25 December 2009

25 Thoughts on “A Christmas Carol” – December 25th

Happy Christmas Dear Reader

'It's Christmas Day!' said Scrooge to himself. 'I haven't missed it. The Spirits have done it all in one night. They can do anything they like. Of course they can. Of course they can.

So now we come to the turn of the tide. Mister Dickens gives us our transformed Scrooge merry and as school boy and seemingly mad as a hatter. The thing he gives us that is most prominent is that transformation to a loving giving heart can happen overnight.

We can choose to be kind to others for life by choosing to do so every moment. We cannot mend the world’s ills instantly. We cannot get rid of the work houses or make sure that no one feels like surplus population. It is not in our power to change the massive blight of need and want that rests upon the human spirit and mangles the human condition.

It is in our power to be sure that the want and need are driven back in the lives of those we touch. It is within our grasp to create a butterfly effect of compassion and kindness that sends out ripples of Christ’s love for his creation. If each of us simply determines that the spirits of Christmas past, present and future will strive within us daily we can make a difference. If do not forget the lessons of this tale we can become this instant someone who sees others as opportunities to show the love and grace of Christ.

I cannot mend all the world’s ills. I cannot comfort everyone who needs it. I can determine that I will go about with “Merry Christmas” on my lips even if I am to be boiled in my own pudding and buried with a stake of holly through my heart. I can transcend time by realizing that life is a continuous preparation for the next Advent of Christ and so be constantly preparing for the celebration of that event by living as Christ has asked me to. As we end our 25 days, I bid you my beloved readers a Merry Christmas. May Christ and the spirit of Christmas dwell in you richly.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn
Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a home owner. He brings new and old things out of his treasure store."

24 December 2009

25 Thoughts on “A Christmas Carol” – December 24th

Happy Christmas Dear Reader

'They are Man's,' said the Spirit, looking down upon them. 'And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it!' cried the Spirit, stretching out its hand towards the city. 'Slander those who tell it ye! Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse! And abide the end!'

'Have they no refuge or resource?' cried Scrooge.

'Are there no prisons?' said the Spirit, turning on him for the last time with his own words. 'Are there no workhouses?'

The bell struck twelve.

We near the end of our journey with Mister Dickens. One of my purposes in writing this has been to keep myself and you my beloved readers from ignorance for in that is truly doom. Those of us who claim to follow Christ can ill afford to passively slander his name by remaining ignorant of the needs in the world around us.

So much of the world clings to Christmas for the hope it brings no matter how little peace or joy they have. We can be a fulfillment of that hope and we can bring peace and joy to others if we will merely abandon our ignorance. We can be the hands and feet of Christ to alleviate the want in others lives. It is our privilege to be used by Christ in this way to lighten the burden of others and infuse into their lives a little cheer.

We cannot relegate the chore that Christ has given us to what my friend Jon calls “an unskilled apprentice.” There are prisons and work houses (read agencies and welfare programs). Were they ninety-nine percent effective it would not relieve me of my responsibility to follow Christ in caring for them all. I cannot look at my tax bill and feel that I have done my part. I leave you with the words of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra:

If you want to arrange it
This world you can change it
If we could somehow make this Christmas thing last
By helping a neighbor
Or even a stranger
And to know who needs help
You need only just ask

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn
Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a home owner. He brings new and old things out of his treasure store."

23 December 2009

25 Thoughts on “A Christmas Carol” – December 23rd

Happy Christmas Dear Reader

“ 'I was only going to say,' said Scrooge's nephew, 'that the consequence of his taking a dislike to us, and not making merry with us, is, as I think, that he loses some pleasant moments, which could do him no harm. I am sure he loses pleasanter companions than he can find in his own thoughts, either in his mouldy old office, or his dusty chambers. I mean to give him the same chance every year, whether he likes it or not, for I pity him. He may rail at Christmas till he dies, but he can't help thinking better of it-I defy him-if he finds me going there, in good temper, year after year, and saying Uncle Scrooge, how are you. If it only puts him in the vein to leave his poor clerk fifty pounds, [that’s] something; and I think I shook him yesterday.'”

What are the effective results of our kindnesses to others? We may never know. When I am good to a shop keeper or clerk that I never see again, I do not know what means of Providence may be served by my kindness, but rather I am content to offer it just because I am supposed to offer it. When we deal in the currency of grace, mercy, and kindness, we are guaranteed return with interest that we cannot measure.

Fred intends to offer kindness to his Uncle even if there is no visible return or profit for him. Fred is even willing to endure his Uncle’s displeasure for the sake of Bob Cratchit. Scrooge’s earlier comment to Fred about finding himself a year older but not an hour richer is measured in the wrong medium.

In light of this thinking, I try to go through my day with this spirit and try to carry it the year round. When I fail at this it is usually because I am mired in my own worries and have not looked up enough to see that I am rich in the things that matter and must share in that abundance lest I drown from the flood of plenty given me. I can count my true wealth in the impact I have on those with who I traffic daily. I intend to do all that I can so that perhaps over time many may benefit from my good humor.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn
Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a home owner. He brings new and old things out of his treasure store."

22 December 2009

25 Thoughts on “A Christmas Carol” – December 22nd

Happy Christmas Dear Reader

Oh, a wonderful pudding! Bob Cratchit said, and calmly too, that he regarded it as the greatest success achieved by Mrs. Cratchit since their marriage. Mrs. Cratchit said that now the weight was off her mind, she would confess she had had her doubts about the quantity of flour. Everybody had something to say about it, but nobody said or thought it was at all a small pudding for a large family. It would have been flat heresy to do so. Any Cratchit would have blushed to hint at such a thing.

What a great quantity peace and joy can be found with this attitude of contentment. As one this family, in the midst of their relative poverty holds an attitude of gratitude for what they do have. While the wealthy miser watches the humble Cratchit family, he sees them neither complain nor wish for more than they had but rather sees them nobly adore the mother for her efforts.

It is clear that the pudding is too small. It is clear that all that they possess materially is meager. It is also clear that this family is so very rich in the things that matter. They love each other and are content to share time and good thoughts together. I have seen so many Christmas days where discontent and avarice have ruled the day. I have been guilty of it myself.

In these latter years my discontentment comes from to origins. The first and most important is the loss of time with those I love. When those I love are absent on Christmas Day, I feel it for weeks to come. The other ghost that haunts in this Christmas present is that of not being able to give all that I wish to give. It is not a matter of material wealth, though I would lavish far more upon my children and others if I could, but rather that my time has been greatly construed with weighty things this twelvemonth past and I have not attended to Christmas as is my custom.

The spirit is, however, with me and I have already begun to make amends for this. I only get 364 days to plan each year and this next year I will use them all. Remember to be thankful for what you have. Be aware of the moment in Christmas present and know that our hearts determine our joy, not the size of the pudding, the goose, or the gift.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn
Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a home owner. He brings new and old things out of his treasure store."

21 December 2009

25 Thoughts on “A Christmas Carol” – December 21st

Happy Christmas Dear Reader

'And how did little Tim behave? asked Mrs. Cratchit, when she had rallied Bob on his credulity, and Bob had hugged his daughter to his heart's content.
'As good as gold,' said Bob, 'and better. Somehow he gets thoughtful, sitting by himself so much, and thinks the strangest things you ever heard. He told me, coming home, that he hoped the people saw him in the church, because he was a cripple, and it might be pleasant to them to remember upon Christmas Day, who made lame beggars walk, and blind men see.'

How often it is so necessary for me to look outside my own world for ways in which my woes can benefit others. Want and lack are felt so keenly at Christmas time. I was bell ringing at a local store when a lady ran out of the store with bags of toys for which she had not paid. The alarms went off. The store manager gave chase. He did not catch her.

Upon his return I asked how that impacted him. He said that the parking lot cameras would yield her license plate number and the police would visit her. Imagine the desperation someone must feel to be willing to steal toys for children. We focus so much attention on what we do not have that we often lose sight of what we do have in abundance. A mom faces losing her freedom and her children over toys.

