Monday, December 21, 2015

I Hope for you a Blessed Christmas

I wrote this poem many years ago and it came to mind yesterday as I spoke with our choir director, Ted Fiebke. I don’t know what prompted me to blurt this, “I’ve written and poem you might like to put to music.” Came out of nowhere – I think. Earlier, during choir practice several of us began talking about the Sunday School Christmas program we’d just seen. Ted and I recalled that we’d collaborated on a song for a play I’d written a while back. Maybe that was the trigger for my “blurt” later.

Anyway, I thought I’d post it here as Christmas is coming at us on a freight train. Only four days away! I hope you’re ready. If not, I hope you find a brief respite in my poem. It’s not “magical” or written for a “time for family and friends” or any of the other ways Christmas is often described. Nope, it’s simply about the reason for the season.

Still, Still Night
By Susan Sundwall

Someone comforts a baby
Born in the still, still night
Someone lies in a manger
Beneath a new star’s light

Someone keeps a vigil
Guardian strong and good
There with ox and cattle
Lowly creatures of God

Angels near them hov’ring
Close in the still, still night
Shepherds tremble and wonder
Fall on their knees at the sight

Empires, kings and princes
In every age to come
Will bow to pay him homage
God’s only, holy Son

And yet a tender moment
Before He owns our plight
Someone comforts a baby
Born in the still... still... night.

I’ll be breaking until January. Have a very merry and blessed Christmas.

Image: Free Digital Photos

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Two Darks and a Lite

As is my habit after dinner I skedaddle upstairs to check  my email, spend some time with the Good Book and then settle back to watch some telly. Ha! That’s Brit speak for television and I’m going to give you a review of some of the stuff I’ve been Netfilxing. Two Brits and an Aussie. Ready?

Broadchurch – David Tenant. I could stop right there as I’d watch almost anything he’s in (maybe even Dr. Who) but that wouldn’t tell you much about the show. Broadchurch is the name of a fictional town on the coast where the murder of a young boy needs solving. Mr. Tenant teams up with a feisty female detective played by  Olivia Colman.  Plagued by heart troubles (needs a pacemaker), Tenant plays a broody, angry and frequently hallucinating detective to Colman’s more normal self. Normal, that is, until the death of this child, whose mother is a good friend of Colman’s character. The case wreaks havoc in this close community with lots of intrigue, back stabbing and plain old mystery all round. James D’Arcy adds a very creepy element to the mix and he’s suspect from the get-go. Watch out for him. The show kept me captive and it might do the same for you.

Dreamland – Oh, boy. If you ever want to see the inner workings of a dysfunctional government agency watch this hilarious show. Set in Australia we have the Nation Building Authority trying to get things done for the country. Except there are only three in the whole department who give a fig about whether anything actually gets done. Tony, played by Rob Sitch, is alternately hopeful and distraught about the crew that he’s working with. His upbeat secretary, Katie, is always there to aid and abet his efforts and Nat, played by Celia Pequoia, is on his side, too. Everybody else is there to sabotage their efforts and the results will make anyone who’s ever worked in an office roll with laughter while shaking their heads at the absurdity (and reality) of it all. I hope you enjoy it like I did. Can’t wait for new episodes.

River – This is a Netflix original and so well done. Set, once again, in Britain, and rife with paranormal elements, it’s not your usual fare. Or maybe just not mine. The Ghost and Mrs. Muir is about as paranormal as I get and that movie is even older than me. Anyway, DCI River, played by Stellan Skarsgard (a Swede in case you couldn’t tell by the name – and when I Googled him I found out he has 8 kids!) is a haunted man. Haunted by dead criminals and a dead partner. So much so that he talks to them in public, punches walls thinking he's punching them and generally does all kinds of stuff that psychiatrists love to pick apart. And all while solving crimes, annoying his boss lady and delighting his therapist. I’m  almost done with the first season and am eager for the second.

