Monday, December 31, 2007

A Final Reflection for Advent: Yearning for Christ, The Bridegroom

The official church calendar has concluded the 2007 advent season, but the beginning of a new year seems to be the appropriate time to remember that the season of advent is not just a chronologically displaced yearning for Israel’s Messiah who has already lived among man.

The characteristic celebrations of the past month in preparation for Christmas have been meaningful in their remembrance of the becoming love of God but the scriptures remind us that the call of our lives is to engage daily and yearly in another form of anticipatory waiting. As Paul writes to the Romans, “The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. ..We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.”

If the prevailing scriptural image of Israel awaiting her Messiah was that of subjects anticipating a mighty King, perhaps it could be said that the prevailing scriptural image of the New Testament Church awaiting Jesus Christ’s return is that of a bride longing for her Bridegroom.

I am not sure if human relationships could conjure any image more intensely anticipatory than a bride waiting for her bridegroom. I am not sure if any other relationship known among mortals would cause the stir of longing and hope and joy than the expectation of union that a bride hides in her heart for her groom. The emotion of this yearning is captured so powerfully in this short clip of a military wife waiting for her husband’s return from deployment.

Do I love Him more than that? Do I anticipate being united with Christ that much?
As we change calendars and cross the threshold from 2007 to 2008 and consider all of our hopes for the future, may the reminder of our identity as Christ’s bride direct and mold our heart’s affections.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Highest Two-Tiered Falls in New York State

Dad's brother, Sam, and his family have joined us for the weekend. We enjoyed a foggy drive to the Catskills today followed by a hike at Katerskill Falls (the air at the top of the mountain was beautifully clear), advertised as the highest two-tiered falls in New York State.

The hike was a little scary at times because it was quite icy, but the view of the falls (scroll through pictures to find the "real" falls), was worth it, especially as there were so many icicles hanging from the cliffs.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

It Is the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Well, okay, every season has its characteristic glories, but no season brings the quantity and quality of delight in human friendship like the holidays. Four of Hannah's friends joined us last evening for a The Nativity Story and a slumber party. We woke up to a visit from Phil Walker which induced quite the intense game of Monopoly (last picture in set), which he, of course, won.

Indeed, the sheer joy of friendship and engrossed conversation accidentally landed me in Massachusetts today (sorry, Katie, for missing the exit) and in an Oregonian-esque coffee shop with another old friend before joining the family at the Sinnott "mansion" for a celebration of the new year and a reflection of the gifts of 2007. Trip brought out the game of Find It (picture below) and passed it around the room, asking each person present to share highlights of 2007 and hopes for 2008. Grandpa was able to join us at the Sinnot's (picture below), which certainly made it uniquely special.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The 2007 Family Yearbook Shot

We had fun with our end-of-season photo this year, finally ordering farm t-shirts, custom designed for all ten members of the family. The only sad part is that Bentley Farm did not really function as a farm in 2007, but that aside, at least it still exists as a hope in our hearts.

Iceskating on Bentley's Pond

The ice was perfect and the weather wonderful for an afternoon of post-Christmas ice skating.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Reflection for Christmas: Venite Adoremus Dominum

I once heard it said that the strongest equivalent of, "I love you," is "I am you." Love, by its very nature, becomes. It stands for an hour, a day, a lifetime in another man's shoes, and says, "I understand, I have lived as though I was you."

Truly this becoming love is the love our Savior in swaddling clothes overwhelmingly displays toward us. Today we celebrate a Savior who has stood in our shoes for a lifetime and with every breath of his life proclaimed to us, "I am you. I understand the pain and suffering of mankind's decision to sin. I have borne your transgressions. I have been bruised for your iniquity. The chastisement laid upon Me will make you whole."

Truly it is only this measure of love to which we can respond, "Jesus, I love You. I want to be as You are. It is only Your love, Your becoming me, that allows me to ever think it possible to enter into the nature of Your eternal fellowship of love with the Father and the Holy Spirit and to become like You."

