This past weekend (well, not yesterday when we clocked winds over 50mph), I noticed a significant number of people outside, hanging up their Christmas lights. Now, by my count, there are 76 days until Christmas is here, and even if you take off three weeks prior to Christmas to get into the holiday spirit, that still means we have 55 days before all that begins. Seems a wee bit early, don’t you think? Of course, now that they have changed the forecast to include that four-letter word by the end of the week – snow – what would seem too early now becomes prudent, since it is much easier to hang lights from rooftops in 70 degree weather, than 30 degrees with snow and ice.
My dad was of course always the one in charge of putting up the Christmas lights at our house. His process was virtually unchanged for decades. Large bulbs on strings of outdoor lights, stretched as perfectly level and even as possible, with a staple driven into the wood, one on each side of each bulb, so that when it came time to take them down, it took twice as much effort to pull out the staples, and not have them drop to the ground where they would rust all summer. Dad liked things straight and organized, and he saw no reason to use new fangled inventions like clips that would attach to the gutter and also make everything nice and straight without the threat of tetanus from last season’s dropped staples.
We learn from our parents, and so I learned that technique as well from dear old Dad, since we were the ones sentenced to “go help your father,” usually when there was something particularly good on TV. To “help” meant two things. One, we would stand on the ground, constantly untangling the cords of lights that seemed to have no end; and two, unfortunately, we also were given the task of being the audience as invariably, the stapler would jam up, or run out of staples, or something else go amiss, which opened the door for Dad to, well, offer his special selection of expletives about staples and staplers and Christmas lights and such. It really made the season into a magical time. The only thing worse was when the lights were all up, and then plugged in to test them, and of course, one string of the dozens of strings would not light. Usually that happened because Dad had rammed a staple through one of the electrical cords, or somehow another connection had failed. I remember as a child learning to pray, and not in those nice meditative prayers of “O God, let Thy Will be done…” No – it was more like, “Dear Jesus, please make the bulbs light!”
The last year I recall hanging lights on the outside of a house came when we lived in Rapid City, in the Black Hills. After living so many years in the Red River Valley, where the only hills were bumps in the pavement of the interstate, to move to Rapid City was quite an adjustment, since I don’t remember experiencing a flat piece of landscape that was more than five feet long. They call the “hills” for a reason. Our parsonage was on one such hill. The house was even and flat, but the land it was built on sloped significantly from left to right, so that one end of the basement had no windows and was completely underground, and the other end had full size casements with room to spare.
When you are hanging Christmas lights with this geographical fact, you quickly find that, as you move along the gutter of the house, for a while it’s a bit even, but as the land drops away, the ladder, with its legs no longer on even ground, begins to slope a bit, and then a bit more. As I found the ladder moving closer to a 50 degree angle, I didn’t believe I would die, but I began to consider the possibility of significant bone breakage, because not only did the ladder lean quite a bit, but the soil under the rock in the front landscaping also proved itself to be rather soft.
Since then, we have switched to decorations that can be set out on the lawn, like lighted trees and wreaths that you don’t even have to climb a ladder to display. Good idea.
Of course, with our display strategy, it would look pretty silly to put it out in the middle of October, so we, I suspect, will wait until the snow has piled up a bit, and the winds begin to be measured in wind chill before it will be time to decorate for Christmas.. that meant instead, that we would take some time to decorate inside the house for the two upcoming holidays: Halloween and Thanksgiving. Since we had some time yesterday, with everything battened down outside, I pulled up the orange colored bin from the basement storage (of course), and we began to get reacquainted with our Halloween stuff.
Let me say that Cheri and I have absolutely no stomach or time for the gruesome, terror-filled decorations that you might find around some houses. Nothing bloody, nothing with glowing eyes, nothing with teeth or claws. The scariest thing we have is a big spider, about three feet long when you arrange the legs. It just sits there, unless one of the cats decides to drag it across the room. Other than that, we have everything that can smile nicely, and offer cute Halloween greetings, from pumpkins to cats to ghosts (friendly!) to Peanuts characters. Sorry, but that’s just how we roll. None of us cares for the gross stuff. To me, there is nothing amusing or edifying about being scared, so we don’t do it. Plus, I really don’t think God is very pleased with that kind of stuff either. We will stick to the nicer things of life, and leave that other stuff to gather dust on the store shelves. Anyway, right now in our world, having to deal with a coronavirus is scarier than what someone can imagine.
So everything in the living room and dining room is decorated. I guess the one scary thing besides the spider that we do have out is the bowl of Halloween candy. With 19 days to go before Halloween, it is sort of unsettling to think of how often that bowl will be refilled before we cross over to All Saints’ Day on November 1…
Preparing for, and celebrating events and days and changes of seasons and the “holy days” all gives us ways to mark our lives. As we have had to ooze through quarantines and isolations and such these past months, so that summer, and now into mid-fall where we seemed to have lost days and even weeks to this pandemic, it’s good to find hopefully some sense of normalcy in the seasons to come. No, there probably won’t be any trick or treating, but there will be a bowl on the table. There will be a turkey on the platter, and gifts under the tree, and especially, there will still be the opportunity to tell stories of faith, and our families, and recall times past and to dream of God’s inviting future to come. Hopefully one without tilting ladders…
Word for the Day: tellurian. Pronounced teh-LURE-ian. The simple definition of the word is “terrestrial,” but then why have the first word in the first place. It has a slightly nuanced difference. “Tellurian” comes from the Latin, tellus, which means, “earth, ground or land.” It also was the name of the Roman goddess of the earth, Tellus.
In any science fiction books, the word, tellurian, comes to mean “an inhabitant of Earth.” When astronauts or other space voyagers travel, they don’t announce that they are “earthlings,” but rather, “We are Tellurians.” Therefore, an “extra-terrestrial” could really be called a “non-tellurian.” Just another way of saying the same thing. That’s part of the thrill of words, don’t you think?
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.