Category Archives: Christmas Tales

Here We Come A Caroling

 

“. . . singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord.” Ephesians 5:19b  American Standard Version

One of my favorite things to do at Christmas is Christmas caroling. So far this year I had two wonderful and heart warming opportunities. The first took place in a cozy home with my small group of Christian writers. We gathered around a piano and each chose a carol to sing accompanied by a pianist and a violinist. What melodic tones and uplifted voices filled the air in that lovely living room. It was sorta like a Hall Mark moment, at least for me.

The next chance I got to make my own joyful noise in celebration of our Savior’s birth came on a frigid Sunday evening. A group of 45 or so from St. Paul’s E.C. church bundled up to walk the streets of Reamstown, Pennsylvania. It’s a rather tiny town but extra special to me because I grew up there.

As a child in the ’60s and’ 70s, this church congregation annually walked and sang carols at christmastime in Reamstown. I have many happy memories of residents opening their doors and warming us with steaming coffee or hot chocolate, cookies and candy before sending us on our way to sing at the next home. I looked forward to it every year.

The practice had sadly subsided some time ago but this year it was revived. 2018 marks the first year I returned to St. Paul’s after a 40 year absence and I was thrilled to find out that caroling in Reamstown had returned to the  Advent agenda!

A lot of the people in the town were preoccupied that night. They didn’t seem interested in live caroling from strangers. Most were snuggled up on their sofas with the Eagles/Cowboys football game on tv while we huddled outside in the cold to sing. We could see them from the street. Few came to their doors to hear our caroling. It was a bit sad. Here and there children peeked out through the windows to watch and listen to something sacred.

Our hearts were not dampened as we sang inspite of the reception we received. It was not unlike the night Joseph and Mary travelled to Bethlehem. Doors remained closed to them as well. People were preoccupied.

How about you? Is your heart rejoicing because Jesus came to save us and give us REAL LIFE in this world and the one to come? Or are you too preoccupied with the busyness of life and the trappings of the holiday season?

If you have a favorite Christmas Carol, take some time to sing it to Jesus in your quiet time these days leading up to Christmas.  Most carols are brimming with doctrinal truth. Sing in the car, in the shower, while you do chores, just find some time to remember Him. HE delights in hearing the voice HE gave you to sing HIS praise!

Ginormous

Shine on. . .
karan k

Comforting Christmas Stories

“I have always thought of Christmastime as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely.”

From the book, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.

This year while so many are watching the 25 Days of Hallmark Christmas movies, (I have no cable so no Hallmark for me), I am reading a Christmas book borrowed from a friend. She wanted to share a lovely Christmas story with me. Its a gift that she gave which is delighting my soul in the good things of the season. It’s a simple thing, an act of love from one friend to another.

This particular book is called The Christmas Bus, and at this point I’m only on page 45. If you’ve read it, don’t tell me the ending!:)

I am grateful I have learned to treasure such a pure gift of the heart. Don’t get me wrong, I relish Christmas movies and I’ll  definitely watch some of those too, but there’s something special and relaxing in a different way when settling in to read a book or a story.

It has taken me years to slow down enough to enjoy such a simple pleasure but this calming pace has enriched my enjoyment of the rest of the Christmas season beyond compare.

The opening quote is from my very favorite Christmas book. The quote embodies the true spirit of Christmas. If at no other time of the year, we should open our hearts to one another in love because Christmas celebrates the One who is the embodiment of good. He is the kindest, most loving, all-forgiving, most joyful and pleasant person we can ever meet.

JESUS! Do we know Him intimately? Is HE a part of our life story on a daily basis? Unless HE is, your heart will remain “Shut-Up” in some way or other. I challenge you to slow down your festive frenzied season. Take time to sit and READ about Jesus. Meditate over a cup of coffee or cocoa on His story and how He intersects it with yours.

This can pry open a scared, anxiety riddled heart and fill it with His gifts of Love, Joy and Peace. And really, isn’t that what we all want deep down inside? Love? Joy? Peace? When we can receive these beautiful gifts we are finally free to share them with others.  Because we cannot give what we do not possess.

So give it a go, open your heart to Him. What have you got to lose but some frustration and frazzlement. HE can make all the difference in your Christmas season and the rest of your life! And maybe, just maybe, your own story will become more exciting than any Hallmark movie. You’ll be FLURISHING through Christmas!

