A New Year’s Poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892)

A New Year’s Poem
by Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892)

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light;
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow;
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For those that here we see no more;
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rimes
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

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The Beginning

Adoration of the Shepherds Gerard van Honthorst (1622)

Adoration of the Shepherds by Gerard van Honthorst (1622)

I hear the music, the familiar carols and melodies. And we sing it again, I sing it – “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.”

When will he come? When will he come to this world that is continuously full of the grievous and the painful?

I watch the battery drain on this laptop and feel the joy and energy sapped– the daily headlines bring me to my knees in heartbreak and prayer.

But I don’t need the headlines for that. The heartbreak, the loss, the grief, the pain, it is in me, my life, and in you, and in your lives, and the lives of those around us. We all have our seasons, our own storms, our own sorrows– our own personal headlines.

And we all are asking, the whole world is asking, whether it recognizes it or not, “When, Jesus, when? When will all of this cease? When will you come?”

It feels wrong because it was not meant to be. Because it is wrong. We were not meant to be separated, to have this chasm between God and us. To live like enemies with swords and guns drawn, human against human, or to have this gulf separating God and us. From that chasm rise the groans of mankind, reaching our ears, and reaching heaven.

He does hear our cries. People dealing with the “C” word. People dealing with senseless death. People dealing with the loss of everything imaginable. People driven from their homes. People driven to tears. People crying over personal losses and struggles. All around us. And in our own homes. And us. We are all part of it, this groaning, this crying out, this pain, this loss, this loneliness.

Is there any Safe Place? Any Safe Person?

Yes. The answer is Yes.

As walkers of the way, we are also part of something bigger, something hopeful. Thankfully, the story does not end with heartbreaking headlines, or the heartbreak in our own homes.

A star burned one night, leading wise men from the East. It led those people who were accustomed to seeking. People accustomed to the night sky. People accustomed to wondering. People accustomed to looking upward toward the heavens. God sent a message about a Person of Hope. Someone is Here. Can you imagine the wonder of that star, that light? What sort of breathtaking, mysterious spectacle it was?

In the midst of the horrific, in the midst of whatever ugly the world heaps, that is not the End of the Story. That is the Beginning. He creates a Beginning, out of Sin. Our Ends are Beginnings.

The Ugly is only one side of the coin, because Beauty is on the Other Side.
For the Chasm, there is a Person.
For the Sin, there is a Grace-Giver, a Redeemer, a Savior.

He has come. He is Here. God is With Us, he is “Emmanuel”.  While chaos erupts around us, we are in a Safe Place. A place of Rest. A haven of Peace. He came to bring us that Rest and that Peace. He came to Love, not Divide.

The Message of who he is- that is what the world is longing to hear. What the world would not give for peace, for hope, for war to cease, for reconciliation– among nations, among racial and ethnic groups, and among our own households!

Am I accustomed to seeking? Are you?

He is the Beginning
He is the Other Side
He is Hope
He is the Safe Place
He is Rest
He is Peace

This is the message I need to know. This is the Present I need under the Tree. These are the gifts I want to unwrap.


Sharing with Laura at Playdates with God, Jennifer at #TellHisStory, Lyli at Thought-Provoking Thursday and Holley at Coffee for Your Heart.




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At the cusp of an awaited day, during this season of Advent, we await the coming one. And maybe you are waiting, too, on something — perhaps some news, or something to happen.

I am waiting, too. As much as I would like to know the future and God’s plans for so many things, I do not know. I so often wish I could hear audibly from God or he’d drop some instructions in my lap. As much as I would like a detailed manual of step-by-step plans, and what to do if something goes wrong, or goes awry, as it often does, I do not have any such specific how-to manual. How often I would like the very specific plan, not the ambiguity. And certainly not the desert or the wilderness of the waiting.

In this little blog and in my tiny corner of the world, I am waiting, just as you might be, for something.

