Thursday, December 10, 2009

It's Cold Outside

Journal for Christa—
Gayla posted on Facebook, “BABY, it’s cold outside.” When it’s cold in Arkansas, it’s REALLY COLD in Colorado. Yesterday’s dusky landscape looked like a chalk and charcoal drawing with barren trees silhouetted black against a gray sky with fine, white snow swirling dervishly in the foreground. It was hauntingly beautiful and, because of the season, took me back to a Christmas letter written years ago—
It was frigid cold. As the man lowered his head and wrapped his coat closer about himself, he pondered over the events of the previous days and months. Strange they were to him, and now this: this trip, the cold. He glanced up at the woman. She leaned somewhat forward on the donkey. She stared ahead silently. “Could this be?” he thought. “It all seemed a dream. Yet the angel had said it was true. It was all so difficult to understand.” Why had his life suddenly become so overwhelming, so bizarre? “Could this possibly be God’s plan?”
They wound through the narrow street which funneled the wind, blasting it into their faces. A thousand questions came to his mind. Finally the street opened into a courtyard and the inn beyond. The muscles in the woman’s face relaxed. The man hastened his pace. “I’ll help you down,” he said. She was clumsy; she was silent.
“The inn is full?” questioned the man unbelievingly. “How could this be? Couldn’t there have at least been a place for them? The stable? Cold, drafty.” Burdened with such thoughts, he slowly shook his head and led the woman silently toward the stable door.
“At least the stable is shelter.” The man made a place for the woman. He wrapped a blanket around her. She was silent. He waited. He wondered about his God. He wondered about the child. He wondered about the woman, who knew nothing of having babies, and of himself who knew even less.
Far into the night the child was delivered. If the woman had looked pale in the street, she was paler now. The man wiped off the child and wrapped Him in strips of cloth. The woman looked intently at the man. Her pale face wore a faint smile. He smiled. All was silent—
Written about 20 years ago, this was a rather difficult piece to locate. That year’s Christmas letter ended with this paragraph: With the joviality of the Christmas season, perhaps, we sometimes forget the atmosphere of that first Christmas. This year has brought difficult times for many of our friends and relatives. This was written with those of us in mind who have at times sat and wondered about our God. We are not alone. Surely, Joseph, in his time, had moments he felt confused about his life and the God who directed it. 

Monday, December 7, 2009


Journal for Christa—

We watched Up last week. Billed as a children’s movie, it’s anything but. I saw a lot of people I’ve known in Up—people who desperately wanted children and couldn’t, people who passed away long before this world was ready to let them go. I saw myself. It’s really a story of life—the bad, the good, the fleeting.

It’s a story of promises made but not quite kept, of noticing the joy in the mundane, of rebounding when things just don’t turn out like you expect. It’s about the human spirit, a residual—I think—of being created in God’s image.

In story we sometimes get the idea that what makes life significant are the adventures—great vacations, important discoveries, changing the world; and we forget to paint a dream on the wall, to look at the person we’re eating with, to gaze at the clouds, and to dance around the room.
Up isn’t just about relationships, it’s also a story about letting go—of knowing when to move on from the past, the familiar, the comfortable—of when to grasp a new adventure.

Though it wasn’t what I expected, I liked Up, and my favorite part was when the old, childless man realized something the father never did: the immense value of sitting on the curb, counting red cars.
Chris, Stef, Flora, and Scout were here this week. We didn’t “do” anything. Jay and Flora ran the train around the Christmas tree, we ate tons of food, we visited with friends and lots of family. It was a wonderful week. I graded not one paper, only looked at French briefly, and took Flora out to the ponds to see the fish “sleeping.”

Now today, the train sits silently under the tree, and research papers sit in my gmail box. It’s time to move to the very ordinary things of life. But, Saturday we’ll go dancing.