The Wonder of Travel!

We were reflecting the other day on the many trips that we took, Aaron and Jonathon on, when they were youngsters.

I say, travel all that you can!

My Blog Title is; The Happy Traveler; Reading Earth’s Book…A Page At a Time.

There, simply, is no way to learn more about the human family…than to travel!

I recall the Muslim people, waving at our tour bus in Tunis, Tunisia.  We, throughly enjoyed the, sweet cakes, and tea that they served us at a rug weaving, stop, on the tour.

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In Nice, France I encountered the most friendly store clerks that aided me in my search for a hat to block the Mediterranean Sun!

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In London there was the gracious staff at the Hat Store, that not only, happily stretched my hat, that I purchased..but also gave me, aged, bourbon to drink…as I waited.

The wonderful residents of the United Kingdom…that I was privileged to be a part of during my friend, Jeff’s, business meeting…were delightful!

Our waiter in a ristorante in Roma…treated us like family!  He made us his special recipe…that was to die for…and he poured us his best Grappa!

Edinburgh…captured my heart!  Much of the reason for such a bold statement is the wonderful man that I met the first evening that we were there!  He asked me to assist him to stand in an upright position, from his wheel chair, to facilitate his ordering at a counter at the restaurant that we were in.  He exclaimed his love for the United States and projected to me…how glad that he was that I was visiting…Edinburgh!

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The, Ghost Tour, in Edinburgh was a highlight of our five day, visit!  The young woman that was our guide was an expert in telling the, true, story’s of ghosts and strange occurrences, and her re-counts of the ghastly yarns…brought goose bumps on my flesh!

Often we have stayed with and traveled with our dear friends, Margo and Jeff, which has enhanced our experience exponentially!

We took a United Kingdom Cruise…and the most lovely brunette sisters…were along with their parents!  This was not a fact that was lost on Aaron and Jonathon!

During this cruise we visited the island of Guernsey and partook of the ice cream and visited their famous fort…where the cannon was fired at high noon!

One night…I peered into Aaron and Jonathon’s, adjoining cabin, and noticed that they were not there.  I proceeded to look for them throughout the ship and, subsequently, found them in the, Ship’s Library, playing board games with the brunettes!  I slipped out…quietly.

The little, Princess Ship, the smallest in the fleet, encountered, extremely choppy waters, and the Broadway shows were cancelled due to fear that the performers might be injured, and walking on the ship had to be accomplished by, tightly gripping, the wooden rails along the hallways.

One, especially rough night, the ship seemed to have it’s front raise to  a ninety degree angle and then to be, dropped harshly, back into the ocean.  It dawned on me…that people die on the ocean…and I became, extremely, seasick…while Mary Jane slept…the sleep of the dead!

 

 

The New Year Comes!

Is is just me…or does each years pass more rapidly than the year before?

I was speaking with a dear friend of mine, the other day, and we agreed that some years are memorable…and some you would rather forget.

Health challenges affect us all, and if you do not think that they will, ever knock on your door….just give yourself some time.

A poor health diagnosis is frightening…and I have cried and been scared and prayed and thanked God for mercy…many times!

Another friend told me that, life is a beautiful gift…and yet when looking back…you are shocked on how much of the gift, that you frittered away!

To live each day with a purposeful plan and in humble gratitude for the paramount opportunity…is a goal of mine!

Those who have never known financial want or deprivation or hunger…have difficulty understanding those who do.

Those who have never encountered, significant, illness, often see those who are ill …in the abstract…and with little understanding of how an illness can, completely, alter your life.

Each day in 2019 will afford, each of us, to do something nice for someone else.

Now you may think that you are much to busy for such a altruistic endeavor…but nothing that you could do…will make you feel better about yourself and the world of suffering humanity…that is part of our family!

I have said, over many years, that we should enjoy every blessing and good fortune that comes our way…as each year…may be the best of our lives!

The element that I notice about successful seniors is that they never stop striving and they never stop…doing!

Mission and purpose and goals, keep us young!

‘The hoary head is a crown of glory if it be found in the way of righteousness.’   Proverbs 16:31    KJV

Trying something different is an energizer in life!  Whether it be travel or writing or diet or dancing!

