Archive for the ‘Christmas’ Category

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CHRISTMAS

A man stood outside the busy store, shivering, dressed in a Santa suit, ringing his Christmas bell. A volunteer to the nonprofit, he smiled and greeted everyone he met. A few stopped to drop some change into his kettle, then hurried into the store. It was beginning to snow and the temperature had dropped another ten degrees.

Minutes later a mini-van pulled up in front and let people out, all senior residents from the “Westbrook. Senior Center, Home of the Ageless.”

“Ageless? Now that’s a new concept.” He said to himself. A spry little lady walked up to the kettle and dropped her coins in.

“Thank you, mam.”

“You’re welcome. You look cold. Have you been out here long?”

“Uh, several hours now. You know, trying to help out the charity, and all.”

“Yes. Of course. And, they are grateful. The Lord bless you, young man.” She patted him on the shoulder and walked into the store.

“Yes, mam. Thank you.”

She returned later with a large winter coat and a cup of hot cider. She placed the coat about his shoulders and handed him the cider. “I thought you could use this. The coat is yours also.”

“Oh, No, mam, I can’t take the coat. You needn’t do that. I’m fine, really.”

“Nonsense. Your feet ache, fingers stiff from the cold, you were laid off your factory job, divorced, .and looking for work.”

What…in the world? He stared at her as if she read his mind, knew him intimately, and his life history. “How could you know that…what I did? Who are you?” he asked, incredulously.

She smiled. “It’s not important. Well, it’s time I rejoin my friends. Good night.”

She boarded the waiting van with the same people she got off with and it drove away. He stood staring, trying to figure if he had ever met her.

When he turned in his kettle that night, he waited until it was emptied, the money counted, recorded, then signed out.

“Thanks, John. You know that job you applied for in the warehouse? It’s still open if you want to come in tomorrow for an interview. Still interested?” asked the officer behind the desk.

“Sure. Yes, sir. Thank you.”

John went home to a quiet house with so many regrets, the divorce, his drinking problem, losing his old job because of it. He couldn’t change his past, but he was working at changing his future.

He took off the coat wondering about the stranger who’d given it to him. She’s got my number alright. Maybe a former employee from the company that knows too much. Nice coat, though.

He found an envelope in the pocket with a check made out to him signed by an anonymous benefactor for $50,000. There must be some mistake. Who would leave a check…?
Some severance check or back payment from my layoff? An attached note read, “If you believe in things you thought impossible miracles tend to happen. Merry Christmas, John.”

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Joyce E. Johnson © 2017

The Birth of a King

The Sea of Galilee, Tiberias, Israel, May, 2001

The Sea of Galilee, Tiberias, Israel, May, 2001, Photo credit: Joyce E. Johnson

 

Nothing but chaos, crowds and noise

greeted the young couple, desperate to find

a quiet place, warm and dry

for the birth of their child, the newborn king.

Foretold and promised generations ago,

news of his birth was heard throughout the lands,

and the star in the east that lit up the sky

guided men of wisdom across desert sands.

Shepherds fled their flocks

frightened by angels that came nigh

announcing the news of Jesus’s birth.

To the king they hurried, and in haste found

the tiny babe chosen to rule and reign

lying in a feeding trough upon a cold bare ground.

Hope and redemption was born that night

where cattle grazed, and sheep and goats brayed.

No throne or palace was awarded this king,

yet people came from all around

seeking the savior born that day.

Now in a world where chaos, crowds and noise

  leaves hearts searching and seeking one to follow,

  where joy, comfort and peace

is eternal, lasting and hallow,

there waits the savior born that day

to reign in hearts that just believe.

_______________________

Joyce E. Johnson (2016)

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. Today, in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2:10-14 NIV, New Testament Bible.

I would like to take this time to thank all of my blogger friends, followers and visitors who have visited my blog site through 2016, and wish you all a very Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year of peace and joy in 2017. The amazing friends and opportunities I have, and the positive comments received are what makes blogging fun, rewarding, and an inspiration to my writing. Blessings to all.  JEJ

The ‘spirit of Christmas’ in historic downtown, Loveland

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I took this shot from across the street of our downtown historic Rialto Theatre. The wind was blowing hard, but the temperature was only about 30+ degrees. Still, we knew the big freeze and frigid arctic blast was on its way into town. Thursday evening was the only good night before the snowstorm hit to walk around downtown, browse through shops and antique stores, then go to dinner at an old-fashioned diner where their specialty is their famous burgers, fries and shakes. Dinner was delicious as we sat by the window looking out onto the street at the traffic pass by under brightly colored Christmas lights. It brought back memories of years gone when we sipped shakes at the corner drug stores and drive-ins.

