Tag Archives: Frederick Buechner

5 Friday Faves – Beyond the Guitar on a Lava Me 3, Christmas Poems, Overcoming Anxiety, and Which Is It? Christmas or XMas?

The countdown is done. Christmas Day looms. For those with an Eastern Christmas, there is still a week to go. We loved celebrating two Christmases when we lived in Egypt. Then there are the 12 days of Christmas still ahead until Epiphany (or Three Kings Day). So we continue to celebrate. Sweet especially for those of us dealing with COVID interruptions or other struggles (loss, holiday work,etc.). Here are my faves this week. Please share some of yours as well …and Happy Christmas!

1) Beyond the Guitar on a Lava Me 3Nathan Mills‘ most recent piece is an original composition entitled “Dreams”. He plays it on this amazing smart guitar – the Lava Me 3 guitar. Check it out below:

2) Christmas Poems – Christmas is the kind of holy day that inspires poetry. This week, I had the opportunity of catching the online program A Christmas Celebration: Theater, Song, & Scripture. Created and produced by the Fellowship of Performing Arts, it was a lovely mix of classic Christmas songs, poems, and monologues. Some surprisingly humorous and some deeply spiritual. Two poems, both by Scottish poet George MacDonald, were powerfully performed.

Photo Credit: Poem Hunter

Photo Credit: Poem Hunter

My absolute favorite Christmas poem is “Little Jesus” written by English poet Francis Thompson. It’s a bit long but such a treasure.

LITTLE JESUS

by Francis Thompson (1859 – 1907)

Little Jesus, wast Thou shy

Once, and just so small as I?

And what did it feel like to be

Out of Heaven, and just like me?

Didst Thou sometimes think of there,

And ask where all the angels were?

I should think that I would cry

For my house all made of sky;

I would look about the air,

And wonder where my angels were;

And at waking ’twould distress me–

Not an angel there to dress me!

Hadst thou ever any toys,

Like us little girls and boys?

And dist Thou play in Heaven with all

The angels that were not too tall,

With stars for marbles? Did the things

Play Can you see me? through their wings?

And did Thy Mother let Thee spoil

Thy robes, with playing on our soil?

How nice to have them always new

In Heaven, because ‘twas quite clean blue!

Thou canst not have forgotten all

That it feels like to be small:

And Thou know’st I cannot pray

To Thee in my father’s way–

When Thou was so little, say,

Couldst Thou talk Thy Father’s way?–

So, as a little child, come down

And hear a child’s tongue like Thy own;

Take me by the hand and walk,

And listen to my baby-talk.

To Thy Father show my prayer

(He will look, Thou art so fair),

And say: “O Father, I Thy Son,

Bring the prayer of a little one.”

And He will smile, that childrens’ tongue

Hast not changed since Thou was young!

3) Overcoming Anxiety – Even as lovely and magical a time as Christmas can be, we can experience anxiety. Over family gatherings, or under-performing on gift buying, or just a creeping loneliness. Whatever our anxiety, the 4-step approach for overcoming anxiety is a healthy practice. Thanks to NICABM.

Infographic: A 4-Step Approach for Overcoming Anxiety – NICABM

4) Healing From Harm – We hope as parents that we do no major harm to our children. Unfortunately, there are relationships between parents and children that can go terribly wrong. Counselor Adam Young tackles this topic (and others) really well in his podcast . I listened to Episode 23 this week where he interviewed a woman named Autumn, on her relationship with an abusive mother. The title of this episode is “How to Engage a Parent Who Has Harmed You”. Her story gives hope. The dialog between her and Young is both instructive and prescriptive. To be able to get actual help from a podcast is a blessing. Especially in a time when counselors are hard to find (not enough of them or over-scheduled in these days of heightened mental health issues thanks to COVID).

One of Young’s free resources is “How to Write a Story”. I’m excited about this assist, because writing the story of my life since my earliest memories is actually on my list for 2022. Not that my parenting was harmful – I had a wonderful mom and step-dad, but my biological father was neglectful and then eventually just disappeared from our lives. I know the wounds of that have had impact, and actively recalling my growing-up years seems a way to take hold of anything that has harmed and can still be having impact on my family. By the way, this is not an exercise in blaming parents. We all have failings in this area. It’s an exercise to reframe memory such that it doesn’t control us.

Words That Harm, Words That Heal: A Short Guide for Parents – Justin Coulson

Any resources you recommend for healing from harm? Please comment below.

