Can Christmas Carols Save Our Hope For Christmas?

The bells will be ringing, but will this year be a Christmas we all have the blues? Two nights ago my throat started to feel a little sore. Any other year I am not sure I would even register this annoying sensation, but not with Covid still decimating December. My hope of a happy Christmas seemed to be crashing all around me. I leaned over to April and told her my fears of having to spend Christmas alone, quarantined from my family. Now, as I write this, I am fine, but the fear of missing out on family time was real. I know missing family time is the reality that many people are facing. Families are stuck at home, separated from loved ones. Hope seems to be in short supply.

A quarantine Christmas comes at the end of a not so tender year. We’ve been torn apart Chaos and closed cafes have lead to hate. Hate is strong and it is telling us to give in to despair. Yet, Christmas time is coming! This advent season many churches lit their hope candles, but I am sure to many the candle’s flame seems to be flickering out. However, God is stronger than hate and he is still working.

I know that God is stronger than hate because of Christmas music. You know, jingle bells, deck them halls, and all that stuff. There is just so much joy and hope in the songs we listen to once a year. This fact hit me about ten years ago when I started enjoying Christmas music. I think it was the Blue Grass Christmas station on pandora (I can’t remember for sure, but I wrote about it here and I even included a list of my favorite songs), it just makes me dance, and John Gorka’s “I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day,” which is the Christmas Carol of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem Christmas Bells.

In 1861 Henry Wadsworth Longfellow lost his wife to a tragic fire. Then his son died while fighting for the Union in the Civil War. He sunk in despair and was stung when he heard the bells on Christmas Day. I am sure he wanted God to tell him why he had lost his wife and son and why our nation was at war. So many people were dying and I am sure his world felt out of control, maybe a little like how our world feels. Yet, he did not end in despair.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If he can still find hope when all seems lost, so can we. In Longfellow’s isolation and pain, God showed up. This poem is so relevant now. Our world is a mess. Hate is strong, but it cannot outshine God’s love for us. He is working in this mess and He will redeem it. The wrong shall fail, the right prevail because the best is yet to come. Our God turns gravestones into gardens.

God has promised to come and heal the brokenhearted and I know he will. God is a promise keeper and no matter my health, my hope will be in Him. I hope that as we wait for Christmas during the last week of advent, you feel God’s love and you know that the wrong shall fail, the right prevail, and God will bring peace on earth, good-will to men. The bells will be ringing the sound of hope again!

10 Things I Will Do In 2013

2012 was a banner year for me.  I did some things I said I wouldn’t do (Against my will I used American Airlines), but I also did a lot of things I wanted to do.  In August I kick started my masters program at Regis University. I’m now well on my way to holding a masters degree in teaching.  While restarting school made my year feel busy, I was able to have a lot of fun in 2012.  So much so, that I have a few adventures that I want to repeat.

The Ride To Pine

1. I will Bike to Pine, Colorado! On October 12, 2012, I rode my bike mountain bike up the Colorado trail from Waterton Canyon to Pine Colorado.  After months of training the ride was almost ruined by a violent flat tire, which exploded on me, bending my wheel and shooting me like a cannon ball into the air.  With a new wheel and better tires I pedaled my way through the rain to end of the trek, just in time to see a bull elk boss around his harem.  Interested in doing this ride?  Join me this summer and we can make the trek together.

Bull Elk

2.  I will visit Guatemala! Last March I spent a week in Guatemala helping lead the Spiritual Emphasis retreat for my old school.  Sharing Christ’s love with my former students was the highlight of my year.  I don’t know when I’ll fly back down to my second favorite country, but there are several people who want me to be there for their graduation.

3.  I will continue to live my life like a Hobbit!  Okay, I’ll wear shoes, but Hobbits tend to live with a unique sense of excitement and hope ; they never give up.   I don’t know what is in store for me this year, but I want to be like the Hobbit, Sam, who doesn’t lose hope when he is facing mount doom and sure death!  You’re right, if you guessed that I’m already excited for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug to come out later this year, but I want to live with excitement and hope in all things in my life.

4.  I will run another half-marathon!  I plan on running the Pikes Peak  Half Marathon this year with a couple guys from my small group.  Running halves has taught me a lot about life.  To run a half you need to know how to be committed.  Training takes months and once you start the race, if you want to finish, you’ve got to know how to keep the feet moving.  I know that running up to the top of Pikes Peak will be hard, but it will make a great adventure.