Mister Dickens wishes to remind us that no matter our situation, we can turn it into an opportunity for others to see Christ. We can see beyond our woes to the way in which those woes can benefit others. No matter the level of our plight, God is bigger and he is good. No matter the measure of our need, God’s supply is greater and that is what makes all the difference. I was thinking that it might be good for us to remember at this time of year who made us, loves us, redeems us, and provides for all our needs. We lack for nothing if we consider that Christ will provide for us no matter how grim things may seem. We need to recall that he is good no matter how bad the situation is. We must have with our want or need the attitude that God does bless us, every one.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn
Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a home owner. He brings new and old things out of his treasure store."

20 December 2009

25 Thoughts on “A Christmas Carol” – December 20th

Happy Christmas Dear Reader

'There are some upon this earth of yours,' returned the Spirit, 'who lay claim to know us, and who do their deeds of passion, pride, ill-will, hatred, envy, bigotry, and selfishness in our name, who are as strange to us and all out kith and kin, as if they had never lived. Remember that, and charge their doings on themselves, not us.'

So often when I am out and about at Christmas time I hear people complaining about Christmas and about those who follow Christ. It is so hard to combat the judgments held against Christ followers because of the deeds of those who claim to follow Christ but withhold love, grace, and kindness from others. I once saw a bumper sticker that read “Dear God protect me from your followers.”

So many things are done in the name of Christ that Christ would have nothing to do with. We start out having to defend the things done in the past both by others and by us. The only true answer is to be so like Christ is how we behave that it removes those who do wrong from the category we stand in.

As we draw closer to the celebration and anticipation of the Advent of Christ, we can make a difference in this argument in some simple and effective ways. If we keep our good humor about us it goes a long way in aiding the perception of others. If we give generously to the needs of others it does the same.

The single best way to fight an undeserved bad reputation is live out a good one. To be so attached to who Christ is that we end all question of motive and means.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn
Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a home owner. He brings new and old things out of his treasure store."

25 Thoughts on “A Christmas Carol” – December 19th

Happy Christmas Dear Reader

Please forgive me for being late with this installment.

“And it was a very uncommon kind of torch, for once or twice when there were angry words between some dinner-carriers who had jostled each other, he shed a few drops of water on them from it, and their good humour was restored directly. For they said, it was a shame to quarrel upon Christmas Day. And so it was! God love it, so it was!”

How often does one need to hear the arguments that can erupt at a family gathering to wish for such a torch? Yet we have one. We can be peacemakers to those around us “for the day’s sake.” We can be the ones who extend ourselves to the curmudgeons in our lives. We can be the ones who go about with “merry Christmas” on our lips.

I watched the effect whilst shopping as people were kind to each other. I enjoy the way in which smiling extrudes smiles from others. Occasionally my wishing others “merry Christmas” extracts them recounting their current woes to me. I find great pleasure in this as it gives them a sympathetic ear and perhaps opportunity for me to ease a burden. The way to make Christmas always present is simple. Always be looking for opportunity to be the advent of Christ’s loving kindness into the lives of others.


Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn
Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a home owner. He brings new and old things out of his treasure store."

18 December 2009

25 Thoughts on “A Christmas Carol” – December 18th

Happy Christmas Dear Reader

“But soon the steeples called good people all, to church and chapel, and away they came, flocking through the streets in their best clothes, and with their gayest faces”

I used to live near a church that had a steeple and bells. I remember as a child hearing the bells ring calling the time for worship on Sunday mornings. Mister Dickens has the many London churches calling out the time for worship on Christmas Eve. One can almost hear the Old Michael Church with it ragged roof and short bell tower lifting it clanging voice to the foggy night air.

The church I attend has no bells but the call of its Christmas Eve service is still siren powerful. We gather and sing, pray, and commune. We will light candles and wish each other a very Merry Christmas. We will recall the ways in which we have as a community share our blessing with the community around us. From the end of that service until the end of Christmas day I will live out my own small act of worship.

It has been my practice for many years not to ask God for anything from Christmas Eve until I awaken the day after Christmas. I will still pray; offering thanks, worshiping, and acknowledging all that the Creator has done for me. I do feel, however, that he has given me enough and it would be kind to not ask for anything else for a time. I do it to avoid being the petulant child who after opening the richest trove of gifts looks at his father and says, “Is that all?”

I am so thankful for the many blessings in my life and I love getting gifts. I also know that Christ has given me his very life so that I might live and it begins with his Advent. So for a day I will ask for nothing and try to be thankful for everything. I will begin with the journey to worship, imaging the bells of the Old Michael Church calling me along the way.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn
Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a home owner. He brings new and old things out of his treasure store."

17 December 2009

25 Thoughts on “A Christmas Carol” – December 17th


Happy Christmas Dear Reader
“'Come in!' exclaimed the Ghost.’Come in! And know me better, man.'
Scrooge entered timidly, and hung his head before this Spirit. He was not the dogged Scrooge he had been; and though the Spirit's eyes were clear and kind, he did not like to meet them.
'I am the Ghost of Christmas Present,' said the Spirit. 'Look upon me!'”

What a magnificent sight Mister Dickens paints for us here. The room is filled with every manner of plenty and celebration. Do we take time during the Christmas season to ponder on just how blessed we are? We have so much and God had provided much beyond our basic needs.

Think for a moment how rich Scrooge must have been. His business garnered him much profit and he spent very little. He had plenty of wealth but little poorness of spirit. It is no small thing that this man is chosen for reclamation. He is the image of plenty and substance that can with the right heart reach out to his fellow man a hand of generosity that makes a difference.

We are all wealthy by world standards. Beyond that there is a limitless supply of spiritual wealth to be had in the effort to show love and kindness to others. Being present in the spirit of Christmas cost us nothing or very little. We have the opportunity every day to walk with the Spirit of Christmas Present in harmony. We can share his jovial nature and aid in spreading the cheer he brings.

It is no small thing to spread joy to others. Today is the anniversary of Mister Dickens’s first publication of this tale. He gave all mankind a lovely gift with this story. Someone recently made an acerbic remark to me about the value being less because he was paid by the letter. I submit that he could have written about most anything and been popular. I think that this particular tale was his way of giving us a way to be reminded of the spirit that is intended for Christmas past, present, and future. We can honor Christ and Mister Dickens by living that spirit and letting them strive within us.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn
Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a home owner. He brings new and old things out of his treasure store."

16 December 2009

25 Thoughts on “A Christmas Carol” – December 16th

Happy Christmas Dear Reader

“'What Idol has displaced you?' he rejoined.
'A golden one.'
'This is the even-handed dealing of the world.' he said. 'There is nothing on which it is so hard as poverty; and there is nothing it professes to condemn with such severity as the pursuit of wealth!'
'You fear the world too much,' she answered, gently. 'All your other hopes have merged into the hope of being beyond the chance of its sordid reproach. I have seen your nobler aspirations fall off one by one, until the master-passion, Gain, engrosses you. Have I not?'”

Oh that we could catch Scrooge at this moment and arrest his progress toward greed and a miserly nature. What if we could stop his march here and now? He could Bell’s forgiveness and become the man he is destined to become anyway. Alas we cannot.

We can, however, learn from Ebenezer’s failure. We can realize that we all have idols that prevent us from being all that we can be to each other. We replace compassion and generosity with greed. We forbear showing love to worship bitterness. We think of what we do not have instead of counting our current blessings. We fear not having so we hold on to wealth instead of releasing it to bless the lives of others.

What has bitterness and greed cost me over my lifetime? The love of others whom I love is absent. The peaceful companionship of some family is elusive because I lived by my fears instead of my faith. Like Scrooge I have feared the world too much and allowed my choices to cause harm as a result. Too high is the price of not walking daily in the spirit of Christ that should haunt us Christmas day and every day. It should not merely haunt but should posses us so fully that others think us drunk or mad.

Tomorrow we begin our walk with the Ghost of Christmas present. But for today, a tear fall as I take a final look at Christmas past and know that I did good but could have done better.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn
Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a home owner. He brings new and old things out of his treasure store."

15 December 2009

25 Thoughts on “A Christmas Carol” – December 15th

Happy Christmas Dear Reader

“'Why! Is it not? He has spent but a few pounds of your mortal money: three or four perhaps. Is that so much that he deserves this praise?'
'It isn't that,' said Scrooge, heated by the remark, and speaking unconsciously like his former, not his latter, self. 'It isn't that, Spirit. He has the power to render us happy or unhappy; to make our service light or burdensome; a pleasure or a toil. Say that his power lies in words and looks; in things so slight and insignificant that it is impossible to add and count them up: what then? The happiness he gives, is quite as great as if it cost a fortune.'”

