Dixie Darr

Friday Favorites

In Christmas on December 15, 2017 at 9:45 am

My Secular Advent, Day Thirteen
Peace is the theme for week two of Advent. Here are a few of my favorite resources on peace.
Start with the peaceable kingdom. Based on the biblical verse Isaiah 11:6 “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.”
This will happen, legend allows, when a shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit, which is commonly believed to refer to the ministry of Jesus. This has inspired the work of many artists, including Linda Mears, whose work is pictured here.
You may have seen a meme reciting a definition of peace by an unknown author: “Peace, it does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.”
Many would agree with poet Wendell Berry, who leaves “the midst of those things” to find peace communing with nature.
The peace of wild things
When despair grows in me
and I wake in the middle of the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

The Healing Story Alliance uses storytelling for peace and reconciliation. “It has been said that you can’t hate people once you’ve heard their stories. Whether or not that is precisely true, we may certainly find it more difficult to dehumanize and dismiss them.” Listen to stories from all over the world at their podcast here.

Continuing with the theme that peace is not something “out there” but rather inside each of us, I’ll end with the beautiful hymn, “Let there be peace on earth.”

Let it begin with me.

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Christmas on Ganymede

In Christmas on December 14, 2017 at 6:28 am

My Secular Advent, Day Twelve

Ganymede is the largest of Jupiter’s moons and the largest object in the solar system that isn’t a planet. It has no atmosphere, so the colonists in Isaac Asimov’s story live and work under a dome where they mine something called oxite and karen leaves.

Olaf Johnson, who has named himself chief Christmas decorator works happily in the library until summoned to a General Assembly. There Commander Scott Pelham sat drumming his fingers unrhythmically on a table, his eyes hotly furious. “What dirty imbecilic troublemaker has been telling those blasted Ossies (ostrich-like Ganymede natives) fairy tales?” he demanded. He turned to Olaf, “Did you tell those natives about Santa Claus, Olaf?”

He nodded.

“And you drew pictures of the reindeer, just to make sure there was no mistake. Also, he has a long white beard and red clothes with white trimmings.”

“Yeah, that’s right,” said Olaf, his face puzzled.

“And he has a big bag, chock full of presents for good little boys and girls, and he brings it down the chimney and puts presents inside stockings.”

“They want Santa Claus to visit them!”

Someone laughed and changed it quickly into a strangling cough at the commander’s raging stare.

“And if Santa Claus doesn’t visit them, the Ossies are going to quit work!”

Pelham assigned a reluctant Olaf to be Santa and another man to rig a makeshift sleigh.

Olaf used brandy to round up eight spineybacks, another Ganymede native, who with fake antlers became Santa’s reindeer. After much jockeying and jostling, Santa’s sleigh was finally off, albeit upside down for much of the journey. It worked, though, and the Ossies were happy with their visit from Santa and could get back to work.

Then the men realized that the natives expected a visit from Santa Claus every year, and on Ganymede a year is only seven days.

I love finding stories like this from well-known if unlikely authors. This one illustrates that our earthly traditions don’t always translate well to alien cultures. Sometimes we’re better off just keeping our mouths shut.

The Dreaded Christmas Letter

In Christmas, writing on December 13, 2017 at 11:58 am

My Secular Advent, Day Eleven

In this era of social media where daily we can share what we’re going, thinking, eating–whatever–the annual Christmas Letter may seem like an idea whose time has passed. We don’t need an annual missive to catch people up on our family’s accomplishments when we communicate with them every day.

Still, some of us persist, and yes I’m among them.

Most of these holiday missives sound like everyone lives in Lake Woebegone “where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.” I read them nodding and saying to myself, “Yeah yeah yeah. Your family is better than mine. I get it.”

“This classic letter from Martha Stewart to Erma Bombeck illustrates the typical tone:

“This perfectly delightful note is being sent on paper I made myself to tell you what I have been up to. Since it snowed last night, I got up early and made a sled with old barn wood and a glue gun. I hand painted it in gold leaf, got out my loom and made a blanket in peaches and mauves.”

Okay, maybe Martha was being the tiniest bit self-deprecating.

Using humor is one way to make your letter more interesting. Google Christmas letter and you’ll find dozens of articles with tips on how to write yours. There’s probably even a class you can take. If that seems like too much trouble, just hire a company to print and mail your letter using their online templates. Or hire someone to write the letter as well.

That doesn’t exactly reflect the personal touch, but those are the times we live in. A professional can decorate your house, cook your Christmas meal, buy and wrap your gifts. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear of a service that will attend the Christmas Eve candlelight service at church if you just don’t have time.

That’s the spirit.