Wonderful World of WOW!

"Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat." Theodore Roosevelt

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Location: McMinnville, Oregon, United States

Friday, December 31, 2004

The Crew is Partying

Rumor has it that this is what the ready room looks like on New Year's Eve....Hey Team Leader, where's the PARTY!!???


Monday, December 27, 2004

Comes the New Year...

As the new year approaches, what emotions do you experience? Hope? Despair? Resignation? Acceptance? Burden? Excitement? Redemption?

Never given it much thought? I think about the new year in light of the old one. Think about the successes, the failures, the places where you pressed through difficulties into triumphs. Think about the places where you compromised, and settled for "good enough" in place of your best.

It is hard to accept sometimes, that trying for your best, and failing to obtain it is actually better than living in the margin of mediocrity. Mediocrity rarely loses anything, but it NEVER gains anything, and since life is dynamic and not static, mediocrity is ALWAYS a net loss. Good enough as an attitude towards the future NEVER IS!! You must always strive for your best, always commit to 100%, and then in that passion and commitment, have the self-love necessary to accept that what you obtain, though it may not match what you desired and dreamed of, it was in fact your best in that time based on what you knew and what you could do. And then, analyze, consider, and try again, armed with greater knowlege, better strategies, and richer resources and experience.

Perhaps last year was a year of disappointment, even through no fault of your own. Perhaps you DID your best, and due to the failure of others to notice, or acknowledge it, you gained nothing from it. Your superlative efforts go unnoticed and unrewarded. Here is a chance for analysis for the New Year. First: consider your goal. What was it really? To accomplish what you did and have excellence in performance be the basis of its own reward? Or to get the kudos and attention of others? If your goal was the latter, was it a truly worthy goal? Getting noticed is easy, and often those who are noticed produce shoddy work product that is all sizzle and no substance.

Next: consider your methodologies...the HOW of what you did to accomplish your WHAT. Was the methodology and strategy effective? Sometimes, we are our own worst enemy. A common reaction to denial or failure to obtain our goals is to pout and sulk. It is tough to accept when we are denied something that our heart is set upon, and all too easy to allow our emotional reaction tocontrol our subsequent actions. Pouting and sulking and pity parties are the ultimate self defeating and negative self fulfilling prophecies in the emotional repertoire. They only produce more of the failure that you did not like in the first place.

Finally: consider your future. Are you going to quit? If so, do it quickly and quietly and get out of the way, for there are many doers in the world who will take up your slack, and contrary to the siren songs that serenade your pity parties, your quitting will not be a huge punishment to those whom you believe failed you. You will be a martyr only in your own mind. Usually, if your attitude has been sullied by the waters of self pity, when you finally quit, everyone else will be relieved. IF you AREN'T going to quit, then what? You can either continue to pout and punish everyone around you with grumpiness, resulting in further rejection and isolation, OR you can decide to lay aside self centeredness and self serving, and reconsider the mission of our work, indeed the real mission for everyone in life, and that is service. Has service been its own reward? Has the accomplishment of excellence been payment enough?

I have yet to meet a coach who doesn't want to win and will do anything within the rules to do so, or a boss who doe not want his company to be the best and will make the moves to be sure it IS the best. The idea that the coach doesn't play you because he doesn't like you or a boss does not select you for that better position because he is out to "get you" is ludricous! In 99%PLUS cases, your own negative attitude is what stymies you. And the coach or the boss, thinking of the overall picture, can clearly see that to put a self-centered person into a team situation will just cause the self-centered attitude to spread, and destroy the team synergy.

Okay...after all that, here is the bottom line. The New Year is upon you. Take stock of the old. Admit where you fell short, and celebrate your accomplishments. Strategize for new ways to accomplish what you failed to do. Resolve above all to internalize the value of servinvg others, for this will sweeten your attitude and open the floodgates of reward. And cultivate hope. For regardless of how bleak the morrow may hint at being, it is ALWAYS brighter than the grave, and the steady absurd offensive march of corruption! When there is life, there is always hope, and joy will find a way.


Sunday, December 26, 2004

The Mystery and the Gift

Candles on Christmas Eve
Throughout the night,
the cold loomed close,
And wrapped the house in shrouds of ice.
Within, four candles lent us light,
And returned to us all that was lost.

Around us, all the village slept.
Our children safe, their breathing slow.
Four candles gleamed beside the tree,
Their flames burned long, burned low.
Then all fell silent round the house.
The snow shown blue, the shadows, slate.
You could almost hear the planet turn.
I stood alone beside my gate.

Behind me, those I loved slept warm,
Protected by the grace of God.
Before me lay the village street,
And all the roads that I once trod.
The hour was late, the morning near,
Within my house the fire was bright,
But still I walked on gleaming snow
To pray for greater light.

As a child I lived in dreams of stars,
Of peace on Earth--life's golden seal--And this night seemed, of all the nights,
The one when all such dreams were real.
Tonight I know this is not so.
The world is not as we would wish,
But as we make it, day by day,
And this, the mystery and the gift.
The candles tell us of this gift.
The stars reflect them high above.
The gift is given to us again,
That we remember how to love.

Thanks to American Digest and Gerard Vanderleun for his wonderful poem and blog


Saturday, December 25, 2004

Too Much of a good thing isn't

Christmas Every Day
By William Dean Howells

THE little girl came into her papa's study, as she always did Saturday morning before breakfast, and asked for a story. He tried to beg off that morning, for he was very busy, but she would not let him. So he began:

"Well, once there was a little pig--"
She stopped him at the word. She said she had heard little pig-stories till she was perfectly sick of them.
"Well, what kind of story shall I tell, then?"
"About Christmas. It's getting to be the season."
"Well!" Her papa roused himself. "Then I'll tell you about the little girl that wanted it Christmas every day in the year. How would you like that?"
"First-rate!" said the little girl; and she nestled into comfortable shape in his lap, ready for listening.
"Very well, then, this little pig--Oh, what are you pounding me for?"
"Because you said little pig instead of little girl."
"I should like to know what's the difference between a little pig and a little girl that wanted it Christmas every day!"
"Papa!" said the little girl warningly. At this her papa began to tell the story.

Once there was a little girl who liked Christmas so much that she wanted it to be Christmas every day in the year, and as soon as Thanksgiving was over she began to send postcards to the old Christmas Fairy to ask if she mightn't have it. But the old Fairy never answered, and after a while the little girl found out that the Fairy wouldn't notice anything but real letters sealed outside with a monogram--or your initial, anyway. So, then, she began to send letters, and just the day before Christmas, she got a letter from the Fairy, saying she might have it Christmas every day for a year, and then they would see about having it longer.

The little girl was excited already, preparing for the old-fashioned, once-a-year Christmas that was coming the next day. So she resolved to keep the Fairy's promise to herself and surprise everybody with it as it kept coming true, but then it slipped out of her mind altogether.
She had a splendid Christmas. She went to bed early, so as to let Santa Claus fill the stockings, and in the morning she was up the first of anybody and found hers all lumpy with packages of candy, and oranges and grapes, and rubber balls, and all kinds of small presents.

Then she waited until the rest of the family was up, and she burst into the library to look at the large presents laid out on the library table--books, and boxes of stationery, and dolls, and little stoves, and dozens of handkerchiefs, and inkstands, and skates, and photograph frames, and boxes of watercolors, and dolls' houses--and the big Christmas tree, lighted and standing in the middle.

She had a splendid Christmas all day. She ate so much candy that she did not want any breakfast, and the whole forenoon the presents kept pouring in that had not been delivered the night before, and she went round giving the presents she had got for other people, and came home and ate turkey and cranberry for dinner, and plum pudding and nuts and raisins and oranges, and then went out and coasted, and came in with a stomachache crying, and her papa said he would see if his house was turned into that sort of fool's paradise another year, and they had a light supper, and pretty early everybody went to bed cross.

The little girl slept very heavily and very late, but she was wakened at last by the other children dancing around her bed with their stockings full of presents in their hands.
"Christmas! Christmas! Christmas!" they all shouted.
"Nonsense! It was Christmas yesterday," said the little girl, rubbing her eyes sleepily.
Her brothers and sisters just laughed. "We don't know about that. It's Christmas today, anyway. You come into the library and see."

Then all at once it flashed on the little girl that the Fairy was keeping her promise, and her year of Christmases was beginning. She was dreadfully sleepy, but she sprang up and darted into the library. There it was again! Books, and boxes of stationery, and dolls, and so on.

There was the Christmas tree blazing away, and the family picking out their presents, and her father looking perfectly puzzled, and her mother ready to cry. "I'm sure I don't see how I'm to dispose of all these things," said her mother, and her father said it seemed to him they had had something just like it the day before, but he supposed he must have dreamed it. This struck the little girl as the best kind of a joke, and so she ate so much candy she didn't want any breakfast, and went round carrying presents, and had turkey and cranberry for dinner, and then went out and coasted, and came in with a stomachache, crying.

Now, the next day, it was the same thing over again, but everybody getting crosser, and at the end of a week's time so many people had lost their tempers that you could pick up lost tempers anywhere, they perfectly strewed the ground. Even when people tried to recover their tempers they usually got somebody else's, and it made the most dreadful mix.

