Something I Otter Remember

We’ve been visited several mornings this week by three river otters. Otters are my favorite animals. They just exude playfulness and joy. These three also left a bit of carp carnage behind, but at least it was carp innards and not trout or bass that bloodied the ice. Like watching Charlie Chaplin totter along with his cane into endless madcap mishaps, these guys just make me smile. They swim like swim-capped divas from another era, with synchronized dives and turns. They play on the bank in the frozen reeds, rolling about with glee. They walk clumsily on the thin ice, occasionally breaking through and dropping from site only to emerge seconds later with their whiskered smiles.
Otters make me LOL! The day is going to be good when it starts with an otter circus right outside my window with me by the toasty fire and they, seemingly unaware of the frigid temps, only a few yards away.
Last week I heard a pastor talk about this Christmas season of great joy. He talked about the joy that is a repeating theme of the Christmas story in Luke’s gospel and talked about how we Christians, of all people, should be those who are characterized by great joy and an ability to celebrate life. He is right. What good news we’ve heard! Joy to the world. The Lord is come. Is come. Not has come. Immanuel, God WITH us.

And now the otters. Little reminders of joyful things I otter remember. Smile, rejoice, celebrate, rejoice, worship, rejoice, play, laugh and love – rinse and repeat. My wish for you this season and into 2010 is that your whole year be merry and bright. Repeat the sounding joy, repeat the sounding joy, repeat, repeat, the sounding joy!
Published in: on December 28, 2009 at 2:38 am  Comments (1)  

The Light is coming

We’ve made it to that darkest day. That day that focuses most of its power and light on another hemisphere. Twice in my life I’ve experienced November in that hemisphere. Very odd. I’m glad to live where I do because the dark days during Advent help me anticipate the Light. And after the Light comes, the brightness grows.

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Published in: on December 21, 2009 at 5:03 pm  Comments (1)  

And Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart

Two snippets from Scripture are my Advent focus this year, not because I read a list and chose them or was told to meditate upon them, but because they keep coming back to my mind and heart. The first one is from Luke 2:18 and 19, “And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” Well, she certainly had a lot to ponder.

During these days when the whole world is changed for a few weeks, I am pondering the significance of the baby born in Bethlehem. He still has such influence that every Christmas candle declares Him. Christmas trees, tinsel, even Christmas sales and Santa would not be seen were it not for the tremendous love for and influence of this God/man. His presence is unmistakable upon lives and cultures, airline schedules and days off, school programs and acts of charity, the Salvation Army bell-ringers and the Christmas cards in the mail. Perhaps pondering is the most fitting response to the tremendous wave of Love that sweeps over our world and fills the airwaves with carols, Hallmark specials, family gatherings and candlelight services.

I thought I’d share with you some of my favorite quotations that cause me to ponder the Christ of Christmas. Hope you enjoy them.

Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love. – Hamilton Wright Mabi

Love came down at Christmas;
love all lovely, love divine.
Love was born at Christmas
Stars and angels gave the sign. – Christina Rossetti

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of Peace on earth, goodwill to men. – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Christmas Gift Suggestions
To your enemy, forgiveness
To an opponent, tolerance
To a friend, your heart
To a customer, service
To all, charity
To every child, a good example
To yourself, respect Oren Arnold

Christmas, my child, is love in action. – Dale Evans

What can I give Him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb.
If I were a Wise Man
I would do my part.
Yet what can I give Him?
I give Him my heart.
–Christina Rossetti

The rooms were very still while the pages were softly turned and the winter sunshine crept in to touch the bright heads and serious faces with a Christmas greeting. – Louisa May Alcott

I am not alone at all, I thought. I was never alone at all. And that, of course, is the message of Christmas. We are never alone. Not when the night is darkest, the wind coldest, the world seemingly most indifferent. For this is still the time God chooses.
–Taylor Caldwell

I mentioned two Scriptures that are my focus this year. The other one is from Isaiah 9:2 “The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them.”

May that Light shine on you this season. Please let me know what you like to do to prepare your heart for Christmas.

