Category Archives: Story

Christmas Story: Hear The Angels Sing

I love Christmas stories and have collected some favorites over the years.  I found one today to add to my list of favs on The Livesay Haiti Blog (great blog of a family that lives and serves in Haiti).  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Hear the Angels Sing

By Rick Porter

Hear the Angels Sing ( Dickinson County News, December 12, 2006)

Perhaps it’s just the Ebenezer Scrooge in me, but I’m not much of a caroler. When pressed into participation I sing, but rarely with the gusto of those around me. And too often I sing in a rote way, not giving full attention to the words. There is however, one line of one verse of one carol that always captures my attention.

A story is told of a man seasonally employed to bring the presence of Santa to Christmas gatherings for businesses and schools. He was on his way to a gig, an office party, but had been asked to stop by the nursing home to make a quick visit to the residents. This was pro bono work, but if Santa won’t do it who will?

He quickly made his rounds with a “ho, ho, ho” to each room. Just before departing, he peeked into a darkened cubicle where an elderly man lay apparently asleep, curled on his bony side. Santa prepared to leave in a flash. But the man made a feeble beckoning gesture visible in the dim light of a tiny Christmas tree. The volunteer Santa approached. The man whispered something so faintly as to be inaudible. Santa moved his jolly old ear very close to the man’s dry mouth. “Forms are bending low,” the man said. Santa did not connect the phrase, assumed confusion, gave a patronizing pat, and hurried off to his paying job.

As he arrived at the office party, holiday music was filling the room. The words of an old carol floated from the ceiling speakers:

O ye beneath life’s crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow;
Look now, for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing;
Oh rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing.

The song was “It Came Upon A Midnight Clear” written as a poem in 1849 and put to music 10 years later. The essence of the song is that angels did not just appear and sing at the birth of Christ. They show up and serenade regularly and often.

Just when we are so burdened as to not hear, at the most difficult of times, when life’s loads crush and our forms bend, they minister most. Immanuel, meaning “God-with-us,” attends us as His invisible person, the Holy Spirit, and He is attended by angels. The heart of God is to meet us at life’s darkest intersections with comfort, encouragement, a touch of heaven, and a breath of hope. The old man in the nursing home wasn’t just complaining to Santa about his lot in life. He was acknowledging that in Santa’s visit, no matter how hurried, there was an angelic grace.

Whether or not you sing the carols this year, be encouraged to live the carols. For you, this season may not be one of happiness, good memories, or togetherness. You may be grieving, regretful, or lonely. Life’s road seems crushing and your form is bending low. That does not disqualify you from the true Christmas message. While others scurry in apparent happiness, the invitation to the crushed and the bent still stands:

Oh rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing.

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Six Word Story #1 – Scars

According to legend Hemingway once wrote a story in just six words:

“For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

and called it his best work.

It’s not known if the story is true or not or if Hemingway is the one who wrote “For sale: baby shoes, never worn”

However, the story itself has continued to inspire people to attempt to write their own six word stories.

There are websites, books and contests devoted to the idea.

In the spirit of those who have gone before me in this endeavor I am going to attempt to offer up a six word story now and then here at Grace Rules.  I’ve tried this a few times and it is pretty hard.  The challenge is to come up with six words that create a vivid enough picture for the reader to immediately be able to imagine a story.

Feel free to add your own in the comments.

Finally, someone saw past her scars.


Year In Review: Because I Knew You

The holidays are over and another year has flown by.  As I look back on 2009 I am reminded of videos, blogs, articles, poems, music, and books that have touched my life – in response I’ve laughed, cried, ranted, been silent, learned, struggled, loved, given, received, hoped, tried, been fearful, inspired, courageous, challenged and changed.

Behind all of the blogs, music, books, poems etc are people, mostly people I don’t know personally, but who, never the less, are having a significant impact on my life. It’s really pretty amazing to think about and I am very grateful for these people.  Like the song “For Good” (from Wicked) says …I’M WHO I AM TODAY BECAUSE I KNEW YOU.  

So, in honor of these people and 2009 let me say some “thank yous” with a few shout outs.  Feel free to share your own 2009 memories and shout outs in the comments.

