a different time, a different place. His point is if you don't seek it, you won't find it. In the mess of everyday life, we can live in the beautiful presence of the kingdom.

When I have days like today, the kingdom seems so close. When I look into these little people eyes, little people whose blood is the same as mine - it is easy to see but most days are not filled with tree trimming and Pizza Hut. Those days where someone kills 8 people in a shopping mall for no apparent reason or the plight of the homeless is made real to you, those are tougher days and the kingdom seems so far away.

The kingdom isn't shifting, dodging from us as we go about our day. The shifting is us and we need to put some effort into finding and holding onto what is available to us. The thing is we are going to live in a kingdom, the question is "Whose?"

"The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he...sold all he had and bought that field." Matthew 13:44

After my oil change, I headed for Sonic and took my, Skating Waitress in A Snow Storm. It gave me a glimpse of what I am looking for. At least I know I am on the right path...

that's what it's all about...

I asked a friend today if she was ready for Christmas and I think that is not such a good thing.

That's not what it is all about.

It is just something we all ask and maybe we should re-think it. Words matter and sometimes, we just get caught up in the hoopla. Especially for women because it is usually our job to buy the gifts, make the goodies and keep the budget from overflowing. That is a big job on top of everything else we have to do.

I should have asked her if she was enjoying the season. I wish I had asked her if she had experienced a Jesus moment this month or if she had a new insight about the birth of God's son. I wonder if she has been moved to tears and why. Has she had any good cheer, come her way.

I am making a conscious effort to never ask anyone if they are ready for Christmas, again. Not in the traditional sense. If they have their shopping done, tree trimmed and family newsletter in the mail.

That's just not what it is all about.

Dec 6 - my tree is not up yet and I am not feeling that festive but my shopping is done. Wow - I really need to step back and head down a different path. I want Christmas to be in my heart as well as my head and I most certainly want it to be what it really is all about...

Logan ...

Logan is a 13 year-old boy who lives on a ranch in a very small town in Nebraska. Logan listens to Christian Radio station 89.3FM KSBJ which broadcasts from Houston, TX. Logan called the radio station distraught because he had to take down a calf . His words have wisdom beyond his years.

I am always suspicious when someone says God tells them things - but for Logan, I will make an exception. Whether it is a hoax or not, matters not to me. The Truth is the Truth regardless of the state of the one who brings the Message but I would like to think that Logan is who he says he is and that God is smiling as Logan tells his Story.

When you think about it, Logan's Story is not unbelievable as the Story about a jolly old man who travels the entire world in one night delivering toys to each and every home. Does God talk to us? I think it did this time...

gizmos and gadgets a plenty

Look at my stuff,
Isn't it neat?
Wouldn't you think my collection's complete?

If you are a girl or have one, you know the words.
You also know what it feels like to soar - this song does that to you.
My most vivid memory is my DD and her best friend singing along with Ariel
at the top of their lungs, in high school.

Ariel was not like the other princesses, she had her Song.
Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella and Snow White - not so much.
And we love her a little differently than the others, not better - just different.

Broadwayworld.com is hosting a contest, Give Us Your Voice.
There is an host of singers trying to win and what a treat to hear them all.
A nice break from the Christmas hustle and bustle - I have been singing it all day.
Jingle Bells has been bumped for now.

Stephanie (419 votes) had a lovely voice and I love the B&W and angle of her video. Mollie (4265 votes) is in her bedroom which is so cute and despite bad audio, her voice is like an angel. It surely makes my heart soar. Nick (17,618 votes) is sick, as Keaton would say. His voice is unbelievable. Who sings like that?

What a format to hear fresh voices that otherwise we might never have known. And how very, very fun. Not a singer, but truly wish, I could be part of that World...

Extreme Makeover - Idaho Style

If you watched Extreme Makeover Home Edition last night, you were in my neck of the woods. After watching this show forever, it seemed surreal to watch it with such familiarity. With pre and post shows last night, you got a sense of what happens when EMHE comes into a town. The Stockdale's started the day with a showing of the documentary made by the builder to showcase the volunteers and ended with tour with the local news people in their home for most of the evening. Speaking of builders, Corey Barton certainly made an entrance - hope America doesn't hold that against Idaho.

Ty's show covered the high points of the new home. The Hoedown that raised money for the family the night before the reveal, wasn't featured but that is ok - those of us there will not forget. The show also ended with the kids eating in the kitchen, leaving a sweet memory for the viewers. The truth is the kids are back on formula. They have never used the dining room - they spent Thanksgiving sledding so that food would not be an issue for the kids. The parents have to eat outside of the sight of the kids, Mom in the pantry and dad, in his car.The refrigerator has a lock on it, up high, so the kids can't get in. EMHE doesn't fix everything and shouldn't be expected to. The dad has had someone pick up the tab for his schooling but as the news reported, they have still have a mortgage and higher utility bills. A friend said she hopes the community is still helping - I am not so sure, hope she is right.

They had vandals throw pumpkins at the house on Halloween and broke a window. They have been asked for money - people think they are rich, that is not the case. I understand that one of the boys has already been a recipent of a Make A Wish gift. Life will never be easy for the Stockdales.

After the hoedown, the night before the reveal, we headed out to the house. It was just after 9PM and as we walked in, the sun was getting ready for bed. We watched as they moved the family piano back in the house. In about 18 hours, the family would be home and see what all of us had already seen. Now with the final reveal, they can move on. The final chapter on this life-changing event. Thanks for sharing with all of us and we send you on the next leg of your journey with all our prayers. Bless you all...

same dilemma, different year...

It seems to grow more difficult each year. It took me a long time to admit it. I tried for years to find a common ground, a pathway that we could all walk together, but I can't, My left-brained mind wants it to all be meshed together. It will just never be...

Saturday night, Brandi, Keaton and I went to see a local production of How The Grinch Stole Christmas. It was a wonderful parody of this beloved classic and with local references and even, recognisable TV commercial jingles. It was yet another great start to this holiday season. Gage didn't want to come - he didn't realize that there was no popcorn or coke (but there was a refreshment time)and he considered people dressing up in costumes to not to be worthy of his time. He opted for McDonalds with his sister and dad. We each seemed to be happy with our choices for the evening.

As I was making lunch this morning, the all Christmas music radio station was playing Handel's Messiah without the vocals - just the music. I took this opportunity to stop cooking and sing. I got to sing all the parts I have ever wanted to and the more I sang, the more I soared - on the inside.

King of Kings and Lord of Lords...
And then the end. What a couple of minutes can do for a thirsty soul.

I don't know how to mix the Christmas of Santa and the Grinch with the Christmas of The birth of Jesus together or how to toggle between the two. Can I live in both worlds for 5 weeks every year? I see Christmas in the eyes of everyone I pass - the kids see one thing, the Big people, another. It makes most people try to be a little nicer, a bit more generous and more tolerant. Which camp they belong to - no one knows.

There is Something magical about Christmas - despite everything, Christmas was the most wonderful time of the year when I was a kid and there wasn't a baby Jesus in sight. The lights, the smells, the music and the food - it was all about the Christmas of Santa and to this day, I don't feel like I missed a thing. Mayb ethat is what scares me - I know the joy of Christmas can come off completely without Jesus.

I don't have a list of ?'s to ask Jesus someday. I don't think I will care about the things that concern me now so I know this is just a temporary issue. If He does happen to bring it up - we will go there but not wasting time on it now.

I love it all. both camps of Christmas. I do the best I can everyday despite what the calendar says and that is about all I can do. Imagine if I am suppose to enjoy it all? What a waste all this worry would be - maybe I should start now...