Shine on. . .
karan k

Sending Christmas Cheer

First official Christmas card in 1843 had three panels and sold for about 8 cents in todays money

“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up,  just as you are doing.”
I Thessalonians 5:11 English Standard Version

How many of you continue the tradition of sending Christmas cards? It’s something I look forward to every year. Yes, it is time consuming AND costly but I see it as a tiny gift of remembrance.

If I had uber millions of dollars I would buy everyone I know a gift, but since that is not the case, I send cards. It takes some money and some time but I feel its worth my investment. Just doesn’t seem the same to send a digitized greeting online.

The tradition of sending Christmas cards started in Europe in the 1840s when the idea of postal offices were first being organized. Cards were a way to generate revenue but only the very rich could afford to buy and send them which made it very special to receive a card. Nativity scenes adorned most of the first cards. Later snow scenes, flowers and birds also became popular Christmas card themes.

 

Annie Oakley of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show fame, sent the first known personalized Christmas card in 1891. Sort of an old fashioned selfie, it was a photo of herself wearing a Tartan while she was touring Scotland in December that year. She had it printed into cards to send friends and relatives back in the States as a Christmas greeting. She let them know even though faraway that they were on her mind.

Annie Oakley

Homemade cards and Christmas post cards became popular in the early 1900s since they were less expensive to give or send. In 1915 the Hall brothers created Hallmark cards which remains one of the biggest card makers to this day. You know, “When you care enough to send the very best” has been their time tested slogan.

Christmas cards at this time of year let others know you have fond memories of them. They let people know they are not forgotten.  They can touch hearts in a cold and impersonal world. That is ever so important especially for those who live alone, who are hurting or faraway.

Sending a handwritten expression of our thoughts and feelings transports a little bit of love from you to the recipient. If we don’t send greeting cards at any other time of the year, let’s make an effort to send a few to those who are special to us. Let them know they matter to you. It could be the only bright spot in someone’s Christmas season.

 

” Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God.” Philippians 1:3 New Living Translation

Is anyone on your mind this Christmas season? I encourage you not to let those precious thoughts and emotions drop into the abyss of holiday busyness. Take a few minutes to send some Christmas cheer to someone dear!

Love to all my faithful readers!

Shine on. . .
karan k

In the Pink

 

What do you envision when you think of the word Christmas? Are you a Scrooge who only sees it as a money stealing holiday to rob one’s pocket every 25Th of December?

Or do you have fond memories from childhood? A special gift you received one particular Christmas perhaps? Or the annual Christmas pageant you were forced to participate in at church or in school? How about all the glorious lights and colorful decorations adorning the houses and the fresh scent of Christmas trees?

Does your family have any special traditions that they continue to practice year upon year? Growing up in dysfunction left little room for any warm fuzzy traditions.

My family was distraught every year when it was time to set up the Christmas tree. My Mom would pull out the fake tree and adorn it with only two things, pink tinsel and pink satin balls. My three older brothers and my father hated the tree. I think all of them hated pink ever since the first year she set up that peptobismal tree. Pink was and still is my Mom’s signature color.

Mom would wear hot pink lipstick with every outfit and dressed in pink, carried huge pink pocketbooks and come to think of it, we even lived in a pink house. So I can’t blame the guys in our family for their aversion to pink.

I never minded pink. In fact, I love pink and sometimes I wear it in honor of my Mom. When people stare at my bright pink lipstick or clothes I have to chuckle to myself because I don’t care what they think. I’m enjoying remembering my Mom and her glory days.

This year Christmas with Mom was hard. Her dementia is increasing. She’s in pain from a weird rash,the beginnings of cellulitis and congestive heart failure that causes her to retain fluid. Normally affectionate, she’s in pain if you hug her too hard.

Her body and mind are deteriorating and I am praying for grace for her so she doesn’t suffer. She was always such a strong woman. But now she is eaten up by fear and paranoia. She cries at imaginary things and screams for no reason.

I am grateful she could come to my house to celebrate Christmas yesterday even though it was uncomfortable for her as well as for other family members at times. She told me it was “a nice party” but that she knows this will be the last time she can go out of the nursing home bar a miracle.

Mom and I have lots of stories to share with you but right now I ask that you pray for her to be at peace in her mind and be free of pain in her body. Thank you so much!

Shine on into the New Year!
karan k

Savoring Christmas Part II

 

“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.” Matthew 6:33 + 34 The Message Bible

2017 Christmas concert
Michael W. Smith and
Amy Grant

Last week I experienced the blessing of seeing Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith’s Christmas concert. I have followed their careers and walk of faith since 1983 and especially loved their Christmas music. So this was a big deal, a real splurge for me.

