December 2010 26 blogs
New Year's Intentions
December 31, 2010
Tags: New year, intention, resolution, magic
I no longer make New Year's resolutions. Resolutions are about what I do. I set intentions. Intentions are about what God and I create together. Resolutions are usually goals that can be accomplished in linear fashion: go to the gym and work out, diet, or do some self-improvement task. But intentions have a magic in them. They still require practical action, but the actions arise from an inner wisdom that is more organic than mechanical. I ask questions without having to know the answers. I meditate on a word or a quote and let spiritual alchemy do its work within me. I focus on what I want to create without outlining how it should happen. If I am going to imagine greater possibilities, I must let God work out the details and timing.
Last year my chosen word was "success." While I did enjoy some success (especially in my budding e-book career), 2010 has been more about learning what success is not, and eliminating that in my life which has blocked my success. I have also learned that you must transcend judgments of success/failure, good/bad. Success can begin in failure. Challenges have taught me that I'm stronger than I know. Success has been redefined.
This year I'm choosing the word "magic." Magic has many connotations, but I like the idea of magic being discovered in the wisdom and mystery of life. A mystical magic that does much more than pull rabbits out of hats. The process described in Deepak Chopra's book, The Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire, sounds like magic. Synchronicity and Divine timing is magic. So is falling in love. Or creating a work of art. Answered prayer can sometimes feel like magic. Meditation has been "magic" for me in the last year, helping me become more aligned with the character and nature of God. Tim Bays sings about Magic (link to YouTube video below). 2011 is my year of discovering magic. I'll let you know what I learn!
In many ways we do create our own reality. It’s the mental atmosphere we create around us. We make our own magic. From affirmative self-talk to positive action steps, abundance grows in a life because we believe it is possible and we are willing to take action to prove it. There are spiritual laws that will work in ouor favor, but only if we are willing to plant and nurture a few seeds of faith.
You get what you focus your energies on. So instead of imagining impossibilities—all the reasons you can’t have, do, or be what you desire—imagine the possibilities. Think about what could be, not just what has been or what isn’t. Dare to dream and then be willing to commit to making that dream come true.
Merely imagining something is already real in your life can create the feelings that magnetize it into form. Albert Einstein said, “It is better to believe than to disbelieve; in so doing you bring everything to the realm of possibility.” We are fatally good at imagining worst case scenarios. How would it feel if we used the gift of imagination to paint a beautiful picture of life as we want it to be?
Hold a positive picture in your imagination and then watch as the Law works to bring it into manifest reality. Speaking affirmations, praying affirmative prayers, and using creative visualization are simple and effective ways to open your mind to new possibilities. Choose to cultivate a positive imagination. Remember that with God as your Source, anything is possible.
It is as simple as taking the next step and choosing the next thought. As we do the work that is before us to do, in faith and trust, and follow our inner guidance, the hidden potential that was always waiting to be revealed begins to develop and demonstrate in our lives. Let's practice the art of enchantment and create a bit of magic in the coming year.
• Create a treasure map: collect images that speak to you of what you would like to have, do, or be, and turn it into a collage. Post is on a bulletin board or wall and let your imagination take it from there.
Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.
Live the life you’ve imagined.
Henry David Thoreau
I call that mind free which is not passively framed by outward circumstances, which is not swept away by the torrent of events, which is not the creature of accidental impulse, but which bends events to its own improvement, and acts from an inward spring, from immutable principles which it has deliberately espoused.
William Ellery Channing
With every person, there is an intuitive sense of the transcendent, an inner knowledge that there is more to life than one is experiencing, and a yearning to unfold more of the more.
Only he who can see the invisible can do the impossible.
In a quantum universe, magic is not the exception but the rule.
There is some prinicple of magic in everything, some living quality.
Something living, something real, is taking place in everything,
This cosmic energy, which animates and vivifies, can be reflected at will by the human instrument, and our work is to make ourselves better reflectors of this Spirit. If we can learn the art of tapping cosmic energy at will, we will manifest more life, creativity, and love.
Kabir Edmund Helminski
Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable.
Affirmation: Today is a wonderful day to create, to imagine, and to visualize the life I want to enjoy.
Tim Bays sings about Magic. This has got to be one of my all time favorite songs (and performers)--an undiscovered Nashville treasure that the world needs to hear.
Twelve Days of Christmas
December 28, 2010
Tags: Christmas, meditation, twelve days of Christmas
The twelve days of Christmas celebrate the time between Christmas day and Epiphany, January 6. Epiphany literally means revelation, manifestation, or a sudden unveiling. It commemorates the journey of the three wise men and their following the star to Bethlehem, seeing the promised child for the first time. This carol not only celebrates the twelve days of Christmas, it has also been used as coded symbolism to help English Catholics learn their catechism lessons. When the Protestants controlled England from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century, the oppressed Catholics found great meaning in the coded symbols and encouragement for their faith.
On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me…
True love—The Father who gives to all of us generously
A partridge in a pear tree—Jesus, who gives his life for us as a mother partridge will risk her own life by pretending to have an injured wing in order to lead predators away from her chicks
Two turtledoves—the Old and New testaments
Three French hens—faith, hope, and love
Four calling birds—the four gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John
Five golden rings—the first five books of the Old Testament, also called the Torah
Six geese a laying—stands for six days of creation
Seven swans a swimming—the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit
Eight maids a milking—the eight Beatitudes found in Matthew
Nine ladies dancing—nine types of angels
Ten lords a leaping—the Ten Commandments
Eleven pipers piping—eleven faithful apostles
Twelve drummers drumming—twelve elements of faith found in the Apostles Creed
Stay with me, and then I shall begin to shine as you shine, so to shine as to be a light to others. The light, O Jesus, will be all from you. It will be you who shines through me upon others. Give light to them as well as to me; light them with me, through me. Make me preach you without preaching—not by words, but by my example and by the sympathetic influence, of what I do—by my visible resemblance to your saints, and the evident fullness of the love which my heart bears to yours.
John Henry Newman
We miss the spirit of Christmas if we consider the incarnation as an indistinct and doubtful, far-off event unrelated to our present problems. We miss the purport of Christ’s birth if we do not accept it as a living link which joins us together in spirit as children of the ever-living and true God. In love alone—the love of God and the love of man—will be found the solution of all the ills which afflict the world today. Slowly, sometimes painfully, but always with increasing purpose, emerges the great message of Christianity: Only with wisdom comes joy, and with greatness comes love.
Harry S. Truman
• In this time between Christmas and New Year, I meditate on how I might choose to bring the spirit of Christmas into the entire year.
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Gifts from God
December 26, 2010
Tags: Christmas, meditation, gifts, awareness, gratitude
Boxing Day is the day after Christmas, on December 26. This holiday comes from the custom of opening alms boxes to distribute funds among the poor. A legal holiday in England, it has also been a time to give to the poor and to offer tips to laborers and servants.
Let this day be one of receiving from the hand of God. Even the most mundane days can hold surprises and gifts, if you are receptive to them. You thought you were only running errands, but you ran into an old friend in line at the bank. It was just another ordinary day until that glorious sunset took your breath away. The gloom of rain was chased away by sun shining through parted clouds. A smile, a red rose, an unexpected encounter—God loves to surprise us every single day. Surprise someone you love with an unexpected gift—flowers, a card, chocolate—something simple to celebrate life together.
God is speaking to you in the midst of each moment. No matter how mundane or commonplace, a hidden holiness lies beneath the surface of your life. When you focus on the past or the future, you miss the moment that is right in front of you, miss the message that God wants to speak to you here and now.
When someone offers you a service or does something nice for you, express your thanks. Instead of taking it for granted that people know you are appreciative, offer gratitude in words. Doing this not only honors the person who helped you, it focuses on the good you have received and the gifts given.
Living in an atmosphere of gratitude lifts your spirits. You become aware that you have been given much and others have enriched your life immeasurably. Express your gratitude for the life God has given you and the blessings you have enjoyed.
Mankind’s role is to fulfill his heaven-sent purpose through a sincere heart that is in harmony with all creation and loves all things.
The universe is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.
Whatever we are waiting for - peace of mind, contentment, grace, the inner awareness of simple abundance - it will surely come to us, but only when we are ready to receive it with an open and grateful heart.
Sarah Ban Breathnach
Expect your every need to be met. Expect the answer to every problem, expect abundance on every level.
When you are grateful fear disappears and abundance appears.
When you focus on being a blessing, God makes sure that you are always blessed in abundance.
The hardest arithmetic to master is that which enables us to count our blessings.
Feeling grateful or appreciative of someone or something in your life actually attracts more of the things that you appreciate and value into your life.
To educate yourself for the feeling of gratitude means to take nothing for granted, but to always seek out and value the kind that will stand behind the action. Nothing that is done for you is a matter of course. Everything originates in a will for the good, which is directed at you. Train yourself never to put off the word or action for the expression of gratitude.
I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.
As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.
John F. Kennedy
• I receive the gifts of God with joy, knowing that God comes to me in mysterious ways.
December 25, 2010
Tags: Christmas, meditation, December 25, Christmas story
December 25 has been celebrated as Christmas since the fourth century A.D. This date was chosen by the early church for both practical and symbolic reasons. The pagan feast of the “Unconquered Sun God,” or Sol Invictus, was celebrated at the winter solstice. And the days of Saturnalia, December 17 to 23, were also celebrated in Rome with wild abandon. It was also astronomically significant, occurring as the winter sun began to move back toward its zenith and people could see that the circle of seasons would continue into the new life of spring.
The story of the birth of Christ is an expression of God’s love for humanity and his story has inspired and comforted believers for over two thousand years. Remembering the love of God expressed through the life of Christ will enrich your understanding of the mysterious ways God works in the world. Honor the spirit of Christ by being a more loving and compassionate person in the coming year. Remember that this birth two thousand years ago affected the world in ways that could never be imagined on that first Christmas night.
It is in love that Christmas begins, and goes on forever. Think about simple ways you are free to love others because God first loved you. When you practice genuine love, you are dwelling in God. God is love, and your loving choices reflect the love of God. When you nurture love in your heart and respond to others with love, amazing things can happen.
