The Cow that Ate Baby Jesus

25 12 2006

Paper snowflakes and candy canes hung from the ceiling, the windows were now the stage for two dimensional happy and peaceful holiday scenes, and a simple, wooden nativity scene — with oversized hay scattered around it — sat in a corner.  It was just about as festive and tacky as a two-year-old Sunday school classroom can be in the middle of December. 

Several of the kids had taken a shine to the little wooden nativity scene.  Each of them picked a character to claim as their own, and began acting out the Christmas story — with some minor artistic licensing, unless of course, there was a Lego family and a T-rex present at Jesus’ birth.      

Nate — a cute little boy, who also happened to be the biggest worrier I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting — had added a plastic black and white dairy cow to the mix of playthings that were reenacting the familiar scene in Bethlehem.  

“Teacher, do cows eat this stuff?” Nate asked holding up a few pieces of hay in his chubby, little hand.  I said that yes cows do eat hay, so the plastic cow continued munching away on the hay in the feeding trough where the little wooden baby Jesus was sleeping.  

Suddenly, panic shot through Nate’s whole body like a bolt of electricity, as he looked down at the toy cow that towered over the manger.  He dropped the cow as if he was holding a smoking gun, and asked in a small, shaky voice, “Uh, teacher Kelsey?  Was… uh… baby Jesus eaten by a cow?” 

If he hadn’t have looked sincerer, I might have burst out laughing.  But like a mature and competent Sunday school teacher, I fought hard to hide my amusement, and instead of turning into a laughing hyena, I replied in a confident voice that no, baby Jesus wasn’t eaten by a cow; in fact, he wasn’t eaten by anything.   

But my adult manor and reassurance didn’t remove the worry from his mind, and instead, Nate, shot a look of horror at the plastic cow next to his Spiderman shoe.  In his mind the cow had become as fearsome as if it had grown fangs and might, at any moment, leap on him and try to suck his blood just like Count Dracula.  “I think baby Jesus was eaten by a cow!” he wailed, which caught the attention of the rest of the class. 

Slowly, the kids began to scoot away from the nativity, shooting it the same glances you might throw towards the scene of recent crime.  Their lips began to quiver, and I knew tears were on the way if I couldn’t reassure them baby Jesus hadn’t been cruelly digested by a dairy cow.  I’m honestly not sure they would have been more upset if they’d been told their grandmother was an axe murder.    

I tried to explain to my group of little alarmist how we know Jesus wasn’t eaten by a cow when he was a baby, because he grew up into an adult, but after that didn’t work, we had a lengthy discussion about the difference of carnivores and herbivores, and how because cows don’t eat meat, that means they also don’t eat babies.     

Vegetarian cows chewing cud rather than gnawing on sleeping, innocent babies consoled all of the little worriers, well, all but Nate who earnestly asked “But what if the cow didn’t see baby Jesus?”  He was convinced that some absentminded cow, the size of a house, might have accentually eaten Jesus.  After all, Jesus was essentially sleeping in the cows’ food dish.   

It’s been several years, but I still can’t help wondering if Nate has a cow phobia; the poor kid.          

What a horrible Christmas story it would make if Jesus hadn’t survived “barn life”: God loved the world so much that He sent His one and only Son to Earth, but sadly, He forgot to take into account the giant, baby-eating, dairy cows, so the Son of God became lunch for a hungry cow, because someone let the baby sleep in the cow’s food dish.  It sounds more like a Monty Python sketch than the Christmas story when the baby-eater is added.  Thankfully, Jesus didn’t end up suck in some cow’s teeth. 

Emanuel – God with us – came to be the light into the world, to bring redemption, and thankfully, no, he wasn’t eaten by a cow; not even accidentally.           



16 12 2006

j0395964 (2)

Life is filled to the brim with bittersweet moments that make you want to smile while dancing around the room, and curl up into a ball and cry.  When the phone rang and I heard my dad on the other end of the line, it was one of those moments.  

I honestly cant remember the last time Id talked to him for even a moment where I knew he was connecting with me.  I still see him about once a week, but the strong, sociable, hardworking man — who once was my dad — has slowly been slipping way, out of reach, for years, and a strange, confused, paranoid man who resembles a small child — has been left in his place.  No tearful goodbyes, no forwarding address; he’s just gone.  It’s as if my dad died several years ago and somehow I wasn’t informed.  

When I answered the phone, I was surprised to hear, not the voice of a confused man in need, but the cheerful voice of my dad.  

Our conversation lasted for five minutes, and never went any deeper than the whether, but for a brief moment, I could hear him again.  But then, in the blink of an eye, he was fading away again; he was slipping back into a black hole somewhere, out of my reach.  I wanted to call out, “Please, don’t go!  I miss you.”  But he was gone, and the confused stranger had taken his place.         

