31 December 2008

Contemplative KIDS Christmas IV- Cradled in Arms

Last week I interviewed each of my kids to find out what they would cradle in their arms, if they had to choose. As they held their favorite things in their arms, they thought about the first Shuffle the Deck question from SoulPerBlog's Contemplative Christmas- Cradled in Arms and described their favorite cuddly thing to me.

What follows in red is their own response to the question, "What does being cradled in arms have to do with the Nativity?


Anna:


- This is my cow softie. I like it. It is so cozy. It is so I can suck my thumb. I like how it feels when it comes out of the dryer. It feels warm and cozy. It feels silky on one side and fuzzy on the other side. The silky side is where I suck my thumb.
I like to have my softie when I am tired and when I am sad. Also when I'm happy and when I get up, and I like it so much because I cuddle with it and I like it sooo soooooo much.
- I also like to snuggle with Daddy because it's so great and so cozy. Daddy feels warm and cozy.

Mary cradled Baby Jesus on her lap so he could be warm and cozy. If she didn't hold him he would have to by laying on his hay and he would cry, "Mommy, Mommy! Come and carry me!"
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Ellie:


- Pip, my stuffed panda and Fuzzy, my stuffed elephant
- They are soft and cuddly. They are light, especially when they’re out of my hand and flying through the air.
- I like to play with them a lot and make Fuzzy wiggle his tail. I make Pip go, “Please, please, please!” when he is begging for something with his face turned up.
- I got Fuzzy for Christmas. I bought Pip with my own money because I thought he was the cutest Webkinz I could ever find. I love them because they’re both really, really cute. They are brother and sister. We play babysitting with them. I play capture with them and tie them up in bandanas. They don’t have a breathing pattern because they are stuffed animals. They’re not alive, but I make them talk and do things.
- Since I got them, Pip has gotten dirtier and they’ve both gotten some rips on them. I fixed Fuzzy’s, but Pip still needs to be sewn up.

Hi! this is Ellie here. I want to tell you what I think about cradled in arms and what it has to do with Christmas. well this is what I think:
1. Mary would have cradled Jesus in her arms.

2.she felt love.

3.she thought:it's SSSSOOOO! cold. I wish I could go insi...oh! now I remember
there is no room in the inn.


Rebekah:
- Lady, my stuffed golden retriever
- She feels like a pound or so. The texture is sorta rough because she is not smooth. It’s not, like, really slick.
- I’ve had her for six years and chewed on her nose, so it is white where the paint came off. It’s supposed to be black.
- She didn’t come with a collar so we made one for her out of a hair ribbon. It makes her look sorta like a clown.
- I like to snuggle with her probably because I’ve had her so long. She is one my my favorite stuffed animals. I even carry her by her tail. She gives me somebody to talk to. I talk to her when I get in trouble and tell her how I feel. I always feel as if she’s listening.
- One of the reasons I like her so much is because my Grandma gave her to me.

I feel that how Jesus cradles us in his arms is because he loves us and is used to how we act. So, because he loves us and cares about us, he cradled us in his arms. It's simply because he loves us.

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30 December 2008

Cradled in Arms

Last week I tried no less than 5 times to write this blog post- Cradled in Arms.

Five failed attempts to gather my thoughts for public consumption indicates to me that I have here bumped into something quite uncontainable. A red warning light is flashing "Mental Meltdown Alert" in the corner of my eye.

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Cradled in Arms.
It's such a quiet, genteel image. Sweet and tender, mellow and still.

At this time of year, my own home is sprinkled with nativity scenes depicting Mary holding the Christ child in a tender embrace with Joseph, shepherds and wise men gathered around in frozen expressions of awed surprise and adoration.
None of them are sobbing. None of them are struck dead. None of them seem to adopt a pose that cries, "Woe to me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty." Isaiah 6:5

It shocks me that the Lord Almighty veiled his glory to such a degree that humanity could look upon him and even hold him, flesh against flesh, as we would hold any other normal human.
How could they bear to stand up? To keep their balance? Wasn't the breath sucked out of them? How were they not struck dead on the spot?!
Did their faces glow like Moses'? Didn't they blubber over themselves, even just a little? (Especially Mary and Joseph- who'd had 9 months to grapple with the concept of parenting "Yahweh in the Flesh," which seems to me to be one of those things that the more you think about it, the more freaked out you get.) Did the stable animals recognize their Creator in that tiny child? Was there a cacophany of bleating, lowing, squawking creatures worshipping their Maker?
How exactly does this happen that the Holy God of the Universe steps down into His creation and takes on the form of a human- veils His glory- to such a degree that it barely registers as a blip on the screen? To hold Himself back to the degree that only those who get a direct visitation from the heavenlies know what's going on... what might! What strength and wisdom.