We immediately see here that Scrooge has understanding. He comprehends that those with means have power over others. Notice that Scrooge, who makes Bob Cratchet’s work not only burdensome but painful and uncomfortable, remembers who kindly he was treated by the man who had this same power over him.

Notice that Scrooge also understands how little it takes to give good will and happiness to others. It is so easy to be kind when we get outside or our own world and look at the world from a new perspective. We focus so closely on our own wants and needs that we do not see how rich we can make others by simply being kind to them. We can share a kindness small and warm and kindle a great bonfire of good in another. We can lift a finger to ease another’s burden and to them it is as if we have moved a great boulder.

Something in the power to care for others becomes so redeeming to us. When we show kindness to another it increases our own sense of worth and value to the universe in general. When we do it out of love and a humility born of our own sense of understanding our need for grace the effect increases dramatically.

We are almost done with Christmas past. And we are over half way through our current day journey. So I ask what you are gaining from out travel together. Do you know yourself and Scrooge any better? Ponder these things as we move toward Christmas present.


Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn
Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a home owner. He brings new and old things out of his treasure store."

14 December 2009

25 Thoughts on “A Christmas Carol” – December 14th

Happy Christmas Dear Reader

“ 'Always a delicate creature, whom a breath might have withered,' said the Ghost. 'But she had a large heart.'
'So she had,' cried Scrooge. 'You're right. I will not gainsay it, Spirit. God forbid!'
'She died a woman,' said the Ghost, 'and had, as I think, children.'
'One child,' Scrooge returned.
'True,' said the Ghost. 'Your nephew.'”

How often the division and solitude in life begins with family. A schism develops. An argument ensues. Bitterness gets root over a loss of some kind. In short we make a choice to shut off a part of ourselves to someone who is honestly family. We turn our hearts away in a small or large way from a person we are commanded to love.

That choice can lead to such solitude of spirit that we reject completely those we are supposed to love and honor. The first hardening of a heart is always a choice. Some hurt or loss causes us to refuse to be tender to someone else. Even if they are in the wrong; do they not then need tenderness? Is it not an act of Christian charity to forgive them in the measure that we need forgiveness from our own transgressions?

Failure to forgive and love always leads to a portion of us becoming stony towards those around us. I have done this with others and it is so difficult to melt the ice we place in our hearts so willingly. Once the smallest bitterness has root then it is painful to uproot it and face that our attitude and actions have neither been gracious or charitable.

We develop a natural tendency toward shunning or being intentionally mean with regards to someone. We demonstrate our ill temper by being perfunctory or simply withholding genuine kindness toward the offending party and translating it to others that matter to them. Fred had done nothing to Scrooge but Ebenezer chose to withhold any feelings of family over the death of Fred’s mother, his sister.

Is not Christmas about peace on earth? Is it not God showing his good will toward men? What better then to uproot our own bitterness and show good will toward our family? This is our chance to treat our family with loving-kindness and begin a habit of kindness we can translate into a lifestyle.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn
Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a home owner. He brings new and old things out of his treasure store."

13 December 2009

25 Thoughts on “A Christmas Carol” – December 13th

Happy Christmas Dear Reader

‘ 'I wish,' Scrooge muttered, putting his hand in his pocket, and looking about him, after drying his eyes with his cuff: 'but it's too late now.'

'What is the matter?' asked the Spirit.

'Nothing,' said Scrooge. 'Nothing. There was a boy singing a Christmas Carol at my door last night. I should like to have given him something: that's all.'’

So often we see the pain of regret in moments lost when we could have been kind or generous but were not. It is important that we differentiate between guilt and regret. What is in our hands is ours to do with as we wish but then again it is not. Everything under our care is given to us to use for the greater good. To hoard or hold that which we are given, when giving it again would support that good is what causes regret in us.

How often have we passed a stranded motorist and wished we had stopped? How many times do we wait a moment too long in showing a simple kindness and the moment escapes us? We are the keepers of the kingdom, but the kingdom is not ours to keep. It is, rather, ours to give away. We hold onto things because we fear some kind of want or loss or because we are just greedy. Holding onto that which is not ours means that we have lost the opportunity to be proper stewards of what we are given.

With every encounter that we enter expecting the opportunity to give, there is no missed opportunity to give. If, however, we go about closed and solitary as our Mister Scrooge then we will seek or see little chance to give anything. So we find ourselves looking backward at the time past and wishing that we had done something, anything to impose generosity upon another.

Changing a hungry world into a satisfied one begins with looking for a single mouth to feed. Education of the world begins with grasping simple opportunities to teach an individual. We simply need to embrace the needs set before us. We only need to address the kindnesses we have opportunity to give. The boy singing at the keyhole is a chance to change the world. Seize it with such ferocity that it begins a quake of change.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn
Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a home owner. He brings new and old things out of his treasure store."

12 December 2009

25 Thoughts on “A Christmas Carol” – December 12th

Happy Christmas Dear Readers,

“'Oh! captive, bound, and double-ironed,' cried the phantom, 'not to know, that ages of incessant labour by immortal creatures, for this earth must pass into eternity before the good of which it is susceptible is all developed! Not to know that any Christian spirit working kindly in its little sphere, whatever it may be, will find its mortal life too short for its vast means of usefulness! Not to know that no space of regret can make amends for one life's opportunity misused! Yet such was I! Oh! such was I!'

'But you were always a good man of business, Jacob,' faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this to himself.

'Business!' cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. 'Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!'”

As we end our interview with Jacob Marley there are two points he makes that are eternal. The first is that life is too short for the “vast measure of usefulness” of a working Christian spirit. The time will most assuredly fly by if we are engaged in the work of caring for the things for which Christ cares. When we focus on following Christ and that alone the time does indeed seem short. It is when we labor at things for our own want and greed that time seems to stretch into and eternal endless treadmill.

Scrooge attempts to placate his dead friend by suggesting that he was a “good man of business.” Marley’s reply points to the misconception that lives within our culture today. We have lost the core notion that in all our business, mankind is our business. The common welfare, charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence are all the core of our business. Christ speaks that two commands are the greatest. The first is to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind. The second is to love our neighbor as our self. I would posit that if we are doing the former, we cannot help but do the latter.

It is our obligation to see the needs of others as what we must do for Christ. Marley in this last line points out the dealings of his trade were just a means to conduct his real business. How much wealth lies in the hands of Christ followers while people go hungry? How much of the common welfare could be supplied if Christ followers refused to hoard their wealth? We must be about the business of caring for those in need or our wealth does fetter us to a sluggish tread through time that leaves us without an true assurance that we are doing all we can for Christ. This burden then makes the mountains we must climb steeper and the valleys we go through deeper. It extends and stretches the time between our glimpses of that other world whose bourning we so desire. It makes the journey so very long.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn
Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a home owner. He brings new and old things out of his treasure store."

11 December 2009

25 Thoughts on “A Christmas Carol” – December 11th

Happy Christmas Dear Readers,

” 'Jacob,' he said, imploringly. ‘Old Jacob Marley, tell me more. Speak comfort to me, Jacob.'

'I have none to give,' the Ghost replied. 'It comes from other regions, Ebenezer Scrooge, and is conveyed by other ministers, to other kinds of men. Nor can I tell you what I would. A very little more is all permitted to me. I cannot rest, I cannot stay, I cannot linger anywhere. My spirit never walked beyond out counting-house-mark me!- in life my spirit never roved beyond the narrow limits of our money-changing hole; and weary journeys lie before me.'”

Scrooge who denies comfort to others by his greed and avarice begs it from his doomed friend. He shows not compassion for Jacob and his estate but in the rut of his own self containment begs his friend for comfort. There seems so little hope for our anti-hero in this moment. As his friend stands fettered, doomed, and in anguish, Scrooge can only consider his own future and still seeks only to serve his own interests.

In the midst of this self serving moment, however, lies the barest glimpse of hope. Mister Dickens gives it to us in a device that seems to be one of his favorites. For the first time in our story we are given a bit of information about Scrooge that we did not previously posses. In fact, if one is keen on the way in which Mister Dickens uses this device we could close the story here in certainty that all is well that ends well.