 Months will pass without me seeing the real him, and then for a fraction of a second he?s there again, which only makes it harder, because it reminds me again just how much I miss him.   

Sometimes, I feel like I?m being teased, or tormented with these “dad sightings.”  Of course, I love hearing his voice for even a second, but it’s also a chilling reminder I can’t turn the clock back, that he’s truly gone for good and there’s no getting him back again, not even to say goodbye.

What Sort of Sense of Humor Do You Have?

15 12 2006

Some families, or so I’m told, dicuss politics, current events, and religion, and others (or at least mine) dicuss wether someone would be better classified as having a Cary Grant or Monty Python sense of humor.  What follows, are the “humor profiles” that resulted from our very important evening discussion.    

Mom– Jimmy Neutron and Monty Python meet Worf (from Star Trek Next Generation).   She’s random, with some British humor, and is very dry. 

Shannon- The Princess Bride and Cary Grant meet Worf (from Star Trek Next Generation).  She’s spontaneous, tweaked, kind, but funny, and often dry. 
Shannon might have the most mature sense of humor of any of us.   

Ian- Monty Python meets The Three Stooges.  It equals out to classic “pie in the face” slapstick with a wacky British sense of humor.  

Kelsey (Yours truly)- Veggie Tales and Tim Burton meet Data (from Star Trek Next Generation).  Almost British humor, appeals to young children, random, morbid, and a little disconnected from the rest of humanity, or you could also say I march to my own drum.  

The Darker Side of Tree Trimming

11 12 2006

“What’s the point of having a Christmas tree?” one of the neighborhood boys asked. 

“Um…I don’t know.”  I said fighting with the Christmas tree stand from underneath the tree, while glass ornaments took suicidal jumps off the branches and onto the floor, and the CD player hummed “I’ll be Home for Christmas.”  For a moment, the reason anyone ever bothered decorating seemed to have escaped me.         

“Don’t people normally take their trees down after Christmas?” he asked again staring at the lopsided tree that was standing in our living room with a mix of confusion and amusement. 

“We’re not taking it down.” Ian answer.  “We’re just… well… starting over again.” 

“How long have you been putting up the tree?” he enquired. 

I stuck my head out from under the tree and looked at the clock.  “Goodness!  We’ve been working on this silly tree for the past four hours, we’ve had to take all the ornaments off it, and it still doesn’t even stand up straight!” was the answer to his latest question.  Why do we have Christmas trees?  The word “fun” seems to be coming to mind, but who knows.  

In my house, my mom has always been the “tree expert.”  She does the whole thing from making it stand up straight, to hanging the popcorn garlands, and stringing the lights.  But this year, several other people decided to have crisis right in the middle of our tree decorating, so my sixteen-year-old brother Ian and I were in charge of making sure the house didn’t burn down and somehow the tree got set up by the end of the day.  

We threw our hearts into setting up the tree, and in return the tree threw itself onto Shannon, the coffee table, and it threw most of the ornaments onto the living room floor.    

After consulting with the “tree expert” we tried tying it to the wall.  Simple right?  Well, not quite.  It just pulled the nails out of the wall and threatened to rip a hole in the wall if we dared do it again.           

Even after several hours, we never did successfully trim the tree.  When my mom left it was standing up nicely it its stand, strung with lights and garlands, but when she returned, it was completely stripped and was lying on the floor.  But it wasn’t a complete waste of time, because we had more than enough time to listen to ever single one of our Christmas albums, both old and new, answer countless questions about Christmas trees, and we also provided a bit of a show of the little kids in the neighborhood.          

Yet again, mom put the tree up all by herself, and I’m happy to report the tree is still standing, it hasn’t fallen on anyone else, and it looks lovely.  If it falls over, though, it either gets to stay on the ground, or someone else gets to deal with it, because I’m not touching another Christmas tree this year.      

Happy holidays, and may all your Christmas trees stay up! 😉

Grief and the Holidays

3 12 2006

The month of December is an odd time of year.  For some, it’s full of hope, good cheer, and wonder, but for others, it can be a time of pain, heartache and a cold reminder of the great loss they may have experienced in the prior year.  It seems as if however someone is already doing becomes magnified times a hundred during December, whether they want it to be, or not.  This year, I find myself swinging between the two extremes like a child on a tire swing.     

Because Holidays are landmarks in the year, it makes reminiscing easy; recalling the smiles, laughs, and pretty wrapping scattered to the four corners of the house as if Santa’s toyshop had exploded, but there are also memories of tears and pain.     

