Sunday, December 25, 2005

Feliz Navidad, Y'all

OK...it's Christmas...

I feel weird about it. The "Christmas" feeling just wasn't there this year. I don't know why, all I know is that this year is different that past years.

So, I posted some Tejano Christmas stories below, but I guess you have to be Tejano to understand them fully.

I bought one gift this year; for Linda. All the other gifts were made. I sculpted crosses out of wood for my siblings and my mom. Each one is unique. I used wood from an old fence, and some wrought iron from an old railing I took down at the rent house. Some are decorated with pieces of colored and stained glass.

Linda took down some old paintings (from 1975-76) I never finished, and I cleaned one up and finished it for our oldest son. I then matted and framed it for him. I actually liked it when it was completed. It is one of the first large paintings I ever did - an Autumn scene of a cabin in the mountains, complete with pine trees and fall foliage. I had signed and dated it "Sept 1976." I wish I had my camera so I could take a photo of it.

I made Izzy a stick horse out of a large canvas coin bag I got from when the bank I worked at moved a couple of years ago. I cut the horse's head from the bag, sewed it up, complete with a fringed mane, and stuffed it. Then I painted eyes and nostrils on it, and mounted it on a hanger rod I had in my wood scrap pile in the garage. She loved it.

So now we're getting ready for Christmas dinner. I smoked a turkey on the grill last night. I stuffed real butter under the skin of the breasts, sprinkled it with celery salt, lemon pepper, and seasoned salt, and put oregano and thyme in the cavity. It cooked for about 6 hours on the smoker, so it's got some very good flavor. We've got enough food for a small mexican family, and it's going to be just a few of us eating here. I have no idea why we made so much food.

So all the gift-giving, food, phone calls and visits from family are just the superficial stuff of Christmas that has me a bit unfulfilled. I'm grateful for all the abundance we have, but it's reall just stuff. My real joy came from sitting down and telling my 4 year old granddaughter the story of the first Christmas. She understood and enjoyed the story as I told it to her while she sat on my lap. When I told her about the wise men coming on horseback or camels, she remarked, ""Cause they didn't have no cars! or motorcycles, or bikes..." Then she wanted to know if they had dogs. Of course they did...

Merry Christmas, Y'all...my regular readers, the few commenters I have, my family who reads me, and whoever else might stop by. This Christmas remember the most important thing is not the "stuff," it's about celebrating the birth of a Savior - the man named Jesus, whose birth was the reason for CHRISTmas. Without his birth, everything else would mean nothing.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

The Christmas Story, as told by a Cholo

Back when I was just a muchacho, they passed a law from El Rey, Cesar Augustino, that all the barrios should be registered. So we all went to our hometowns, every vato to his own barrio.

Jose also went up from L.A. back to his barrio in Bethlehem to be registered with his prometida, Maria, who was embarazada. And while they were there, it came time for her to deliver, and she had the ni┼ło, and wrapped him like a tamale, and laid him in the back of the carro, because there was no room at the motel.

Now in the same country, all us cholos were in our parking lot, showing our lowriders and hanging out in the night. And suddenly, an angel of the Lord stood before us, and the glory of God was shining all around us, and we were big time freaked out. Then the angel said to us, “Calmate, vatos, don’t freak. Orale, I bring you buenas noticias of great joy which is for todos. Today, ese, in David’s barrio, was born a Savior, who is Cristo El Senor. And here’s how you know for sure: You will find the bebe wrapped in his ropa like a tamale, lying in the back of a ’57 Chevy.”

And suddenly the whole sky was full of grupos musicales, conjuntos, and Tejano bands with the angel, praising God, throwing gritas and singing, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward all people.” So when all the angels went back to heaven, the cholos said to each other, “Vamanos! Let’s all cruise to Bethlehem, and let’s check it out, what the Lord told us about.” And we burned rubber down there. We found Maria and Jose, and the bebe in the back of the lowrider.

When we saw Him, we all got on our cell phones and called all the gente and told them everything the angel said about the Bebe. And all the tias and mis compadres were freaked out and said, “Way cool, que suave, ese” about everything us cholos told them. Then we all cruised back to our barrios, throwing gritas, glorifying and praising God for all we had heard and seen, as it was told to us.

From the gospel according to Pauly, paraphrased from Luke 2:1-20

Pancho Claus - A Bilingual Christmas

"Pancho Claus" by Michael Paglia
Image is copyright protected and used with written permission

In his more than sixty years as a singer and songwriter, Eduardo 'Lalo' Guerrero has given voice to the barrios, weaving their energy, their sorrow,and especially their humor into songs that made Mexican-Americans across the Southwest realize their common identity. In a career that spanned the great depression of the 1930's, the zoot suit riots of the 1940's, the Chicano movement of the 1960's, and the genuine Mexican-American political power of the 1970's and 1980's, Guerrero embodied the essential humanity of the barrios. He transformed what he saw and heard and lived through as a child, into songs that touched millions of people, and he has become one of Tucson's ambassadors to the world. In the spirit of the holidays, one of his songs is presented below. Happy Holidays!-------


Pancho Claus (The Night before Christmas)

