Wednesday, December 23, 2020

December 23 - Emmanuel, God With Us - We're Still Waiting

 We've come to the end of the Great O Antiphons, and the Medieval countdown to Christmas.  It means even more to me now that I've learned how all of December, up until Christmas Eve, was considered a time of fasting and repenting, no meat, eggs or dairy allowed for the whole 3 1/2 weeks leading up to Christmas.  No wonder they celebrated the holiday for Twelve Days, when it finally came!

In some ways, it's like the old observance of Lent used to be.  A time of waiting, hoping, fasting and practicing patience.  I know I definitely need more practice with patience!  It is also a reminder of our anticipation, as we await the coming of Christ, when He was born as a human being here on this very earth.  In my church, they also remind us to anticipate His Second Coming as King of Kings, and Lord of Lords. 

The antiphon for this day reads:

O Emmanuel, our king and our Lord,
The anointed of the nations and their Savior;
    Come and save us, O Lord our God.

Even though this is the last of the seven ancient verses set to music, it has become the first verse of our hymn,  O Come, O Come Emmanuel:

O come, O come Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
    Rejoice, rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

I like this arrangement, for it's like a set of bookends.  The beginning of the hymn reminds us that Jesus, called Emmanuel (which in Hebrew means 'God with us') is come to be our Savior from darkness and loneliness.  That seems especially meaningful in this year of crises and pandemic.  And the hymn ends with the words, "And be Thyself our King of Peace."

Wishing you all the peace that passes understanding.
Amen. Come Lord Jesus.


Tuesday, December 22, 2020

O Come Desire of Nations

 December 22 marks the first full day of winter here, and we got snow--the most we've had since early October.  Strange year!  The election, Covid--so much suffering, strife, anger, and hurt.  No one seems to trust anyone.  We need the King of Kings more than ever before.  Here is the antiphon for today:

O King of the nations, the ruler they long for,
the cornerstone uniting all people:
    Come and save us ALL, whom You formed out of clay.

And the verse:

O come, Desire of nations, bind in one the hearts of all mankind.
Bid thou our sad divisions cease,
And be thyself our King of Peace:
    Rejoice, rejoice!  Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

Monday, December 21, 2020

O Come, O Light of Heaven!

 December 21st is shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, especially in Europe, where many of the Medieval Church customs were born.  I find it most significant that the Pre-Christmas antiphon for this date refers to the coming of Christ as the dawning of light, the Dayspring.

People in the Middle Ages, in the darkest time of year, were longing for the light and hope of spring as much as we often do here in the northern reaches of North America.  Here is the 12th century antiphon, translated from Latin into English:

O Dayspring, splendor of light ever-lasting:
     Come and enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.

Here is the verse of the hymn adapted from these ancient antiphons, written by James M. Neale in the 1800s:

O Come, Thou Dayspring from on high,
And cheer us by Thy drawing nigh:
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death's dark shadows put to flight.
    Rejoice, rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

O Key of David - December 20

 The Great O Antiphons originated in the 12th century, and have evolved into our beloved Christmas carol, O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.   There is one for each of the seven days preceding Christmas Eve.  

The one for today (which has been translated from the original Latin) goes like this:

O Key of David and scepter of the house of Israel,
You open and no one can close,
You close and no one can open:
    Come and rescue the prisoners who are in darkness and the shadow of death.

What we could not ever accomplish for ourselves--the task of being truly good and sinless--Christ did for us.  Beginning when he came to earth as a tiny helpless baby, born in a stable of a poor young mother of God's own choosing.

And here's the more "modern" rendering in the hymn:

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
    Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

Saturday, December 19, 2020

O Come Thou Branch of Jesse's Tree

 "Who was Jesse?" you may ask.  He was a member of the house of Judah in the nation of Israel.  He had several sons, and the youngest--David--was chosen by God to be King of all Israel.  Some thousand years later, Jesus was born of Mary, one of David descendants.  Joseph, Jesus's earthly father, was also a descendant of David. 

