Monday, December 5, 2016

Ready for St. Nicholas?

It's St. Nicholas Eve. Be sure to put your shoes outside your door before you go to bed tonight in hopes that you'll get some candy! And leave a carrot out for his horse.

St. Nicholas of Myra, in present-day Turkey, was a real bishop of the church, and many stories have sprung up around him, including that he delivered a punch in the face to Arius at the Council of Nicea in 325.

Half of his bones were pilfered by the Venetians during the First Crusade and brought to Venice to rest in the church of San Nicolo al Lido (on the Lido).

Here's a link to the Wikipedia page outlining many ways St. Nicholas Day is celebrated around the world. 

Sunday, December 4, 2016

And a little child shall lead them

Nicola di Guardiagrele’s “Madonna of Humility”, the only known work by this artist from the first half of the 15th century. We saw this beautiful painting at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. Click the photo to see the beautiful veil that Mary is holding.

Isaiah 11:1-10

A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow out of his roots. 
The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord
His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.
He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide by what his ears hear; 
but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; 
he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. 
Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist,
and faithfulness the belt around his loins. 
The wolf shall live with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the kid, 
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them. 
The cow and the bear shall graze,
their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder's den. 
They will not hurt or destroy
on all my holy mountain; 
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.
On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; 
the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Friday, December 2, 2016

Friday Music: Advent Song


Look, God, look
in the vastness of your dark
hear this song
in the chorus of the world
where I sing
for the glory of your coming
held by love
as the music pours from me
a flame within
as the night falls around me
hear my prayer
and come through the darkness
hold me waiting
as you wait to be born.

This first performance at Choral Evensong in Holy Trinity, Dunoon, Argyll, December 2011.

words by Christine McIntosh, music by John McIntosh

Thanks to my friend Perpetua for the introduction by posting this song on her Facebook page.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Thursday's bird is taking off

Common merganser runs across the water in Wolfsnare Creek as part of takeoff. 

Someone should tell it to "Slow down, it's Advent!"

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Nearly Wordless Wednesday: Reflection

Sunrise? Sunset? 

It's always a beautiful day at the beach. Photo taken January 2013 at Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Tuesday Beauty

When I lived in Atlanta, I have a wonderful garden with many old garden roses that bloomed nearly year round, thanks to the warm (and probably getting warmer) climate.  Four or so years ago, this was my advent wreath, filled with these beauties from my front yard.  It only lasted the first two weeks, but they were a lovely two weeks.

Among these are Duchesse de Brabant, Pearl d'or, Mme Joseph Schwartz, Souvenir de St. Anne's, Sombreuil, Blush Noisette and Old Blush.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Evening Prayer


Guide us waking, O Lord, and guard us sleeping; that awake
we may watch with Christ, and asleep we may rest in peace.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Waiting with Sherman

Today we enter the season of Advent, four weeks of holy waiting for God to come to us again. We are called to sit in the place of anticipation, to be alive to the present moment of the season of not yet. But I have to confess: waiting makes me crazy.

All my life, I have had difficulty with waiting. When I’m hungry, I want to eat right then. When I’m ready to leave the house, I’m standing at the door in my coat, impatient because everyone else is checking phones or still putting on shoes. Sometimes my difficulty with waiting plays out in my body. My legs get twitchy and I can’t sit still.

And more serious waiting - to see how things are going to turn out - for an acceptance letter or test result, to see how someone is going to recover from trauma or how the country is going to fare under a new administration - can be excruciating.

I want to be present to the present, but when I am really anxious, my instinct is to withdraw and agonize alone. 

A few days ago, I came across a newspaper story about Sherman the Donkey. Sherman had been kept pent up in a small mucky stall without much care and was in danger of dying when a Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, man took him in with the idea of rehabbing Sherman into a running partner. (Apparently, running with donkeys is a thing.)

When Sherman arrived, however, he could hardly even walk. His hooves had grown so long that they resembled elf shoes. He had parasites and rotten teeth and matted fur. According to the vet, he was 8, but he seemed to be 80.

Sherman’s anxious new owners called around for help from neighbors who knew more about animals than they, who are Philadelphia folks only a couple of years into their new rural life. Someone came with a hacksaw to trim Sherman’s hooves. Another came to pull rotten teeth and another to bathe him and cut or curry out the matted fur and parasites. Still another attended to raw skin and bloated belly.

His bodily needs taken care of, it was time to wait and see if Sherman would respond. He needed to walk and to eat if he was going to even live, so his owner put all the other animals out to pasture, leaving Sherman alone, hoping he would want to explore his new home. But instead, all Sherman did on his first day was stand still beside the barn, head hanging, as if, the writer said, he was waiting for execution. He needed something else.

That something else turned out to be a goofy goat named Lawrence, himself a rescue with ears malformed from frostbite, who came in with the sheep from the pasture at the end of that anxious first day and immediately noticed poor, sad Sherman. Lawrence went right to the donkey, sniffed him all over, and then lay down at his feet. He stayed there all night. 

By the end of the following day, Sherman was walking and then eating with his new friend. Before long he was even running. He was going to live - and more than that, he was going to thrive in his new community.

Of course, I got to find out that Sherman was going to be ok in a matter of minutes, but the lesson from this story could not be more clear to me: waiting is best done with a friend.

I have always tried to do all my serious waiting alone, fighting my twitchy anxiety under the cover of darkness. I have not wanted to be accompanied in my darkness, choosing instead to withdraw or to be reactive in such a way that keeps others at a distance. I have not wanted to need someone to really sit with me in hope. But that is exactly what I do need. 

Someone to just sit with me in hope.

At the end of all our waiting, God says, comes new life. This is the Advent story. And it can be my story, too, if I will but believe. Whatever my worry, even dread, I do not need to live in that place alone.

Welcome, Advent.

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


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