Thursday, December 24, 2015

For Yonder Breaks…


Maybe you've been like me and cramming a year's worth of Christmas music into this holiday season -- it's like going to a buffet to eat enough food for a whole week, but it's breakfast only -- eventually you'll get sick, but it tastes so good... Anyway, I was once a connoisseur of Christmas music, before Spotify and Pandora rendered my extensive collection useless. I still love it, and listen whenever appropriate (and sometimes inappropriate, i.e. - before Thanksgiving). So if you are like me, you've likely heard the name of this website sung in your ears a dozen or so times. I'll post the lyrics below in case you need a refresher:
O Holy Night
The stars are brightly shining
It is the night of our dear Savior's birth
Long lay the world in sin and e'er pining
'Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees O hear the angels voices.
O night divine O night when Christ was born
O night divine, O night, O night divine.
Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever,
His power and glory evermore proclaim.
O night divine, O night, O night divine
It's true that the name for this site came from "O Holy Night," specifically while singing this song during a Christmas service a couple years ago. It's a beautiful phrase that invokes a visible image of hope -- the sun rising on a new day full of possibilities, possibilities we can enjoy because of the arrival of the Savior of us all. I've expanded my own usage of the phrase for this site, using it in conjunction with surfing (as in surf breaks) along with that same image of hope and pursuit. "Yonder" is also an old fashioned word my grandfather said a lot, and I like the idea of tried and true ideas meeting with the constant renewal of fresh thinking -- like the mountains and the sea. So there you go...
This particular Christmas season I've been paying a little more attention to the words of the songs we sing though, and finding that many of them carry deep meaning, despite being tossed about our ears along with advertisements and flippant songs about Santa (don't worry, I like most of those songs too). Take the aforementioned song for instance...
Long lay the world in sin and e'er pining
'Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
This is essentially expressing the destitution of mankind without God, pining for a Savior to rescue us from our weary state. I see this far too often -- men and women grasping for air in their pursuit of meaning, replacing a connection with God with a million different things and people. To step back and think about why and what we spend so much time seeking after, it all just feels so desperate, which is exactly what this song conveys. Even as a person who believes in the Savior, I find myself in this cycle on a regular basis; even today -- Christmas Eve! Lately, I've been working on this Skater Dad video more intensely, and it's just really consumed my life. Today and yesterday I've had so much skateboarding on my mind that it's kept me from enjoying the moments that really make for good Christmas memories: family time and simple and quiet moments of peace. Instead I was far away, wondering what trick I would do next and plotting how to get it on camera.
And so we find ourselves in this state, weary and lost...but then, in the dark of the night and out of chaos, stars lead us to the place where we meet the Savior, the solution: Christ the Lord! We accept Him for who He is and are driven to our knees in awe and worship. After that, nothing is the same. The bright light of another day carries new meaning. We have hope that there is more to this life than our frantic pursuits. There can be purpose, purpose that extends beyond what we can see and hear and feel.
We can be better people, like Jesus even, as He nudges us and renews us daily in that direction. He teaches us to love others and bring peace to those who know none. What we spend our time doing can change lives: "Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother." We can see humanity for what it is, and not only empathize with them as fellow sufferers, but show them the way out! The burden of life alone, without God, drudging through sin -- it's all abolished in His name!
And again, we are driven to praise, but this time as a "grateful chorus." As one church we proclaim, "Christ is the Lord!" This is the gospel, wrapped up in a song sung by Mariah CareyKelly ClarksonCeline Dion, and on the same radio where the name Jesus goes unmentioned the other 11 months out of the year. Christmas is a beautiful time when things like this happen, but only if we slow down long enough to listen, and allow the weight of a song sung in worship seep into our hearts, and lead us to the Savior whose birth we celebrate.
[featured image by stixdesign]
Read More

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

I missed Star Wars…

Seventh grade was the peak of my Star Wars fandom. That was the year Episode 1: The Phantom Menace came out, and my dad had managed to score sweet midnight-opening tickets (this was a new thing back then) without waiting in line thanks to a brand new theater in town (all my other friends' dads waited in line for hours and they didn't even get to see it until the following day). The event was marked on my calendar for weeks as excitement built for what was the most anticipated movie event of my life, and though many were disappointed by the film, I have to say I wasn't. Seventh grade was the perfect age for pod racing, kung fu-esque lightsaber battles and, of course, Queen Amidala. Even Jar Jar Binks didn't bother me that much. All in all, it was a more-than satisfying opening.
Fast forward over fifteen years later and we find ourselves in a similar air of excitement for Episode 7: The Force Awakens. Though now, fifteen years wiser, I've taught myself to keep my expectations for movies lower, which usually results in better overall enjoyment. Besides, Episodes 1-3 left most of us feeling like we had just been through a bad breakup, as one of my friends poignantly put it. Time heals all wounds though, and here we are, ready for another shot at love...
20151222_141051
My unused ticket...

I marked no calendar, tried my best to ignore the rampant barrage of Star Wars merchandising, and did as little as possible to educate myself about the movie. I read no 'making of' articles and watched the trailers days after they came out. I still have very little idea who or what BB8 is. I did however, pre-purchase a ticket, but only because my good friend Robb invited me -- 1AM on Friday the 19th. Not quite opening night, but the crowds of light saber-weilding fans would have bugged me anyway.
Despite my best efforts to remain a skeptical old grump of a fan though, every time I saw a trailer I couldn't help but get a little bit excited. And so as opening night approached, I did in fact look forward to watching the force awaken at a theater near me.
But you know what? I missed it. I wasn't late or anything, missing the epic "BAA-ba-da-daah!" at the beginning that I'm sure thousands cheered for all over the world. I just plain missed it. Would you like to know why? Because this happened to me:
IMG_0007
Our second daughter was born the day before Star Wars: The Force Awakens opened up (though they had those bogus "pre-screenings," so I'm not sure when it really actually opened), and so I forfeited my ticket to sit in a hospital and help take care of my injured wife and wailing daughter. Of course it was the right decision and that's not my point -- I'm just feeling a little sad that I'm one step behind half of the Western world and so I'm writing about it to process things. Thanks for reading my self-indulgence.
Some time along the second night of my daughter's existence in the open world, I was in and out of sleep and trying to think of some reason to write this blog post besides myself. It was then that I started thinking about the very apparent differences between my two daughters, even at such a young age. The oldest stayed up the first several nights crying...a lot. The youngest sleeps...a lot. Their eating habits are different already, the way their faces look, their eyes, how much hair they have. I can already tell that they will be unique individuals in many ways.
It's kind of like Episode 1 and Episode 7, right? (There it is.) Different both in my approach and, hopefully, quality (although I've already stated that I still enjoy the former). And so there's my big connection -- similar events in life with different approaches can still have the same result -- enjoyment, fun, hardship, love. It's all part of the adventure of life, in this galaxy and one far, far away.
Read More