Make love your highest priority. Seek to express love in all you do. When you do your work, do it in a spirit of love, asking God to show you how to work well and in the service of others. Show your love for others by quiet acts of kindness and compassion. When you live in the spirit of love, your world will be transformed.
Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.
Beloved in Christ, be it this Christmas Eve our care and delight to prepare ourselves to hear again the message of the angels: in heart and mind to go even unto Bethlehem and see this thing which is come to pass, and with the shepherds and the wise men adore the Child lying in his Mother’s arms.
From the Bidding Prayer, Festival of Lessons and Carols
Fail not to call to mind, in the course of the twenty-fifth of this month, that the Divinest Heart that ever walked the earth was born on that day; and then smile and enjoy yourselves for the rest of it; for mirth is also of Heaven's making.
For Christ is born and born again,
When His love lives in hearts of men.
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.
John 15:12 NIV
Fail not to call to mind, in the course of the twenty-fifth of this month, that the Divinest Heart that ever walked the earth was born on that day; and then smile and enjoy yourselves for the rest of it; for mirth is also of Heaven's making.
• I receive the gift of God’s love in my heart, and share that love with all who bless my life with their presence.
December 24, 2010
Tags: Christmas, meditation, incarnation, manger scenes, Christmas Eve
Nativity scenes have been a Christmas favorite since Saint Francis created the first live nativity scene in Assisi. The Madonna looks down on the baby in the straw, and Joseph stands by, strong and proud. Shepherds hold lambs, wise men kneel, and oxen and donkeys look on. Angels hover and a star shines above.
Saint Francis is credited with creating the first living nativity scene. He lived during the 1200s in Italy and soon the tradition of a manger scene spread throughout Europe. Carved wooden figures became popular and now you can find nativity scenes of all shapes and sizes, in all sorts of materials. Today we also participate in living nativity scenes with real animals and in Christmas pageants where children play the parts of Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, the angels, and the wise men.
Though the typical manger scene includes wise men, they actually did not arrive on the night of the birth, but later, according to the Bible. We celebrate the whole of the Christmas story with its full cast of characters, for with the distance of time we see a larger, more complete picture. Wrapped in mystery, coming to us from out of the mists of the past, it is not the literal “facts” that we focus on, but the meaning behind the story itself, with the understanding that a story that has sparked the imaginations and emotions of so many over the centuries has great power to speak afresh to us today.
Christ came to a young couple who were not important in any scheme of the ruling elite of their day. He wasn’t a far off deity to be worshipped in a gilded temple or an oriental potentate who ruled like a despot. He was a tiny baby, born of a humble family, coming to join us in a troubled and chaotic world. This year, make your Christmas more meaningful by meditating on the life of the Christ who was born in that stable in Bethlehem two thousand years ago, and how the story of his life is reflected in the story of your own incarnation as a spiritual being “made flesh” and dwelling among us all.
Like the Christ child who nestled his mother’s arms in an obscure part of the Roman empire, the most meaningful moments of Christmas come not in pomp and circumstance, but in the small gifts each moment offers. In God’s eyes, there is no place too humble, no corner of the world that is not worthy to dwell in. The Divine One is the child in our hearts, a baby to hold in our arms and to adore. Honor what is young and childlike in your heart. Let the story of Christmas remind you that God speaks to us through a baby’s cry, and that when we say “yes” to the Divine Lover of the Universe, a new life can be born in us. Emmanuel: God with us.
O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here,
Until the Son of God appear.
Emmanuel shall come to thee O Israel.
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.
Emmanuel shall come to thee O Israel.
Hymn: O Come O Come Emananuel
Words: Latin c. 9th century
Tr. by John M Neale (1818-1866)
Christmas Eve was a night of song that wrapped itself about you like a shawl. But it warmed more than your body. It warmed your heart... filled it, too, with melody that would last forever.
Bess Streeter Aldrich
One God, the maker of all; this is the first and foremost article of our faith. But the second article is the Word of God, the Son of God, Christ Jesus our Lord, who…in the end of times, for the recapitulation of all things, is become a man among men, visible and tangible, in order to abolish death and bring to light life, and bring about the communion of God and people.
God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong, God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.
I Corinthians 1:27-29 (RSV)
Except the Christ be born again tonight
In dreams of all men, saints and sons of shame,
The world will never see his kingdom bright.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.
John 3:16 NKJV
What good is it to me if Mary gave birth to the Son of God 1400 years ago and I don’t give birth to God’s Son in my person and in my culture and my times?
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.
(And this taxing was the first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
And all went to be taxed, every one unto his own city.
And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
Luke 2:1-7 (KJV)
• I say “yes” to God, who appears as Divine Child, asking entrance to my heart so my life may be ruled by love.
Gifts and the Spirit of Giving
December 23, 2010
Tags: Christmas, meditation, giving
Exchanging gifts during this special time of year has been an important feature of Christmas celebrations since the fifth century. It is a reminder that it is more blessed to give than to receive and that God loves a cheerful giver. Originally an act of covenant and renewal, gift giving is meant to be a reminder of the greatest Gift of all, when God sent the holy Child into world.
It has always been a tradition that Christians give generously. Victorian Christians felt that giving to missions and taking care of the poor, needy, sick, and despised in society was just as important as going to church on Sunday. Real faith showed itself in good deeds as well as right beliefs.
One of your greatest treasures is your time. How you spend your time indicates where your priorities truly lie. If you say you love someone, but you have no time for them, then how are they to know you really care?
In this busy season, make a choice to give the gift of time. Take time to really be present when your friend wants to share her troubles. Slow down long enough to enjoy the companionship of loved ones. Give some time to church or charity. Give yourself the gift of a gentle hour of leisure.
Stories like Dickens’ A Christmas Carol asserted that brotherhood, kindness, and charity should be a part of life. And that Christmas was a natural season for giving generously. True giving from the heart helps make Christmas more real, more meaningful.
One ancient legend says that the Christ Child wanders on Christmas Eve, disguised as a beggar seeking shelter and food. An act of mercy or kindness can be a symbolic gesture of love for Jesus. “As you did it to one of the least of these, my children, you did it to me.”
It’s fun to give and have your gift acknowledged. But it’s even more fun to be an anonymous donor. There is something soul satisfying about a gift with no strings attached, no thank yous expected, and no need to be recognized. In some ways, giving anonymously mirrors the generous and unseen hand of God.
Think of creative ways to give anonymously. Leave a basket of goodies on a doorstep of a needy family. Tuck cash or a money order or a gift certificate in an envelope and send it. Look for ways to give and you will receive a hundredfold back from God. Give anonymously by tucking a twenty dollar bill in an envelope and send it with an unsigned note of encouragement (remember: no return address!).
The best gift are the gifts given out of love. And the best gift of all is the Christ child born in Bethlehem 2000 years ago. Look for creative ways to give every day. It may be a warm smile, encouraging words, a card or bouquet, or an anonymous cash gift. Whatever your gift, let your heart overflow with joy when you give it.
From simple words of encouragement to helping friends and neighbors work for a cherished common goal, the giving goes round and comes back around again. When you share what you have and others share what they have, a circle of giving grows and God blesses the generosity until the abundance is pressed down, shaken together, and running over.
Not what we give, but what we share,--
For the gift without the giver is bare;
Who gives himself with his alms feeds three,--
Himself, his hungering neighbor, and Me.
James Russell Lowell
But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
Love seeks one thing only: the good of the one loved. It leaves all other secondary effects to take care of themselves.
You do not have to be rich to be generous. If he has the spirit of true generosity, a pauper can give like a prince.
Corrine U. Wells
We are never more like God than when we give.
• I give with love, receive with love, and remember that it takes a balance of giving and receiving to complete the circle of giving.
Dress for the Occasion
December 22, 2010
Tags: Christmas, meditation, fashion, tartan
In September of 1842 Queen Victoria and her husband Albert made their first trip to Scotland. They fell in love with the land and in 1848 purchased Balmoral, a castle in Scotland. Through the years Victoria and Albert would visit Balmoral and find refreshment there, away from the crowds and demands of governing an empire. Because her subjects were intensely interested in the Queen’s life, interest in things Scottish grew more popular as the royal family’s ties with Scotland deepened.
Tartans, clans, Scottish folklore, the poet Robert Burns, and the Victorian novels of Sir Walter Scott seized the romantic imagination of the world. Its biggest fans were Victoria and Albert, and they decorated Balmoral with the Balmoral tartan. America also fell in love with all things Scottish and there was a rage for tartan and Robert Burns in mid-century. Many Scots emigrated to America, bringing their heritage with them.
One of the prettiest ways to celebrate Christmas with a Scottish air is to use tartan as an accent for clothing and decoration. Tie a tartan bow on a green wreath. A pretty tartan sash on a white lace dress has become a classic style. A red tartan skirt, a black velvet vest, and a white lace-trimmed blouse combined together are also lovely. Queen Victoria loved her little piece of Scotland and you can honor her memory with a little bit of tartan for Christmas.
If tartan is not to your taste, there are many other ways to dress for the occasion. Celebrate Christmas in red and green, or with rich burgundy and gold. Or try a snowflake combination of white, silver, and gold. When you bring the colors of the season into your wardrobe, you bring a celebratory touch to everything you wear. It can be as simple as a bright woolen scarf or a sparkly brooch, or as elaborate as an elegant velvet ensemble that lifts your spirits every time you put it on.
Take advantage of the opportunities to show your style for the seasonal round of festivities. When you open the door of your closet to consider the day’s choice of apparel, choose the something more celebratory over the mundane year-round gear. From elaborate party outfits to small touches with jewelry or colors, enjoy the chance to express your Christmas fashion spirit.
Be merry all, be merry all,
With holly dress the festive hall;
Prepare the song, the feast, the ball,
To welcome merry Christmas.
William Robert Spencer
There is a remarkable breakdown of taste and intelligence at Christmastime. Mature, responsible grown men wear neckties made of holly leaves and drink alcoholic beverages with raw egg yolks and cottage cheese in them.
The body is a sacred garment. It is the first and last garment; it is what you enter life in, and what you depart life with, and should be treated with honor.