The little girl began to get frightened, keeping the secret all to herself, she wanted to tell her mother, but she didn't dare to, and she was ashamed to ask the Fairy to take back her gift, it seemed ungrateful and ill-bred. So it went on and on, and it was Christmas on St. Valentine's Day and Washington's Birthday, just the same as any day, and it didn't skip even the First of April, though everything was counterfeit that day, and that was some little relief.

After a while turkeys got to be awfully scarce, selling for about a thousand dollars apiece. They got to passing off almost anything for turkeys--even half-grown hummingbirds. And cranberries--well they asked a diamond apiece for cranberries. All the woods and orchards were cut down for Christmas trees. After a while they had to make Christmas trees out of rags. But there were plenty of rags, because people got so poor, buying presents for one another, that they couldn't get any new clothes, and they just wore their old ones to tatters. They got so poor that everybody had to go to the poorhouse, except the confectioners, and the storekeepers, and the book-sellers, and they all got so rich and proud that they would hardly wait upon a person when he came to buy. It was perfectly shameful!

After it had gone on about three or four months, the little girl, whenever she came into the room in the morning and saw those great ugly, lumpy stockings dangling at the fireplace, and the disgusting presents around everywhere, used to sit down and burst out crying. In six months she was perfectly exhausted, she couldn't even cry anymore.

And how it was on the Fourth of July! On the Fourth of July, the first boy in the United States woke up and found out that his firecrackers and toy pistol and two-dollar collection of fireworks were nothing but sugar and candy painted up to look like fireworks. Before ten o'clock every boy in the United States discovered that his July Fourth things had turned into Christmas things and was so mad. The Fourth of July orations all turned into Christmas carols, and when anybody tried to read the Declaration of Independence, instead of saying, "When in the course of human events it becomes necessary," he was sure to sing, "God rest you merry gentlemen." It was perfectly awful.

About the beginning of October the little girl took to sitting down on dolls wherever she found them--she hated the sight of them so, and by Thanksgiving she just slammed her presents across the room. By that time people didn't carry presents around nicely anymore. They flung them over the fence or through the window, and, instead of taking great pains to write "For dear Papa," or "Mama " or "Brother," or "Sister," they used to write, "Take it, you horrid old thing!" and then go and bang it against the front door.

Nearly everybody had built barns to hold their presents, but pretty soon the barns overflowed, and then they used to let them lie out in the rain, or anywhere. Sometimes the police used to come and tell them to shovel their presents off the sidewalk or they would arrest them.
Before Thanksgiving came it had leaked out who had caused all these Christmases. The little girl had suffered so much that she had talked about it in her sleep, and after that hardly anybody would play with her, because if it had not been for her greediness it wouldn't have happened.

And now, when it came Thanksgiving, and she wanted them to go to church, and have turkey, and show their gratitude, they said that all the turkeys had been eaten for her old Christmas dinners and if she would stop the Christmases, they would see about the gratitude. And the very next day the little girl began sending letters to the Christmas Fairy, and then telegrams, to stop it. But it didn't do any good, and then she got to calling at the Fairy's house, but the girl that came to the door always said, "Not at home," or "Engaged," or something like that, and so it went on till it came to the old once-a-year Christmas Eve. The little girl fell asleep, and when she woke up in the morning--

"She found it was all nothing but a dream," suggested the little girl.
"No indeed!" said her papa. "It was all every bit true!"
"What did she find out, then?"'
"Why, that it wasn't Christmas at last, and wasn't ever going to be, anymore. Now it's time for breakfast."
The little girl held her papa fast around the neck.
"You shan't go if you're going to leave it so!"
"How do you want it left?"
"Christmas once a year."
"All right," said her papa, and he went on again.

Well, with no Christmas ever again, there was the greatest rejoicing all over the country. People met together everywhere and kissed and cried for joy. Carts went around and gathered up all the candy and raisins and nuts, and dumped them into the river, and it made the fish perfectly sick. And the whole United States, as far out as Alaska, was one blaze of bonfires, where the children were burning up their presents of all kinds. They had the greatest time!

The little girl went to thank the old Fairy because she had stopped its being Christmas, and she said she hoped the Fairy would keep her promise and see that Christmas never, never came again. Then the Fairy frowned, and said that now the little girl was behaving just as greedily as ever, and she'd better look out. This made the little girl think it all over carefully again, and she said she would be willing to have it Christmas about once in a thousand years, and then she said a hundred, and then she said ten, and at last she got down to one. Then the Fairy said that was the good old way that had pleased people ever since Christmas began, and she was agreed. Then the little girl said, "What're your shoes made of?" And the Fairy said, "Leather." And the little girl said, "Bargain's done forever," and skipped off, and hippity-hopped the whole way home, she was so glad.

"How will that do?" asked the papa.
"First-rate!" said the little girl, but she hated to have the story stop, and was rather sober. However, her mama put her head in at the door and asked her papa:
"Are you never coming to breakfast? What have you been telling that child?"
"Oh, just a tale with a moral."
The little girl caught him around the neck again.
"We know! Don't you tell what, papa! Don't you tell what!"


In Hoc Anno Domini

In Hoc Anno Domini
Vermont Royster's annual Christmas message.
Saturday, December 25, 2004 12:01 a.m. EST

This editorial was written in 1949 by the late Vermont Royster and has been published annually since.

When Saul of Tarsus set out on his journey to Damascus the whole of the known world lay in bondage. There was one state, and it was Rome. There was one master for it all, and he was Tiberius Caesar.Everywhere there was civil order, for the arm of the Roman law was long. Everywhere there was stability, in government and in society, for the centurions saw that it was so.

But everywhere there was something else, too. There was oppression--for those who were not the friends of Tiberius Caesar. There was the tax gatherer to take the grain from the fields and the flax from the spindle to feed the legions or to fill the hungry treasury from which divine Caesar gave largess to the people. There was the impressor to find recruits for the circuses. There were executioners to quiet those whom the Emperor proscribed. What was a man for but to serve Caesar?

There was the persecution of men who dared think differently, who heard strange voices or read strange manuscripts. There was enslavement of men whose tribes came not from Rome, disdain for those who did not have the familiar visage. And most of all, there was everywhere a contempt for human life. What, to the strong, was one man more or less in a crowded world?

Then, of a sudden, there was a light in the world, and a man from Galilee saying, Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's and unto God the things that are God's. And the voice from Galilee, which would defy Caesar, offered a new Kingdom in which each man could walk upright and bow to none but his God. Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. And he sent this gospel of the Kingdom of Man into the uttermost ends of the earth.

So the light came into the world and the men who lived in darkness were afraid, and they tried to lower a curtain so that man would still believe salvation lay with the leaders. But it came to pass for a while in divers places that the truth did set man free, although the men of darkness were offended and they tried to put out the light. The voice said, Haste ye. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness come upon you, for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth.

Along the road to Damascus the light shone brightly. But afterward Paul of Tarsus, too, was sore afraid. He feared that other Caesars, other prophets, might one day persuade men that man was nothing save a servant unto them, that men might yield up their birthright from God for pottage and walk no more in freedom.

Then might it come to pass that darkness would settle again over the lands and there would be a burning of books and men would think only of what they should eat and what they should wear, and would give heed only to new Caesars and to false prophets. Then might it come to pass that men would not look upward to see even a winter's star in the East, and once more, there would be no light at all in the darkness.

And so Paul, the apostle of the Son of Man, spoke to his brethren, the Galatians, the words he would have us remember afterward in each of the years of his Lord:

Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.


Handel had a real handle!

I found this article posted at my own favorite blog: http://www.brothersjudd.com/blog/

This blog is incredible, and worth looking at everyday

Handel's Messiah Through the Centuries (Patrick N. Findlay, December 1999, Early Music News)

In order to have a true insight into how Messiah has evolved through time one must posses the background and history of the piece. It was truly a favorite of Handel himself. He suggested it was the product of an inspiration of sorts when he said, "I did think I did see all Heaven before me and the great God himself" (qtd. in Jacobi 7). In 1741, during a low spot in Handel's career in England, a friend, Charles Jennens convinced Handel to compose an oratorio based upon a compilation of Scriptures Jennens had recently arranged.

Rather than return to Germany, Handel was convinced and began work on the oratorio (Jacobi 32). The entire work was written in a twenty-four day spurt from August 22 until September 14, in 1741. Messiah was performed for the first time in Dublin, April 13, 1742. It is not known whether Handel wrote the work for the Dublin performance or if he only choose Dublin for its first playing (Jacobi 8).

As with all oratorios, Messiah, is divided into three parts. In Messiah, the three parts represent Christ's birth, death, and resurrection; each part breaking down into a series of arias and choruses, with a Biblical passage as their basis. Subsequent to the initial performance Handel toured Great Britain and Ireland performing his new masterpiece. During these initial performances Handel often changed elements of the oratorio to suit the librettos or the concert location.

The first major revision of Messiah by another musician began in 1788 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. He had been commissioned by Baron van Swieten to arrange several of Handel's oratorios, among them Messiah, for a series of private performances in the homes of Viennese court members (Cottle 19). Mozart made the changes he did for two primary reasons. First, the orchestral style, including the phrase lengths, was already thought to be archaic, less than fifty years after Handel's initial composition (Cottle 19). Second, Mozart added new wind parts, complementing or completely replacing the original, to support the continuo organ which was not available in every house which Mozart was to play his arrangement (Cottle 19). Also, unlike the original Messiah which Handel wrote for the public, Mozart's version was to be played only for quite exclusive audiences (Cottle 19). The performances were given throughout Vienna during the Spring of 1789, since at that time Messiah was equated more with Easter rather than Christmas as it is today.

