Category: Advent / Christmas

When the Stars Sing

Still fresh in my mind and heart, this experience happened over a year ago. Looking at the night sky brings it back to me. Hearing music like I heard this week does, too: a glorious bell choir playing “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” Or a symphony … and the Nativity story, with bright stars and angels appearing, giving glory to God.

Here’s what happened. In early October, Larry and I went camping in the Rockies. I wanted to see the stars. But so many campfires and lanterns and flashlights obscured the view. Then in the night, when I had to get up and hike to a campground restroom, all was quiet, all human activity was still, all was dark … except for the sky blazing with stars. And that’s when this mystical moment came: I “heard” the stars sing! Here’s the poem I wrote about this experience:

•  • •  • •  • •  • •  • 

I HEAR THE STARS SING

Sleeping in a tent, we must take a walk
to the ‘comfort station’ sometime in the night.
At 1:30 a.m. we pull out of sleeping bags,
put on our shoes, snap the dog’s leash tight.

Campfires and lanterns now out, we need
no flashlight to see in the ethereal glow
bathing path, tents, trailers and trees,
boulders, peaks, and meadows below.

Fear of bears is forgotten as, looking up,
I acquiesce to the serendipitous sight—
stars sprinkling the sky, a sparkling array
only dreamed of on lit suburban nights.

Like music engraved across the sky,
notes—not in even scores or measures,
but in splashes of compositions our eyes
and ears aren’t attuned to hear or decipher.

Not with physical ears do I hear music
of stars singing out from the night pavilion,
graced by the moon, answered by bugling elk,
crooning owls and sibilant whispering wind.

Celestial strains fill my soul with consolation,
comfort, and swells of settled certainty
one would expect of constellations shining
in place since God sang the Heavens into being.

Surely nature sings back to God day and night,
I think, as we settle back in our places—
born under stars, resting under starlight
and listening still to star-song cadences.

–Catherine Lawton, ©2019 (excerpted from the forthcoming GLIMPSING GLORY)

 

 

 

 

Praise the Lord from the Heavens

praise him in the heights!

Praise him, all his angels…

Praise him, all you shining stars!

Praise him, you highest heavens…

from Psalm 148:1-4, NRSV

 


Photo of stars taken in Colorado mountains: by Lionello (Unsplash)

This post updated since first published in 2018.

The Courage of Authenticity

It takes courage to be an author, to declare and publish to a busy, perhaps skeptical world what you have experienced privately … to tell in “bright lights” what you have seen and learned in dark places.

Long ago in Bethlehem, shepherds waiting and watching on a dark hillside experienced a wondrous awakening and illumination. Then, even as they stood there in awe of the heavenly hosts, the shepherds must have needed courage and bravery to leave their flocks in the care of their guard dogs and run into the dark, crowded city of Bethlehem to look for a newborn baby “in a manger” and then worship him as the promised king. Surely there were more qualified and famous individuals to use as messengers.

I think the needed courage gripped the shepherds because the authenticity of their experience and their certainty of it overcame their trepidation. They obeyed, they went, they told. And their story was full of immediacy and hope.

Sometimes we authors feel that way.

Though angels didn’t exactly appear to us in the night sky and declare wonderful tidings of great joy for us to write,  Christian writers do sense a call from God and we experience wonder and the help of God (and perhaps even of angels) as we write. We certainly have good tidings to share.

Janyne McConnaughey is an example of one writer who has a life-changing story of hope and is compelled to write and tell her story to encourage others. I don’t know whether she has been “touched by an angel” but I know she has been touched by God with the courage to share her story. The title of her first book, BRAVE, tells that. And these comments from readers and reviewers on Amazon.com tell us of the authenticity and immediacy and hope in her story.

  • “There is hope!”
  • “A compelling journey”
  • “A very important book”
  • “A road less traveled … a path to healing”
  • “Kept me on the edge of my seat”
  • “Powerful story”
  • “Healing from complex trauma”
  • “A roadmap to freedom”
  • Brave is a fitting title for this true story.”
  • “A beautiful soul shows us the way to hope and healing.”
  • “A book every person who has struggled with trauma should read.”
  • “This book can be your path to healing from childhood trauma.”

Whatever your place of waiting ‘in the night’—or journey in the dark— be encouraged. A savior is born and he brings good news to the oppressed, including those suffering from complex trauma.

~Catherine Lawton


Photo: Hubble Space Telescope

Preparing Hearts and Minds during Advent

During Advent Season we prepare because “Something is coming.” Decorations, food, presents, music, and many festivities are prepared and planned.

