Monday, December 31, 2012

A Chronological Bible Reading Plan by Nathan Brown

I'm excited to present Nathan's Chronological Bible Reading Plan to my FB friends and blog readers.  It can be found here under the Bible Reading tab at the top of the page.  You may notice that it only runs through May.  Well, each day he adds one more day, so no worries.  He's staying 5 months ahead of the rest of us.  The version used in this plan is the NET Bible, due to the fact that it doesn't have the copyright issues that the other excellent study versions have.  So two thoughts:  Why a chronological plan?  and Why this one?

Why read the Bible chronologically?
(Others have addressed the benefits of a systematic reading of the Bible.  See the link to Mark Minnick's sermon on the Bible Reading tab on Nathan's website for some excellent thoughts on the subject)
1.  It provides context.  The order of the Books of the Bible are not arranged in the order in which they occurred.  The modern reader easily assumes that Genesis is the first thing that happened, Job occurred right before Psalms, and Malachi was the last thing said before Christ was born.  How exciting to read the Bible in a "time context!"  (We've also found this to be especially helpful for new converts.)
2.   Many Christians camp out in one section of Scripture for years.  A little of the Gospels, and a Psalm and oh, yes, a Proverb, and off we go.  This, as a systematic approach, provides for a look at the whole revelation of God- crucial for balanced theology.

So, some features I love:
1.  The format is matched line for line when the account is repeated in other books of the Bible, showing at a glance any details added/omitted by the accounts.  For an example of this, look at page 2 of May 2nd.
2.  The prophets (which I admit to reading without any idea of what they're talking about half the time) are placed into their correct times with respect to Israel and Judah's kings.  David's psalms are interspersed through the story of his life.    Personally, I find this to be very helpful in reminding me of what is going on.
3.  I know the person who arranged this plan ;o)  He is super-thorough in his research and has included any pertinent info regarding the passage's chronology at the bottom of each day's reading.
4.  Each day has a well-supported date assigned to it.  (Of course, some assumptions MUST be made to be so specific in the dating.  He doesn't assume that all his dates are dead-on, but he does tell why he has picked the ones he has.)

And it's late, and I'm rambling on my diet coke and too much coffee from date night.  I hope this reading plan is a blessing to many.  Our church and family are being challenged to read it together and share with each other the thoughts we have about our reading.  Should be a great 2013!  Feel free to jump on board, and share with your friends, family, and church!

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Not sure of the story behind this poem.  Is this the cry of a mother's heart whose son 
has died in war, perhaps?  Or a miscarriage?  I'll have to snoop around and see if I can 
find out the backstory. *"Adoration of the Shepherds" by Gerard von Honthurst 1622
A Nativity by Rudyard Kipling
The Babe was laid in the Manger
  Between the gentle kine --
All safe from cold and danger --
  "But it was not so with mine,
                  (With mine!  With mine!)
  "Is it well with the child, is it well?"
    The waiting mother prayed.
  "For I know not how he fell,
    And I know not where he is laid."

A Star stood forth in Heaven;
  The Watchers ran to see
The Sign of the Promise given --
  "But there comes no sign to me.
                   (To me! To me!)
  "My child died in the dark.
    Is it well with the child, is it well?
  There was none to tend him or mark,
    And I know not how he fell."

The Cross was raised on high;
  The Mother grieved beside --
"But the Mother saw Him die
  And took Him when He died.
                   (He died! He died!)
  "Seemly and undefiled
    His burial-place was made --
  Is it well, is it well with the child?
    For I know not where he is laid."

On the dawning of Easter Day
  Comes Mary Magdalene;
But the Stone was rolled away,
  And the Body was not within --
                   (Within! Within!)
  "Ah, who will answer my word?
    The broken mother prayed.
  "They have taken away my Lord,
    And I know not where He is laid."

      .    .    .    .    .
"The Star stands forth in Heaven.
  The watchers watch in vain
For Sign of the Promise given
  Of peace on Earth again --
                   (Again! Again!)
  "But I know for Whom he fell" --
    The steadfast mother smiled,
  "Is it well with the child -- is it well?
    It is well -- it is well with the child!"

