The Sun White Citrus Collection

Mountains & Deserts

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

O Antiphon!

Theotokos - "God Bearer"
 As winter solstice reaches its final twilight, let’s not forget about the O' Antiphon prayers and chant during these last "golden nights" before the birth of the Messiah (Dec 17-23rd). In anticipation of the coming year, [we draw inspiration from the most humble love of the Theotokos, who never hesitated to do the will of God. We trust in her prayers to God for us that we might, as the years pass, become more like her.] smile 


 Wishing you a blessed Merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Wisdom for the Office

Whoever advocates for employee multi-tasking as a productive means for increasing work efficiency and improving outcome effectiveness might want to re-think their management philosophy. It's neither multi...fac-et-ed or task...orientated. Note to self. Please consider this advice next time you plan to take on even more projects ------------------------------

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Mary In Our Day Conference

August 15th brings a special event to the North Shore!  The College of St. Scholastica presents Mary In Our Day -The Assumption + 61:  a conference that explores the enduring significance of the Virgin Mary in today's world, including her place in the Church's life of prayer and her importance in music, literature, culture, and art.


St. Scholastica: Renewed interest growing in Mary's role in faith life, depiction in art

The Benedictines Sisters St. Scholastica Monastery

Pray for us, O’ Queen Assumed into Heaven, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ,


(1Thessalonians 4:14)

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by HarborStar

Friday, July 29, 2011

The True Secret Behind Writing Music for Film or… Silence and Meaning

It seems that in today’s world of film more and more filmmakers try to force emotional drama on the viewer. Rather than taking the time to collaborate with the set crew or develop plot transitions with tension and beautiful cinematography, one usually gets spoon-fed a series of over-baked, wimpy snippets of music that completely shatter the purpose of a film’s meaning. Don’t these people ever consider working with other artists involved in the production?  If you’re tired of constantly having your film experience ruined by loud, inappropriate, or out of place music you’re not alone. Here’s an insightful excerpt from Polish composer Zbigniew Priesner on the creative relationship between music and film. It’s taken from the companion disc to the film The Double Life of Veronique (1991).
[“We must always keep in mind that the truly creative work of a film involves each of us creating the film while knowing that in the end there is a director, and even more importantly, a story. We contribute what we feel we should give of ourselves to [a] film. This would seem obvious, but nowadays it’s really not. Nobody talks about this today. When I try to speak about meaning with directors and producers, they really don’t get it. A composer writes music for a film, and in my opinion, it’s the function and role of the composer to add something the audience doesn’t see: the atmosphere of the film. It’s very metaphysical…
When I write music… I take into consideration not why to have music and where it goes, but why I should write it and what purpose it serves. Should it be some kind of narrative or anticipation? Or should it reveal something we don’t generally see but can feel?
There are twenty-two minutes of music in The Double Life of Veronique. There was mainly silence throughout, but this silence echoed loudly. Music introduced us to the mood, and silence was a respite from it. The silence meant more than the music. Today, in movies where music plays from start to finish, you never notice any variation. If there’s a short-break you think, ‘thank God, a breather.’ And then, it starts up again!
Directors and producers have no faith in their films. They don’t believe the story is strong enough to be told using music as one of the various means of artistic expression, as art, not just as a kind of wallpaper…[Film Director Krzysztof  ] Kieslowski used to say, ‘For what’s different to seem different, there has to be a difference.’ ]


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Worthy Summer Presentations

Variable Density Thinning Finland, MN

As Minnesota's rural economies struggle during the economic downturn, communities look to maximize their resources. The state's abundant forests present both opportunities and challenges, and hard decisions need to be made to ensure productivity and environmental legacy. A Co-production of TPT and the Charles K. Blandin Foundation.

