Saturday, December 27, 2008
Friday, December 26, 2008
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Some people say Mary is wearing black mink, a Hermes scarf, a Chanel handbag, Prada heels or Tory Burch flats, rubies and diamonds from India and Florentine gold. Truth is, in my personal nativity scene Mary is wearing a Boston hoodie; Gonzaga Prep sweats; adidas runners; wool socks (Mary gets so cold); a beanie pulled way down over her head and the ever present Oakleys with no make up or no nail polish. Everybody can agree that Mary looks tired, but is optimistic, works hard and is proud of her child.
Joseph is wearing Carrharts, a Griz ball cap, a Fordham sweatshirt, Sorrels, and his father's beat up Timex watch which is by any calculation, 40 years old. He does anything anybody asks him to do and always has one eye on the Christ Child, who is blond and blue-eyed; she has gorgeous golden curls. He has the prettiest eyes any child has ever known and He has a smile than can light up any room. Just like his dad. The Christ Child is funny, fun, athletic and sharp; a great cook, loves music and art, has scads of friends; values alone time; naps; and listening to the car radio. The Christ Child sleeps in a pine forrest close by a river in the bed of a navy blue 1963 Chevrolet C-10 pick up truck, in Egyptian cotton sheets, 1000 count, with an afghan knit by Grandma and plenty of down pillows. The Christ Child has too many clothes, never enough books and racks up miles and miles in each and every day.
The stable animals are primarily Chows; but there's a Sheltie there; also a black, happy, friendly dog who came from Santa's just for this Christmas Eve; there's a sweet, sweet Puss, lots of black and white cats and two enormous American Bulldogs. Also present in this nativity scene are bear and moose, birds of all kinds, quail, bees, dragon flies, butterflies, lady bugs, deer, and a flock of brilliant red cardinals.
The wise men are Thomas Merton, William Shakespeare, and Kathryn Graham. They bring wit, wisdom, faith and courage to the Christ Child, who surely will need all that in this life. The shepherds are Ghandi, Ignatius Loyola, Benjamin Franklin, Clara Barton and Eleanor Roosevelt. Their flocks are the poor, the sick, the addicted, the disenfranchised, the hungry, the angry, the penitent and the weary. All come in great interest and anticipation and enter into a lively, respectful conversation full of ideas, innovations, patience and understanding.
They listen to everything from the Ronettes to Tchkaikowski to Bob Seger. They are drinking Framboise, heck it's Christmas eve, and nibbling on smoked salmon and capers but are secretly hoping for a bowl of Cheerios with non-fat milk. Santa shows up; they welcome him and congratulate him on his service to mankind. They are lovers, not fighters. And especially tonight, when millions of stars dazzle in The Big Sky.
It is a beautiful, peaceful, and calm navy blue night. On this night, nobody's got somebody they love in a war across the world; nobody's out of job; nobody's worried about making their mortgage. Nobody's separated from their family by hurt, anger or stubborn pride. Everybody can laugh, say something nice about everybody else and relate something that they are really looking forward to. The strawberries are sweet and juicy, the river runs crystal clear and deep and the roses bloom with heavy perfume. It is that one night a year where the heavens open up and sing and all can agree, all can agree, that tonight joy is the only order of business.
The 'Kan EWA
Monday, December 22, 2008
Friday, December 19, 2008
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Monsignor Bach hustled around stocking the bathrooms with kleenex and paper towels and when lunch for the volunteers ran short, hopped up and ordered pizza. Paid for it himself. This man has been helping other people in whatever fashion possible for his whole life. My old friend Marilee was there; we partnered on opening the first shelter for street kids here in The 'Kan EWA. She, too, has been at this her whole life. I knew many of the people there who were taking freight off the big rigs with lift trucks, hand trucks and in a truly inspired fashion, with office chairs. I have worked with them before on arts fairs, alcohol education in public schools, Catholic school magazine drives, puppet shows about developmentally disabled people, foster parent initiatives, and yes, all those other hugely important things that a community needs and must have in order to take some pride and some courage in itself.
So I was touched, but not surprised to see people that I have not seen in quite a few years scurrying around getting ready to open the Christmas bureau up and touched and disturbed by the amount of toys, games and sporting goods that are necessary for a lot kids here in The 'Kan EWA to know that Santa cares about them. I can't help but think about Bob Barker, who was Santa's buddy for his whole life and now lives with Santa. And my mother, who had impressive holiday standards and traditions by any measure and passed most of those on to her sons. It touches me deeply to see how my brothers decorate their houses for Christmas.
my mom's nativity
Not this chicken. I drink in the glory, the splendor, the hope of this time of year that is my children. I decorate and celebrate them. Together we put up a tree and cook and watch movies. Then they run back to their friends for New Year's and the silent snow of January looms.
It's foggy and very cold here this morning. That's not necessarily a bad thing--it's just quite still. And possible to hear all the voices of the ages swim together, laughing about old times and old jokes, past presents and impossibly wonderful surprises waiting, singing the carols of really happy times-- stuffing the turkey, kneading the rolls, wrapping presents and stomping off the snow of the outside dark just inside the back door.
