O Come All Ye Faithful

When I started dating my wife, I acclimated to a tradition of her family by venturing out into the wilds of Indiana and selecting a fresh Christmas tree, cutting it down and dragging it home to decorate.  Previous to this, I had merely pulled out the dusty tree from a box in the closet and placed it in the corner, but now, here was a new exciting part of the holiday that felt exotic and exhilarating.  There is truly something invigorating about wandering in a field in the cold, crisp weather and breathing in that beautiful pine scent; the sharp odor of fresh cut wood.  I really enjoy the moments outdoors selecting our tree.

All of this is to say that yesterday, we went out again into the cold with our daughter and C.’s mom and dad and we chose our tree and it was, yet again, a serene experience to be in the company of family, participating in an old-fashioned tradition, and enjoying the beginnings of our holiday season.  Also, part of this tradition is the listening to Christmas music, particularly John Denver and the Muppets, but several other Christmas CDs as well, which leads me to my minor “conversion” moment this morning on the way to church. Notre Dame Cathedral

Now, one would think if I were already headed to church, I wouldn’t have needed a conversion moment.  And, I don’t want to alienate anyone who thinks I’ve jumped on the “crazy Christian” bandwagon, because that wouldn’t be an accurate account either.  Truth is, I attend church for a lot of reasons…one is that it’s a job, I get paid to sing.  Second, the community that is shared among the group of friends at our church is really second to none.  We, my wife and I, really enjoy the friendships we’ve made at church.  But, the main reason I attend church is that I don’t have all the answers and, honestly, there’s quite a bit of doubt.  I AM the “Thomas the Apostle” for my generation.  Still, there are clear and shining moments wherein the voice of God breaks through the cloud of mystery and doubt and floods my heart and mind.  This morning, I was going to change the cd in the stereo because we’d listened to it at least 3 or 4 times yesterday during various trips across the county, but I left it in because I wanted to hear Earl Scruggs play “Jingle Bells” on the banjo.  Well, a few songs later, Patty Loveless began her version of “O Come All Ye Faithful” and that is the moment that it made sense to me:

O Come, All Ye Faithful

It was an invitation; an invitation to be a part of a season, a tradition.  Sure, it specifies the faithful, but also the joyful and the triumphant.  I would venture to say that it was also an invitation to the doubtful, the disheartened and the downtrodden.  I felt a part of the faithful, not necessarily the believers, but those who have faith, however shaky it might be, that there is good and purpose in the world.  And, we’re invited to share in a community with other faithful.  I’d like to propose that the comma in that opening line is maybe premature.  Maybe, instead, it should read:

O Come All, Ye Faithful

So, during this season of Advent Aside: for those of you who didn’t go to church this morning, Advent is the season of preparation that precedes Christmas.  You won’t find it in the Hallmark card section as it goes largely unnoticed by the general populace. as we prepare for our Christmas traditions with fresh or dusty trees, fresh or dusty faiths, I’d like to believe that we’ve all been invited to attend, to celebrate in the joy of this season.

Finally, in keeping with Gwen Bell’s Best of 2009 challenge, today’s “Best of” is workshop or conference.  I don’t attend many workshops or conferences.  My job is not such that it’s necessary, however, this year I did attend a marriage retreat that might fall into this category.  My wife and I, as part of the aforementioned church, journeyed down to the All Saints Conference Center in Leitchfield, KY for a short marriage retreat.  We truly enjoyed the retreat and were able to further solidify our marriage by recognizing that we share many of the same constructs for making our marriage work smoothly and joyfully with a minimum of distraction and discord.  It was a very nice weekend and I feel like it strengthened our marriage.  So, even though it’s the only one, I’d say it was the best one of 2009.

See you in the funny papers!

Mp-caaahh

That’s the sound of an imploding ping-pong ball.  At least, that’s the sound I believe an imploding ping-pong ball makes.  I’m not even sure why I ever wondered that, but since at least the early 90s, that has been the sound.  Recently, we inherited a ping-pong table and that is what brought this to mind.

The ping-pong table resides in the basement with my record collection, and my second favorite chair, and my Star Wars collection.  Hmm…seems like a lot of my stuff has ended up in the basement.  Oh well, c’est la vie.  Truth is, I don’t really mind all that much.  C. doesn’t like to be in the basement, and while it’s not really what you might consider a “man-cave”, it is a nice place to go and get away from it all for awhile.  It even has a beer fridge.  

So, the other day I was down in the basement listening to records and playing some ping-pong.  I have it set up for one person to play at the moment because the epic ping-pong battle between the Neighbor and myself has not yet become a reality.  I put on Georges Bizet’s “Carmen”, a lovely little opera with quite a few hummable tunes and it was then that I remembered the connection between this particular opera, ping-pong, and the sound that an imploded ping-pong ball makes.

Back in the day, when I first started college, I used to hang out at the Interfaith Center with several good friends, not the least of whom were my best friend J. and the leader of my particular faith branch office, Bryan.   There used to be quite a few games of ping-pong played and, while I was decent, I was easily distracted.  J. used to distract me with the mere mention of Natasha’s sweater.  Natasha was a student from Russia who filled out a sweater like no other woman.  I’m not ordinarily a breast man, but (and please pardon the overt chauvinism) the term “sweater-puppies” was not the least bit uncalled for.  It didn’t hurt that she filled out the rest of her clothes either…but I digress.   Bryan used to distract me with Bizet’s “Carmen” which may seem a bit odd, but allow me to explain.  When we got into a rhythm, the bouncing of the ball sounded like the cello line of the aria “Habanera” and when Bryan pointed this out, I would be distracted listening for the rhythm, and I would inevitably lose.  Bryan and I were also the ones who came up with the sound of the imploding ping-pong ball in a completely unrelated event.

Back to the basement, I found that while listening to “Carmen”, I was still unable to concentrate during the “Habanera” and would consistently lose to the table and have to chase the ball around the basement.  Those were good times.  And to that end, I’ve found the following video which, while not having anything to do with ping-pong, will certainly be enjoyable to anyone who enjoys “Carmen.”  And, I suppose if you do play ping-pong, this particular video will make you unable to concentrate on that or anything else…enjoy!

See you in the funny papers!