We of course will follow Scrooge’s journey to the end. We cannot leave him here in his nightshirt faced with only a weary ghost and not knowing how he turns out. So I will share the insight of hope Mister Dickens gives us and you may address it as you wish. In the midst of Scrooge’s self serving plea for comfort, Jacob responds by using for the first time in the tale, Scrooge’s given name; Ebenezer. Ebenezer means Stone of Help or Stone of Comfort. It is intriguing that the first time Mister Dickens gives us Scrooge’s first name is when he asks Marley for comfort.

Later in the tale the fact that this name refers to a stone is very important. But here, in the moment with Misters Marley and Scrooge we learn that at least the name of the man implies that he is a steady and strong source of help, encouragement, and comfort. Marley is saying to Ebenezer, “I have not comfort to give, Stone of Comfort.” We are left in the moment wondering if the miserly Mister Scrooge may truly be transformed into an Ebenezer.

As to Marley’s opinion on the matter, it is clear that comfort is conveyed to “other kinds of men.” Perhaps we must be vigilant that we are the kind of men that other ministers deliver comfort to because we have delivered it to others. For now though, hold only a name in hope for our wanting miser. Then again, we also only have a name in which to hope.
Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn
Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a home owner. He brings new and old things out of his treasure store."

10 December 2009

25 Thoughts on “A Christmas Carol” – December 10th

Happy Christmas Dear Readers,

“'You are fettered,' said Scrooge, trembling. ‘Tell me why?'

'I wear the chain I forged in life,' replied the Ghost. 'I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it. Is irs pattern strange to you?'

Scrooge trembled more and more.

'Or would you know,' pursued the Ghost, 'the weight and length of the strong coil you bear yourself? It was full as heavy and as long as this, seven Christmas Eves ago. You have laboured on it, since. It is a ponderous chain!'”

Ultimately, the burdens we carry through life and retain in death are of our own choosing. We are bitter because we choose to be. We divorce our spouses because we are hard hearted and refuse to believe that God will honor us if we keep our vows. We lie because we fear the truth or seek gain through our deception. We are greedy because we do not believe that Christ will truly provide for us.

If we centered that which we forge in our lives upon Christ then our burdens would evaporate. What chains do we forge unseen upon our hearts and our spirits? What burdens do we carry that could be set aside were we to just lay them at Christ’s feet? I would know the “weight and length of the strong coil” I bear but I fear it would kill me. Instead I focus on forging a chain that is fettered to the gospel. I seek to make links of kindness, love, and grace to which I fastened myself when I accepted Christ and his cross.

I fail at this and sometimes forge chains that are ones I would rather not bear. Oh that it were so easy to see when we add to and take away from out burdens. Since it is not we can only assure that we lighten our load by fixing out hearts and hopes upon Christ and following him in every moment.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn
Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a home owner. He brings new and old things out of his treasure store."

09 December 2009

25 Thoughts on “A Christmas Carol” – December 9th

“’Man of the worldly mind, do you believe in me or not?’
'I do,' said Scrooge. 'I must. But why do spirits walk the earth, and why do they come to me?'
'It is required of every man,' the Ghost returned, 'that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellow-men, and travel far and wide; and if that spirit goes not forth in life, it is condemned to do so after death. It is doomed to wander through the world-oh, woe is me!-and witness what it cannot share, but might have shared on earth, and turned to happiness.'”

Do we see truly others in the state in which they reside? Does our spirit walk about reaching out to the spirits of others? Do we instead carry our pains and hurts like Marley’s cash boxes fettering us to a solitariness that hinders our ability to share our richness in Christ. Do we ignore opportunities to turn pain to happiness?

While the theology here is flawed the point is spot on the mark. Our spirit is intended to go abroad and show to others the richness that can be realized in Christ while we walk the mortal world. We have a continuing opportunity to follow Christ alone in our generosity, kindness, love, and grace. We can choose to daily show these qualities to others and truly turn other lives to happiness. Our spirits, yielded to Christ in generosity and kindness can warm others to the truth we have to share.

Focusing on this adamant of heart and spirit also leaves us little time to complain and pity our own seeming lack of substance or stature. There is nothing we need that Christ will not provide for us if we follow him. We can leave behind the concern for our own needs and wants and invest ourselves in the nurture and care of others. Doing this guarantees that Christ is free to in turn nurture us. I can think of nothing better than our focus on those who need the affection of our generous spirit resulting in the sharpening of Christ’s focus on our own needs.

My spirit will go abroad to others no matter what state I am in personally. Come walk with me if you wish.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn
Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a home owner. He brings new and old things out of his treasure store."

08 December 2009

25 Thoughts on “A Christmas Carol” – December 8th

Happy Christmas Dear Readers,

“The owner of one scant young nose, gnawed and mumbled by the hungry cold as bones are gnawed by dogs, stooped down at Scrooge's keyhole to regale him with a Christmas carol: but at the first sound of 'God bless you, merry gentleman. May nothing you dismay!' Scrooge seized the ruler with such energy of action, that the singer fled in terror, leaving the keyhole to the fog and even more congenial frost.”

I sing Christmas carols all the time as I shop, work, or putter around the house. I have often been joined in my humming a Christmas tune in the checkout line at the grocer’s. The music of the season, especially the song mentioned above floats through me like a steady stream of good humor and love for those around me.

I have, on a few occasions been scolded for singing Christmas hymns. I have heard accusations that I am “forcing my religion” on people. Mostly this comes from people who would demand that I be tolerant and accepting of views differing from mine while they condemn my views. What is it in us that causes us to resent the celebration of others? How is it that we are not satisfied with our own misery but must visit it loudly on others?

Earlier on Dickens tells us that Scrooge is “secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster.” That would seem to be opposite to his insistence that those who celebrate and make merry should somehow be punished for their merriment. But do we not do the same. We hear the good feelings of others and their expressed joy and do our level best to dampen their good spirits if we do not share them. It is so easy to see our own miseries and use them to diminish the joy of others.

We could instead choose to share in the joy others feel and so for a space forget about our own troubles. I have often found that if I celebrate that which cheers another’s heart them my heart is also warm. Rejoicing in the happiness of friends helps my heart to strike a more generous fire. Perhaps that is the very thing that it is intended to do for me.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn

07 December 2009

25 Thoughts on “A Christmas Carol” – December 7th

Happy Christmas Dear Readers,

“'I wish to be left alone,' said Scrooge. ’since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer. I don't make merry myself at Christmas and I can't afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned-they cost enough; and those who are badly off must go there.'
'Many can't go there; and many would rather die.'
'If they would rather die,' said Scrooge, 'they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.’”

Scrooge is willing for others to die to protect his hard and solitary world. I wonder if we do not do the same with much more subtlety or ignorance. Each time we avert our eyes from the Salvation Army Kettle or ignore the homeless person looking for a meal we are doing the same. Who are we to put anything above the needs of our fellow man?

We do live in a world where humans created by God are viewed as “surplus population.” People are killed daily in the name of convenience. In Brazil’s large cities they hunt and kill homeless children and the government condones it privately for the sake of tourism. Genocide goes unchecked in countries whose names we cannot pronounce. Abortion clinics turn a profit as women decrease their private surplus population in the name of convenience.

We would never admit to this horrible attitude so we use euphemisms to keep the language to our liking. We cluck our tongues at large scale inhumanity while secretly being thankful that it is happening a on other continents or at least away from us. We all know people in need. We all can make a difference even if it is only minor. We cannot afford to continue to deceive ourselves into thinking that the responsibility lies with someone else.

Perhaps we need to ponder what our true duty is and realize what a selfish sentiment it is when we “wish to be left alone.” We are not self contained or solitary even if we profess to be so. No one is truly independent of others. Every man’s hunger, hurt, and need is my hunger, hurt, or need as well. “Every man’s death diminishes me” and I should take little comfort in the existence of social charities as I do not have the right to pawn off my obligations on them. Do we dare just drop a few pennies in the red kettle and continue on our way unchanged?

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn
Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a home owner. He brings new and old things out of his treasure store."