Published in: on December 9, 2009 at 10:05 pm  Comments (3)  

Our Shrinking Ambivalence About Facebook

am·biv·a·lence (m-bv-lns)
1. The coexistence of opposing attitudes or feelings, such as love and hate, toward a person, object, or idea.
2. Uncertainty or indecisiveness as to which course to follow.

The New Oxford American Dictionary announced its Word of the Year last week. It is the word “unfriend”. It is a verb, not a noun. That is pretty interesting. Apart from our growing knowledge of and fascination with social networking, the word has no meaning, but within that context it is filled with meaning. It means to remove someone as a “friend” on a social networking site, usually facebook. To be unfriended can be very painful. I was unfriended by someone a few months ago. They no longer want to receive my posts or allow me to view theirs. Ouch. But, being the “glass is half-full” type of person, I’ve decided to be happy that many others DO want to be my friend on faceBook and the list is growing. I’m finding old high school friends, friends that I thought I had lost track of because I didn’t send Christmas cards to them for more than two years in a row. I’m even friends with some of my kid’s friends – how cool is that? My point is, however, that the word of the year, pondered over and voted upon, is a social networking term. Are you part of the conversation?

Mention faceBook in a social setting and you will probably receive an interesting array of comments. Current faceBook users seem to be using it more than ever and are convinced that it plays an important part in their social life. Some within that group may confess to a fascination with it bordering on addiction. They find themselves nervous and twitchy if they can’t check faceBook often. About once per minute.

Another camp is represented in the conversation, however, and those campers are people who don’t use faceBook for one of two reasons: 1. They think it is an evil, destructive societal force or 2. they haven’t made up their mind about it yet.

Whatever your leanings, faceBook is becoming hard to ignore. We are using it to share YouTube videos, blogs, websites, photos and ideas. Oh, here is where I insert a shameless plug. Inklings Bookshop has a facebook page. Look us up and join us for booksy conversation. We’d like to get to know you. We use facebook to connect with Grandma (that’s me), the new baby and everyone in between. It links folks across the nation and across the world. Look at these fascinating, up-to-the-minute statistics from the faceBook site:

Company Figures

* More than 350 million active users
* 50% of our active users log on to Facebook in any given day
* More than 35 million users update their status each day
* More than 55 million status updates posted each day
* More than 2.5 billion photos uploaded to the site each month
* More than 3.5 billion pieces of content (web links, news stories, blog posts, notes, photo albums, etc.) shared each week
* More than 3.5 million events created each month
* More than 1.6 million active Pages on Facebook
* More than 700,000 local businesses have active Pages on Facebook
* Pages have created more than 5.3 billion fans

Average User Figures

* Average user has 130 friends on the site
* Average user sends 8 friend requests per month
* Average user spends more than 55 minutes per day on Facebook
* Average user clicks the Like button on 9 pieces of content each month
* Average user writes 25 comments on Facebook content each month
* Average user becomes a fan of 2 Pages each month
* Average user is invited to 3 events per month
* Average user is a member of 12 groups

International Growth

* More than 70 translations available on the site
* About 70% of Facebook users are outside the United States

My own daily use consists of reading the status updates of my children and my friends, both in town and out. I often find a link to something inspirational, something to challenge my thinking or my faith. I am very often moved to a chuckle as the quick wit of my favorite people comes through so well, so pure and quirky, without time for rewrites. I am connected to these people in a new way. I like being connected. I find it a place where I can express my feelings without judgement, ponder my faith “out loud” and share the latest picture of my granddaughter. I can do all these things and be indulged for a few seconds and I can, in turn, happily give my attention to my friends who have posted something new. And I know, if only for a few minutes, that my buddies are ok today. Right now. They can express that they are tired or frustrated, stressed, joyful, confused or whatever and I can just love them for the unique persons they are. I find out about new music, videos and most importantly, books that I never would have heard of otherwise. There is, in fact, a book out called The Church of Facebook. This book is currently 30% off at Inklings.

What do you think? Do you think that faceBook is a valid social connection or a dangerous one? Tell me why you think so, ok? Even if you don’t agree with me I won’t unfriend you, I promise.

Published in: on December 5, 2009 at 10:53 pm  Comments (2)