Monthly Archives: December 2008

Happy New Year!

Did you make any New Year’s resolutions? One of mine is to try harder and do better…to think positive…to think Christ…and to try to do good at all times. Here is a story about a guy who tried harder and did better

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On Nov. 18, 1995, Itzhak Perlman, the violinist, came on stage to give a concert at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center in New York City. If you have ever been to a Perlman concert, you know that getting on stage is no small achievement for him. He was stricken with polio as a child, and so he has braces on both legs and walks with the aid of two crutches. To see him walk across the stage one step at a time, painfully and slowly, is an awesome sight.

He walks painfully, yet majestically, until he reaches his chair. Then he sits down, slowly, puts his crutches on the floor, undoes the clasps on his legs, tucks one foot back and extends the other foot forward. Then he bends down and picks up the violin, puts it under his chin, nods to the conductor and proceeds to play.

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By now, the audience is used to this ritual. They sit quietly while he makes his way across the stage to his chair. They remain reverently silent while he undoes the clasps on his legs. They wait until he is ready to play.

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But this time, something went wrong. Just as he finished the first few bars, one of the strings on his violin broke. You could hear it snap – it went off like gunfire across the room. There was no mistaking what that sound meant. There was no mistaking what he had to do. We figured that he would have to get up, put on the clasps again, pick up the crutches and limp his way off stage – to either find another violin or else find another string for this one. But he didn’t. Instead, he waited a moment, closed his eyes and then signaled the conductor to begin again.

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The orchestra began, and he played from where he had left off. And he played with such passion and such power and such purity as they had never heard before.

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Of course, anyone knows that it is impossible to play a symphonic work with just three strings. I know that, and you know that, but that night Itzhak Perlman refused to know that.

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You could see him modulating, changing, re-composing the piece in his head. At one point, it sounded like he was de-tuning the strings to get new sounds from them that they had never made before. When he finished, there was an awesome silence in the room. And then people rose and cheered. There was an extraordinary outburst of applause from every corner of the auditorium. We were all on our feet, screaming and cheering, doing everything we could to show how much we appreciated what he had done.

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He smiled, wiped the sweat from this brow, raised his bow to quiet us, and then he said – not boastfully, but in a quiet, pensive, reverent tone –“You know, sometimes it is the artist’s task to find out how much music you can still make with what you have left.”

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What a powerful line that is. It has stayed in my mind ever since I heard it. And who knows? Perhaps that is the definition of life – not just for artists but for all of us. Here is a man who has prepared all his life to make music on a violin of four strings, who, all of a sudden, in the middle of a concert, finds himself with only three strings; so he makes music with three strings, and the music he made that night with just three strings was more beautiful, more sacred, more memorable, than any that he had ever made before, when he had four strings.

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So, perhaps our task in this shaky, fast-changing, bewildering world in which we live is to make music, at first with all that we have, and then, when that is no longer possible, to make music with what we have left.

A New Year’s Blessing for You

In your journeys to and fro
God direct you;
In your happiness and pleasure
God bless you;
In care, anxiety, or trouble
God sustain you;
In peril and in danger
God protect you.
~Timothy Olufosoye

Happy Engagement!

kathy-and-carl-glowing-heartsWell, it happened! In the early morning hours of Christmas Eve, as Kathy returned from work, she found our snowy lane lined with hundreds of glowing tea lights. At the end was a radiant Carl with a ring in his hand and a proposal in his heart. She very happily accepted. Here they are, wearing the Christmas presents that Aaron and Carleen gave them: matching shirts with hearts that glow when they’re together and start to fade when they get very far away apart! They are adorable…both the shirts and the couple who wear them.  Carl is here for most of the rest of 2008, and we’re all really enjoying him. AND, if you can believe this, he gave his Play Station and a whole pile of games as a Christmas inheritance gift to his three new little-brothers-in-law-to-be. Now, if that isn’t love, what is??!  🙂

kathys-ringSo, do you want to see her ring? Here it is…a gorgeous square-cut diamond in white gold. It looks just beautiful!

joel-narrating-christmas-storyOn Christmas Eve, we also found time to do our two favorite activities. One is acting out the nativity story. This year we did it as a reader’s theater, and Joel was the narrator.

singing-carols1We also sang Christmas carols together. This picture was actually taken on Christmas night, when we sang together again. This time, Daniel’s girl friend, Brianna, was able to join us and played violin, while Alan strummed on his guitar and Stephen manned the piano. Daniel, Joel, and I sang in three-part harmony! What fun.

