Merry Strawberry Season! Wait…. what?



Someone sent me a wish for a happy Hanukkah this week and mentioned that it is officially strawberry season (in the Middle East). We are singing songs like “See amid the winter snow, born for us so long ago,” and “In the Bleak mid-winter,” and “Let it Snow” and “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas.” Strawberry season couldn’t be farther away.

I keep running into slogans on social media: “It’s Merry Christmas, not Season’s Greetings or Happy Holiday!” I don’t know if the intent is to come across as being rigid and somewhat less than gracious about this, but it doesn’t exactly exude warm wishes. I’m particularly concerned that it is aimed at poor harried store clerks who are just following store policy. It is a Christian’s job to bless people who don’t know about the love of God, not theirs to give us “the proper greeting.” When I talked about it some people told me that the issue is that they feel an attack by governments and lobby groups to deny their traditions and they’ve had about enough of this political correctness stuff that denies folk the right to express themselves freely.

Ah. That’s the reason for the defensiveness — defending tradition. One simply does not mess with someone’s traditions. Someone told me that saying Merry Christmas was standing up for Jesus. Hmmm. I have found that putting myself in charge of God’s public relations by using my own disgruntled methods seldom puts him in a good light. He’s more likely to say, “Thanks, but I’ve got this,” and then he just pours out his goodness on those who speak ill of him.

There is a difference between “standing up for Jesus” and “standing up for our traditions.” I don’t see any instructions to say “Merry Christmas” anywhere in the Bible. In fact I don’t see any command to celebrate Jesus’ birth on an arbitrary date chosen to give an alternative to winter solstice rituals. (A good case can be made for Jesus’ birth being around the time of Sukkot, or the Jewish Festival of Booths, by the way), but I consider every day a good day to celebrate Jesus, so why not Christmas Day as well? I’m good with that.

To me “standing up for Jesus” is about standing up for what Jesus taught and acknowledging that he is who he said he is. I have a hard time seeing him scold someone for not upholding the traditions of man according to some unwritten rules. In fact, the only people he scolded were the ones who burdened people with the traditions of man to the point where they no longer accurately communicated the nature of God.

Our tradition in northern Europe and northern America is that Jesus was born amid the winter snow. It’s a rather self-absorbed man-made tradition that does not take into consideration that in other places in the world, it’s strawberry season. Whether it’s winter or summer where you live, whether Jesus’ birthday was on December 25 or September 25, his law is love and his gospel is peace. Putting Christ back into Christmas means being Christ-centered in all our choices and extending his love and peace.

May the love and peace of Christ be with you this day and every day. He absolutely adores you, you know.

Into the Gaps

joseph creek snow vertical IMG_9125 ch


There is always an enormous temptation in all of life to diddle around making itsy-bitsy friends and meals and journeys for itsy-bitsy years on end. It is so self-conscious, so apparently moral, simply to step aside from the gaps where the creeks and winds pour down, saying, I never merited this grace, quite rightly, and then to sulk along the rest of your days on the edge of rage.

I won’t have it. The world is wilder than that in all directions, more dangerous and bitter, more extravagant and bright. We are making hay when we should be making whoopee; we are raising tomatoes when we should be raising Cain, or Lazarus.

Go up into the gaps. If you can find them; they shift and vanish too. Stalk the gaps. Squeak into a gap in the soil, turn, and unlock-more than a maple- a universe. This is how you spend this afternoon, and tomorrow morning, and tomorrow afternoon. Spend the afternoon. You can’t take it with you.”

― Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Captured by Surprise

IMG_5444 rain barrel leaves captured in ice

“The earth is art, the photographer is only a witness ”

― Yann Arthus-Bertrand, Earth from Above

The change of seasons is a vertical event in the mountains. We can watch the snow-line descend from the peaks, to the hills, to the valley. We can see it coming, yet we are somehow caught by surprise when ice and snow cover our own doorstep. The first snow that stays brings forth Facebook chatter like the queen has suddenly arrived unannounced. Skiers are thrilled, shovellers -not so much. (In these parts some folks complain bitterly about the cold and hazards of walking on ice. Others are giddy at the gleeful possibilities of ice fishing or skiing and being surrounded by pristine blue-white beauty.)

IMG_3666 Radium fresh snow

It amuses me that every year is the same; we can see it coming, but we are always caught off guard and need to dig boots and mitts and shovels out of their summer hiding places.

There are spiritual seasons too. We know there are changes in the air; we know there will be times for planting, and harvest, and times for rest. We can see cycles of learning and testing and play, and cycles of birth, growth and death ascending and descending the mountains around us. We need not be surprised, but we do need to be prepared.  The day adversity arrives, piled up like blizzard snow against the front door, is not the day to think about buying snow tires, or a shovel.

We need to seek the Lord in the good seasons of our lives as well as the tough times -because knowing that He loves us and holds our future in His hands is the main tool we have to have in an accessible place in our hearts to survive more difficult seasons. (He gives many others as well.) Those who understand that change is a constant can rejoice with every new thing, and when adversity descends like winter, they may even be able to strap on their skiis or grab their sleds and find the joy.

IMG_5546 snowy pond

Walking Home on a Winter Evening

Walking home on a Winter Evening
Walking Home on a Winter Evening


The sun sets early in the winter in this country. I fondly recall summer evenings when we can safely go out for a hike after the supper dishes are done. Now we trudge home before the table is set.

Too soon!  Too soon!  There is still work to be done, and fun to be had!

But the sky says it’s time to go home. I hear my Lord’s voice calling, “Come to me , all you who have been working hard and carrying loads too heavy for you. Come to me and I will give you rest.  Walk in partnership with me and I will carry the bulk of it. I will make the task easy and your burden light.”

This is a season of rest. I may not choose the timing, but there is much to be learned in rest.

Heading home now.

For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel,
“In returning and rest you shall be saved;
    in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.”

(Isaiah 30:15)

Wintered Over on the Window Ledge

wintered geraniums frosty window
Everything hasty

gone to seed

Bedside prayers

rise silent

from hearts in despair

Glory gone but

hope rises like tomorrow’s dawn

Joy smiles wisely

under confetti skies

Gentle snow

clings diligently to

frost-blown pane

Greater still the glory

dying like evening sun

bringing glory

to glory

Promise in wilderness rest

product of grace fulfilled

in time

Shalom –

nothing missing

everything in place

There are rules and then there are guidelines

Rules and Guidelines
Man-made Posts and God-made Trees

You don`t obey your way into love; you love your way into obeying.  -Chris Hewko

You should be free to serve each other in love.

For after all, the whole Law toward others is summed up by this one command,

‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself’.

(Galatians 4:13, 14)