A women who doesn't wear perfume has no future.
Fashions fade, style is eternal.
Yves Saint Laurent
Zest is the secret of all beauty. There is no beauty that is attractive without zest.
I don't design clothes. I design dreams.
The earth has grown old with its burden of care,
But at Christmas it always is young....
It is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas when its mighty Founder was a child Himself.
• I enjoy the fun of dressing up as an expression of my zest for life and a childlike joy in the holiday season.
A Beautiful Table
December 21, 2010
Tags: Christmas, meditation, entertaining, table decor
Smiley’s Cook Book and New and Complete Guide for Housekeepers, printed in 1898, advised Victorian hostesses that “there is more art than many people imagine in setting a table properly. The tablecloth should be laid evenly, with an equal amount falling over the two ends and sides… Nothing but the best white tablecloths or napkins should be used for the dinner table… The object of a dinner party is not to make a display of fine table furniture or too elaborate cookery, but to promote agreeable social intercourse and conversation among friends.”
Making your table beautiful is creatively satisfying and creates a welcoming atmosphere for guests. Begin with a white lace tablecloth laid over a white or colored cloth. Or choose beautiful place mats to go with your table colors. Cloth napkins can be bought or made. Dress your table up with place cards to assign seating around the table. If you want to make an extra effort, you can write the menu out by hand on individual menu cards. They will make lovely remembrances for each guest to take home. Bring out your best china and make sure your crystal sparkles.
No formal Victorian table was complete without a centerpiece. Give careful thought to a colorful centerpiece with a holiday theme. Red flowers such as poinsettias, roses, or carnations mixed with greens are beautiful and easy to work with. Many Victorians also decorated their tables with fruit bowls displaying seasonal bounty.
Spread the table with your best linen and lace. Create a gorgeous centerpiece of greens, flowers, and shining ornaments. Bring out the crystal goblets, Grandmother’s heirloom cut glass, and the most elegant special occasion china you have. Make place cards and use napkin rings. Light candles and enjoy a meal that’s made even more delicious by the beautiful setting
Set a pretty table, offer coffee, tea, and punch, and ask everybody to bring a favorite dessert or special Christmas cookies. Play seasonal music in the background. You may want to have different people bring a reading to share for entertainment. Make it fun for everyone to enjoy Christmas a little bit more this year. Above all, cherish the special moments spent with good friends and loved ones.
I learned early on that setting a table is so much more than just laying down knives and forks. It is creating a setting for food and conversation, setting a mood and an aura that lingers long after what was served and who said what is forgotten.
For those who love it, cooking is at once child’s play and adult joy. And cooking done with care is an act of love.
Bring the same consideration to the preparation of your food as you devote to your appearance. Let your dinner be a poem, like your dress.
Charles Pierre Monselet
• I set a beautiful table and a bountiful one, so that all may share the goodness of this blessed season.
Old Fashioned Entertaining
December 20, 2010
Tags: Christmas, meditation, entertaining, teatime
The Victorians loved to dine and entertain. And they loved to create an elegant table. There was a mind-boggling array of spoons, forks, knives, cutlery, ladles, and servers—not to mention finger bowls. Different spoons were used for berries, coffee, dessert, soup, salt, sorbet, and tea, different forks for meat, pie, pastry, salad, and oysters, and different knives for butter, cheese, fish, jelly, pie, and waffles. How did they keep them all straight?
There were etiquette books and household manuals to prepare the Victorian woman for any deportment question. These books could tell readers the difference between a wine glass and a water goblet, and just where and when they should be placed on the table. These books helped readers make sense of all that silverware and which fork should be used for an oyster appetizer and which should be used for the main course.
Good manners and knowing which fork to use not only indicated social status, but also consideration for the hostess. And just in case you couldn’t remember which fork to use when you were sitting at a formal dinner, you could watch your hostess and see which fork she was using. You can recreate the spirit of Victorian elegance with a beautifully set table. Linen, lace, flowers, ribbons, and your prettiest china and sparkling glassware will bring a romantic Victorian flair to your party table.
For something a bit simpler, share a cup of tea with a friend. The British know the secret of lifting your spirits. Teatime is a refreshing afternoon ceremony that relaxes and renews, giving you a welcome break that offers energy to take you through the rest of your day. A leisurely “cuppa” can soothe or invigorate, depending on the kind of tea you choose.
Make time for tea a nurturing ritual in your day. Enjoy a cup of English Breakfast tea with cream to wake you in the morning. Savor a soothing herbal tisane before going to bed. Steep a pot of Earl Grey for an afternoon pick-me-up. Invite a friend to share teatime with you and catch up on the latest news over a cup of steaming jasmine oolong (one of my favorites). Add a plate of Christmas cookies, and you have an instant Christmas celebration.
With tea amuses the evening, with tea solaces the midnight, with tea welcomes the morning.
I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that - as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time.
Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.
Every generation laughs at the old fashions, but follows religiously the new.
Henry David Thoreau
• Holding a steaming cup of tea in my hands, I pause for a few moments of reflection.
January 8, 2011 9:00 AM CST Candy, thank you so very much. YOU are the ONE. I enjoyed your blog and all of the marvelous quotes as well as your very profound wisdom. I am grateful for you that perfect expression of God in all his glory...Namaste...My love to you each and every day - Lucy Bush
Greens and Garlands
December 18, 2010
Tags: Christmas, meditation, plants, greens, herbs, scent, taste, pineapple, poinsettia
Victorians might not have had a lot of fancy store-bought decorations, but they used evergreens, ivy, boxwood, laurel, and other greens to garland doorways, mantles, staircases, and even framed pictures. Flowers, holly, poinsettias, chrysanthemums, and geraniums enlivened the greenery. Mistletoe was combined with evergreens to create the kissing ball. When it was a hung from the ceiling, a gentleman could kiss a lady with fear of being consider improper.
Mistletoe is renowned for its healing powers, partly because the plant continues to stay green even when the rest of the forest is clothed in winter snows. A medieval symbol of Divine provision and grace, doorways were decorated with springs of mistletoe as reminders of God’s love, evolving into a tradition of lovers kissing under the mistletoe. A loving Christmas kiss under the mistletoe is a happy reminder of a favorite Christmas tradition
The poinsettia is a southern contribution to Christmas. The plant is named for U.S. ambassador Joel Roberts Poinsett, who brought the plant back from Mexico to his native Charleston in the 1820s. It soon became popular because of its spectacular red blooms, perfect for the Christmas season.
The pineapple is also a symbol of traditional hospitality in the American South and is used in decoration year-round, whether it be as a fruit centerpiece or carved in wood on top of a bedpost or over a doorway. Doorways were often decorated with a fan of apples topped with a pineapple.
Bring in armfuls of fragrant evergreens and deck the halls to your heart’s delight. Invite others over to trim the tree and deck the halls, too. Drape tiny white twinkle lights around inside windows and over the mantle. Weave lights among evergreens and ornaments to highlight arrangements.
Along with an angel at the top of the tree, buy or collect feathers to hang on the tree, just as if a band of angels shed a feather or two as they were making deliveries. Dust feathers with glitter and tie with a ribbon. Or add a white feather to the bows on your Christmas packages, a sign that an angel just made another delivery.
Herbs add beauty, flavor, and aroma, from the soft scent of dried lavender to the spicy green of fresh rosemary. In addition to evergreens and flowers, use fresh herbs for decorating your home. Buy or make a wreath made of fresh culinary herbs. As it dries out you can hang it in the kitchen and use it for seasoning food through the winter. Use rosemary, mint, sage, marjoram, and other garden herbs that make soups, stews, and other hearty dishes more delicious.
Aromatic plants can sweeten the air of your home. Buy a bouquet of sweet smelling lilies or force some fragrant paperwhites for Christmas blooming. Intersperse evergreen arrangements with ornaments and candles. Use them in floral arrangements. From a swag hung over the mantle to a green wreath and red bow on your front door, fresh evergreens are a reminder that love is evergreen in your heart as well.
The pungent scent of fresh basil, the spicy aroma of cinnamon, and the lush perfume of orange flower water are only a few of the thousands of scents and flavors available in the market today. Discovering the many varieties of plants and essences is a soulful pleasure for any adventurous eater.
Expand your repertoire of recipes by exploring herbs and spices. Buy a cookbook that offers creative ways to use them. Try a new herb or spice in an egg, rice, or pasta dish. Christmas is a good time to experiment with new dishes as well as bringing out traditional favorites.
Smell is a potent wizard that transports us across thousands of miles and all the years we have lived.
Hang up love’s mistletoe over the earth
And let us kiss under it all year round.
Of all the gifts I have each year, some sparkling, bright and glowing,
I think the gifts I hold most dear are ones so green and growing.
• I create beauty in my home with green and growing things, sharing the pleasure with all who enjoy my hospitality.
December 16, 2010
Tags: Christmas, meditation, angels, heavenly gifts
Christmas angels don’t just decorate the tops of Christmas trees. They can be embodied in flesh and blood, too. The word angel comes from the biblical word for messenger, evangelium. It means “the one who brings a good word.”
You could be entertaining angels this Christmas. Whether they are angelic messengers with wings or human beings who are the angels in your life, your openness of heart and hospitable spirit welcomes everyone into the circle of love. When you open your home and welcome stranger as well as friend, you are entertaining angels no matter what their disguise. Hebrews 13:2 says, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.”
You can be an angel for a day—or every day, if you want to. Think of what angels are—and what they do. Angels are servants of God who bring messages of love and help mortals in this life. Now think of ways to imitate their service as you encounter others during your busy day.
You can be an angel by looking for opportunities to share God’s love with others through a friendly smile, a word of encouragement, or by offering a helping hand. Be kind to people, even if they are not kind to you. Remember that people have their own struggles to deal with, and your kindness and patience can make life easier for everyone. Be an angel in your temperament, too. Cultivate a calm and positive spirit, and don’t let anger, fear, or frustration get the better of your emotions.
There are angels among us. You may have encountered one recently: a nurse answering a patient’s call, a busy clerk helping you find just what you need, a smile from a small child, a thoughtful stranger opening a door for you, an anonymous donor bringing unexpected financial relief. Look for angels around every corner. Seen and unseen, they are there to give your soul a lift and offer a helping hand. When you hear the sound of wings brushing past, remember that angels are watching over you.
