Oh Christmas Tree

If it were up to me my family would only celebrate Christmas about every third year.  My husband however, loves Christmas.  He’s the happy Christmas elf.  If my children carry fond Christmas memories with them into their adult lives, it will be due to him alone.  He loves Christmas music. He loves Christmas cookies.  He would probably wear goofy Christmas sweaters if I didn’t make an effort to keep him from getting his hands on them.   Needless to say, I wasn’t surprised yesterday when I came home from running errands and found that he’d tramped through 2.5 feet of snow, cut a tree from our yard, set it up in our living room and decked it out with lights.

I tried to look excited.  After all I was pleased to have missed out on the process of choosing a tree and the dragging it in the house.  But the lights he had decorated the tree with were horrible.  They were about as cozy as the flashing Coors Light sign at the local liquor store.   I found myself not wanting to look in the direction of the Christmas tree, which sort of defeats the purpose of a Christmas tree in the first place.  I tried to stay silent and come to terms with the new LED lights, but the bluish, fluorescent look just didn’t put me in the mood to roast chestnuts, or sing Christmas carols.  And when it comes to Christmas cheer I need all the help I can get.

I brought it up gently.  First I said, “those lights have kind of a blue tint don’t you think?”  Then a while later; “I don’t know about those LED lights.  I mean they’re good for the environment and all, but they might not be as cozy as regular Christmas lights.” And finally I just said it.  “I cannot be in the same room as those lights.  They make me want to hurl.”

At that point I thought I should offer to take down the bad lights, so I dug out my leather gloves and started unwinding them them from the tree.  Without me having to ask, my husband turned off the Christmas music and found Son Volt on the MP3 player.  It may not be the background music that most people would choose for getting into the Christmas spirit, but it worked for me.  I’m lucky he knows me so well.

Now the tree, bedecked with the old lights, is brightening up the house during the time of year when the hours between sunrise and sunset can be counted on one hand.  I could do without the presents, the Christmas music and the office parties, but there’s something cool about having a lit-up tree in the house.

Old songs

When I was still a churchgoer the kind of music I most liked to sing was called “praise” music.  It was considerably more modern than the old hymns of my parents and grandparents generations.  When I hear it now, it reminds me of the pop music on programmed FM stations you can find anywhere in the country.  Usually the words were put on an overhead projector so it was easy to sing along.  Most praise songs are essentially love songs to Jesus.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.  They say much the same thing…. I love Jesus, Jesus is my everything, I am nothing without Jesus.  There was something meditative about singing the same lyrics over and over again, in spite of their sappiness.

I really didn’t enjoy trying to sing from the hymnals; the phrasing was difficult and the melodies were not always easy to predict, especially with some of the more obscure hymns.  And they just didn’t rouse the emotions the way the praise songs did, because I had to concentrate so much to understand what the darn songs were talking about.

Over the past several years I have been immersing myself in early American music, primarily old-time music out of Appalachia.  And in the process I have come across some amazing songs that were written from the heart, with words reflecting the troubles of the times.   They move me on an emotional level because of the beauty and hardship and hopefulness that the songs represent.

The one I have fallen in love with most recently is called Ecstasy.  It was written by John Leland in 1793.  Crooked Still, a string band of brilliant young musicians, performs a modern version of the old Sacred Harp Hymn.   I’m no longer a Christian, but my history as a Christian will always stay with me.  I can still hear a song about Jesus and it can bring me to tears.  It makes me think of the lives of my grandparents and my ancestors before them.

Ecstasy

Oh when shall I see Jesus and reign with Him above

and from the flowing fountain drink everlasting love
oh had  I wings I would fly away and be at rest
and I’d praise God in His bright abode

Whene’er you meet with troubles and trials on your way
cast all your cares on Jesus and don’t forget to pray

oh had I wings I would fly away and be at rest
and I’d praise God in His bright abode

Gird on the gospel armor of faith and hope and love
and when the combat’s ended He’ll carry you above

Oh had I wings I would fly away and be at rest
and I’d praise God in His bright abode

oh, do not be discouraged for Jesus is your friend
and if you lack for knowledge He’ll not refuse to lend

oh had I wings I would fly away and be at rest
and I’d praise God in His bright abode

A name that fits…

So I’ve spent a while trying to come up with the perfect name for a blog.  What I’ve discovered is that a lot of the good names are already taken, a result, I believe, of the fact that I’m always about a decade behind the game when it comes to technology.  But I think Lofty Minded works for me.  Imagining that I have something to say that others can relate to or care about seems a little lofty.  And all along the way I’m going to try to be mindful of what I say, and how I say it.  One of my very best friends has set a good example of mindfulness.  She thinks before she talks and as a result I trust that she will keep my secrets, give good advice and never respond in a way that will cause her to have regrets later on.

Right off the bat I want to say thanks to my cousin Bob for encouraging me to get my writing out there.   In a strange turn of events involving facebook I connected with him and know him better now than I ever did in the real world.  Maybe it’s because we have several state lines between us that I’ve trusted him to read some of my writing.  He’s always been kind, even when we’ve disagreed politically and more importantly, when I made him suffer through my not-so-good poetry phase.

What’s this blog going to be about you ask?  Well, sorry to let you down, but I don’t know yet.  After giving it some thought though I decided to start it anyhow.  One thing I’ve learned about myself that if I think too much about doing something, I tend not to do it.  I don’t want to rule any topic out at this point, although I’m going to shy away from politics for now.   What’s been on my mind lately is church, so that’s where I’m going to start.

I haven’t been a churchgoer for many years, and I don’t plan on going back.  But recently I’ve been missing aspects of it.  I miss the social network that comes with church attendance.  When my daughter was born 14 years ago the Methodist ladies made sure I didn’t have to cook a meal for two weeks.   That’s the sort of thing I miss.  And the music.  I don’t have many opportunities to sing (besides in the car or the shower) any more, and I do love the magic that happens when a roomful of people raise their voices together.    Most of my family of origin still adheres to the denomination I grew up in, the Assemblies of God Church, so by not attending or believing in its doctrine anymore, I feel a little like an outsider, which is a drag.

When it comes down to it, there’s still more about church that I don’t miss, so I won’t be changing my Sunday morning routine any time soon.    I’m just finally able to recognize that I have a few empty spots in my life since I stopped going.