Treasures in The Christmas Carol :: Stave I



In years past, I have read The Christmas Carol aloud to my children. This year, I dug out a copy that was a little newer with crisp pages that were not yellowed and delicate from time. I turned on the fireplace and turned off the lights so we could sit in the warm glow of the Christmas tree lights. Then, I used the flashlight on my phone to begin reading to the children, using the best of my English accents.

Each time we give The Christmas Carol another pass, I find new little treasure of truth and beauty that I hadn’t seen before. Sometimes they are deep, other times they’re just interesting little unknowns that I find I must research in order to fully understand. Today, I present to you two of my treasures from Stave I (Chapter One):

“Foggier yet, and colder. Piercing, searching, biting cold. If the good old St. Dunstan had but nipped the Evil Spirit’s nose with a touch of such weather as that, instead of using his familiar weapons, then indeed he would have roared to lusty purpose.”


So who is St Dunstan?

Saint Dunstan was the most popular saint of the English people. This is an old folk tale about him found in English literature that says:

St. Dunstan, as the story goes,
Once pull’d the devil by the nose
With red-hot tongs, which made him roar,
That he was heard three miles or more.


In another folk story, the devil asks Dunstan to shoe his horse, but instead, Dunstan nails a horseshoe to the devil’s hoof. This causes the devil such pain that Dunstan agrees to remove the horseshoe if the devil promises to never enter a building with a horseshoe hanging over the door.

Later in the scene:

“The air was filled with phantoms, wandering hither and thither in restless haste, and moaning as they went. Every one of them wore chains like Marley’s Ghost; some few were linked together; none were free. Many had been personally known to Scrooge in their lives. He had been quite familiar with one old ghost, is a white waistcoat, with a monstrous iron safe attached to its ankle, who cried piteously at being unable to assist a wretched woman with an infant, whom it saw below, upon a door step. The misery with them all was, clearly, that they sought in interfere, for good, in human matter, and had lost the power forever.” 




I no longer believe in hell as eternal punishment, but what Dickens has described here is a pretty good depiction of what would be perceived as torment (or purgatory). What if, in death, we were able to see all those that were broken-hearted and in desperate need? What if we could see their pain and anguish and know how best to help, but be unable to reach out and take care of them? How would it plague our hearts and burden our souls? How torturous it would be to be forced to watch the suffering of living souls and be unable to do anything about it?

Marley came to visit Scrooge to warn him of the fate that was about to become his own. He showed him his heavy chains that he forged link-by-link and told Scrooge that he had seven years on him—that Scrooge's chains would be even bigger, heavier, than Marley’s.

In these revelations with Marley, hell became the realization that the ghosts had ample opportunity in their lives to love other and be kind and good—spread charity and empathy. Yet, they failed, and therefore would watch the pain unfold before their now open eyes.

That is hell.

Dickens got it right.

So don’t wait. Don’t cast your eyes aside when you see a beggar, a homeless man, a child that’s wayward in behavior and in desperate need of affection. Don’t fail to see the tears behind the young mother’s eyes. Don’t ignore the pain behind the tired man’s eyes who works and works and works but still can’t make enough to provide for his family.

Don’t be Marley and Scrooge. Don't get lost in business and money, in success and pride.

Don’t be the multitude of moaning ghosts in the streets of London--lost in endless time for wasting that which was given them in life. 

Don’t end up realizing what life was supposed to be about before it’s too late.

Love now.
Have empathy now.

Be good now.

For Marley’s sake.

Shake off your heavy chains.


Be free…

And help make others free.

Because Dickens knew something...

He got it right.


DISCLAIMER: I still don't believe in eternal punishment. I've become something of a universalist that believes God will restore ALL things unto Him.
~Gia
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Saint Nicholas, A Man Who Loved God and Loved Others


 
There is so much about Saint Nicholas that I would love to share, but it will lead to endless rabbit trails that twist and turn through history. For instance, did you know about the American Saint Nick during World War II?

*sigh* 

*don't do it, Gia!*

*bites lip, rolls eyes...and mumbled, "Fine..."* 

*ahem*

Back to what I was saying:

What I will share with you first was my son’s history lesson today. My children are home schooled, but it’s a public school/charter school that they participate in remotely from home. All the curriculum is what they teach in public school—supposedly. I find this a little hard to believe, because their history lessons are rich with Christian and Muslim history.