I thoroughly enjoyed the blog Stuff Christians Like.   The posts make me laugh and teach me lessons about myself and others.  If you aren’t familiar with this blog check out Lady Gaga, Rum and Thinking Your Naked which lists the top posts for 2009.  Thanks Jonathan Acuff – for the laughter AND the lessons!

They were on ABC News, written about in The New York Times and tweeted about by Ashton Kutcher.  If you haven’t heard of them you are missing a real treasure … “they” are the PS22 Chorus, a childrens choir from a Staten Island elementary school … their secret: Gregg Breinberg, their music teacher.  Mr. B (as his students call him) has a heart for helping kids learn to love music.  One of Mr. B’s students said this:  “At first, when I sang, I had no emotion,” she says. “I didn’t move. But Mr. B taught me to sing with feeling. With feeling and heart.”  Watching these kids brings tears of joy to my eyes – for some reason their collective voices and moves to the beat give me hope.  Thanks, Mr. B and PS22 Chorus, for the joy and the hope!  Here’s  just one of the many videos on youtube of the PS22 Chorus:

Adele Sakler (author of the blog Existential Punk and one of the few people in my blogging community that I have met F2F) started Queermergent in Jan 2009 as a safe place for those who identify as LGBTQ to engage in mature discussions regarding the LGBTQ community of faith.  It was through Adele’s acceptance and encouragement that I did my own coming out as an ally of the LGBTQ community by telling my story through a post  that Adele published on her site Queermergent.  Thanks for the encouragement and acceptance, Adele! 

I discovered Spoken Word poetry in 2009.  It inspired me to write my own spoken word poem  (a fun, creative experience) and eventually led to me discovering poet and activist, Andrea Gibson.  She’s a pretty amazing artist.  Be sure and check her stuff out – two of my favorites are Ashes and I Do.  Thanks Andrea, for your brave, inspirational poetry!  You have me thinking about things I never knew.

Synchroblogging (a group of folks blog on one topic on the same day) was still close to my heart in 2009.  There hasn’t been much going on with it in the last part of the year but it still could rise again.  I like it because it pushes me out of my comfort zone and gets me to reading, writing and posting about stuff that I might not think of on my own, like quantum physics.  And I like it because the people who participate are great thinkers who are kind but not wimpy. My synchroblog post, Mary and Martha: A Story About God’s Radical Hospitality, which was associated with International Women’s Day (initiated by uber-blogger Julie Clawson), still gets more traffic than any other post I have written.  And my post for the Bridging The Gap synchroblog  tops the charts on my blog for the most comments and best conversation.  I even received the Bridge Builder Award because of it.  So thanks to all the synchrobloggers out there, you know who you are – I am learning a lot because of you! 

I want to give a shout out to Eugene Cho, author of the blog beauty and depravity.  I love reading his blog because Eugene is so transparent and open.  He is a courageous and compassionate person who is an inspiration to me.  I have to admit that I sometimes feel bad about myself after reading his stuff as he is one of the most altruistic people I have run across…but he is so full of love and grace that I never feel that he is pointing a finger at me.  I really admire his endurance and gumption when it comes to the charity he started, One Day’s Wages, and on top of everything else, he has a great sense of humor.  I don’t know if he and I agree on everything theologically but it really doesn’t matter to me, because I like him as a person!  Thanks Eugene for challenging and inspiring me.  (for more great blogs check out my blogroll)

I love to read books as well as blogs so I can’t reflect on the last year without thinking about the books I read. I usually choose books because of someone’s recommendation or review.  Some great books I read because I heard about them through blogs and social media this year (many were published before 2009 but I read them last year) include Pete Rollins new book, The Orthodox Heretic and Other Impossible Tales; Samir Selmanovic’s book It’s Really All About God; Don Miller’s book A Million Miles In A Thousand Years; Drops Like Stars by Rob Bell (I even went to the tour); The New Christians: Dispatches From The Emergent Frontier by Tony Jones, The Help (a novel) by Kathryn Stockett; The Twilight Series  by Stephanie Meyer, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, and a children’s book by Douglas Wood called The Old Turtle and The Broken Truth (which prompted a post from me).  So…thanks Pete, Samir, Tony, Rob, Don, Kathryn, Stephanie, Khaled and Douglas for making my life richer!

