Denying religious freedom is American tradition

Religious Freedom survey

A December 2015 poll found people in the US still discriminate against people of other faiths, a tradition that began with the Puritans.

The latest AP-NORC survey findings about our American lack of commitment to religious freedom would be frightening if not so in line with our history.

Most of us learned in grade school that the Puritans came to this continent to escape discrimination in Europe. Most of us never learned that once they arrived here, they began practicing discrimination against a wide range of other beliefs, in order to best protect the Puritan “city on a hill” they sought to establish. Continue reading

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Christmas Has Only Begun!

Nativity set without kings

The shepherds have made it to the manger, but where are the kings? By tradition, we celebrate their arrival in Bethlehem on Jan. 6, Epiphany. This nativity, made in Peru, was bought in honor of a friend serving in that country.

It’s nearly 9 on Christmas night. Many of you were awakened hours ago by excited children eager to tear into the packages under the tree. You enjoyed the traditional dinner — whatever that is in your family — and then, after the holiday dishes were washed and put away, have begun thinking toward the drudgery of putting away Christmas as well.

Give yourself a break this year. No need to clean up Christmas yet. Christmas has only just begun. Continue reading

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Memories to Touch: The Ornaments We Created

Reader Sue Damm, who lives near the border of Maine and Quebec, sent this reflection from her journal after reading the piece about Auntie’s Christmas ornaments.

Some of the ornaments on my Christmas tree are so precious to me that I think they might be the first things I’d grab if the house were on fire. Why do I care so much about my Christmas ornaments? Because I lovingly created them myself. Each stitch, whether crewel or needlepoint, knit, crochet or sewing … each little stitch was carefully placed. Even though I was following someone else’s pattern, I put so much effort into each one that each one became special.

In the Bible, the Psalmist wonders why people matter to God:

“O Lord, what are human beings that you should notice them, mere mortals that you should think about them? For they are like a breath of air; their days are like a passing shadow …” Psalms 144: 3-4

What a good question! Why should God care about me?  About any of us?

The Psalmist answers again:

…you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Psalms 139: 13-14

God loves me for the almost same reason I love my Christmas ornaments. He loves me because He created me. And unlike my ornaments, made to a pattern, everything about me is by His unique design. I am His creation. And just as I’m pretty sure I’d rescue those ornaments if our home were in danger, God has already rescued me from the power of evil and darkness.

As we celebrate this season of joy and light, remember that you are even more precious to God than anything you have created might be to you.


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Touch a Memory: Christmas at Auntie’s

Every December of my childhood, we would cut a tree in the family woodlot and carry it up to Gorham, where my great aunt Mina (“Auntie”) lived. For this never-married aunt, part of the fun of Christmas was allowing her great nieces and great nephews to decorate her tree. She pulled out hand blown glass ornaments that had hung on her tree for decades … even a garland of hand-blown glass baubles … and let us go to it.

aunties tree

I’ve collected vintage glass ornaments that remind me of Auntie’s Christmas tree.

Some of my Christmas tree ornaments were chosen as reminders of those December Saturdays, when Dad ate Auntie’s pie, Mom wove a wreath from trimmed branches, and we kids were never careful enough to get the garland onto the tree without shortening it by a bauble or two.

No matter how much care I try to take, my own blown glass garland keeps getting shorter each year, too. I hope I do better in protecting and displaying these memories.

PS: One memory never to be forgotten — Auntie was never cross with us as our fumbling children’s fingers depleted her store of earthly Christmas treasures. She added to her treasure in heaven every December as she graciously allowed us to give her a gift as best we could.

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Touch a Memory: Mantel with Mugs

MantelWMugsThe dining room mantel in our home was a place to display precious things — like the watering pot hand-decorated by my mother’s painting teacher and the black pitcher that was among the “mid-century modern” she collected before she ended up in a 1913 house.

This Christmas, the precious memories include three mugs that were my father’s favorites: an airplane winging over the clouds, and advertising mugs for his favorite diner (Moody’s, in Waldoboro, Maine) and his favorite beverage (Moxie, invented a couple towns over in Lisbon). The little spots of bright yellow (by one mug) and near fluorescent orange (on the watering can) are a couple of little toys. Dad really liked to have fun, and these tiny critters “hatched” from a couple of eggs he’d been sent while he was laid up earlier last year. He kept them on the dining room table, where they faced him at every meal.

Most of us live very transient lives. It’s probably hard for most of us to imagine decorating for Christmas a home where your parents lived for nearly 50 years. For that place to be in a town where you and your mother were both born is even further outside experience. And yet, here I am, living at least for the moment in a house built by the first husband of my mother’s first boss, located in a town founded by my mother’s several times great uncle.

It is easy to feel profoundly at home in a place where even the things that have changed are only overlays on that long family history. There’s no longer a general store next to our house or a smithy on the back corner of the lot, but I can look at the tiny house next door and walk out under the big oaks near the gully and know what once was. I know I am not the first here. I know I won’t be the last. For the moment, I am at home here. I am now, as always, only in transit toward my eternal home. And that is how it should be.


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