Here is the Medieval antiphon written about him and used for December 19:

O Root of Jesse, standing as an ensign before the peoples,
Before whom all kings are mute, to whom the nations will do homage:
 Come quickly to deliver us.

And the verse by John Mason Neale:

O come, thou Branch of Jesse's tree,
Free them from Satan's tyranny
That trust thy mighty power to save,
And give them victory o'er the grave:
 Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

Friday, December 18, 2020

O Come, Thou Lord of Might

 Here's the Great "O" antiphon for December 18.  (In case you don't know what an antiphon is, see my December 17 post.)

O Adonai and ruler of the house of Israel, 
who appeared to Moses in the burning bush 
and gave him the law on Sinai,
 Come with outstretched arm and redeem us.

The verse of my favorite hymn which is based on this:

O come, O come, Thou Lord of might,
Who to thy tribes on Sinai's height
In ancient times didst give the law
In cloud and majesty and awe.
  Rejoice, rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel. 

Thursday, December 17, 2020

The Great O's: Number One

 Okay, I'm going to try to take a break from the crazy politics.  One week from today is Christmas Eve.  In the Medieval Church, the evening service, called Vespers, was held nightly.  For the week before Christmas there were special antiphons written for each of these 7 days leading up to the celebration of Christ's birth.

Antiphons, short verses, often from the Bible and set to music, are still used in many traditional church liturgies.  In the Medieval Church, they were all in Latin.  With the Protestant Reformation, churches began shifting to the native languages of their people, whether German, English, etc.

These "Great O's" are so named because each starts with the word  "O".  In the early 1400s a haunting tune was in use with them in France, which has been carried on today.  Our English text translation was done by John Mason Neale in the 1800s, adding the refrain, "Rejoice, rejoice...".   The result is one of my favorite Christmas songs, "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel".

For December 17, here is the antiphon:

 O Wisdom proceeding from the mouth of the Most High,
pervading and permeating all creation,
mightily ordering all things:
Come and teach us the way of prudence.

And here is the verse of the hymn:

O Come, Thou Wisdom from on high, who orders all things mightily;
To us the path of knowledge show, and teach us in her ways to go.
Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

When Will This Insanity End?

I have a Christian friend who says he's stopped going to church because so many people there have bought into the Far Right conspiracy theories that they won't listen to reason any more.  This makes me sad and angry.  I can certainly relate because there are people like that at my church, too.  Most of the time I've managed to avoid them.  It's gotten to the point that's all I can do.

Four years ago, the Democrats were crying foul when Trump defeated Clinton, especially since Clinton won the popular vote.  Now the Republicans are doing the same and worse, despite the fact that Biden won the popular vote and the electoral vote.  At one time Trump said he would concede if the Electoral College vote was against him,  But like all the other shifts in what he says, he's gone back on that statement, too.  How can people trust someone like that, who changes with the wind of his own opinion?

I've heard many Republicans who say, "The courts will decide."  Well, the courts have decided, but not in their favor.  Not what they wanted to hear, and so they vow to fight on, continuing to divide our country.

In my mind, sending death threats to election official and electors who are just doing their job is unconscionable.  How can people justify this?  It appears the Far Right has pushed the party do far Right that they believe, "Might makes Right."  They've been taking lessons from Machiavelli--or Hitler and Stalin.

People talk about Russian plots to overthrow us and set up a police state.  Actually, the first hints of this showed up in Portland, Oregon last summer, when unmarked Federal Agents began arresting people indescriminatly on no grounds.

I don't argue that Russia (and perhaps China) would like to see our democracy fall.  And by inciting so much division and fear in our country, a lot of politicians are playing right into their hands.  I see evidence of this standing on the street corners right here in remote Kalispell, Montana--flags waving for the candidate who soundly lost, using four-letter words I refuse to even print, insinuations of Chinese and Russian influences in the Democratic Party.  How ironic that four years ago it was the Democrats saying that the Russians conspired to get Trump elected!   It's becoming clearer all the time that they are succeeding in dividing and conquering us.