Adeste, fideles, laeti triumphantes, venite, venite in Bethlehem!
Natum videte, Regem angelorum.
Venite, adoremus!
Venite, adoremus!
Venite, adoremus Dominum!

Monday, December 24, 2007

O Hear the Angel(l) Voices

Merry Christmas from the snow covered pine woods of Bentley Farm. - Isaac and Nate Angell

Christmas Eve Celebrations

It was a special Christmas Eve at Bentley as we were able to dress Grandpa and bring him with us on our annual pilgrimage to Clintondale Friends Church. The oldest seven children also joined Trip and Sally at Saint Joseph's for the annual midnight mass (see the sleepy children in the pictures below). The choral selections and talent were astounding; we always especially enjoy In the Bleak Midwinter.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Faithful Friends Who are Dear to Us Gather Near to Us

After a day of intense construction (the boys removed the barrier wall between the kitchen and living room at 1:00am), a lovely Christmas contata, cleaning and baking, it was such an immense pleasure to welcome the Teubl family, ten strong, to the home for our annual holiday reunion. In addition to a feast of chicken chili and homemade bread, prepared by Mom and Grandma, all twenty-one of us enjoyed an evening of worship and prayer. The children spent much time beseeching the Lord's guidance that the foundation that has been built by the grace of God and the labor of our parents be not lost in, us, the second generation. For continued grace to continue laboring for the Kingdom of God! (Oh, yeah, and the kids are all wet because they went to play outside - in the rain. Oh, why couldn't it snow instead?)

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Sixteen Children and Not One Too Many

We kicked off the more immediate Christmas celebration with our long-time family friends, the Teubls. There are eight children in both of our families all within the same age range. We ate a delicious meal prepared by Mother. All sixteen of us children went for a long dark walk in the woods. We laughed, sang carols and tried to avoid mud puddles. We stopped at the pivotal points along the path where trees had recently been felled for the barn project. We lady folk weren't so enamored with the tree stumps, but we enjoyed the men's enthusiasm for the wooden rings. We piled into the basement for a (wet!) photo shoot.

Christmas Tokens and Holiday Dances

One of our family's favorite parts of the season is the restored connections with friends and family. Dad has continued the tradition of posting the Christmas cards around the kitchen. What a gift to be surrounded in Season's Greetings!

Truly what we all anticipate most in the coming week are the many plans for gatherings around the hearth with friends. And, indeed, many of these hearth gatherings have already commenced. Tonight was truly memorable as we attended a Christmas square dance at the home of our very talented friends - the Walker family. I absolutely love square dancing and somehow nothing is quite as seasonal as gathering with a huge group of friends in a small space with live music (even bagpipes) to celebrate the joys of the season while dosidoing and promenading! We learned several new dances this evening, and the Walker girls even created their own (intricate!) "Basket Case" dance.

How grateful we are for "the joy of human love."

Friday, December 21, 2007

Lumber for the New Barn

We are hopeful that a new barn will eventually be built to replace the milk barn that is still under deconstruction. Even though there is no official date stamp on this new building project, we have started to prepare some lumber for new barn boards. Nate and Isaac continued to fell trees today. Their efforts were supplemented by the hand of a hard-working neighbor and friend.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

A Refreshing View of Vocation

Some days, when I forget that my vocation is not primarily what I do, but how and why I do "it" in the first place, Mother Theresa's words restore sight to my blind eyes, "Do ordinary things with extraordinary love."

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

And Mom's Heart Sings

For as long as I can remember, Mom has patiently waited to remove the wall between our living room and our kitchen to fulfill her desire for more open space. Her patience has been rewarded as Isaac is currently dedicating his vacation to removing the barrier. It's funny how life tends to get into "modes" that are hard to break. I think that the construction mode has permanently set in around the farm. It has been a good mode, but one does begin to look forward to the time when home feels cozy again and just a little bit less like a permanent construction site!

(Also included in the photography footage below: Evidence of the boys' hard work in keeping the home heated... And testimony to the best part of the season - tobogganing!)