Aaron got us a juicer for Christmas.  We had one, several years ago, and enjoyed juicing vegetables and fruits…very much!  We are excited about re-traveling the road of juicing!

I wonder if we could step outside our mortality and see ourselves and our lives from a, detached, perspective, if we would be, much as Mr Scrooge was in the Dickens Christmas classic, and be rejuvenated and refreshed and renewed in spirit…to live the life that we were meant to live…and to help Tiny Tim?

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A Christmas Eve Stroll

I strolled around campus lake last Christmas Eve…and nothing would satisfy me more…than to do so, again, today!

IMG_3256 2I continue to be amazed at the speed that time travels.  It seems like yesterday that I was walking the campus lake trail and pondering what the new year of 2018 would bring?

I thought of our new chancellor, Dr. Montemagno, and had high hopes for what he would bring to our campus.

I thought of President Trump…and prayed that the New Year…would be a good year!

I hoped that Mary Jane would have relief from her back pain and that the physical therapy would do the trick!

I was determined to stay dedicated to writing…and hopefully every day in 2018!

IMG_3257 4I knew that a Caribbean cruise was upcoming in April, 2018, and I was looking forward to it.

I reflected on how fond I had become of our Pastor, Janice West, and her dedication regarding speaking out on issues of humanity and compassion for all!

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I thought about the fact that I had been retired for almost seven years.

I reveled in how much I have enjoyed retirement…and that there are not enough hours in the day for me to accomplish all that I want to do!

I reflected on the university that has been my second family and the department, Building Services, that I spent my entire career in.

I worried about Building Services and the precious people that are dedicated to excellence each day!

I considered what I could do to help the homeless…and those who have no voice.

During 2018 I discovered that there are many fellow church members that love our family and who have come forward to help us during Mary Jane’s back surgery.  I have been a church member for fifty years…and I have never experienced the, demonstrated love and concern, that I have witnessed and felt, during the past month!

I have thought, many times daily, of my friend who had a significant health challenge…and her, wonderful family, who have been my friends for over twenty years.

IMG_3263 3Brody, our fourteen + year old Boston Terrier, has made it to another Christmas…and this is something that we did not think possible…last Christmas!

When I consider God’s blessings I accepted another nomination to the Session, which is the Board of Elders in the local Presbyterian Church.  When I look around me, at the church, and see all of he hard working and dedicated members, I must try to give back…in some manner!

IMG_3261 5The woods is a comfort and a, secure, sign of the permanence of God!

We humans lives are as swift as a weaver’s shuttle.

‘ The Master Weaver’

 

‘Our lives are but fine weavings,

that God and we prepare,

each life becomes a fabric planned,

and fashioned in his care…

We may not always see,

just how the weavings intertwine,

but we must trust the Master’s hand,

and follow his design.

For he can view the pattern,

upon the upper side,

while we must look from underneath,

and trust in him to guide.

Sometimes a strand of sorrow,

is added to his plan,

and though it’s difficult for us,

we still must understand.

That it is he who flies the shuttle,

it’s He who knows what best,

so we must weave in patience,

and leave to him the rest…

Not till the loom is silent,

and the shuttles cease to fly,

shall God unroll the canvas,

and explain the reason why.

The dark threads are as needed,

in the Weaver’s skillful hand,

as the threads of gold and silver,

in the pattern He has planned.’

Author; Unknown

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Campus Christmas

I walked the path around campus lake, today.  This is something that I had not done in some time.  I had to see the, primarily bare trees of the woods, decorated for Christmas.

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When I first began, my trek, I noticed the most lovely white swan.  He was sitting, so majestically and still, that I determined that I must have a photo of him/her.

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As I raised my camera to take the, prized photo, an Asian couple were approaching me…and the young man was waving at me.  I proceeded to, capture, the quiet and dignified swan’s image.  When the couple reached me on the trail…the woman said that the swan was not real.  They smiled, broadly, and wished me a Merry Christmas!

The, tradition, of decorating the trees along campus lake has been occurring of several years…and it grows each year.

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Our beloved university has weathered many challenges.  The minimalistic beauty and quiet solemnity of the Christmas tree decorations, that are placed on the trees by many, lovers, of Southern Illinois University at Carbondale…gives me hope for the future.