Anyway…

Onto Teddy’s lesson today.


Saint Nicholas was born in the third century in Asia Minor to Greek Christian parents. His parents were very wealthy and died when Nicholas was young, leaving their vast wealth to him. However, Nicholas didn’t care about money—but cared more about the people in his village of Myra. He was often grieved by that which was grieving those around him. 

Later in life, Nicholas, who had been raised and educated by his uncle (a bishop) answered the call of Emperor Constantine to attend a The First Council of Nicaea where the men would debate about the Holy Father and his relationship to the Holy Son. It was at this meeting that legend tells us that Saint Nicholas became so enraged with the Egyptian bishop, that he stood, crossed the room calmly, and slapped the man across the face. He was later arrested, stripped of his bishop robes, then (because of an encounter in his prison cell with Jesus and Mother Mary) released and reinstated as a bishop (more on this another time).

Perhaps the song about Santa Claus being able to see us when we are sleeping, comes from the stories of Saint Nicholas having an uncanny way of knowing who in his village were in desperate need. One story is of a man with four daughters. The man was too poor to pay a dowry for his daughters to marry and the eldest one was distraught. Saint Nicholas overheard her grief as she cried in her bedroom and it burdened his heart. Nicholas rushed away from the house, went into his house and collected all the gold coins he could find, stuffed them in a bag, and went back to the man’s home. Since he wanted to give this gold in secret, he swung the bag and tossed it high onto the man’s roof where it landed atop the chimney and fell down inside. Sound familiar?

That night, Saint Nicholas awake from his sleep with fear and worry over the remaining daughters. He had given enough money for the eldest daughter to marry, but certainly the other girls would want to marry too. So he climbed out of bed, gathered more gold coins and tossed a bag upon the man’s roof. He did this the next two nights until all the the daughters had enough money to marry.

The following spring, Saint Nicholas sat quietly and watched the daughters dance with their new husbands at the marriage feast. He was so pleased to see the joy in the girls parents' eyes. They would be okay now, they were taken care of, and no one knew it had been him that delivered the bags of coins.

Today, Saint Nicholas is celebrated all around the world as the secret gift giver and the saint for children. He has his own day dedicated to his memory on December 6th, early in the Advent calendar. People leave carrots at night for his donkey that he travels on as he comes along bearing gifts. They leave out stocking or boots for him to fill with chocolate, oranges, and gold. Children are taught that the gifts are to be shared and not hoarded away for themselves. In turn, they give to those around them as well.

By the sixth century, the story of Saint Nicholas had been heard far and wide and he was officially known as a saint. Emperor Justinian built a church to commemorate him, encouraging citizens to celebrate Saint Nicholas. In the 10th century, an anonymous Greek author wrote, "The West as well as the East acclaims and glorifies him. Wherever there are people, in the country and the town, in the villages, in isles, in the furthest parts of the earth, his name is revered and churches are built in his honor. All Christians, young and old, men and women, boys and girls, reverence the memory and call upon his protection."



During World War II, Santa Claus became a household name. Everyone was desperate for joy, as we are now, and the mysticism and gift giving became popular once again. As bombs fell in Europe, American GIs would dress up like Santa and hand out little toys and candy to the local children who were in desperate need of cheer and hope. Our brave fighting men restored something good in a land that was devastated with loss.

So here we are. We are still a world reeling from war and loss and pain. Is it lying to continue centuries old tradition that stemmed from a good, kind, loving man who tended to his neighbors needs? It is lying to encourage mystery and imagination…?

I have no good answer, but instead will take the lead of WWII service men who became Santa Claus and took a bag of gifts and candy and treats all across Europe. If it was good enough for those brave men, it’s good enough for me and my children.

So, here’s to Santa Claus—jolly ole’ Saint Nick (-holas).

~Gia
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I Don't Want Your "Jesus" Anymore :: 'Cause That's Not Him


I am struggling to keep my religion. I have come to a place where I realize that what I have been taught and given as a child is in fact only a religion. It is not Christianity. It is not faith…

And I don’t want it anymore.
I don’t even want to publicly say that I am a Christian. We have become too closely tied to politics, right wing agendas, silly boycotts and drama over cups and “Merry Christmas” and our supposed persecution—as if we could ever possibly understand what being persecuted is. We have made Christianity anti-socialism, anti-liberal, anti-everything that is not white and “good.” We have stripped the bride of her spotless gown and replaced it with an American flag. She is hideous.