A few lonely voices, including the President-elect, are begging us to unite and stand together, even if we don't agree on everything.  But somewhere along the way, certain news agencies and politicians on both sides have convinced us that we must despise the people who disagree with us.  Unfortunately, some of those people are even waving the Bible in our faces.  Have they really taken to heart what it says?  I see too many who Talk the Talk but aren't Walking the Walk.

Once in a while, one of the Republican supporters or appointees sees the light and takes a stand for the truth.  Most recent example is Attorney General Barr.  One after another, these former "Yes men" have heard the word, "You're Fired!"  We've seen it repeatedly for the past four years.  Isn't that enough?

I know I'll lose friends over this, but I've decided it's time to stand up with these few brave, persecuted people.   I pray that we won't forget what Christ told his followers, "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."   

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Loving Your Neighbor As Yourself

 Nearly all the world's religions have some basic tenet of caring for our neighbors.  I ran across a quote this morning from Eugene Peterson, a fellow Montanan and Christian who died recently.  He said, "Freedom is a delicate and subtle gift, easily perverted and often squandered."

How often recently have we witnessed people of all persuasions using "freedom" as an excuse to foster hatred, rioting, looting, prejudice, or even just refusing to wear a mask?  None of these things, whether done by the Right or the Left, show "Love" to our neighbors.

Who is my neighbor?  You may ask, the very way someone asked Jesus this one day.  He told a story many of us know of The Good Samaritan.  What most have forgotten is that to the Jews who were his audience the Samaritans were the Enemy with a capital E.  To tell them this was their neighbor was a challenge to their whole belief system.

I often see bumper stickers that say, "Freedom Isn't Free."  And I absolutely agree.  Freedom is actually beyond price.  It cost Jesus his life.  But he's also the one who said, "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free."  Are we remembering that one of the prices of freedom is responsibility?

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Is The System Broken?

 Now that I'm 68, I've lived through some interesting times.  The election of Kennedy, his assassination, the presidency of Johnson and dreams of his "Great Society", the Vietman War, the rise and fall of Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford the unelected president, Carter and the long siege of the embassy in Tehran, the rise of Reagan, Clinton, the Bushes, Obama, and now the illustrious narcissist Trump.  Each and every time a new president took office, there was a shakeup, but people always managed to say, "The System Worked, the great system of democracy."

Yes, it mostly did.  Studies have found that the delayed transition of George W. Bush in 2000-2001, because of the Florida voting debacle, led to a weakened communication among our national security agencies, which led to the disaster of 9/11/2001.  The system wavered that time.

This year has been the worst year of my life, and probably has for many others.  I'm still trying to figure out why the Almighty decided to send Covid-19 in our election year.  And why Trump is being such a sore loser that he's willing to let our country go down the toilet, just to assuage his ego.   He's busy playing popularity games while thousands are dying and the economy is crumbling.  The country is a gaping wound, and all he does is throw salt into it.

I can't understand why otherwise good-hearted, conscientious people can see anything Christian and worthy in this man.  He has no redeeming qualities unless you count his big mouth.  I know he claims to be pro-life.  But is that the only litmus test there is?  What about his attitudes toward toe needy among us, blacks, Hispanics, or women, for God's sake?  What about his arrogance?  Is he producing any Christ-like fruit?  In the Old Testament, God repeatedly warned the nation of Israel about their arrogance and ungodly behavior.  When the refused to listen, he allowed their enemies to destroy them  A sobering example.   

I have so-called friends who scold me for watching the "wrong" newscasts.  For their information, I don't watch any of them.  I just happen to read my Bible and see multiple verses scolding humans for being arrogant, selfish, and greedy.  I read verses that say we're supposed to love and care for our neighbors, feed the poor, even to love our enemies, not despise them just because we disagree with them. I see verses that say, "By their fruits you shall know them.  A good tree cannot produce bad fruit." No, I don't watch the news stations, any of them.  I just happen to be able to still think for myself, for I haven't been brainwashed by either extreme.

Sorry people, but we're in the midst of national crisis like our country hasn't seen since the Spanish Influenza  of a hundred hears ago.  And The System is broken, folks.

God help us.

