Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Where Will You Spend Christmas?

Where will you spend Christmas?  I have been asking myself this question, though there is no doubt about my location on the big day.  On Christmas Eve, I will be right here in town leading two worship services.  (I invite you to join us.)  On Christmas morning, my husband and I will join our children in opening presents, singing carols (I hope), and enjoying a nice leisurely breakfast before visiting extended family in the afternoon.  If you are looking for me, I will be easy to find.

I still ask where I will be, but the question isn’t about geography.  It occurred to me a few weeks ago on a perfect fall day.  The sky was blue while beautiful autumn leaves drifted onto the trampoline where my children and I bounced them, and ourselves, around.  If I tried to imagine a more heavenly day or a more perfect moment spent with family, I couldn’t do it.  Days like this are what I dream of.

So it was with some annoyance that I found myself having to pull my brain back from thoughts of work, worries about schedule, all that there was to do, the many conversations to be had.  Why was my mind elsewhere when I was enjoying the perfect day?

I have a feeling I am not alone in this problem.  The maxim “Be where you are” is harder to follow than it sounds.  Being present is tricky, especially in today’s over-producing, multi-tasking, attention-deficit world.  It is no wonder that so many of us find it challenging to keep mind and body in the same place.

I wish there was an easy answer.  Hopefully, our brains respond to practice like our bodies do.  If so, then giving our attention might be like riding a bicycle.  If we can’t remain upright, we can at least become experts at getting back on.

To be where we are is a choice, if a hard one.  The demons that pull at our concentration can’t be exorcised completely, but they can be rendered ineffective by our dogged insistence on being present.  In the end, we will find that the effort is worth it.

Blessed eating!

I’m thrilled to announce that a devotional I have written appears in The Upper Room magazine today, December 11.  You can view it at this link, read a follow up blog post, and comment.  I hope you will.  Devotional.upperroom.org

I often find that cooking, especially with family, holds my attention extremely well.  May you enjoy this recipe with yours.

Macaroni Casserole
1  8oz. pkg. macaroni, cooked     1 can mushroom soup
½ c. grated cheese                          3 T. margarine
¼ c. ch bell pepper                          ¼ c. pimiento

Mix. Put in baking dish.  Cover with aluminum foil.  Cook 20 minutes at 375o.  Then uncover and cook 10 more minutes. – Fay Bass

Monday, December 10, 2012

My Christmas Wish

My Christmas wish is for everything holy, but I keep getting stuck in the everyday.  Each year, when Advent rolls around, I long to celebrate it with those sacred, awe-filled moments, but my schedule instead contains endless lists of planning and busyness.  Holiday banquets and fast food seem to be the seasonal fare.  A quiet dinner made with family and eaten together seems too great a thing to hope for.
Don’t we all have this wish at Christmas?  We want things to be different, but can’t quite seem to make them.  We resolve that this year we will follow a new path, but never quite have the will to change course.  Every year, we preachers preach about preparing our hearts for Advent, about the meaning of the season, about waiting for the miraculous rather than rushing to retail outlets.  But the truth is that we, along with every one of our parishioners are drawn in by the tempting lights of big box stores and their sales.  We are pressured into those perfect sounding gifts.  We consecrate the cardboard and choose the plastic over the pure.
Some grace is necessary here.  On Christmas, we celebrate a God who stepped from heaven; who came to be with us, to be one of us.  Surely this God will also reach beyond our hallowed and ornamented church walls to walk with us through the aisles of Home Depot.  May we, in this Advent and Christmas seasons, find the holy in the humdrum.  May we see with new eyes the tasks of the season and find within them true reason to celebrate.  Finally, may the Spirit gently lead us back to the quiet places where we can worship a baby in a manger.  The divine isn’t confined to this wooden stable, but we will surely find it there.
Blessed Eating!
Here is a great cake for a family dinner or a dinner party!
Cream Cheese Pound Cake
8oz. cream cheese, softened      3 sticks margarine
3 c. sugar                                          6 eggs, room temperature
3 c. sifted plain flour                     2 t. vanilla
Blend cream cheese and margarine together.  Add sugar beating slowly.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add flour, a small amount at a time, beating after each addition.  Add vanilla and beat well.  Pour into a well greased and floured tube pan.  Bake at 300o for 1 hour and 30 minutes. – Faye Bass
Note:  I used butter, not margarine.  Just because.