The group that performed Messiah for these gatherings was most likely comprised of roughly thirty men and boys, a larger number than performed Messiah under Handel's direction (Cottle 19). In this version Mozart shortened the oratorio by removing two movements from the second part (Jesus' death), "Let all the angels of God," and "Thou art gone up on high." Other than some adjustments to "The trumpet shall sound," Mozart left most of the original choral and vocal writing as it was. The major variation in the Mozart arrangement was in the winds. This brought about three major effects: the absence of the missing organs is minimized, cadences are reinforced to eliminate the linearity of the music (thus further blending the voices to the harmony, as was the Classical style), and the imagery was intensified (Cottle 20). In many of the arias Mozart strengthens the cadences, effectively breaking them up and making them more dissociated (Cottle 21). All of these changes made the music, at least to Mozart, more pleasing (Cottle 20).

Messiah was rediscovered and reinvented in Handel's adopted hometown of London, and England as a whole, during the 1820s continuing through the turn of the century. In London during the 1820s oratorios had become the vogue musical form, with Messiah leading the way. For some time religious musical festivals had been held in many of the English provinces and in London (Smither 339). Thus, there was the means and newfound desire to bring Messiah back out for large scale public performance.


I like presents, too!

OK.......NOW let the gifts be given and hilarity ensue!


Not all oxys are morons

Goldwynism (GOLD-wi-niz-em) noun (Wordsmith.org)
A humorous statement or phrase resulting from the use of incongruousor contradictory words, situations, idioms, etc.

[After Samuel Goldwyn (1879-1974), Polish-born US film producer, knownfor such remarks. Born Schmuel Gelbfisz, he changed his name to SamuelGoldfish after he went to UK, and to Samuel Goldwyn after moving to the US.]

Here are some examples of Goldwynisms:

o Include me out.
o When I want your opinion I will give it to you.
o I'll
give you a definite maybe.
o If I could drop dead right now, I would be the
happiest man alive.
o Anybody who goes to a psychiatrist ought to have his
head examined.
o I may not always be right, but I am never wrong.
o In two
words im-possible.

Where does Jesus live? Come to Christ this Christmas, and see what it means to live.

G. K. Chesterton has captured the wonder in how Jesus' earthly address changes ours, as only he can do.

A child in a foul stable,
Where the beasts feed and foam;
Only where He was homeless
Are you and I at home:
We have hands that fashion and heads that know,
But our hearts we lost--how long ago!
In a place no chart nor ship can show
Under the sky's dome.

To an open house in the evening
Home shall men come,
To an older place than Eden
And a taller town than Rome.
To the end of the way of the wandering star,
To the things that cannot be and that are,
To the place where God was homeless
And all men are at home. (1)

Where does Jesus live? Come to Christ this Christmas, and see what it means to live.

(1) G.K. Chesterton, "The House of Christmas," from Robert Knille, ed., As I Was Saying (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 1985), 304-5


Merry Christmas

Once upon a time, there was a man who looked upon Christmas as a lot of humbug. He wasn't a Scrooge. He was a very kind and decent person, generous to his family, upright in all of his dealings with other men. But he didn't believe all that stuff about an Incarnation which churches proclaim at Christmas. And he was too honest to pretend that he did.

"I am truly sorry to distress you," he told his wife, who was a faithful churchgoer. "But I simply cannot understand this claim that God became a man. It doesn't make any sense to me." On Christmas Eve, his wife and children went to church for the midnight service. He declined to accompany them. "I'd feel like a hypocrite," he explained. "I'd much rather stay at home. But I'll wait up for you."

Shortly after his family drove away in the car, snow began to fall. He went to the window and watched the flurries getting heavier and heavier. "If we must have Christmas," he reflected, "it's nice to have a white one." He went back to his chair by the fireside and began to read his newspaper.

A few minutes later, he was startled by a thudding sound. It was quickly followed by another, then another. He thought that someone must be throwing snowballs at his living-room window. When he went to the front door to investigate, he found a flock of birds huddled miserably in the snow. They had been caught in the storm, and in a desperate search for shelter had tried to fly through his window.

"I can't let these poor creatures lie there and freeze," he thought. "But how can I help them?" Then he remembered the barn where the children's pony was stabled. It would provide a warm shelter. He quickly put on his coat and galoshes and tramped through the deepening snow to the barn. He opened the doors wide and turned on a light. But the birds didn't come in.

"Food will bring them in," he thought. So he hurried back to the house for bread crumbs, which he sprinkled on the snow to make a trail into the barn. To his dismay, the birds ignored the bread crumbs and continued to flop around helplessly in the snow.

He tried shooing them into the barn by walking around and waving his arms. They scattered in every direction -- except into the warm, lighted barn. "They find me a strange and terrifying creature," he said to himself, "and I can't seem to think of any way to let them know they can trust me. If only I could be a bird myself for a few minutes, perhaps I could lead them to safety."

Just at that moment, the church bells began to ring. He stood silently for a while, listening to the bells pealing the glad tidings of Christmas. Then he sank to his knees in the snow. "Now I do understand," he whispered. "Now I see why You had to do it."

Friday, December 24, 2004

This Post dedicated to the Estimable Hon. Dean M. Koch

Christmas Armaments
My Christmas quest was simple enough: buy toy cowboy guns for my boys. Caleb and Eli have boots and hats, bandanas and sheriff's badges. But they don't have holsters and guns. Without those critical components, however, you've really just got yourself a Village People costume. We've made do until now with two wooden pistols that were originally designed to shoot rubber bands. But I wanted to get them shiny cowboy guns, the kind that make a little boy's heart race, that turn a bad guy's legs to jelly, and that give a damsel that funny climbing-the-rope-in-gym-class feeling when she sees them strapped around your waist.

So I got up early one recent Saturday, and set out to catch Toys R Us right when they opened. This is advisable if like me you find yourself drawing hysterical conclusions about the future of civilization based on your experiences shopping in malls and driving behind school buses. If you can't find anything nice to say about your fellow man, I like to think, then best just to avoid him. So I walked inside the Toy Mecca in vain hopes of quickly completing my mission. In this I was working against teams of psychologists and store design specialists all bent on exactly the opposite goal, which is to keep the hapless shopper in the store for as long as there are dollars left in his wallet. I winded my way past rows of video games and Barbie paraphernalia (I think boys might benefit from owning a Barbie doll; every young man should understand what an expensive proposition it is to cohabitate with a narcissistic woman built like a stripper), past noisy electronic gizmos and remote-controlled devices.

But I couldn't find guns. I wandered up and down aisles until I spotted a salesman. "Excuse me," I said, "where can I find cowboy guns?"

"Oh. We don't sell those." He looked at me as if I had just asked him for nipple clamps, or perhaps a Bible. His voice was tinged with the self-righteousness of people who announce to others that they recycle, or that their children attend Eugene V. Debs Elementary because they believe in supporting the public schools.

"So basically we're becoming France, right?" He saw neither the truth nor the humor in this observation.

Disgusted, I decided to nip this troubling portent in the bud by going to the store where the Almighty himself would shop if he needed cowboy guns. That's right: Wal-Mart. Good 'ole Wally World. Any store that draws as much ire from trial lawyers, NOW, and 60 Minutes has got to have me in mind as a target demographic. Wal-Mart, certainly, would have cowboy guns. Well, if I wanted to buy the boys real guns, and perhaps a gallon of milk, then it turns out that Wal-Mart is the place to go. But not for toy cowboy guns -- at least not my local Wal-Mart. What followed were increasingly panicked visits to all the places that one might expect to find cowboy guns. KMart? Nothing but an assault rifle that makes high-pitched electronic noises, and a crappy plastic cowboy gun that I think actually broke a little when I looked at it wrong. Target? Target! Their logo is a bloody bulls-eye, for crying out loud. Surely they would have cowboy guns, yes? Don't believe the hype.

And so it was with every destination. Time dragged on and the roads began to fill with grim-faced shoppers. In desperation I wheeled into the local mall. There was one place left, one final hope for a man intent on arming his children, in fine American fashion, for Christmas. The hobby shop.

I was greeted by a gruff bearded man. He could smell the panic on me, like a grizzled sergeant can smell it on a soldier in his first battle. "Something I can do for you, son?"

"Yes. Please. Please, for the love of all that remains good about America, tell me that you carry toy cowboy guns. Just a couple of cowboy guns is all I'm asking for. Toys R Us doesn't have them, Wal-Mart doesn't have them . . ." My voice trailed off.

He sized me up, perhaps to see if I was one of those pansy do-gooder Public Citizen types just looking to make trouble. Fortunately I hadn't shaved, and I was wearing flannel. "C'mon," he said with a gleam in his eye, "we just got in a shipment."

They just got in a shipment.

He led me to the back, where he had assembled -- and I am not making this up -- gun racks to hold all the toy armaments. If Santa ever needed to assemble a commando strike force, this could be his armory.

I almost cried.