Monday, November 9, 2020

Whoever the "Leader of the Free World" Is, Christ is Still the King

 I remember my dad often saying, "Quit your belly-aching" when my complaints got to him.  Yes, I admit I have a pessimistic streak.  Now as I hear Trumpites doing this, I've decided not to stoop to their level.  My son said it well a couple of days ago:

"It's about character, Mom.  Now I can teach my students that character does matter after all.  It's about not being vindictive, but about trying to promote healing in a fractured nation."

I'm not sure it will work, but it shows that the spirit of Abraham Lincoln still lives in some hearts.  (See another of my blogs for thoughts on the man I consider to be our Best President Ever.)  I often wonder if we would be this bad off if Lincoln hadn't been assassinated.  Perhaps the reconstruction of the South would have gone better for all people.  

It's very ironic to me when I realize Lincoln was a Republican.  It was Southern Democrats who instituted Jim Crow laws and segregation.  I know it firsthand for I was born in southern Arkansas in the early 1950s.  I saw it with my own eyes.  When I was eleven, we moved to northern Illinois, where there was supposedly no segregation, but it was there, too-- if 'unofficially.'

The Southern Democrats came over to the GOP when Reagan was elected, but instead of becoming Republican, they drew the Republican Party into being Southern Democrats.  I think we're reaping the harvest of this today.  It's especially sad to see how far the GOP has fallen in the past four years--losing its soul in a Faustian deal with the Devil.

There may be a chance for healing, but the wounds are very deep, and by refusing to concede, Trump (in my opinion) is throwing salt on those wounds.  He's apparently forgotten that we're still a democracy (or at least a semblance of one) and the people have spoken.

I'm reminded of a story in the Bible book of Daniel, when mysterious handwriting appeared on the palace wall in Babylon.  No one could read this supernatural message, so Daniel had to interpret what it meant:  "Your regime has been measured in the balance and found wanting."  This signaled the end of the Babylonian Empire, at that time the most powerful the world had ever seen.

Several empires have risen and fallen since then--the Persians, Greeks, Romans, and more.  I pray that we're not next.  But only God knows, because He's still in charge.

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Might Makes Right?

 It's November 4, 2020 as I write this blog.  Some things I just need to share.  In my opinion, the problems and divisions in our country have been with us for generations, perhaps from the very beginning.  The past few decades have seen increasing polarization, though.  

Who's at fault?  Probably both sides.  They just keep pulling farther apart with each passing year.  People wave their flags and guns and holy books.  Not just Christians, but Isis, too.  Hmm... 

Our country used to have statesmen in the middle who knew how to compromise when necessary for the greater good of the nation.  But I don't think there are any of them left.  President Carter, in my opinion, was among the last true statesmen.  He was defeated after one term by Ronald Reagan 40 years ago today.  ( I remember it vividly because as Carter was conceding, my water broke, and I gave birth to my first child about an hour later.)

It seems that ever since then we've been on a long downhill slide.  For some reason, God has permitted this.  He's chosen not to send us any more statesmen.  Just politicians.  Perhaps this is part of God's plan to wipe America off the map.  Like the nation of Israel was conquered as punishment for their sins.

There was a song on the radio back in the 1960s called "The Eve of Destruction" by Barry McGuire.  It upset a lot of people by saying things I just did.  But as the years of my life have gone by, I see it turning into an eerie prophecy.

I don't want this to happen, but I'm beginning to wonder if the Great American Experiment is failing, and one day we'll have to look back and realize it was all a pipe dream.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Feeling Like an Island

 I'm sure some people out there remember the song by Paul Simon, "I Am a Rock, I Am an Island."  That's what I feel like, now that Covid Insanity has gone on for over 200 days.  Looking out of my lonely room, day after day.  Oh, yeah, that's from a Paul McCartney song, I think.

Anyway, Covid-19 has forced all of us into a small shell of isolation.  The thing I miss most is seeing and talking to friends at church.  These have always been surrogate family to me, wherever I've lived.  But now it's pretty much cut off.  For a loner like me, it's probably not as difficult as for people who really crave social contact.  

