Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Winter solstice, December 21!  Get ready! 

According to Wikipedia, winter solstice is defined as the the time of shortest light and longest night.  The sun is at its lowest point in the sky.  It’s tough!  
Each December my husband and I and several friends are invited to a solstice party at our friends’ home.  We enjoy a meal together, shiver as we stand around a campfire singing songs and sharing favorite readings.  The snowy yard is lit with ice candles allowing us to see our way through the snow.  Solstice  seems like a strange reason to celebrate.  Short days, long, bone chilling nights, snow, outdoor activities at a standstill, all this can be a challenge to our mental health.  Yet, we celebrate, embracing this dark time of year  knowing that this is a turning point, when light begins to return to our hemisphere.  It fills us with hope for the coming year.  And, so, we celebrate as many have done for centuries!
I embrace winter solstice because it seems to enhance the joy of Christmas.  Having lived in Hawaii for a short time I discovered how much our Minnesota weather made Christmas more meaningful.  It was lovely to spend the holidays on the beach but images of Santa coming to town on a surfboard seemed odd for a fella who lives at the North Pole.  Our Norfolk Pine tree was fresh and we could plant it in our garden after Christmas where it would root and grow.  A Norway Pine smells better.  Sun, sand and ukulele music couldn’t replace snowmen, sleighs and bells.
Winter solstice days are short but the sun on white snow is brighter than on a sandy beach, and the sky is a brilliant blue.  Long, dark nights are an opportunity to showcase Christmas lights and shining stars.  The experience of the Wisemen following the star from the east  to find the Babe in Bethlehem seems easier to imagine knowing how long the nights can be and how brilliant the stars shine.  Likewise, the angels, who appeared to the shepherds, came at night sending them on their way to the Child.  So they all gathered in the stable to worship Jesus as the Christmas star shone down from above.  
Jesus came to a  dark world bringing light to the world.  

John 8:12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."

Solstice, marking the beginning of longer days of light seems symbolic of His coming to our world.  Get ready.  Embrace the solstice and Jesus the light of the world.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

It’s not what we gather but rather what we scatter that defines our life.
Jon Francis

That quote seems like an unlikely motto for the Thanksgiving season.  Fall is our time to focus on harvesting.  If  you have been following the Preschool Face Book page you may have noticed an occasional  post, including pictures, of our preschool garden.  Our students planted seeds and small plants last spring.  Family volunteers watched over the garden through the summer, watering and weeding when it was needed.  By mid-summer we  began to harvest cabbages, zucchini, broccoli and cherry tomatoes.  In September our students participated in digging potatoes, onions and carrots.  They picked green peppers, more tomatoes and flowers.  It was an exciting time as we dug through the dirt and found edible treasures hiding there.  Now we have gathered over 150 pounds of produce from the garden.  That’s not bad for three, four and five year olds and their helpful adults.  
We are not just gatherers!  To live a thankful life we must also “scatter.”  We have received the gift of food from the land, rain and soil.  We have done the work of planting and received more than we could eat.  Now we needed to gift others with our food.  Ralph Reeder Food Shelf was the recipient of our produce.  We want to say, “We love you!” to our community and this is one way we have chosen to define ourselves.  
Thanksgiving is about “scattering”  much more than gathering.  The Pilgrims were able to celebrate their survival in the new world thanks to the friendship of the Native Americans who shared their knowledge of  hunting, fishing and agriculture with the Europeans. They were also thankful for plants that blessed them with medicine, food, shelter and light and for animals and their gifts of food, fur, and bones for tools.  In return the Pilgrims planted, harvested only what they needed and worked to preserve the clean water and air.  We receive, we are thankful and we give back.  Life is reciprocal.  
We can all “scatter” this fall, whatever our age, economic situation or ethnic background.  A smile for someone, helping a neighbor rake leaves, walking someones dog, watching a friend’s child are all ways to define ourselves as instruments of God’s love.  Caring for the earth by living sustainably shows our thankfulness for the blessings of our world.
Who is Jon Francis you may ask?  I first met Jon when he was in high school.  He was a friend of my daughter’s.  God became a part of his life in high school. In college he earned a major in Religion.  He spent summers as a Bible Camp counselor and youth minister.  In 2006 he was on his way to seminary to become an ordained pastor.  Before his studies started in the fall, his love of nature and rock climbing brought him to The Grand Mogul in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains where  he climbed to the summit.  He never returned.  It took a year to find Jon and bring his body home.  It was heartbreaking for so many!  As a part of their healing his parents formed the Jon Francis Foundation.  It honors Jon’s life and helps others who are searching for missing adults.  Promoting safe wilderness adventures, training Minnesota law enforcement officers for search and rescue, and offering grief support for families are all a part of what the foundation does.  The Jon Francis Foundation is an example of reaching out and “scattering”  in our community.  
I am thankful for the many blessings I have gathered.  Lord, now help me scatter your love to all around me.  Amen