At times, it seems I have been waiting for some answers for so long — that I wonder if I missed the answer, or the answer is still not forthcoming, or – what? Perhaps the answer is no, or to wait longer. I am not entirely sure.

If Advent is waiting and Christmas is the arrival of the expectation, what comes next? In our secularized, sanitized versions of Christianity, we have New Years and resolutions or goals right after Christmas. We have a week of holidays. Nothing wrong with that, but it seems like we are missing something. Prayer? Some significant time spent praying, in prayerful introspection, about – everything? Our lives, our culture, our society, our neighborhood, our city, our world? All of it? Some sort of stopping amidst the noise and being quiet?

I think the “world is too much with us”*… yes, even us evangelical Christians. We are just too full of the world. Caught up in the swirling pool of the moment, the urgent…  mostly caught up in ourselves and our own little corners.

I think we are all sincerely desiring “the real”, the unwrapping of ourselves, yet all the while we are busying  ourselves with “covering up”.  We are covering up Christmas… with ornaments, garland, lights, and music — and we can’t see the manger anymore. We “cover up” our true selves with our phones that we must now carry everywhere and check constantly. We “cover up” with our nose in a book, or our face to the ground, or look the other way.

But this does not just happen at Christmas. It happens all year long. We desire authenticity, to know and be known, and yet with all the technological tools to keep us “connected” we could be the loneliest decade ever.

We are only “connected” superficially. We are not really connected at all; in fact, do we need more evidence to see that we might be the most disconnected ever? Our handy little tools have allowed us to disengage from real conversation and engage in somewhat controlled, fabricated, online communication, where we do not show our faces or eyes, and hide our real selves, and type only what we want others to see?

We are not going to make any progress if we do not unwrap and allow some transparency through. I know that is what I really want. I am sure it must be what others seek as well. It sure isn’t easy. It’s risky. It’s vulnerable.

How are we doing on that?

You know, God came like that. Vulnerable and small. Humble. Open. Naked. God ripped the skies, made a star to shine. And then, he ripped up the chasm between heaven and earth when Jesus died.

Jesus came to us, unwrapped. Then God kept unwrapping the way to Himself.

God opened himself, made himself vulnerable, to the point of saying he’d die for us. He said he loved us, then proceeded to die. That is some sort of vulnerability, knowing you will be killed and many will hate you and turn against you, yet saying you love anyway.

Most of us, we cringe and might want to run from that. How many of us would willingly choose that?? But Jesus did.

What else can we choose to be, then, if not unwrapped and authentic, like Jesus? What other sort of response is there?  How are we doing on all of this?

Mankind– we, on our own, apart from God– we are a bunch of failures and can’t see straight. I can’t– I won’t — put my hope in failed, fallen man. I’ve seen the result of that, haven’t you? Isn’t the world full of examples of what man is like, apart from God? Heck, even with God, we are still struggling! God says even our best deeds are like dirty rags. Is that who we want to follow and put our hope in? Fellow dirty rags?

In my littler corner here, I am asking myself these questions, too, and waiting on God. I am thankful for this unwrapped gift of Jesus… because without Jesus, I really wouldn’t see much hope. I am thankful that we have hope…

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.~ Romans 15:13


*William Wordsworth, from the poem “The World is Too Much With Us”






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Duet {a sestina}

Duet {a sestina}


I took this picture on a cool September morning, when the dew was still clinging to the iron grate of the fire pit cover.


A two-toned melody will sing tonight;
listen to the layered song
keep her company ‘til morning
join in the chorus of chiming rain
give her the time…
or else you may forget

her voice. Don’t forget
to etch her words tonight
in your notebook of time,
the lyrics of Joy and Pain, her song
of  bittersweet praise, even if all night the rain
hems you ’til morning.

Isn’t the yellow morning
when we forget
the pouring spills of rain?
See the sylvan glade? Night-
fall dissipates into dawn, a song
of pearls, dripped one at a time.

