Poem/Song for the Year’s End, the Year’s Start

A poem for our time.


Not mine.


And not even written in our time.

Yet how appropriate to the time, how expressive of the cry of many hearts: the old year passing (“Let him die”), the new year budding, (“ring in the new… ring in the true”)!

We may not be able to change the existence of a deadly disease in the new year, but there are things we can change, by the grace of God. So be it!

(Thanks to Lynn Morrissey for mentioning this poem in yesterday’s comments. And by the way, it has been set to music, for our time. Here.)


Ring Out, Wild Bells [from In Memorium]

Alfred, Lord Tennyson


Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
   The flying cloud, the frosty light:
   The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
   Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
   The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind
   For those that here we see no more;
   Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
   And ancient forms of party strife;
   Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
   The faithless coldness of the times;
   Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
   The civic slander and the spite;
   Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
   Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
   Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
   The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
   Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.



The Worst of Years? Or not?

Truly, 2020 was rough, probably for all of us, in the whole world. For many people, it may really have been the worst year of their life. For this, my heart goes out to them.

However, when I reflect back over the year–and previous ones–I realize that personally, 2020 was not my worst year ever. I’ve had worse years by far. As I look back now, I see many blessings that I don’t want the overall tone of the year to cloud out from my memory.

Even 2020’s Christmas was not my worst ever. My worst Christmas happened in 2019.

I got sick then. Really sick. For two weeks running, followed by continued weakness, shaky unsteadiness, and a lingering cough. I came down sick on December 22nd and missed everything I’d happily planned. I was also all alone. It felt different, this sickness, and one weird thing about it was… I lost entirely my sense of taste, and smell.

Yes. In December, 2019.

I also got a horrible case of hives (probably a reaction to the virus), accompanied by angioedema, which frightened me more than the sickness itself because it included my face, head, and neck, and threatened my throat with anaphylaxis.

I’d already developed chronic hives in that epic year, 2019 (epic to me), and had struggled with several severe bouts. A couple of times they were bad enough to make me go into hiding because I looked like a monster and might have scared the little kids, and maybe even the adults, who encountered me.

2020, however, brought with it many blessings. One was the wearing of facemasks, because a facemask adequately covered my face when the hives struck so badly. (Which they’ve not been doing lately because I think, and hope, Through 2020 I finally developed a strategy that seems to be keeping them at bay.)

Facemasks also helped shield my breathing from allergen-laden air during my high allergy times, and bitter cold, come winter. I could go walking and do other outside activities, face covered, and not look like a kook.

As far as health goes, in fact, 2020 may have been my best year ever. For me to go months and months without coming down with the latest whatever’s-out-there, was pretty phenomenal.

There were a lot of other things that were good about the year, as well—things that made it stand out in some ways as one of the best. I grew. I healed from things other than physical. I learned a lot. I saw God’s hand in many ways.

How about you? How was your year, personally, really? Was it your worst year ever, or did you have other years just as challenging?

I don’t want to make light of a year that spelled tragedy and loss for so many people. And the isolation surely has been trying. I have to admit that I was never so glad to see the clock reach midnight on any previous New Year’s Eve. I’m glad 2020 is over and a new year has begun. It gives us a sense of new beginning.  But let’s not forget the good that the bad might have obscured in the old one.  Let’s look and see clearly. For a year whose number we associate with perfect vision, that seems only appropriate.

So if you haven’t done it already, why not join me in taking stock of the past year’s triumphs as well as trials, of the new learnings, maybe even epiphanies, of the new better habits and areas of personal growth, of the times of seeing God’s hand of provision, help, and maybe even palpable presence, and… maybe you can think of some other areas to add.

And truly, with a thankful heart for getting through this past year, I wish you a happy, healthy, and hopeful new year!

Hope? Peace? Joy? Love?

This week we lit the candle of Love. But did Love abound, or anger and animosity?

Last week we lit the candle of Joy. But did Joy fill hearts, or angst and depression?

The week before that we lit the candle of Peace. But were we at Peace or entangled in combative attitudes?

Before that, the theme had been Hope. And was it a time of hope? Or did our hope depend on whether an anti-Covid vaccine would be released, or a human government would issue monetary benefits to the populace? And then how big and general and uplifting and lasting a hope would it be?

At the time when we lit that Hope Candle,  I was reading national surveys showing a growing percentage of the population was suffering a “loss of hope,” resulting in growing cases of depression, even suicide.

Back when we lit that Peace candle, I thought of the words that had lifted off the page to me from amid the morning’s scripture readings, in 2 Peter 3:14 NET, about the (second) Advent still to come, admonishing believers, “Dear friends, since you are waiting for these things, strive to be found by him at peace…” And I felt a pang.

What pained me was how much lack of peace was wracking even the Christian population. We seemed more “at war” than “at peace,” our striving not aimed toward peace, but against one another, toward “winning,” in matters worldly and political, and toward asserting perceived personal “rights.” Like the author of “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” I could have found it tempting to mutter cynically, “‘There is no peace on earth’—even in the church,” and wonder how to be at peace, surrounded by so much strife.

What about Joy? How does one drum up joy amid pandemic, economic crisis, social upheaval and violent clashing?

And all this time, what about Love?  While “perfect love casts out fear,” fear has a tendency to cast out love.  Fear breeds animosity, even hatred. Personally, how do you love when your angst has been heightened by all that’s transpiring?