5) Which Is It? Christmas or XMas? – The great thinker and writer C. S. Lewis became a Christ-follower at the age of 33 (in 1931). He did not come to this decision lightly having first rejected God altogether, as a public and punishing atheist, and then a theist, and finally a Christian…the most reluctant convert. He never looked back. His writing and teaching since then have greatly influenced generations to follow. Even the most uncertain have been riveted by his works on the beauty and reality of God, and Jesus, the Son and Savior.

Again, in watching A Christmas Celebration: Theater, Song, & Scripture, I heard, for the first time, Lewis’ essay Xmas and Christmas: A Lost Chapter From Herodotus. He writes of the irony of Christmas celebrated in the two ways done in the West – the sacred and secular – and how we as Christians blend the two. It is a rich narrative, short and very much worth the read. He targets the United Kingdom but it could be about the US as well. We rush around buying, buying, buying, and then partying, partying, partying. To the point, we end up in a heap on Christmas Day with the children wondering aloud “Is there anything else?” As they are practically covered over with wrapping paper and presents. Our little grands said themselves, so wise for so small, “It’s Jesus’ birthday, but we get all the presents”.

I don’t mean this as a rant…just wanted to point to the brilliant, short piece by Lewis…and maybe to call for a pause in the rush. I’m almost past caring that I get equally amazing gifts for the grands. It’s ok for the other grandparents to shine. I’m just thankful to have them all in my life.

So…have a happy Christmas, Dear Ones. For those who get caught up in the maddening rush without the transforming experience of Christ in it, watch for the Hound of Heaven …In the flurry of activity to make Xmas happen, you might chance to notice, like C. S. Lewis did finally, that persistent wooing of God to draw us to Himself…out of His deep love for each of His created ones.

‘Rise, clasp My hand, and come!’

Shade of His hand, outstretched caressingly,

‘Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest, I am He Whom thou seekest!” – Francis Thompson (1859–1907)

Bonuses:

Labor to Give (Or Take) No Offense – Jon Bloom

5 Keys to a Great Apology (and Why Leaders Need to Apologize First) – Carey Nieuwhof

Photo Credit: Greg Mathias, Twitter

One of my favorite “Christmas songs”:

The most beautiful and powerful Christmas cantata I’ve ever heard: “Saviour – The Story Of God’s Passion For His People” – written by Greg Nelson and Bob Farrell – the cantata itself begins 9:45 minutes into the video. 

[Product description: Saviour is a pop-classical oratorio created by Bob Farrell and Greg Nelson, in performance around the world since 1994. Recorded live at Gateway Church, this spectacular performance features full orchestra and choir with standout solo performances by Steve Green, Twila Paris, Wayne Watson, Larnelle Harris, and Keron Jackson. – Available on DVD.]

Funny pic captured by our daughter – vultures at Voter Registration – must have gotten wind of the rumored registering dead voters:

Pic below from my dear friend Marc Merlin who captures the most fascinating images at a favorite cemetery – Oakland in Atlanta:Photo Credit: Marc Merlin, Instagram

A favorite Christmas tradition – canstruction for the food bank:

All the candles lit – focused on the coming Christ:

The Christmas cactus – somehow it knows – just days ago, nothing, no buds, nothing – and then…it blooms.

5 Friday Faves – Romantic Flight on Classical Guitar, Snow Days Turned to Spring, Normal, Relief vs. Rescue, and Carefully Taught

Happy weekend! Hope this finds you well and enjoying the many small miracles of life. I’m a bit behind on posting Friday Faves. Sometimes they are so excellent they still end up in my Friday Faves weeks later…some of these are like that, and others are as fresh as this weekend. These are all for you. Enjoy!

1) Romantic Flight on Classical Guitar – Anyone new to this blog will have the pleasure of experiencing Nathan Mills‘ music, maybe for the first time. He is a classical guitarist whose work is found under the brand Beyond the Guitar. He arranges and performs themes from movies, TV shows, and video games. A heart and body lift on sweet nostalgia. We probably all know the positive impact of music on our minds and bodies. I personally never cared for instrumental music before Nathan’s journey with classical guitar. Now, we always had music in our home. Always. My preference was anything vocal. The thing that’s interesting in Nathan’s music. It feels vocal. He makes the guitar speak to the heart. Maybe the nostalgic familiarity of the tunes is part of it, but there’s something in his expressive playing…just so heartening. Check him out with his latest arrangement: Romantic Flight from the film How to Train Your Dragon. #LikeSubscribeShare

2) Snow Days Turned to Spring – In Central Virginia, our snow days might be past us. Early Spring flowers are popping up and flowering trees are beginning to brighten the gray of our landscape here.