Words whisper through time,
through the sunrise. Each morning
heralds a golden, hopeful song.
It’s not luck, a clover-leafed four! Get
the old tunes playing tonight
and let’s get out of the drenching rain.

Very soon, love will rein
in all who’ve sorrowed through time;
all who’ve laughed too. Night
will be gone; joy will replace mourning,
all pains will soon forget
they once were lyrics in a bleeding song.

Each life, a vibrant melodious song,
pulses louder than pressing rain.
You will remember, not forget
Joy and Pain; glorious days of summer-time
past, and embrace future days of morning,
after moon serenades the stars tonight.

Love does not forget its heart-etched song;
Joy bursts through night and quenches the rain,
evaporates sorrowed time into exquisite golden morning.


This poetry form is called a Sestina, in which six words are repeated in an ordered sequence at the end of each line in each stanza, in the following format:
1 2 3 4 5 6         – End words of lines in first sestet.
6 1 5 2 4 3         – End words of lines in second sestet.
3 6 4 1 2 5         – End words of lines in third sestet.
5 3 2 6 1 4         – End words of lines in fourth sestet.
4 5 1 3 6 2         – End words of lines in fifth sestet.
2 4 6 5 3 1         – End words of lines in sixth sestet.
(6 2) (1 4) (5 3)   – Middle and end words of lines in tercet.

***from the archives… I wrote this sestina a few years ago.

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Tangled Mess of Lights

I mess up again. And again.

(Source: Microsoft Office image)

Each year the story of opening up the box of Christmas lights is a different one. This year, upon opening the box of Christmas lights, I find a random mix of mis-matched strands of lights with only half of them working. In addition, the outdoor electrical light switches have mysteriously quit working.

But there is more than just lights that are broken.

I lose it. I yell, and think some things in my mind and feel things in my heart that don’t get heard by anyone but God. I realize I am more of a grumpy mom than I really wish to be.

And I go to God and tell Him and He is the place where I get the balanced view. He loves unconditionally, but He also speaks to my soul and conscience. He corrects, convicts, and comforts.

“The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”  1 Samuel 16:7

Then I remember.

“The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.” Psalm 23:1

I memorized that when I was 12. And when did I forget? That even in the busyness of the season, the travels, or my mess-ups– that I shall not want?

“I give you my heart-cup, Lord. Please fill it overflowing.”

Sometimes Often, I feel like those bulbs. Broken, fused, and in a tangled mess.

Yet, I know the truth– that there is no amount of brokenness that He cannot fix. God is always willing to make things new if I simply ask. I am reminded of his gift of grace again through these tangled strands of lights.

It’s when I am broken that He shines bright in me.

The lights on the Christmas tree, sparkling through the window, will have to do. It’s lovely to see houses glowing with lights, but this year, the decor will be simple.

And I’m ok with that, because this broken empty bulb has a light shining inside her, all year round.


 Sharing with Laura at Playdates with God, Jennifer at #TellHisStory,  Lyli and Thought-Provoking Thursday, and Holley Gerth for Coffee for your Heart.
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Removing the Grit

Statue of an Angel by Michelangelo     Source:Wikipedia

“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” ~Michelangelo


He comes in with tools of various kinds. The tools don’t look like the usual types, but they do a similar sort of work as a carpenter or sculptor.

Work begins on the project. Parts are cut off, sections are chiseled. If pieces of wood or marble could cry, this part of the process would hurt. But a plain piece of wood or stone– that is not the purpose the Master has in mind.

After more sawing, molding, cutting, and sanding, a form begins to take shape. It is hard to tell what it will look like, before it begins, before the carving out and tearing out and scratching. But once the Master begins his work, after time, an ambiguous object turns into something more concrete: something useful, something purposeful, something beautiful.

Scattered pieces remain on the floor, broken off pieces the Master had to remove. It is dusty, and the Master sweeps up all the shavings– the minute particles, the ones that are not needed, and throws them away.