Their concert touched my heart. Even though at age 60 and 57, Michael and Amy’s voices, respectively aren’t as strong as they once were, the message of their music shines brighter than ever.

I found myself weeping during carols they recorded years ago and it surprised me. The raw emotions overwhelmed me as I realized their  music got me through a lot of painful Christmas seasons past. I praised God in my seat there at the Hershey Giant Center grateful that Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith answered the call to music ministry when they were young. For I have been truly blessed by their legacy.

 

2007

Christmas can be a very difficult time of year for some people. Expectations can exceed reasonable possibilities spiraling us into despair.  Can you relate?

I confess I did not always look forward to Christmas. It was a lonely season and disappointing even in childhood. As an adult I worked extra shifts on Christmas day because I had no children of my own. I heard repeatedly that “Christmas was just for children”.  I didn’t want to believe that as my truth. Inspite of that I worked the holiday so others with children could be home with their families and I could keep busy.

The dysfunction of my past and family of origin depressed me. No one wanted to do any real celebrating. Every year it was like pulling teeth just to get everyone together. Eat some cheapo food, open a gift or two and that was it. There was little meaning and no family traditions to share. It totally blew! And every year I was glad when it passed and I could begin a New Year.

And then in the mid 90s as the Christmas season neared, I  determined to find the joy I believed Jesus brought.  I tried various ways of looking for Him every December.

One year I made special gift packages for  all the residents in a local  nursing home. Sneaking in at midnight Christmas eve so each person would awaken to a surprise Christmas morning was exciting.

Several years I delivered gifts through Project Angel Tree to children with a parent in prison. The kids were so glad to be remembered. Later I began helping with an annual cookie bake with my nieces and some friends to give out cookies and treats to relatives and shut-ins. Christmas began to sparkle.

Little by little every year got better simply because I CHOSE to focus on giving. The past 20 or so Christmases have increasingly improved for me personally edging out loneliness and despair, maybe even some bitterness.

But about 10 years ago I caught hold of the secret to savoring Christmas. . .  I finally set time aside before December hit to just sit and focus on my Savior. Honoring Him with the first part of my Holiday season brightened up everything else I did. Doing this first before all the mayhem began made a huge difference for me!

Jesus first, it’s HIS Birthday after all. Shouldn’t HE receive the first gift? Doing this has taught me to savor  Christmas. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy all the details and festivities but if they aren’t done for HIS glory then they too, though good, are empty.

This year choose to celebrate HIM first and watch all the joys of the season fall into place. There’s still time!

Me and Dwight enjoying the concert

Never stop looking!! As the saying goes, “WISE MEN AND WOMEN STILL SEEK HIM!!!

Shine on. . .

karan k

 

Savoring Christmas Part I

 

A Christmas coconut tree?

 

How do you celebrate Christmas? Lights? Carols? Coconuts? A lot depends on your belief system.  No matter where you live or whether you consider yourself religious/spiritual or not, we ALL have a belief system. Where did that belief system originate?

Most are formed in our subconscious mind and lived out in our conscious mind without much effort on our part.The  mind has three interacting processing capabilities. They are as follows:

The mind has the power to choose

The conscious mind — our daily reality which accounts for only 10% of brain capacity.

The subconscious mind— our recent memories make up 50-60% of brain capacity.

The unconscious mind—  the storehouse for all memories and past experiences for the remaining 30-40% of brain capacity.

OR stated a different way;

“It is from these memories and experiences {in our subconscious and unconscious storage units of the mind} that our beliefs, habits, and behaviors are formed. The unconscious constantly communicates with the conscious mind via our subconscious, and is what provides us with the meaning to all our interactions with the world, as filtered through your beliefs and habits.”

So what does all this mind stuff have to do with Christmas? EVERYTHING! How you view and celebrate Christmas largely depends on what you have experienced in your life since birth. What you’ve been taught. What you saw. What you read. What you heard. Etc.,  What was your childhood Christmas like?

Christmas Memories

Now those memories could be positive or negative and all of us have experienced some of each. That’s part of  natural life on this imperfect planet. But our conscious mind actually has the power to pick the positive over the negative IF we choose to make the effort.

no Hum Bugs!

Which means that no  person who claims to be a Christian has an excuse for a BAH HUMBUG attitude concerning CHRISTMAS! No matter what has happened to you in the past, your present conscious mind can override it with the glorious truth laid out for us in Scripture. The miraculous birth of our Lord and Savior who gave up reigning in heavenly paradise to save our measly souls from hell on earth and hell for eternity is nothing less than awesome. It’s something to be POSITIVELY excited about!