We not only live among men, but there are airy hosts, blessed spectators, sympathetic lookers-on, that see and know and appreciate our thoughts and feelings and acts.
Henry Ward Beecher
The more materialistic science becomes, the more angels shall I paint: their wings are my protest in favor of the immortality of the soul.
It came upon the midnight clear
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth
To touch their harps of gold.
Edmund Hamilton Sears
The message of Christmas is that the visible material world is bound to the invisible spiritual world.
• I welcome angels, seen and unseen, into my Christmas celebrations.
This one is dedicated to the anonymous benefactors and the "angels" who bring unexpected tidings of joy and abundance. Like the "angels" who fund Broadway shows, these angels may never have their name in lights on the marquee, but the show would not go on without them. I have had angels appear in my life, friends and family who have offered unconditional love, encouragement, comfort, and a belief so strong that they have given monetary gifts as well as hugs and kisses. There is no website for these angels, no product to buy or sell. Their angelic work is behind the scenes, motivated by love. This group of inspiring friends, family, loved ones, and hidden benefactors can only be thanked with deeds. Words are inadequate.
When you have done your best, release your expectations. Then watch as the Divine synchronicity brings angels into your life. I promise it can happen, for it has happened to me. And if you feel so moved, be an angel in someone else's life. Give the gift of a hug, a helping hand, or even financial or practical assistance. I guarantee that your gift will have a ripple effect that will be felt around the world.
The golden moments in the stream of life rush past us and we see nothing but sand; the angels come to visit us, and we only know them when they are gone.
It is not because angels are holier than men or devils that makes them angels, but because they do not expect holiness from one another, but from God alone.
Angels have no philosophy but love.
The soul at its highest is found like God, but an angel gives a closer idea of Him. That is all an angel is: an idea of God.
All God's angels come to us disguised.
James Russell Lowell
I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.
I'm no angel, but I've spread my wings a bit.
The Christmas Tree
December 15, 2010
Tags: Christmas, meditation, Christmas tree
The story of the decorated tree in America begins in Pennsylvania Dutch country. German settlers brought the custom of a Christmas tree with them when they emigrated to the United States. By the 1820s the trees were common in Pennsylvania. Everything was handmade, reflecting the resourceful spirit of people who lived close to the land. They would carve wooden stars and angels, bake cookies in the shapes of animals to hang on the tree, and string dried apples, nuts, and popcorn to garland the branches. Underneath the tree might be a manger scene or a gingerbread house, and wrapped gifts. On Christmas Eve children left straw baskets with hay in them. The hay was for the mule of the Christkind, or Christ child, who would go from home to home while the children were sleeping. Gifts called Christkindles would be left behind for the children to find on Christmas morning.
One of the most influential Christmas trees was the German tree that Prince Albert put up in England’s royal household. Prince Albert’s tree was about five feet high and stood on a white damask-covered table. Filled with the richest, most expensive sweets, the tree was topped by an angel holding wreaths in her outstretched hands. And underneath the tree and around the table were candy boxes, dolls, pull toys, and treasures to delight any child’s heart. In December, 1848, the Illustrated London News published an engraving showing Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, and their five children gathered around this richly decorated evergreen. The picture caused an immediate sensation in England and two years later did the same in America when it was published in Godey’s Lady’s Book. Soon the Christmas tree became a popular part of American Christmas traditions.
Old fashioned family trees had ornaments that were mostly handmade and often edible. Cookies, candy, apples, nuts, and sweets filled paper cornucopias. Many decorations were put together from lace and fabric scraps, or odds and ends found around the house or yard. It wasn’t until later in the century, in the 1870s, that glass balls and “store bought” ornaments made their appearance. The Germans made the greatest contribution to the decorating of the Christmas tree. They invented the glass Christmas ball. The first ones were thick-walled glass balls called Kugeln or Kugels. In the 1870s a glassmaker named Louis Greiner-Schlottfeger discovered how to blow paper thin glass and developed a formula to silver the inside of the ornaments.
Christmas trees were lit by candles, so there was always a bucket of water ready and waiting. Victorian children saw their Christmas trees lighted only for a brief time, because candles had to be watched carefully. Every Christmas, the parlor doors would open and the children would behold the wonder of the lighted tree once again as the Christmas tree became a fixture in American celebrations.
In the later part of the nineteenth century, stores like Woolworth’s and Sears began carrying manufactured ornaments for sale. Edible and handmade ornaments were replaced by glass balls, elaborate cardboard figures, tinsel, glass beads, chromolithographic pictures, cotton-batting Santas and angels, and colorful gelatin lanterns, the forerunner of the electric Christmas tree light. Electricity made it possible to enjoy a lighted tree for hours instead of minutes. Electric lights didn’t appear until 1910 and were very expensive. It wasn’t until the 1920s and 1930s that electric lights were mass produced and thus affordable for most people.
He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree.
Roy L. Smith
The perfect Christmas tree? All Christmas trees are perfect!
Charles N. Barnard
The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree: the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other.
One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas day. Don't clean it up too quickly.
Never worry about the size of your Christmas tree. In the eyes of children, they are all 30 feet tall.
The Yule trees and the dreams all children dream
The tremulous glow of candles in rows
The gold and silver of angels and globes
And the splendor of tinsel and toys under trees.
• I affirm the green and growing life of the Christmas season, in lovely flowers, evergreen wreaths, and Christmas trees gleaming and glittering with light.
Bo Sebastian is a true Renaissance man. A voice coach and vocalist, a yoga teacher, an author, a hypnotherapist, life coach, and nutritional expert, Bo offers help from a holistic and spiritual viewpoint.
Bo's Boga Fitness video offers a combination of yoga, core strengthening exercises and active muscle release to create a fitness program for almost anyone needing to add body/mind/fitness work to his or her life. Bo also combines meditation, visualizing and affirmations at the end of each session. His expertise in hypnotherapy guides the student to deep restful peace.
His book, Your Gay Friend's Guide to Understanding Men, offers wise insight for women who want to create lasting relationships with men, while his vegetarian cookbook helps you find vegetarian protein products to substitute for meat in ethnic and traditional American foods, along with herbs and spices to make them taste even more delicious.
There is so much more I could say about this caring and gifted man, but I'll let you find out more by going to his website:
Holy Radiant Light
December 14, 2010
Tags: Christmas, meditation, light
When the Eastern Orthodox monk prayerfully prepares to paint a holy icon, the entire process is approached in ceremonial order. The icon is more than a picture in the Orthodox tradition. It becomes a thing that partakes of and reflects the actual isness of God, reflecting a Divine light that comes from within and that can enlighten the one who views and meditates on the icon.
The very first step is to place a layer of dark paint on the canvas. It represents the Luminous Darkness, out of which the Word was spoken, and the Divine light emerged. It is the very Ground of Being. Then the monk gradually layers ever lighter colors in a prescribed manner until the abstract image eventually becomes a face. I heard a monk speak about his experience of the process, and the wonder of the instant when he looked away from the canvas, then looked back and saw for the first time the face of the icon gazing back at him.
Our journey into consciousness is an emergence from the luminous darkness—the Great Mystery, the quantum field of possibility, the formlessness and void—into the light of form and consciousness. Genesis 1:2 says, “Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” Neil Douglas-Klotz, Sufi and Aramaic scholar, tells us in The Genesis Meditations how the Holy One breathed into the Great Dark, or into the depths of chaos and unconsciousness, as a lover breathes life into the beloved, creating form and harmony and consciousness.
The New Testament echoes the Genesis story, telling us that Jesus came into the world as a light to all humanity. Celebrate this revelation of light, this unveiling of the Face of God, by becoming aware that this same light of God is also born in you. Move into a deeper communion with the Divine light, allowing your darkness of chaos and unconsciousness to be transformed into the light of conscious awareness. Accept the life transforming work of light and allow it to illuminate the shadows, so that you may shine in a dark world as a beloved child of God.
Abbot Lot came to Abbot Joseph and said, “Father, according as I am able, I keep my little rule, and my little fast, my prayer, meditation, and contemplative silence; and according as I am able I strive to cleanse my heart of thoughts; now what should I do?” The elder rose up in reply and stretched out his hands to heaven, and his fingers became like ten lamps of fire. He said, “Why not be totally changed into fire?”
From the sayings of the Desert Fathers
What came into existence was Life,
and the Life was Light to live by.
The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness;
the darkness couldn’t put it out.
John 1:4-5 (The Message)
All I want to do my whole life is study light.
Matter is frozen light.
David Bohm, physicist
You are the light of the world….
Matthew 5:14 (NIV)
• I light a candle in the darkness, reminding myself that I, too, am a child of light and love.
I love essential oils. One of my favorite essential oil providers is Floracopeia, founded by David Crow, a modern day Indiana Jones of plant medicine. The oils I have used are exquisite, with a very high energy and clarity. They are also very affordable (though if I had the money, I could spend a fortune on essential oils, as I have a weakness for expensive florals like rose, jasmine, and neroli).
David Crow is one of the world’s foremost experts and leading speakers in the field of botanical medicine, natural health and ecological sustainability. He is a master herbalist, aromatherapist and acupuncturist with over 20 years experience and is an expert in the Ayurvedic and Chinese medical systems. He is the author of In Search of the Medicine Buddha, which tells stories of his internships with masters of Tibetan medicine in Nepal.
Floracopeia was established by David Crow to help preserve and promote the use of botanical medicines as solutions to the widespread ecological destruction taking place in the world, and the loss of medicinal plants on which traditional medical systems depend on. They offer the highest quality essential oils and other botanical aromatic treasures through the promotion of ecological sustainability projects.
The Floracopeia website:
Two David Crow videos that talk about light, plants, and aromatics:
Floracopeia Frankincense video 3 Wise Men/healing frankincense, myrhh:
Floracopeia White Rose: God’s time, dawn, moving from darkness into light:
Celebrating All Around the World
December 13, 2010
Tags: Christmas, meditation, customs, traditions
We live in a world that is becoming more connected all the time. Today there are unparalleled opportunities to experience different cultures and get to know people of all kinds. Learning about the way different cultures celebrate the holiday gives you greater appreciation of your own culture and traditions. From a Swedish St. Lucy breakfast to a German Christmas tree, Christmas is celebrated all around the world in many creative ways.