Yellow Birch Regen Finland, MN
 The world’s religions are seriously engaging in work to address ecological and social concerns related to climate change. How are faith communities responding to climate concerns, and what do their ethical and moral perspectives add to scientific approaches to climate change? This webinar will provide information about:

- History, trends, and tensions in faith community response to climate change
- Religious teachings and moral imperatives about climate change and environmental stewardship
- Engaged projects within faith communities as examples of response in action

White Pine Germinants After Fire Deer River, MN

The Shutdown Back Page... or How to Pick Up the Pieces of My Broken Heart

Perhaps its a memory, perhaps it's a dream. Here goes my MN State Government shutdown... in twenty bullets:

• Spent many hours preparing for the shutdown prior to July 1st including the forced cancellation of three regional, interdisciplinary and interagency ecological forestry field workshops. Dozens of hours wasted preparing for these. Forecast gloomy, overcast. Clenched fist.

• Despite being laid-off, went on planned vacation to Canada. Left during the sweltering evening heat of the Forth of July. Missed the fireworks. Hairball.. are you serious? Even less adventurous at the border crossing much to our surprise. Happy Trails!

• Enjoyed nature/biking, the BEST international music festival in North America, and the wonderful Manitoba culture. Voted best people once again in 2011!

• Ate vegan salads, burgers, and burritos. Lost 5 pounds.

• Witnessed the reunited Jayhawks w/Mark Olson and Karen Grotberg. Lamented the poor sound quality and lack of song selections from the 1997-2003 era. What? I know! Appreciated hearing Wichita (opener), Two Hearts, Red's Song, Black-Eyed Susan, and Lights. Still no Pray for Me however. New album to be released in September.

• Kept BW Trout on his toes most mornings with a bike ride/swim.  Talkin punk rock blues with the kids, goofy nitrous sounds, NOFX? What about Fugazi  ya hammerheads.Where's the official photos?

• Prairie Heat. Mini-Break. Big Rock Beverage.

• Didn't get Kristen's phone number, email, or facebook address. What was I thinking? Did agree to read and watch Guy Maddin's, "My Winnipeg" though.
• Camped and consulted with Red Green. Basking in the glow of the nightly paper birch fire.

• Jeff Tweedy closes with an intimate acoustic set of Wilco and solo selections. Impressive. Many folks missed it.

• Still no budget deal. Questioned at the US Border about my employment. Agents very surprised that MN DNR not working. Huh? Hopeful that agreement will be worked out. It's now ten days. Thinking about the Rut’s and Black Flag. Planning on contributing to the Staging the Future Capital Campaign and to membership with KAXE once again.

• Rear brakes went out on the SUV. Beginning to deplete the savings account. Worried about finances. No job to be found. Bills to pay.

• Had dinner with parents and cousins in Duluth but missed nephew's baseball tournament. Have to conserve on fuel. Applied for un-enjoyment insurance. First time in twenty years.

Blessed Kateri Tekawitha Day. Much needed adoration and prayer time w/Jesus and Mary.

•  Depressed...gained 5 pounds. Haven't sold the cabin yet. Getting desperate. Avoiding foreclosure a must.

• Read several books including the gripping adventure "Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey: The River of Doubt" by Candice Millard. Here’s a sample,

"Compounding the misery wrought by the rain was an overarching sense of isolation and uncertainty, a feeling that was magnified by strange noises that shattered the forest's silence and set the men's nerve on edge. That afternoon, as Roosevelt and the men in dugout paddled quitely down the river, a long, deep shriek suddenly ripped through the jungle. It was the roar of a howler monkey, one of the loudest cries of any animal on earth. The sound, which can be heard from three miles away, is formed when the monkey  forces air through its large, hollow hyoid bone, which sits between its lower jaw and the voice box and anchors the tongue. The result is a deep, resonating howl that vibrates through the forest with strange, inhuman intensity and echoes so pervasively that its location can be nearly impossible to identify.
Worse even than the noises they could recognize were those that none of them could explain. These strange sounds, which disappeared as quickly as they came and were a mystery even to those who knew the rain forest best, had made a strong impression on the British naturalist Henry Walter Bates fifty years earlier. 'Often, even in the still hours of midday, a sudden crash will be heard resounding afar through the wilderness, as some great bough or entire tree falls to the ground,' the naturalist wrote. 'There are, besides many sounds which it is impossible to account for. I found the natives generally as much at a loss in this respect as myself. Sometimes a sound is heard like the clang of an iron bar against a hard, hollow tree, or a piercing cry rends the air; these are not repeated, and the succeeding silence tends to heighten the unpleasant impression which they make on the mind." pgs 156-157.
                                                                           It’s really unfortunate what happened to Kermit.