Here was every kind of toy pistol and rifle imaginable, made of real wood and metal. Single-barrel, double-barrel, over-and-under, even blunderbuss. Sighted, scoped, with and without shoulder strap, pump action, bolt action, underlever cocking . . . (Insert Tim Allen gorilla sound here).

There were swords, too, but as I've explained in a recent post, we don't need any more of those.
And then I saw them: row after row of silver six-shooters in leather holsters. At that point I did cry a little, but I wiped away the tears really quick so the hobby-store guy wouldn't see. I think he would have understood, though. After playing with testing the guns for a while, I made my selections and hefted them to the counter. Keep in mind that a cowboy needs not just his pistols, but also a rifle to hunt with, and to cap rustlers from a good quarter-mile out. Then there's also the fact that Isaac is going to need a gun in a couple of years. Plus the boys like for me to help them defend the house against bad guys, and there's no way in heck I'm going to keep using the kitchen broom if they're going to be wielding all this sweet equipment . . .

Suffice to say that the hobby-store guy covered his rent that day. He didn't have a bag big enough to hold all my new weaponry, so he dug under the counter until he found an industrial-size garbage bag, the thick black kind. He asked me how many boys I have, and I told him three. He nodded approvingly as he gently placed my weapons inside the bag and tied it up. Then he offered me his hand and wished me a Merry Christmas.

I felt like I restored his hope in America, or fatherhood, or something like that. I know he inspired me. Think about it: here is a small entrepreneur who staked thousands of dollars on the bet that even if the big retail stores don't have the guts to admit it, there are plenty of us parents willing to give our boys a toy gun for Christmas.

Nah, we're a long way from being like France.

Blessings to you and your family for the remainder of this year and all of the next. And if you come creeping around my house in the middle of the night, you'd best announce yourself clearly and stand real still until we give you entry. We're armed to the teeth.

Posted by Woodlief on December 23, 2004 at 09:12 AM

Heh! Merry Christmas Dean!

Oh Dear Daughter

Though winter bites deep and your branches seem bare
and ice freezes joy in its grip, DON'T DESPAIR!
For the Father is carrying your heart in His Hands
until Summer returns to thaw out Laughter's sands.

I love you and I am praying for you, that the Father's intentions and designs will be manifest to you. Press in and press on for in healings touch you will see His wisdom and you will praise Him again. Jesus Walks with you on this Christmas Eve.

I Love you with all my heart, Dad

Christmas lives

Upon a tree
you hung so long ago,
love's ornament
between heaven and earth
Light of heaven in flesh
encased man's own hope and God's own face

December 24, 2004

Christmas Eve

They were all looking for a king
To slay their foes, and lift them high;
Thou cam'st, a little baby thing
That made a woman cry.
... George MacDonald (1824-1905)


Thursday, December 23, 2004

Baby, its COLD outside.......

OFf to bed, but what a great company, and even better...at long last to have a team leader who is also a friend. This man is going far, and I post this picture in his honor. Drink up, friend, and ride that camel! Heh.

To all employees of Western Oregon Waste: Truly you are the very best of all the garbage companies out there. As I have watched you do your job, and compared that with others, it is evident that you have truly internalized the mission, and you all know it is better to give than to receive. Oh, if there were only some way to reward and thank you at a level commensurate with your performance! In the meantime, please receive this post as how your customers feel about you. All you managers out there...look upon me and wail, for it is I who has the crew invinsible

Today, our wonderful shop was the embodiment of our mission of customer service. They put out the most wonderful and inviting spread of a feast, to serve to one and all in our company. It was a blessing, watching the drivers come in, one by one, to be greeted by a huge table full of prime rib, crab salad, condiments, and smoked turkey, salmon loaf, and sweets galore!

What Christmas carol are you?

I am

You Are "Silent Night"
Silent night, holy nightAll is calm, all is brightRound yon Virgin, Mother and ChildHoly infant so tender and mildSleep in heavenly peace
You never forget that Christmas is about the birth of Christ. Santa and eggnog are just gravy

What Christmas Carol Are You?


Personal integrity: The timeless priceless treasure

Personal integrity is one of those qualities of spirit that is essential, andelusive. When you are humble, and focused on others, personal integrity is like a spring that flows out and waters all around. But when the focus turns inward, towards one's self, the spring begins to get trampled, befouled, and ultimately plugged up.

Consider the words below, from a novelization of a train disaster in Germany in 1998. This disaster was caused by the cutting of corners on the part of engineers and testers, corners cut so that more money could be made on a sub-par product. As you read on, consider your own most treasured possession: your integrity. Ask yourself what it is worth.

Leo Graf is an engineer tasked with training workers who have been modified genetically to work in free-fall. The quaddies (so-named because one of the mods replaces their legs and feet with a second fully-functional set of arms and hands) are virtual slaves of the corporation that created them to construct space ships.One of the lessons Graf teaches these nascent engineers has resonated with me for decades: the absolute evil represented by deliberately falsifying engineering test results. In their class on x-ray crystallography and weld-testing, Graf addresses the quaddies:

"Look at this. What do you see?"

He nodded at Tony again."A laser weld, sir.""So it would appear. Your identification is quite understandable—and quite wrong. I want you all to memorize this piece ofwork. Look well. Because it may easily be the most evil object you will ever encounter."

They looked wildly impressed, but totally bewildered. He commanded their absolute silence and utmost attention."That," he pointed for emphasis, his voice growing heavy with scorn, "is a falsified inspection record. Worse, it's one of a series. A certain
subcontractor... found its profit margin endangered by a high volume of its work being rejected... The welds passed the computer certification all right—because it was the same damn good weld, replicated over and over again..."

He gathered his breath. "This is the most important thing I will ever say to you. The human mind is the ultimate testing device... There is nothing, nothing, nothing more important to me in the men and women I train than their absolute personal integrity. Whether you function as welders or inspectors, the laws of physics are implacable lie detectors. You may fool men. You will never fool the metal."

Dear Santa,Here are the specs for the computer I really want for Christmas

Here is a GREAT post from http://www.americandigest.org/ Can you relate? I CAN!

Dear Santa,Here are the specs for the computer I really want for Christmas:

1) I want it to go on and off with the touch of a button like a light or a television.
2) I want the mouse to go where I steer it.
3) I want the monitor to be big and bright and never fail.
4) I want ALL the drivers in place so I can drive it.
5) I want it to save everything I do in the background all the time so I never lose anything.
6) I want it to keep track of everything and never lose anything.
7) I want to never again see an error message that reads
"Memory Fault at 000E461"( Nobody knows what that means, not even Bill Gates, but the preferred
translation is "Neener, neener, neener!").
8) I never want to wait to wait while we download new art again.
9) I dont want to see Theres a 40 megabyte $99.00 upgrade for this software. Download? I want the software to be finished when I buy it the first time.
10) I don't want it to eat my homework, I want it to do my homework.
11) I want it bug free, freeze free, and fritter free the first time.
12) I want it to cost about what a decent 21 inch color TV costs and be just as quick and easy to operate.
13) I want it to listen to and understand my voice so I can never again feel I have to run Typing Tutor just to answer my email.
14) I want it to incinerate the junk email that fills up my hard-drive
quicker than you can say "Make Money Fast." and send a letterbomb to spammer.
15) I want all the technoblather that this machines fills the world with to
just stop right now! I never, ever, again want to wake up in the middle of the night staring at the ceiling thinking, "JAVA? What is it and why do I have to care about it?"
Having been more nice than I have been naughty, I look forward to your speedy compliance on Christmas morning.

Your Pal,Gerard Van der Leun
Comments (1)

Perhaps the Great Guru of all things computer, the hard working and wonderful Wizard of WOW can attend to these things for us???

Our hearts must grow!

Dr. Seuss's Grinch, who tried in vain to steal Christmas
Put away from you all bitterness
and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander,
together with all malice,
and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another,
as God in Christ has forgiven you.
Ephesians 4:31-32

This an excerpt from a wonderful blog found at http://www.markdroberts.com/
It is done by a pastor, and is one of the best. Click on the Advent Calendar to get a wonderful series of pics like the one above.


Batman Begins: the new trailer. Oh yes.


Wednesday, December 22, 2004

The Healing of the Light King

" Grandpa! Please, please tell us a story," the young children exclaimed. They were seated in the lap of a man who had seen many, many years. His gnarled, rough hands were like the branches of an oak tree, and his hair was thick and full, and white as snow. His face was a harvest apple in January—wrinkled and browned, but sweet to the taste. He was old as the hills and yet his eyes…full of light and joy, tears and grief, brokenness made whole… they made this old trooper seem like an eager child on Christmas Eve!

He gazed down at his grandchildren, Young Frederick on his right knee, sweet Caroline on his left. "So!" he boomed. "‘Tis a story you be wanting, is it my sprites? Well then! ‘Tis a story you’ll be getting, only then you’ll have to run off to your beds! For tomorrow we celebrate HIS birthday, and GLORY what a celebration we’ll have, eh? Frederick, throw some more wood on that fire whilst Sweet Caroline and I scoot closer to it."