Reflection For Advent (5): The Day of Preparation

I love visions, I love hope, I love living life with purpose, I love goals and dreams and intentions. But sometimes, maybe because I love the hidden inner castles so much, my heart does not leap for joy when God's response to my dreams is, "Prepare. Work. Be faithful in the little moment of now."

"But, God, look at the vocation that You laid upon my heart, the tower of all my aspirations."

"But, Sarah, look at the day that it is called today. It is a day of preparation that is not to be despised."

Here I must be silent because, Dear Lord, You understand the labor of preparation.

To prepare means to be conceived in the womb of a young maiden. To prepare means to be fed through the umbilical cord of Your creation. To prepare is to humble Yourself to descend into this world through a cramped, tight and constricted passage. To prepare is to lie in a manger and know rejection because the Inn was too full for You. To prepare is to know hunger and to find nourishment from Mary's breast. To prepare is to flee with Your mother and Joseph to Egypt because Herod wanted to kill You.

God, you could have come to this Earth as a thirty-year-old man and avoided the day of preparation. You could have taught the people without ever having sat in the temple courts among the teachers at the Feast of the Passover. You could have fed the five thousand without having known the cramp of a stomach lacking food. You could have defended the condemned adulteress without having suffered Herod's condemnation. You could have raised a twelve-year-old girl from the dead and presented her to her mother without having experienced the love of a mother for her Son. You could have suffered the agony of the wood of Calvary without having suffered the loneliness of the wood of the manger.

But You didn't.

Thank You.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Sunshine is Brightest After the Storm

Almost invariably, after snowfall, the sun seems to shine more brightly than ever before. The temperatures are beginning to hover a little above freezing, but the snow seems to be lasting and will hopefully fulfill our dearest wishes for a white Christmas. The family is all together again, tucked in by the snow for the holidays. Grandma and Grandpa have made our season richer with their presence and Grandma's baking is threatening to make us all plumper in 2008. My Christmas break is only three days away, and, oh, what excitement awaits that wonderful week between Christmas and New Year where the whole world is simply ours to delight in without regard for studies! What a season. Celebrating Christmas is such a fabulous way to end a year.

Hast Thou No Scar

Hast thou no scar?
No hidden scar on foot, or side, or hand?
I hear thee sung as mighty in the land,
I hear them hail thy bright, ascendant star,
Hast thou no scar?

Hast thou no wound?
Yet I was wounded by the archers, spent,
Leaned Me against a tree to die; and rent
By ravening beasts that compassed Me, I swooned:
Hast thou no wound?

No wound? No scar?
Yet, as the Master shall the servant be,
And pierced are the feet that follow Me;
But thine are whole: can he have followed far
Who has nor wound nor scar? – Amy Carmichael of India

Monday, December 17, 2007

Memories of the Rutland Cattle Sale

Waking up early in the morning on a cool fall day, I realize the day has finally arrived, the day of the cattle sale! Stumbling out of the house in jeans and my brown leather farm boots, I hop into my truck with the livestock trailer that I hitched up the night before. I am headed up the back roads of New York, a little bit into Massachusetts, and then into Vermont to the fairgrounds in Rutland.

I am accompanied by Henry, a farmer in his older years who has been farming for decades. While traveling he tells me how each place we passed “used to be.” I head over the mountains and am in awe of the wonderful trees that are changing colors. Then I finally get into the stop lights which means that we’re approaching the Rutland fairgrounds, but oops, there I’ve overshot the entrance once again. Then I look for the earliest place to turn around with the big truck and trailer. We then turn around and finally make it into the fairgrounds and park next to a 1980’s truck with an ancient gooseneck trailer that seems like it barely made it to the auction.

I am happy to be there. The smell of fresh manure and the sweet smell of hay seems to linger in the long lines of the cattle. From young calves with the sire and dam printed in the sale catalog I go down looking at each one picking out the ones that look best to me. While ambling down the aisle I run into the familiar face of a ninety year old man named Tom, who has been emceeing this event for decades.