• Went on a few bike rides along the North Shore. HOT! Parks Closed. Contemplate, reflect. Need a new plan for my life. Resurrect the Backwater-Spotlight?

• Day 18… hints of a “lights-on” budget agreement. I’m skeptical. I tell myself, “avoid Jerry Springer, avoid Jerry Springer”, etc. Worried more about MN families and the poor. My situation pales in comparison to those who really are suffering due to this ungrateful impasse. Quickly remind myself how my local property taxes went from $150 to $590. That’s fair…. right?

• Day 19… Got my work start-up call. How to pick up the pieces? How to salvage a summer field season? Feeling helpless about all aspects of my work.

 • I'll raise you a twenty...

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Divine Mercy Image

"There is nothing more man needs than Divine Mercy - that love which is benevolent, which is compassionate, which raises man above his weakness to the infinite heights to the holiness of God."

- Blessed Pope John Paul II -

Thursday, April 28, 2011

New Training Course Planned For 2011 Field Season

As we approach the month of May and the beginning of another beautiful growing season (finally), I can hardly wait to begin implementing a new field training course entitled Ecological Dynamics Rap or EDR for short. Developed by an award winning forestry consortium out of New Hampshire and packed full of innovative- "outside the box" approaches, EDR promises to revolutionize traditional thinking behind forest management. In fact, two recent studies from the Northeast, U.S. have demonstrated that successful completion of this course can result in positive morale increases of up to 44%! Hurry now to get your order in. No prerequisites needed. Only a desire to learn and have fun! For a brief testimonial please click on the link below:

Monday, April 25, 2011

Climate Change Continues to be of Interest in both Academic and Religious Circles

For those looking for a little deeper exploration of phenology, especially in light of future climatic changes, check out Dr. Rebecca Montgomery’s webinar entitled: Phenology & Climate Change: How Timing of Biological Activity Affects Forests Now and in the Future. Prof. Montgomery presents scientific information in a very non-technical way providing a nice introduction to phenology, it’s historical context, and why it really matters. The hour long presentation is offered in a very down to earth style that is easy to follow and understand. No need for a science background whatsoever. And, if you missed something or want to review it again, you can pause the webinar and scroll back the audio/video. One of things that I found very interesting was a slide on the annual bloom records for the Cherry tree in 
Japan (from 850 AD to the present!). Astonishingly... within the last 30 years, the flowering is occurring much earlier than has been recorded in the last 1200 years. A good demonstration case that seasonal responses of plants are definitely changing. Rebecca provides  other phenological changes occurring locally as well.  

She sums up the webinar with three basic take home messages and provides some implications for forest management in Minnesota:

• Phenology influences forest health and forest productivity.
• Phenology of plants and animals is changing.
• Minnesota’s climate is changing and tree phenology will likely change too.

Resources:Phenology & Climate Change: How Timing of Biological Activity Affects Forests Now and in the Future. Presented by Dr. Rebecca Montgomery, Department of Forest Resources, University of Minnesota.

Harvard Arboretum:
Climate Change & Cherry Tree Blossom Festivals in Japan.

USA National Phenology Network

Minnesota Phenology Network (Facebook):

MN Climate Change Research Study: B4Warmed- Boreal Forest Warming at an Ecotone in Danger.