I wonder how long it will be until we can come out of our shells.  Will we even remember how to relate to people?  The things I see in the news make me think we've already lost all knowledge of how to get along with others.  In fact,  I've quit watching, in order to preserve my sanity. 

Sorry. Gloomy thoughts for a cloudy, gloomy day.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Troubled Deeply About America

 I'm feeling so troubled about our nation that I must write something here to try to sort my thoughts.  Twenty years ago, one of my favorite songs was by Lee Greenwood.  It said, "I'm proud to be an American, where at least I know I'm free..."  But now, I almost feel ashamed to be an American.

Too often now, I see people on all sides using "freedom" as an excuse for violence toward the 'others' they hold in contempt.  In my opinion, our president's vocal criticisms, tweets, diatribes, name-calling, and arrogance have just exacerbated the problems. Evidently diplomacy isn't something CEOs of big corporations have to learn.

I grew up in the turbulent 60s and 70s.  Now it seems like our country has backslid over 50 years.  Racism, bigotry, chauvinism, seem to be running rampant again.  The current administration seems bent on undermining some of the main progress made back then--the Civil Rights and voting rights legislation,  the environmental legislation, and equal rights for women.

If you look back at our history over the past 300 years, you will find that scapegoating, blaming the poor for their own fate, and derogatory labels are nothing new.  In other words, we have made no progress at all.  And we dare to say, "Make America Great Again" ?  It has failed to be great in so many ways, which we choose to ignore.  Think about slavery, genocide of Native Americans, mistreatment  of various races, and anti-immigration laws.  The Statue of Liberty has a tablet engraved with, "...I lift my lamp at the open door."  But too many want that door closed. 

The COVID crisis has brought out our true colors, and they aren't pretty at all.  Does anyone wonder why we have the highest infection rate in the world?  Without even mentioning Washington, I think Covid has unveiled the inequities and weakness in our health care system, just for starters.

What really irked me was when I saw pro-Trump banners that said "Fuck your feelings."  (I don't normally use that word in print.)  My gut reaction was, "I want no part of attitudes like that."

I have decided to live by another four-letter word -- LOVE.

Where are the leaders like Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr.?  Men who reminded us that violence only breeds more violence, hatred just breeds hate.  Darkness cannot overcome darkness.  Only light can do that.  But unfortunately, these great men were assassinated by other "Americans".

And the saddest part is their dreams died with them.  Other lesser men took over and kept our country in the old divided, segregated form.  That's the reason why we still have "Systemic Racism" 250 years after the end of the Civil War.

Some days, I feel like we're on the verge of another Civil War in our country.  I know there are people who are wrong on both sides of everything.  But if Christians would look at what St. Paul said in the book of Romans, about how Christians should act, it could go a long way toward helping.  Here are some examples:

True Christian Love:

- speaks well of its persecutors.  (Rom. 12:14) 

- empathizes with all people. (Rom 12:15)

- remains humble, not proud. (Rom. 12:16)

- does what is right, with no expectation of reward. (Rom. 12:17)

- seeks to live at peace, as much as possible. (Rom. 12:18)

- does NOT try to get revenge! (Rom. 12:19) 

If only there was more of this in the world...

 There are many people, even some of my relatives, who vehemently disagree with me in this.  But I am just going to pray for everyone.  Lord, give us the strength to go through these troubled times.  Help us hang onto hope, but protect us from false-hope.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Halfway to Fall Already?

August 1 marks the midway point between the Summer Solstice and the Fall Equinox.  Like the other midway feasts (May Day, Halloween) it had significance in early agrarian societies.  But it is the one that's been lost for the most part. No, it doesn't have anything to with the South American animal, or the seekers of Tibetian Budhism.

It’s taken me a long time to find information on August 1, called Lammas.  I finally got information in a book on Druids that I ran across at a workshop of Celtic Heritage in America.  I learned, as I suspected, that Lammas is a feast of harvest.  In northern climates, it would be just the early first-fruits.  The word Lammas in Irish is Lughnasadh, and in Scottish Gaelic it’s Lunasad.  Lunasa is Irish for August, too.   