After checking on the livestock and heading into the show arena, the hot dog truck has arrived and all the farmers head over to see what the ladies have prepared for us. I then walk over to the number counter and get my number so that I can bid in the auction. “Testing one, two, three,” I hear over the speaker. “Either a good check or cash will be accepted to pay for this wonderful lineup we have for you gentlemen today.” The auction then gets underway with the pedigree reader, Tom, starting off with a joke: “If the tail hangs to the right, that means it’s going to give birth to a girl.” Everyone chuckles and then the auctioneer starts off by saying, “Who will give me five thousand… liba, liba, liba,” the familiar sound of the tongue moving fast until the mallet pounds the table: “Sold for seven thousand!” The crowd now has gotten into the rhythm of things, and I look around at the people putting in bids – with either a gentle nod of the head or sudden flash of the sale catalog.

Then comes the heifer that I’ve been waiting for, the pedigree is read, and the auctioneer starts his rumbling mouth. My number goes up into the air to place my bid. I look around and I am competing with a guy in the back row with his front lip full of chewing tobacco as he spits onto the sawdust floor, nodding his head that he’s reached his ceiling. The auctioneer raises his voice, “SOLD to number thirty five,” and I feel a surge of achievement when he pounds his hammer to the table.

Next comes the cow that everyone has been drooling over since they got to the barn that morning. “This is the final cow in this fine lot that we have here today, her tail is hanging to the right, at the last test she produced ninety pounds of milk per day and she is a champ.” The crowd gets tense, people start to sweat and the auctioneer finally puts an end to the intensity by pounding his hammer and saying, “Thank you very much. Sold for ten thousand!” Then everyone drags their feet in the sawdust over to the checkout line where people pay for their fine purchases of the day. I load up my new heifer and hop into the cold truck with Henry.

As the truck heats up and the road opens up to the dark cool night, I am happy for the time I have spent once again on the journey to the “Cattle Sale.” - Luke Angell

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Not Snow-Bound Yet

Friday, December 14, 2007

Reflection for Advent (4): Lord, You Have Been Our Dwelling Place

It’s silly now, but I distinctly remember one of my childhood’s most dramatic fears was that of being separated from my parents. I hated to go to bed alone at night, I was fearful of getting lost when we went to large public gatherings and I never wanted to go to college or get married because that would mean separation from all that I knew that was comfortable and familiar. I had a place to live in the world that was cozy and filled with love and I didn’t want it ever to change. But of course growing pangs came and a season eventually dawned when I was ready to leave for college on the opposite side of the country and where marriage no longer held the fear of losing love and comfort but the hope of gaining its fullness.

This advent season I have been aware of my continued longing for a dwelling place, a resting place that somehow my childhood heart found in the haven of my home. The psalmist said, “Lord, you have been our dwelling place through every generation.” My longing heart runs toward that glimmer of rest, slowly and steadily being taught that, in this life, it is in hiding myself in “the cleft of the rock that shadows a dry, thirsty land” that I find a place to dwell.

But it is one thing for me, the created, to seek and find my dwelling place in God, The Creator. It is quite another thing, however, for God, The Creator, to seek after me and find his dwelling place with me, the created. And yet, that is the glorious impossibility of which advent speaks.

God not only woos me to find a dwelling place in Him, but he surrenders His ethereal cloak to put on flesh and bone to live in my world, to experience my sorrow, to understand what it is to be in a body and look toward Heaven and long only for a place to dwell.

Lord, we have been Your dwelling place. Thank you.

Pope John Paul II on the Meaning of Bodily Existence

"This is my body given up for you." These words of Christ represent a call to love by making a gift of our bodies. This thought is "contained" in what Pope John Paul II called the "spousal meaning of the body." This refers, as the Pope expressed, to the body’s "power to express love: precisely that love in which the human person becomes a gift and – through this gift – fulfills the very meaning of his being and existence" (Theology of the Body 15:1).

