Thursday, December 31, 2009

All is Calm, All is Bright

While one might not think that eight back-to-back worship services lend themselves to thoughts of things being CALM, the many opportunities to worship, sing, and share joy with my faith community certainly allowed the true spirit of Christmas to be BRIGHT!

The wonderful days of worship began with the (thankfully) indoor Nativity Scene, complete with costumed children, winged angels, and the obligatory head-dressed wisemen and shepherds. While I was sad not to see the live sheep this year (too baaaad it was freezing outside), I was grateful to share in the glee of the children who eagerly took part in this traditional reenactment.

“Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room”

(Pastor Ronald T. Glusenkamp, 3 and 5 pm, Christmas Eve)

"Celebration, Proclamation, Invitation, Participation and REVELATION! Joseph the husband of Mary was a AAA adult; authentic, affirming and available. That is what you and I are called to reveal to each other, to our family, to our community, to our world. As we rejoice in this CELEBRATION we are called to Let every heart" - PREPARE HIM ROOM!" AMEN, Let’s sing!"

"The Glory of the Lord"

(Pastor Ruth Ann Loughry, 7 and 9 pm, Christmas Eve)

"When God is present to humans, we praise God by giving God glory. Whether you believe it to your very core, believe it could have happened, or aren’t very sure and just want to listen to the story, I believe that God is here tonight. The glory of the Lord shines in this place tonight. Christmas is all about God’s initiative in coming to earth to be in relationship with us. Nothing – and I mean nothing can switch off the light of Jesus Christ. The light has come and it will never depart."

“And Heaven and Nature Sing”

(Pastor Ronald T. Glusenkamp, 11 pm, Christmas Eve)

"Tonight you come to be in this space and place. And we come with hopes and fears of all the years. We come with joy and also sorrow. We come with faith and also doubt. We come knowing that our worlds are not always “calm and bright.” And so we come with answers and also some questions. The other day we had a funeral here. Following the service here at church we went to Ft. Logan for the committal. As we were getting set to read the words of gathering and comfort, we were serenaded by a gaggle of geese. These honking heavenly hosts proclaimed a message that is echoed by heaven and nature, “let every heart prepare him room.” That is the meaning and message of tonight. May you and I reflect the light, love and grace of this holy child, born to save, born to save. Let’s sing."

Sweet baby Charlotte. While her parents finished up their Altar Guild tasks after our final service of the evening, it was just Charlotte and I, alone in the now-quiet Sanctuary. With a babe in my arms and the manger nearby, I was overwhelmed and comforted by the powerful connection to the child born so long ago. All was calm, all was bright!

A reminder of those people and relationships
that bring calm and brightness to our world.

“The Candles of Christmas”

(Pastor Carl Hansen, 6:30 am, Julotta Service)

"We came this morning while it was still dark, into this place filled with warmth and light, to share the greeting “God Jul” and to share in the family meal of Holy Communion, given to us for forgiveness, strength, and life. As we share that meal...may we be enabled to go forth this day and in the coming days as light and warmth return to our part of the world, sharing with others the peace, hope, joy, and love we have been given as children of God."

“A Christmas Conversation”

(Intern Caitlin Trussell, 10:30 am, Christmas Day)

"God is The Conversation - The Conversation who created the universe; The Conversation who put a baby in the manger who grew up to change the world. And as people of The Conversation we get to practice being people who change the world too! We are a Christmas people – born of The Conversation to serve the world as mangers who reveal Christ; even as we are saved by Christ in the comfort and fearlessness of his grace."

Let there be light. And candles. And Sarah leading the way, with bountiful flame-throwing, torch-bearing, 
blaze-burning fire to light the hundreds of votives filling the Sanctuary on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. 
All was bright!