What we need here is a focal shift. A 180 turn in fact. Looking again at the opening sentences at the top of this page, we might note the order there of the candle themes: “Love, Joy, Peace…” Do those lovely words, in that order, ring a scriptural bell?

Hint: In scripture the list continues: “love, joy, peace, (longsuffering) patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and temperance (what we like to call ‘self-control’)”

Stronger hint: Galatians 5:22-23

 All those states of heart and soul are… what? The fruit… of… the Spirit. Whose Spirit?

Now, on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, those of us in some Christmas traditions will light a candle in the center of the Advent wreath: the Christ Candle. Everything Advent has been leading up to this focal point. Indeed, should Christ not be the center of everything Christmas, and everything Love, Joy, and Peace? Should He not be the center of our very souls?

So may the focus of our minds, hearts, and prayers center there, on the Christ, if it hasn’t rested there all along. Let us keep “looking to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him…” entered into our world, during very troubled times, entered into poverty and homelessnes, as a lowly human baby, to go on and “endure the cross”—for our sakes: Christ, Whose Spirit is even now, even amid our own troubled times, with us. Drawing near to Him and letting His Spirit fill and and lead us is the means by which its fruit, His fruit–the Love, Joy, Peace, and Hope we long for–will “come to us,” and “abide in us.”

Truly, it isn’t easy times. And a simple platitude isn’t an end-all answer to complicated problems. But depending on our own feeble skills and abilities surely isn’t enough, either. Looking to Christ, spending time apart with Him, asking Him to work in and through us, and then getting out of His way and allowing Him to do it, is surely a good beginning.


So, here’s wishing you, dear reader, a Christmas Day, and a whole New Year, filled with renewed Love, Joy, Peace, and Hope.


Advent Double Joy


From my journal, slightly edited:

November 29, 2020 — Sonday (First Sunday of Advent)

Woke today realizing I’m grateful for Advent. I’m thankful, especially amid a pandemic that doesn’t want to end, for the sense of new beginning Advent holds as “traditional beginning of the liturgical church year,” and for the hope it promotes—real hope for a much better time.

On my walks I often pass a large window sign proclaiming, “A better world is possible.” I don’t know exactly what the people who posted it had in mind, or how they envisioned it coming about, but it always reminds me of the better world Jesus promised, to be initiated at His return—His Second Advent.

When I recite Zechariah’s prophesy, which I often do in what’s becoming for me almost a morning ritual (more on rituals sometime later), for Luke 1:78 I say, “the Dayspring from on high has visited us—and will visit us—to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death…” (etc.). I do this because different texts speak of His visitation in either past or future tense—and both are biblically valid.

Likewise, when I celebrate Advent, I like to look both back into the past, to reflect on and celebrate Christ’s first Advent, His incarnation, and forward to anticipate his Advent to come, when at last all things will be set right. And this, especially in this troubled time, gives double joy: gratitude and hope.


Do you observe Advent?

What meaning(s) does it have for you?


Thanksgiving! Great day for Rebooting Gratitude!

I just decided to journal five gratitudes daily for the rest of the year.

My gratitude-themed journals lie too far in the past, and the mention of gratitudes I do now in my journaling has become rather sparse.

Oh, I do give thanks for something each day, already, mentally, in passing; I really do. But I think daily journaling of things to be thankful for gives the gratitude attitude a special boost—along  with positivity–and hope! And it keeps a record of blessings that I might forget too easily otherwise—which could come in handy to review when rising Covid figures or declining financial figures threaten to throw me into a Slough of Despond.

Many unique blessings bombard me every day, but the present global circumstances can steal my attention from them all, and if I don’t watch out I’ll be like the people mentioned in Psalm 4:6 “who say, ‘Who can show us any good?’”

A little review of just a few journal pages can show me a lot of good!

I think I’m going to do it in the evening, my gratitude journaling, before I hit the sleep sack, because (I’ve just learned) studies show this may even help me get better sleep.

What kind of things might I give thanks for? Big things, of course. Like getting to see and hug my family members and close friends…

Which, hmm, wait a minute, I can’t do this year!

So, well, I can’t give thanks for the hugs or the physical presence, but I can certainly give thanks for those family members and friends.

Thinking about this, I find gratitude welling right up in my heart (and tears in my eyes), for each one who’s still alive!

And gratitude for life itself is a big one. Lately the preciousness of every life, of every living thing, has impressed itself on me more than I think it ever has in my whole… life!

But expressing gratitude for “little things” has a special power, too, methinks: power to sharpen all my senses, enabling me to live life more intently, intensely, more fully.

A few weeks ago on a walk, noticing one beautifully colored leaf, picking it up, thanking God for its vibrant beauty, and carrying it with me like a little kid, heightened my awareness—and enjoyment—of other leaves: like the multitude of tiny little spear-shaped ones scattered ahead of my footsteps like a gleaming golden carpet, and more showering down from branches above.

Thinking about all this brings an old quote to my mind, and heart:

“The world is so full of a number of things, I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.” (Robert Lewis Stevenson).

Maybe happier than kings, actually.

In times like the present, it’s too easy to get fixated on the worrisome, the threatening, the looming “Dark” times and things. If there ever were a time in the last half-century when we could use the pickmeup of a daily recording of 3 or 4—myself I like to list 5—“gifts of the day,” “blessings,” “gratitudes,” this is it. And what better time to begin (again), than on Thanksgiving Day?


How about you? Could your Gratitude Attitude use a reboot, too?