Thursday, December 13, 2007

O Come All Ye Faithful

Last night at "Lessons and Carols" in the University Chapel, we sang a verse to O Come All Ye Faithful I hadn't remembered singing before. It is really quite touching.

Child, for us sinners poor and in the manger
We would embrace thee, with love and awe
Who would not love thee, loving us so dearly?

O Come, let us adore Him,
Christ, the Lord!

- Nathaniel Angell

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas

What good weather has befallen the northeast! At least six inches of snow have fallen and it is still coming down. Here's hoping for a white Christmas!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Reflection for Advent (3): Yieldedness

In considering the human side of the nativity story, nothing grips my heart more than the response of Mary to the angel's pronouncement that she would be overshadowed by the Holy Spirit and give birth to a Son. What a simple response of faith, "Be it unto me according to thy word." What trust. What yieldedness.

Advent has always seemed to come at a time of year when I am caught up in the fulfillment of all my own aspirations for life. The gift of advent is a renewed peace that comes through reflecting on the Mother of Our Lord who simply said, "Yes," to Jesus. The world was changed through that one, "Yes," offered by a humble girl who had found favor in God's eyes. Oh, for grace to live in the same place of trust and surrender!

It was not a silent night
There was blood on the ground
You could hear a woman cry
In the alleyways that night
On the streets of David's town

And the stable was not clean
And the cobblestones were cold
And little Mary full of grace
With the tears upon her face
Had no mother's hand to hold

It was a labor of pain
It was a cold sky above
But for the girl on the ground in the dark
With every beat of her beautiful heart
It was a labor of love (Andrew Peterson, Behold The Lamb of God)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Six-Point Theology of a Dentist

Not only do I love that my dentist, Dr. Roland Naglieri, is one of my best friend's fathers, but I love that his time spent looking at teeth allows his mind to think of the most unique, clever and well-crafted verbiages that I have ever encountered. While dining with the Naglieri family tonight, Dr. Naglieri shared his "six points of theology." They are worth repeating.

The Six Point Theology of a Dentist:

(1) I am not good.

(2) I never was good.

(3) I am not as good as I look.

(4) God is good.

(5) Jesus is God.

(6) I am weak and He is strong.

What more do our feeble minds need? - Sarah Angell

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Cranberries, Popcorn and Celebration

Stringing popcorn and cranberries for Christmas tree decorations is such a wonderful and seasonal way to celebrate a childhood friend's twenty-fifth birthday and recent engagement! Congratulations, Rachael!

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Behold the Lamb of God

What an incredibly immense gift I have received in the past week through music! Earlier on in the week, a friend sent me Sara Groves' newest CD and later on in the week another friend sent me Andrew Peterson's Behold the Lamb of God CD. This evening my sisters and I got to see both Sara and Andrew (along with Bebo Norman and others) perform in concert on Andrew Peterson's Behold the Lamb of God advent tour. The crowd in the New Milford, CT high school auditorium was relatively small, but the intimacy made the artists and the audience alike, simply and only beholders of Christ, Our God with Us.

Andrew Peterson artistically developed a beautiful musical "true tall tale" which places Christ's birth in the context of the entire Scriptures. In the busyness that these days encompass, what a gift it is to focus on the adoration of the Lamb of God!

Friday, December 07, 2007

What is Time that We are Mindful of It?

My sister Hannah got her driver's license yesterday and I am bewildered. It was just yesterday that Mom and Dad were the only source of transportation and now my little sister (5 of 8) can drive. Wow.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Is My Life My Own?

Who would someone say that I am living for if...
...they saw everything I did?
...heard every word I said? all the thoughts of my mind?

I know, O LORD, that a man's life is not his own; it is not for man to direct his steps. (Jeremiah 10:23)

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. (Galations 2:20)

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

Monday, December 03, 2007

Reflection for Advent (2): Joyful Waiting

There are few memories from childhood that rival, in suspenseful recollection, those of anticipating the future. When I was about five years old, waiting to (joy of all joys!) go to a birthday party, Mom and Dad said that I needed to wait in their bedroom for ten minutes. At age five, ten minutes is half of an eternity. I distinctly remember spending those six hundred seconds on the edge of my parent's bed counting to sixty - ten times.

