It snowed today. A little earlier in the season than usual but it was the usual amount: barely an inch. The news headlined that the south eastern states were hit with more snow than had been received in nearly three decades; but not here.

        The funny thing is that schools are still closed, operations are postponed. Even some stores are closed for barely an inch of snow which will probably disappear completely before nightfall, at least from the streets. I grew up in New Hampshire where the snow fell, the streets were plowed and business went about as usual. Snow just wasn't a big deal up there. It was expected as routinely as the dafodils are expected to sprout and bloom around spring. It began usually in late December or January to really stick around, and it didn't completely  go until late March. Sometimes we had snow laying around until mid-April, and once, it even snowed in May. I've hear that up in some of the high western mountains, the snow isn't completely gone until June. But regardless, where snow is a regular occurrence, it's dealt with. People live their lives as normal. Down here, snow scares people just a little bit, everyone anticipates it. Children are given the day off to pull out their cardboard sleds and coast down a hill where the snow is so scarce that you can  see the tops of the grass. New Englanders come down and laugh, but southerners take every millimeter of snow seriously.

       I guess I realized it's a little like trials can be in one's life. So far in my life my trials have come in millimeters and inches, I've probably had no more than a foot of real trouble in my entire life. And I look over at the people who have troubles piled up to the second story window and wonder how they manage. How do they take it and yet live such joyful lives when a dusting of trouble immobilizes me?

      That's when it really hit me that God gives the grace to each person that he needs to get through his own trials. Half of the reason that North Carolina is blocked up in the event of a smattering of snow is that we don't have the number of plows or necessary equipment to make the roads safe when there's snow. When we might only get an inch of snow, per winter, it's not cost effective to keep snow plows around. When it does, pickup trucks are pressed into service, fitted up with little plows and dispersed to clear the main roads. I still remember the great big orange plows that would come through our street up North, though, they dwarfed the pickup trucks and the plow itself was twice the size of those down here. Up north they were equipped to handle it.

       When we lived up North, we had about six snow shovels and just as many ice scrapers to clear out the driveway and scrape the ice off the car. Down here, we've gotten rid of all our snow shovels and we have to dig out our ice scrapers from a dusty corner of the garage when it actually freezes to the point we can't just send the ice sliding off with windshield wipers.

       When the trials in our lives accumulate to several feet, God will give us snow shovels; when path seems completely blocked, God will send us a snowplow, but as of yet, I haven't needed a snow plow for my troubles when they can all fit in a snow shovel.

      What's my point in all this? Simply that as we start off the new year, with sundry cares and worries that have chased us into 2018, lets stop and remember that God has given us the equipment to deal with what we have. Down here, snow is fun and a little bit of a novelty, nobody bothers with snow plows or shovels because they aren't needed; we have what we need to deal what we have, just like New Englanders are equipped with what they have to the measure of snow they receive. If God fills your proverbial driveway with trials this year, look around, he'll not only send you a snow shovel, but also, a few friends to help you clear it out. If the drifts pile up to your bedroom window and block the door, he'll send a neighbor with a snowblower to clear it away. And, sometimes, when God sends snow, I've realized, I just need to take a deep breath, relax, and build a snowman!

       Alright, that was kind of a funny thing to start the year out with, but I hope it's as encouraging to all my readers as it was to me to muse over this little truth.

       Okay, I want to leave you with a winter song.

       I always get frustrated when people try to drag snow into Christmas, it really has nothing to do with it. Why is "Walking in a Winter Wonderland" associated with Christmas? I don't know because it doesn't even so much as mention the word in the song. And let's not even start with "Let it Snow" anyhow, I'm not going to share either of those today, though they're a couple of examples. The song I'm sharing does pretty much hint that it's talking about Christmas but the subject is basically how to keep cheerful during the cold winter days. I just love the part that goes "All grudges forgot, are put in the pot, all sorrows aside they lay..."

    So whether you already have foot of snow or live in a stuffy state like California where the weather is stuck at the same setting all year(I don't think any Californian's read my blog so I'm clear to slam the state, if you do live in California and are reading this please understand that my dislike of the state doesn't necessarily translate to you), this song is a good one to cheer the spirits on a bleak day or when it's too cold cold to go outside, or all the activities for the day are cancelled because you live in the south like me.

    Enjoy "To Drive The Cold Winter Away," an old English folk carol. I find it rather hard not to get up and dance a jig to this one....when it's performed properly. ;)

     Okay, I'll leave you all to your respective winter days. I'm going to go dig out an ice scraper from a dusty corner. ;)

    ~ Christianna

One Glorious Light

             One light. That's all it takes to disperse the darkness, and the greater the light, the more darkness it dispels. There are so many things in this world that claim to be lights and fall miserably short. So many things we think can cleanse our hearts of darkness, but in the end only add to the accumulation of darkness already there.