Saturday, December 08, 2012

 There are more bitter, more unkind, more rude things in Shakespeare's thoughts than the weather.  In comparison to the wind's chill, the loss of friends is much more bitter.  Grateful for true friends.

Blow, Blow, Thou Winter Wind

by:  William Shakespeare

Blow, blow, thou winter wind
Thou art not so unkind
As man's ingratitude;
Thy tooth is not so keen,
Because thou art not seen,
Although thy breath be rude.

Heigh-ho! sing, heigh-ho! unto the green holly:
Most freindship if feigning, most loving mere folly:
Then heigh-ho, the holly!
This life is most jolly.

Freeze, freeze thou bitter sky,
That does not bite so nigh
As benefits forgot:
Though thou the waters warp,
Thy sting is not so sharp
As a friend remembered not.
Heigh-ho! sing, heigh-ho! unto the green holly:
Most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly:
Then heigh-ho, the holly!
This life is most jolly.

image from 

Friday, December 07, 2012

Mistletoe by Walter de la Mare

Our oak trees bear a few large clusters of mistletoe.  And driving around, I see their green clumps all over.  I asked a neighbor how I could 'harvest' some of my own.  He told me to shoot them down.  Right.  OK, then.  He does not realize how much danger his property would be in if I ever took a gun outdoors.  In fact, I always picture myself telling the intruder, "Could you come a little closer and just stand very still?  Thanks."  Strange rabbit trail of thought aside, I do like this poem for its sweet romantic sleepiness.

by:  Walter de la Mare

Sitting under the mistletoe
(Pale green, fairy mistletoe),
One last candle burning low,
All the sleepy dancers gone,
Just one candle burning on,
Shadows lurking everywhere:
Someone came, and kissed me there.

Tired I was; my head would go
Nodding under the mistletoe
(Pale green, fairy mistletoe)
No footsteps came, no voice, but only,
Just as I sat there, sleepy, lonely,
Stooped in the still and shadowy air
Lips unseen - and kissed me there.

*image from - a vintage postcard with mistletoe curled around the scene

Thursday, December 06, 2012

This is too funny.  I can just picture Mr. Milne toting a parrot  and boar-hound (whatever that is ;o) onto the London train.  Some standardization, indeed.  And if I get a Christmas card from anyone, I'll know why.  (Actually, I feel a teentsy bit better about being too lazy to do cards this year after reading this...)  
*pic from's listing of the book A Very Merry Christmas

A Hint For Next Christmas
An Essay By:  A. A. Milne
(a la Winnie the Pooh)

There has been some talk lately of the standardization of golf balls, but a more urgent reform is the standardization of Christmas presents. It is no good putting this matter off; let us take it in hand now, so that we shall be in time for next Christmas.
My crusade is on behalf of those who spend their Christmas away from home. Last year I returned (with great difficulty) from such an adventure and I am more convinced than ever that Christmas presents should conform to a certain standard of size. My own little offerings were thoughtfully chosen. A match-box, a lace handkerchief or two, a cigarette-holder, a pencil and note-book, _Gems from Wilcox_, and so on; such gifts not only bring pleasure (let us hope) to the recipient, but take up a negligible amount of room in one's bag, and add hardly anything to the weight of it. Of course, if your fellow-visitor says to you, "How sweet of you to give me such a darling little handkerchief--it's just what I wanted--how ever did you think of it?" you do not reply, "Well, it was a choice between that and a hundredweight of coal, and I'll give you two guesses why I chose the handkerchief." No; you smile modestly and say, "As soon as I saw it, I felt somehow that it was yours"; after which you are almost in a position to ask your host casually where he keeps the mistletoe.
But it is almost a certainty that the presents you receive will not have been chosen with such care. Probably the young son of the house has been going in for carpentry lately, and in return for your tie-pin he gives you a wardrobe of his own manufacture. You thank him heartily, you praise its figure, but all the time you are wishing that it had chosen some other occasion. Your host gives you a statuette or a large engraving; somebody else turns up with a large brass candle-stick. It is all very gratifying, but you have got to get back to London somehow, and, thankful though you are not to have received the boar-hound or parrot-in-cage which seemed at one time to be threatening, you cannot help wishing that the limits of size for a Christmas present had been decreed by some authority who was familiar with the look of your dressing-case.

