Meanwhile, Instead, Anyway: Christmas, the Great Conjunction

My high school English teacher--the one who showed me the wonders of eliminating 'to-be' verbs in favor of stronger action words, and the one who taught me to read for layers of meaning beyond the surface of the page--changed my life in the way teachers do sometimes. Just a few small nudges here and there, and the world of words opened to me in a whole new way. I've run into her a few times since high school, and she sent me a lovely flower arrangement on the day of my ordination. She was 'that' … [Read more...]

Deep in the Root

Deep in their roots, all flowers keep the light.This winter image, offered up by poet Theodore Roethke, embodies the spirit of Advent. Beneath the frozen-over ground (unless you live in the desert, or at the beach, in which case we don’t want to hear about it--just pretend it’s frozen, ok?) …under all the ice and snow; attached to that shriveled brown stem left over from summer’s abundance; way below all that we can see, the flower keeps the light. Something is happening in the darkness. In i … [Read more...]

Let it Go: What Church Can and Can’t Be at Christmas

Here's what I did NOT need to see: that article from "Christianity Today" about how many Americans will go to church for Christmas.The answer? Everybody. ALL THE PEOPLE. They will come from the city and country, from hill and holler; the believing and the skeptical, and happy and the heartbroken, the long-lost and the never-known... It's Christmas and THEY ARE COMING. Prepare the overflow seating...These publications hit us all year long with the depressing 'mainline decline' … [Read more...]

This Magic Window

Most years, I’m a Christmas minimalist. My kids get 3 or 4 gifts each—some of which are books, some “boring” things they needed anyway. I refrain from planning lots of festive family outings, opting instead to nest in and avoid the rushing, shopping madness out there in the suburbs. We do our church things, we put up a tree, we bake stuff for the neighbors. It is simple and good.So why is it that, this year, I cannot stop shopping for toys? And have thrown myself into the ‘daily surprise’ fre … [Read more...]

Come Darkness, Come Light

I'm going to have to call the police on my neighbors.The liturgical police, that is.Their house is covered with Christmas lights. That's fine. I love Christmas lights! Also, on their porch, they have a giant, hand-painted wooden sign. (When I say 'giant,' I mean huge. I mean Santa could see this thing from space). And it says "JESUS IS THE REASON FOR THE SEASON." Yes, the all caps seem a little aggressive to me, too. But the sign alone is not my gripe, exactly.What I'm liturgical … [Read more...]

Naughty or Nice: Tell Your Kids They’re Good

I swear I didn't lose it on purpose.Here's how it happened. When my daughter was a baby, my friend Rachel bought her an Elf on the Shelf. I didn't actually get it out of the box until she was about 3, and my son was 1. My daughter promptly named the elf "Rachel," and here's the CREEPIEST thing--she had not seen aunt Rachel, the PERSON, since she was a baby. Had no idea this elf came from aunt Rachel, the person--because, hello, elves come from the NORTH POLE. So, how the elf became Rachel … [Read more...]

Keeping the Light

Normally, I’m a purist. Nothing green or sparkly goes up at my house until the first Sunday of Advent. Not a strain of Christmas music creeps over my airways until December 1. No shopping until I really HAVE to. And even then, my version of ‘shopping’ is pretty modest.But this year? Somebody call the liturgical police—because I am like Buddy the Elf up in here. I finished most of my shopping online weeks ago. The minute I finished my turkey and mashed potatoes on Thursday, I cranked on the al … [Read more...]

The Clergy/Parent’s Christmas Eve Survival Guide

For clergy with small children, it’s kind of a sick joke: your longest work day of the year falls on the night before your children’s earliest morning. You can see it unfolding, but you’re powerless to stop it. You’ll get home around 12:30 or 1am, too jacked up on caffeine and adrenaline to sleep. So you’ll wind down by eating the cookies the kids left for Santa (because, hey, keep the magic alive!) and watching part of the 24-hour A Christmas Story marathon.  You might get drowsy by 2… But hey, … [Read more...]

ADVENTageous: Loud and Visible

Guest post: My friend Nikki Adcock Williams is a wife, a mom to two amazing kids (Anna, 10 and Liam, 7), and a legal writing professor at Georgia State College of Law. In February of 2014, Nikki was diagnosed was multiple myeloma, a rare blood and bone cancer. She is undergoing weekly chemotherapy treatments for the next three years.Although some doctors have told her that her cancer is treatable but not curable, she places her hope in God and the great scientific minds who are tackling this … [Read more...]


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