 

If you are not enthusiastic in at least your heart about Christmas for whatever reason, I encourage you to reread the account of the Christmas story again as soon as possible and ask God to give you a new perspective on His unfathomable gift! He can heal old pains and help you focus on the positive truth which can transform your christmas season from drudgery to delight! Start FLURISHING before this Christmas season comes to a close.

 

 

Read Matthew 1:18-2:23

Shine on. . .

karan k

Christmas Spirit

 

 

I loved this particular tree

As I said in the first Christmas post, I was unsure how Christmas is received here on the Hawaiian islands.  But as our trip progressed I saw Christmas decor splashed everywhere, especially unusual Christmas trees.

The very first one we saw as we deplaned in Honolulu and made our way to baggage claim seemed terribly Hawaiian but not too pretty. After that we began seeing trees and lights everywhere decorated in multitudes of ways. What I have here is just a sampling of course but the feel of Christmas surrounded us.

Being without a car, we traveled by shuttle, bus, van and uber. Each time we met beautiful, friendly people, sometimes Hawaiian, sometimes not. Most were playing subdued Christmas songs quite Christian in nature.

So I asked our Samoan shuttle driver if he was a believer. . .  His grin said yes before he uttered a sound. He asked how Could I tell? I said “There was just a loving joyful spirit about you and the music was a big clue since it wasn’t typical Christmas music about Santa.” He told me he plays this music on purpose to glorify the Savior.  We wished him blessings and said we’d see him again in glory someday to which he flashed a bigger smile.

 

Bonzai Pipeline, North Shore Oahu

The next day, DK (my husband) and I took a van tour to the North shore of Oahu where the big surfing competitions are this time of year. Our driver was an older Hawaiian  man named Ace. He drove us to the Bonzai pipeline where DK got some amazing surfing shots. We rode bike along the shore area and saw incredible homes owned by famous surfers and wealthy residents. We shopped in lazy little towns and hiked in the magnificent Waimea Valley sanctuary.

While we were off enjoying these extraordinary excursions, Ace was parked in a peaceful spot eating rice and fresh Ahi tuna. He enjoyed feeding the feral chickens and relaxed until our pick up time.

Ace added two additional stops for us to see Giant Sea Turtles in a secluded cove and then a stop to the Dole plantation free of charge. (The Dole whip is awesome by the way.) His jolly generosity made the day a delightful highlight.

Ace was willing to drop us off separately at two different locations not on his route so we could make connections. Sure he may have wanted a better tip but so does every other driver. His kind attitude made it a pleasure to tip him well. So we ended up being the last people on his van. He unabashedly began telling us  about his church and what turned his life around.

While visiting a church some years back, the Pastor said “What your kids hear you say, they will replay”. Ace went home and couldn’t,t stop thinking about that phrase. WHAT YOUR KIDS HEAR YOU SAY THEY WILL REPLAY. He knew his words could be harsh and course so  he went back to the church the next week and asked Jesus to change him. He said “he’s never been the same.”

Our hearts were full as we exited his van and said “MaHalo” (thank you) and blessings. I could hear Hawaiian ladies nearby in a retail store singing as they worked:  they sang “This is the Day that the Lord has made, we will rejoice and be glad in it.” My heart was overflowing at this point because not only is Christmas alive and well in Hawaii by decor and music but so is the Lord of Christmas through HIS rejoicing people! Let us all rejoice and be glad in Him this Christmas season wherever we are!

Mele Kalikimaka
Merry Christmas in Hawaiian

 

Shine on. . .

karan k

Is There Christmas in Hawaii?

 

Not sure how to begin this post:? Currently my husband and I are vacationing on the Hawaiian Islands as a delayed celebration of our 10th wedding anniversary. So a big ALOHA to all!

So far my senses are on glorious overload from the dramatic beauty exploding around every corner. Seems any angle you look is a photo opportunity. My husband has his Canon 60D camera at the ready and I believe his lens is in its happy place too.

 

Oahu was our first stop with accommodations in Honolulu. Now some do not care for this city but I find it exciting. Big name shops such Nordstrom, Saks, Gucci etc. line the walkways. Sort of like New York’s 5th Avenue in Manhatten plus breathtaking Waikiki Beach a few steps off the street. Admittedly it can be overwhelming but I was energized by the hustle and bustle especially since it is December. Christmas is just around the corner.

Back home in Pennsylvania the weather is usually 40 degrees Fahrenheit or less this time of year.  Snow is a real possibility eagerly anticipated by many and the shopping frenzy is already in full swing. So I was uncertain about being in a warm tropical place leading up to Christmas.