As Christians we prepare our inner lives also, for Christ to be born anew in our hearts.

Inspirational stories, devotional writings, and poetry help us quiet our spirits during hectic days of outward preparations and open our minds and hearts to deeply receive the beauty and wonder of “what is coming.”

White As Snow : A Christmas Story by Donna Westover Gallup

Buy from Amazon or Buy from a Local Store

Something Is Coming to Our World by Catherine Lawton

Buy from Amazon or Buy from a Local Store

That Was the Best Christmas! by A.R. Cecil

Buy from Amazon or Buy from a Local Store

Adore, Adore our Coming Lord—

The greatness

of Almighty God

arriving

in a newborn Child—

a baby boy

named Jesus,

who cries for us

to hold him close

then cradles us—

the infants.

~Mary Harwell Sayler

excerpted from PRAISE! POEMS

Photo at top of page: by John Watkin

Adoration and Celebration of the Christ Child in Poems by Mary Harwell Sayler

In her fresh, almost-breathless style, Mary designs the title as the first line in most of her poems in PRAISE! POEMS. She employs sometimes startling images and reversals. Read and meditate on these poems that praise, adore, and celebrate the Christmas Child.

 

 

Sweet Sorrow at Christmas

Ah, Christmas! Bright lights, hustle and bustle, joyous music and celebrations….

Yet, hidden behind all the glitter, many people feel the pangs of sadness and loneliness more acutely during the Christmas season. If you have ever experienced a great loss at Christmastime, the holiday season awakens that grief again each year.

I know. My mother died on December 19, many years ago. My father was the pastor of a loving church at the time, and the people were sweet to us, though they also grieved the death of their beloved pastor’s wife. Our family found comfort in togetherness—my husband and I with our two toddlers, my sister, and our dad. After the funeral, we stayed and spent Christmas in our parents’ home, with everything around us to remind us of Mother. … But no mother/wife/grandmother. She simply and permanently was not here.

At a time when we celebrated the birth of Jesus who brought new life, we learned first-hand the awful separation and finality of death. The first night after she died, I lay awake in the guest bedroom listening to Daddy sobbing his heart out in the next room.

She was too young to die—in her forties. But she was gone.

On Christmas Eve, my husband and I wanted our toddler children to have fun, not just sadness, so we borrowed little sleds and took them out to play in the snowy woods. In the fresh, crisp air, laughter came as a wonderful relief, and was exactly what Mother would want for us. Maybe she saw us and smiled with joy.

Mother had a way of infusing Christmas with music, anticipation, beauty, delicious tastes and scents, warmth and surprises. She loved decorating the house and the church, preparing special music and programs for Christmas Sunday, often sewing new dresses for my sister and me, baking cookies, and taking us Christmas shopping.

I love Christmas, too; but even after many years, the bright lights, the biting scent of pine, the taste of cinnamon and cider, the making of fudge and fruitcake, the singing of carols, the ringing of Christmas bells, the decorating of the tree, the excitement of gift giving—all is sweet sorrow.

I wonder: Did sadness mix with joy for Mary, the mother of Jesus, when she carried her baby to the temple and heard Simeon prophesy her child’s death? He said, “A sword will pierce your own soul too” (Luke 2:35). Mary didn’t understand yet that Jesus’ death as well as his life would bring eternal joy in the heavens and cause celebrations of his birth for centuries to come. But she would certainly experience heart-piercing sorrow and separation.

Years later, as Mary watched Jesus die a tragic, painful death, did she despair? Or did the memory of the miracles surrounding his birth and life give her hope? Life won out. His death brought our spiritual birth.

Now we know, because of his birth, life and death, we can live—and celebrate Christmas—in the certain hope that death will not have the final victory.

That one Christmas—the year my vibrant, young Mother died—has influenced every one of my Christmases since. Our bereaved family celebrated together that year with gifts and festive food. Then we drove up a snowy hillside to a fresh, flower-covered grave site. The contrast of the red roses and holly-covered grave against the icy, brown hills spoke to my warring emotions.

There, feeling the pain of death’s separation, I looked up into the evening sky and noticed the first star twinkling, and I smiled through my tears. Her physical presence is gone from us here. But someday we may be with her “there.” The realities of pain, suffering, and death are inescapable. But the hope of Christmas lives!


The story of the healing I have experienced in regards to my mother is found in the book, Journeys to Mother Love: Nine Women Tell Their Stories of Forgiveness and Healing.
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