So, there ya go. Kind of brief, but hopefully enough to get you going.  I hope your holiday season is humming along okay. If you need a break try one of these shows. A bit of an escape from reality you just might be needing right now.

Image: Free Digital Photos

Monday, December 7, 2015

A Strange Thing

This is a story I wrote for, but did not sell to, Chicken Soup for the Soul. It’s a bit longer than my usual 400 or so words, but it fits the season. I hope it doesn’t sound like I’m puffing myself up. Anyway here goes . . . 

Angel Near My Chair
By Susan Sundwall

I was so happy to see the bulging envelope from my sister in California. I hurried inside to open it and found, to my delight, a family newsletter. She’d done it up from a template on a new computer program, and several members of our very large family had contributed. I sat down to enjoy the read and noticed her invitation for anyone to send their stories, pictures, and memories.

I wanted to write something for the kids and in time to go into the Christmas issue. This was back before everyone was emailing everything so I had to get busy. I worked and re-worked a story about a little sparrow and her visit to the manger where Jesus was born. I snail mailed it to my sister and a few months later I got another envelope. This one contained the Christmas newsletter with my story included. Then I began to receive comments on how much everyone enjoyed the story and it made me wonder – could this be the beginning of my long held dream to write?

It’s the tradition in our church for the pastor to read a Christmas story to the Sunday School children on the Sunday after Christmas. I knew he usually chose a story book with beautiful illustrations, written by someone famous, and with the perfect message. But something was nagging at me about my own special story. It had such positive reviews, albeit from family members, that I thought Pastor Jim might consider it. But it made me very nervous to think about. Who was I anyway? Just a mom who wrote a little bird story. I put the brakes on the idea for several weeks.

One chilly evening my husband and I sat all comfy in our recliners thinking of the upcoming holiday season. The television was on low and we each had something to read in case the networks were failing us. Soon, he was snoring and I wasn’t far behind. I began to doze. I cannot remember what broke into my cozy nap, but in that foggy little place we occupy just before we come fully awake, I saw, at the foot of my recliner, something that looked like a robe. It seemed to be made of linen and was white. There was also a peculiar feeling of being hovered over. Still a bit foggy, I wondered why my husband had risen from his chair to stand over me like that. But as I came fully awake, I looked over and he was sound asleep in his chair. Whatever had been near me was gone.

What had just happened? I shook myself and sat up. I had the strangest sensation that we weren’t in the room alone – that another presence was or had been there.

The next day I had the unshakable feeling that I should give my sparrow story to our pastor. I printed it out and decided to drop it off to him while running errands just before going to work. He smiled when he saw me and graciously accepted my story thanking me as I left. I shook a little as I got back into the car and prayed he wouldn’t think me too bold and full of myself. Then I gave it to God and tried not to think about it.

A few days later I was coming out of the coffee room at the small computer business my husband and I ran when I heard the pastor’s voice. “Is Sue here?” He stood at the service counter speaking with my husband.

“Sure,” John said as he looked over and gestured towards me. I wondered if the church’s printer was on the fritz again.

I greeted him as he said, “I’ve come to ask your permission to read your story for the children on the Sunday after Christmas.”

I almost fell over. And I probably blushed. Up to that point the things I'd written were private and the thought of having something of mine read in public was a bit daunting. But what could I say? Of course he could read it. And I’d be there to hear him do it.

When that morning came an attack of nerves struck again. But I remembered that feeling of being hovered over and became convinced that this must be a step I was supposed to take. So I squelched the naysayer inside and went to listen to my pastor tell the story.  

Then . . .

When the service ended several people came over to tell me how  much they enjoyed my tale of a sparrow in Bethlehem. One woman even said she cried at the ending. I was beyond pleased and more than a little humbled. I tried to still my hammering heart.

It’s been many years now since that happened. But I’ll never forget the feeling of having something I’d written touch a chord in someone else. I’ll also never forget the quiet moment and gentle prodding of an angel near my chair.   

Image: Free Digital Photos