Oh come, oh come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appears

When I was slightly older and I could scheme with my younger siblings, we tried to fight, in unison, against the angst of waiting. One day, Isaac, Nate and I found ourselves at the barns waiting for Farmer Henry to join us and give us work and company. Sorry for ourselves that we had waited fifteen minutes, we thought that we should give him a call. However, we were worried that if we went to call him, he might come while we were gone. We decided that one of us should stay at the barn, while another would go to call, and the last would stay in the middle of the stayer and the caller, so as to be within shouting distance of both in case the old red Ford truck was spotted with Henry inside. Crazy!

Oh, come, our Wisdom from on high,
Who ordered all things mightily;
To us the path of knowledge show,
and teach us in her ways to go.

When I was eleven, I remember waiting seven long months for what I wanted more than anything...another baby sister. What heartfelt prayers I offered for a safe delivery and healthy baby! Since I was invited to be at the birth, I was on edge for about a month surrounding the due date. One day, while wading with Isaac in the stream between the diversion ditch and alfalfa fields, I heard a fog horn blow from the direction of our house. I ran home so swiftly only to find the matter for the horn blowing inconsequential. But, how great was my joy, when eight days after her due date, Mom woke me in the middle of the night to leave for the hospital. When I finally held Rebecca, the happiness in my heart was akin to none that I had previously known. What we wait for, in its fulfillment, we treasure.

Oh, come, our Dayspring from on high,
And cheer us by your drawing nigh,
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death's dark shadows put to flight.

My current season of life teaches me more about waiting than I ever thought possible to learn. Thankfully, I have at least gotten to the point of understanding that sitting on my bed and counting is not a redemptive way to wait. Waiting is redeemed when joy is present. "Rejoice in hope." These words direct my life.

Oh, come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Oh, bid our sad divisions cease,
And be yourself our King of Peace.

Interestingly, the prophet Zechariah (500 BC) began the theme of joyful waiting with a very old-fashioned advent greeting, "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey."

Hopefully I will not have to wait for anything for five hundred years. Yet even with five hundred years to wait for the Messianic fulfillment of Zechariah's prophecy, the people of Israel are told: "Rejoice!"

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel

Why did Israel need to wait so long for her Messiah? I have no theological treatise in response, but I do know that anything that I have ever waited for I have treasured - be it a birthday party, Henry's old red truck finally pulling into Bentley Lane or a little baby sister. And, just perhaps, our world needed to wait for her Messiah, so that when He came, we would value him rightly. What we wait for, we cherish.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel

And so the words waiting and cherish encapsulate all that I love about advent. As we wait to once again celebrate the birth of Our Lord, we enter into the travail of longing that makes waiting so difficult, so that once more, our hearts are trained to love, adore and cherish Messiah, Jesus the Christ.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

No Honey, No Money, One Boss

The One Boss of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal is directing them in a very charismatic vein! What an exhilerating day Emily, Hannah and I spent in New York City witnessing the work of the Spirit through the ministry of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal. In the offering of vows of chastity, poverty and obedience ("No honey, no money, One Boss"), the friars have been gifted with tremendous joy and are lighting a flame of love for Jesus the Christ in the heart of Manhattan.

The first Saturday of every month for the last three years, the young men of the Friars of the Renewal have been hosting an evening of adoration of the Living Christ followed by an "underground church" that includes worship through music, poetry, visual art, film and drama. Never before have I seen robed and bearded friars rap!

The hour of adoration was beautiful. Even the balconies of East 90th Street's "Our Lady of Good Counsel" Church (huge!) were filled for a candle-lit service of advent worship. How our hearts began to overflow anticipation as we sang, in a chorus of hundreds, over and over again in unison, "O Come, O Come Emmanuel."