I can’t reflect on 2009 without thinking about Twitter.  I actually joined Twitter in 2007 (I’m so cutting edge:>) but it took a couple of years for enough others to jump on the bandwagon to make it fun and worthwhile.  I’ve met so many amazing people through Twitter and discovered an online community that is fluid, diverse and for the most part, friendly.  It was December of 2009 before I realized just how real this community was.  A fellow twitterer, @Gideony, who was prominent among a particular group of peeps that I follow and interact with, took his own life.  Several hundred of us were shook to the core over the loss of our friend.  As we shared our grief we realized that through our tweets, replies, DMs and retweeting we had begun to know and care about one another.  The virtual had become real for us.  So I say to my fellow twitterers – thanks for the community that you have helped form and for allowing me to be a part of it…and to @Gideony: I miss you and remember you with fondness and love.  (P.S.  I’m on twitter @lizdyer if you want to connect)

Of course I could go on and on but I think that is a good sampling of 2009 so I will stop here and wish you a Happy New Year to you and yours.

May Y☺ū have Peace ♥ ¸.•*¨*•♫♪ Health ♪♫•*¨*•. Wealth .•*¨*• Success ♥¸.•*¨*•♫♪  Love  ♥ ♥ ♥   and  A Happy New Year! ♪♫•*¨*•.¸♥

A Lucy and Ethel Moment

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When I was growing up my mother loved to watch the “I Love Lucy” show. It cracked her up when Lucy and Ethel would get themselves into some crazy predicament. I remember sitting on the couch beside her as we watched their comical antics, both of us laughing to the point of tears. It is one, among many, of my favorite memories of my mom.  Even though she passed away in 1993 I can still hear the sound of her laughing at Lucy and Ethel.  It just so happens that my best friend, Colleen, who lives in San Antonio, is also a big “I Love Lucy” fan.  And so it is probably no surprise that over the years we have dubbed some of our crazy times together as “Lucy and Ethel Moments”.

I was reminded of one of those moments recently when my friend, Jules, who blogs at The Wonderer, published a post that included some funny stories about herself.  (Check out her post here – you will crack up)  All of that to lead up to telling you about the time my friend and I maced ourselves.

My best friend, Colleen, lives in San Antonio, TX.  We usually manage to get together once or twice a year for a few days.  A few years ago I was in San Antonio for a visit.  One evening, after dinner, we relaxed on her patio, drank some wine and talked (talking with each other is one of our favorite things to do when we get together). 

At that time she lived in an apartment that backed up to some undeveloped land that looked like a small forest and was home to a lot of wildlife.  I use the term “wildlife” loosely as the animals were used to being fed by their human neighbors and were not afraid to get up close and personal.  It was really pretty cool the way the deer and squirrels would come right up to you. 

Anyway, there we were, sitting on the patio and here comes an armadillo – or maybe it was a possum – I really can’t remember which one it was now – coming right toward us.  Whatever it was, I remember it was ugly and was making a little grunting noise. We jumped up and started shooing it away.  It moved back a few feet, stopped for a minute or so and then headed back towards us.  Like I said, the wildlife there wasn’t afraid of humans and thought of humans as a source of food.  After a couple of times of shooing the animal away it became more bold.  It began to almost act aggressive and we were a little nervous, wondering if we should just move inside. Colleen said not to worry that if the animal got aggressive she had some mace on her key ring that was sitting on a small table beside her.  I asked her if she had ever used it and she said no and that prompted her to point it off in a direction away from us and away from the animal and spray a little to see if it worked.  It worked and we went back to talking and keeping an eye out to make sure our little friend didn’t sneak back up on the patio.

A few minutes later, my throat started feeling scratchy and felt like it might be closing up AND I started coughing.  I told Colleen what I was feeling and almost at the same time we noticed that there was an A/C unit sitting near the area she had sprayed the mace and realized that it had probably blown the mace back in our direction.  We were already sort of in that giggling mode that you can get to when you have been a little spooked about something (the wildlife) and we started to get tickled and freaked out at the same time. We started asking each other questions about whether we should call 911 because of the mace and we began to imagine how the call would go… 

911 Operator:  “Hello, this is 911, what’s your emergency.”

Me and Colleen: ”We were on the patio and we were afraid of an armadillo that is practically tame because it was sniffing around the patio to see if we had some food and we tested our mace by spraying it where an A/C unit was running and the mace blew back in our direction and well, we ended up macing ourselves.  Our throat is scratchy and feels like it is swelling up.  What should we do?”