Although our town is well over 100,000 in population right now, it was only about 28,000 when we moved up here twenty-three years ago. But, the town has tried to maintain a small town atmosphere in the historic district just two miles from home. There is a nostalgic feeling to the old district, and the  ‘spirit of Christmas’ past, present and future in a Charles Dickens like setting. The foothills to the west of town and the towering Rocky Mountains thirty-five miles further west give Loveland the feel and look of an old-fashioned Christmas post card people used to send to family and friends that today can only be found in antique stores.  One of our favorite things to do is browse and shop for nostalgic things, toys and collectibles that I could imagine wrapped up under someone’s tree. Like family traditions kept and adopted down through the years, or things contemporary, old or new every town and place celebrates Christmas in their own way. Merry Christmas to you and yours from Loveland, Co.

__________________

Joyce E. Johnson (2016)

 

My thoughts this Christmas

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Christmas draws near as I sit and ponder

The years gone by, the memories, so many

I count myself blessed

For the family I have, my husband, my home

And the children we’ve had.

But, I look at the lives,

and heartache of those,

their loneliness, their sorrow

their loss, and I’m sad.

If it’s only just to pray and in some way

I’ll offer encouragement, or just be kind.

Some suffer what they’ve lost;

A loved one gone

We may never know, or understand

What they’ve gone through

Or at what cost.

Lord, grant them favor, that they find grace

And their Christmas be filled with the promise of hope

And their lives know the Gift you sent us with love

born of a virgin a long time ago

who came to this world a baby King,

to bring us life and bear the world’s sin

the Messiah, Redeemer, King of Kings.

____________

Merry Christmas, everyone. I hope it will be a happy one, filled with joy, peace, good will, and God’s best, and that you will have health, prosperity and good things in 2016.

Joyce E. Johnson © 2015


He who stands alone to worship

 

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The Sea of Galilee in Israel; Photo taken May, 2001 while touring Israel just four months before the 9/11 attack on the U.S. Photo credit: Joyce E. Johnson

 

 

The shepherd struggled to his feet. Smoke rose into the sky as winds carried the smell of death and destruction of Bethlehem to the hillside.

The annual  pilgrimage of thousands who came each year to see the place where the Christ child was believed born was only a trickle this year in the wake of all the terrorist attacks.

They are the smart ones, who stay away. The Palestinians did not fear the Jews, or their retaliation to the missiles and suicide bombs, but instead the much darker force of evil who controlled the region destroying and desecrating all historic or religious sites. Like a plague of death their victims fell to their swords, and their black flag now flew over Gaza.

Hassan heard a soft bleat.

One has survived.

He made his way through the carnage to the sound growing weaker with every step and found him half buried under rock and debris carried by the blast. Bleeding, legs broken, but alive his eyes pleaded with silent cries.

As the night grew dark, and now quiet the shepherd tended after the lamb. He supposed the rest of his flock was now dead, or scattered. Like all the nights before when the stars came out he looked up, searching, studying those that never failed to shine their bright light upon the hills of Bethlehem.

A glow penetrated the cave dwelling. A star has fallen!

“Hassan! It is I.”

He shook with fear. Where did that come from!? 

“Hassan, you alone have survived. Don’t be afraid. I will be with you. Worship me, Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ sent to save the world from its sin. I came so that you may have eternal life. Believe only in me, and you will be saved.”

He had no understanding or comprehension of what had just happened, or what he had heard. Yet, a calm came over him, seeping into his very soul. Food and water appeared mysteriously before him. Provisions?

He ate. Taking the lamb he rose and walked to where the destroyed grotto now lay in ruins.

It is only a shrine.

Lifting his voice toward the heavens he cried out. “If I stand alone to tell my story I will tell how you came to save me, and that I live to worship You.”

One by one the scattered sheep came back, compelled by the sound of their shepherd’s voice.

It mattered not that he alone survived the attack, but that he was no longer alone. His time remaining he did not know. He was alive. He had this moment now.

