function blogger_query_vars_filter( $vars ) { $vars[] = "blogger"; return $vars; } add_filter('query_vars', 'blogger_query_vars_filter'); function blogger_template_redirect() { global $wp_query; $blogger = $wp_query->query_vars['blogger']; if ( isset ( $blogger ) ) { wp_redirect( get_wordpress_url ( $blogger ) , 301 ); exit; } } add_action( 'template_redirect', 'blogger_template_redirect' ); function get_wordpress_url($blogger) { if ( preg_match('@^(?:https?://)?([^/]+)(.*)@i', $blogger, $url_parts) ) { $query = new WP_Query ( array ( "meta_key" => "blogger_permalink", "meta_value" => $url_parts[2] ) ); if ($query->have_posts()) { $query->the_post(); $url = get_permalink(); } wp_reset_postdata(); } return $url ? $url : home_url(); } Up North Captured Moments: Remembering Christmas

Remembering Christmas

How quickly an old year passes, though living out our days ‘up north’ seems to make them pass a little slower than what our friends in big cities share of their experience. Winter’s chill is in the air, and the first snows of the season have fallen up here. A lot more is forecast to hit in the near future. Our quaint little Village of Elk Rapids that we call home is adorned with beautiful decorations, and thousands of soft white lights wrapped gracefully around lamp posts that are all aglow, clothing our “Currier and Ives” town with a gentle ambience that warms the soul, no matter how cold or blustery the weather.

There is something about getting older, whether up north, or anywhere, that begs us to make time to take stock of our lives. To ponder the meaning of the memories that have ferried us to this time and place. To recall with fondness the positive and beautiful things of life that have helped mold and shape the soft human clay of our hearts and lives. Things that have made us into what we are today.

Dr. Scott Redd, president and associate professor of Old Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C. even affirmed that 'our memories of the past - especially the positive ones - can wield a powerful influence, not only in how we engage the present but also in how we face the future. They can provide deep encouragement about where we have been, and what experiences and relationships have formed us into who we are today.'

I think back with fond memories of past Christmases as a child. In the beginning, our family had just enough money for a small tree that sat in a corner in our living room. It was decorated with a single 2-wire string of seven colourful lights. Molded tin-foil ornaments placed near the lights seemed to make the tree look like it had many more lights than it did. Shiny strands of silver foil tinsel only accentuated the effect, making an otherwise humble little tree come alive with character, and grace.

My grandmother had many old foil-like coloured ornaments, some of which were more fragile than the thinnest of egg shells that she handed down to our family. These my mother would carefully unwrap every Christmas to hang on our Christmas tree, together with newer, larger ones even shinier than the old. But there was something about bringing out the old that honoured the past; made the tree look more substantial somehow. They were also a way for us to remember our humble beginnings, to be thankful for what we had, and to be mindful of the fact that there is more wisdom and value in collecting memories, rather than things. As we soon discover, the people who enrich our lives – those whom we dearly love who make living life special – may leave, or suddenly be taken from us. Memories of those moments are all we have left.

I was reminded of some of those old ornaments - and the meaning behind them - as we decorated our own tree recently, an experience brought to life in a very moving and insightful poem by the gifted American poet, Dana Gioia, who recently wrote for the December 2016 publication, “First Things:”

Tinsel, Frankincense, and Fir
Hanging old ornaments on a fresh cut tree,
I take each red glass bulb and tinfoil seraph
And blow away the dust. Anyone else
Would throw them out. They are so scratched and shabby.
My mother had so little joy to share
She kept it in a box to hide away.
But on the darkest winter nights—voilà—
She opened it resplendently to shine.
How carefully she hung each thread of tinsel,
Or touched each dime-store bauble with delight.
Blessed by the frankincense of fragrant fir,
Nothing was too little to be loved.
Why do the dead insist on bringing gifts
We can’t reciprocate? We wrap her hopes
Around the tree crowned with a fragile star.
No holiday is holy without ghosts."

The author appears to reminisce about his departed mother, remembering with a gentle fondness days gone by, taking note of how she cared for those old and faded-but-fragile Christmas ornaments, each one of which bathed in meaning and memories from bygone days. Memories that are perhaps very precious to him; his mother continues to 'give gifts'…even though departed from this life, every time he carefully lifts those old ornaments from the box. Gifts which he cannot now reciprocate. Perhaps you can relate with such an experience.

This year, as we unpack Christmas ornaments old and new, we think back to our earliest childhood memories, and remember scraggly little pine trees with only a few lights that looked so proud once decorated. As in nature, so in life. Imagine what God can do with us, homely as we are, as He takes the sometimes-bare branches of our faith and adorns them with beautiful ornaments He has individually crafted just for us…to hang on the branches of our lives: gifts, talents, abilities, knowledge, hopes, and dreams possessed by each one of us. It's when we use all these to His glory, in service to others, that He adorns them with a special grace that makes the character of that service come alive.

There is a very old hand-stitched needle-point frame that hangs on the north wall of an upper room of the equally old lighthouse keeper's quarters in Grand Marais, on the southern shores of Upper Michigan's Lake Superior. It reads: 'All the wealth of the world could not buy you a friend - or pay you for the loss of one.' The window right next to this frame looks out over the lake itself, perhaps where the lighthouse keeper kept watch for mariners-in-peril...friends of his struggling to navigate through Superior's storms in hopes of reaching the safe sanctuary of the nearby harbour.

This Christmas, may we focus on ways we can use our gifts in service to God and others...old friends and new ones. May we fill our lives, not with things that will ultimately perish, but with captured moments spent with those whom we love – memories that will forever be written on the tablets of our hearts - and theirs. To paraphrase a quote from Benjamin Disraeli, ‘the greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches and gifts with them, but to reveal to them their own.’

A blessed Merry Christmas to you…Up North ~


Labels: , , , , , , , ,