And our hearts? They are no longer made of stone. And our lives? They have new purpose, meaning and beauty.


What work is the Lord doing in your heart this holiday season?


Sharing with Laura at Playdates with God, Jennifer at #TellHisStory, and Lyli for Thought-Provoking Thursday.


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The Most Wonderful…..

Tis the season…

A Christmas Party_Hot Cocoa Bar

A Christmas Party_Hot Cocoa Bar

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year….

It could also be…

the most stressful
the most lonely
the most difficult financially
the most busy
the most tiring

the most misguided….

Stores are decorated
Homes are decorated

With ornaments, wreaths, bells, trees, lights…

In Canberra, Australia, this year they broke world record: 1.2 million LED lights on 75 miles of cables, in the shape of 3 wrapped presents. And who knows what will be bigger and better for next year?

We have made the focus about gifts and what others want.
We have made the focus about ourselves and our lists of what we want.
We have made the focus about the music.
We have made the focus about the decorations.
We have made the focus about the parties.
We have made the focus about the food.
We have made the focus about family reunions.
We have made the focus about everything else… except what the focus should be.

I love the music.  I enjoy giving gifts that others will enjoy. I enjoy decorating a tree and lights. I enjoy the treats and special get-togethers.

It is not that I do not enjoy those things.
It is not that I should not enjoy them, or do them.
It is not that we should not enjoy them.
It is not that we should do away with them.

On the contrary, I am not suggesting we should dismiss these. (Though some folks have decided to observe the holiday of Christ’s birth by de-emphasizing the gift-giving frenzy of the holiday).

But it is the heart of the matter. The focus is about all of the superfluous flurry of activity surrounding Christmas, instead of on Christ.

Because of the special programs, plays, musicals, recitals, parties, shopping, decorating, etc., our time can be pushed during the holiday to only focus on the superficiality of it. The very thing we are supposedly celebrating… is forgotten amidst the mayhem.

That is what this season sometimes feels like to me… mayhem. I wonder what God thinks when looking at us. Under usual circumstances we are already busy and living out hectic-paced lives. But at Christmas, it must look even more so (in the United States, in particular). We drive hither and thither, and it is embarrassing how some of us can act about a special sale on Black Friday.

Others have pointed out the irony of the crazy shopping the day after we give thanks for what we have. But now, we do not even have to wait a single day to go shopping. Thanksgiving itself is subject to exploitation of the mighty profit drive, as some stores decided to open their doors on Thursday.  Does it matter anymore, to anyone? Having a day off? Those employees had to work. Now, I love a good deal, too, but I deliberately boycotted shopping on Thanksgiving day. Yet, I know that there were plenty of us who did shop that day, providing justification to the stores’ owners that opening on the holiday was a good idea. (And if you did shop that day, as many of my friends did, I am not at all judging you; I realize circumstances were convenient for many people, who already had a day off, to go shopping that day….)

Christmas’ commercialism is nothing new; no, as a matter of fact, it has only gotten worse. Now it is not even “Christmas” anymore, but some sort of “holiday”. I can not quite figure what kind of holiday it is supposed to be: some kind of generic family and friend get-together, with special music, decorations, and presents? Kind of like a birthday, but where everyone gets gifts, and with eggnog, Santa, snowmen, and Rudolph?

Makes no sense.

Each year, we move even further from the stable. As soon as we step out of that humble stable, we step into a commercial, secular holiday with empty celebrations. After the temporary merry-making, if we are not filled with Jesus, we will find ourselves empty and still searching.

All of the side stuff– it has meaning only if Christ is at the center of it.  Otherwise, it is empty merriment.

We need to step next to the stable and meditate on the gift, God’s own son, come to earth.

The Wonder of the Savior is what makes it the “Most Wonderful Time of the Year”.



Sharing with Laura for Playdates with God and with Lyli for Thought-Provoking Thursday



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