31 December 2008

Pondering My Christmas Gifts - The Sixth Day of Christmas

Greetings and Merry Christmas Beloved Readers,

As the sixth day dawns I am just settling into the idea that I am on vacation. In that spirit this installation will be brief. It is good that I rest as I was quite weary when my sabbatical began. This morning I awoke feeling refreshed but my sleep patterns are not back to normal yet. Today is a day of rest for me, as will be the rest of my vacation.

I will spend the day watching a movie, putting away some things I do not need, and writing if I feel the urge. Daughter Christmas has a cold and will rest as well. We will spend New Year’s Eve quietly with my Son Maxim. I fear that midnight will be painful and hard as my beloved Avalon maintains her absence.

I start the New Year with plans to improve several things in my life but first I will rest and recharge. So on the sixth day of Christmas my Savior gave to me six more days of rest, five perfect things, four children to gather round me, the blessing of the Trinity, twice the joy of giving, and a purpose for carrying his tree.

Wishing you joy in the journey and a Merry Christmas

Aramis Thorn

PS - Hey Santa, pass us that bottle will you. There's a good fellow.

30 December 2008

Pondering My Christmas Gifts - The Fifth Day of Christmas

Greetings and Merry Christmas Beloved Readers,
We try so hard to do so much to give the perfect Christmas gifts to others and we seldom allow ourselves to receive perfect gifts. God in his infinite wisdom gives them to us anyway. Today I had the happiest of accidents and in its serendipity God provided me with both joy and wonder at the meticulous nature of his care for me. Perhaps I am starting in the middle, so I will return to the beginning.
I am having dinner tonight with my in-laws. I love them dearly and that love has grown much over the last ten years. They are good people but as Avalon divorces me they have mostly ignored me in the situation.
Their one communication about it said that she is “our daughter and we are supporting her at this time.” I guess I expected better of them. They always seemed more interested in the truth and in following what was right rather than in following a formula. So they have left us out of Thanksgiving and Christmas but wished us to come over for dinner. Needless to say I am not sure what to say to them.
In the midst of my consternation over yet another open wound to my heart, God saw fit to arrange, without my asking or thinking of to present me with five perfect things. These things on their own can be great, but today, at this time and place they worked together to magically call forth memories of better times and people who truly loved me for me.
Just before I left for Georgia this Christmas, I had Maxim and his bride Raven over for dinner and to exchange gifts. Since I did not feel like making a big Christmas dinner and it was International Hamburger Day, I made hamburgers with all the fixings. That meal forgotten and many days past, I came to lunch time today not knowing what I wished but wanting something special.
I looked in the fridge and realized there was a pound of bacon thawed that needed cooking. Then my eye caught something else, lettuce and tomato that remained from Hamburger Day. They were both still quite fresh and good. I knew I had Miracle Whip® in abundance and I had brought back from Georgia one of the most precious products from my childhood; a large loaf of Sunbeam Bread®. You see these five things, properly prepared combine to make the favorite sandwich of my childhood, the BLT.
The bacon sizzled, the bread toasted, the Miracle Whip was spread, the tomato sliced and the lettuce torn. I spent a good half hour properly building and cutting those sandwiches. I spent a good hour savoring them. Memories of my Grandfather and fishing swam through my mind. Forgotten was my current pain and longing for my missing spouse. Far from my mind was anything other than the tangy sweet joy of those five things combining to make the little boy in me awaken with a fervor. I recalled the many times this particular meal had chased away my blues and lightened my heart. God is good. He arranged for all the necessary parts to be in play at just the right moment. It had to be Sunbeam Bread. It had to be Miracle Whip. It had to ripe juicy tomato and crisp green lettuce. The bacon had to be hickory smoked and almost crisp. They were all just as they should be.
So for the fifth day of Christmas, my Savior gave to me five perfect things, four children to gather round me, the blessing of the Trinity, twice the joy of giving, and a purpose for carrying his tree.

Wishing you joy in the journey and a Merry Christmas

Aramis Thorn

29 December 2008

Pondering My Christmas Gifts - The Fourth Day of Christmas

Greetings and Merry Christmas dear Readers,

A visit from a dear fellow pirate and a good night’s sleep show me much recovered from my travels. I was blessed last night to receive The Asphalt Pirate and his lovely Bride in my home. I have not seen them for over two years and it was a brief and joyous meeting. Bride is with child and Pirate will make a great father. I already see his love for the child sparkle in his eyes. We talked long of meetings and partings until he had to part.

