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“Whoa! Will you look at that! Wow!” Whistles and muffled chatter filled the kids on our court, their boots sliding upon the packed snow—five inches of it—that had fallen during the night. With ruddy cheeks exposed to biting winds, they looked like newly minted explorers wearing snow gear of reds, pinks, and blacks. Some rubbed mittened fists in their eyes, unaccustomed to the sun’s brilliance. Others lugged shovels. Still another sat in the snow and circled handfuls around him, his mouth forming a perfect O.

It wasn’t long before a plan formed. The tallest boy pulled a red wagon and gathered the others around him, their capped heads huddled, until smiles and more exclamations resounded up and down the court. More shovels appeared. The work began. Instead of banking snow from driveways and sidewalks along the curb, it was dumped into the wagon; then pulled to the entrance of the court and emptied into a large yellow bucket. More hands hefted buckets of snow until turrets of a fort appeared. Hours passed.

Still their plan was not fully actualized—there would be another fort built at the end of the cul-de-sac. Their gusto only mounted.

As I marveled at the kids’ industry, I wondered if their imaginations perceived their forts as safe places from which to thwart persons having no business on our court.

Or on a deeper level, whether they intuited such places with their God as,“… fortress, … stronghold.” (Psalm 18:2)

 

 

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Jesus Christ the Apple Tree –A curious metaphor for the title of this Christmas carol that first appeared in an1830 broadsheet in London, England. Fifty-four years later, the carol was included in the Divine Hymns, or Spiritual Songs: for the use of Religious Assemblies and Private Christians compiled by Joshua Smith, a lay Baptist minister from New Hampshire.

Whoever penned these five verses, perhaps a man of the soil, would have known about apple trees: their beauty, their blossoms/ fruit, and their shade/protection. From his imagination schooled in Scripture, it was not such a leap to equate these characteristics to the apple tree in the Song of Songs 2:3, to the mustard tree in Luke 13:19, and to the tree of life in the New Jerusalem as found in Revelations 22: 1-2: all slant images of the mystery of the Christ in whom he drew succor. “This fruit does make my soul to thrive/It keeps my dying faith alive.”

Countless worshipers have done similarly.

Do check out this carol’s piercing beauty on YouTube as arranged by Elizabeth Poston, a prolific English composer, writer, and academic. The choir of King’s College offers a moving presentation.

Merry Christmas to you and to all you hold dear in your heart!

 

 

Trick-or-treaters, masked as princesses, pirates, ghouls, all inflated by assumed identities, will again traipse through our neighborhoods this Halloween. Winds will nip ankles, flit crisped leaves across lawns beneath a crescent moon, and welcoming porch lights invite Knock Knock jokes. With the encroaching darkness, the drama will deepen.

Perhaps you’ve also worn a mask for such haunts when a kid or for Mardi Gras carnivals or for parties? Perhaps watched masked performers in plays or ritual performances of native peoples?

Or even worn masks for protection or disguise?

You are not alone. Peoples from cultures all over the world have donned masks for such purposes. The oldest one, made of stone, dates back to 7000 B.C., the Pre-ceramic Neolithic period; it is kept in the Bible and Holy Land Museum in Paris, France.

But there is another way of considering masks.

As children, beset with lack of nurturing, some develop masks or defense mechanisms that can later thwart significant relationships. Some visit the consulting rooms of psychologists or other helpers and begin the painful process of owning their addictive masks, discarding them, and developing psychic boundaries. For the first time in their lives, they experience their spiritual center and begin living from this Source. They thrive.

I know. I’ve been through this process. And here is the result – I keep it in my study!

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