                                          B4Warmed Research Plots
                                         Visit here to see more images

As a natural resource professional and a Catholic, I am intrigued over the renewed interest in linking science and religion more closely together when addressing fundamental issues affecting our planet. One of the best examples of that is the current thinking and understanding of global climate change and its impact on creation. In recent years religious leaders have ramped up this environmental and moral discussion to the point that many Catholics are beginning to re-examine their views on the topic. One of the leading advocates in this discussion is the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change – a recent collaboration between the US Catholic Bishops and the greater Catholic community. Earlier this month they teamed up with Ave Maria Press to provide an informative and inspiring webinar entitled: Up in the Sky & Down to Earth: A Catholic Conversation on Climate Change and Creation Care.

Ave Maria Press provides the introduction: “Dan Misleh, the executive director of the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change, teams up with author and farmer Kyle Kramer for this thought-provoking webinar. Dan will discuss Catholic teaching as it relates to environmental stewardship and concern for the common good and the poor, especially in regard to the pressing problem of global climate change. Kyle will share reflections from over a decade of trying to put the principles of good stewardship and simplicity into practice on a small-scale organic farm, surrounded by family members, rural neighbors, and the nearby community of Benedictine monks.
I am sure grateful for Kyle's thoughtful presentation! He brings it all together while providing insight on how to transform our life through the virtues of hospitality and humility, and by honestly re-claming responsibility for our needs. Kyle provides some really simple ways for continuing our efforts to reduce our impact on the climate. It's time well spent listening to this gifted individual. Be inspired!


Up in the Sky and Down to Earth: A Catholic Conversation about Climate and Creation Care from Ave Maria Press on Vimeo.


Sunday, April 17, 2011

Palm Sunday Meaning and Reflection

The meaning of Palm Sunday provides an opportune time for us to reflect on the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, understanding that our search for God – important as that is – becomes truly meaningful when we begin to discern God’s deep, abiding love and never-ending search for us. Pray for me as I for you.

Palm Sunday from Dan Goren on Vimeo.

“My Kingdom does not belong to this world” (Jn 18: 36)

Our Holiest Week: A Practical Guide to the Liturgies of Holy Week.

Franciscan Radio Palm Sunday Retreat:  with Auxiliary Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Detroit (30 minute MP3 or podcast audio).

Politics and Truth: by James V Schall S.J


Closing Thoughts from St. Catherine of Siena: 

"Let's go out and receive our King, who comes to us humble and meek. Oh let us who are proud behold the Master of humility coming to us seated on an ass! For our Savior has told us that one of his reasons for coming on that beast was to show us what our humanity had become by sin, and to show us how we should treat this ass, our humanity...Oh ancient Truth, you have taught us how we should treat this beast! I want you... to get on top of this ass; master yourselves; be humble and meek. And on what feet shall we get up there, sweetest love? On hatred of apathy and love of virtue. 

But let's do this...the channel is open and flowing; so, since we need no provision the ship of our soul, let's proceed to provision it there, at that sweetness of channels, the heart and soul and body of Jesus Christ. We will find that this channel flows with so great a love that we will easily be able to fill our souls. So I say to you: don't be slow to put your eye to this open window. For I assure you that supreme Goodness has prepared the times and the ways for us to do great deeds for him. This is why I told you to be eager to increase your holy desire, and not to be satisfied with little things, because he wants great things! " The Letters of St. Catherine of Siena Vol. 1. 

Friday, April 1, 2011

Suddenly Last Summer: A Playlist to Remember St. Dominic's Preview

 Since I just accidently deleted a post that I've been working on for two months, I'll offer this poor substitute collage of sounds and styles including a British family, Finish jazz, bluegrass, rock covers, and live music from Big Star, The Wailin Jenny’s, and Van Morrison. Plus, new songs from the former trucker Watermelon Slim and Daniel Lanois!  A Found OTR playlist from years ago...I'm SO SAD about deleting my real April post... it's going to make me cry!