For the past few years, the holiday season has been something I’ve both anticipated and secretly dreaded, because sometimes, even the cute holiday TV specials seem like a hard reminder of how imperfect life is.   It’s not only that there are so many hopes and dreams resting on this season — and sometimes even on a short twenty-four-hour window in time — but there’s also the feeling you’re suppose to be giddy, warm all the way down to your toes, and uncontrollably happy while spreading your festive spirit to anyone who happens to cross your path, but sometimes life doesn’t look like a scene right out of “White Christmas.”     

To paraphrase something I was once told, “Even though the holidays are fun, I sometimes wish we didn’t have any, because it’s so much worse when something go array on one of them than any other day during the year.”    To be honest, right now, even simple holiday chitchat is awkward.  Since my dad isn’t living with us any more (see “Life in a Nutshell”) I have no idea what we’ll even be doing this Christmas, how we’re going to work out all the little details, and I’d rather not think about it.  I hide how I’m feeling about it with a smile, joke, a bit of friendly sarcasm, or a long list of question posed at whomever I’m talking with, so that I don’t have to talk.  I’d almost like to just ignore the holidays, so that I don’t have to deal with them and all the emotions and grief they drag out into our plain view.    

I still do enjoy hearing “Jingle Bell Rock” playing on the radio, wearing fuzzy gloves and warm winter coats, and seeing the snow fall from the sky and stick to your eyelashes.  It isn’t that I no longer care, or don’t want to enjoy this festive time of year, but while I’m smiling and humming along with my favorite carol, I sometimes also feel like crying.  

Since skipping the holidays isn’t very practical and wouldn’t help things any, and hibernating is clearly out of the question because I can’t sleep past ten o’clock in the morning, I guess I need to take this one step at a time, and be patient with my family and myself, and remember it isn’t the magic that makes this time of year worth celebrating; it’s the miracle.  There’s reason to be joyful, even if I don’t always feel happy.    

The Measure of a Godly Man

1 12 2006

Once, back in early elementary school, some of my friends were playing “matchmaker” in the back of the car.  They tried to figure out which of the short, wild, cootie infested seven-year-olds would be the best match for each of us.  Since I wasn’t cooperating, they asked me what my requirements in a guy were, so they’d have a better idea of what I’d want.  Even at seven I didn’t like people meddling in my affairs, so with a twinge of indignation I responded, “He’ll love God and have a good job.”  Short, sweet and to the point.   

I’m often posed with this question now by friends and meddlesome older woman, and my list actually hasn’t changed much.  My list of requirements isn’t long, but it’s far from easy to find.  I’d want him to be a man who’s on fire for God in a way that’d be evident in the way he lives out his life, and he’d be someone I’d be willing to follow (“willing” being the keyword). 

Of course, I wouldn’t complain if he listened to “The Beatles,” liked cats, enjoyed classic literature, and could swing dance, but those are all minor things that will never make their way into becoming requirements.  

Recently, when I told the young lady who’d asked, what my requirements were, she commented, “Oh, that’ll be easy for you to find, Kelsey.  Since you’re not picky, you won’t have any trouble.”  I was then informed that whenever I decide I’d like to get hitched, I could go anyplace where church-goers are present(church, mission trips, club, etc.) and they’re be “godly” men everywhere.  I just laughed, because I’m not searching for a guy, and sadly, the percentage of goldy men (and women) at a Christian get-together are much smaller than she was imagining.     

As we talked, it became obvious that the term “godly” equated with “salvation” in this young woman’s mind.  She assumed just because someone had “prayed the prayer,” could pepper their conversations with “Christianize,” had a fish plastered on their car, and set foot inside a church door a couple times a year meant they were good to go.  But my idea of a “godly” person is much different.  It doesn’t mean they’re perfect, it means they’re continually growing and learning in their faith, they chose to be more than a sanitized version of the world; they chose to be something completely different, and they use the Bible as the plumb line to measure their life against, rather than using their personal feelings and preferences to measure the Bible.         

When I’ve explained this to people in the past, generally, they inform me I should probably marry a pastor.  But if the Church isn’t just made up of the building and the pastor — if each and every one of us is the church — why are the only people who are truly living out their faith often just the leadership? 

Godly men easy to find?  I think it would be easier to find someone if I crossed off “godly” and wrote down every stupid, superficial thing I could possibly think.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not on a “guy hunt” or even worried about the fact that there aren’t any godly men on my doorstep with flowers.  I’m perfectly content with being single right now.  It’s the fact that godly men and woman seem to be in danger of extinction that I find disconcerting. This shortage of true godly men and woman — who honestly have God as the final authority in their lives — goes far beyond annoyance; it’s heartbreaking, and it’s devastating to the Church. 

Why — even in the church – have the godly men and woman become the minority?