IMG_3245 2I was so pleased to hear that Dr. John Dunn has been named as the interim chancellor of our school.  I know Dr. Dunn and had many enjoyable conversations with him when he was the interim chancellor at SIU during the previous decade.

Chancellor Dunn is a fair and honest leader and he will seek input from the entire campus community.  He has an, easy, demeanor and the ability to project the worth, to the student or the staff member or the member of the faculty,  that they bring to the university family!

I was representing the civil service council during Dr. Dunn’s last interim chancellor post…and I told the president of the university that he could do no better than Dr. Dunn…and I knew what I was speaking about as I was a member of the chancellor search committee.

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There is a lovely, spiritual, and community feel to the, random, Christmas decorations.  Walkers and holiday revelers and people that are connected to SIU and to the, natural, beauty that is so replete on our campus…are adding their token of love to their university!

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Christmas Eve

‘Come on Dad…it is just a little farther to the Good Samaritan House, and I hear that they may still have room for people like us,’ said Abigail, as she pulled on her father…who was setting on a, solid, sheet of ice, where he had slipped and fallen…just a few minutes before.

Cars and trucks were whisking by on highway #13, and some were decorated with reindeer antlers, and in many of them there was the, joyous, playing of Christmas Carols.

Dad had fallen just across the street from Schnucks supermarket…and people, gingerly, walked around him as if he was an inanimate object…and not an injured, homeless human.

Dad said, ‘Abigail, please give me just a few minutes to lay down..as I am so tired…and I feel a bit warmer, now.’

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Jalopies and Mercedes passed…and many slowed down to take a closer and quizzical look at the odd aspiration of a man…sleeping on a sheet of ice.

As the, holiday, shoppers entered and exited Schnucks…they, dutifully, placed their loose change, or even a few dollars, in the Salvation Army Kettle…and felt a Christmas warmth in their hearts as they did so.

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The christian minister…passed by…as did the rabbi…and the priest.  They were certain that there were people that had been informed of the poor souls plight…and would subsequently be investigating the, terribly sad, matter…shortly.

There was so much to do…and so little time.

There were Christmas gifts to buy…and cookies to bake.

There was the Christmas Eve church service to prepare for…and it was always so touching.

Abigail…stood in the middle of highway #13…and waved her hands…and shouted…and begged…and beseeched…that someone would help her with her, fallen father.

The temperature was 5 degrees.

Finally, a scruffy and, apparently, homeless man…approached Abigail’s freezing father.

The, unkempt, helper…seemed…not up to the task of assisting a fellow, hurting, human being.

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Dad, first sat up and the helper with the long walking stick…sat on the ice with him and talked with him…for some minutes.

Then the helper…gave his friend his arm and slowly he struggled to his feet.

Abigail, had tears in her eyes…and hurried to her Dad’s side…to assist him…and to thank the, wonderful old gentleman, who had helped him.

When Abigail turned to thank the helper of her father…he was gone.  She asked her Dad…who he was.  He told, his daughter, that, the man said that,  he had been watching him to see if anyone would help him…and when no one did…he came to assist.

Dad went on to say that the, mysterious stranger, had instructed him to walk over to Schnucks and to ask the first person that he saw, if he could spend the night at their home…it was Christmas Eve.

Abigail and Dad walked to the Supermarket and encountered an elderly man and wife who were assisting each other into the store.

Dad…humbly asked the couple if he and his daughter could spend the night with them  in their home…as they were homeless and seeking shelter from the cold.

The old couple smiled broadly!  They recounted that a, homeless man had knocked on their door that, Christmas Eve, morning…and had requested that they give assistance to a, needy, father and his daughter…that day.  The man who had made the request, of them, had seemed little qualified to be requesting help for others…as he appeared to be without lodging or food.

But…when they looked into his eyes…they  were hypnotic and kind…and they could see the suffering of the world and the hope of tomorrow…in an instant!

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‘For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.’   Isaiah 53:2   KJV

‘What You Cryin About, Mon?’

We were sitting in a doctor’s office this morning.  As I observed the patients enter the waiting room to await their turn, I noticed a, pleasant women with a stylish cane, and her grumpy husband…also with a cane.