Frederick jumped down to obey. The old man rose with his granddaughter under one arm like a kitten, and with a casual flick of his wrist he tossed his huge oaken chair about three feet closer to the fire, like it was made of twigs. He sat down, and Sweet Caroline squirmed up his chest and wormed her arms around his corded neck. "Grandpa," she said with a solemn face, "Tell us about your journey. Tell us about Him." "Yeah!" Frederick chimed in excitedly as he launched himself upon his grandpa. "Tell us about when you were The Light King, and when you went to see Him when He came, and about Gillae and Brownie and—"

"Whoa, slow down my bumpkins," interrupted the old man. "You’ve heard that story so many times it must be nearly worn out from the telling! Surely you’d rather hear about how your papa, the King, killed the ugly dragon, Ba’alzamon, or about how he rescued the beautiful Princess Katherine and made her his Queen and your mother?"

"NO GRANDPA!" they shouted in concert. "Tomorrow ‘s the Day—His day and it’s your day too, said Frederick. "Yes, Grandpa," said Sweet Caroline. "It’s my favorite story, to hear how you met Him and everything. Please, Grandpa, oh please?"

The old man sat looking back and forth between them as if caught deep in indecision. He glared at them in mock irritation while delight danced in his eyes. The children sat in suspense, hardly daring to breathe, hearts straining with desire to hear the magical story. Sweet Caroling looked at Frederick, and had a giggling fit. Frederick shushed her with an agonized frown and the darkness of the night pressed in through the windows as they huddled close to the fire. The room was full of lamps, all of them unlit and dormant. The fire popped and crackled fiercely.

The old man drew in a deep breath, held it, just to build the suspense and then exhaled in mock resignation and secret gladness. "Oh very well you smooth talkers. The tale is yours for the telling." Frederick let out a whoop and Sweet Caroline accompanied him with gleeful clapping. "I swear! You two could talk an elephant out of his trunk while making him feel he was the talk of the town for the bargain! Okay then—gather close and settle in, and you shall hear the telling of THE HEALING OF THE LIGHT KING. He took a deep breath, and began…

"‘Twas on this very day, 77 years ago that I left this very castle, LIGHTSHINE HEARTHHOME and began the journey. I was sick, and full of torment. The fever upon me was getting worse. The times I felt whole and pain free were fewer and shorter, as aches and hurts grew like hungry dragons feasting on my days and devouring my nights.

"The Light King" they called me then, though the name was given first in mocking jest. But King I was…then. Before the pain there was not a man under my eye that didn’t pledge his all for mine. What needed doing we did! No hesitation or moment of indecision! Strength it took, and strength I had! But it left me, strength, deserted me just when I needed it the most to fight off afflictions that no sword and shield could slash or beat down.

I loved the light in those days—and now—more than all else! I remember how sunlight through clouds and moonlight through trees fascinated me. I wanted to touch that light! To hold it, to drink it, to breathe it! To live IN it…ah. In those days men said there was a shine upon me not seen around others, a shine that matched my strength. But my strength began to fade, and the shine began to cease. I was terrified. Oh, I put on a brave face, but secretly I cried in desperate agony and fear.

I began to collect lamps and fill LIGHTSHINE HEARTHHOME with as much light as possible—lamps in the kitchen and lights in the hall, lamps in the library, wherever I could fit them. But the more lamps I brought inside the castle, the less light I had inside of me! It was like they were stealing their light from mine and burning my strength for fuel. The castle and all in it was brighter, but me—I was growing dimmer, fading you might say.

I heard whispers behind my back, and "LIGHT KING" became a mocking title because I had so many lamps and so little light. Oh, to my face it was all peaches and cream, but behind the curtain I was a laughingstock—king in name and calling only.

Always remember: position and riches do not royalty make. It takes qualities of spirit that cannot be bought, but only earned.

Then it got worse. The dreams began—awful dreams of agony and torment over what I saw in the dreams. I feared going to sleep, and with the coming night came dread as well, to lie like a great monstrous dog across the foot of my bed.

"Oh, Grandpa," gasped Caroline. "What were the dreams about?"

Ahh. They were about a new baby who became a noble man. This man was…well, it’s hard to say after all these years…he was light! I know that seems like an odd way to tell whom someone is, but there it is. He’d be laying there, a new baby shining like a diamond, and right before my dreaming eyes he’d grow up into a man, who was LIGHT! He was incredible to behold! Not exactly handsome, or attractive, even…but he was beautiful! And if I was "The Light King’, then he was King of Lights!

I thought if he’d just reach out and touch me, then I’d be so full of such light as’d never fade nor flicker and the pain would be eaten up and I’d be strong again! But then the awful part of the dream started. The darkness took on shape, like dragons and daemons, and it gathered against my King of Lights and tore him with claws of hatred. It beat him and broke him into a bloody horror. Then he was nailed to the stake and blood was everywhere. Finally the darkness set its teeth into his torn body to drag him down into its maw…deeper and deeper down…I screamed in rage and terror and ran to him and grabbed him to keep him from being pulled down into the blackness.

But I wasn’t strong enough and I was dragged down with him into the pit and I wasn’t brave enough to hold on and face the terror at his side so I let go in despair and shame…and woke up screaming and weak, dim and dying.

This nightmare happened all night every night, and it was killing me. I was near death when the Star King and the Mountain King arrived. The Star King had seen great portents in the sky of a Mighty One who was to be born, and together with the Mountain King was making pilgrimage to do him homage. To survive this journey they needed the support that my treasury could offer them, and they desired me to accompany them! The fading Light King—nearing death, and I was supposed to help them?

But I was intrigued by these tidings. A mighty one born in my lifetime. "Perhaps THE Mighty One of All," the Star King kept saying. It stirred…truly and deeply. The kings stayed with us three days, and I was determined to accompany them despite being in no condition to make such an arduous journey. We had no idea where we were going, or how far it was. All we had was a new star that the Star King said sang to him to follow until it stopped where the Mighty One was.

I would most likely die before I returned and yet…I knew in my heart of hearts that I was destined for such a quest. And so we set out that fateful morning so long ago. The Star King had a big barrel of frankincense to give to the Mighty One. The Mountain King had a big chest of gold to give to Him. ‘What will you give Him?’ they asked me. I laughed in mirthless despair. What could such as I give to such as Him? I would most likely be dead before we found Him, but I said, if I was not dead, then I would give Him myself. HA, HA—a joke on the Mighty One—a dead King as a gift.

So, I loaded my pack animals with food, water, and a large trunk full of burial spice—myrrh. It would most likely be used on me before we arrived, but if not, then I would complete the joke and give it to the Mighty One in the face of death, as a down payment for his dead King. My subjects lined the roadway and cheered us—some in jest and some in sorrow. Deep inside it was like everyone knew I was not coming back alive.

We traveled for months, following that star, and I grew weaker and weaker, and my dreams more and more terrible. I saw each blow of the whip and heard each gasp from His mouth. I saw each drop of living blood fall, liquid ruby light. I saw each time He was hit. I saw every crystal tear drop, and I saw the hammer fall time and again as it drove the nails through Him and stuck Him to the stake. I saw Him dropped into the earth like a broken sword in the midst of an empty grave.

I needed constant care but death like the tide just kept creeping closer and closer. Finally one night, in the dreams, I held onto the King of Lights as He was drawn down. Deeper and deeper into the teeth of the darkness I was pulled, but still I held on, down into such hell itself. The pressure and sorrow and grief and the undead dark were overwhelming and again, in shame and despair I had to let go and seek the light of the world I knew. But I couldn't find my way back. I was lost, and in the darkness, I wandered alone.

The Star King and the Mountain King thought me dead and left me with all that I brought. And I lay, I know not how long.

Sensations swirled behind the darkness that I wandered in, and in the tenuous patterns slowly formed. I listened eyes closed, and was comforted by noises that gave me hope all was not lost. Bells…voices …and then I noticed aromas of fields and wet wool…SHEEP! That was it! I was walking in a dark cloud surrounded by sheep! A rough, wet, slobbery thing touched my cheek and my forehead. I was being LICKED!

I pushed out with my hands and found the rich wooly coats of sheep gathered round me. I was not walking upright in the darkness at all, but was actually laying on my back in a dewy, cold field, and these sheep were gathered around me, licking me like I was Hiram the Shepherd’s salt lick!

"Gillae, come quick! An angel lays in our midst, fallen and ill!" I heard a high-pitched young voice scream. I turned my head and the world tilted violently as I did and I felt sick and began to groan and heave in dry wracking spasms.

"HIE! Back off there, Brownie! Not too close! After what we just went through I be not wanting ye to take any chances! Let us have a lookee!" The voice that spoke was like a waterfall’s roar, deep and loud, and not a little alarmed. With all my might I tried to turn to look, but before I could I felt a hard rap to my ribs and a persistent jabbing. The fool was poking me with a stick!

"WHAT BE YE!?" shouted the voice! "Speak up, now, and be quick about it! We are in no mood for further shocks and surprises, for the events of the night have greatly unsettled us!" Somehow I managed to get my head turned and my eyes open, and there I beheld a giant of a man. He rose from the ground like the Yule Tree in the Castle Courtyard. At the top of his head was the bushiest, tangledest mop of hair that ever crowned a head! His beard was long and it moved in the wind with a life of its own. His hands were like shovels, and they held a staff the size of a small sapling! His eyes flashed brightly in the moonlight, and his teeth glistened like pearls as he spoke to me. He was one of the most commanding men I have ever met.