06 December 2009

25 Thoughts on “A Christmas Carol” – December 6th

Happy Christmas Dear Readers,

“'At this festive season of the year, Mister Scrooge,' said the gentleman, taking up a pen, 'it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the Poor and destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir.'
'Are there no prisons?' asked Scrooge.
'Plenty of prisons,' said the gentleman, laying down the pen again.
'And the Union workhouses.' demanded Scrooge. 'Are they still in operation?'
'They are. Still,' returned the gentleman,' I wish I could say they were not.'
'The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour, then?' said Scrooge.
'Both very busy, sir.'
'Oh. I was afraid, from what you said at first, that something had occurred to stop them in their useful course,' said Scrooge. 'I'm very glad to hear it.'”

What would I give up to make others’ burdens less? I have stood on both sides of the giving; being giver and receiver. One of my foremost areas of pride can be in allowing others to give to me. I have been homeless briefly. I have been poor and rich. Both are very burdensome though I think that most of us would willingly suffer the later rather than the former.

In much of the world today is celebrated as Saint Nicholas Day. He was a bishop who gave to the extent that his giving became legendary and evolved into what is our modern day Santa Clause. His efforts were to bring sustenance and joy to children in need. He knew that those who follow Christ were responsible for the social welfare of those in their community. A friend of mine recently posited that counting on government to do the work commissioned to Christ followers is like giving the master work of craftsmen over to an apprentice.

I wonder if we count on the government welfare systems to provide for the poor to the extent that we avoid personal involvement in caring for the needs of our fellow man. Do we console the tugs of our conscience when we encounter those in need by reminding ourselves of the professional organizations that address want and need? Even when organizations devoted to social welfare do their work well, it does not relieve us of the burden to be personally involved.

I am responsible for my fellow man. I am my brother’s keeper. Every man’s death diminishes me. If a family is hungry and I turn my face away then I starve my own spirit. If I see the homeless and do nothing to help, then I am moving into my own unsheltered wilderness. You get my point. To turn away from the needs of others, believing that someone will help is to spurn the very Spirit of Christ that is to go abroad in all of us.

Scrooge used the existence of social welfare to justify his refusal to aide others and enhance his self containment. If we truly wish to make a difference we must avoid the same behavior. There are shelters and there are refuges. The Salvation Army is in full seasonal march serving up “salvation ala mode and a cup of tea.” I would they were not necessary. The only way that can ever be true is if everyone who claims to follow Christ did their best to infuse true help into the lives of those who need it.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn
Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a home owner. He brings new and old things out of his treasure store."

05 December 2009

25 Thoughts on “A Christmas Carol” – December 5th

Happy Christmas Dear Readers,

“If I could work my will,' said Scrooge indignantly, 'every idiot who goes about with 'Merry Christmas' on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart!'”

How strongly Scrooge despises those who dare to be merry in the midst of his miserly misery. He rather creative torture for those who dare to wish others Merry Christmas is not really that far from the culture of our current society. We are urged to deliver “Happy Holidays” or “Seasons Greetings” so as to adhere to the proper political climate. I have actually been berated for wishing others a “Merry Christmas.”

I wonder what it would do to the world if Christ followers were to as one determine that they would deliver heartfelt Christmas wishes to everyone and live the spirit to support the wishes. What of the other alternative. As it becomes unpopular to say “Merry Christmas” will we water down the wish for others to celebrate the advent of Christ to appear that we fit into a more neutral society. Are we willing to be the lone voice in the mall asking from the heart for others to remember who it is that gives us cause to celebrate?

I also ponder if we would shrink away from wishing the joys of Christmas to others were it to really cost us our lives. Were we to face death by boiling or being staked in the heart, would we still proclaim the advent of Christ to others? It costs us nothing to be Christian now, but what if the world were different? Whose will would work in us then? Would we still go about with “Merry Christmas” on our lips? I hope I would. - Merry Christmas and God save you.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn
Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a home owner. He brings new and old things out of his treasure store."

04 December 2009

25 Thoughts on “A Christmas Carol” – December 4th

Happy Christmas Dear Readers,

“'A merry Christmas, uncle! God save you!' cried a cheerful voice. It was the voice of Scrooge's nephew, who came upon him so quickly that this was the first intimation he had of his approach.
'Bah!' said Scrooge, 'Humbug!'
He had so heated himself with rapid walking in the fog and frost, this nephew of Scrooge's, that he was all in a glow; his face was ruddy and handsome; his eyes sparkled, and his breath smoked again.
'Christmas a humbug, uncle!' said Scrooge's nephew. 'You don't mean that, I am sure?'
'I do,' said Scrooge. 'Merry Christmas! What right have you to be merry? What reason have you to be merry? You're poor enough.'”

Fred is an amazing example of grace and forbearance. He is determined to be kind to Scrooge no matter what Scrooge’s attitude. It is Fred’s intent that Scrooge be saved. He draws from Scrooge a statement of his true feelings. Scrooge equates merriment with the possession of wealth. As Fred later points out this is a contradiction as Scrooge is wealthy and not merry at all.

So though Scrooge is trustworthy in matters of business (as we have seen earlier), he is at least deceiving himself in matters of true happiness. So often we equate our own happiness with what we posses, want, or think we need. So much of our self image and worth can become tied up in what we own.

This false self causes us to put the gathering of things ahead of the giving of good will, love, and compassion to others. Do we truly wish for others to go into debt to live up to the pretense of gift giving? Why can our merriment not be based on what our hearts posses in good will to others? What is the possible joy if we invest our energies into mankind instead of into clothing, gadgets, and rich food?

I am not saying that giving gifts to our friends and family is wrong. I am saying that we need to focus on giving much more of ourselves and not on material things. Our joy must come from what Christmas is over what we get or buy for others. We can raise the level of everyone’s spirits by infusing into their lives a genuine wish for them to have the best that Christmas has to offer…the joy that is Christ.

Too often we equate material security with happiness. It is too easy, like Scrooge, to question the satisfaction of others because we lack our own serenity. Perhaps as the season builds we can all go about wishing others a proper “Merry Christmas” in the hopes that God will save those to whom we wish it.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn
Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a home owner. He brings new and old things out of his treasure store."

03 December 2009

25 Thoughts on “A Christmas Carol” – December 3rd

Happy Christmas Dear Readers,

“The door of Scrooge's counting-house was open that he might keep his eye upon his clerk, who in a dismal little cell beyond, a sort of tank was copying letters. Scrooge had a very small fire, but the clerk's fire was so very much smaller that it looked like one coal. But he couldn't replenish it, for Scrooge kept the coal-box in his own room; and so surely as the clerk came in with the shovel, the master predicted that it would be necessary for them to part. Wherefore the clerk put on his white comforter, and tried to warm himself at the candle; in which effort, not being a man of a strong imagination, he failed.”

How often do we see those in want or need every day but do not act? Scrooge’s actions are by design and with intent, but those done out of ignorance and want are no less harmful or wrong. It is not enough to say we did not know someone had a need. Should we not be constantly looking out for the needs of others? Should we not be aware of the things that trouble those around; wanting the opportunity to assist when we can?

Every day we are in proximity to need whether it is emotional, mental, or physical. We have the power every day to make others lives richer and we need only reach out our hearts to do it. What is the real cost to us to be cheerful to our coworkers? There are clerks we encounter daily or weekly who need a kind word and a smile. If we begin this Christmas season by developing the habit of kindness to others, perhaps it will endure long after the tree is taken down and Aunt Martha’s over sized sweater is buried deep in the closet.

Perhaps we can begin a habit of kindness to others today and hold fast throughout the year. Christmas by it very nature is a celebration of God being kind to us when we neither deserved it nor truly wanted it. If God would go so far to bring us so much should not at least attempt to be kind to other on his behalf?

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn
Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a home owner. He brings new and old things out of his treasure store."

02 December 2009

25 Thoughts on “A Christmas Carol” – December 2nd

Happy Christmas Dear Readers,

“Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge. A squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster. The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shriveled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyes red, his thin lips blue; and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice. A frosty rime was on his head, and on his eyebrows, and his wiry chin. He carried his own low temperature always about with him; he iced his office in the dog-days; and didn't thaw it one degree at Christmas”.

Miserly or not, we all know someone who is cold or dower. We all know someone who carries “his own low temperature always with him.” I would ask what we are doing to thaw him or her. Do we really see those soured on life as an opportunity to thaw a frozen heart? If for no other reason than to make our own world more pleasant, we can be the ones who reach into the flint hearts of others to help strike a generous fire in them.