As I retired for the evening, much weary and already thinking on this morning’s writing and a good cup of coffee, I pondered on what I was most thankful for that fit the number four. Having been some time with Pirate I realized it was my children. The four of them fit so perfectly who Christ designed them to be in person and spirit. So if you will indulge me I will dote on each of them for a moment.

Maxim, my oldest is a firebrand for justice, right, and truth. He and I are so alike in some things that we strike many sparks in our interaction. He is one I would seek for a friend in any world and I love him with a passion I cannot quite put into words. Holding him for the first time changed me forever. Knowing him now constantly changes me for the better.

Bezel, my second son is both passion and tenderness in a strong and kind man. He is just beginning to find his way, though it was revealed to him when he was a babe. My time with him this Christmas grew our friendship and communication. He is charming and is learning to use that charm to draw others to Christ. His tenderness heals much in me.

Rachael, my first daughter, is with Christ. Even so, she teaches me, for she has never sinned, never rebelled, never broken her father’s heart. I still do not know why Christ chose to keep her to himself, but neither will I shame her by questioning that wisdom. Though I rarely share it, I miss her every day. There is no day I do not think of her and ask the Father to kiss her cheek for me and give her a hug from daddy.

Christmas, my adopted daughter is so like me it is startling. She has compassion and love for the entire world. Her faith grows daily and it is a joy to watch Christ claim more and more of her. Bezel commented on the beauty of seeing someone in the midst of their “first love” with Christ and it moved me much to see them understand each other. It is an honor to be a part of her life.

There you have it. So on the fourth day of Christmas, my Savior gave to me, four children to gather round me, the blessing of the Trinity, twice the joy of giving, and a purpose for carrying his tree.

Wishing you joy in the journey and a Merry Christmas

Aramis Thorn

28 December 2008

Pondering My Christmas Gifts - The Third Day of Christmas

Greetings and Merry Christmas Dear Readers,

I am composing this in my head as I drive back from Atlanta to Madison. The drive is 14 hours give or take rest stops, fuel fills, pee breaks, and food. My daughter Christmas and I are discussing the week's events and I realize that the three things that mean the most to me this Christmas is God in all his persons. I need Fathering right now so much to deal with my pain and confusion. God is so good and faithful as he does this for me. He holds me close and whispers correction and comfort in just the way I need it right now.

Jesus is so real in my life right now and still I can only think to follow him. The babe in the manger, the angry carpenter at the temple, the suffering servant on the cross, and the risen King are all so present in me as I walk such an uncertain path. I stumble and he lifts me. I stray and he shows me where to put my foot next. I try to strike out on my own and he shows me the brambles and pitfalls I face if I do. I cry and wail for my lost bride and he reminds me that she and so many others are lost to him too. I am not alone.

Inside, comforting, judging, guiding, guarding, speaking truth rest the Holy Spirit of the living God. There are no signs and wonders. There are no strange tongues. There is the constant conviction of sin and leading in truth and righteousness that is the evidence of his presence. He is the surety of my salvation and he will guide me home no matter how long or short the path.

So on the third day of Christmas, my Savior gave to me, the blessing of the Trinity, twice the joy of giving, and a purpose for carrying his tree.

Wishing you joy in the journey, and a Merry Christmas

Aramis Thorn

27 December 2008

Pondering my Christmas gifts – The Second day of Christmas

Greetings and Merry Christmas Dear Readers,

Perhaps to avoid confusion and explanation is in order. You see, the12 days of Christmas song which I am so shamelessly pillaging for my little notes is based on the 12 day between Christ-mass and Epiphany (the day the Wise Men showed up). My intent is to share something of my Christmas with you over those 12 days. I am running a day behind but will catch up with a double dose along the way.

Each year, PNC Wealth Management calculates the cost of the 12 days of Christmas. This year’s price tag is $86,609.00. That is 10% higher than last year. I spent less than 1% of that on Christmas this year. I have spent more on Christmas is most of the past years but this year I embraced the challenge issued by adventconspiracy.org and spent less. My daughter Christmas and I made gifts for most of our family. It was great fun to think of, plan, and prepare the things we gave. She is artistic and talented. She made all the Christmas cards we gave from bits and pieces of her other art supplies. I shared pre-measured jars of my special pancake mix and we bought coffee cups from good will to use with pre-measured mixes for a 5 minute chocolate cake in a cup that you bake in the microwave.

We spent less. We had loads of fun. We made people just as happy and I believe I got the best of it because my joy was doubled that we had money to give for those in real need out of our Christmas budget.

So on the second day of Christmas my Savior gave to me, twice the joy of giving, and a purpose for carrying his tree.