I was sitting in my living room the other day. I can’t recall who was sitting in my ugly yellow chair, yet, someone was sitting there and we were speaking of the ridiculousness of gay conversion therapy and how many in Washington want it federally funded. I lost all my chill in that moment. I spat out, “What if it was us? What if it was turned on us and people decided that straight people could and should undergo torturous treatment to make them gay? It is not possible. Nearly everything about the way I am wired and how my hormones interact with my brain and my emotional well being, has made me straight. So, if I came out of this insane process and understood that the only way I would be loved an accepted was to say that it worked—I’m gay now—would I say it worked? Absolutely! And I would continue to live in shame and self-loathing because my loved ones refused to accept me for who and what I am. Who’s fault is it then? Mine? Or there’s?”

I am tired.

I am tired of trying to convince my religious community to STOP! For God’s sake, please stop?! You are destructive. You are stealing joy. You are crushing spirits. You are the reason that many people choose suicide than to walk through your reality.

Stop.

Dear Lord, please stop.

It’s isn’t just American Christianity’s battle with their views of homosexuality. It is more than that. It is their quick ability to see other religious people as the enemy, even going so far as to demonize them. I once had a pastor at a church I served private message me when he learned I intended to teach my homeschooled children about all religions and customs. I wanted them to understand not only their culture, but the way they worshipped so they would not grow up to think them strange or even scary. But this pastor told me I would be inviting darkness into my home—even went so far as to explain that I could have demonic activity in my home and in my children’s personal thoughts. Because why? Well, obviously, Muslims are evil and live under the influence of Satan himself.

Stop.

STOP!

Here’s the thing. I’m done. I quit. I don’t want the fake, pretty things anymore. I want the dirt, and the rough edges. I want the brokenhearted and the homosexuals and the Muslims and the homeless. I want this more than I could ever want a church pew and catchy worship service. I want tears and whispers of “I love you” and “I’m here with you” and “You’re not alone” more than I want claps on beat and hands that are not lifted up before their King that’s “still alive and on His throne.”

I want to be free in Christ. I want to be able to answer “red” when my cousin asks which wine I prefer and not cringe because I just admitted out loud that I drink alcohol. I want to speak what I think and feel and say “piss” is it fits the sentence. I want to tattoo beautiful flowers on my arms because we might one day tarnish God’s beautiful creation with oil and smog and power lines. I want to cry when I see refugees homeless and covered in ash, not be told that they’re potential terrorists that will kill my children in their beds. I want to sit with the woman who aborted her baby for reasons that are personal and all her own, rather than stand on the side of the road with tape over my mouth and signs of condemnation that save NO lives.

And for goodness sakes, this might be the most hard one to admit aloud:

I want to one day pick up my bible and not view it’s words with disgust anymore.

Yes, you read that right.

And it wasn’t what God intended. THIS IS NOT WHAT HE INTENDED…

But it’s what this world and her lovers made His beauty…

Twisted. Empty. Hollow. And a lie.

So, I reject this American religion that ties with politics, money and power.

I quit.

And I will raise my children to reform it, make it new, make it shine and beat with His pulse.

Because I’m still with Jesus…

And Jesus is missing from American churches.

Last week, I posted something similar and a lone man whom I love and respect took it very personally. This is not about you. It is not about them. It is about us. We are all guilty. And we must ALL be the change if we want to make our Father proud.

It is time to grow up. 

~Gia
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I Will Not Unite For Their Sakes


If you’ve known be for a while or even been following me for a short time, I am sure you’ve gathered that I was not a Trump supporter and spoke out against his rhetoric with passion. I got deleted from friends that were only internet neighbors, and friends that I’ve had since I was a child. That was still worth it to me. I mean, it wasn’t that I was intentionally trying to be divisive or hurt the feelings of others, but speaking up for humanity and minorities absolutely felt like the right thing to do.

And then Tuesday happened.

