Saturday, November 26, 2011

Journeys of Christmas

First Sunday in Advent
            “There’s no place like home for the holidays,” Perry Como croons on the car radio. The song, still popular after fifty years, tells about a man from Tennessee traveling north to Pennsylvania, while Pennsylvanians head south. “From Atlantic to Pacific, gee, the traffic is terrific,” because each person travels to the place he considers home. “If you want to be happy in a million ways,” the song concludes—and many of us wistfully agree—“For the holidays, you can’t beat home, sweet home.”
            Ironically, none of the participants in the biblical narratives spent the first Christmas in the familiar comforts of home. Each one journeyed away from home to create the events we celebrate each December. During my Advent blogs, I’m going to write about some of these long-ago travelers. Maybe they will teach us something about our own journeys.
            The first traveler’s name means “strong man of God,” though he wasn’t a man at all. Gabriel was an angel, one of only two angels whose names are recorded in all of the Hebrew and Christian scriptures.
            Gabriel traveled from the presence of God to the inner sanctuary of the temple in Jerusalem, where an old priest burned incense. Gabriel startled Zechariah, who never expected to meet God’s messenger in God’s house. The angel announced good news to the old man: His wife Elizabeth would finally give him a son, and this son would proclaim to the people of Israel the coming of the Messiah.
            When Zechariah expressed doubt, the angel replied, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news.”
            Half a year later, God sent Gabriel on a second journey, this time to Nazareth, a town in Israel’s Galilee region. There he delivered a greeting—and a prophecy—to a young woman named Mary. God had chosen her to be the mother of the Son of God, the heir to King David’s throne. “Nothing is impossible with God,” Gabriel assured Mary, then left her. He is never mentioned in scripture again.
            What insight can we glean from Gabriel’s Christmas journeys? Gabriel stood in the presence of God as a servant stands in the presence of his master, as a subject stands in the presence of his king. God revealed his plans and entrusted delivery of his messages to the one who stood in his presence.
            Perhaps Gabriel tells us to step away from the busy-ness of the Christmas season and stand in the presence of God. “So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” Hebrews 4:16, New Living Translation
            May Gabriel’s example lead us into God’s presence and from God’s presence to the journey God has for us. Amen.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Litany or Random Rambling Thoughts of Thanks

I’m thankful for elastic-waist pants, no matter what Stacy and Clinton (What Not to Wear) think. A fifteen pound turkey is roasting in the oven, and he will be joined by a plethora of side dishes. In these pants, I will be ready.

I’m thankful my salary covers health insurance for my family (though little else). I’m thankful my talented husband’s multiple jobs cover the rest, making it possible for us to live a comfortable life.

I’m thankful my son Curt baked two pumpkin pies at midnight, after I pointed out the oven would be turkey-filled and unavailable during daylight hours.

I’m thankful for Watsontown Christian Academy, my home away from home, location of my ministry and gainful employment. I’m thankful for my colleagues—sisters in Christ and a few interesting brothers—and my students. I’m thankful for our intersecting lives, what we give and receive from each other.

I’m thankful for creative students who turn a simple grammar assignment into an occasion to LOL and almost ROFL. Without his permission (or name), I offer a few sentences:
  • The cat leaped gracefully through the air and into the closed door.
  • Steve’s pet was frightened when he slowly donned the hog dot helmet.
  • We’ve got to rid the world of loud annoying people and people who keep their cats outside the house on cold nights.
I’m thankful for more sisters and brothers at Watsontown Baptist Church, Home of Real Prayer Support. We may not be the best chorus singers, but boy can we pray.

I’m thankful for my writing friends and critique partners at West Branch Christian Writers and St. Davids Christian Writers Association. We support, encourage, and challenge each other. We catch each other’s errors before they’re out there for the reading public to see. We rejoice (sometimes with a teensy weensy bit of envy) at each other’s success. I’m thankful—and proud—that Sue has become a published author with a devotional coming in the Spring 2012 edition of The Secret Place.

I’m thankful for my home, flood zone location and all. It belongs to me, Gene, and Sovereign Bank. It’s spacious and (almost) warm, and I can paint the walls weird colors if I want. Only another former parsonage dweller could be this thankful. 

I’m thankful in spite of
  • missing my far away family. My brothers live in Ohio, Michigan, and California, and my sister in New Jersey. I wish we all lived on the same street and could eat our holiday meals together and visit over coffee every day. My oldest son moved to Hollywood and makes movie trailers. My mom moved to Heaven decades ago.
  • disappointments, failures, challenges, and daily drama—NOT the kind on television.

I’m thankful for God’s sense of humor. He took the offspring of a Jewish mother and a lapsed Jehovah’s Witness father, brought her to a Baptist church and faith in Jesus Christ, and eventually gave her the privilege of teaching high school students how to read and understand the Jewish and Christian scriptures. Truth IS stranger than fiction and a lot more fun.

I’m thankful to be reminded, as I was yesterday morning in a Louie Giglio DVD, that Jesus holds me together. For those of you who know me well and think I am falling apart, just know that I would be completely disintegrated by now without Jesus. I look back at the years since 1966, when Jesus brought me into God’s family, and recognize that Jesus held me together through everything. Giglio quoted Colossians 1; I’ve included a portion of that chapter below.