1. Ramsey Lewis Trio: "Wade in the Water"_ Chess Northern Soul (Chess)
The definitive 60's northern soul-jazz instrumental and spiritual that defines my whole reason for playing music on-air. Of course, Linda Tillery set me straight on the songs poignant origin.

2. Great Lake Swimmers: "Singer Castle Bells"_Lost Channels (Nettwerk)
The clock strikes 3 bells... stage light North.

3. Bjork: "I’ve Seen it All" feat. Thom Yorke_Selma Songs (Elektra)
4. Bjork: "New World"_Selma Songs (Elektra)
An amazing song pairing from the distinctive and creative Icelandic muse. Selma Songs was released in 2000 on the minor film success of Dancer in the Dark. Quickly we understand that Bjork presents us with the challenge: will it be sight or vision; cynicism or hope; relationship or relativism. Bjork captivates with her lyrical charm on these songs. I'm sensing the trees more than the forest. Vincent Mendoza's orchestral blend certainly adds to the albums cohesiveness. A fine example of how Pro-Tools can be put to effective use. AMG writer Heather Phares discusses the album’s flight.

5. Ali Farka Toure & Toumani Diabate: "Du Du"_World Circuit Presents (Nonesuch)

6. Headlights: "This One" feat. Tristan Wraight_Keep Your Friends and Loves Close, Keep the City You Call Home Closer (Polyvinyl Records)
Successful indie-rock bands build anticipation and sonic momentum on their best songs right? I find this little rock beat to be a prime example. Recorded as part of the Daytrotter Sessions in 2007. Is it any wonder why the Midwest continues to provide inspiration in a sea of mediocrity? I'm still campaigning for all time best title for an EP. Family I

7. The Books: "Cello Song" feat. Jose Gonzalez_Dark Was the Night (4AD)
It can be argued that Nick Drake shuddered at the thought of blending his acoustic guitar with anything other than traditional string and piano (see Bryter Later). The Books recognize that 70's folk-jazz craft, but honor Nick in ways he could never have imagined. Drake-co-phile Jose Gonzalez excels on his vocal muse. Take that.... Byrne and Eno.

8. Nick Drake: "Hazy Jane II"_Bryter Later (Hannibal)
9. Shirati Jazz: "Dr. Binol"_World Circuit Presents (Nonesuch)
Benga music for western followers. Popularized recently President Obama's love for Extra Golden.

10. Dalindeo: "Poseidon"_Open Scenes (Ricky Tick)
Inspired jazz from Finland! A quote from their website, "Before we get too nostalgic and retro here it must be stressed that this is contemporary music and the very sound of now. This is not 'lounge' or your average 'chill out' nonsense, on the contrary. Dalindèo's aim is to bring back the freshness, lightness, beautiful compositions and rhythmic textures of the era and combine it with modern approach. And this is where the producer Tuomas Kallio steps in. Kallio, well known and highly respected man behind The Five Corners Quintet and Nuspirit Helsinki, has been involved with the band ever since their first single release 'Poseidon' and has been a big influence in shaping the sextet's sound. " Harbor Star approved.

11. Maia Sharp: "Angel on my Shoulder"_Echo (Crooked Crown/Blix Street)
A talented female musician whose focus on the song-lyric continues to stir-up the attention of many AAA formats. I simply like her commitment to compositional songwriting. It’s not so much about posing for the attention. Sharp quietly exudes confidence and wins over the heart.  Having released only four albums in twelve years- it's likely Maia spends a lot of time polishing and hemming down her songs…finishing the edges, rounding out the borders. This notes for you. She talks with iprong magazaine about the art of songwriting.