Wednesday, I woke up and cried. I have voted for candidates that hadn’t won before. No big deal. I was one of those evangelicals that honestly believed the hype that Obama was the anti-Christ (Lord, forgive me!!), but I still didn’t cry when Obama won (and now I desperately wish I could go back and vote for him both times!). But Wednesday, I cried. I worried about minorities. I worried about refugees. I worried about the normalization of sexual assault. I worried about the Paris agreement and our climate…

Then I saw my feed littered with Christian friends and church leaders praising the Lord and thanking the Church for doing the right thing by voting for Donald Trump. I got so angry that my knees trembled and vomit truly rose up in my throat. I felt lost and abandoned. I felt so lonely. How could they do this to me? I’ve grown up in the Church. I did what I was supposed to. But at no point, not even a little, did Donald Trump seem or act like a biblical choice for anything that had to do with being president of the United States. I wanted to scream and shout at these people that they had chosen wickedness. They had chosen hate. They had chosen what is divisive, and yet they were telling me that I was divisive. Not only that, but the were stealing the image of my good, good God…and tying His name much too close to a man like Donald Trump (note that I am speaking specifically to church leaders and pastors at the moment).

I cried.

I cried so much.

I have many people in my family that voted for Trump. I love these people dearly. I do not doubt they love God with all their heart. However, I cannot follow them or unite with them under this leadership. I will not. While Trump is in office, I will pray for him. I will ask God to truly soften his heart to the people, especially minorities and the disenfranchised. I will ask God to help him begin to see all of humanity as his brothers and sisters. I will pray for him. I will hope for the best. I will ask God to help Donald Trump surprise me. But I will not unite. I will be a rebel. I will work and toil to take care of those that have been deeply harmed by the wicked rhetoric Donald Trump has spread while running his campaign. I will shut down the bigotry and white supremacy that has grown under his guidance and influence. I will keep busy and volunteer and share as much love and kindness as I can…

But I will not unite.

I will not unite until all people, despite race or religion or sexuality are not afraid. I will not unite until all are included at the table. And I will not unite is a wall begins to be erected.

So be prepared, my friends. Because the Gia before the election is a shadow of the Gia—the lion—that I will become now.

It’s day three of Trump’s America rising up. One day three, violence has surged on both sides. On day three, children are coming home in tears having been called niggers and faggots, hispanic children told they were being kicked out now. On day three, Donald Trump has already taken away signs of his pro-life considerations and decided not to repeal Obamacare. On day three, people are divided…

And the man that fostered that division has been elected the next president of our country.

And so I get to work until everyone is considered.

~Gia
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My love of Coffee Is Unconditional...Like Jesus

There is a popular, fringe clothing maker that I love: Wicked Clothes. They have this shirt that I used to want with a skeleton sitting in a coffee cup that read: Death Before Decaf...


Turns out, that's a possibility for folks like me.

Turns out, I don't much care to be a skeleton in a coffee cup.

As I sat in my doctor's office, he told me that Starbucks made a decaf that was actually very good. "You won't know the difference," he assured me.

Lucky for me, Roger has a second job at Starbucks. That night, he brought me home a pound of Pike's Peak Decaf and a pour over ceramic. And friends, it was heaven. I tasted like coffee. It tasted like Jesus made it for me with His own two hands. It was hot, welcoming, and jitter free.

I am now willing to wager that my decaf coffee is better than the coffee I had before that often left me so jittery that my hands refused to do a thing for me.

So, to all you caffeinated coffee snobs, I am telling you right now, you're pretending. Your love for coffee is fake. You only THINK you love coffee. Because when you can find it within your loving, open heart to embrace the disfranchised, the coffee that suffers so much harsh criticism and judgement, then you are true lover of coffee.

Yeah, that's right.

I said it.

My love for coffee is pure and true.

Coffee and I have faced our struggle and won the battle. We are still one, coffee and I. Forever and always.

~Gia
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Pack o'Lions Playin' It Cool

Tonight, we tried to take our family photos. As usual, it was chaos. For your viewing pleasure, I've culled only a handful of the goofiest pictures. No captions necessary.

Note: To see high res versions of the images, double click on the first photo and a gallery will appear for you to flip through. 


























~Gia
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The Shown Family Session

I think the most stressful thing for parents to attempt to do is get family portraits when they have young children. It can be very stressful and chaotic. But, parents, if you're reading this...just sit back and enjoy as much of it as you can. If you get a good photographer, they will direct the chaos and poses and excitement and find you a bit of magic.

These portraits of the Shown family are pretty magical, if I do say so myself.

Yes. Yes, I know. I did just toot my own horn.

 Note: To view the high res images, double click on the first image and a gallery will pop up to scroll through.




 


 



 



 



~Gia
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