"Hie! I’m talking to you, there! Be ye man or be ye angel or be ye demon!? "I’m just a king" I managed to choke out. "A king? You are a….KING?" The giant threw back his head and laughed like his sides were split.

"You are no king, that is for certain! Brownie, bring us a light." A small, slight boy stepped from behind the man, bearing aloft a lamp. He was quick and well built, and had a pleasant, intelligent air about him. He gave the lamp to the giant shepherd, who scrutinized me closer.

"Hmm. Now that I can see things more clearly I am certain that you are no angel either. You do not seem to be much of anything!"

"He’s no king...is he Gillae?" said Brownie, seeking reassurance from the big man. "Back away there Brownie," Gillae said, and he took the lamp and drew it close to my face, and began to study me intently. His gaze was piercing, but strangely inspiring, and I felt life begin to flow again. I stirred myself to his challenge, and sat up to return his look.

Out of the corner of my eye I noticed there were several other shepherds on the fringe of the lamp’s circle of light. "By the Maker," said I, "King I am…in a land far away. ‘Tis true that I do not look like a king, nor feel much better, but far I have journeyed to find the end of my travels. I seek the treasure of the ages. And why, by the heavens do you talk of such things as angels and demons?"

"Hmmm…perhaps I see royalty in yer veins, it may be as ye say", Gillae said. "‘Tis evident that you have many miles of a journey upon ye, and ye are not well. But after this night’s drama it is no wonder that we knew not if you were human or inhuman. But ye speak of treasure…what is this treasure that a king would leave home and kingdom for?"

So I told him of the Mighty One that we sought, of the star that travelled and moved, and drew us on to the One. I told him of my illness and of my companions who had gone on without me, and Gillae grew evermore full of wonder and comprehension. Finally I was too weak to go on. I raised my arm towards the sky, and gestured weakly at the night, at the star that still shone brightly and steadily overhead, silently shouting of great wonders. "I must find Him!" I gasped. "I must…."

Gillae rubbed his chin, regal as any king I ever saw and sat silent and brooding as he considered all the things I had said. He was weighing my story, weighing ME by some measure that I knew not but I cared very much to be found adequate and worthy of his good judgement. A short and chubby shepherd stepped up to Gillae and began to speak to him in whispered tones that I couldn’t make out. Gillae nodded and answered something back, and then the little butterball stepped back to the small group of shepherds and began to urge them out to the flocks, and there they went to work gathering the sheep together as if to make a journey.

"Well, King. You are fortunate that we happened upon you. Our good man Dannaeo says that we should bring you with us on our journey, and I concur. It seems that your quest overlaps considerably with an errand that we have recently been…charged with. The boys are gathering the sheep, and when they are finished, we will fashion a means to take you with us."

"Sir Shepherd," I said, "you have mentioned dramatic and unsettling events. Pray tell, what happened to you and how did you stumble upon me?" Gillae fixed his eyes upon me and stared sharply. He shifted his great bulk and rubbed his jaw reluctantly. "Please, Sir, speak up," I commanded in as regal a manner as I could summon. He cast his eyes down, and said "Very well Sir King. I will tell you enough to get us all to the fold in the same herd, but most pressing is our errand.

"Nigh on three hours past sunset the boys and me were on the move from yon ridgeline headed toward this very field to set the flock in for the night. It is well protected and the sheep love the sweet grass of this swale. Brownie had the flock well bunched and moving a good clip. Up at the head of the copse yonder we began to allow the flock to spread out, and we looked for firewood in amongst the trees. Dannaeo rustled up some grub and soon we were cozy in the shelter and settling in for a cold but not unpleasant evening.

"Several of the boys were nodding off and there was peace in the still night. But things began to change. I noticed that the sheep were restless and stirred myself to look for some slinker that wanted an easy meal. The air grew heavy, and shivery like, and then began to glow with golden glimmers that grew brighter each passing moment. Suddenly there was a brilliant burst, like when a big knot bursts in the midst of a roaring fire, and standing before us was a gigantic shining man! I must confess that I was undone, and I fell to my face before him like a dead man."

"YOU DID NOT, GILLAE!" shouted an outraged high-pitched voice. I looked over and saw that young Brownie had been lingering on the edge of our conversation listening in. He rushed into our midst and began to shout, "Gillae is always changing things around to cover up his bravery! He is the biggest and bravest shepherd of all, and he stood up to that guy and made him tell us wh---"

"Hush yourself Brownie!" Gillae said sternly. "Since when did I ever teach you that it was polite to eavesdrop on the conversation of others, let alone listen in to a royal report to a King?" Brownie dropped his eyes and hung his head. "Umm, never sir" he mumbled. "What was that, young whelp? I can’t hear you," Gillae chastised, all the while managing to conceal the indulgent look in his eye. It was evident to me that Gillae loved Brownie very much, and was secretly pleased with the spunk and spirit of the young shepherd.

"Brownie, it is important that ye learn to listen twice as much as you talk. This will please the Maker to see you use EACH of your ears so when you return to Him you will be full of wisdom and not emptied of sense." "Aww, yes Sir" Brownie mumbled, but then his fire rose up and he just couldn’t help himself, bursting out with "but Gillae, if this is a king he should KNOW of what you are!" "That will be QUITE enough, Jubal Dripsten…do you HEAR me!" This time the note of command and chastening was unmistakable and evident. "Back to the flock with ye, and make things ready. Have Mikkens and Towser fashion a litter upon which we can bear our companion. Sir King, I apologize for this whelp. He is young and impetuous."

Gillae followed Brownie’s departure with his gaze. "No apologies needed, Sir Shepherd" I retorted. "I too have been his age. But pray tell me more, and do feel free to give me the FULL story." I sensed that there was more to the tale than Gillae was telling…indeed there was more to this MAN than he was revealing. "Oh, well. Let’s see…where was I?" he muttered. "I believe you were laying on the ground like a dead man?" I remarked dryly.

Gillae shot a hot look at me that bordered on anger, but then he got a hold of himself. "Yes…laying on the ground. Well it turns out this was the angel of the Lord, and he gave us word that the Redeemer of All Things had just been born. We were supposed to find Him in Bethlehem and declare His birth to all that we meet. Then the angel disappeared, and all was still. So we roused ourselves, and set off towards Bethlehem. Just minutes later we stumbled across you, and now you know the rest of the story."

I looked Gillae squarely in the eye but he quickly cast his eyes down, and I was certain that he was not telling me everything. I just nodded, and said "Well, Sir Gillae, what now? Off to this Bethlehem, to see the King?" "Aye, that is the path for us all." Gillae answered.

He stood quickly and began to call to the others. Mikkens and Towser came over to me carrying a rickety looking litter and my baggage. They gently picked me up and placed me on the litter and then lifted me up onto their shoulders. "I am sorry, good men to be a burden unto you. Thank you for your sacrifice and good hearts." "Sir King, I tell you that you are light, not heavier than a yearling lamb" said Mikkens. "Aye", echoed Towser. It is our privilege to carry you. It is not every shepherd that gets to carry a King to meet a King."

And off we went, Gillae leading the way, the flock following close at heel, the group of shepherds scattered round them, and then Mikkens, Towser and I bringing up the rear. We travelled an hour or so in this manner, following the star, men speaking to one another in hushed expectant tones. As we travelled, I marveled at the endurance of my 2 bearers, and I could not help but reflect on the difference between these 2 and my previous 2 companions.

One thing was becoming evident the more time I spent with these shepherds: Royalty is not a title or station in life, but rather a way of being that is oriented towards joyful sacrifice. Perhaps my bearers were kings more than the ones who had left me to die.

After a while, I started to doze off, rocked by the soft motion of our travel. I was startled by a voice and woke to find myself staring into Brownie’s intense gaze.

"Gillae wasn’t telling you the whole story, and I think you should know it, being a king and all. I don’t know much about kings, you being the only one I ever met" (and with this he eyed me dubiously), "but I can tell you that Gillae is braver than any man I ever met, and he is stronger and more giving than any person alive. Many times we have all been too tired to take our watches and we fall asleep, only to wake and see him on guard, over us and the sheep both. And in truth, tonight’s events have only added to his exploits!"

"Brownie" said I, "You have all seemed on edge and wary, and of course all of your hints and outbursts tell me there is more going on here than meets the eye. What exactly befell you on this evening of wonders?" Brownie looked forward at Gillae to make sure he wasn’t listening…and no fear of that for Gillae was leading, and walking at ready as if expecting an attack of robbers, or worse. Then in a low voice, Brownie began to speak.

"Well, it all happened like Gillae said, but when the gigantic man appeared to us, we fell to the ground like dead men, but not Gillae! He stepped forward and raised his staff, and challenged the newcomer to identify himself as friend or foe, and if foe to prepare to meet his doom. The giant shining guy began to speak to us as we all clung to the ground like babes to their nursemaids. I will never forget his words: ‘FEAR NOT, oh sons of Adam’ he declared. ‘I bear to you good tidings from the throne of the Most High God Himself, tidings of great joy, to all men in all places here and for all time until the Breaking is made Unbroken on that Day. Unto you is born this day, in David’s city, a Savior! Christ the Lord!’