              I often imagine that every person is an unlit candle wandering to and fro seeking for a flame, the very purpose for which we were created, to carry a light. I imagine the world is completely black and then one lighted candle is placed down amongst the rest. Slowly but surely, this candle starts lighting the empty wicks of those around it, and before long, the world begins to become illuminated as light after light is ignited and set to burn.

            You and I are these Candles, lighted by the one and only light of the world. Jesus is our fire, and when we go about our lives if we are in obedience to Christ, it will be perfectly obvious to the world that we are different that we have a light, the only light that satisfies.

            There will always be quacks and crooks pedaling wares they claim will make our candles burn brightly, but they never do. Instead they prevent us from seeing the light and dim the lights of those who are influenced by us. Christ alone is the light all men seek! How grateful we ought to be this Christmas morning that God sent us this light and that He found us and lit our wicks.

As I leave you with this gorgeous song, thank God for His magnificent light whose birth we celebrate today.
"I saw that in its depths there are enclosed, 
Bound up with love in one eternal book,
The scattered leaves of all the universe-
Substance, and accidents, and their relations,
As though together fused in such a  way
That what I speak of is a single light."
~ Dante ~

     ~ Merry Christmas!

Tiny Two

              Have you ever held a stick of dynamite in your hand? I never have, but if I did, I know I would handle it with a great deal of care and respect. Have you ever been up in a bell chamber while eight full size bells were pealing? I hope not, because otherwise you might not be around to tell the story, at best hearing could be permanently damaged. Such small, seemingly harmless things; bells and dynamite, yet the intensity of a blast of dynamite could kill you, and the intensity of sound from eight bells pealing at full kilter up close could paralyze, incapacitate and, if given enough time, kill you. I know, by this time you're sighing and shaking your head at me,

"Christianna, are you comparing Jesus with bells and dynamite?"

   Why yes, what an astute mind you posses.

You roll your eyes, "alright, how is Jesus like a stick of dynamite, or a peal of eight bells?"

              Okay, alright, I know it's cheesy, but seriously, think about Mary. She carried God's son around inside of her for nine months? She carried one who was fully human AND fully God. I know that would scare me far more than holding a stick of dynamite. Of course we don't know whether Mary fully understood at the time who this unearthly baby would go on to become. All we know that she knew at the time was the she was to give birth to a baby placed in her not by a man but by the power of God and His Spirit. Did she know all that her tiny newborn son was going to do, when she wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger? Probably not.

               Think about it though, we know she was with him at the cross, one of the first to learn of his resurrection, and most likely present at the ascension. She is the only recorded person who was with Jesus from the moment He entered this world to the second He left it, what a grand privilege. I'm not sure I'd want it, the disgrace of having a child while unmarried. The shame would have been magnified in those days, that could frighten me more than standing in a bell chamber with a peal of eight bells. Jesus would have appeared to be an illegitimate child His whole life, she would be viewed as an adulteress, and yet, what was her response when the angel Gabriel explained what would happen?

         "Behold [I am] the bondservant of the Lord, let it be done to me according to His will."

             What a courageous response, what a trusting young woman. I figure she had no idea what a great gift she was going to bring into the world, or everything she was in for, bad and good, but I'm guessing she knew enough about the kind of dynamite involved to be scared.

           The song I'm going to share is a little different than what you all here are probably used to. However, I think Mary did You Know is not only God honoring, but appropriate for the season. Don't worry, nobody's worshiping Mary here, it's simply to draw us into the right perspective to gaze in awe at the wonderful God who came to earth for us. Nobody knew, least of all Mary, what Jesus actually was and what He would do, He shocked the entire kingdom of Israel and I think it's important that sometimes we stop and allow ourselves to be amazed again as well. 

            Centuries ago God asked Job "Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding." (Job 38:4) We can never fully comprehend the ways of God, or do the things He does, we should indeed be grateful that He is in charge of the world and didn't leave us to run things. Meditate on that as you listen to this thought provoking song and be overwhelmed afresh by the power of God Most High.

                          Next time you find yourself around explosives, remember Mary and thank God for the best dynamite He ever sent mankind.
       ~ Christianna

Three to Tally

            I've always loved Thomas Kinkade's paintings. As you've probably noticed if you've been reading my blog posts or watching my own videos for any length of time, I try to slip in one of his pictures as often as I can get away with it. Friends of mine have pointed out that many of his pictures feel lonely and empty because they don't have people in them. While I can see their point, (though I do take pleasure in pointing out every time one of Kinkade's paintings does contain a visible human) I think his paintings always contain the presence of people even if they don't show them. The houses always have lights on in the windows, the paths are always well trodden, the gardens and villages are beautifully kept. I don't get the illusion of loneliness when I look at Kinkade's pictures, instead I feel silence; quiet. I think in not putting too many people in his idyllic scenes, Kinkade compels us to meditate in silence on God's glory. I don't know if that was his actual intent, but that's what I get out of his pictures.