Obviously, too, there should be a standard value for a certain type of Christmas present. One may give what one will to one's own family or particular friends; that is all right. But in a Christmas house-party there is a pleasant interchange of parcels, of which the string and the brown paper and the kindly thought are the really important ingredients, and the gift inside is nothing more than an excuse for these things. It is embarrassing for you if Jones has apologized for his brown paper with a hundred cigars, and you have only excused yourself with twenty-five cigarettes; perhaps still more embarrassing if it is you who have lost so heavily on the exchange. An understanding that the contents were to be worth five shillings exactly would avoid this embarassment.
And now I am reminded of the ingenuity of a friend of mine, William by name, who arrived at a large country house for Christmas without any present in his bag. He had expected neither to give nor to receive anything, but to his horror he discovered on the 24th that everybody was preparing a Christmas present for him, and that it was taken for granted that he would require a little privacy and brown paper on Christmas Eve for the purpose of addressing his own offerings to others. He had wild thoughts of telegraphing to London for something to be sent down, and spoke to other members of the house-party in order to discover what sort of presents would be suitable.
"What are you giving our host P" he asked one of them.
"Mary and I are giving him a book," said John, referring to his wife.
William then approached the youngest son of the house, and discovered that he and his next brother Dick were sharing in this, that, and the other. When he had heard this, William retired to his room and thought profoundly. He was the first down to breakfast on Christmas morning. All the places at the table were piled high with presents. He looked at John's place. The top parcel said, "To John and Mary from Charles." William took out his fountain-pen and added a couple of words to the inscription. It then read, "To John and Mary from Charles and William," and in William's opinion looked just as effective as before. He moved on to the next place. "To Angela from Father," said the top parcel. "And William," wrote William. At his hostess' place he hesitated for a moment. The first present there was for "Darling Mother, from her loving children." It did not seem that an "and William" was quite suitable. But his hostess was not to be deprived of William's kindly thought; twenty seconds later the handkerchiefs "from John and Mary and William" expressed all the nice things which he was feeling for her. He passed on to the next place....
It is, of course, impossible to thank every donor of a joint gift; one simply thanks the first person whose eye one happens to catch. Sometimes William's eye was caught, sometimes not. But he was spared all embarrassment; and I can recommend his solution of the problem with perfect confidence to those who may be in a similar predicament next Christmas.

There is a minor sort of Christmas present about which also a few words must be said; I refer to the Christmas card.

The Christmas card habit is a very pleasant one, but it, too, needs to be disciplined. I doubt if many people understand its proper function. This is partly the result of our bringing up; as children we were allowed (quite rightly) to run wild in the Christmas card shop, with one of two results. Either we still run wild, or else the reaction has set in and we avoid the Christmas card shop altogether. We convey our printed wishes for a happy Christmas to everybody or to nobody. This is a mistake. In our middle-age we should discriminate.
The child does not need to discriminate. It has two shillings in the hand and about twenty-four relations. Even in my time two shillings did not go far among twenty-four people. But though presents were out of the question, one could get twenty-four really beautiful Christmas cards for the money, and if some of them were ha'penny ones, then one could afford real snow on a threepenny one for the most important uncle, meaning by "most important," perhaps (but I have forgotten now), the one most likely to be generous in return. Of the fun of choosing those twenty-four cards I need not now speak, nor of the best method of seeing to it that somebody else paid for the necessary twenty-four stamps. But certainly one took more trouble in suiting the tastes of those who were to receive the cards than the richest and most leisured grown-up would take in selecting a diamond necklace for his wife's stocking or motor-cars for his sons-in-law. It was not only a question of snow, but also of the words in which the old, old wish was expressed. If the aunt who was known to be fond of poetry did not get something suitable from Eliza Cook, one might regard her Christmas as ruined. How could one grudge the trouble necessary to make her Christmas really happy for her? One might even explore the fourpenny box.
But in middle-age--by which I mean anything over twenty and under ninety--one knows too many people. One cannot give them a Christmas card each; there is not enough powdered glass to go round. One has to discriminate, and the way in which most of us discriminate is either to send no cards to anybody or else to send them to the first twenty or fifty or hundred of our friends (according to our income and energy) whose names come into our minds. Such cards are meaningless; but if we sent our Christmas cards to the right people, we could make the simple words upon them mean something very much more than a mere wish that the recipient's Christmas shall be "merry" (which it will be anyhow, if he likes merriness) and his New Year "bright" (which, let us hope, it will not be).
"A merry Christmas," with an old church in the background and a robin in the foreground, surrounded by a wreath of holly-leaves. It might mean so much. What I feel that it ought to mean is something like this:--
"You live at Potters Bar and I live at Petersham. Of course, if we did happen to meet at the Marble Arch one day, it would be awfully jolly, and we could go and have lunch together somewhere, and talk about old times. But our lives have drifted apart since those old days. It is partly the fault of the train-service, no doubt. Glad as I should be to see you, I don't like to ask you to come all the way to Petersham to dinner, and if you asked me to Potters Bar--well, I should come, but it would be something of a struggle, and I thank you for not asking me. Besides, we have made different friends now, and our tastes are different. After we had talked about the old days, I doubt if we should have much to say to each other. Each of us would think the other a bit of a bore, and our wives would wonder why we had ever been friends at Liverpool. But don't think I have forgotten you. I just send this card to let you know that I am still alive, still at the same address, and that I still remember you. No need, if we ever do meet, or if we ever want each other's help, to begin by saying: `I suppose you have quite forgotten those old days at Liverpool.' We have neither of us forgotten; and so let us send to each other, once a year, a sign that we have not forgotten, and that once upon a time we were friends. 'A merry Christmas to you.'"
That is what a Christmas card should say. It is absurd to say this to a man or woman whom one is perpetually ringing up on the telephone; to somebody whom one met last week or with whom one is dining the week after; to a man whom one may run across at the club on almost any day, or a woman whom one knows to shop daily at the same stores as oneself. It is absurd to say it to a correspondent to whom one often writes. Let us reserve our cards for the old friends who have dropped out of our lives, and let them reserve their cards for us.
But, of course, we must have kept their addresses; otherwise we have to print our cards publicly--as I am doing now. "Old friends will please accept this, the only intimation."

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

A Little Piece of My Own

I've been looking through lots of winter / Christmas poetry (great bedtime reading :o).  I supposed I'm not surprised by the dirges, the weeping and wailing these sentimental greats proclaim over the loss of beauty in their world.  I kept looking for one idea in particular, hoping that one of the famous pens would have written of it.  No luck.  So I took a stab at it.  It comes from that breathtaking moment when the sun sets the sky on pink fire behind all those black trees.  I love looking at their shapes, sometimes able to tell what kind they are, or when lightning struck.  There is one particular scene nearby, where a mile-swath of trees was mangled and snapped off by tornadoes, that when the moon rises or the sun sets on it, it looks so very surreal.  I wish I was a painter or a great poet to do my heart justice.  But here we go.

The Beauty Takes My Breath

Black etchings, limbs reaching, pleading
For the last blessing of the sun.
An abandoned bird’s nest, bouquets of mistletoe
Hung high for the world’s romance.
This silhouette, graceful, in symmetry
This, torn and twisted by the storm.
Disrobed by the chilly winds
Vestige of leafy robes thrown aside
Bare, they are become a lacy filigree
The day’s end, burning through in rosy flame.
The beauty takes my breath.

Standing in silence, the soul is reaching
Reaching for that Light of men.
The shelters given, companionship enjoyed
All memories that sweeten this empty hour.
Some seem unmarked by the cares of time
Others are deeply scarred and torn.
In the quiet, every heart is stripped and bare
Its strength, its flaws, its wounds, its flesh
And then, yes even then, the Light burns through
And in and around the surrendered life
The beauty takes my breath.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

"During the American Civil War, Longfellow's oldest son Charles Appleton Longfellow joined the Union cause as a soldier without his father's blessing. Longfellow was informed by a letter dated March 14, 1863, after Charles had left. "I have tried hard to resist the temptation of going without your leave but I cannot any longer," he wrote. "I feel it to be my first duty to do what I can for my country and I would willingly lay down my life for it if it would be of any good".[2] Charles soon got an appointment as a lieutenant but, in November, he was severely wounded[3] in the Battle of New Hope Church (in Virginia) during the Mine Run Campaign. Coupled with the recent loss of his wife Frances, who died as a result of an accidental fire, Longfellow was inspired to write "Christmas Bells".  He first wrote the poem on Christmas Day in 1863." - Wikipedia entry

Here are the lyrics with some verses omitted in our hymnals today (specific to the Civil War setting he was in)  Love the "earthquake rent the hearthstones of a continent."  May this country never have to see such violence again:

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
and wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said;
"For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men."

Monday, December 03, 2012

If your pardon is needed, pardon this third Robert Frost poem in three days.  His joy in nature hooks me somehow, and I indulge in reading and re-reading my favorites.  Here is a new-to-me favorite, not specifically winter- but a moon over the snow, seen through the empty branches is the image my mind conjures here.

"The Freedom of the Moon"

I've tried the new moon tilted in the air
Above a hazy tree-and-farmhouse cluster
As you might try a jewel in your hair.
I've tried it fine with little breadth of luster,
Alone, or in one ornament combining
With one first-water start almost shining.

I put it shining anywhere I please.
By walking slowly on some evening later,
I've pulled it from a crate of crooked trees,
And brought it over glossy water, greater,
And dropped it in, and seen the image wallow,
The color run, all sorts of wonder follow.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Christmas Trees (photo above from Mary Ellen Olsen Huff ;o)
Robert Frost (1920) 
clr gif

(A Christmas Circular Letter- How much more fun would it be to send THIS letter to our friends instead of the "The husband still works at..."  "The wife fills her time with..."  "The kids say the funniest..." "The dog is sniffing my socks...."!  R. Frost must have been quite the interesting character.  My favorite line of this poem?  "He proved to be the city come again To look for something it had left behind And could not do without and keep its Christmas"  Enjoy!)

The city had withdrawn into itself
And left at last the country to the country;
When between whirls of snow not come to lie
And whirls of foliage not yet laid, there drove
A stranger to our yard, who looked the city,
Yet did in country fashion in that there
He sat and waited till he drew us out
A-buttoning coats to ask him who he was.
He proved to be the city come again
To look for something it had left behind
And could not do without and keep its Christmas.
He asked if I would sell my Christmas trees;
My woods—the young fir balsams like a place
Where houses all are churches and have spires.
I hadn’t thought of them as Christmas Trees.
I doubt if I was tempted for a moment
To sell them off their feet to go in cars
And leave the slope behind the house all bare,
Where the sun shines now no warmer than the moon.
I’d hate to have them know it if I was.
Yet more I’d hate to hold my trees except
As others hold theirs or refuse for them,
Beyond the time of profitable growth,
The trial by market everything must come to.
I dallied so much with the thought of selling.
Then whether from mistaken courtesy
And fear of seeming short of speech, or whether
From hope of hearing good of what was mine, I said,
“There aren’t enough to be worth while.”
“I could soon tell how many they would cut,
You let me look them over.”

“You could look.
But don’t expect I’m going to let you have them.”
Pasture they spring in, some in clumps too close
That lop each other of boughs, but not a few
Quite solitary and having equal boughs
All round and round. The latter he nodded “Yes” to,
Or paused to say beneath some lovelier one,
With a buyer’s moderation, “That would do.”
I thought so too, but wasn’t there to say so.
We climbed the pasture on the south, crossed over,
And came down on the north. He said, “A thousand.”

“A thousand Christmas trees!—at what apiece?”

He felt some need of softening that to me:
“A thousand trees would come to thirty dollars.”

Then I was certain I had never meant
To let him have them. Never show surprise!
But thirty dollars seemed so small beside
The extent of pasture I should strip, three cents
(For that was all they figured out apiece),
Three cents so small beside the dollar friends
I should be writing to within the hour
Would pay in cities for good trees like those,
Regular vestry-trees whole Sunday Schools
Could hang enough on to pick off enough.
A thousand Christmas trees I didn’t know I had!
Worth three cents more to give away than sell,
As may be shown by a simple calculation.
Too bad I couldn’t lay one in a letter.
I can’t help wishing I could send you one,
In wishing you herewith a Merry Christmas.