"His voice hung in the air like a living thing, and was frightening but beautiful. He said he was the angel of the Lord come from the throne of the Maker. ‘You are to go to the Savior with all haste. Look for Him wrapped in swaddling clothes’ said the angel. ‘But what are we supposed to do, break into people’s houses?’ Gillae said. The angel gave a thunderous blast with his voice, that must have been angelic laughter, and it both chilled and invigorated my soul. ‘Look in the stables, Shepherd, for this King will be with the sheep, lying in a manger.’ "’A manger’ Gillae replied. ‘What kind of king is it that is born a Savior yet is lying in a feeding trough?’

When he said this, the guy just threw back his head and again thundered a laugh. But bold Gillae demanded proof that he was the angel of the Lord, and not some seducing deceiver from the Breaker’s dungeons. He actually stepped forward and thrust his staff into the face of the angel! When he did this, the angel rose straight up about 50 feet, and clapped his hands three times…and the night split open and rolled back like a scroll and in its place was light like you cannot imagine! It was like a hole had opened in the night, and the shadows were torn away, and Heaven’s own glory was invading the dark earth, and if you think we were scared before, we were simply undone now! For as the light rushed through the tear in the night it filled up the air around us.

This light was SOUND! Crazy I know, but the light was music, and the music I heard was the light! But the worst was yet to come, for suddenly, out of the very midst of this heavenly light angels began to pour forth. Hundreds upon hundreds, and thousands upon thousands! Like grains through the glass they came, each one singing loudly at the top of its lungs! ‘GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST, AND ON EARTH PEACE, AND GOODWILL TOWARD MEN!’

Over and over they sang this, and the song took wings and flew forth from around us out into the world. It is flying still, of this I am sure, to the darkest and loneliest places in the world. It is a song that will never be stopped. It will live with heaven’s life and all that hear its triumphant ring will thrill in their hearts with hope and comfort and joy.

"As this all happened even Gillae was knocked down, but while we all buried our heads in our arms and sought to hide in the dirt, I snuck a peak at Gillae. He lay on his back, face unveiled and eyes alight. As the gigantic angel of the Lord sang, he flew round and round over Gillae’s head and Bold Gillae just laughed in great bellows almost as loud as the angels. And then, things started to go backwards-like, and trickled in reverse, and began to flow upwards, back to heaven, until only the angel of the Lord was left.

‘Rise, oh chosen of the Most High’ he said. Gillae stood immediately, and the angel’s booming laugh echoed in my head, and he said ‘I am talking about all of you! The King of Glory has a special fondness for shepherds. He has chosen you as His heralds. Go quickly to Bethlehem, proclaiming to all you meet that He is born the Divine Christchild, Light of the world. Tell the world the Maker is not mad, and He says Peace, Peace, for there IS Peace! But beware, for the forces of the deceiver gather even now to steal away the light of the world. You must be on your guard! They will stop at nothing.’

"’Bring them on!’ shouted Gillae. ‘The evil doers will regret the day they opposed the Maker, and shall be sent back to the chaos that spawned them,’ and Gillae brandished his staff towards the angel of the Lord in skillful and dangerous flourishes! The angel rose up on high with a loud shout, and then with a clap like thunder disappeared in a lightning bolt! All was still, except for the gentle wind and the sound of our hearts hammering in our heads and the echo of Heaven’s Choirs ringing in our ears.

We lay there like dead men, but Gillae roused us up and said ‘Come lads! Heard ye not the angel of the Lord? We have a KING to find.’ "We slowly lifted our heads, still quaking from Heaven breaking into the night, but as the seconds passed, we got excited, for Gillae was jabbering and encouraging us constantly, prodding us with his voice like we were sheep on the business end of his staff." Brownie was silent after this, and I waited for him to resume.

He glanced around uneasily, and then looked at me as if I might still just be a phantom. "Speak on, Brownie" said I. "Well, Sir King, off we went as the angel had said, but suddenly we heard something that chills the bones of shepherds everywhere…the lonesome sinister howl of a hungry wolf! "’Hie! To the flock men!’ shouted Gillae. ‘Remember the angel’s warning! We have a king to find! Let nothing quench your heart! Defend the flock!’ And then they were on us in a flash, 6 big, black wolves with red eyes and yellow teeth. They were taller than my head, and the likes I have never seen and hope never to see again. We tried to stand, but the howling, slashing mouths were terrifying! I was frozen in fear, and one of them actually had me by my cloak, and was dragging me off to eat me, but Gillae came flying out of NOWHERE in a leaping shouting whirling wind of vengeance. He whacked those skulkers with his staff, and their bones cracked like kindling! They crumpled with yelps of pain and death, but still Gillae pressed on for though 3 were slain, the rest had him surrounded. He circled as they darted in and slashed, and parried each attack. The rest of us were milling about chasing the sheep so we were no help to him as he fought for his life and ours.

"But then the air grew cold, like the grave, and a dank foul smell arose from some evil place. Life was draining out of me and I wanted to run away. I glanced at Gillae and saw that something blacker than night was floating toward him. It was like a tear in the night that let in death and despair and it was painful to look at. Gillae slashed at the wolves and cracked the head of one like a ripe melon as he backed off from the dark thing. He drew himself up to his full stature and shouted ‘HALT FOUL HELL SPAWN!’ Leave us for we are on a mission for the Maker!’

"Everything was still, and then from the midst of the black, 2 red eyes opened and an awful black hole gaped like a mouth. From the midst of the dark came a scream so evil it must have been from hell. At this, my knees DID buckle, but still I looked on at Gillae. I thought that if I could just keep my eyes on him I would be safe. When Gillae heard that death cry, he actually threw his head back and LAUGHED! ‘Be OFF with your foul self!’ he commanded. And the thing actually stopped. But then IT spoke, and the sound was terrible, like the squeaking of a cemetery gate. It dug savagely into my mind. ‘You have no authority to make such command’ it hissed. ‘For your insolence I shall stop your heart and feed it to my wolves!’ the thing continued. ‘You have no part of this. But, in my great mercy I may let you live and even give you wealth and fame and comfort! But you must walk away and leave the night to us.’

"Gillae jumped forward with a war whoop and swung his staff with all his might right at the center of this thing, and screamed ‘In the name of the Baby King and Heaven’s Song I come against you to the death and I rebuke you!’ And with that his staff found its mark. The demon gave a scream of pain, fear, and rage mingled with defeat, and then with a bang the monster was gone! Gillae looked at me as I sat speechless and frozen in fear. The great man winked and nodded, and gently said ‘Eh, Brownie, pick up your jaw and rise up! We have a flock to lead and a king to find!’ And then he was off to slay the remaining wolves.

"I hurried off across the field in search of the sheep, and that is when I stumbled over you! All this time you had been out of it, lying in the field while angels and demons made war round about you. I looked over for Gillae just as he slew the last 2 beasts, and hollered for him, and, well, you pretty much know the rest. Can you see why we were uncertain regarding yourself? After what we had been through you could have been nearly anything! It is funny when you think about it…we found our king all right, but one who was old and dying, rather than a newborn babe who is called Wonderful Counselor!"

Brownie walked in silence and I pondered what he’d said. Finally I said "Thank you for the tale Brownie. I understand why you are such a fierce defender of Gillae. He is brave AND modest, a rare and pleasing combination. Your testimony is true and loyal." "Aye, and it is also too much talking and not enough working!" that booming familiar voice thundered. There stood Gillae, big as a horse! He had slipped back to us unnoticed as we talked, and overheard everything Brownie said. Brownie hung his head and hurried off to help the other men with the flock.

"Forgive the boy, Sir King" Gillae requested. "He is forward and given to bragging. It is to my detriment that I have not succeeded in instilling within him some restraint."

"On the contrary, Sir Shepherd," I answered. "He is a bright boy, and I sense his story is true, yes? A more complete picture worthy of reporting to a king?"

Gillae reddened and inhaled sharply. "I am reluctant to speak about such things" Gillae answered quietly. And then Gillae would speak no more on the subject. After a while, Dannaeo fell back to walk with Gillae and Mikkens and Towser and I. "We draw near, Sir King," he said. Gillae looked intently at me and said "Know that all is not as it seems. High is come down and low is lifted up. Light is cloaked and darkness becomes light. Even as He comes, so too must you come."

I was at a loss when he spoke, but my heart stirred at the promise of light. Gillae gazed at me unblinking, eyes glowing. I looked back in exhausted confusion. "What do you mean, Gillae?" "I will say no more, lest I put you in danger of pride. Only realize that to rise you must descend, to be found you must be lost. Take heart and be bold. Believe your heart, and remember your dreams!"

"Remember them!" I repeated in pain. "I spend all my waking hours trying to forget them!"

"Nevertheless, again I bid you—REMEMBER THEM! For the Master wastes nothing."

We finally came to the outskirts of a small town and the Star stopped, and fell lower and lower until it was drawn impossibly near to earth and hovered there, motionless in stellar proclamation of heavenly portents. The town was bursting at the seams with impossible crowds of people all trying at once to find food and lodging. We came to the inn, and I was sure that Gillae and the boys would get a room for me to rest and prepare to meet the Mighty One. But they walked straight on by with nary a glance!

Down a narrow lane into an even narrower alley, flock and all, only to enter into the gloomy darkness of a smelly, dirty old stable! "Gillae, why do we come to THIS place," I asked him in confusion. "Listen in your heart, and you will know, Sir King," he answered, "but if you are deaf, then lift up your head and you will see the star over your head like a bonfire of comfort and joy."