The time between the 6:30 am Julotta service and the 10:30 am Christmas Day service was a precious gift in and of itself. I found myself peacefully alone in the Sanctuary, surrounded not only by the Christmas decor, but the memories of the night before. Serving Holy Communion to hundreds of people. Physically handing them the host, and sharing that moment with each and every person. Incredible. Laughter in the pews with dear friends. Advent Candles extinguished and re-lit with hope. Music that swept through my soul. Sharing new songs with the people I loved. All was now calm.

“Roses, Remembering, Resurrection”

(Pastor Ruth Ann Loughry, 12:00 pm, Service of Remembrance)

"I invite you to feel the presence of the community, the strength of people grieving together. The promises you’ll hear of the resurrection. Our grief journey is unique and individual. Hold onto that which helps you heal in your grief journey. You need not explain it or have it be rational to anyone else but yourself. It might be roses, it might not. God also created us to be able to think about our loved ones face, eyes, words, laugh, spirit and we remember and know them once again. You won’t forget. Your heart, your spirit knows your loved one’s heart and spirit. They will remember."

"And whether your memories are hurtful or helpful, God and community can bring healing. The last word is resurrection. It’s not only the last word of my sermon, it is the last word! Resurrection came – new life happened. Roses. Remember. Resurrection. Let us this afternoon, experience all three, in Jesus name. Amen."

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Renewing Hope

This Sunday, we will hold a Service of Remembrance at Bethany - a special service remembering loved ones who have gone before us.  I am thankful to be a musical part of this meaningful service.

The Scripture texts for this service will be Psalm 130, Isaiah 40:1-5, and John 11:17-28.  To me, they represented the cycle of grief - the initial pain and anguish of the loss, the reaching out for comfort and reassurance, and finally, the rejoicing in the fact that death is not final.  The hope and promise of the Resurrection does indeed conquer death.  I wrote the following three verses with this cycle in mind:  

"Renewing Hope"
Text:  Brenda L. Greenwald
Tune:  Abide with Me

Out of the depths, I cry, Lord hear my voice.
My soul is waiting, how can I rejoice?
Steadfast in love, great power to redeem,
Hope in the Lord, my sorrows, dark they seem.

Comfort your people, as they cry to thee.
Speak tenderly, embrace them lovingly.
Lift high the valleys, make the mountains low,
My hope returns, thy mercies you've bestowed.

Jesus, the Resurrection and Life.
Be thou my strength, and guide me through the strife.
Those who have died will live as we believe,
Our hope renewed, reborn, and grace received.

Joy Divine

Christmas Day brought a new song to life: "Joy Divine"
Scripture: John 1:1-14 and Isaiah 52:7-10

"Joy Divine"
Text: Brenda L. Greenwald
Tune: Love Divine, All Loves Excelling

Sing for joy, the newborn baby,
Full of glory, truth and grace.
All the ends of the Earth shall see
The salvation found in God's embrace.

Joy! The great I Am,
Joy! Light of the World,
Let us break forth together in song.

Comfort your people
And bring forth the Savior,
Down from Heaven, to earth belong.

- - - - - - - -

Sing for joy, the newborn Savior,
All proclaim, and angels take flight.
Streaming forth their realms of glory,
Darkness cannot overcome light.

Joy! From mountaintops,
Joy! In hearts a-glow,
Joy! For all the world to see.

In the beginning
The Word was with God
And the Word now lives among you and me.

Christmas Across the USA

This Christmas, the Greenwalds were spread out over three time zone: Brenda in Colorado, Mom and Dad in Wisconsin, and Bradley John over in North Carolina.

Here's the new soldier now! Hooah!

Good grief - some of the gear he was issued.
Too bad I can't see any of it...
Because it's camouflaged...get it?

Why, pray tell, do I have a picture of a (and I quote) 105 mm Howitzer Cannon on my blog? Because Bradley John knows how much I like to take pictures of odd military items (see here for further proof), and thought the pic of a cannon decoration in Christmas Lights was appropriately absurd. Correct you are, little bro.

Back in Wisconsin, Mom and Dad celebrated
with Aunt Kris and family on Christmas Day.