           They all cause me to stop and be silent as I delight in the beauty of God's creation. I believe that if I could step into the picture, quietness would greet me there.

            To be quiet is exactly what today's song asks us to do. Yes, Christ's birth is a time for us to Shout for Joy, but I think it also calls from us like Kinkade's paintings a certain measure of silence as we realize the extent of what God has done for us.

     King of kings yet born of Mary,
As of old on earth He stood.
Lord of lords in human vesture,
In the body and the blood.

            I don't think any of us could ever fully realize what it means to be an all-powerful, eternal God and take on human form. Perhaps we could experience a bit of the physical limitation if we were to suddenly take on the form of an earth worm, but the difference between a human and a worm is negligible to the difference between a human and God. 

        So as you listen to this hauntingly beautiful Christmas song take a few minutes of silence to thank God for His great gift to mankind.

                 ~ Christianna

A Few Four...'till Christmas

              Imagine for a moment that a bunch of powerful foreigners landed on our shores and just started taking us, or buying us from our governors. Imagine you and I were among those sold and stolen. We were packed into ships, dark, moldy, and bug infested, as tightly as we could fit and were sailed for weeks across a tumultuous ocean. During the journey, many people get terribly sick, you watch the young man packed in next to you slowly waste away and one morning you wake up and he's dead. The crew, your captors, toss him overboard as flippantly as if he were a bad fish. When you finally arrive at your destination, leagues upon leagues away from home, you are confronted by another sea, this of faces, all strange like those of your captor's and not a sympathetic countenance among them. You are pushed up on a block in front of simpering ladies who came to watch for amusement, and men with hard lines and cruel jaws come to purchase the labor of a stolen life.

              To top it all off, they goad you, push you to your farthest limits and reward you by telling you, and some even believing themselves, that you are less than human, worthy of no more respect and dignity than a cow.

              What would you do?

             What would you think of God for allowing this to happen to you?

            Over a hundred years ago it happened to one people, in one dark moment of history........... and they sang.

            For many African Americans had it not been for their music they might not have made it through the tortuous years of slavery and complete disrespect. Being a woman was the worst because you belonged to your master body and soul and no law protected you from his vilest desires.
........And yet, they sang.

            Today, negro spirituals are some of the most fun, uplifting songs I know. I often think on the well known Spiritual Nobody Knows The Trouble I've Seen, and marvel at the sheer faith of these individuals. They didn't let the worst possible circumstances, promoted by the worst possible men, steal their joy.

Nobody knows the trouble I've seen,
Nobody knows but Jesus,
Nobody knows the trouble I've seen,
Glory Hallelujah! 

Sometimes I'm up, sometimes I'm down,
O yes, Lord.
Sometimes I'm almos' to the groun'
O yes, Lord.

            Think about that. If you were in those circumstances could you end a refrain with "Glory Hallelujah?" I know I'd have trouble with that. Every time I sing this song it is with sheer admiration and respect for the nameless soul who wrote it somewhere, sometime in America amidst the worst kind of enslavement.

             So What does this have to do with Christmas? Glad you asked.

            The African American enslavement was another one of those apparent manifestations of why need a set us free. Yes, they were physically enslaved, but their captors were under an even worse kind of enslavement, a captivity to sin for which many were eternally damned.

            Think on this for a moment. The African Americans amidst their trouble understood something most of pampered humanity fails to grasp. That this life isn't all there is. There is more, so much more, beyond death, so much more real, tangible and important. Contrary to common misconception we will not be floating on clouds playing harps after we die. This world is only a crude copy of the perfect universe we will have to explore and cultivate, and these bodies only a corrupted model of the physical bodies we will have in glory.

           Think about this. God could have just said, "Alright, they don't want anything to do with me, fine, I'll send them all to hell, the one place from which I have withdrawn my goodness and grace completely." And yet, what did he do instead? He came Himself, born of a woman under the curse of the law, that He might redeem us from the yoke of slavery under which we toiled since the day we were born.

           This is why the slaves sang, one hundred and some odd years ago. They had a short hard life to be sure, but they understood how much worse it could be and trusted that this wasn't the end. In light of this, you can sing a lot under very hard circumstances, that is if you truly understand this, for which I admire the African Americans so much.

          Alright, the song I'm sharing with you today was written by an American in the style of the African Spirituals. The author, Andre J. Thomas, is quite a fascinating guy by the way, a man after my own heart I think.

           Think on God's beautiful redemption, as you listen to this driving song, it's enough to make anyone Shout for Joy.

        I don't think you need the lyrics for this one, just listen carefully. I like the way the African Americans knew how to do repetition right. We of European descent only sound lame when we try. ;)

            Today, no matter what tragedy takes place, whether you learn that a Christmas gift for a family member isn't going to arrive until the twenty-sixth or you're stuck in traffic with a bunch of coffee deprived individuals, remember Christ's gift and shout for joy!

    ~ Christianna