Wishing you joy in the journey, and a Merry Christmas

Aramis Thorn

26 December 2008

Pondering my Christmas gifts – The first day of Christmas

Greetings and Merry Christmas Dear Readers,
This was definitely a “Hard Candy Christmas” for me and most of my family. There were so may little things that could have damaged my spirit but Christ kept opening my eyes to where he lurked in the events surrounding me. I resolved early on to make the best of the season in focusing on Christ and him alone. The resultant joy of this season has little to parallel others. There are some painful and bittersweet bits, but on the balance there is joy and peace in these anecdotes that are truly the spirit of Christ making himself real to me. I will endeavor to share some of it with you in hopes of extending your Christmas joy.

On the first day of Christmas I received a letter from one of my students who reads my blog. He is a fine and noble young man whose friendship I highly value. He related how events in his life had caused him to question the presence and purpose of Christ in the world. He went to tell me that my life makes him wish to believe. That Christ has used me to cause someone to seek Him is perhaps the best gift I can imagine.

My beloved Avalon has left me and is divorcing me for her own purposes. My sons and daughter are struggling in ways that I cannot repair for them. Yet had I not been immersed in these trials, Christ could not have used me to show a friend that faith is real; that there is hope.
As I sit here drinking my coffee, watching a movie while my children sleep, and eating one of the best cookies I have ever tasted, I see at least one gift I will cherish for life.

So on the first day of Christmas, my Savior gave to me, a purpose for carrying his tree. I would trade all I have for others to see Christ.

Wishing you joy in the journey, and a Merry Christmas

Aramis Thorn

25 December 2008

Merry Christmas to all...

Greetings Beloved Readers and Merry Christmas,

As I sit here with some of my family and missing others, I ponder what I would most like to share about Christmas. It is rather simple. It is Christ. You see I know that there are many sentimental things I can say about Hope, Joy, Love and all the trappings of Christmas. There are things I wish and they matter more than anything, for I believe that Christ wants them as well. You see I have a practice. I never ask God for anything on Christmas day nor on Resurrection Sunday. I consider that God knows my needs and in memoriam of those two days I think he has given enough. Here, today, however, is my Christmas wish list.

That my family would see Christ so clearly that they only follow him.
That my beloved Avalon would see how far she is from Christ and return to him
That my friends, family, and students who do not know him would give Christ and honest try
That all of you would feel my deepest gratitude for you individual parts in my life

Merry Christmas and remember if my seriousness during you merriment is an offense you can tell yourself this is just another Christmas blog. Hey Santa, pass us that bottle will you,

Wishing you joy in the journey

Aramis Thorn

23 December 2008

Advent - Love

Greetings and Merry Christmas Dear Reader,

What have we done with the word love? It is such a small word but contains so much power. I am going to abandon my usual approach to these things and just offer up some random thoughts. I leave for Georgia today to spend Christmas with my Son, Bezel and my parents and siblings. As I drive I will be thinking about love. Here are the questions I am going to ponder. Perhaps some of them should dance through your thoughts as well.

How do we show others that we love them?
How do we see Christ’s love for us actively in our daily lives?
Do we really know how to love or do we manufacture it when necessary?
When we feel loved by someone else, what is our response?
When someone says that they love us, do we really hear it?
Why do all those who do not know Christ not hear him crying out that he loves them so much?
Is it possible my actions toward others keep them from hearing Christ because I claim to be one of his followers?
How do I show others how much I love Christ?
Do you really believe that you can say that you love Christ and treat others with anything less than the love you need from him?
Do we know how to show love to others in the way Christ does, no matter how we feel?

I am sure there are many more questions to ask, but what I wish to say to all of you is that I love you all, collectively and individually. I will do my best to show it and ask in advance for forgiveness when I fail.

As we close out our preparation for Advent this year, I hope that we truly cling to the coming event of Christ’s appearing and what that means for us all.