December 13 is a feast day in remembrance of Saint Lucy, a Christian martyr killed around A.D. 304 during the reign of the Roman Emperor Diocletian. In the legend a rejected suitor denounced her as a Christian and she died for her faith. Her name means light and in Sweden her day is celebrated with a beautiful custom: the eldest daughter of a household, wearing a white dress with a crimson sash and a lingonberry crown set with lighted candles, serves the family a special cake and coffee.
In Mexico, family and friends gather together to celebrate the nine days preceding the birth of Christ with nativity pageants. Festivities include a brilliant pinata, bright poinsettias, and delicious Mexican dishes. Joseph and Mary go door to door, finding no room in the inn until they finally find a welcoming place to give birth to the holy Child.
Gingerbread has been a favorite Christmas treat for centuries. Fourteenth century Germans took gingerbread so seriously that they formed guilds of gingerbread artisans. They made elaborate gingerbread castles and architectural wonders for the aristocracy. The Brother’s Grimm introduced Hansel and Gretel’s gingerbread house, and gingerbread treats migrated to America with German immigrants.
Celebrate the sacred holiday and incorporate the riches of almost two thousand years of thought, theology, liturgy, and ceremony. Make Christmas joyous by reveling in ancient traditions, folk customs, carols and songs, and lovely festivals of other cultures. Make time for quietness to meditate on the meaning of Christmas, to treasure traditions of Christmas past, and to pray for future Christmas hopes.
If December passes without snow, we indignantly demand to know what has become of our good, old fashioned winters, and talk as if we had been cheated out of something we had bought and paid for; and when it does snow, our language is a disgrace to a Christian nation.
Jerome K. Jerome
The grate had been removed from the wide overwhelming fireplace, to make way for a fire of wood, in the midst of which was an enormous log glowing and blazing, and sending forth a vast volume of light and heat; this I understood was the Yule-log, which the Squire was particular in having brought in and illumined on a Christmas eve, according to ancient custom.
For Christmas is tradition time
Traditions that recall
The precious memories down the years
Helen Lowrie Marshall
• I create new traditions and celebrate old traditions in a spirit of love and generosity.
Gregory Fisher has a voice as big as his heart. I love his music, and I trust him as an effective coach and counselor.
Gregory Fisher is a musical performer, a speaker, and a spirit coach who uses his many talents to stir people to "spirit action" helping them break through the barriers of fear and doubt to discover an "authentic identity" of hope, freedom, joy and completeness.
In 2007, longtime friend, collaborator, producer and nationally-known “New Thought” recording artist Donna Michael persuaded Gregory to put down on CD the songs that he had co-written and sung extensively in his career. A four-song pre-release, Everlasting Arms, is now available, and they are currently in the studio working a full project, There at the Edge, which is anticipated in the near future. Hear samples of his music and learn more about Gregory at
December 14, 2010 6:37 AM CST I love your work, my dear! Thanks for the mention. I'm honored. - Gregory Fisher
December 12, 2010
Tags: Christmas, meditation, hospitality
The front door is open and the lamps of evening lit. The coffee pot is on. Chairs have been gathered round and the table is set with a festive meal. In the next few hours, friends and family will gather for laughter and debate, heartfelt sharing and lighthearted jokes. This could be a picture of your hospitable home.
Hospitality is the gift of welcome, of caring for one another and caring for strangers. It is an open door, an open hand, an open heart. When we practice the art of hospitality, we reflect the heart of God. We can show our love for God by caring for others. Whenever we entertain friends or strangers in our homes or reach outside our homes to care for others, we live out the love of Christ in tangible ways.
Create a welcoming holiday home through the magic of fragrance. The wreath that greets you at the door smells of fresh evergreen. Freshly baked bread, apples and cinnamon, gingerbread cookies, or a nourishing pot of soup create delicious kitchen odors. Potpourri in a bowl breathes out a fragrance that fills the room with soft scent. Fragrance takes you back in time, transporting you instantly to holidays long ago. The scent of your mother’s perfume or the smell of a favorite dish simmering on the stove can evoke your childhood with one fleeting impression.
Hospitality begins in the heart, not in the size of the house, the lavishness of the table, or the elegance of the décor. The Greek word translated as hospitality in the New Testament literally means “love of strangers.” An impressive home or expensive entertainment is not necessary to share the joy of giving and receiving. When we open the doors of our home, we open the doors of our hearts as well. To make guests feel welcome, all we really need to do is simply care that they are there.
You can practice hospitality by reaching out. Bring a hot dish to a neighbor who is too busy or sick to cook. Treat neighborhood children to a milk and fresh-baked cookies. True hospitality is a picture of the heart of Christ, who welcomes us into the family circle of God’s love for all mankind. The Christmas story of Christ coming to us as a vulnerable baby speaks to us of how tenderly God wants to touch us, how far he will go to reach out to us. When you reach out and touch someone, think of it as Christ’s hands here touching us—Emmanuel, God in our midst.
Hospitality is one form of worship.
If one be gracious and courteous to strangers it shows you are a citizen of the world.
We make a living by what we get;
We make a life by what we give.
All guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ, for he himself will say: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” Proper honor must be shown to all, especially those who share our faith, and to pilgrims.
The Rule of Saint Benedict
• I welcome strangers, embrace loved ones, and create a warmhearted and generous community by practicing hospitality.
Chuck Whiting helped me move to Nashville back in the fall of 1993. He flew up to Seattle, and he and my beloved friend, Marcia Jones, drove across country with me in a yellow Ryder truck filled with books. He helped me find a place to live. He's help publicize my books. The greatest gift he has brought into my life, along with his friendship, is the collection of beautiful songs we have written together.
He offers an e-newsletter, Music City Arts Update, for local events here in Nashville. He teaches people how to publicize their dreams, and he can help you publicize your product, event, or service.
An award-winning public relations professional, writer, songwriter, educator and author, Chuck Whiting founded Whiting Publicity & Promotions in 1993. He has handled publicity for customers ranging from prominent historic hotels and art galleries to business professionals, organizations, musical performers, authors, and visual artists.
Also an educator, Chuck teaches media writing at Middle Tennessee State University and introductory speech communication at Volunteer State Community College. In addition to publicity, he leads day and weekend publicity workshops for businesses and professionals.
Chuck also created a special children's project. The Littlest Star picture book and music offers the story of a little star's special opportunity to shine for God. The Littlest Star: A Musical Story contains full-color illustrations by Smithsonian-exhibited artist Robert Roberg. It includes a CD featuring Margo Smith's radio-charting single, The Littlest Star, and bonus performances by Grammy-nominated jazz guitarist Denny Jiosa and Nashville Chamber violinist Conni Ellisor.
Find it at http://www.littleststar.com
December 11, 2010
Tags: Christmas, meditation, prayer
A tiny black seed holds the potential for leaves, flowers, and fruition, when it’s planted in rich soil, watered and cultivated. A simple prayer holds the same creative power, when you plant it in the soil of faith and tend it with love.
When you have a mountain to move, start by planting a seed prayer. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Make your request known to God. Then thank God that the answer is coming, even though you may not yet know how. Make a marker in your garden of faith and then give it time to grow in God’s grace.
God is everywhere, even in the midst of your cluttered den or cozy kitchen. But sometimes it helps to set aside a sacred space where you can come to meet God. Set aside a quiet nook, a special room, or a small tabletop for times of personal worship and meditation.
One of the most encouraging things you can do is to meet regularly with a friend for prayer. Having a prayer partner can be a life changing experience. It can transform your prayer life. It’s easier to stay constant in prayer when you know you’re going to be seeing your prayer partner this week. Keep track of prayer requests and answers. Keep the format for prayer time simple and positive. Discuss your concerns and pray for one another, but also make time to pray for others, for the issues and problems of the day, and for the work of God in the world.
If you want to cultivate a friendship, you need to spend time together on a regular basis. It’s the same when you want to cultivate your relationship with God. A daily quiet time can be your appointment to talk over the issues of your life with the God who cares for you.
Create a sense of intimacy by lighting a candle. Meet at the same time every day, when possible. Make yourself comfortable to meet with God and be still in the Divine Presence. You might want to read scriptures or a devotional book. This is your time alone with God, so make it special and unique to you.
Our task is to listen to the news that is always arriving out of silence.
Rainer Maria Rilke
O LORD, my heart is not lifted up,
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a child quieted at its mother’s breast;
like a child that is quieted is my soul.
Psalm 131: 1-2 (RSV)
In the rush and noise of life, as you have intervals, step within yourselves and be still. Wait upon God and feel his good presence; this will carry you though your day’s business.
• I love spending time in the Divine Presence, in quiet communion with God who is my Source.
My dear friend Bliss Wood is a yoga goddess. Bliss and I and Donna Michael used to co-facilitate retreats together. Donna was the music maker, I was the aromatherapist and reader, and Bliss taught us all restorative yoga with a blessing of sweet spirit. Bliss is a certified hatha yoga instructor and wellness educator who also holds degrees in Creative Writing for Music Theatre and Metaphysical Science. Her holistic approach to life through mind/body/spirit wellness, coupled with her diverse musical and artistic background brings a uniquely personal and joyful experience to those who participate in her classes and workshops.
She has a CD for moving meditation. ChantDance is based on the techniques of yoga, dance, and kirtan (chanting). Move joyfully, feel ecstaticly alive, bring those unique and powerful sounds that lie deep within you to the surface. Move, dance, sing, chant, heal, be ALIVE! By integrating sound (voice) with movement (yoga and dance), ChantDance helps to unlock blockages with mental, emotional and physical issues. On an even deeper level, it can affect one’s devotional sense toward self, others and their perceived “higher consciousness.”