12. Great Lake Swimmers: "Pulling on a Line"_Lost Channels (Nettwerk)
Not of a long of songs today involve the concept of a line. It's impact of implied division or separation, like "drawing a line in the sand." Lead singer Tony Dekker expands on the meaning behind his curious lyric.
The line runs through like a train in a book,
Or metres underwater, ending with a hook
It sways in the air when there's wind enough to lift, The fine ones are boundaries when there is a rift

I'm just pulling on a line, on a line, I'm just pulling on a line
I'm just pulling on a line, on a line, & sometimes it pulls on me

The line, it inks across the freshly fallen snow,
Where only those embracing coldness would go
It whistles and it whispers, and sometimes it howls,
It sings to me sweetly from the trees and in vowels

I'm just pulling on a line, on a line, I'm just pulling on a line
I'm just pulling on a line, on a line, & sometimes it pulls on me

The line, it writes itself across the dark sky,
In the electric flushes ending with a sigh
It weaves itself into a fabric so true,
and flows just like the river, graceful and blue

I'm just pulling on a line, on a line, I'm just pulling on a line
I'm just pulling on a line, on a line, and sometimes it pulls on me

13. Regina Specktor: "Dance Anthem of the 80's"_Far (Sire)
It's not cool anymore to use "quirky" as an adjective to describe odd but creatively inspiring artists. Let's all quit it now. Since the de-frocking of over-baked descriptions, Specktor continues to stretch her muse. For someone associated with an 80's record label, this track is particularly pleasing.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Duluth Lakers Win... Leads to 1st Place for North Metro

The North Metro Peewee B1 Pirates are the Champions of the PeeWee A “Chiller Challenge” Invitational tournament held last weekend in beautiful Hayward, Wisconsin. The team went undefeated in the four game round-robin tournament, with 2 wins and 2 ties!

Tournament Synopsis:
The Pirates got off to a slow start on Saturday morning with a 1-1 tie against Spooner, WI, but they stormed back that evening with an 8-2 win against a team from Ames, Iowa. They continued their dominate play on Sunday morning with a 6-2 win against the Duluth Lakers. Another win in the Sunday afternoon game would have all but sealed the championship for the Pirates, but a motivated home Hayward team (with the help of some hometown refereeing) fought for a 4-4 tie. That turned the Pirate players and parents into (temporary) Duluth Laker fans for the final game of the day, where a Laker win or tie over Spooner would give the title to North Metro. The enthused Pirate crowd cheered the Lakers to a win and then stormed the ice to receive their 1st place trophy. Congratulations to the North Metro Peewee B1 team!

What impressed me was the team’s tenacity in playing both ends of the rink: back-checking in the neutral zone; killing penalties in key situations (critical in all levels of hockey); and a willful display to pass the puck to teammates. Despite a key injury... both goalies hung in there too.

It was great to observe their ability to work and cycle the puck along the boards as well – an offensive strategy that can be really effective in tiring out the opponent’s line and increasing the goal scoring opportunities. Scoring nineteen goals over a four game tournament is not at all uncommon in youth hockey. Out-shooting the opponents in every game? It can make all the difference in a team’s fun factor and confidence.

Without a doubt all the players (male/female), coaches, families and fans had a wonderful time.

The Irony?
Sure, I live in Duluth. Hockey culture here is alive and well. In fact, I would cheer and support youth hockey on the shore any time. BUT, to see my nephew and his North Metro team have fun and win a tournament? Priceless. Congratulations Dylan! I’m so proud of you.

Thanks also to the Hayward community for its amazing hospitality. Glad to know that I’m one of the last people from Minnesota to know that Famous’ Dave’s Barbeque originates from… well, Wisconsin. I'm not much of a ribs guy but thanks for feeding us!

Go Packers...


North Metro Youth Hockey
Duluth Youth Hockey
Hayward Youth Hockey
The Birkie
Grand Pines Resort/ Famous Daves
St. Joseph's, Hayward WI

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

"Just Kids" One Year Later

From Larry Williams to the B-52's... she built it up to break it down. 