Here's the gang: Paul, Angela holding Bella,
Aunt Kris, Amanda holding Alexia,
Derrick holding Dakota, Mom. Merry Christmas!

Optic Wow

The time has come for me to have my new glass eye made!  My current eye will be 10 years old this January, and the materials have begun to physically breakdown.  When that starts to happen, my real, little eye beneath my shell becomes irritated.  Not fun. 

SO, my brand new eye began production on Wednesday, December 23, 2009.  This is a BIG deal for me - we're talking about a major part of my face!  It's exciting and emotional all at the same time.  This is the first time I've had a glass eye made by someone other than Sue Alexander Binder, my ocularist over in Wisconsin.  Sue made my first three eyes (all of which I still keep under lock and key in my home).  

This eye will be made by Walter Johnson over at Denver Optic - check out their website for some pretty great info about eyes.  (I had to chuckle at the YouTube video they have posted on the main page - I'm pretty sure I asked all the same questions the 12 year old in the video asked - and probably more!)

The tools of the trade:  scalpels, lighter, 
scissors, paraffin/wax, Sharpies, TORCH!  Yikes!  

The paraffin wax used to mold the initial shape of what will eventually become my shell.  Seriously...did it have to be PINK!?  

I was completely entranced by this point - Walter was really able to shape this little guy to fill my eye socket by adding and subtracting the wax using the blowtorch/mini-flame thrower.  If you look closely between his fingers, you can see the protruding metal rod/button that makes me look like a cyborg when we're trying to get the precise pupil placement.  Say that three times!

More shaping.  He worked really hard to find 
the correct positioning for my pupil and iris.  

Here is the final, shaped product sitting next to my current eye.  It's not the actual shell, but rather the mold that fits directly over my little eye.   The blue Sharpie lines were again for alignment and placement.  Unreal!

I can't believe we got this far in one day!  Everything will be completed on January 27th, 2010, which by my calculations, is over a month away.  Good thing I'm known for my patience...

Stars and Promises

What a CONCERT! Peter Mayer and Maggie Estes came to town on December 20th and treated us to QUITE the holiday concert. They played songs from his "Stars and Promises" album, as well as a couple of tunes from his new "Goodbye Hello" CD just released this November. It was an awesome night. Good tunes, good times.

Talk about a bunch of my favorite peeps!
Ruth Ann, Sue Ann, Peter, Maggie, Ron

Maggie, McKenna, Peter, Jessica, Chelsea

At the end of "Christmas Overture", the tempo picks up, and the Irish-jig-like music begins. Enter these three amazing dancers! What a KICK! Literally! Their dresses (and might I mention the HAIR!) totally completed the festive mood this song created! It was incredible!

Peter, Maggie, Me
(I'm not really that short - I'm standing 1 step down!)

I don't know how it all came together, but through RTG (muchas gracias, hombre del pretzel), Peter knew I played the piano, and asked if I would help out on one of the songs. Hmm...let me ...YES, PLEASE! It was sweet. I got to play the conga drums AND the piano on "Joy to the World" at the end of "Christmas Overture" - I was one happy camper!

"Here comes trou-ble..."
McKenna, Me, Audrey

Audrey is the Communications Supervisor at
Bethany, and McKenna is her daughter. Feisty folks!

Funny random moment: smack in the middle of "Here Comes the Sun", Ruth Ann's nephew, Henry, whips off his shoe and starts investigating the laces, right there in the pew! Forget the sun, "Here Comes the SHOE!"

LOVE that girl!

BLG, Rocker Wanna-be.

Yeah, not sure what's going on here. BIG shout-out to my man AJ, one of my students, for lending us his 5-stringed guitar at the very last minute. Peter plays a song called "Junkman" where he uses old, broken, beat-up instruments and creates a beautiful song.

Ok, so we're a bit giddy at this point in the night,
but aren't the colors on that dress just super cool!?

RTG got Peter to sign AJ's guitar! Sweet!

Moments of Light

Check out the amazing light on the Sanctuary walls!