A friend pointed me to the poet Billy Collins and I’d like to present in contrast his “Snow Day” poem and his poem celebrating Spring entitled “Today”. The kids (above) are ours and the flowers (below) are in our yard/neighborhood.

Today we woke up to a revolution of snow,
its white flag waving over everything,
the landscape vanished,
not a single mouse to punctuate the blankness,
and beyond these windows
the government buildings smothered,
schools and libraries buried, the post office lost
under the noiseless drift,
the paths of trains softly blocked,
the world fallen under this falling.
In a while, I will put on some boots
and step out like someone walking in water,
and the dog will porpoise through the drifts,
and I will shake a laden branch
sending a cold shower down on us both.
But for now I am a willing prisoner in this house,
a sympathizer with the anarchic cause of snow.
I will make a pot of tea
and listen to the plastic radio on the counter,
as glad as anyone to hear the news
that the Kiddie Corner School is closed,
the Ding-Dong School, closed.
the All Aboard Children’s School, closed,
the Hi-Ho Nursery School, closed,
along with—some will be delighted to hear—
the Toadstool School, the Little School,
Little Sparrows Nursery School,
Little Stars Pre-School, Peas-and-Carrots Day School
the Tom Thumb Child Center, all closed,
and—clap your hands—the Peanuts Play School.
So this is where the children hide all day,
These are the nests where they letter and draw,
where they put on their bright miniature jackets,
all darting and climbing and sliding,
all but the few girls whispering by the fence.
And now I am listening hard
in the grandiose silence of the snow,
trying to hear what those three girls are plotting,
what riot is afoot,
which small queen is about to be brought down.

“Today” – Billy Collins

If ever there were a spring day so perfect,
so uplifted by a warm intermittent breeze

that it made you want to throw
open all the windows in the house

and unlatch the door to the canary’s cage,
indeed, rip the little door from its jamb,

a day when the cool brick paths
and the garden bursting with peonies

seemed so etched in sunlight
that you felt like taking

a hammer to the glass paperweight
on the living room end table,

releasing the inhabitants
from their snow-covered cottage

so they could walk out,
holding hands and squinting

into this larger dome of blue and white,
well, today is just that kind of day.

3) Normal – What does that even mean? As we come up on a year physical distancing and wearing masks to keep COVID at bay, people don’t even talk anymore about a return to normal. Nor even about a new normal. We are reinventing normal. If we’re wise, we’re also looking “down the road” to where our choices today will lead.

Photo Credit: Old Comic Strip, Bill Watterston, Calvin and Hobbes

One issue for me is my struggle with reckless eating. COVID restrictions have not been my friend in this area. I overeat for about every reason possible – for recreation, out of boredom, when under stress, and even when happy. Food is just such a lovely go-to. Until this last year’s isolation pushed me to the highest weight I’ve ever been…but that’s again in the past.

In October I started seriously looking “down the road” to a life possibly shortened by my casual over-eating. Started using the My Fitness Pal app and asked for a Fitbit for Christmas. The non-Premium app is free and we caught a sale on the Fitbit.

After four months, I’m way below the highest weight I’ve ever been.

Do I miss the reckless eating? Absolutely! I miss McDonald’s double-cheeseburgers and fries. I miss Waffle House. I miss eating all I want. I miss Shyndigz fresh fruit cake and Piccola Italy‘s feta cheese and sausage pizza. One day those things will come back in my life… maybe. What I don’t miss is the normal of too often getting short of breath climbing hills and struggling to get up off the floor after playing with our grands. Also what I hope to miss is a stroke or…(almost hard to write this scary thing) dying from COVID because I put myself at even greater risk.

Now normal is weighing and logging food, eating less than I would before, listening to my brain when I’m actually full, and having only one cookie instead of 3…or 5. It all works out to a beautiful different…a new normal.

.

The change in eating is one thing. Way more challenging is how to be in people’s lives with the struggle of physical distancing and Zoom fatigue. That I am still figuring out…but one shot down and one to go and it will become less of a challenge hopefully. And a different normal will emerge.

[Sidebar: There was a time in the not too distant past when I went off sugar for over a year. It happened, there was benefit, but I don’t want to repeat it. As I get more fit, do I miss the chew of a French baquette or a perfect frie? Absolutely. Sugar though is still a part of my daily intake…and there will come a day when I will enjoy my daughter’s birthday cake again and MomMom’s refrigerator coconut cake. Many times over. For now: a Kathy Kaye popcorn ball is enough. Sorry for the long sidebar – like confessing in an Overeaters Anonymous group. 🙂 ]

4) Relief vs. Rescue – Words mean things. The 2020 CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act)  and the 2021 American Rescue Plan Act reflect a difference in meaning and approach. I just want to focus on two words: relief vs. rescue. Relief communicates easing the pain or stress of someone in a difficult situation. Rescue communicates much more. Rescue is to come to the aid of someone who can’t help her/himself. Rescue is freeing or delivering someone from an impossible situation. Both describe a response but one is a greater response and a greater need. Can words be prescriptive? Making us think we have a greater need? Making us think we need a greater response? Making us think we are helpless without the intervention of government?