How would Hawaiians celebrate? WOULD they celebrate or even care?

As we arrived in Honolulu soft showers greeted us. The island of  Oahu was just finishing its rainy season. We decided to explore our nearby surroundings and not allow the rain to dampen our spirits.

 

 

Kings Village, Honolulu, HI

 

We found a quaint complex diagonally across the street from our hotel called King’s Village. The two story buildings connected together with a small courtyard in the center. It reminded me of a fairytale town. As we got closer we saw local vendors set up in farmers market style. Fresh fruits, real tapioca pudding, and vegetables in abundance.

Moving passed the organic stands we saw chicken and pork grilling on sticks beside pans of rice and pad Thai noodles. Further down we smelled hawaiian sausage in sauce and peppers sizzling in flat woks. But beyond the hot food lay the pot of gold. . .  Hawaiian pastries!

 

We purchased fresh food from the market and found a sweet tiny nook to have our first meal together on the Hawaiian islands. And then we heard the smooth tones of a familiar tune gently caressing our ears and souls like the delicate movement of a Hawaiian girls hands during a slow hula.

“Away in a Manger” played throughout the village and my heart sighed in peace. YES KARAN, THERE IS CHRISTMAS IN HAWAII!

 

To be continued. . .

Shine On!

karan k

A Ghostly Christmas

I had the delightful pleasure of seeing the new movie “The Man Who Invented Christmas” the night before it opened nationally in the late hours just before midnight. My second Mom and I adore “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens so every year as a treat I try to find some rendition for us to see together. Sometimes plays, sometimes interactive recreated Dickens villages or special readings of this prodigious work. This year cinematography brought Dickens own life to light and how the Ghosts of Christmas may have visited him.

I never associated ghosts with Christmas. Andy Williams’  (dubbed Mr. Christmas) famous song “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” includes a line of ‘scary ghost stories’ in it but I never thought about it. Apparently it was common practice in Europe before Dickens wrote his story. Winter solstice and pagan rituals were bloated with ghostly tales at years’ end. It was natural to look back over the ending year as a death and ahead into the unknown new one. Ghost stories abounded.

During the 1640s and ’50s the parliamentary party in England being Biblically based in beliefs rather than tradition banned a lot of the more, as we would say, secular Christmas festivities such as feasting, dancing and holiday games. The singing of carols was also forbidden. Christmas was shut down during the Industrial Revolution and people worked just like any other day. Sort of like throwing the baby out with the bath water— all the joys of Christ’s birth were squelched because of overindulgence in worldly ritual. It was a sad, dark era.

 

And then in October of 1843 Charles Dickens was inspired by his own ghosts to write his most enduring work. I believe the Holy Ghost Most High put the idea in his heart and helped Dickens struggle through his personal painful past to create this amazing Ghostly Christmas tale. A story focussed on redemption and transformation through the help of Ghosts.

The characters were formed and came to life as Dickens wrote speedily to keep up with them. In only six weeks he wrote the entire story and had it published just before Christmas that year. It sold out by Christmas eve. The story encouraged people to celebrate the transforming wonders of Christmas. They began to go underground with their Christmas festivities behind closed doors. Slowly Christmas celebrations returned to merry ole England.

Dickens masterpiece remains one of the most successful works ever written. It has never been out of print and has been translated into several languages; the story has been adapted for film, stage, opera and various other media productions.

The best ghost story is an older one. The most Holy Ghost played a huge part in the very first Christmas which started it all. He overshadowed the young virgin Mary and through His divine power the Son of God formed in her womb. And later Our blessed Savior was born to redeem and transform each of us from our sinful pasts. Offering salvation and a bright hope for our future. And so we celebrate the greatest gift mankind would receive.

Swaffham’s Catholic Church depiction of Annunciation

The Puritan viewpoint held before Dickens novella is said to have been based on the lack of Biblical instruction to celebrate Christ’s birth. But what if God let it up to us to decide if He was worth our celebration? Would we rejoice in His coming on our own? Just a thought. Surely the heavenly host who proclaimed Jesus’ arrival were celebrating.

 

Have you accepted His gift? Salvation and Transformation? It’s not too late as long as you’re still breathing.

May we spread kindness, generosity and compassion to all we meet this upcoming Christmas season and into 2018 because HE lives inside us by the power of the HOLY GHOST!

God Bless us, everyone.

Shine on. . .
karan k

As a side note for Downton Abbey fans; actor DAN STEVENS (Matthew Crawley) stars as Dickens in this delightful frolic of a film.