It's just that when it's cold and still, I can look out the window into the fog and hear the voices clearer and clearer and clearer.
The 'Kan EWA
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Sunday, December 07, 2008
Anywhooo, Joseph Nathan wants to see an Upper Marble Creek creche. hmmm. hmmm. Let's see: the kings wear cork boots and bring whiskey, Copenhagen, and Cubans to the Christ Child, right? The shepherd has a 30.06 Remington? that he carries while tending the herds of deer. Bear, trout, mules and elk are present at the stable, er, the campsite. Mary wears a blue REI parka with an orange hunter's vest and keeps her razor sharp Bowie knife by Buck tucked in the belt of her jeans; Joseph wears a plaid shirt, black jeans, red suspenders with a Cabela hunter's jacket and an orange Cabela fedora. He carries an Orvis fly rod and has his dog, a large Chocolate lab named 'Buddy' with him. The angel is draped in a flowing American flag with a crown woven of huckleberry bushes and mushrooms. The Christ Child lays on a straw bed made in a discarded cooler strapped into the back of a Honda 4-wheeler. The wooden canoe lays in ready near by. The mountain bluebirds chirp in the trees under the starry skies, the syringa blooms sweet in the dead of winter, and Merle Haggard sings "Joy To The World" on the cd in the truck. Everyone is drinking Budweiser and complaining about the federal government, wolves and the forest service.
If that ain't Marble Creek, what is?
The 'Kan EWA
Saturday, December 06, 2008
So it was a real surprise that although one guy liked Honduras and the seed pod nativity the best; one of my girlfriends like New Mexico best; and somebody loved Russia, people mostly loved Montana! I view that as an affirmation of laughter and love. Go figure.
Monsignor came and I was so happy to see him, as always. He is a King and a man who has directed my life in rich, fulfilling ways. When it was time for him to leave, I walked him down the hall to the elevator and he said quietly, "I need to talk to you." As he is my confessor and my confidant, I thought ruh roh. Review points. He continued in a quiet, serious manner: "Do you have a Precious Moments Nativity?" My stomach churned. ugh! He can't be asking me this! I said, "A Precious Moments Nativity , Monsignor? No! I do not have one.". He looked at me sideways as we walked and said, now a bit expansively, "Now I know it's not your thing. But I have my mother's Precious Moments nativity scene and it hasn't been out of the box since she died." I was thunderstruck, humbled, and ashamed , all at once. I said, my voice now low, "I would be thrilled and honored to have your mother' s Precious Moment nativity, Monsignor". He said, "I would be honored for you to have it because I know you'll take care of it for me." I punched the elevator button and the door opened immediately; I took his elbow and guided him on the elevator and said simply, "And I will."
And that's the true story of a true miracle. If anyone ever thought the day would come where I would be jumping up and down, squealing, Pick me! Pick me! at a Precious Moments nativity scene, they probably would have been equally confident that hell would freeze over at the precise same moment. But it happened, just this week, and I am so very grateful, again, for the sliver of light that always manages to find its way into my dark, smoky life. I am rich, rich, rich.
The 'Kan EWA
Thursday, December 04, 2008
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
There is the mud formed into shapes that is Uganda; there is the finely carved and chiseled Madagascar; there is the pious black bear Holy Family that is Montana. They are so special to me and have touched my heart over and again throughout the years. I love them.
But the one that's the most special is not sophisticated, not from an exotic place in the world, not even unique in that I am certain this particular nativity scene was mass produced. It is the snowman set from Kansas. It came to me as a birthday present but even though it was fall, I took it out of the box and set it up on my desk. I would talk on the phone and look at the devilishly cute snowmen Wise Men and just laugh to myself as I plowed through the particular work of the day.
One day I was in a long, protracted conversation with a guy on the phone detailing depreciation strategies and as I was deep in conversation with the client in my left ear, my right ear was watching the angel snowman, who had a sign that said 'Fear not!'. I was thinking about that as this conversation about depreciation went on and on and remembered in my right ear that fear was a major tenet and warning in John Paul's ministry. He wrote a book about fear, cautioning us that our faith and spiritual life is highly susceptible to erosion and disintegration at the hand of fear and that The Dark is is largely composed of and sustained by fear. And then the question came into my right ear that rang loud and hard with peals of clarity: Who is more vulnerable than a snowman? Whose fate, whose destiny is more sealed than a snowman? Whose demise is most certain in this life? Our beloved buddies, the snowmen. Yet their sign directs us Don't worry about it! It's all good! It'll all sort out in an order that might not seem or feel right at the moment, but it will sort out in the right order. Fear not!
And that's the love and the hope of advent for me: "Fear not; for I bring you glad tidings of great joy!"
So the snowmen, all of them, may be devilishly cute but they are all very Wise Men. As Garth Brooks put it, 'Heaven is not beyond the clouds; Heaven is beyond the fear.'
The 'Kan EWA