Commanding presence with grace eternal. What tender love!

I can barely fathom that He allowed us to cradle him in our arms.

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Cradled in Arms.
It's such a quiet, genteel image. Sweet and tender, mellow and still.

The past month I've been reviewing my world history classes in my mind. Zeus, Hunab-Ku, Odin, Ra, Yingarna, Jupiter, Bochica, Buddha and Artemis. These gods, goddesses and dieties created by centuries of our collective imaginations in order to define our existence on this planet. To explain how we got here, why it hurts so bad to be here, what we're supposed to be doing while we're here, what happens when we leave here... The human race is looking for answers.

Seriously though, the answers we've created for ourselves are dreary! None of these gods actually created us. We crawled out of their beard, or formed from a tear mixed with sunlight, or resulted from an unholy union between gods and humans. Many accounts say the instruction manual for Creation was just plain confusing so the gods passed creation duties off to the tortoise, the wolf, or the spider. Creatures being creatures, I suppose they hodge-podged things together the best they could.
Frankly, none of the gods even know how they came to be. Their pedigree is suspect.

And so, once the gods and humanity get thrown together someone has to call the shots.
For milennia, they've been shaking their heads at the mess of humanity- unable to make sense of what we're doing, powerless to make it better, dissatisfied with the results. Eternally frustrated, they spend their time tossing lightning bolts, disguising themselves as animals to carouse in towns and villages, demanding our children and our wealth as sacrifices, sowing their wild oats with dieties and humans alike. Sometimes gracing us with good weather and bountiful harvests.
Some gods sit on high mountaintops and sip the juice of the universe. They don't cause us any harm, but it's not like they're involved either. (Not that they would have a solution if hiked up there to ask them.)

They are wolf-toothed, ox-tailed, goat-headed, lion-bodied
Raven-winged, monkey-eyed, snake-haired
Cloud-clothed, rain-haired, thunder-voiced
Flame-faced
Clay-footed.

The best humanity can make of its existence on earth is this: clay-footed gods.


It shocks me that there is another choice. Gratefully, I say that.

There is another God.
One who existed before all time who's pedigree answers to no one. A God who was perfectly content with the Triune company He kept, yet purposed Creation as an expression of that fellowship and love. He wanted to make us. He created us Himself and called His creation good. He hovered over this Creation as a mother bird nurtures her chicks. He kept us in the shadow of His wings.
This God watched when His creation chose its own path away from Him, but He never once threw His hands up in shock or disbelief. He gave us a chance to reconcile right then and there- mercy.
He had a plan and a desire to redeem Creation from the very beginning- grace.

His plan was more audacious than any diety could possibly conceive. To lay aside His glory, His might, His purity, His position- and seek out His wandering Creation.
To know us by experience.
To know us by name.
To know me by name.
To call my name. In whispers. In shouts. In heartbeats. In tears. In sunlight. In waves. In seen and unseen.

How utterly, utterly unlike any other god. Who is like Him?

Commanding presence with grace eternal. What tender love!

I can barely fathom that He came here to cradle us in His arms.

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19 December 2008

Contemplative KIDS Christmas III- Singing

video


Even though there is only one person actually singing, making this music video required harmony. After each take, we reviewed the footage, discussed what could be done better, edited out, drawn to the forefront, enunciated.
This was our third take.

Creative vision shared. Moving toward the same goal. Purposeful action. Agreement.



I wonder what the Trinity discussed at the dawn of Creation. I wonder how they agreed on a course of action immediately after the Fall. I wonder how the angelic throngs shouted and cheered to witness The Plan set in motion. I wonder how the Three-In-One could have withstood being separated at the cross. I wonder what the end of this universal drama will feel like.
I know it will be complete harmony.
And it'll be perfect on the first take.

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17 December 2008

Like Trying to Wipe Off the Warmth of the Sun

This year has not been one for smashing records of victorious Christian living.
Not for me anyway.

I have found myself surrounded by a deepening gray fog.
At times anyway.

And sinking in the goopy mire of self-talk, self-help, self-interest.
My defunct self-self.