The Cook Book

5.  I will continue to learn how to cook!  On New Years Eve I baked my first cake, an oatmeal brown sugar cake that turned out very sweet.  I also learned how to make the marinade for my family’s Christmas dinner.  We had Tacos al Pastor.  The pork meat turned out so tender my sister thought it was Chicken!  I want to try to cook a meal for my family at least once a month, so send me some recipes.

6.  I will finish my short story!  I have been working on this particular story for a little over a year and a half.  I want to submit it for publishing by next September.  Keep me accountable, so that I keep writing.

7.  I will finish my masters in teaching!  The masters in teaching program at Regis Jesuit University has really been a great challenge.  I’ve been learning a lot, and even though I’d rather be teaching the information, than writing papers on it, I’m excited to complete my education.  This time next year I’ll be looking for jobs!

The Colorado Trail

8.  I will continue to study Spanish!  Acquiring a second language has slowed down over the last two years, especially since I started back to school.  I’ve been listening to Spanish music and trying to start up conversations in Spanish (This is the hardest part).  This means I need to actively look for people to speak Spanish with, let me know if you know anyone.

9.  I will spend more than a month without sugar!  Last year I spent July and a little bit of August without sugar.  I was amazed by how much better I felt when I subtracted sugar from my life.  I was going to live 2013 without sugar, but I still have leftover cake and so I’ll have to eat that first.

10.  I will continue to live spiritually! In 2012 I challenged myself and all the people in my life to look for God in all aspects of our lives.  My goal, to engage with life and God every day, meant I continued to read my bible each day.  Daily, I started looking for things I was thankful for, things I found joy in, and blessings I felt God let me be a part of.  Last year was a true adventure and I am looking forward to engaging with all that God has for me this year.

A Storms Coming

The Hobbit: A Second Breakfast Adventure

I would never have made for a good Hobbit, other than the fact I can’t grow much facial hair and I don’t like wearing shoes and would love to live in a hole in the ground.  Anyway, I am not round in the belly, at least not any more, and I love to go on adventures.  Adventures are very un-hobbit-esque.

It’s funny though, I love adventures because of The Hobbit.

I read The Hobbit for the first time back in middle school.  The dark, but funny tale captured me.  I wanted to follow the path through Mirkwood, ride the barrels to the edge of the Lonely Mountain, and find myself in the battle against Smaug.

I wanted to go on an Adventure.

I’ve longed for Gandalf to show up at my house and throw me into a grand story.  Yeah, it would mess up my life, and when I would return I wouldn’t be the same.  But a life well lived is a life where you embrace change, even if it is a little scary.

Unfortunately, I’ve never seen Gandalf’s fireworks, and he’s never marked my door with an invitation for a party of dwarves.

But not all adventures start like that.  Some start by opening a book.  Today, that book, The Hobbit, turned 75.  I hope you go out and read it and let it challenge you to live adventurously.  Who knows you might end up in a third world country.

Today, to celebrate the book, I joined the worldwide Second Breakfast Celebration.  I really didn’t do too much, besides watch The Hobbit trailer a billion times and post a bunch about The Hobbit on my Facebook page and listen to the LOTR soundtrack today.  Other than that I just ate my first breakfast at 6:30 and then made myself an omelet (which was the true adventure for the day, I’m not really a chef, but I cut my own onions and diced some peppers, threw them into the frying pan with some eggs) at 11 for elevensies, or as it’s known better, second breakfast and started reading The Hobbit for the first time in four years.

You might have missed out on the celebration today, but I challenge you to pick up the book and join the adventure.  Heck, you can have second breakfast tomorrow when you celebrate Hobbit Day (tomorrow happens to be Bilbo and Frodo’s birthday, but you might not know them yet, so read up cause they’ed love to have you at their party).  But be careful you might end up in Middle Earth.

All Who Wander

 

“Dad, you know the Tolkien quote,” I started hesitantly.  My dad and I were about 45 minutes into our hike up to Lake Johnson and the trail had just vanished in an open meadow.

“Yeah, the one where Frodo sings, ‘The Road Goes Ever on and on, Down from the door where it began.  Now far ahead the Road has gone, And I must follow, if I can, Pursuing it with weary feet, Until it joins some larger way, Where man paths and errands meet.  And wither then?  I cannot say.'”

Fortunately my dad did not sing, but unfortunately he’d said the wrong quote.  “No, Tolkien says, ‘not all who wander are lost.'”

“Yeah,” answered my dad.

