Thursday, December 31, 2015

My New Year's Wish for You

I found this piece among some old papers. There is no author, but I remember hearing it recited once on a 78 RPM record belonging to my parents. So, with apologies to the unknown composer whom I am unable to credit, I would like to share this with all of you.

The sun will soon be rising on the morning of another day---
The first day of the New Year.
What can I wish that this day, this year will bring?
Nothing that shall make the world or others poorer,
Nothing at the expense of other men.
But just those few things which, in their coming, do not stop with me,
But touch me rather as they pass and gather strength;
A few friends who understand me and yet remain my friends;
A work to do which has real value, and without which the world would feel the poorer;
A return for such work small enough not to tax unduly anyone who pays.

I wish this New Year to bring me a mind unafraid to travel,
Even though the trail be not blazed;
A heart that understands, and in understanding
Better able to help you carry your load in life.
May I understand the meaning of the tears that sometimes dim your eyes.
May I never be the cause of the deep hurt that I've seen in your eyes.
May the New Year bring sight of the eternal hills and the unresting sea
And of something beautiful the hand of man has made.

Bring me also, and this is important,
A sense of humor and the power to laugh;
A little leisure with nothing to do but spin my dreams
When the day is done, and evening descends
And cloaks us in her robes of deep velvet.

I wish those who are away a speedy and safe return,
And for those who return not,
The reward they sought in the house of Our Father.
I ask also for a few moments of quiet meditation
And the knowledge of the presence of God.
May I never be the cause of one tear to fall,
One heart o ache, one friend to lose.

I ask for the patience to wait for the coming of these things
With the wisdom to know them when they come.

And that is my New Year's wish for you.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

'Tis the Season to Remember and Rejoice!

This year marks my 71st Christmas. Of course, I don’t remember the first one since I was only a month old, but World War II was still raging on two fronts. However, I have many memories of most of the ones following, but these five stand out:

Living Nativity
Each year the church I attended built a “stable” on the lawn of the church and enlisted adults and young people alike to dress to portray Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and the three wisemen. Often it was freezing cold for the half-hour we stood motionless as cars passed by slowly to view the scene with its background music. Some years we even had real animals--and one year a sheep decided he’d had enough and took off down the street. Appropriately, the shepherds jumped the hay bales and took off in hot pursuit, leaving the rest of us struggling to maintain the solemnity of the scene!
Choir Concerts
In junior high school, I loved being part of the school choir, especially at Christmas. Dressed in our poufy net-layered “formals” (suits and ties for the boys), we presented a concert for a large audience of family and friends. No need to worry about what we sang--secular and sacred songs abounded, and the PC Police didn’t trouble us.
I also sang in the church choir and loved participating in the annual “cantata”. The walls, already hung with the traditional green wreaths, reverberated with the sound of praise and, often, our favorite director’s violin. Later I played John W. Peterson’s Night of Miracles for a church I attended as an adult. Though I had a page-turner and a piano light, I memorized huge pieces of the music for fear a page wouldn’t get turned quickly enough--and had nightmares about the light going out!
Santa Claus Arrives by Helicopter
Santa Claus always arrived for a pre-visit in early December. Climbing out of a helicopter which landed on the roof of our local newspaper building, he threw candy to the throngs of children gathered below.
Bands and Bell-Ringers
The busy downtown streets of my hometown abounded with Salvation Army bands, singers, and bell-ringers, encouraging us to put what we could into their red kettles. I loved taking my hoarded allowance to shop independently, even from an early age, in the bustling stores. Downtown was gone by the time my boys came along, but they took their money and lists and made selections in K-Mart. (Now, of course, the police and CPS would descend on an unaccompanied minor, and Christmas would be over before it even began and perhaps forever.)  
The Songs of the Season
Many pieces of the sheet music which comes out of the piano bench in December bears my maiden name and dates such as 1957! It’s tattered, but my fingers can still find their way through the notes. And the old Christmas Carols, once heard everywhere during this season, can still be heard in my home. I’ve always loved the final verse of O Little Town of Bethlehem.

O Holy Child of Bethlehem,
Descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin
And enter in,
Be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels
Their great glad tidings tell.
O come to us--
Abide with us--
Our Lord, Emmanuel!

May you have a blessed season of love, joy, and peace,
and may we move closer to Peace on Earth in 2016.

Merry Christmas!

The Word Place will be on vacation until December 28.

Christmas on the Big (or Small) Screen

I’m a creature of habit (for the most part) when it comes to holiday traditions. One of those dear to my heart is curling up with a bowl of popcorn and a Christmas movie. No way is it Christmas at my house without these:

·        How the Grinch Stole Christmas (cartoon version with Boris Karloff providing the voice of the Grinch) My children started the season with this beloved 30-minute trip to Who Ville, and even as adolescents, they’d sing along under their breath, “Welcome, Christmas, wah-hoo, wah-hoo. . .”
·        White Christmas (the 1950s remake of Holiday Inn) with Bing Crosby crooning Irving Berlin’s classic song. I remember seeing it around the age of 9 or 10 in the old Texas Theatre in downtown San Angelo. When I came out, a few flakes of snow fell half-heartedly, but my daddy took me next door to a friend’s drugstore and bought me hot chocolate.)
·        I’ll Be Home for Christmas (Hal Holbrook, Eva Marie Saint), a bittersweet story of the season’s enduring meaning despite war (WWII) and death and loss  
·        The Gathering (Edward Asner, Maureen Stapleton), a made-for-TV movie about a family’s reconciliation and perhaps finding each other for the first time. (There’s a sequel called The Gathering Part II) which is also worth a watch.
·        A Christmas Carol (I especially love the 1938 version with Reginald Owen and the 1951 remake with Alistair Sim, which I saw as a child.)
·        Christmas in Connecticut (a wacky tale with the brilliant Barbara Stanwyck)
·        Christmas Eve (another made-for-TV movie with Loretta Young and Trevor Howard about the untangling of bitter family relationships in the Season of Love)

Leave a reply with your favorite Christmas movie for a chance to win a print or eBook copy of
A Very Kate Christmas.

So what's love really all about?

1934 edition

Published in 1934 (the dark depths of the Great Depression), The Christmas Bride by Christian author Grace Livingston Hill is the simple oft-told tale of good triumphing over evil and love over hate. As romances go, it’s a sweet, basically improbable story of rich man meets poor girl and saves the farm. Here’s the inside cover blurb:
Gregory Sterling, now a wealthy man, has just returned to his home from the West. He had no relatives whom he could count on, not even Alice Blair, the little girl he had thought he loved until the day she ran way with another man. Greg’s life in the East would have been a lonely one had he not seen Margaret slump and then slide off the park bench in a dead faint. Her sweet face and poverty stricken appearance aroused Greg’s ardent sympathy, so he had her cared for in a hospital until she was forced from the place by the insulting remarks of the head nurse. But Margaret could not have gone out of his life for good. Would he ever find her again?
I’ve mentioned before how I grew up reading the GLH books from my local library. I don’t think I’ve read all she wrote, because the number is staggering! Find a list of her voluminous offerings here. But The Christmas Bride was one of my all-time favorites and tugged at the heartstrings of a rather naive, romantic adolescent. Years later I bought an original copy which now resides in a glass-front case with other special vintage/antique books.
Something about her writing has endured over the years. She even has her own website where you’ll find many interesting tidbits about the woman, the writer, the settings, and even the backstories. A Yahoo group reads a book each month and discusses it online. And, sometime in the 1970s, the books transitioned to paperbacks with updated covers to appeal to a brand-new generation of readers. 

Current Edition

Their Christian themes and chaste romances have been characterized as “sweety-sweet” and not for consumption by today’s more savvy readers. But I don’t regret the hours I spent in their pages. They instilled in me the belief that love truly is patient, love is kind, and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1st Corinthians 13 NASB)
In today’s society, what passes for “love” is often no more than physical gratification with no permanence, no commitment, no thought beyond today’s pleasure. What a sad way to live with nothing lasting to cling to!
I’m not suggesting you run out and buy the books--but I’m not sorry I read them.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Friday Five: Ghosts of Christmas Past

The créche was around for my first Christmas in 1944. War materials took precedence, so this is flimsy and after so many years, mended in places. I remember the roof and floor being covered with straw, but only traces remain. These days, the Small Person and the Wee Bear Cub are allowed to arrange it on the hearth. I hope someday they’ll share it with their children, too.

The larger ornaments are among the few which remain of the original ones purchased by my parents, probably when they married in 1940. Jim and I bought a box of ten smaller ones in Kananga (Congo) for our first Christmas tree--cedar brush wired to a wooden frame he’d built. Because we couldn’t afford more than one box, we cut old Christmas cards into various shapes and hung them on the tree with green twine.

Little brown teddy came to me at the age of 3 or 4 from my maternal grandfather who later taught me to love history. He was a fine little bear once upon a time with a yellow ribbon around his neck and just the right size to cuddle. 

My mother and grandmother loved the Ideals magazines and always brought them out for seasons through the year. 

I first heard the song I’ll Be Home for Christmas (if only in my dreams)as I sat on the tennis courts of the school where I taught in Congo. I was 22, and I’d never been away from home on Christmas before. For the next three years, Christmas and home would not be a reality. Later I happened on the movie by the same title, a heartbreaking reminder of the WW II era in which I was born. Last year I paid a rather steep price for a copy and plan to watch and weep again. And, of course, the old classic White Christmas is part of the package. 

Shabby? Yes. Old-fashioned? Of course. Cherished? Absolutely.  
And I wouldn't trade any of them!