Fr. Barron's website, "Today, Ellyn Smith von Huben reviews  Patti Smith's memoir entitled "Just Kids," reflecting on the life of this rock and roll hall-of-famer, but more importantly, proving once again that edifying spiritual truths can be found in unexpected places..." Read More


National Public Radio: Fresh Air w/Patty

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Solemnity Suprise: The Gift of Friendship

While the Solemnity of the Baptism of our Lord brings a liturgical end to the Christmas season, it's purpose for us in the new year offers a special opportunity to ponder Christ's transformation of John's earthly baptismal repentence into heavenly salvation with the father and eternal life after death.

What about our own baptism? Most of us have difficulty remembering events that happened a few years ago let alone an early infant Sacrament. Actually, we renew our baptismal vows each and every time we bless ourselves with holy water. But today's feast reminds us of our need to renew more deeply our baptismal vows especially in light of Christ's gospel. To pray for an increase in the virtues of faith, hope, and charity (love). That's just one of things I pray for on Sunday evenings during my adoration holy hour. Tonight however was simply an unexpected-joyful surprise. Not one but two friends of mine who I haven't seen in a LONG-TIME just happened to show up for prayer at the chapel! Oh, what a happy night!

Thank you for this gift Danielle and Katy! It's so good to be with you in prayer. Know that I too will pray for you and your families.


How Do You Discern A Vocation? 

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Looking Back...

My local adoration chapel friend Mary from Superior, WI gave me a great little article/reflection put together by columnist  Fr. Ron Rolheiser OMI entitled “Worldy Wisdom on the Meaning of Christmas”. The article is essentially a series of quotes that definitively sums up -  in rather unconventional and striking ways - the importance of Christmas. I thought it was fitting to post today as we move forward into the New Year. Here’s just a few of them… looking back.
“Even at Christmas, when halos are pre-tested by focus groups for inclusion in mass market campaigns, they are hard to see. ... This is how halos are seen, by looking up into largeness, by tucking smallness into folds of infinity. I do not know this by contemplating shimmering trees. Rather there was a woman, busy at the Christmas table, and I looked up to catch a rim of radiance etching her face, to notice curves of light sliding along her shape. She out-glowed the candles. All the noise of the room left my ears and silence sharpened my sight. When this happens, I do not get overly excited. I merely allow love to be renewed, for that is the mission of haloes, the reason they are given to us. ... But when haloes fade, they do not abruptly vanish, abandoning us to the lesser light. They recede, as Gabriel departed from Mary, leaving us pregnant.” John Shea
“The incarnation does not mean that God saves us from the pains of this life. It means that God-is-with-us. For the Christian, just as for everyone else, there will be cold, lonely seasons, seasons of sickness, seasons of frustration, and a season within which we will die. Christmas does not give us a ladder to climb out of the human condition. It gives us a drill that lets us burrow into heart of everything that is and, there, find it shimmering with divinity.” Avery Dulle
“…Until Christmas comes again. [It is] then we are called at the deepest, most subconscious, least cognizant level to begin to live again. Christmas brings us all back to the crib of life to start over again: aware of what has gone before, conscious that nothing can last, but full of hope that this time, finally, we can learn what it takes to live well, grow to full stature of soul and spirit, and get it right.” Joan Chittiste
 “God is not found in monasteries, but in our homes. Wherever you find husband and wife, that's where you find God; wherever children and petty cares and cooking and arguments and reconciliation are, that's where God is too. The God I'm telling about, the domestic one, not the monastic one, that's the real God.” Nikos Kazantzakis
I think many can relate to that last quote. Nothing against the monastic life…to be sure, I adore and pray for its special devotion - but Christmas time provides the unique opportunity to know God’s presence, especially as we once again encounter and dialogue with our families, relatives, or friends. First, we cherish the time to re-commit our bonds, our blood ties. We delight in the gift gifting and surprise even though most of us go well beyond our necessity. We delight in the free consumption of meals, beverages, and treats; often to the point of physical exhaustion. Finally we argue. Yes we argue over trite things like board game answers and rules, and whose friggen turn is it anyway? Would it ever be Christmas without children complaining, parents yelling, and relatives wondering what’s it all about?

It's so rewardingly special and dysfunctional!