The battlefield of my mind is the horizon that stretches before me. As far as the east is from the west.
Seems that big anyway.

I lost my dad-in-law. And at the time it did not matter to me where his soul went because at least his earthly pain was finally over.
Finally over.
That's how I felt at the time, anyway.

A very dear friend confessed deep skepticisms about the truth of Scripture. The stuff that is the very foundation of my faith. I have been rocked and shaken.
Wandering for a year in a fog that occasionally seems to lift.
A fair bit, anyway.
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Standing on the battleground as the fog rolls in.

I will not be so noble as to pretend I don't want to be rescued.

I know I am weak for this.
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But there is a Bright Light. He burns of his own accord and does not wait for me to acknowledge Him before he radiates in my circumstance.
He is radiating.
He is bioluminescence.
He is burning off the fog.
He is lighting this battlefield in the blazed whiteness of day.
He is burning the image of Himself upon my retinas- so that He is the thing I see no matter where I cast my gaze.
He is drying the miry clay until it cracks and peels and blows into fine granules upon the wind.


So even though the year has found me cold, mired, bewildered and beleaguered...
At times...


Denying the truth of this Bright Light would be like trying to wipe off the warmth of the sun.


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Press play on the MP3 player to hear my not-so-traditional Christmas song offering: Never Alone, Barlow Girl

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05 December 2008

Contemplative KIDS Christmas I- Barn Smells

Hi! This is Ellie & Rebekah.
We want to tell about a little thing we did.
We, our family did a little thing together,
starting with some cookies....

Okay, we've got to tell you....
We were pretending that the cookies were manure!!!!
And then we played with the PLAY MOBILE nativity set.
We pretended that it was the very 1st Christmas.

I bet the cattle likes the food!!!!

Ellie says:"What about the donkey????!!!
Doesn't he like it too???!!!"
We hope you like our blog!!
Good-bye!!!
"Boo-hoo-hoo!"
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Hi! This is Rebekah!
I want to tell you about another part of our project.
My mom & I went to a stable to document all the smells there.
What it smells like to me is homey & comfterble.
Like hay & horses, & like leather.
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Jesus was born in a stable and a stable is like a barn. Stables smell bad. They have lots of animals and their droppings. I think that Jesus was really, really humble to go and be born in a stable with all the droppings. It represents that he wanted to come as a humble child.
If he had been born in a hospital or a house, people would think he was more honorable. But he wanted to come and be humble for us because if you are born in a stable people wouldn't think of you as very mighty. - Ellie
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By Anna,
who really likes to hear the keyboard clicking away
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No-Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies
(featured at the nether-ends of our nativity animals above, but if you find that gratuitous you can just put them on a festive plate)


2 cups sugar
¼ cup cocoa
1 stick butter
½ cup milk
½ cup peanut butter
1 tsp. vanilla
3 cups oatmeal

Bring sugar, cocoa, peanut butter and milk to rolling boil. Take it off the heat and add the 3 other ingredients. Stir well. Drop by spoonfuls on waxed paper to harden.

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04 December 2008

Gratuitous


Gratuitous

Would it be gratuitous to linger here
Ankle deep in manure?
To rest my eyes, engage my brain
Fixing on the burn in my nostrils?
To nudge a pile with my toe,
Revealing the ripest aroma,
Seeking the rawest of raw in this stable?

Is it superfluous that we lean,
Faces hovered over rotting compost?
Digging, churning, turning
Unearthing decay and fermentation?
Prodding the layers, loosening the debris
While searching for words to describe its offense?

An un-called-for experiment
This ancillary venture
When matters of pressing importance
And the delicacy of polite society
Apply their subtle pressure.

Perhaps it is
Gratuitous.

But I am arrested.
Stopped. Still.
And the question lives in my head like the acrid smell lives in my nose-



Was it gratuitous that He should linger here
Ankle deep in our manure?
To rest His eyes and engage His brain
Fixing His heart toward those that burn His nostrils?
To embrace fallen man through His presence here?
Revealing our ripest aroma,
Seeking to save the rawest of the raw?

Was it superfluous that He leaned down
Face-first into our rotting man-culture?
Digging, churning, turning
Unearthing decay and fermentation?
Prodding through my layers, loosening the debris
Supplying words, impelling my search- despite my offense?


An un-called-for experience
This ancillary venture
When faces of holiness and glory
And the divinity of heavenly society
Enjoy unsullied communion.


Messiah. Emmanuel.
Gratuitous.


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