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Welcome Christmas - Up North

The air was a crisp 2-degrees above zero as I made my way in to work this morning. The early morning sky was crystal clear, marked by the thin sliver of a crescent moon high and to the southeast, outlined by a pronounced "earth shine" against a slowly brightening sky. There was no wind this morning; the air was dead calm. Smoke from the chimneys of many homes I passed by -- some bedecked with a myriad of twinkling Christmas lights -- was curling upward lazily into the cold morning air, a tell-tale sign the homes' occupants were already stirring. I was struck by the character of the morning, not unlike many mornings I make that drive around the Sturgeon Valley on down to my office in Boyne Falls. I'm not far from the Boyne Mountain Ski Resort, a grand sight I can see from my office window. Today, I'm thinking to myself yet again how blessed we are to call Northern Michigan 'home,' to be able to live out our days simply in a place we love.

Whether we are commuting to and from work or school, or running an occasional errand, just being Up North somehow makes our tasks seem more like adventures; there's so much to see and take in of the natural beauty that lies all around us. It is something we don't take for granted. Even our mail lady (Kathy), who stopped by my office to deliver the day's mail, commented on how much she enjoys life Up North; her friends can't believe her when she describes her job in a place she and her family love and call home. We hear that often. It's not hard to fall-in-love with the laid-back life we've come to appreciate and enjoy Up North. 

Our dog, Sunny, sleeping on her favorite stuffed dog under the
Christmas tree in one of our boy's rooms. Perhaps she is dreaming
about what she'll awaken to on Christmas morning. Or, maybe she's
just enjoying the quiet simplicity of a dog's life...
...Up North.
As we welcome Christmas Up North, I am reminded of a wonderful little prayer Shannon and I borrowed for bulletins we handed out to nearly 400 guests who made the journey to Northern Michigan for our wedding; it was a sunny May day back in 1993.  Made famous at the Interlochen Center for the Arts where I used to work, it was read every Sunday by campers and guests during the 10am service at Kresge Auditorium.  Called, 'A Camper's Prayer', it hails from the New Hymnal for American Youth from the early 1930’s.  For those who live in large, noisy cities far away from the Up North you may remember as a child, or the Up North you long to return to, this is perhaps a fitting benediction as we prepare to welcome Christmas, and begin a New Year:
“God of the hills, grant us the strength to go back into the cities without faltering, strength to do our daily task without tiring and with enthusiasm, and strength to help our neighbors who have no hills to remember.

God of the lake, grant us Thy peace and Thy restfulness, peace to bring into a world of hurry and confusion, restfulness to carry to the tired whom we shall meet every day, content to do small things with a freedom from littleness, self-control for the unexpected emergency, and patience for the wearisome task, with deep depths within our soul to bear us through the crowded places.

Grant us the hush of the night time when the pine trees are dark against the sky line, the humbleness of the hills who in their mightiness know it not, and the laughter of the sunny waves to brighten the cheerless spots of a long winter.

God of the stars, may we take back Your gifts of friendship and of love for all. Fill us with great tenderness for the needy person at every turning. Grant that in all our perplexities and everyday decisions we may keep an open mind.

God of the wilderness, with Thy pure winds from the northland, blow away our pettiness; with the harsher winds of winter, drive away our selfishness and hypocrisy; fill us with the breadth and depth and height of Thy wilderness.

May we live out the truths which Thou hast taught us, in every thought and word and deed.