Milk. Chocolate. Pumpkin. Spice. Pecans.
Enough said.

Always happy to celebrate a Baptism!  Hooray, John!

Three sweet peas Gma Dot hangs out with over in WI.  
Prayers of hope and healing for the littlest one.  

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Christmas Prayer

My offering tonight to the babe in the manger

* * The Christmas Prayer * *
: Brenda L. Greenwald
Tune: The Lord's Prayer (Malotte)

This Christmas, let us remember,
The baby born that night.
The shepherds came,
The wisemen three
A Star, shining brightly above them.
The Babe lay in a manger stall,
And the Angels proclaimed
A miracle had happened.
For God had sent this Baby,
The Holy child of Bethlehem,
Rejoice! Tell the nations
Of the Glory and salvation
Forever! Amen.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Of Mice and Mint

A time of hope, a time of love.
Today's Advent Devo: Grace, Play and Hope.

Check out the mini-pirate (?) from
Lesson and Carols from Arrrrrround the World.

I had the antlers and greenery on my head for all of 30 seconds when the kids grabbed the camera. Funny little people have caught on to this picture-taking thing!

Ho, Ho, Ho...where's the big toe?

Weird little dots the kids design and then wet to hold together.
Very odd. Odie made this mouse with cheese for me - much better
than last year's warm cheese cube from her pocket...

Alexis said she worked on this little mouse way past midnight to get them just right! Amazing! Hershey's Kiss + Chocolate covered Cherry + Oreo + Banana Chips for ears + detailed frosting work. Wow!

The kids in 2C gave me a Mustang Award (our school spirit certificates) for helping out their teacher when she had no voice. We worked on the math concepts of halving, doubling, and understanding fractions.

This cookie was DELICIOUS. Melted mint. Mmmmm.

Take a guess. Go for it. What on earth are these?

Again, my children know me well. Bless them for pre-hardening these delicious Peeps and leaving them on my desk for me to find.
I love my Peeps.

Tie-dye duck tape, of course. Holm Family, you ROCK!

What's wrong with this picture? Only the fact that it was taken while standing IN LINE at the Grocery Store!! Wrong, wrong, wrong! I want to be able to pick out produce without having scrawny little pet dogs underfoot. Eew!

4:18 pm. Me. At home. On vacation. Amen.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

He's a Waiter Turkey

It's the third week of Advent - A Time of Hope!
Lots to think about at H2O Devos!

Do you see what I see?

FOUR FULL BOXES of food for our local Task Force!
Hooray, Flagstone Choir Families!

After the smoke cleared at our Choir Concert,
I found this note on the board from a former student!
What a fun surprise!

Check out my Reindeer Cookie! Yum!
Thanks, Carter Family!

Me: Tell me about your turkey.
Kid: He's a waiter turkey.
Me: And what's a waiter turkey?
Kid: It's a turkey with a mustache. He serves people food. See his food plate? You can't eat something that gives you food, so we don't eat waiter turkeys.

My church pal, Deb, came on down to the City and County Building on Tuesday to hear my last night of bell playing. Yeah! I just love the colors of this building!

Deb's dogs enjoyed the bells, too.

Sticking with the dog theme, Deb actually gave me this dog at our Women's Retreat - it is motion-activated, and rolls over and laughs one of those I-can't-possibly-help-but-laugh-out-loud-and-forget-my-worries kind of laughs.

Check out the Sunday School Kids of Bethany! FEAR NOT!

The sparkly munchkins I hung out with
before the program began. SMILES!

Rules of the House for Bell Playing. Got it. Technically, Rule #2 was the only one I might not have completely followed to the letter. And, for the record, I never brought my gun-carrying, carcinogen-smoking dog with me, either. No exceptions.

Last and absolutely not least, my new Lutheran Study Bible! Check out my name imprinted on the front! This is the Bible I won from Augsburg Fortress for my submission on how the Scriptures inspire me. I told them about my "Lift Every Voice and Sing" song, and won this incredible resource!