'Twas the night before Christmas and all through la casa
Not a creature was stirring, Caramba! Que pasa?
Los ninos were all tucked away in their camas,
Some in vestidos and some in pajamas.
While Mama worked late in her little cocina,
El viejo was down at the corner cantina.
The stockings were hanging con mucho cuidado,
In hopes that St.Nicholas would feel obligado
To bring all the children, both buenos y malos,
A Nice batch of dulces and other regalos.
Outside in the yard there arouse such a grito,
That I jumped to my feet like a frightened cabrito.
I went to the window and looked out afuera,
And who in the world, do you think que era?
Saint Nick in a sleigh and a big red sombrero
Came dashing along like a crazy bombero!
And pulling his sleigh instead of venados,
Were eight little burros approaching volados.
I watched as they came, and this little hombre was shouting
and whistling and calling by nombre.
Ay, Pancho! Ay, Pepe! Ay, Cuca! Ay, Beto!
Ay, Chato! Ay, Chopo! Maruca and Nieto!
Then standing erect with his hand on his pecho
He flew to the top of our very own techo.
With his round little belly like a bowl of jalea,
He struggled to squeeze down our old chimenea.
Then huffing and puffing, at last in our sala,
With soot smeared all over his red suit de gala.
He filled the stockings with lovely regalos,
For none of the children had been very malos.
Then chuckling aloud and seeming contento,
He turned like a flash and was gone like the viento.
And I heard him exclaim and this is VERDAD,
Merry Christmas to all, And to All Feliz Navidad!
{Special Thanks From www.hepm.org}

Saturday, December 10, 2005

More on Home Church

There's a lot being written about home church, and a lot of questions/curiosity on the subject. It seems, though, that few are actually willing to jump out there and see what it's really all about. There are plenty of fellowships available, if one would take the time to seek them out. There's also the option of actually starting one in your own home, if you dare. Real live preacher had a post, If We Could Do Church, and I replied to one of the commenters. The question of legitimacy was raised:

"Not to be flippant, but it if a "church" like this is legitimate, then what about a
church of one? Is a church of one still a church? I think you're sliding down a
slippery slope there."
Here was my answer:
My greatest spiritual growth has been made in the last 14 years meeting in groups of as little as 2 and sometimes greater than 100, mostly in homes, but the for the larger groups in the past we have rented a banquet room at a hotel, or met out at the lake.
Legitimate? Only when our meeting/fellowship meet to glorify God and build the faith of those in attendance. Have we done that with only 2 people present? yes. Have we missed it with 50 people present? maybe. Maybe it was just me. The point is, that wherever 2 or more are gathered in Jesus' name, He is there. And when we know His presence, and we honor that with our words, deeds, and worship, we've had church.
We don't have a paid pastor, but rather, a plurality of leadership. Worship is open for anyone to participate and offer a song, psalm, a word of encouragement, a prophecy... even a sermon, if that's been led by the Spirit. In short, we have adopted the "priesthood of the believer," and recognize, even encourage the use of whatever gifts God has given someone. Is it always a perfect service? No. But we're open to allow the Holy Spirit change us, admonish us, and even correct us.
A church of one? Well, that may be pushing it, since the purpose of a church involves "the assembling of yourselves together," and corporate worship is intended for the glory of God, the edification of the body, and the teaching of doctrine. The five-fold ministry is not intended to be present only in the pastor, or leader of the group. It was given to the body of believers for prophecy, evangelism, aposotlic ministry, pastoring and teaching. It requires a body of believers to carry out the "perfecting of the saints, the work of the ministry, and the edifying of the body of Christ." So one person, although said person may be able to have a powerful worship time alone with God, is not a church by himself. We are designed for relationship, and the body of Christ is fashioned to be dependent on interdependent relationships with God and each other.Just as I believe that the instiutional church has legitimacy, so I believe that the smaller fellowships such as home churches, be it 2 or 100, have the same legitimacy...as long as the body is functioning as the body of Christ, and not just meeting for the sake of meeting, or to meet the overhead.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

My short trip

I just returned from Washington, DC, as I was up there for a short meeting. I love going to DC. I love the history, the architecture, the sculptures, and the culture. I love being at the capitol of our nation; there's just a different feeling there.

I got there Sunday and had a few hours to spare before dinner, so I took the Metro to Arlington National Cemetery. Walking around, I could not help but be overcome by the awesome understanding that I was walking among the remains of the greatest heroes of our nation. I spent some quiet time there in front of a headstone of a Major General in the Air Force. I thought of my dad, and the hundreds of men he served with, was friends with, and led. I saluted the General's headstone, and then bowed my head to give thanks for the freedoms we have

I thought about my own impact on this earth, and what I might be remembered for. It's a sobering thing to gather the thoughts of all the things I may have done that have made a positive impact on someone's life. It's even more sobering to think about what I might have done different.

Life is short, and visiting the cemetery, with row upon row of headstones, memorials, and markers, made me realize we have only one life, one opportunity to make something of ourselves. We choose who we will be. We choose what we will do, and we choose what we may become.

I had a good cry while I was there, and I made a decision to make good choices. I know how prone I am to screw up, but I won't dwell on that. God puts choices before me every day, even every hour.

“See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil, in that I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgments, that you may live and multiply; and the LORD your God will bless you in the land which you go to possess.But if your heart turns away so that you do not hear, and are drawn away, and worship other gods and serve them, I announce to you today that you shall surely perish; you shall not prolong your days in the land which you cross over the Jordan to go in and possess. I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love the LORD your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.” - Deuteronomy 30: 15-20