Find her at http://chantdance.webnode.com/
Bliss also has a yoga CD that features the music of Donna Michael. And Donna's CDs have been favorites of mine for prayer and meditation. Somewhere in the Silence and When Silence Whispers speak to the heart and soul with quiet power and deep compassion as well as a spirit of gratitude, joy and peace. Each CD is an entire album that is one continual piece of music, recorded from start to finish in a single, uninterrupted seventy-minute session with no pre-planned music. They can be used for massage, meditation, or just chilling out.
“There is a healing force available to all of us if we are willing to make it real in our lives—to stop, to listen, and to feel that amazing power,” says Donna. “Many times I have needed to be reminded of this, and music is, for me, a true wellspring of strength. If I can help just one person, then the circle of hope and healing continues.”
Those who have used and experienced the comforting, soothing, inspiring nature of Donna’s music have felt—and continue to feel—the strength of that circle every time they listen.
Find Donna's music at: http://www.donnamichael.com/
Love Letters and Christmas Cards
December 10, 2010
Tags: Christmas, meditation, letters, Christmas cards
Sending commercial Christmas cards to friends began in 1843 in England. Christmas cards began showing up in England by the mid century. Two early designers were J.C. Horsley and William Egley It was Louis Prang who introduced America in the 1870s to the finest Christmas cards and made them a popular. His beautiful chromolithographic full color printed cards are collector’s items today. These first commercial American cards were produced in 1875. Prang awarded cash prizes for greeting card designs and helped many artists get their start in life.
Prang also introduced art education into public schools, believing that children should be taught to appreciate fine art. His cards are collector’s items, with work that is exquisite even by today’s standards. Cheaper Christmas postcards became popular at the turn of the century. By 1906 Christmas cards were considered an essential part of celebrating the season.
Letter writing was also an art in Victorian times. They didn’t have computers, typewriters, or e-mails. Victorians took pride in their ability to write letters and would develop friends over long distances. Many courtships took place via the mails, as well. Letters were treasured and read over and over.
One simple way to feel closer to God is to write a letter, as if you are writing to a dear friend who loves you and who is concerned about what is happening in your life. Write about what you are experiencing today, as if you’re talking to a trusted and wise friend. Since no one but you and God will see this letter, hold nothing back. Talk about your struggles and triumphs. Close it with love and sign your name. Then watch your life for signs that the Divine is replying.
A letter shows the man it is written to as well as the man it is written by.
By writing lines on a page, we begin to read between them. We sink below the surface of events to the interior mystery of our feelings, intuitions, motives, and lessons.
• Every Christmas card I send, every letter I write, every word I speak, comes from love.
'Tis the season to seek out gardens and galleries to refresh the mind and renew the spirit. Here are two of my local favorites.
I'm a member of Cheekwood, a botanical garden and art museum in Nashville. I love to walk the grounds and take photos in all seasons. It's a favorite location for bridal photography, especially in the spring when the grounds are filled with blooming flowers. Winter is a magical time as well. There are art exhibitions in the mansion and annex, and workshops are offered year round.
Cheekwood is a 55-acre botanical garden and art museum located on the historic Cheek estate. Cheekwood exists to celebrate and preserve its landscape, buildings, art and botanical collections and, through these unique means, provide an inspiring place for visitors to explore their connections with art, nature and the environment.
Downtown Nashville offers a world-class art museum, the Frist Center. A renovated post office, The Frist Center for the Visual Arts is a nonprofit art-exhibition center, with approximately 24,000 square feet of gallery space, dedicated to presenting the finest visual art from local, state and regional artists, as well as major U.S. and international exhibitions.
he Frist Center opened in April 2001, and since that time has hosted a spectacular array of art from the region, the country, and around the world. Unlike any traditional museum you’ve ever visited, the Frist Center for the Visual Arts has become a magnet for Nashville’s rapidly expanding visual arts scene. With an exhibitions schedule that has new art flowing through the magnificent Art Deco building every 6 to 8 weeks, no matter how often you visit, there is always something new and exciting to see in the spacious galleries.
I plan to go see the current exhibit, The Birth of Impressionism, during the holidays. The Frist Center is one of only three venues worldwide to host this important exhibition from the Musée d'Orsay in Paris, which is dedicated to the art of the early modern period (1840s through the early 20th century). The exhibition of 100 works (including 17 that will be seen only in Nashville) includes paintings by Gustave Courbet, Édouard Manet, Paul Cézanne, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Adolphe-William Bouguereau, Edgar Degas, Henri Fantin-Latour and James Abbott McNeill Whistler, whose 1871 Arrangement in Gray and Black, No. 1: Portrait of the Painter's Mother (often called Whistler's Mother), is on view.
Christmas in the 19th Century
December 9, 2010
Tags: Christmas, meditation, holiday history, nineteenth century
When the 19th century began, Christmas was a very different holiday than the family-oriented Christmas we know. In many places, Christmas was just another workday and was even banned in some sections of the country. Others celebrated Christmas with rowdy parties and drunken revels. But by the middle of the century, many elements of a modern Christmas were becoming popular, including Christmas trees, Santa Claus, carols, and even shopping.
Santa Clauses began to appear on street corners and in stores by the 1850s. Christmas trees grew in popularity and a “German tree” was part of the White House Christmas of President Franklin Pierce in 1856. States began declaring December 25th a legal holiday. Even as early as the 1830s newspapers were advertising to Christmas shoppers. But for most of the early and mid-century, Christmas was still a simple family celebration, with homemade gifts and feasting and fun for all ages.
The Victorians practically invented Christmas—at least the jolly Christmas we know today. Though Christmas has been celebrated since the fourth century, many of our modern customs were refined and popularized in the Victorian era. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and their five children brought an air of domesticity to the culture. The Royal family was reported on in the popular press and during the middle of the century their lives offered a family portrait that traveled around the world at the height of the British Empire. In a culture that almost worshipped the ideal of a pure childhood innocence, the Victorian Christmas flourished, enhanced by the goods made available to a growing middle class by the industrial revolution.
As the end of the nineteenth century turned into the beginning of the twentieth century, Christmas became more and more elaborate—from the availability of elegant glass ornaments to more sophisticated choices in entertainment and shopping. By the end of the century, Christmas had become an official holiday and an important part of our culture.
I now have my house full for Christmas holidays, which I trust you also keep up in the good old style.
Christmas won't be Christmas without any presents.
Louisa May Alcott
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no child-like faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished. Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies!
Francis P. Church (New York Sun, September 21, 1897)
• I celebrate my favorite Christmas traditions, knowing that anything done with a joyful heart is a reflection of Divine love.
My dear friend, Jim Stephens, introduced me to Christine Kane's blog a couple of years ago. She was the first blogger I started following. I signed up for her free weekly e-newsletter right away, and I read every one when it arrives in my email in-box. She's always inspirational. And as a singer-songwriter, a powerhouse! If you want to build your business, create a blog that inspires an audience, or gather fresh ideas for effective and authentic living, Christine should be at the top of your list of encouraging experts.
While Christine Kane is best known for her hip and catchy songs, and the down-to-earth wit of her live performances, her fans and students share that they are inspired most by her message of living authentically, courageously, and successfully.
Christine's philosophy is that you are the artist and your life is your work of art. That, she says, is what it means to "Live Creative." From her years of touring the country to her wildly successful "Unstoppable Power of Intention" retreats and "Uplevel" coaching programs, her message is clear:You can create your life exactly as you want it.
Christine has mentored and coached over 500 people in her Uplevel Your Life Mastery Program and Uplevel Your Business Program & Blueprint in addition to live events and weekend programs.
She has released 7 CDs and an award-winning DVD in her career as a performer and songwriter. Her weekly LiveCreative eZine goes out to over 12,000 subscribers. If you are ready to take your life and your world to the next level, you can sign up for a free subscription at http://christinekane.com.
See Christine's blog at ChristineKane.com/blog.
Silence and Retreat
December 8, 2010
Tags: Christmas, meditations, silence, retreat
It’s a noisy world out there. Car alarms, sirens, elevator music, traffic, stereos, media blaring bad news, and a cacophony of sounds assault your ears daily. Even when you get home, the noise of televisions, computers, and household appliances can drown out the quiet.
Take a breather from all that noise. Find a quiet place to settle your spirit—whether it is a corner of your house, the interior of a cathedral, or out in the great outdoors. Slow down and listen.
Sometimes it takes a time away from your regular round to recharge your spiritual batteries. Take a spiritual retreat away from home. Choose something that suits your personality and spiritual practice. It could be a silent retreat weekend at a monastery, a gathering at a local retreat center, an intense immersion in prayer and meditation, or a friendly meeting of like-minded spiritual seekers.
It may be in a little white clapboard church on a country road. Or it may be in a grand cathedral in the city. There’s a place that will welcome you. You have a Divine appointment, so come prepared to receive. Open your heart to receive as you enter into the silence. Some secrets can only be whispered. Let God whisper to you in the silence.
Consider spending an afternoon in silence to nurture your soul. Spend a few minutes in silent meditation at the beginning and the ending of the day. Create an oasis of silence in your home, or go where you can find healing silence. Walk in the woods or experience a silent night under a starry sky. Let go of all the chatter and opinions and to-do lists; just be present and aware. Allow the silence to fill your inner emptiness. Make room in your life for silence, and its melody will sing to your heart.
Silence is more musical than any song.
A happy life must be to a great extent a quiet life, for it is only in an atmosphere of quiet that true joy can live.
• I close my eyes and listen in the silence to the still, small voice of God.
I have been going to meditation at Nashville Mindfulness Center once a week for over a year now. Learning to meditate has been one of the greatest gifts of my life. This mindfulness center is dedicated to the practice of mindful meditation in the tradition of Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh.
Mindfulness is the energy of being aware and awake to the present moment. It is the continuous practice of touching life deeply in every moment of daily life. To be mindful is to be truly alive, present and at one with those around you and with what you are doing. We bring our body and mind into harmony while we wash the dishes, drive the car or take our morning shower. Nashville Mindfulness Center honors all spiritual paths, and the meditation helps me live my faith with greater awareness and gentleness. Many thanks and blessings to my teacher, Skip Ewing (True Lotus Door) and Thây for the teachings.
The website address is: http://www.nashvillemindfulness.org/NMC/i_am_home.html
Enjoy the recorded meditations and read about mindfulness at the site.