The, peaceful, lady entered first and the receptionist greeted her, cheerfully, and called her, Miss Doris.  Miss Doris, responded in a bright and optimistic voice and proceeded to find her seat and fill out some paperwork that she had been given.

When, Mr. Dorris, entered he proclaimed, ‘every damn time!, and then sat next to his  wife.

The, cherubic wife, lifted her head from her clerical duties…and asked, with a smile, ‘what?’

Mr. Dorris, with a permanent grimace, responded, ‘they have you fill out those damn papers every time you come here!’

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He picked up a magazine…seeking enlightenment…and soon uttered, ‘damn’, again.

His long-suffering wife, asked, what he was upset about, and he told her to read the first paragraph.  She did, and smiled and shrugged her shoulders.

We were on a bus tour in Europe, a few years ago.  After we had boarded the bus and taken our seats, in the back, I could not help but notice the gentleman, in front of us, was cursing and angry about some, perceived mistake, that his wife had made.

The angry tourist, repeatedly, announced, that, ‘I told you we were going to get bad seats!’

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When his wife asked him to be quite and to shut up and told him that he was making a scene…he said…about ten times…’god damnit I am not shutting up!’

I tapped the, out of sorts traveler, and asked him if he would like to trade seats with Mary Jane and I?

His wife told me to not do it…as he deserved what he got.

In the 90’s we took a Great Eastern vacation.  One of our stops was in Philadelphia.  The traffic was horrendous…as had been the rule throughout our automobile odyssey.  Finally, we found a parking garage and entered…and I began to hear someone yelling instructions to me.

As I rolled down my window, to facilitate hearing the loud commands, better, I was instructed to, ‘leave the windows rolled down and the car keys on the driver’s seat.’

I was determined to give the, surly, parking attendant…a piece of my, Southern Illinois mind!

Mary Jane and Aaron and Jonathon…simply knew that Dad was preparing to ‘blow a gasket!’

I told the Jamaican gentleman that I had never heard of such instructions and feared that my rental car would be stolen.  He responded, ‘what you cryin about, mon?’

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Suddenly, my anger, was diffused…and I wondered, indeed, what I was cryin about?

As Grandma Askew often said, ‘if you live to be 100…life is short!’

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We live in a world that the most astute author…could not create in a novel!

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We love and are loved.

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We have family and friends that are near us and who rely upon us.

As Scarlett O’Hara said in the movie, Gone With The Wind, ‘tomorrow is another day!’

Each day is filled with opportunity to discover a blessing on this, magical mysterious road of life.

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One, surprising day, we found ourselves on the road of life…we did not know how we arrived…and one day…the journey will be over…and we do not choose the time of departure.

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If you will stand back and observe you life…there are many elements of it that are more valuable than the lottery…or as the Bible says, ‘I will make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir.’   Isaiah 13:12   KJV

 

 

 

Finding Christmas

Since my youth, I have noticed that Christmas is not a one size fits all.

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The classic depiction of a loving…and happy…family…surrounding the Christmas table; with joy in their eyes and rosy cheeks is not always the condition that you find yourself in.

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I, vividly, recall Christmas, 1989, when I identified with the premier movie, Christmas Vacation, much more than the, Turner Classic Movies, White Christmas or Holiday Inn…or even, Christmas in Connecticut.

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At times, it takes, concerted, effort to find the Christmas that you are looking for; as you push through the marketing and the Black Fridays and the Cyber Mondays.

The commercialization and purchasing frenzy that is associated with the holiday often drives people to spend much more than they have…for Christmas gifts.

In 1989 just after we had an especially difficult, extended family encounter, we stopped in a Carbondale theatre to see Christmas Vacation with Chevy Chase.  The film seemed to be, almost, exactly what we had just experienced…and we laughed until we cried!

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Christmas Vacation…was Christmas for me in 1989!

Christmases in Elkville…in our four room house…and twenty or more guests…were memorable.  We had a, majestic, Christmas tree…and Aaron and Jonathon were full of Christmas wonder and excitement.

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One December 25th, I received a, used portable television and a Texas Instrument personal computer…that hooked up to the TV….and it fascinated my desire to enter the computer age!