We do, however, have many others reasons to soften the hearts of others. The primary reason should be the reclamation of that individual from his own pain and torment. No one so bent on keeping out the warmth of friendship and love can be at peace within himself. Secondary but no less important is the good it does us to be aware of the needs of others for it works within us to make us more aware of our own hard heartedness.

So far in our story, Marley is dead and Scrooge is at least greedy and antisocial in addition being cold. What we can always do is express kindness and warmth without expectation of return. If we always leave an open door then those who begin to thaw in their hearts will know that our door is open. An act of kindness is never wasted as it does us good to do it.

We also place great potential for Christ to work in the hearts of others when they see us showing loving-kindness in humility and grace. As we begin our walk with Dickens it is important to understand that this tale wishes for all of us to see the potential in the pre-ghost Scrooges of the world. We may never know the thawing impact of common kindness on a frozen flint heart. We can know though that we offered that kindness and did so with the fire of generous love in our hearts.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn

01 December 2009

25 Thoughts on “A Christmas Carol” – December 1st

Happy Christmas Dear Readers,

“Marley was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it. And Scrooge's name was good upon 'Change, for anything he chose to put his hand to.”

I have often noticed that the thing that gets the most attention from this opening paragraph is that Marley is dead. Dickens makes it quite clear that the importance of Marley being dead is that if he is not then “nothing wonderful can come from” this tale. So the belaboring of the point that Marley is dead makes great sense. I would like, if I may, to point out that there is another thought in this paragraph that is very important.

Reread the paragraph, but especially the last sentence. Almost as a throw away comment, Dickens points out that our “covetous old sinner” is also an honest man. We will later see how greedy, miserly, mean, and hard-hearted Ebenezer Scrooge was. For now though I wish to ponder his honesty. If he truly is a man of his word then Mister Dickens gives us hope in the very first paragraph. We begin the tale knowing that there is hope.

What is Advent if not the Father calling down to us that there is hope? There is a chance that our reclamation is possible. We the covetous sinners are given hope through the incarnation of God in Christ. It is our redemption that is the purpose of the divine taking on the mortal. God made us and journeyed to us when we ran from him. All of this; the birth, the magi, the ghosts, and the story are centered on a single issue. If we honestly look at the world around us we realize that from the womb, we are dead to begin with, and that God has gone and is going to great lengths to bring us back to life.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn
Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a home owner. He brings new and old things out of his treasure store."

29 November 2009

25 Thoughts on “A Christmas Carol” – Introduction

Happy Christmas Dear Readers,

For years I have been in love with the Dickens classic “A Christmas Carol.” As both a personal devotional and a writing exercise I will attempt to do some unpacking of the metaphors and lessons in the story. My purpose here is to delve into a deeper understanding of Mister Dickens’ understanding and view of redemption.

Advent is the appearance of Christ on earth for the purpose of our reclamation to himself. The God who made us took on our form to purchase us back from our self-imposed slavery and death. I do not know how long Dickens expected this story to endure but it has generated plays, variations on the tale, and over forty movies.

I will be drawing from the 1843 text and interacting only with Dickens’ own words. My hope is to discover new ways to make “mankind my business” in the light of my passion to follow Christ. The lesson of this dark, enlightening tale will hopefully lead me into a deeper love of both Christ and my fellow man. I invite you to journey with me as we look deeper into the images, themes, and metaphors of this timeless tale.

I think that we should begin with the end in mind. This is a story of redemption. Ebenezer Scrooge is reclaimed and finds that which is most precious about Christmas. We can all benefit from a deeper look into the heart of one of literature’s most remarkable Christmas stories. Hopefully as we do, God will bless us, every one.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn
Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a home owner. He brings new and old things out of his treasure store."

23 November 2009

Ringing and Singing

Greetings Dear Readers,

Beginning this Friday, Black Friday, one of my favorite parts of the Christmas season will be upon us. After a lovely Thanksgiving dinner with my children, some of us will get up early on Friday and make our way to a local retail store. We will spend two hours outside ringing bells, singing Christmas carols, and collecting donations for the Salvation Army. It amazes me how much good this organization does for the homeless, the poor, and those who need spiritual shelter as well.

Those kettles and the bell ringers are the front line of an effort that goes on all year long to ensure that the neediest in our cities benefit from those who can afford to shop and buy and give. I know that I do not have as vast a pool of readers as I wish I had but I would ask all of you to consider volunteering for just one shift of bell ringing.

Each year there are shifts that are not filled. That means that the kettle is not out, people are not reminded to give, and there is less to help those who do not have. By making this a family event I get fun time with those I love and we get to live out what we believe for the sake of others. It is so simple to sign up on line at http://www.ringbells.org/ .

I am asking my readers this year to make an effort to find time to ring bells and make a difference in the lives of those who need help. It is easy, fun, and I promise you will be glad you did it. If you choose to I would love to hear of your adventure in bell ringing.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn

20 November 2009

Missing the Moments

Greetings Dear Readers

I think that I have always had a problem with anger. When I was very young I was very angry. Most of my early adolescence is an angry blur. It is only recently I have begun to see my anger in its proper light. Moments where my sons needed gentleness were met with anger; not always but often enough that they struggle with the same thing. I always think I have a right to my anger, but I do not. That is selfish and hypocritical thinking.

Anger has a place but it is limited and bound by other mandates. I can be angry but I must not sin. I have no right to hold onto my anger. I must forgive and move on to what is next. I recently saw an ugly picture of how my anger steals moments that are opportunities to be humble and more Christ centered. I was cooking something new. I was failing and I allowed my pride and anger to ruin an opportunity to deal with the anger in a reassuring and kind way.

Very often my eldest Son thinks I am angry when I am not, but perhaps the years of not properly reining in my anger give me an angry face when I do not feel that way. Christ calls us to love, grace, gentleness, and peace. My indulgence of anger gets in the way of this. I find that if I am quieter I become less angry. I find that if I let things roll by me I do not get as emotionally invested in them. The point is that anger is not mine to keep and I must choose more closely when I will take it up as a cause.

I am becoming keenly aware that I have fewer moments each day. I want many more of them filled with focusing on Christ than I do filled with focusing on anger. I want to be kinder, gentler, humbler, and show my children the love I feel for them in the depth of my being. I want to be an example of patience and understanding to the young men who should be able to look to me for such things. I do not want to miss any more moments that could be beautiful because I choose to hold onto anger.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn

16 November 2009

Broken but not Defeated

Greetings Dear Readers,

How often do we give up when things look grim? We imagine the worst outcomes and react to them instead of seeing the possibilities. Last Saturday, my daughter Christmas and I were driving home when we saw a hawk in the middle of the road eating a squirrel it had taken. It refused to move from its prey even in the face of cars zooming by on both sides.

Thinking this behavior unusual we turned around to see what the hawk would do. As we approached again, the large bird moved from the center of the road to the side. We pulled over and watched. The creature was injured. Its leg was broken. It waited on the curb, gathering its strength. Then as we moved closer it spread its wings and moved to the tree beside the road.

Two things were clear. The bird was obviously hurt and it was determined to go on. We captured several pictures of the bird and I was amazed at its tenacity in the face of moral danger. Though injured, the hawk was not leaving without its dinner.

So often I have faced things with this ferocity; determined to hang on to the wrong things. In the end I knew that the hawk was safe and it was obvious that though injured it could manage. I am not sure whether it is better to hang on or let go in some situations. Ultimately the choice becomes right or wrong by only one measure: Have I followed Christ in my choice?

If I let go of something to follow Christ then it was meant that I should let go. If I hang on because I am waiting on Christ then it was meant that I should hang on and wait. What matters is becoming so used to following Christ that I do not think about hanging on or letting go, I think about following Christ.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn

10 November 2009

I am NOT Holding On

Greetings Dear Readers,

Over the last couple of years many well meaning people have told me to:
“Keep going”
“Hang in there”
“Hold on”

Fortunately I do not have to hold on to the one thing that matters. He is holding on to me. I have developed a new curse word in the last couple of weeks:”Bob Dylan.” It is a vague reference to one of his songs. I am in that place where I am weary of the upheavals just when I feel I am getting my bearings.

None of this is a complaint because it keeps me focused on the core. Christ is the eye of the storm and as long as he has me in his hand I am safe. None of that holds out the barbs, pain, lurkers, and ghosts.