Merry Christmas from our house to yours, and I hope you’re enjoying a wonderful time of holiday with friends and family where ever you are!

Mary Christmas

christmas-tree-in-germanys-karwendel-mtsChristmas in Karwendel Mountains of Germany

It’s Christmas Eve, and the excitement around here is pretty awesome. Are you ready for Christmas at your house? What do you do to make Christmas special? This evening, we’ll probably sing Christmas carols and act out the Christmas story as a play the way we’ve been doing for many, many years. We’ll miss having Aaron, Michael, and Jon and their families with us this year, but we’ve gone to an “every other year” plan to share with the in-laws, and this is our year to give up our kids so they can enjoy their wives’ relatives. We are blessed to have Carl here this week, and Daniel and Brianna are in and out, so the five residents of our “home sweet home” are not bereft of all visitors!

Alan and I made a mad dash out to do our Christmas shopping for each other on Monday night, but due to how late it was when he could get free, the terrible road conditions, and the zillions of other holiday shoppers, we were only able to get a present for his secretary and a very special present for two of our kids. Alan’s trying valiantly to get off a little early today to try again…but I’m holding my breath. Traditionally, if I want presents, I have to go get them, but this year even I have been too busy to shop for myself! So, it may be another year of coupons.

I say, what is Christmas about, anyway? Do we lose sight of what’s really important in the midst of serving others and trying to make everything “just perfect” for those we love? In Luke 10, there’s the wonderful story of two sisters: Mary and Martha. They were having a celebration for Jesus. Mary was enjoying talking to Jesus, but Martha was frantically trying to get all the work done and resented Mary’s apparent lack of helpfulness. When she asked Jesus to make Mary help, Jesus told her that Mary had chosen “the better part.”

What is it that people want most of all? Our presents, or our presence? For me, the very best is enjoying happy fellowship with my loved ones. The trees and gifts and trimmings…the stuffed turkey and pies…the tinsel and snowflakes…they’re all wonderful, and I love them, but if I have to choose, I’ll choose sharing love over gifts any day.

So, if you’re feeling hassled and fretting about the peripherals, maybe it’s time to stop and quit worrying about the last X% that you haven’t had time to do. Wrap some coupons if you have to, but let the joy of Christmas be the celebration of God’s love for us through the gift of his son, Jesus, and the love that is possible as we learn to walk in His light and love. May we all have a Mary Christmas, and I’ll bet that makes our Christmas merrier than ever anyway!

Where Did Candy Canes Come From?

Did you ever wonder about the tradition of having candy canes at Christmas time? I’ve known about it for years, but this is a lovely one-minute explanation in storybook:

Being Grateful this Holiday Season

The snow is coming down so hard that Joel and I got stuck in our lane when we tried to go Christmas shopping today. I hope you are all safe and well. Aaron and Carleen are somewhere on I-80 on the vast stretches of PA trying to get home, and Daniel just finished his last exam (in oral surgery ) and is hoping to make it home by supper time. May all the travelers around the world arrive safely “home” for the holidays.

As we pause to reflect on Christmas and pray for our loved ones, may we also stop to count our blessings and express our gratefulness to the Lord for all the good things in our life. If you have a couple of minutes, I love this link to thinking about being thankful. It was passed on to me from a cousin who has cancer and may not see another Christmas.

http://www.frontiernet.net/~jimdandy/specials/blessed.htm

NBC Poll on “In God We Trust”

Here’s your chance to let the media know where the people of our nation stand on our faith in God. NBC is taking a poll on whether or not “In God We Trust” should stay on our American currency. Please take a second to vote and pass the word along  so others can vote on this important subject right away before NBC finishes their survey.

Poll is still open so you can vote. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/10103521/