There was the holiday season that we attended a performance depicting the birth of Jesus.  At one point, the actors that were the shepherds, entered from the back of Shryock Auditorium, singing.  One of them sang in a resonate bass voice…and…I discovered Christmas again.

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For a few years, we had the tradition of traveling to Gatlinburg, Tennessee on Christmas day to join our, good friends, the LaBriers, and to stay together in a condo in the neighboring town of Pigeon Forge.  I remember standing on the balcony with Steve and Aaron and Jonathon…and finding Christmas as I peered at the, splendid, Smokey Mountains.

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Mom and I were going it alone after my dad left us.  There was little money for gifts.  Mom saved and scrimped to purchase me a Big Swinger Polaroid Camera.  Thus began my, life long love of photography.

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Steve and I traveled to Eldorado, in his 1952 Chevrolet and played, Country Christmas, on his radio.  I had purchased, for my Mom, a lovely scenic picture, and I was paying for it at the, princely sum, of five dollars per week.  The painting hung in the, new room, until the death of my step father and the sale of their home.

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Several holiday seasons, we traveled to the headquarters of Famous Barr department store in St. Louis, Missouri.  Aaron and Jonathon were both small…and it was our mission to observe the Christmas Bears and their Yuletide frivolity, on the seventh floor of the massive store.  When I witnessed the joy in the eyes of my sons…that was Christmas!

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On more than one occasion…the Christmas Eve service at our church…is where I find Christmas…once again!

I, so enjoyed, speaking with the wonderful people that comprised the housekeeping operations at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale.  Each year the Union would invite me, and other managers, to their Christmas Luncheon.  As I walked from table to table and exchanged holiday greetings with, my friends, I felt a, profound, sense of love and caring and camaraderie.

Each year I watch on television the Christmas Eve Service from St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome…and I enjoy it, even, more, since we have had the opportunity to visit the Vatican.

Finding Christmas…may be a song that touches your heart…or a friendly greeting from a stranger…or a feeling of peace that emanates from, what may seem to be, an insignificant act.

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This Autumn has included many tests and a health issue for a beloved member of my family.  All tests turned out good and including a major surgery that has been successful!

That is Christmas…for me!

 

Note: The downloadable Norman Rockwell photos are courtesy of Google search.

Capturing Christmas

‘Without thinking too much about it in specific terms, I was showing the America I knew and observed to others who might not have noticed.’   Norman Rockwell

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There is a, magic, to the paintings of Norman Rockwell.  His capturing of the world that he grew up in depict a, marvelous expectancy, when illustrating the joys and mysteries of Christmas.

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I catch myself jumping up to see if the Fed Ex truck or the UPS delivery person…is delivering a Christmas gift to my home!

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‘Born in New York City in 1894, Norman Rockwell always wanted to be an artist.  At age 14, Rockwell enrolled in art classes at the New York School of Art (formerly the Chase School of Art).  Two years later, in 1910, he left high school to study art at the National Academy of Design.  He soon transferred to the Art Students League, where he studied with Thomas Fogarty’s instruction in illustration prepared Rockwell for his first commercial commissions.  From Bridgman, Rockwell learned the technical skills on which he relied throughout his long career.’   Norman Rockwell Museum

I remember my friend, Steve and I, driving to Eldorado, Illinois to celebrate Christmas with my mom and stepfather.  This was during the first years of my venturing out on my own…with no money and, seemingly, less prospects.  Steve had a 1940’s Chrysler and we had Christmas melodies on the radio.

I had a painting that I had purchased for my mom…from Down’s and Son Furniture store in Elkville…where I was employed as a furniture delivery assistant and warehouse person and store custodian.  At the time I believed the paining to be the most beautiful that I had ever seen, and my benevolent boss, David, sold it to me at cost and let me pay it off at $5 per week.

Mom had her foot tall Christmas tree, erected, and coffee cake prepared and she welcomed us with the joy of the season.

In those days…coffee…was the strongest holiday drink that we indulged in, and mom woke up Steve by announcing for him to, ‘Hit the deck you rubberneck!’

Then…you knew that it was Christmas!