And I looked up and there it was in its beauty to take away your breath. I looked around us and saw animals, some people (shepherds mostly), and even Kings! Yes—the Star King and the Mountain King had found this decrepit place, too. But no one was looking at us. They were all looking at a manger, or rather, the small baby who lay in the manger. He was newly born and at peace. The Star King wore a look of disbelief. The Mountain King seemed disappointed, like someone at the end of a long, unfruitful quest.

I cleared my throat, and said weakly, "Hail and well met fellow kings. Why be you in this god-forsaken place?" The Star King glanced, then did a double take. "Hail and well met fellow King," he replied in astonishment. "We thought you dead this night. Even now you look more dead than living. But alas for us all. We came looking for the Mighty One of whom the Star sings, but found only yon babe and vanity!"

Gillae spoke up, eyes blazing: "Good King, yon babe IS the Mighty One! Do not err! Take heed my counsel: to rise up you must bend down. The eye of pride cannot see the light of humility." I glanced at the Star King to gauge his response, but he merely stared at Gillae like he were some dirty peasant beneath his notice and station. I looked back at the baby, and noticed a man and a woman seated near the manger looking overwhelmed by all the attention and commotion. All at once, the babe opened his eyes, and gazed straight into mine. I felt lost in their depths. Then I heard a Voice… "Come to Me, Light-King," it said. I looked all around but I couldn’t see who was speaking.

Suddenly Gillae was thrusting his staff against my back, pushing me towards the babe. "Go on, quickly!" he hissed. "The Master calls you." I laughed out loud. "The Master? Him? That helpless babe? Surely you jest. He is no more master than you are, Sir Shepherd!" Brownie ran up to stand at Gillae’s side. "Go on," he urged. "Remember what Gillae told you! ‘…As He comes, so to must you come...’ He sent for you: now you must answer Him!"

I looked back and forth between the baby and my friends. "Remember your dreams!" called Gillae. "Yes," said the Voice. "Remember your dreams." Suddenly I realized that the baby before my eyes was the same one I had dreamt of for all those years! He was the King of Lights who was savaged by darkness. I gasped in awe and terror. If the dream baby was real, were the dreams real as well?

"Yes, they are," he said. It was the baby who had spoken, though His lips had not moved. The Voice I was hearing was His! "Draw near to me, my Light King and learn the meaning of these things." He called me "Light King", but in his mouth it was not a curse but instead was a caress. I knelt at the side of the manger.

Memories swept over me and in pain I wept. Tears ran down my face and crowned the baby’s brow. His tiny hand reached out and grabbed me with a grip stronger than life, stronger than death. I tried to pull away. But he held me stronger than chains and looked into me. "My precious Light King. I called you. You answered. I prepared you. I send you. But first I will heal you."

The stable fell away and we were in my dreams, only this time he held onto me. Darkness came rushing at us with hungry teeth and sharp screams. I was terrified. Claws of dark tore at Him and His light bled out and the darkness took us down, down deeper into Hell. I screamed and tried with all my might to get free but He held me there with him. The awful stake came and pinned Him there with nails of death, but still He held onto me, and still we went down. His light was pouring out, but we went down deeper than I’d ever been in any of my dreams. He took me down all the way.

It was there, at the bottom that I saw what I’d never been able to see before…the ending of all His light at the bottom of the end of down. I screamed in despair, certain that all was lost. But then came His blood in a rush! His light had made a way into Dark’s evil heart and the flood of His blood raced on the heels of the Light! Dark thought it devoured His light, but Dark was deceived! Like an arrow straight and true Darkness was pinned and blood consumed it. And by His blood the Breaking was broken, and by His blood death undone. By His blood all light resumed flowing, by His blood all healing begun.

From the lowest, most impossible place of all, we began to rise, He and I and still His marvelous hand gripped me. We were rising on a tide of living light; lifted by the flow of His blood and He sang with victory and triumph!

"Behold, the King of Lights is come,

Bruised and poured out from on high,

The Blood King’s battle now is done

And Death’s devoured by victory!

King of Lights, Eternal Fount

The Blood King conquers every foe

Rising with triumphant shout

Peace, Goodwill to those laid low!"

As He sang the light grew brighter and blood redly ran deep and wide and we were high and lifted up, and still He held me. He held me! And I understood.

The stable came back. I was still kneeling beside the manger; my tears were still His crown. The others had all gathered close and were waiting in a hush. The baby let go of my hand.

He turned His tiny head and looked at the side of the manger. The point of a careless nail protruded starkly through the wood. Slowly, deliberately, He reached His tiny hand toward it. The woman perceived His intent, and started forward to stop Him, but the man stopped her.

The baby covered that nail point with His hand, and then, deliberate and slow, He pushed His palm against the nail. He never hesitated; he never even winced. He drew back his hand, and there in His palm lay a red pearl of great price—a drop of His innocent blood. He reached His wounded palm out to me and then He pressed it against my forehead like a kiss… and my pain was gone.

My grief and sorrow vanished, and I was healed, and filled with light—HIS very light! I rose and ran to my packs and drew out the chest of myrrh. I took it to the baby and laid it at his feet. "Oh my Blood King, my death is your death, and your life is my life," I said. I was still weeping, but now with tears of joy and gratitude.

He answered "I am King of Lights who has become Blood King," "Your death has become Mine, and My life and My light are become yours. You are My Light King! Here is My charge to you: go in My light. Spread it wherever you go. Care for the children. Give them gifts. Wherever you speak, there light shall be. Wherever you give, life shall grow. Remain faithful until you see Me return on high! For I will go, and I will return!"

The Star King and the Mountain King were transformed by these events came and they bowed low, laying their gifts at His feet. They had found the Song of the Star! Gillae, Brownie, Dannaeo, Mikkens and Towser also stepped forward. The Baby giggled and petted each one. They received His touch like knights receiving the dubbing of their King’s sword. Gillae turned to me and said, "I see now, Light King, the hidden ways of the Master. I honor Him and acknowledge you, His messenger and giftbearer."

The old man’s voice faltered and grew and silent. He seemed lost in memory. Sweet Caroline and Frederick waited, and waited for him to continue, but finally Frederick could wait no longer.

"Finish the story Grandpa! PUH—LEEZE!"

"Yes, oh yes", chimed in Sweet Caroline. "What happened next?"

"Huh?" asked the old man. "Oh. Sorry my bumpkins, I was just remembering. Well I told the Star King and the Mountain King all that had happened to me and introduced them to my shepherd friends. Then an angel told us to go home a different way. Seems the Breaker had gotten hold of an evil king’s heart. But that’s the stuff of other tales. I finally arrived back at LIGHTSHINE HEARTHHOME exactly two years to the day I had departed. Everyone was shocked to see me. They thought I had died. And –in a way—I had. They had let all the lights go out.

Except for your dad! Maker’s hands, he had kept his burning for me, and he stepped out of the crowd that day, marched straight up to me, and proclaimed, "BEHOLD THE LIGHT KING!" And nobody laughed, for it was finally, impossibly true."

"And all the dead lamps, Grandpa", asked Sweet Caroline. "Did you light them?" "Yes Grandpa," echoed Frederick. "Did you bring light back home?" The old man was quiet, and then said simply, "Yes. I did."

"Oh, show us, Grandpa. Please show us," the children begged in unison. "Now, now," protested the old man. "It’s time for bed, you fuzzyheads! Come into my arms and I’ll carry you to your room. "

" Oh, Grand-pa!" they wailed, but they obeyed. He hoisted them like they were babes and turned to leave the fire’s light. He hesitated, and then he strode over to a dark, lifeless lamp, and stood still a moment. The Children, one under each arm, looked at each other excitedly and held their breath.

And then-—the old man breathed on the lamp—whoosh—and laughed as light—pure light—leapt up in the lamp in answer to the call of his breath. The old man laughed and danced around the room, swinging the children high and breathing upon lamp after lamp until the whole room had blossomed, ablaze in light, and then he whisked the children out of the room and whirled down the hall to their room.

Some time later, he emerged. "Hello Father", came a deep, strong voice. The speaker was a tall, noble man with grey streaks of wisdom in his beard and a golden crown upon his head. The old man looked up and grinned. "Hello son, er, Your Highness," he bowed with only a hint of teasing. "Kids settled in, Father?" asked the King. "I was just coming to tuck them in. "

" Oh yes. I expect you’ll find them ready and waiting. Ready and waiting". The king looked at his father…all dressed beautiful red—like blood—and hair white as snow and shinning bright.

"You’re putting’ on a little weight, there Father. Your belly looks like jelly!’ "Aye, that it does, son, that it does. Too much ale and good cooking’ I guess."

" But you look healthy, dad. By the Star—you look like you will live forever! The old man threw back his snowy head, pulled his crimson cloak around him, and roared in delight. "That I may, son, that I may".

Then he walked down the dark hall to his chambers and as he passed, every dark dormant lamp blazed on in glorious heavenly echo of the light of his passing. The King stood and watched him until he disappeared round the corner, and the echoes of his laughter faded in the distance.

"Behold, the Light King", he said softly. "Behold.
He turned and went in to his children.

The End