The ancient god Lugh, in Irish myth, is god of all arts and crafts.  He is also considered to be the greatest of the gods, and the name implies he has a large head.  Lugh is found beyond the British Isles, too, being depicted in early art from Sweden to the Punjab.  Of course, the Irish added  their own twist, weaving the story that Lugh has now become “Lugh-chromain” which is the Irish word we pronounce as “leprechaun,” certainly a crafty character if ever there was one.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Everything Has Its Price

Another Excerpt from My Next Book

The sun is shining, but the wind is still blowing.  I’m wondering how long it will be before I can sit on our porch without a coat.  Spring here in Montana is not like the ones I grew up with in Arkansas.  Filled with blooming flowers and singing birds.
          Here, it’s mostly still brown, and the trees’ limbs are bare.  Some of my friends have a few crocuses peeking out.   Maybe I need to plant some of those.  The daffodils I planted when we moved into this house have stopped coming up or blooming.
          This is the hardest time of year for me, March and April.  We’ve been in the grip of winter since late October, usually.  So desperate for spring, but it comes so slowly—bits of sunshine, interspersed with clouds, rain, wind, and even snow.
          “Please, just come for good,” I say.  But it doesn’t.  Just keeps playing hide-and-seek.  What I call spring won’t get here until after Mother’s Day.  It will last a week or three, and suddenly it will be summer for six weeks, if we’re lucky.
          I guess it really is true that the four seasons here are Winter, June, July, and August.
          But there are a couple of good things about long winters.  First, the mountains look more impressive covered in snow.  And second, while driving in the mountains and foothills, you can see more of the vistas when the trees don’t have their leaves yet.
          Everything has its price.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

To Plan or Not to Plan?

I know I'm paraphrasing Shakespeare, so I hope he doesn't mind.  With the Shelter-at-Home orders due to COVID19, I've been facing a challenge I've never encountered before.  We all have, I know.  Over the past three weeks all the plans I had for the next five months have gone out the window.  Or into the trash.  And yes, I know I'm not alone.

My quandry is whether to have a schedule for my empty days or not.  I've always been a planner, with a daily schedule on my bulletin board and a well-marked calendar on the wall. Setting up a new schedule has the appeal of helping me cope with everything and giving me some stability.  And a way to make sure I don't 'waste' my time.

On the other hand, now that the calendar is gone, along with the schedule, I feel a strange sense of liberation.  I can do what I feel now, go with the flow.  Though I admit I find myself playing Solitaire on my Kindle a lot.  But maybe I need this bit of down time in a stressed life.

Hmm...I'm not sure which is better.  To schedule or not to schedule, that is the question.  Any ideas out there?

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Beyond Words

“Cast all your cares on him, for he cares for you.”  I Peter 5:7

One morning I woke up and I believed this again.  Gone was the voice in my mind that said, “Yeah sure.  So you say.”  Or “Whatever.”
Where did it go?  Will it come back?  I actually don’t know, but I don’t miss it, either.
One thing I remember about yesterday is that I finally realized it’s okay to let yourself grieve and question God. He knows we humans can’t help it.  It’s what we are.  I was wrong to expect myself to always be upbeat and positive—to keep wearing what I knew as “The Mask”.
God wants to let us grieve, and he even wants to grieve with us.  We humans can’t help asking, “Why, God?” He knows that, and he lets us ask, even though he doesn’t answer.  Now I see this is how he shows his love for us.
And then, somehow, he helps us move past the unanswered.  Instead he reassures us that he still cares, that he will still walk with us--even though he won’t always answer all our questions.  For instead of endless explanations and words, he just gives us a spiritual hug.  And somehow, we awake one morning and realize we are loved—beyond anything that words can ever express.

Monday, February 3, 2020

Thoughts for the Palindrome Day

BLOG FOR 02-02-2020 - supposedly a palindrome (reads the same forward and backward) like this occurs only once in 900 years.  Even rarer than Haley's Comet.