Wishing you all joy in the journey and a Merry Christmas,

Aramis Thorn

15 December 2008

Advent - Joy

Merry Christmas Beloved Readers,
This, the third week of Advent is dedicated to Joy. I wonder if our current culture really understands what joy is. I think we confuse joy with happiness, excitement, and even fun. As my son Maxim often says, happiness is overrated. We can say that we are happy or unhappy about something but how often are we expressing true joy over things. In the Bible, the word happy appears around 25 time while the word Joy is seen over 200. So what is the big deal about joy?
Perhaps we should contrast the two words. Think about things that make you happy and then about things that bring you joy. Things that make us happy tend to be temporal and fleeting, but the things that give us joy seem to last. My children do not always make me happy but they always fill me with joy when I see them, speak to them, and hear of their lives.
This year has not been filled with much happiness for me. My beloved Avalon continues to pursue divorce from me and each thought of her is painful, but in those same thoughts I continue to find great joy in my love for her. Is that joy complete or reciprocated? No, but it still lives. My love for her, like Christ’s love for all of us is not based on her actions toward me but on who she is to me. My vows to her were not based on her being a good wife but on my choice to love her for life.
This is so relevant to the joy we sing and talk about a Christmas time. Our joy can be complete in Christ no matter what others do to us. I cannot buy the best gifts, have the party I wish, or celebrate Christmas with in-laws that I love. I can revel in the truth that all these ills will pass away when Christ comes to make all things new. I can find joy in the fact that evil and strife will not always hold sway over the world and in finding that joy I can wish it to others.
It is not my pain that matters but rather who I am in that pain.

"Joy to the world, the Lord is come.
Let earth receive her King.
Let every heart, prepare him room and heaven and nature sing.”

Wishing you JOY in the journey and a Merry Christmas,

Aramis Thorn

08 December 2008

Advent – Preparation

Merry Christmas beloved Readers

Over the next couple of weeks you will encounter a question that I call a seasonal weather question. Often when people do not know what to say they talk about weather. During this time of year they ask, “So, are you ready for Christmas?” What the average asker wishes to know is if your shopping is done, if your house is decorated, and if your party is planned.

Too seldom do we really prepare for Christmas. Remember that we are talking about the Advent of Christ. Literally, we are looking forward to the arrival of the Anointed Redeemer. How do we prepare for that? Last week I talked about giving others hope. In addition to hope we need to prepare our lives for his arrival.

Instead of thinking of preparation as getting things we need, we should think of it as getting things in order. When we have a favored guest coming to our home, we will spend hours getting our house in order. We plan and anticipate the arrival and become more excited as the moment draws nearer. This is the whole point of celebrating the Advent of Christ. “Let every heart prepare him room.”

We are to approach Christmas as a time when we make ourselves ready for the anticipated arrival of the most honored of guests: Jesus Christ. So as you put up the tree, wrap the presents, and plan your holiday celebrating, I would pose a question. Should not this be another aspect of Christmas that we are pondering and preparing for all year long. Remember that the word Christmas literally means Christ Mass, or the celebration of Christ. So I ask dear reader, are you ready for Christmas?

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn

01 December 2008

Advent - Hope

Happy Christmas beloved Readers,

Tell me what you are doing for Christmas. Share with me you wishes and dreams. Was the first response a present you hope for or a gift you wish to give? I spent a good part of the Thanksgiving weekend hearing other’s talk of their hopes and wishes for Christmas. I watched as hundreds flooded our local mall in search of “door buster” deals and the chase for things. While all were out getting and spending I observed something else. I saw very little happiness in it.

I am beginning to think that we hope for all the wrong things and that it leaves us bereft of hope. We say we want world peace but do we really hope for it? We want the homeless to have a home. We do not want there to be starving children in Africa, Asia, or anywhere, but do we dare really hope that it can become a reality? During this festive time of year, do we dare to really hope that the world can be a better place? It can be, but how?

I think that first we have to stop trying to eat the elephant all at once. You can only eat and elephant one bite at a time. We are not able to end world hunger but we can find and feed someone who is hungry or help an organization that already does that. We may not be able to negotiate world peace but we can make peace with someone with whom we are at war. You see I think that we avoid the really big problems in our world because solving them seems so hopeless. The tasks are huge, daunting, and seemingly insurmountable. And then there is the ultimate hope.

Christ has promised to end all of the problems that plague us. One day there will be no more children with distended bellies. One day there will be no more aids, no more violence against women, no more war, and no more broken families. I know to some of you that seems more like fairy tale endings than it does a reality to hope for. That is the problem you see. We are afraid to hope for that finality because it demands that we have faith and that we act on that faith. I have found the best way to live out hope is to give it to others. Here are some practical things you can do to start the advent season with hope.

Dare to believe that Christ will make “all things new.”
Give up some of your personal time to care for the needs of others
Join the Advent Conspiracy – www.adventconspiracy.org
Listen to the Transiberian Orchestra’s Christmas Eve and other Stories
Center your CHRISTmas around Christ not the gifts and trappings
Read Luke 2:1-14 and hear the hope in it

The thing is:
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.
-- Transiberian Orchestra – Christmas Eve and other Stories

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn