Thursday, December 31, 2009

Everything He Needs. . .

Overheard recently being sung by 8M, having been gifted with a wallet:

I have everything I nee-eed
I have everything I nee-eed
I've got a wallet to keep my stuff in
I have everything I nee-eed


We should all be so content. . .


No less than two (count 'em - two!) of our kids (2F and 4M) are currently spending their holiday breaks visiting friends in Europe. Yeah, you read that right - Europe. 2F made a very close friend a few years back, somewhere during all the time she spent in Detroit. Her friend's parents are members of a community related to ours, in that 'other' Big Ten town just down the road from here (and closer to Detroit than we are). And Martha is an absolute sweetheart; Jen and I 'adopted' her as 'our other daughter'. A year or so ago, Martha took a job in Spain (yeah, I know. . .) and 2F came to miss her terribly; and so, the two of them hatched a plan for 2F to fly over and spend a couple weeks in Spain over the Christmas holidays. Tough duty, ain't it?

4M is in Austria (by way of Ireland, Paris and Rome), staying with his confirmation sponsor, who is studying theology in Austria (and who just happens to be the son of my GF2).

You know, I understand that, in their young adulthood, our kids sometimes feel the need to 'declare their independence' from their parents, and make their own life choices. If we're a little neurotic about it, it can sometimes feel like they don't want to be around us, but really, we know that's not true. But when two of them, at the same time, don't even want to be on the same continent with us, it can make you wonder. . .

Have fun, both of you, and God speed you safely back to the arms of your family. . .

Monday, December 28, 2009

All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth

One of my enduring memories of Christmas Past (I don't say one of my happiest memories, but let's not get ahead of ourselves, shall we?) goes back to the Christmas when I was not quite ten years old. My 'First Mother' had left my dad nearly a year previously, and Dad was already engaged to the woman who would soon become his second wife. For a few months, she and her kids and Dad, my brother and I had been in the process of starting to form an identity as the 'blended' family we would soon become. So, that Christmas morning, we all gathered at my soon-to-be stepmother's house for the present-opening festivities. One of the kids (I don't remember which one) got, as a gift, a Time Bomb (TM). Folks my age might remember the Time Bomb as a sort-of glorified 'hot potato' game. A hard black plastic sphere about six inches or so in diameter, with a red 'fuse' which was really the 'winder' for a timer embedded within the 'bomb'. The idea was that you toss the 'bomb' around the circle, and whoever is caught holding it when it 'explodes' (when the timer expired, it emitted a loud 'BANG'), is 'killed', and the game continues with one less player in the next round. Of course, as the round went on, and the players became increasingly aware that the bomb would be going off soon, the pace quickened, and the bomb was being tossed around the circle at a pretty frantic rate, as folks tried to minimize the amount of time the bomb spent in actual contact with their hands. So they would try to just deflect it in the direction of one of the other players, rather than catch it and toss it away. In one such frenetic end-game situation, the bomb was flying in my direction, directly toward my face. I put my hands up to redirect the bomb's trajectory, when it went off with a loud 'BANG' a split-second before I caught it. Which caused me to flinch, my hands jumping apart as I did so. And the bomb hit me, right square in the mouth. I was momentarily stunned. The bomb was a little bit heavy, and it gave me a pretty good whack, which hurt like hell for a second or two. My not-yet-sister gasped, and pointed to the floor, wide-eyed. I looked where she was pointing, and saw two small white triangular pieces of. . . what the heck were they? "Your teeth!" she shrieked. Oh, yeah. . . that's what they were; my teeth. What the heck? My teeth? I instinctively felt around inside my mouth with my tongue, and where my front teeth were supposed to be was a triangular-shaped gap. The bomb had diagonally broken off both of my front teeth, leaving a pair of vampire-like remnants behind (think of it like this - /\). And, as the shock of the impact wore off, a different kind of shock set in, as the raw insides of my front teeth came into contact with the air. Now THAT hurt like hell! I mean, it HURT LIKE HELL!!! Holy cow, did it ever hurt! I covered the raw broken edges with my tongue, and that hurt less than the open air did. But what was I gonna do now? My dad came over and had a look, and just shook his head. It was Christmas morning. We weren't gonna be able to see a dentist, even on an emergency, until the next day, or maybe the day after that. And besides, we were shortly supposed to get in the car and drive three hours to my grandparents' house, which was to be Dad's formal introduction of his new bride-to-be to his family. So, sorry about your teeth, kid; do the best you can, and we'll get you to the dentist as soon as we can, in a couple days. So, I spent that whole Christmas day with my tongue diligently covering the raw broken edges of my front teeth. The rest of my family remembers that day for the ice storm that turned our three-hour trip to Grandma-and-Grandpa's into a seven-hour trip, during which our car spun across the road into a snowbank, and then, when we were finally just a couple miles from my grandparents' house, we were completely stuck (well, not exactly 'stuck', but we couldn't move), on glare ice in the trough between two steep hills. I think a couple of my uncles came and retrieved us with a truckload of sand and salt. As I said, the rest of the family remembers the ice storm; but I remember having to keep my tongue over the broken edges of my teeth. And the stabbing pain that ensued if I ever took it off, for even a second. While the rest of the family had Christmas dinner, I sipped chicken broth through a straw. Yeah; Merry Freakin' Christmas. Ho-ho-frickin'-ho. ------------------------- I endured the two days until I could see the dentist (the return trip back Up North was blessedly uneventful), which started me on a month-long path to getting plastic crowns on both my front teeth, which I kept well into my 30s, before I had them replaced with the porcelain ones I still have today. You wouldn't know, unless you looked very closely. But, if I'm ever disfigured beyond recognition, and need to be identified by my dental records, it'll probably be easier for me than for most. . .