I’ve been reading a good book by Madeline L’Engle, entitled “Walking On Water”.  It’s about the creative process in relation to faith.  It especially cites the value of myth and fantasy in the human experience, both as reader and writer.  I first read it 35 years ago (it was published in 1980), but now it means much more to me.  Yes, I was writing fantasy-fiction back then, but now I’m much farther along the pathway of my life.  Many more experiences.

And it ties in very well with reading I’ve been doing recently about C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, especially their thoughts on the value of “Faerie”--their word for myth and fantasy.  They saw it as “true” in the sense that it shows the human mind searching for truth—the truth they believed was ultimately revealed in Jesus.  (They called the story of Jesus the "Ultimate Myth" because it was "true".)

I also concur that myth and fantasy shouldn’t be summarily dismissed by our post-modern, fact-infused culture as “untrue” and therefore “unworthy.”  I can remember this being a prevalent attitude among conservative, fundamentalist Christians in my early years of marriage and child-rearing.  Yet, I still read and wrote fantasy, and found that it spoke to me in ways that merely “factual” writings didn’t.

Since L’Engle wrote her book in 1980, our culture has experienced a big return to fantasy.  Just as one example, there’s the 40+ years of continuing popularity of Star Wars.  And even Narnia, Lord of the Rings, and Harry Potter.  Or the popularity of movies based on the mythical heroes of Marvel Comics.  Some ultra-conservative Christians disdain these.  But I find myself agreeing more and more with Lewis, Tolkien, and L’Engle. (Speaking of disdain, L’Engle was criticized by conservatives for naming one of her spiritual characters in A Wrinkle in Time, Mrs. Which, because it sounded like witch.) 

But after nearly 70 years on this earth myself, I believe we as humans appear to have a need for “Faerie”, and when it is denied, the pendulum somehow manages to swing back to it again and again.  I think it shows we have a deep need for faith in some form, no matter how much culture tries to separate us from it.  Dare I say “amen”?

Monday, January 20, 2020

What's the Big Deal?

Why Solstices and Equinoxes?

I can remember as a child in elementary school learning about the Equinoxes and Solstices.  Maybe I was more interested in earth science and astronomy than my peers, but the image of the globe tilted on its axis, turning each pole in turn toward the sun in its yearly circle, has stuck with me all these years.

About eight years ago, I asked my geographer son to build me a miniature Stonehenge in our backyard.  He was glad to oblige, and used his dad’s GPS to accomplish a very accurate placing of each of the sight-stones in relation to the central one.  I can now tell exactly where the sun will be on our horizon at each solstice and equinox.

Why was this important to me?  I think partly because I need to remind myself that even when things in my world are growing dark, I can look forward to the eventual return of light.  That life is not just a linear journey from birth to death.  That it’s also cyclical.

As many of my Facebook friends know, I annually count down to the Winter Solstice.  This is the one I look toward the most, for it represents the coming back of light.  It was important to ancient cultures too, as we can see from the many ancient monuments like Stonehenge, which are oriented to show exactly when the solstices will come.  I actually find it surprising that so many of my friends now comment that they look forward to my countdown.  Maybe there’s an ancient “memory” in our DNA that points to these same times of the year that were so important to our ancestors
Ironically though, as our world grows darker in most ways, we try to push back that dark with our artificial lights.  Whether they are street lights or Christmas lights, they actually block out the stars that our ancestors looked to for guidance.  Some places on earth, including Glacier National Park, are promoting their dark night skies, ideal for stargazing.  People even talk about “light pollution” now in all our urban areas.  Astronauts in space can tell exactly where the cities are as they orbit the night side of earth.  Each metropolitan area and even small towns are seen by their artificial lights, clumps and strings of them scattered across the face of the globe.  I wonder if it sometimes looks to these spacemen like a disease on the surface of the earth.

While we keep trying to find ways to push back the dark, maybe we need to be looking more for the lights within ourselves.  Yes, our world is a mess and seems to be getting worse almost daily.  But perhaps if each of us tries to let our lights shine out to others around us, we can do a better job of pushing back the dark.