You already are what you want to become.
Thich Nhat Hanh
One of the best known and most respected Zen masters in the world today, poet, and peace and human rights activist, Thich Nhat Hanh (called Thây by his students) has led an extraordinary life. Born in central Vietnam in 1926 he joined the monkshood at the age of sixteen. The Vietnam War confronted the monasteries with the question of whether to adhere to the contemplative life and remain meditating in the monasteries, or to help the villagers suffering under bombings and other devastation of the war. Nhat Hanh was one of those who chose to do both, helping to found the "engaged Buddhism" movement. His life has since been dedicated to the work of inner transformation for the benefit of individuals and society.
Here is the website for Thich Nhat Hanh's retreat center in France, Plum Village:
People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don't even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child -- our own two eyes. All is a miracle.
Thich Nhat Hanh
The Music of the Season
December 7, 2010
Tags: Christmas, meditations, music
The soaring harmonies of Gregorian chant echo against the stone ribs of a Gothic cathedral. The elegant intricacies of Bach roll out of a great organ. Beethoven’s Ode to Joy builds to a grand crescendo. A black gospel choir swings with a contagious rhythm. Great hymns of the church fill the sanctuary. A simple voice and guitar lead the group in a chorus of gratitude.
Music is one of the most delightful ways to lift your spirits. Listening to music can usher you into the presence of God. Let music fill your heart with joy and praise, reminding you that life is more than bills and deadlines and long lists of things to do.
Music can have an profound effect on energy levels and mood. It may even strengthen your immune system. Music can energize with an upbeat rhythm or soothe with mellow sounds. Music expresses the deepest feelings of the human heart. Through the centuries music has been used to draw people closer to God.
Robert McDonald, an expert on neuro-linguistic programming, says, “All music is inherently intended to be therapeutic. Real therapy, which is spiritual, and music like Gregorian chant are aligned.” Create your own music therapy session by choosing soothing and uplifting music. Let the sound and the spirit of the music heal, comfort, and inspire you.
When you are alone, there is great sweetness in singing a little song to God. Do not worry whether you are off-key or what your voice sounds like. Give the gift of your small song to God and let it expand into echoes of heaven’s oratorios. Memorize a favorite hymn. Sing a simple song as you do the dishes. If you are shy about making music, read aloud a psalm of praise or a beautiful poem that feeds your soul. Let your voice express your joy.
Music is to be enjoyed for its own sake, because it is beautiful and it hints at the inexpressible. It is also one of the ways Spirit can heal, reaching past intellectual objections and speaking straight to the heart. God conducts the symphony of your life. You can sing a new song to the Lord with you voice. You can hear a new song in the sounds of your day. And you can feel a new song of gratitude grow in your heart.
Music is well said to be the speech of angels.
• Music lifts my spirits and I sing along with a grateful heart.
For positive music to lift your spirits, here is a collection of videos all on one web page. I am friends with and fans of these gifted musicians and writers. It's a sweet introduction to some of my favorite people and some new inspirational songs.
Harmony Records, part of Music City Center for Spiritual Living, offers videos and music from some of Nashville's best. Artists include Dyann and Michael Woody, Donna Michael, Tim Bays, Karen Taylor Good, Annie Sims, Lance Hoppen (of Orleans), Julie Rust, JD Martin & Jan Garrett, Jana Stanfield, Jackie Jazz Smith, and more.
Visit Harmony Records at http://www.HarmonyRecords.org
Saints and Santa Claus
December 6, 2010
Tags: Christmas, meditations, Santa Claus, Saint Nicholas
Saint Nicholas Day is a feast day for the saintly bishop who was legendary for his mercy on the poor. December 6 marks this feast day, ancient in origin and celebrated around the world. In the Netherlands, cookies and gifts were placed in the shoes or stockings of sleeping children. This tradition became the basis for leaving a Christmas stocking for Santa to fill on Christmas Eve.
Nicholas of Myra was a fourth century pastor who became famous for his charitable work on behalf of the poor, the despised, and the rejected. The earliest written accounts date from about 500 years after his lifetime, so it is difficult to separate fact from fiction. He was born in what is now modern day Turkey in approximately 280 A.D. Long after his death the popular cultural icon grew into Father Christmas, who gave gifts to good children on December 6th, Saint Nicholas day.
Santa Claus is a tradition that developed in the Victorian era, taking the ancient bishop and turning him into a jolly elf and secular saint. His Dutch name was pronounced “Sinte Klaas. And the Germans had Christ Kindel, later evolving into Kris Kringle. They also had pagan elves that would appear driving a sled pulled by Cracker and Gnasher. All these different cultural traditions were brought to America by immigrants and were combined the melting pot of ideas that helped Santa Claus and his eight reindeer came into being.
In 1823 that Clement Clarke Moore, an American minister living in New York, transformed the legend into the familiar image of a little old man in his poem, “A Visit from Saint Nicholas,” also known as The Night Before Christmas. When the poem appeared in Harper’s Weekly in 1863 with illustrations by Thomas Nast, the drawings showed a fat jolly old man with a white beard and a red suit. In 1931 the Coca Cola Company commissioned artist Haddon Sundblom to paint Santa Claus for a Coca Cola ad. He made Santa Claus into the larger-than-life icon we know today.
My first and last philosophy, that which I believe in with unbroken certainty, I learnt in the nursery. I generally learnt it from a nurse; that is, from the solemn and star-appointed priestess at once of democracy and tradition. The things I believed most then, the things I believe most now, are the things called fairy tales.
There are three stages of a man's life: He believes in Santa Claus, he doesn't believe in Santa Claus, he is Santa Claus.
• I honor the myths, fairy tales, and memories of childhood, knowing that they contain paradoxical wisdom and timeless truth for all ages.
For those of you who live in Nashville, a "don't miss" concert is happening December 10, 11, and 12. The Prentice Family Christmas show features a family of stellar musicians. I especially adore Michelle Prentice, who truly has a voice like an angel--and is a world class vocalist. Her voice soars with a pristine clarity and ease on every song, with great craft married seamlessly to heartfelt art. Her series of jazz and opera house concerts have created many memorable evenings for those of us lucky enough to be there listening.
What I love best about Michelle is her loving spirit and joyful approach to life. Her extensive professional resume includes recording work with Bebe Winans, Dennis DeYoung, Wynonna Judd, Lari White, Russ Taff, and Mike Reid, starring roles in the original cast productions of hit songwriter/playwright Marcus Hummon's “Francis Of Guernica” and “Warrior” about which the Tennesean’s reviewer Evans Donnell wrote, “As Iva, Thorpe’s first wife and great love, Michelle Nicolo Prentice provides some of the most exquisite singing moments you’ll find on any stage.”
Michelle delivered a stirring performance with the Sarajevo Symphony to celebrate the anniversary of the Dayton Peace Accords, and sang “Somewhere” on the Original Cast recording of West Side Story with Kenneth Schermerhorn and the Nashville Symphony. She is a featured artist, along with Enrico Caruso and Leontyne Price, on the NEA’s Great American Voices CD (http://www.nea.gov/national/Gav/CD.html).
It's a family affair. Produced by Grammy winning record producer Mark Prentice, the show features the Prentice/Bubel family performing all your Christmas Holiday favorites. Michelle Nicolo Prentice is a world renowned singer, having been featured on the NEA’s Great American Voices alongside Leontyne Price and Enrico Caruso. Daughter Gabrielle Bubel is an exciting young song stylist with the voice of an angel. Eldest son Matthew Bubel is an up and coming drummer/writer/producer who is building an impressive resume that includes Kenny Rogers, Wynonna Judd, Ben E. King and many more. And youngest son John Prentice is a 13 year old guitar sensation who has already performed in concert for hundreds of fans.
There will be only three shows, December 10, 11 and 12 and seating is limited so please get your tickets early.
The Coming of the Light
December 5, 2010
Tags: Christmas, meditation, light
At the darkest time of the year, Christmas is the season that celebrates light and life. As the solstice marks the longest night of the year, Advent and Christmas remind us that God’s love is as sure as the sunrise. Colorful lights, glowing candles, and starry skies tell us that the darkness can never put out the light.
The stars are pinpoints of light in an infinite darkness. There is something splendid and awesome about staring up at a starry sky and feeling how small you are in the light of eternity. Though infinite distances separate you from the nearest star, you also know that the God who created all those stars is here with you, in human heart and human home. Remember the story of the Bethlehem star, which led the wise men to the child they sought.
Go outside. Take advantage of a clear winter night sky to look up at the stars and down into your heart. Be reminded that life is greater your limited understanding. Remember that you are a finite expression of an infinite God. You are consciousness becoming aware and awake to the sacred light that is in everything and every one. As you look up at the stars on a clear cold night, come back down to earth and enjoy the view of lighted windows of neighboring homes before you go back inside.
Decorate your home with light. Place twinkling lights on the Christmas tree, light tapers that will shine like living stars in the house, and let dark windows reflect the warm glow of firelight in a cozy living room. Be lavish and light up the night with light.
A taper is lit and brings light into the sanctuary. You’re used to the idea of candles for church services or to light the table for a romantic dinner. But why not use the lighting of a candle to create sacred space and mark out sacred time in your day? Choose a special candle to use for your quiet time with God. Let it mark the hours you spend in prayer. Choose a candle and candle holder especially for this purpose.
When you light the candle during your prayer and devotional time, let its flickering flame remind you that you are setting this time and space apart for God. Meditate on the quality of light and how God illuminates your life with holy radiant light.
Light gives of itself freely, filling all available space. It does not seek anything in return; it asks not whether you are friend or foe. It gives of itself and is not thereby diminished.
From within or from behind, a light shines through us upon things, and makes us aware that we are nothing, but the light is all.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Someday perhaps the inner light will shine forth from us, and then we'll need no other light.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
• I welcome the Light of the world, the love of God incarnate, into my heart and my home.