___________________

Footnotes: The above story is only fiction. Thank heaven for that. Literally.  🙂 Bethlehem was one of the places we visited while on our tour of Israel in May, 2001. Although the U.S. has seen much of its own terrorism (the 9/11 attack and the one most recently in San Bernardino, Ca.) and those in Paris and elsewhere I remain very thankful I live in a free country, and can still worship the living Savior who came to this world born of a virgin, went to the cross to die for the sins of this world, and was buried and resurrected so we can have eternal life. The real story (a much happier one) of the shepherds and Jesus’s birth can be found in Matthew and Luke, chapter 2 of the New Testament Bible.

“I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” John 12:46 (NIV)

_________________  

Joyce E. Johnson (2015)    

 

 

Other things I used to do

One of my old 'practice' sketches

One of my old ‘practice’ sketches

 

When I was growing up in Colorado Springs one of the things I loved doing was sketching and drawing. I would take some favorite photographs or pictures of things or people and practice duplicating the image as best I could with a pencil. When in elementary school my teacher would pick me out to do a wall mural or display for the border above the chalkboard. She’d have me climb up onto tables so I could reach the areas since I was so short. One time I was so engrossed in drawing Easter egg baskets, eggs and bunnies that I literally did not notice how close I came to the edge of the table and fell off, much to my embarrassment. I was so embarrassed and afraid to get up and try again for fear of all the kids laughing at my lack of grace and coordination, and abundant clumsiness. But, I did get back up and finish my border art project.

One year while in the fifth grade my teacher had another student act as my ‘model’ so I could sketch him posed like, The Thinker sculpture. There were many highlights during those years when I explored my artistic expression, via pencil, and pen as I began to also ‘write.’  The following year my sixth grade teacher liked my fiction story and told me I should be a ‘writer’ when I grew up. I never got to realize my full potential beyond the point of merely sketching and drawing from photographs, sometimes even trying my hand at oils and watercolors. A dream to go to art school after high school was put aside and I got married. But, I kept what I did in art and through the years would bring out my sketch pad and try some again. The above picture is one I did from an old photo, with all its smudges and eraser marks. My love and interest in watching ballet prompted this sketch a very long, long time ago. 🙂

I recently attended a performance of Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Ballet with my daughter and granddaughter which was a tradition at Christmas time with my daughter and I when she was small. This year’s Nutcracker event was the first for my five-year old granddaughter. She loved it, and it will no doubt become an annual event for them now, too. Keeping alive some of those old traditions allows us special quality times to enjoy together.

_____________

Joyce E. Johnson (2015)

 

 

Christmas traditions; old and new

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Our first Christmas, celebrated in 1966, with my parents in L.A., Ca.

Our first Christmas, celebrated in 1966, with my parents in L.A., Ca. One of our little elves is behind us under the tree.

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This year’s Christmas tree.

 

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As this Christmas rolls around and we are decorating I pull out some favorite things we’ve had since our first Christmas together 49 years ago. We have kept some favorite Christmas traditions and things like old ornaments, and a pair of small elves just as special as all the Christmases we’ve had together. Added to those in the last several years are some collected antique Children’s toys that now come out each year and are placed under the tree. The village set I have is arranged and placed in front of my fireplace, and our nativity set, displayed on another table.

Through the years we have collected a large number of tree ornaments of all different kinds. The little silver-colored travel trailer our daughter calls the ‘silver Twinkie’ looks identical to our Airstream travel trailer up on our mountain property. She gave us this one. The little teapots and cup and saucer miniatures hang as reminders of my love for hot spiced tea. Little bear ornaments bought at Yellowstone Nat’l Park and the Grand Canyon bring back memories of those trips. A little yellow lab that looks like our beloved deceased yellow lab, Titus. There are homemade ornaments I’ve created using old eyeglass lenses holding favorite tiny photos of my husband and girls taken many years ago.

A couple of years ago friends gave us a ‘pickle’ ornament that tells the story of the pickle placed on German trees. Children would hunt for the pickle. So, this new ornament and the hunt for the pickle buried among the tree branches was added to our ‘new’ traditions.

As a child growing up I loved the traditional old Christmas carols sung in church. There were caroling parties,  nativity plays and programs we were in, dressed in angel costumes. The special choir and orchestra concerts performed each year of Handel’s Messiah or other Christmas cantatas told the story of Jesus’s birth in Bethlehem. I sang in some while singing in church or school choirs.

As the years went by some traditions we kept while adopting new ones, like taking our youngest daughter to go see the Boulder Ballet and Longmont symphony orchestra perform the Nutcracker, and going to a dinner theater show at a local venue. They all held a special place in our heart as we celebrated Christmas.

______________

Joyce E. Johnson (2015)

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