 

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Or, our first Christmas Eve service at First Presbyterian Church, that had the atmosphere and the ambiance and the mystery of a Dickensian Christmas!

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Mary Jane and I were speaking with our friend, Brenda, earlier this week and we commiserated about the vagaries and challenges of, installing a live Christmas tree in your home.

When we first moved…to what we still call…the new house…in 2001…we swore that we would either place a cut tree or a live, Christmas tree in our home…each Yuletide season.

One of our first years, at our Carbondale address, we traveled with zest and holiday determination…to the local nursery and bought a, majestic, live Tree!

Now, the plan was to store the tree in our garage until we were able to place it in a number 3 washtub and install it in a place of significance and focus…in our Great Room!

We were advised to not have the tree, erected, for more than two weeks…to prevent it drying out.

The other half of the master plan for the, Glorious Tannenbaum, was to plant it in our front yard…and to watch it grow for many years…

The day that I began to dig the hole to plant the, first of many Brooks Christmas Trees, the ground was frozen…as is often the case in winter…

Finally, the hole was dug and the, giant root ball, of the holiday beauty, was placed in its forever home.

When I asked Mary Jane and Aaron and Jonathon to come outside to observe and, hopefully, marvel, over my handiwork…Mary Jane commented that it appeared to be leaning…

For a half dozen or so…Christmases…I faithfully placed Christmas lights on my Tree…and noticed that, each year, it seemed to lean…a bit more?

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Note: Downloadable Rockwell photos are courtesy of Google search.

Advent

Advent began, Sunday, December the 2nd and will end on Monday, December 24th.

‘Advent is a season observed in many Christian churches as a time of expectant waiting and preparation for both the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas and the return of Jesus at the Second Coming.  The term is a version of the Latin word meaning ‘coming.’    Wikipedia

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And so a; suffering and divided human family awaits the birth of the baby, who was forced to be born in a manger…because there was no room for him in the Inn.

‘No one is really sure when Advent was first celebrated but it dates back to at least 567 when monks were ordered to fast during December leading up to Christmas.

I recall, vividly, our first Christmas Eve Service at First Presbyterian Church.  It began at 11:00 P:M:.  Our pastor, in 1998, had a bit of old world panache and a helping of Dickensian aura, about him.

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I had always been a lover of all things Christmas…but I had never experienced the emotionally moving celebration of the birth of Jesus…on Christmas Eve.

The service concluded with the singing of Silent Night…by candlelight.

As we exited the sanctuary and wished each other a Merry Christmas…it felt like Christmas…in my heart…in a profound way!

As the years have flown by…we have made it a practice to attend the Christmas Eve Service…whenever possible.

I remember Pastor Janice asking Jonathon to participate in the candel lighting ceremony…and how she put her arm around him…and he could not refuse.

One advent, I was asked to participate with the choir…as a reader of Christmas related passages.  I had a bad knee, that was hurting terribly, but I soldiered on, and it was one of my most memorable advents!

Our afflicted world cries out for the birth of the Prince of Peace.

‘For a child will be born to us, as son will be given to us;

And the government will rest on his shoulders;

And his name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.’    Isaiah 9:6

I wrote in my last blog; but I must say again…that the kindness of our fellow congregants as Mary Jane is recuperating…and their, demonstrated concern, is unparalled in my religious life…that has reached 50 years!

When we tell people about the birth of Jesus…let us demostrate…by our deeds…what the baby born in a manger…means to us.

 

The Remedy of Joy

Please enjoy a great, holiday blog, by my son, Jonathon. 🎅🏻🎄

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Love is the most appropriate word for how I feel about Christmastime. I’m in love with the cards and the parties and the candlelight Christmas Eve service and the days off of work and, honestly, the entire season. December twenty-fifth doesn’t excite me as much as the twenty-four days leading up to it, but I enjoy it as well.

Some people become depressed around this time of year. As a man who has manic depression I sympathize and have empathy. This world’s darkness is all too real. However, what is that old, inspirational quote? “All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.” Be that candle this season for someone else. Shine through kindness and love. Joy is the ultimate remedy for melancholy and depression.

The reason I love this season so passionately is because I live it the other eleven months of the year…

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