There's still time for special Christmas magic at Watermelon Moon Farm. Leave your worries behind and follow your heart to a very special place in the country located 11 miles east of Lebanon, Tennessee. From the moment you walk onto the impressive veranda, you will feel the gracious southern hospitality. Whether your visit is for a restful Bed & Breakfast stay or a group of friends experiencing a luncheon get-together and shopping or craft event, a memory is being made in this tranquil setting. The historic homestead built between 1835-1845 offers the ambiance of an earlier time.
The farm is also the personal residence of nationally known artist-designer Emily Steinberg and husband, Harold Cash. Together they host this special event destination and gracious retreat. It is a successful business venture that encompasses a Gift Shop & Dining in the downstairs of the main house. Many of Emily's art designs decorate items for sale along with a treasure of seasonal and home décor items, wonderfully scented candles, a specialty clothing line of jackets, delicious gourmet food products and gift ideas galore.
Upcoming events include:
December 11 & 18- Saturday Noon - 2 Christmas Holiday Friendship Luncheon
Enjoy the welcoming ambience of this historic home and gift shop. Emily has a knack for selecting unique items for home decor and gift giving. Watch the goats gamboling in the meadow, and say hello to the guinea hens for me; I love the way the guineas gossip as the flock moves across the grass. When chickens cackle I can imagine them making critical remarks, but there is something about the soothing sounds and calm energy of guinea hens that assures me they would never say anything mean about anyone, not even those pesky chickens.
A Victorian Christmas
December 4, 2010
Tags: Christmas, meditation, Victorian Christmas, traditions
Christmas means many things, but it is especially a time for giving and being together. When we think of a Victorian Christmas, the images of family parties, a table full of food, and the spread of brotherhood, kindness, and charity among all people come to mind. The Victorians created a celebration that was family-oriented, focused on giving, and seen as an opportunity for visiting with family and friends.
Queen Victoria, her husband Albert, and their children celebrated Christmas with a German Christmas tree and emphasized the importance of Christmas not only as a religious holiday, but as a time for friends and family as well.
Two men from New York and an author in England also influenced how people thought about Christmas and helped create the familiar images of a Victorian Christmas. First, Washington Irving wrote as series of stories about a fictional English manor house that celebrated Christmas with feasting and acts of kindness to people of the lower classes.
Then Clement Clarke Moore, a friend of Washington Irving, wrote a poem called “A Visit from St. Nicholas” in 1822. His poem transformed an ancient saint into the jolly old elf that has become our modern day Santa Claus. Finally Charles Dickens created a lasting picture of Christmas feasts and frolics in his books, especially in his story of the reform of Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol.
There is nothing better than a friend, unless it is a friend with chocolate.
It is, indeed, the season of regenerated feeling--the season for kindling, not merely the fire of hospitality in the hall, but the genial flame of charity in the heart.
I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.
• I delight in good food, good friends, good times, and good humor as I gratefully celebrate the bounty of this special season.
A good friend and fellow Nashville songwriter, David Llewellyn's music is magical. From songs rooted in the history of Wales to contemporary love songs, David's music offers a journey into the intimacies of the human heart. His first US released CD "David Llewellyn" (2004) quickly gained top 10 radio plays on the FolkDJ charts and has proved a fast seller at gigs and house concerts around this country and back home with tours in Wales, Ireland and the UK.
I met David just after he arrived in Nashville in 1996. While pursuing songwriting, his day job was remodeling old houses, (including making beautiful one-of-a-kind ceilings)while honing his songwriting skills and singing at writers nights. He eventually won both Kerrville New Folk and John Lennon Songwriting awards.
He took a trip to Wales and rediscovered his roots in the process. "I realized that I had not returned to Wales in 10 years, and as soon as I took my first breath of the valley's air . . I knew that although the wonderful songwriting cities of Austin and Nashville may have honed my skills, and taught me the "craft", it was Wales, it's Celtic traditions and working class communities, that I had to draw from for my inspiration, and that has increasingly drawn me back to my roots. I was part of the first generation not to go down the mines, and I've always felt thankful for that."
I love David's music and am happy to introduce you to one of the best writers and performers I know.
Check out his website: http://www.davidllewellyn.com/index.html
And don't forget Sheila Roberts' Lifetime Movie premiere on Sunday night December 5: On Strike for Christmas.
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December 3, 2010
Tags: Christmas, meditation, gratitude
A grateful heart gives you the eyes to see small beauties and gentle gifts from the hand of God. The smile on the face of a loved one, friends laughing together, a dawn bird chorus, the common blessings of milk and cereal and coffee and eggs—all these are simple gifts to be grateful for.
Heads are bowed, hands are folded, and the family says grace before they begin passing the plates. But grace is not only appropriate for families at Thanksgiving feasts. Saying grace is an old fashioned habit that modern people can make part of their own lives.
Make saying grace a part of your life. A simple bowing of the head and a “thank you for this food” will suffice. Whether you dine alone with cornflakes and milk or feast with friends and family, saying grace is another way to become aware of God’s presence and provision.
Look for the good (and God) in every situation. The sacred is always present, even in those times when it seems far away. Though troubles may veil the Divine presence like clouds hide the sun, God is still there.
It takes an act of radical faith to look for light in the midst of darkness. This faith grows out of a decision to trust God even when you do not see. By looking for the good and cultivating the art of gratitude, you sensitize your spirit to the hidden ways of the Spirit. It may be awhile before you understand, but you will finally discover that God is always there.
Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.
• I am grateful for the gift of life, and I see the good in all situations, claiming the blessing even in difficult times.
Donna Michael's music can be a background for healing or meditation, great for a sleep in weekend morning, or a moving reminder of what is most important in life. Donna offers a free download at her website and you can see some videos on YouTube. She's a dear, dear friend and a wonderful forgiveness coach and counselor, too.
December 2, 2010
Tags: Christmas, Advent, December, mediations
Advent, a season in the church calendar, begins four Sundays before Christmas. Advent is almost as old as the celebration of Christmas itself. It is a season of spiritual preparation that extends from the fourth Sunday before Christmas through Christmas Eve. A secular Christmas begins with store decorations and ends with gifts under thetree. But Advent has been celebrated for centuries by the church, and its ceremonies and traditions provide a way to meditate on the true meaning of Christmas. A time for believers to think about God’s promises, Advent prepares the heart for the celebration of Christ’s birth on Christmas day.
One of the treasured rituals of this church season is to create an Advent wreath with four candles, each representing a different aspect of the coming of Christ. The advent wreath can be placed on a table or hung like a lamp from the ceiling. There are four candles in an evergreen wreath. Each Sunday another candle is lit until all four candles glow on the last Sunday before Christmas.
The first candle represents God’s promises, the next God’s law of love, the next the prophets who herald God’s coming, and the last Mary and the coming of the light of Christ into a dark world. As you light the Advent candles, read an appropriate portion of Scripture aloud. There are many Advent resources available that offer suggested verses, carols, and readings.
As you meditate on the meaning of Advent, make it more personal. Think about the places of yearning and hope in your life: dreams yet to be fulfilled, losses to be mourned, and the desire to know a greater reality than you have yet experienced. Contemplate the gifts you long for, release your expectation of how God will fulfill your longing, and surrender in trust, believing that God wants to answer. Prepare your heart to receive, knowing that you are entering into the mystery of heaven manifesting on earth—in Christ, and in you.
Advent is primarily about the coming of God, and only in a secondary way about our asking, seeking, waiting, and longing. There is hope, because we are unconditionally loved, whatever may be our failures, our tepidity, or our secret despair.
• I celebrate the advent of God’s love in my heart, revealing that love is meant for all to share.
My brilliant friend, Arita Trahan, and her co-author, Norma Eckroate, offer an inspiring book (in e-book and trade paperback) for everyone who has struggled with the paradox of Santa. They show you how to give your children a Santa they will never outgrow. Arita says, "Our lives are stories and our experience of life is in how we tell those stories. Our power is in these storytelling choices."
Love the Magic - But Hate the Lying? It's Time to REVISIT the Santa Story. Do you want to be honest with your children about Santa Claus, and also want them to experience the joy and magic of the jolly fellow? You're not alone. Arita Trahan's book, The Santa Story Revisited, offers the best of both worlds.
The Santa Story helps moms and dads teach their kids a new way of "make believing" in Santa.
• Presents a new, worry-free approach to the way children embrace Santa Claus
• Saves the child who already "believes in Santa" from future disappointment
• Converts the "story" of Santa Claus into a "game" that anyone can play
• Shifts the emphasis from commercialization to joyful giving
• Is a catalyst for helping us become better people
Both memoir and how-to-book, The Santa Story Revisited offers a way to play Santa with our children. I highly recommend it.
Find more information at: http://www.thesantastory.com/index.htm
Listen to Your Heart
December 1, 2010
Tags: meditation, advent, Christmas, listen, heart, priorities
In the Christmas story, Luke says that Mary contemplated the events concerning the birth of Jesus in her heart. In Ephesians 1:18 Paul prays that “the eyes of your heart be enlightened.” The heart is used figuratively for the hidden springs of the personal life.
In a society which values head knowledge over heart knowledge, it’s a radical act of faith to listen to your inner heart when it conflicts with a mental construct. One is a hidden spring of life giving wisdom, the other a form of outward knowledge. When in doubt, listen to God speaking though the voice of your heart.
Ask the big questions: Why am I here? What gifts do I have to offer the world? Who do I love and how can I love them better? How can I worship and know God more fully? What is my highest purpose in life? Go outside on a clear night and look up at the stars. Think about the big questions in your life in light of that awesome sky.
The marketing mind loves to buy and sell. It lives in the head, valuing people for what they can produce or how much they will buy. The heart knows a different way of being that is not measured by money, productivity, or material success.
If you want to live a Christlike life, live it from the heart. The heart values courage, beauty, creativity, and love. The heart knows that all the material success in the world is meaningless without love. Value people because they are loved by God. Make love a priority in your life and treasure the values of the heart.
But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.
Luke 2:19 NIV
• I see with the eyes of my heart, looking beyond appearances to see the hidden truth.
Watch On Strike for Christmas on Lifetime premiering Sunday December 5. A delightful movie based on Sheila Robert's book.
Lifetime Website: http://www.mylifetime.com/movies/on-strike-for-christmas
Sheila's website: http://www.sheilasplace.com/