Too often I see tissue paper faith that has little substance and no style. The one thing that is a surity is that my faith has been tested. Every area of my life is in flux in some way. I took one of those depression inventories where a score of 100 is danger of clinical depression. I was an 850 heading toward 1100. I think the computer wanted to dispense haldol to me in large doses. I said no.

My point in all this semi-mad raving is that I am not holding on, as I have little left to hold on to at this time. So the next step in my journey toward a purer faith is the realization that grasping at anything is like trying to hold the wind. The bright spot is that Christ will hold me. No matter what the situation I am the one to be dependant not independent. So if you see me stomping my foot and crying at the heavens, do not think I have lost it.

You will find me where I have always been, between the world of men and make believe. I will take my old post at the door. I would rather be a door keep – more on that later.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn

Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a home owner. He brings new and old things out of his treasure store."

05 November 2009

Flu Shots for Cats

Greetings Dear Readers,

Sometimes I hit the “I have had enough” button. Today is one of those times. People, humans, are dying from H1N1. People are starving. Soon homeless humans will freeze to death over the winter. Does any of that keep our public media from leading with a story about a cat that gets the swine flu? Not a bit.

How much money was spent to product this story? Who gets paid to do this story? Have we really gone that far around the bend when it comes to priorities? All over the country we have become a people who spend between $300 and $1000 yearly to feed a pet. Some people spend money on expensive surgeries, pet day care, and pet psychologists adding thousands of dollars to the yearly bill.

How can we in good conscience spend $34 BILLION dollars on pets when we allow a single person to die from lack of medical coverage? Pets are a luxury. People are our God given responsibility. “Every man’s death diminishes me.” Hunger, medical care, poverty, and social justice could truly benefit from the monies spent on pet play lands and doggie shows.

As we enter the Christmas season earlier than ever, I would remind everyone of the words penned by Dickens and spoken by the Ghost of Christmas Present, “Mankind was your business.”

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn

03 November 2009

The Boys of Summer

Greetings Dear Readers,

I am enjoying the World Series. I would enjoy it more if it were the Braves and the Red Sox. Can anyone tell me why? That is another tale though. It is important to me this game of baseball. It has been since I was a small boy. From games watched in Atlanta stadium with my Grandfather, to listening on my Sinclair Oil transistor radio on my lonely front porch, to watching with my sons when they are both boys and adults.

I cannot watch a baseball movie without crying. Deep within my soul is a place where the boy, the teen, and the man in me meet. By week’s end the hoopla of this World Series will end and the baseball season will move into a long silent winter. Other sports have found ways to stretch the season but baseball truly hibernates. This winter seems one of discontent. I move into it both more centered and lonelier than I have felt in many years.

I see fissures on the horizon that I do not know how to navigate. The holidays are more uncertain and I am more determined to celebrate them properly. Currently the Phillies trail the Yanks 3 games to 2. Game six will be played in New York. I will do as a I do every year and watch For Love of the Game when the series is over. Then, like baseball I will enter the long dark winter, waiting for the thaw that brings back the energy of boys and men.

Much will go by in the world before the infields are groomed. I will be half a century old before my pastor offers his public hope for the Cubs again. April will come and all over the country home plate umpires will point at pitchers and yell, “Play Ball.” Until then I must walk the winter and ponder what it is about men playing a boy’s game the reaches so deep into my soul. I will ponder why it forces so much emotion to the surface and see how I can better connect to Christ through this feeling.

Soon the snow flies and the winter oasis of Christmas will distract me from the absence of baseball. But today, on the cusp of change I feel impending loss. It is neither logical nor rational, but it is there and real. In my life it is the bottom of the fifth inning and the game is official.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn

Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a home owner. He brings new and old things out of his treasure store."

27 October 2009

Empty Moments

Greetings Dear Readers,

I try to be real here. Sometimes I feel that I may be seen as just complaining or whining. My intent is to share what goes on with me in hopes of being of aide to others. There was a beautiful rainbow in the sky yesterday as I came out of dinner with my children. Bezel spotted it first. He made sure I saw it and we marveled at the fleeting moments of colourful beauty.

Inside a small voice reminded me of the sharp and searing pain I still carry over the loss of Avalon. She and I always had time to marvel at rainbows together. We both bear the memory of a particularly vivid triple one witnessed on a Friday drive from Chicago to Madison. One of the continuing raw spots of divorce is the tainting of beautiful memories by the treachery of the one who left.

I refuse to lose the beauty of those moments. That rainbow back then was just as miraculous and amazing. They may be empty of her, but the moments are not empty. They are filled with a renewed understanding of how Christ can fill every void. Avalon’s presence added to its beauty as her wonder at things always enriches me. There is, however, still a corner in my smile and it Cheshire fades prematurely with her gone. Still, when I see a rainbow it gives me the chance to appreciate her and the Maker of Rainbows who allowed us to share a beautiful romantic moment during a mundane drive.

The moments that are empty of Avalon are still filled with her unique way of viewing the world. I hope I can always embrace those and refrain from embracing bitterness or anger.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn
Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a home owner. He brings new and old things out of his treasure store."

25 October 2009

Empty Chairs

Greetings Dear Readers

This morning as I was writing in another venue, I realized that some things have slipped into the past that I truly miss. As I sit here drawing on my pipe and musing on the encroaching winter, I wonder what God’s purpose in some of my wilderness time is. I feel a deep loneliness for some things that I often do not ponder.

Today I miss sitting in church with my oldest son as if I were losing a limb or someone had died. I have noticed of late that I look for him during the sermon, remembering how he used to get so intense about what was being said. Even when he was a small boy he knew that what came from the teaching pastor could be used to draw him closer to Christ.

His thoughts on church have changed. His walk with Christ is strong buy I rarely get to be in church with him. It is ironic as I attend a church that he asked me to go to with him. My longing is not for him in a spiritual way, but as a father who loves his son and benefits from his insights. I know that going to church is not the measure of your heart toward Christ, but today I feel and intense loneliness for the closeness he and I shared over this event.

My failures in life and his growth have lessened the time we share in this practice. With more Sundays behind me than ahead of me, I just feel that today’s would be much more beautiful with a conversation about the sermon with my son. Fathers I urge you to invest the time in your children now. Sooner that one can imagine, sons become men with families of their own. The void left when they grow up is vast and hungry, even when it is natural and the result them just becoming adults.

For today, I will look at the empty chair and remember the beautiful boy scribbling in my Bible and telling me what the pastor means. For today I will remember standing in the pulpit and him running up during the sermon to tell me he wanted to help. For today I will recall him reaching out to lost teen agers when he was only eight so that they could have what he had.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn

20 October 2009

The Long Dark

Greetings Dear Readers,

I love the Lord of the Rings movies, based on the Tolkien novels. I have loved the books since I was a young boy. One of my favorite moments is when Gandalf resigns himself to the traveling through the Mines of Moria. His simple statement is so foreboding; “And now, to the long dark.”

Facing the long dark is always daunting. I feel like I have been walking in the long dark and I can just see the first light up ahead in the long tunnel I travel. The thing is that Gandalf brings his own light with him and so have I. One of the things I have learned most clearly is that we carry the Light, Christ with us whenever we are in the dark. My problem is I forget He is there. I see the wilderness, the darkness, or the treacherous terrain instead of focusing on Christ and his warm, safe, guidance.

I can see the light ahead, but more importantly, the long dark, though filled with denizens and danger, has not been all that dark. Christ has been there every moment patiently showing me the next step along the way. What I must not fail to do is realize that there is a vital truth to carry into the bright sunlight as I exit the darkness. The light that I carry is to be my guide even in the warm sunlight. The Light, Christ shines far brighter and I must not depend on the light around me but rather on Christ and his guidance. As the Crusader’s Hymn reminds us, “Jesus shines fairer, Jesus shines brighter.” I must not fail to follow the light of Christ even though I think I am out of the darkness.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn

12 October 2009

How is that Following Christ?

Greetings Dear Readers,

So I had to make my way across town for something yesterday. Most of the journey was highway driving and the traffic was light. The cool sunny morning offered clear visibility and easy driving. All this should make for a pleasant journey to church. It should unless I get in my own way.

