Picture Postcard 2006

The Brood, Holiday Style

This is what delayed gratification day brought Momma in Her Kerchief and I in My Cap. Heidi got a new loveseat and chair for our room and I got a new digital camera. Merry Christmas to us. Mr. Freshpants is front, Olivia is left, Girlzilla is center, and Petunia is on the right.

3rd Day of Christmas

Yesterday we spent time playing with our toys and resting in the presence of family. Made a battery run and then assmbled the toy train, the Dora Dollhouse. Played with the playdough set, the bike, and the new board games. We started to enjoy the gifts we received on Christmas Day. A fitting continuation of the Christmas season. We have yet more — the Lego set, the Dancing Barbie — to appreciate in the fullness of time.

Today we have the task of integrating the new gifts into our household. Since we’re having guests tonight, the Christmas loot can no longer be strewn across the house. We must make room and find a place for these new gifts. What must be cleared from our rooms to make a place for the gifts of Christmas? Indeed, what must be cleared from my heart?

Tonight is Dip-a-Rama. We’re having another Christmas party, where everyone brings a dip to share and we play games. We celebrate because it is a time to celebrate, Continue to celebrate. Because what we have to celebrate deserves more than one day.

Tomorrow Heidi and I have delayed gratification day. In order to get through Christmas on as close to a cash basis as possible, we delayed giving each other our personal gifts until we hit the end of the month paycheck. So we’re looking at a little delta Christmas gifting in a few days.

We still have Christmas cards to go, a few gifts still to give, and a few we started that need to be finished. We’re stretching this Christmas as much as we can. I’m happy about that.

Poem: "Topography"

After you flew across the country we
got in bed, laid our bodies
delicately together, like maps laid
face to face, East to West, my
San Francisco against your New York, your
Fire Island against my Sonoma, my
New Orleans deep in your Texas, your Idaho
bright on my Great Lakes, my Kansas
burning against your Kansas your Kansas
burning against my Kansas, your Eastern
Standard Time pressing into my
Pacific Time, my Mountain Time
beating against your Central Time, your
sun rising swiftly from the right my
sun rising swiftly from the left your
moon rising slowly from the left my
moon rising slowly from the right until
all four bodies of the sky
burn above us, sealing us together,
all our cities twin cities,
all our states united, one
nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

— Sharon Olds
(published in “The Gold Cell”, Knopf, 1987)

Christmas Morning Quiet

“Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” — Luke 2:19

Merry Christmas. It is the quiet before the storm in the Clark household. I am spending a few moments with the Word before the impending paroxysm of bows and tissue paper. Santa did his thing and soon the kids will wake up and find the loot. But right now, the Christ Child is doing his thing in my heart too.

In my lectio this morning, I realized that at this point in the story the baby Jesus brought a lot of questions. The only ones who were sure who the new child called Jesus is are the angels. Mary herself didn’t fully know. She had to think about it for a while. She kept all these things she heard from the shepherds about angels and kings and saviors in her heart.

Sometimes I just have to think about it for a while myself and ponder just what sort of child is this I am holding in my heart. And walk in faith that somehow this child is the messiah, my salvation, my Lord. How He is the Word made Flesh and how I am a Word spoken by God in my own flesh. And how all this relates to the fact that I must go start making coffee and brunch for about 23 people in ten minutes.

So I’m with Mary. I’m never quite sure what I’ve got here, but I will certainly hold it dear in my heart as I go forward into this day of family and celebration. May you and yours hold God’s Peace and Joy in your hearts as well.

Poem: "Call Me by My True Names"

Do not say that I’ll depart tomorrow
because even today I still arrive.

Look deeply: I arrive in every second
to be a bud on a spring branch,
to be a tiny bird, with wings still fragile,
learning to sing in my new nest,
to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower,
to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.

I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,
in order to fear and to hope.
The rhythm of my heart is the birth and
death of all that are alive.

I am the mayfly metamorphosing on the surface of the river,
and I am the bird which, when spring comes, arrives in time
to eat the mayfly.

I am the frog swimming happily in the clear pond,
and I am also the grass-snake who, approaching in silence,
feeds itself on the frog.

I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,
my legs as thin as bamboo sticks,
and I am the arms merchant, selling deadly weapons to Uganda.

I am the twelve-year-old girl, refugee on a small boat,
who throws herself into the ocean after being raped by a sea pirate,
and I am the pirate, my heart not yet capable of seeing and loving.

I am a member of the politburo, with plenty of power in my hands,
and I am the man who has to pay his “debt of blood” to, my people,
dying slowly in a forced labor camp.

My joy is like spring, so warm it makes flowers bloom in all walks of life.
My pain is like a river of tears, so full it fills the four oceans.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can hear all my cries and laughs at once,
so I can see that my joy and pain are one.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can wake up,
and so the door of my heart can be left open,
the door of compassion.

— Thich Nhat Hanh

What are you waiting for?

“The waiting is the hardest part” — Tom Petty

I’ll spare everyone my usual bah-humbag rant about Christmas claim-jumping and how Advent gets a short shrift every year. I’ll just sing the praises of Advent itself.

Advent is about waiting. Patiently, expectantly, even joyfully — Waiting.

We wait for Christmas. I am reluctant to hang the Christmas lights until it gets closer to Christmas. I like the wait. The wait makes the holiday all that more joyful. I don’t want to spoil the anticipation.

Something about waiting that is good spiritual practice. Sitting in the tension between what is and what you want to be. Resting with the tinge of uncertainty and trepidation. Being awake and watchful. Doing your part in preparation. Accepting the now in the face of something better to come. Embracing the paradox of accepting Now while working to bring about a Future.

We wait for the Kingdom of God to come to its fullness in the world. I somehow doubt that the Second Coming will happen all at once, timeline style. God does not seem to me to be limited in such a linear fashion. From our perspective, it comes in bits here and there, in trickles and floods. Some of it is already here and has been for as long as I can remember. Some we can appreciate now. Some we can watch unfold as it happens. And for most of it, we wait.

And here’s a question: is there someone you know of out there waiting for Christ to come into their lives? Someone who is waiting for a word, a touch, a help, a hand, a kiss? Can you be Christ to that person? Are they waiting for you?

What are you waiting for? What am I waiting for?

Be Still My Heart

I discovered the Pixie Mate site quite accidentally while looking for coffee roasters in Houston.

Yerba Mate with a touch of poetry.

Mate is the gentle hum of an awakened mind and a vibrant body. It is energy that’s balanced, not frantic. The people of the South American rain forest discovered the magic before we did. From these green leaves emerged the tea that sings the body electric. With a llama-load of antioxidants, mate trickles grinning into your system. It won’t leave you drooping or demand addiction. Drink deep. You’re safe here.

I know I’ve been saying this for years now, but maybe my favorite underdog drink is just now on the cusp. With hip sassy purveyors like Pixie selling the stuff, maybe mate is the next chai.

Just maybe