911 Operator: “I’m not sure what you should do but I definitely think you need some help.”

We were ROFLOL.  We took our chances and never called 911 and we were okay.  Well, at least we were not harmed by the small dose of mace – whether we were okay or not was up for debate.

Anytime we are together and hear anything about mace we look at each other and start laughing uncontrollably.  It is definitely one of our favorite “Lucy and Ethel moments” ever. 

What about you?  Got any funny stories about yourself or you and a friend that you want to share?

I Love Stories

stone

I love stories, real and imaginary.  I collect them.  I find them in books, coffee shops, blogs, libraries, work, newspapers, grocery stores, schools, neighborhoods, magazines, social gatherings etc – the sources are endless.  Some are typed up and stored on my pc, some are on pieces of paper tucked in a box that sits on a shelf in my closet, some are in books that stand side by side in my bookshelf and others are just memories stored in my head.  I’ve noticed that the stories that I am most compelled to hang on to one way or the other are stories that not only move me but also teach me.  Sometimes what I learn are things I already knew but somehow the story makes them come alive for me.    So – it is in that spirit that I want to share a story I ran across the other day.

If you have young children you may already be aware of the story.  It is a children’s book that I think was published in 2003 by a man named Douglas Wood.  The name of the book is “The Old Turtle and The Broken Truth.”  This is one of those stories that is loved by all ages.  I encourage you to try to get your hands on a copy of the book as it is beautifully illustrated by Jon J. Muth.  Here’s a summary of the story.  (The lesson is obvious.)

The story is a parable that takes place in a “far away land, somehow not so very far” in “a land where every stone was a teacher and every breeze a language.”

One day a “truth” falls from the sky and breaks.  A piece of the truth falls to the ground and is found by Crow. The stone appeals to him because it is so shiny. But after a while, Crow begins to think that there is something not quite right with the truth he found; he feels it is “broken” and he wants to try to find one that is “whole.”  Fox, Coyote, Raccoon, Butterfly and Bear, are also attracted to the broken truth by its shininess and sweetness. But, one by one, they reject it, for the same reason Crow rejected it – they sense it is “broken”.

Later a human finds the broken truth, and reads the words that are written on it. “You Are Loved,” says the stone, and the person feels good just holding it. He takes it back to his people and they all treasure it. In time, they begin to fear other groups of people who are different from them and who do not share their truth, which they have proclaimed is “The Truth.” They also lose interest in the land and are no longer able to learn from the stones or hear the languages of the breezes.

Over time other groups of people learn about “The Truth” and wish to possess it for themselves. Wars break out, causing the land and all the people to suffer. The animals ask Old Turtle, their wise and ancient leader, to reason with the people and tell them the truth they’re fighting over is broken. But she refuses, saying the people are not ready for this message and that they will not listen to her.

Finally, a young girl, who is distraught because of all the wars and suffering, decides that something must be done, so she travels all alone to the “great hill in the very center of the world” where she meets Old Turtle, and asks her if things could ever change. Old Turtle, realizing this is a human ready to listen, tells the girl that things were not always like this and that there are many beautiful truths all around us and within us—the “small and lovely truths of life” which humans have lost the ability to recognize. And so with the Old Turtle’s help and guidance, the girl learns to hear the language of the breezes. Old Turtle tells the girl that the broken truth will only be mended when one person meets another person different from his or herself, and in that person sees and hears his or herself. Every person is important, according to Old Turtle, and “the world was made for each of us.”

Before she departs, Old Turtle gives the girl a gift, which she has been saving for the right person. The girl accepts it, but isn’t sure what to do with it. When she returns to her people, the girl tries to share the lessons she has learned with them and to show them the language of the breezes, but they don’t believe her and they refuse to listen. The girl is frustrated until she sees Crow flying around the high tower where the cherished broken truth is kept. As she looks up at the tower she realizes the significance of Old Turtle’s gift and climbs up to the broken truth to discover that the broken bit of stone received from Old Turtle fits against the broken truth and forms a heart shaped rock which reads, “You Are Loved—And So Are They.”