“We’re wandering and we’re lost.”  Roads might go ever on, but ours was dead in the grass, consumed in the wild.  And if we wandered much longer, my 40 pound pack was going to be the death of me.

Can You Find Your Way To Lake Johnson?

My dad pulled out his map and I plopped off my backpack.  It looked like the trail was supposed to be leading to the West, but the fire road we’d tried after the original trail petered out was going East.  But neither of us are expert map readers and each time I tried to decipher the counter lines and trail dots my head spun. After a brief discussion about what we should do, I walked ahead, sans my pack, to check and see what was ahead.  The path vanished again, only to reappear a little higher up the hill.  After five minutes I knew this was no good.

We turned around and tried a trail that cut a sharp edge up the mountain.  Sadly, as promising as this trail seemed, it was the wrong one.  An hour and a-half in to what was supposed to be a 12 mile hike, my dad turned us back around and walked us back to the trailhead.

It was annoying to be back at the start, but I didn’t want to wander around and not reach Lake Johnson, so I followed.

Tolkien’s words repeating in my head, “All that is gold does not glitter, Not all those who wander are lost.”  There are things unseen in the seen world, which I believe is a key part of Living Spiritually.  If I take everything for face value, I’ll miss the grand adventure God has for me.  Unfortunately, I didn’t want to see the deeper meaning of wandering.  I just wanted to be on the correct trail and to see my friends.

Maybe what the quote is really saying is, the point of life is in the journey, not just the destination.  Maybe we can wander if our goal isn’t the destination, but loving the moments we are in while we are wandering and feeling lost.

I took a deep breath and placed one foot in front of the other.  Quickly the trailhead slid behind us.  The sun was hot and my mood was still low.  We turned left at the fork in the trail, which meant taking the trail up to Stewart Lake instead of Lake Johnson.  We knew the trails should meet up, but that hadn’t been our plan.

As I moved mindlessly over the ground, passing Aspen trees and beautiful meadows filled with wildflowers, a quote from Jack Kerouac sprang to mind.  “Try the meditation of the trail, just walk along looking at the trail at your feet and don’t look about and just fall into a trance as the ground zips by . . . Trails are like that: you’re floating along in a Shakespearean Arden paradise and expect to see nymphs and fluteboys, then suddenly you’re struggling in a hot broiling sun of hell in dust and nettles and poison oak . . . just like life.”

Keep your head down and just keep going, I thought.

With my eyes glued to the trail I smacked head first into my dad’s pack.  He’d stopped for some reason.  “Hey!” said a familiar voice.  It was Philip, my friend we were hiking up to see.  He was on his way down the trail to pick up his brother from the airport.  He’s no nymph, but seeing him was very other worldly.  I’d felt lost and dejected as I hauled my pack up the trail, but he confirmed that we were going the correct way and that we’d see him the next day at camp.

Kerouac is dead wrong, I countered.  I can’t live life with my eyes closed to the magical world around me.  I don’t want to glide along until the trail ends or my life is over.  I want to keep my eyes open, even if what I see let’s me down.  Even if I get lost along the way.  After running in to Philip the trail opened up and the hike became easier.  And definitely prettier.

And so the road went ever on, to Stewart Lake and then to Lake Johnson.  My dad was right, though we were lost, we were still on the same road that led out of our front door, we were connected to the greater adventure along the way.  And while we hiked, I kept my eyes open and saw covey of grouse, Indian Paintbrushes, and a friend who I hadn’t seen in several years.

Tolkien is right, not all who wander are lost.

 

I wanted to reblog this story onto my blog at Adventures in Guatemala because it tells a true adventure in Guatemala. One of faith and unique experiences. Also, I wanted to share my little sister’s powerful story.

emmymichellescott

There is a village tucked away in the mountains of Guatemala named Yulmacap. The Guatemalan’s in Yulmacap do not speak spanish. They speak a Mayan dialect, Q’anjobal. They all wear traditional Mayan garb and are so secluded that hardly anyone ever leaves the village. It is beautiful, so I completely understand why no one leaves.  The mountains shoot straight up and the deep blues of the sky splash against them like a water painting. A dirt road winds down the mountain into the village. You can feel the breath of God in the atmosphere.

     It took our team eight hours to reach Yulmacap. Two of those hours were spent standing in the bed of a truck bumping over dirt roads. My hands have never been so sore (I was holding on for dear life)!  I was thankful to hop out of the truck and be on solid ground…

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