The power of words is well-known and well-documented.

“There is something about words. In expert hands, manipulated deftly, they take you prisoner. Wind themselves around your limbs like spider silk, and when you are so enthralled you cannot move, they pierce your skin, enter your blood, numb your thoughts. Inside you they work their magic.”Diane Setterfield

We can woo and cajole with words. We can speak with an authority that demands acquiescence. We can speak with such brilliance or passion that we must be believed.

Check out this little TikTok video below (forgive the thumbnail shot of the young woman; it’s the second woman, @thesavvy, you will see that brings the point). Now I haven’t done fact-checking, but she I believe. How about you?

Two educators I’ve discussed before also talk often on the power of words in our world. They are economics professor Glenn Loury and linguistics professor John McWhorter.Photo Credit: The Glenn Show; YouTube

We don’t agree on everything, BUT their authenticity and brilliance in calling out the use of words to move political agendas and change culture is super fascinating. See one of their videos linked below.

YouTube Video – In Defense of Knowledge – The Glenn Show – Blogging Heads – Glenn Loury and John McWhorter

YouTube Video – Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) on Debate in U.S. Senate (C-SPAN) – February 2017 – just another example of the use of words to actually draw differing sides together.

5) Carefully Taught– The food for thought on this fave of the week is the painfully exquisite song from the Rogers & Hammerstein’s South Pacific. Classic movie released in 1958. Remade in 2001. The song You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught relates to an American military officer who has fallen in love with a young woman from the islands during WWII. He struggles with his own prejudice even in the face of his love for her. I saw the first movie sometime in my childhood. It was confusing for me then because I had not been raised to hate people different from me.

We are confronted right now with so much racism and presumed racism, it’s hard to know how to think critically on it or what to do definitively about it. Somehow we must separate the politics (driven to divide) from the persons (being used by those various platforms).
The song speaks to the incredible importance of parenting our children to choose love over hate; understanding over withdrawing. I do wonder if we are born with a bent toward racism…of choosing people who look like us, for whatever reason. Fortunately, if that’s the case, we don’t have to stay there. Parenting matters. Thankfully.

Photo Credit: Norman Rockwell

Six Words: ‘You’ve Got to Be Taught‘ Intolerance – Michele Norris – NPR

Are Racists Born or Raised? If You’re a Racist don’t Blame It on Your DNA – Grace Russo Bullaro

How I Learned to Care About Social Justice Growing Up Southern Baptist in Oklahoma – Mark Wingfield

YouTube Video – James Taylor – You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught

That’s all. Have a great week. Filled with people you love and those you can serve. It means a lot you stopped by.

_________________________________________________________________

Bonuses:

The most extraordinary quote I’ve just discovered:

The question is not whether the things that happen to you are chance things or God’s things because, of course, they are both at once. There is no chance thing through which God cannot speak—even the walk from the house to the garage that you have walked ten thousand times before, even the moments when you cannot believe there is a God who speaks at all anywhere. He speaks, I believe, and the words he speaks are incarnate in the flesh and blood of our selves and of our own footsore and sacred journeys. We cannot live our lives constantly looking back, listening back, lest we be turned to pillars of longing and regret, but to live without listening at all is to live deaf to the fullness of the music. Sometimes we avoid listening for fear of what we may hear, sometimes for fear that we may hear nothing at all but the empty rattle of our own feet on the pavement. But be not affeard, says Caliban, nor is he the only one to say it. “Be not afraid,” says another, “for lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” He says he is with us on our journeys. He says he has been with us since each of our journeys began. Listen for him. Listen to the sweet and bitter airs of your present and your past for the sound of him. – Frederick Buechner, from The Sacred Journey and Listening to Your Life

YouTube Video – Without You – For King & Country – Ft. Courtney [If you’ve ever faced a cancer diagnosis or a critical illness – life and those we love take on an even deeper meeting. This song says it.]

The Hope that Sustained Tim Keller Through 2020 – Matt McCullough

Key takeaways from Atomic Habits by James Clear – Genevieve Deaconos

Just a little bit of James Taylor and Carole King…you’ll be glad you stayed: