Jump into His arms of grace.
For onto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:11
I listened to a squirrel trying to crack open a nut: tap, tap, tap as the sound echoed through tall Pine trees. His large fluffy tail twitching. Tap, tap, tap: I was alone to the resolute sound of persistence. I let the minutes pass by sipping a hot cup of tea as I sat alone in the cool air of morning. Tap, tap, tap: the music lingered. I turned toward the sound and watched this tiny creature work diligently and methodically to break open something in it's grasp. Finally, in exasperation, it dropped what it was working on and ran up a tree. I walked toward the spot to find that his attempts would have never bore fruit as it was a metal bottle cap left in the dirt.
Work, work, work went the tap of the clock ticking through an hour glass half full. The white sand consistently pouring through a tiny hole called years into a pool called experiences. The flow of sand is slow and consistent as the minutes pour into days and the days pour into years.
It was the evening of Saturday, December 6, 1941 in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Most of the sailors were on Liberty. The first annual "Battle of Music" was in full swing. Navy bands competed for the opportunity to be crowned the best of the best in musical excellence. Bands competed each night as soldiers and their guests voted on the top two spots. The members of the twenty-one piece band, USS Arizona were relatively newcomers to Hawaii. They had graduated from the U.S. Navy School of Music in Washington, DC in January. Ranging from the ages of 17-26, these young men (along with their band-leader, aged 31) had positioned themselves on November 22nd as one of two finalist (along with the Marine Corp Barracks) for a final competition to be held on December 20th.
It was Saturday night and Block Arena was packed for the second round of semi-finals as the bands competed. USS Argonne (AG41), USS Pennsylvania (BB38), USS Tennessee (BB43) and the band from the Submarine base were playing for the second prestigious top two spots. "The four bands played song after song for the enthusiastic crowd. Several thousand sailors and their guests shouted and stood on chairs as they cheered the musicians." A "roof-raising version of jingle bells" was played in the jitter-bug category. I would imagine the sounds of nostalgic melodies, upbeat dance tunes and renditions of old and new swept hope through open breezeways of doors yet to be opened.
My grandfather, "Papa" was a Pearl Harbor survivor. He didn't talk about the events of the day or anything about the war. He lived his life.
The nostalgia came when he pointed himself out on the poster sized picture in the TV room of him at the fifty year anniversary or when he shared the picture of himself as a young man in the water near Waikiki beach and the one decades later that nana just happened to snap of him in the Pacific Ocean in almost the exact same spot. The coincidence was one of his favorite two pictures.
Nana and Papa loved Hawaii - the Pacific Ocean, warm weather, gorgeous flowers and the lively upbeat atmosphere of Waikiki.
John 2:1 On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus' mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus' mother said to him, "They have no more wine," "Woman, why do you involve me?" Jesus replied. "My hour has not yet come." His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you." Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used for Jewish ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, Fill the jars with water" so they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, "Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet." They did so and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, "Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best til now." What Jesus did here in Cana in Galilee was the first of the signs which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.
The beginnings of this month's post began as an idea last month. I had had twenty high school kids sitting outside around the campfire. It was a crisp, cool night. Worship music rang softly from one single acoustic guitar. The sound of crackling wood, the glow of embers as each person starred into the fire. Many people had blankets snuggled up to faces that peered out, voices softly singing tunes that ushered in the softening of our hearts. A short lesson followed by prayers whispered around the circle rose as a smoke signal asking for help.
The next morning, I opened my work lap-top computer that automatically links to a CNN feed of the top news stories. My eyes were drawn to a young girl who had allegedly been accused of an adulterous affair. Sold into marriage, she was only nineteen and was seeking escape with a young man also nineteen. She was thrown into a pit where men were stoning her to death. It was Afghanistan and it was November of this year; it made my heart ache.
The next morning, again I was getting ready for work. Having just fed my small dog and large cat, a crisp, quick movement outside my kitchen window caught my attention. The cat, who normally does not hunt, had something fluttering in it's mouth. In exasperation, I raced out the door in attempt to free the bird from it's clenched teeth. I could do nothing. Born as a natural predator, the cat crushed the bird's neck and left it's limp body on the stoned geometric pavers. I was particularly frustrated since I had just fed the cat a large portion of feline cuisine. I walked back into the kitchen sad.
As I pondered my next move before what would be a hurried eight or nine hour pace at work where I must move quickly and efficiently to hundreds of activities and requests in a busied environment, I slowed my thoughts to the sound of worship music playing from my computer. My journal, bible and pen amid make-up and a hairbrush, I decided to begin my day with a quiet act of remembrance.
I walked outside, past the geometric bricks, past the campfire pit and down wobbly large make-shift brick steps toward a barrier of shrubbery. I love these trees, whose leaves point upward toward heaven and whose delicate white flowers cascade freely; even though the blooms are poisonous, they have provided an atmosphere of love when I was little and again now. The perimeter around Nana and Papa's house was lined with them; like a moat guarding a castle, these tall trees kept me safe within the confines of youth. Now they symbolically represent the open gate toward heaven's door.
I knelt down and carefully dug a small hole and retrieved the dead bird with a dust pan. It must have been a young bird as indicated from the downy portion behind it's head. I laid it in the hole, covering it with dirt and rocks and one single white flower. I slowed my activities, offering up prayers for a teenage girl I knew nothing about half way around the world. Stoned to death without a trial, I thought too of her family, friends and the young man she attempted to escape with. Again, smoke signals drifting upward toward the heavens through prayers whispered.
As we approach Christmas and remember a baby born in a manger to a young teenage girl named Mary with Joseph beside her side, we also remember a wedding in Cana in Galilee.
Jesus, an invited guest to the wedding, was seated with family and friends. He was interrupted by Mary, his mother. "Woman, why do you involve me?" Jesus replied. "My hour has not yet come. The next moments, however, demonstrated simple obedience and a turn of events.
His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you."
Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used for Jewish ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, Fill the jars with water" so they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, "Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet." They did so.
These passages speak to me of faith, obedience and a deep, rich relationship with God, the father. The tone in Mary's words to Jesus and then to the servants tells me she had been obedient in the small details of her faith. Chiseled through the years like the pounding of glass on the ocean floor, Mary developed an intimate conversation with a heavenly father through years of communication. It required trust, dialog and seeing the result of her obedience through trial and error until, when the time came, she responded to the prompting in her heart that told her to interrupt Jesus at precisely the right time. Equally important was her awareness that it was crucially important for the servants to respond exactly as asked. Subtle, but again that tells me she had experience responding in this way in prayer, obedience and faith so that she recognized her father's voice.
The wedding at Cana of Galilee marks Jesus' first miracle of turning water into wine but also serves as a transition from the relationship between a mother and son to that of humble submission. The faith that must have been required of Mary through the remaining ministry of Jesus must have been insurmountable; she could only hang onto hope, faith and a childlike trust.
On the morning of December 7, 1941 after a fun-filled evening of bands competing, all twenty-one musicians from the USS Arizona were killed with the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The youngest of that band was seventeen. In somber remembrance, I toured the Pearl Harbor museum about five years ago and located on a map the ship my grandfather was on. I could only stand in quiet contemplation as the names were etched on the memorial that floats above were the ship once floated.
Christmas is about hope. It is hope for a future. It is hope in your circumstances. It is hope that a God was willing to become a man in order for us to conquer death to live in eternity. You may be new to accepting this faith or perhaps, you too have been chiseled through the pounding of waves. Either way, there sits an invitation for you to jump into the heavenly father's arms of grace.
Papa never talked about the war even though he was in the midst of the turmoil that fateful day. He simply raised a family, went to work and lived life, which in itself honored the many soldiers lost. Some of my last memories of Papa was of him sitting alone listening to the old re-runs of the "Lawrence Welk" television show where the sounds of the jitterbug swept him backwards through vintage photographs etched in memory.
My daughter recently posted a picture of a building with many windows along with a caption that read "100 years from now? all new people."
As I listen to this song from the Christian band, Newsboys, there are two beats that represent a jump.. Just two beats... A beating of the heart... Systolic over diastolic... Life pours into a tiny hour glass and maybe the "jump" is to live fully with hope.
This Christmas as the presents accumulate under the tree, perhaps as the Grinch thought, "Christmas doesn't come from a store" but in the beating of a heart. Love is the song that leads us, hope is the tune that guides us and faith is the melody that outlasts us. May you hear the whisper of His voice in the cry of a baby Christmas morning.
Merry Christmas, my dear friends.
A person who searches for depth and beauty in the simple things.