Friday, December 25, 2009

John Chrysostom for Christmas

From a Christmas homily of St. John Chrysostom


The angels sing. The archangels blend their voices in harmony. The cherubim hymn their joyful praise. The seraphim exalt His glory. All join in praise at this holy feast, beholding the Godhead here on earth, and man in Heaven. He who is above, now for our redemption dwells here below; and He that was lowly is by divine mercy raised.

Bethlehem this day resembles Heaven: hearing from the stars the singing of angelic voices and enfolding within itself the Sun of Righteousness. And ask not how; for where God wills, the order of nature yields. For He willed, He had the power, He descended, He redeemed; all things move in obedience to God. This day He Who Is, is born; and He Who Is, becomes what He was not. For when He was God, He became man; yet not departing from the Godhead that is His.

Come then, let us observe the feast. Come, and we shall commemorate the solemn festival. For this day the ancient slavery is ended, the devil confounded, the demons take to flight, the power of death is broken, paradise is unlocked, the curse is taken away, sin is removed from us, error driven out, truth has been brought back, a heavenly way of life has been planted on the earth, angels communicate with men without fear, and men hold speech with angels.

Why is this? Because God is now on earth and man in Heaven. On every side all things commingle. He has come on earth, while being whole in Heaven; and while being complete in Heaven, He is fully on earth. Though He was God, He became Man, not denying Himself to be God. though being the Impassable Word, He became flesh. He did not become God. He was God. Therefore He became flesh, so that He whom Heaven could not contain, a manger would this day receive.


 And may God bless you all with His presence, in all its richness, today and in years to come. . .

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Final Word

As we have for the past few years, our community again this year marked the Advent/Christmas season with a presentation of 'Nine Lessons and Carols', and ensemble of nine Advent/Christmas themed Scripture readings, each one paired with a musical piece. As we did last year, our family sang one of the carols. This time, we sang Michael Card's The Final Word, in conjunction with John 1:1-14 on the theme of 'The Incarnation of the Word of God'. . . ------------------------- The Final Word by Michael Card You and me, we use so very many clumsy words; The noise of what we often say is not worth being heard. When the Father's wisdom wanted to communicate His love He spoke it in on final perfect Word. CHORUS: He spoke the Incarnation, and then so was born the Son. His final Word was Jesus, He needed no other one. Spoke flesh and blood so He could bleed, and make a Way divine. And so was born the baby Who would die to make it mine. And so the Father's fondest Thought took on flesh and bone. He spoke the living luminous Word; at once His will was done. And so the transformation that in man had been unheard Took place in God the Father as He spoke that final Word. CHORUS And so the Light became alive, and Manna became Man. Eternity stepped into time, so we could understand. CHORUS ------------------------- (And we brought down the house when 8M stepped up to the mike for his solo on the last line of the final chorus. Because yeah, it was just that cute.) I love this song, in part because (as I mentioned last year, pertaining to a different song) it makes the connection between the Incarnation and the Passion - between the Baby in the manger, and the Cross and Resurrection, which is a large part of the whole point of the Incarnation. It also captures the sense of Jesus' kenosis, His self-emptying, in taking on human flesh and blood - 'eternity stepped into time'. Or, as one of the early church Fathers said, a manger in a stable contained the One who held the Universe in His hand. . . Because of Christmas - because of the Incarnation - our humanity is filled to its fullest, and our dignity as made in the Image of God can be restored. All because God is With Us. And I wish a richly blessed Christmas to all my family and friends. . .

Monday, December 14, 2009

Another New Beginning

Hi again (or, for the first time, as the case may be); welcome to my new blog. Some of you know that I've had another blog for the past three-and-a-half years (it's here, if you're curious; it's also linked in the sidebar), blogging under the pseudonym of Desmond Jones (the 'male lead' from the Beatles' song 'Ob-la-di, ob-la-da'; clever, no?) (and that might clear up a mystery or two for a couple of you whom I inadvertently dropped in on, using my pseudonym; I apologize for any confusion I caused with that). Anyway, it's time for me to 'pull back the curtain', and blog as myself - I'm Craig. And my wife, who I called 'Molly' in my old blog, is Jen (OK, she's 'Jennifer', but her mother doesn't even call her that). I could tell you the names of our eight kids, but that would probably just be more confusing than the birth-order/gender designations I used in the old blog; and besides, a tiny bit of circumspection is probably a good idea, especially where my kids are concerned. (And if you know my kids' names, you can just 'translate' in your own minds when you see '1F', or '5M', or whatever. . .) Anyway, if you come by to visit here, I hope you'll enjoy the blog. Over the years, I've mostly just told stories from my life, both past and present, mixed in with occasional musings on music, or literature, or theology, or what-have-you. I've typically been posting about once or twice per week. Pretty casual, but I hope it's at least occasionally interesting and/or amusing. Anyway, for those of you who've followed my old blog, I hope you like the new place. And for those of you coming by for the first time, welcome aboard!