Christ Holds It All Together
 15-18We look at this Son and see the God who cannot be seen. We look at this Son and see God's original purpose in everything created. For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible, rank after rank after rank of angels—everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him. He was there before any of it came into existence and holds it all together right up to this moment. And when it comes to the church, he organizes and holds it together, like a head does a body.
 18-20He was supreme in the beginning and—leading the resurrection parade—he is supreme in the end. From beginning to end he's there, towering far above everything, everyone. So spacious is he, so roomy, that everything of God finds its proper place in him without crowding. Not only that, but all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe—people and things, animals and atoms—get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, all because of his death, his blood that poured down from the cross.
 21-23You yourselves are a case study of what he does. At one time you all had your backs turned to God, thinking rebellious thoughts of him, giving him trouble every chance you got. But now, by giving himself completely at the Cross, actually dying for you, Christ brought you over to God's side and put your lives together, whole and holy in his presence. You don't walk away from a gift like that! You stay grounded and steady in that bond of trust, constantly tuned in to the Message, careful not to be distracted or diverted. There is no other Message—just this one. Every creature under heaven gets this same Message. I, Paul, am a messenger of this Message.  (From The Message translation of the Bible, courtesy of

I’m thankful you’ve read through all the rambling to the random end. I'm thankful for lots more, but I should check on the turkey. Please share what you’re thankful for. 

Happiest Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Elusive Squeegee

            I believe I may have mentioned a few times (okay 10 or 20) that I’m attempting to write a 50,000 word novel in November. Last blog post brought you recycled poetry; this one will give you recycled humor.
            Eleven years have passed since I wrote this 99% true account. Most mornings it is still true.
The Elusive Squeegee
PLACE:  Anytown, Pennsylvania
TIME:  Any Autumn weekday, ten minutes late
            Juggling bookbag, purse, and travel mug of coffee, and followed by a grumpy ten year old, I stumble through the early morning fog toward my rusty, trusty Mazda. If we pull onto the northbound route within thirty seconds, we might arrive at his school and my workplace on time.
            No! The windows are covered with dew.
            I stash my burdens in the trunk and begin wiping down the side and rear windows with paper towels. “Help me, Ten! You do your side and we might get out of here before noon.” Alas, I have no garage, and my car is dew-covered every morning. If only I had a squeegee, I could zip that water off in seconds, and not deal with cold, soggy paper towels.
            I am loathe to transfer the shower squeegee to the car. If I am ever not late, I like to use it on the shower walls. (Hey, it could happen.) How hard could it be to find another squeegee, anyway?
            Usually the need to hunt squeegee only hits me as I dry the car windows. One evening my brain kicks into gear while in the grocery store, which offers a variety of brooms, mops and sponges, but no squeegees.
            Picking up a prescription on another occasion, I search the pharmacy aisles. Shelves overflow with Christmas decorations in mid-October, but no squeegees.
            My husband checks the auto department of America’s favorite discount store, but he finds no squeegees. Oh well, men can’t shop. He should have looked in the cleaning supplies section.
            Several days later, while Ten picks through ghoulish Halloween accessories, I stalk the squeegee. I should have known a second rate store like this wouldn’t carry one. How about the third rate store farther down, where everything costs a dollar? If I want to blot the dew with a linen 2002 calendar, I am in luck.
            Ten and I proceed to America’s favorite discount store, to accomplish what his dad could not. And for a very good reason:  They don’t have any. I could possibly blow dry the windows with any one of a dozen models of hair dryers, some of which doubtless have auto adapters.
            Like Captain Ahab, I am obsessed. The squeegee has become my Moby Dick.
            After a Saturday morning walk to the post office, I enter an independently owned hardware store.
            A clerk rushes over. “Can I help you?”
            “Yes, I hope so. I am Captain Brosius, and I hunt the elusive squeegee.”
            “Down that aisle and to your right,” another cheerful clerk answers. The first clerk follows me to make sure I reach my long-sought destination.
            I have died and gone to squeegee heaven. There are car-sized squeegees, truck-sized squeegees, RV-sized squeegees, armored assault vehicle-sized squeegees, and a squeegee I could use to clean cosmic goo off a spaceship.
            I tenderly carry my treasure home in a brown paper bag, eagerly anticipating the new work week.
PLACE:  Anytown, Pennsylvania
TIME:  Monday morning, ten minutes late
            Juggling bookbag, purse, and coffee, and followed by a shivering ten year old, I stumble through the frigid early morning air. The Mazda is covered with frost.
            Does anyone know where I can buy a good ice scraper?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Recycled Poetry

            Since I’ve signed up for nanowrimo, November is not a good month to blog. I should be writing my future best-selling novel. I'm trying. Actually, I should be participating in the never-ending cycle of lesson plans, teaching, testing, and grading. And I am.
            I also should be working on Advent readings for my church. And I will. I was waiting for an original idea, and it came this morning while listening to my pastor pray.
            So as not to totally ignore my myriad blog followers (all 19 of you, I love you!) I have decided to recycle poetry. I have found poetry inspiring to write and impossible to sell. I exaggerate, since I have actually been paid for 2 or 3 poems; believe me not enough to report to the IRS.
            I remembered this poem when a young friend and former student posted the famous Serenity Prayer on his Facebook status. Disagreement exists about the origin of the prayer; attributes it to Reinhold Niebuhr, and includes a longer verse after the one that’s so familiar. Niebuhr’s version begins:
God, give us grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.
             Here is my take on the prayer. Maybe it applies to all the things that I want to do and have to do in November.
God grant me sweet serenity
What I can’t change to receive
With contentment from my Father
And in his goodness believe.

God grant me compelling courage
To change what I can’t abide,
Striving to serve God’s family,
His Word and Spirit my guide.

God grant me unwav’ring wisdom
To rightly discern the two
In prayer first, and then in living
As the Savior did, to do.

© 2007 Roberta Tucker Brosius