First there was the guy in the SUV. He tailgated me when there was no other traffic around us. He passed me and then pulled in front of me and slowed down. So I thought all my terrible thoughts and sped off around him.

Then there was the guy who merged right on top of me. Does anyone in this city know how to merge? What a jerk….Ah there it is. In haste to keep my place in my lane on my trip to church I had forgotten whose I was, who owned the world, and what my attitude should be in regard to all of this.

Following Christ for me is not just the big picture of salvation and a faith based life. It is making sure that I treat everyone as Christ would treat them. It is being nice to my waitress. It is forgiving the guy who cut me off because I cut people off sometimes too. It is the fact that the road, the car, and the drive all belong to Christ as much as anything else in my life.

I have no right to my anger, my pride, and my place on the road. Anything that I view as mine is my way of saying that it does not belong to Christ. Any time I assert my “rights” I am forgetting the grace that has been shown to me and that I in turn need to show to others. There are laws and they should be obeyed, but I am neither the law giver nor the enforcer. I am just a traveler on my way to God and my only hope is keeping focused on my guide, Christ.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn

08 October 2009

When Where How

Greetings Dear Readers,

A couple of weeks ago I shared my thoughts on how we are all a part of the story God is writing. I want to take some time to discuss just how we are a part of that story. You see, in my journey toward God (a journey I believe we all share), I find that I often forget that my readers do not know exactly what I believe.

I am going to lay out what I believe simply and hopefully succinctly. This may surprise some of you and for others it will just be a review. We already know who the “who” is in my faith. It is Jesus of Nazareth, the anointed Son of God. That is a lot of title and name but I am trying not to oversimplify in my simplicity.

You see God gave us an existence that was simple and good. We chose to break the peace in our relationship with him by thinking that we knew what was good for us outside of his stated ideal for us. When we did this we created a problem for not only ourselves but the entire world. God’s response to our rejection is to show us more love. Here is the when, where, and how of his demonstration of that love.

Once he saw that we were determined to be at enmity with him, he chose a family through whom he would build up a nation and through that nation and family he would enter into time and the world. He would allow us to kill him as the only needed payment to redeem us back to himself and he would ask us to follow him in faith.

The specifics, and realize there is much more than this, are that Jesus being full God took on the flesh of men so that he could be killed for our sins. It really is that simple and that complex. We put our faith in that and follow Christ so that we can be restored to a right relationship to God.

Most of the other things that Christ followers talk about are secondary to this discussion. No matter what specifics your faith holds, I leave you with the question of what you will do with this man Jesus. He is the beginning and the completion of my faith.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn
Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a home owner. He brings new and old things out of his treasure store."

05 October 2009

When my Faith is Idolatry

Greetings Dear Readers,

Please forgive my absence last week, I was working on a new writing venue that required all my writing time. I am writing for an online publication called the Examiner (www.examiner.com ). I will get blogging back into my cycle this week as I need the accountability.

I was challenged to go deeper this past week on my understanding of what idolatry is. Who is Christ? What image do you summon in your mind when someone mentions Jesus? Is it the Jesus who reached out to the poor and healed the sick?

I try most of the time to see the humble and obedient God who created us, loves us, and when it was time, died for us to buy us back to himself. Often, however, I find that I see Christ as less than this. I remake my image of Christ into the thing I need in the moment. I forget with whom I am dealing and use Jesus as my ATM for my needs or my personal weather consultant. On other occasions, much more serious, I remake my internal image of Christ into the buddy I count on to justify my own selfish behavior.

Too often I remake Christ into the image that I need in the moment, transforming my faith into idolatry. My intentions may even be good, but I forget with whom I am dealing. How can I be a serious follower of Christ when I transform him into that which I wish to follow instead following who he really is?
My journey is painful of late. Yet in the midst of it, as I find new bits of myself to discard I see new facets of Christ to love and embrace. If what I believe and practice has any purpose other than follow Christ more closely, it is me reforming Christ and not being reformed.

The results of remembering to see Christ as he is are wonderful. He is always there ready to forgive my idolatry, remind me of his love, and give me direction by gently whispering, “Follow me, we have a little farther to go yet.”

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn

22 September 2009

Who What Why

Greetings Dear Readers,

As a writer, I am reminded constantly how important every step of the writing to publishing process is. It is not enough that I have conceived of and written a tale. It must be revised, edited (by my amazing editor RJ), and constantly perfected. Eventually you reach a stopping place and pull the trigger on publication. The work is never truly perfect. There are missed errors. There exist disagreements about how grammar is structured. No matter how much your perfect your writing there is always room for improvement.

As an author the story is mine. The characters in my stories have much to say to me about what they wish to become as their story unfolds, but that is not up to them. It is in my control. I listen to my characters. Sometimes one of them will wake me up in the middle of the night with an idea as to how I should help him out of a jam. One who is slated for death is trying to bargain his way out of it. Ultimately though, I must choose the fate of each of them. A secondary character in The Foster Father of God had much more to say, so the was given his own novel The Praetor. Another charter wanted to say more but what he had to say was not fit for my readers so I silenced him. In fact I killed him in both The Praetor and in Chronicles of Thanatos the Reaper.

Once the book is published, people will invariably show me the errors in my completed work. I am the author and I am the perfecter but in both of those roles, I am imperfect. In pondering this each day that I write, I realize that I must treat all of my characters with respect. They are all my creations and I am responsible for them and their well being. So as a pilgrim who is responsible for the creation of me? Who is my author and what is my place in the story? The simple Sunday school answer is the best one. It is Jesus.

The author of the book of Hebrews begins to conclude his letter with an admonition that we “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.” In the story of ME, it is Jesus who is the author, editor, perfecter, and publisher. I am simply a character in his story who stands around telling him how to write, when instead I should be excitedly playing out the part he has created just for me. Not only did he create this part of the story for me, but he in a way no other has, suffered for his art. The author of Hebrews continues, “ (Jesus) who for the joy set before him endured the cross.”

Another translation, God’s Word says it this way, “We must focus on Jesus, the source and goal of our faith. He saw the joy ahead of him, so he endured death on the cross and ignored the disgrace it brought him.” In every writing there exist simple questions that must be answered. In this case we get the who, what, and why. The who is Jesus, the what is that he is both the author (creator) of our faith and the perfecter and goal of it. The why is that he died for the sheer joy of what lie ahead for him. That thing that lies ahead is the completion of our faith in our eventual summation of our relationship to and reconciliation with him.

I am far from perfected and hope to public let you watch Christ perfect me so that you can find some short cuts to your own reclamation. So I write, edit, and perfect. I strive to be what I am authored to be and often fail. Next time we will look at When, Where, and How.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn

Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a home owner. He brings new and old things out of his treasure store."

21 September 2009

The Last Day of Summer

Greetings Dear Readers,

As today dawns where I live the sky is grey. The sun is not expected to appear but its light drives away the darkness as I type. The air is chilled and it will likely rain. None of this is a complaint. Today is the last day of summer. Some places the sun is shining bright, but I commemorated the end of summer yesterday.

For lunch yesterday I had an almost perfect bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich. The bacon was apple smoked. The lettuce was romaine. The bread was lightly toasted and the Miracle Whip® was oh so perky. The only thing that was lacking was that it was not on Sun Beam® bread. It is hard to find where I live. The star of yesterday’s celebration, though, had to be the tomatoes.

The tomatoes on my sandwiches were perfect red globes of captured summer sun and rain. They were bursting with juice and flavor. Some of the best tomatoes I have had since I was a boy. What made these tomatoes doubly special is that they were a gift. I do not know who to thank. They were left in a bag by my door. For two weeks now someone has left me tomatoes anonymously as a gift .

I never seek out the giver of anonymous gifts. I presume that if they wish to be known I will learn it naturally. I do, however, wish to thank them here. The tomatoes have been a daily blessing. I have made sandwiches and burgers with them. I have sliced some and eaten them with pepper and some sliced cucumbers. The best though was surely yesterday’s BLT’s.

It is not too late for the rest of you. Do something today to celebrate the summer. To my readers on the southern half of the planet I wish you a wonderful spring. You should celebrate too. Just as the sunshine slips away here and the air chills, it begins to warm and bring new life to the southern hemisphere. Perhaps one of you can celebrate with a BLT in six months.

Wishing you joy in the journey,


Aramis Thorn