Monday, December 24, 2007

Twas the Night Before Christmas

Sometime back about 1975, we made a pastoral call on a young family in Manitoba. Among their homely Christmas decorations, was a lovely nativity creche with the many biblical characters reputed to have visited that humble stable. But added to the historical scene of eager shepherds and knowing kings, was a large crowd of Fisher Price People, carefully placed there by the children of this household, each straining to get a good view of the tiny manger babe.

We have never forgotten that revelatory scene that bore witness to the intersection between ourselves and the holy Christmas story. Each year through Advent expectations, White Gift Sundays and Christmas Eve Services, we seek again to internalize the Christmas story and the truth of God's incarnational love.

In Nashville, Tennessee, back on November 22nd, we came upon a giant nativity scene in the Gaylord Convention Centre. It was easy to slip into the midst of the characters and draw close to the tiny Christ Child. And once again it occurred to us just how important it is not only to grasp the truth of the Christmas story, but to become a real part of that same story.. running from the hills of our reality to seek the truth, singing loud carols of joy at God's intervention, bringing the gifts of our lives to offer in service of the Christ Child.

And so this is the 2007 Christmas challenge we wish to issue not only to ourselves but to you .. to run with determination in the quest for truth, to recognize God's action in history and in our lives, and to come with gratitude before God, offering whatever we have to serve the 'Good News' of God's love.

Tim and Peter and Elizabeth Moffat greet you in love across the many miles from Key West. Even here in this tropical paradise, the "Good News" permeates the gorgeous sunsets and the surreal temperatures. We greet you with prayers and blessings for a 'true' Christmas among us.

Love, The Moffats
(aboard the catamaran "Caribbean Spirit" after
snorkling seven miles off the Keys)

Monday, December 10, 2007

Close Encounters of a Human Kind (2)

The 'pineapple' is everywhere in colonial America. We all recognize it as the symbol of 'hospitality'. It was in Nantucket that we learned one legend for how this came to be. When sailors came back from whaling in tropical waters, they would bring pineapple presents to their families. Posting a 'pineapple' outside your door meant that friends and neighbours were invited to come in and welcome loved ones home from the high seas.

In this case, as you can see, it was a Canadian flag taped to the garage door that let us know we were expected and welcomed!

This is the Williamsburg home of Peter and Nielsine Young, long time friends of the larger Moffat family. It was this couple that won the "long distance award" at our retirement party last spring! Though they are soon to move to Las Vegas, this did not in any way diminish the hospitality they were prepared to offer us .. all four nights and five days worth! Loads of laundry, home cooked meals, plus escorted trips to the historical sites of old Williamsburg village, Jamestown, Yorktown, and "Shirley", the oldest plantation in America and home to 11 generations of the same family.

Here are 'Peter and Elizabeth' footin' it through Williamsburg
on a warm and lovely autumn afternoon.

Peter Young getting into the act at Jamestown.

Nielsine and Peter with Elizabeth Sunday at Olive Branch
Disciples of Christ Church. It has quite a history itself,
as you can read below.

Nights brought on great conversations and,
in this case (though not quite up to 'el campo' speed) we
played Nielsine's favourite game of "Mexican Train Dominoes"

Dear Youngs .. we thank you so much.
Who knows, we may be pulling in to your new home
in Las Vegas before this trip is over!

And one of the next Virginian homes we visited
was that of this family ....

Would you believe there is a Walton's Mountain?
Well, at least it's equivalent. '
Schuyler, Virginia is home of Earl Hammer, Jr.,
author and producer of 'The Waltons'.
He patterned this series on the truth of his own home town.
The museum here recreated the sets of each room
in the Walton home.This is Earl Hammer's home, currently being restored
to its original state for future public visitation.

Now, see that blue line down the map?
It marks the famous "Blue Ridge Parkway",
built in 1935 by Roosevelt's WPA ,
and follows mountain crests for 469 toll free miles from
Shenandoah National Park in Virginia
to the Great Smokey Mountains in North Carolina.

To travel this road is to take a trip to a former time
in driving history ... no commercial vehicles allowed,
no billboards or advertising of any kind,
no crossroads, no shoulders, indeed - no guard rails!

Oh, how we wish we had a video on this blog, but we'll give
you just a little taste. Follow that SUV ... !

Here we go ...

Let's stop for just a moment and enjoy the lookout view.

Time to meditate.

And coming down the other side into Tennessee ...
meet Peter's Uncle John Penney (the family historian)
and Aunt Martha in front of their Athen's home.

Together we attended Allen Memorial Methodist Church (Nov. 18th)
and enjoyed being treated to lunch with son John
and having the opportunity to meet his wife of 3 years, Rebecca.
(For the first time, we forgot the camera.)
We know Uncle John will see this, as he is
one of the most computer savvy members of his generation.
So, Uncle John, thank you so much!
Please give our love to all the others.

Now meet, Peter's Aunt Madeline (both Louise Moffat's siblings).
At 92 years of age, she is the current
reigning Matriarch of the Penney Clan.
At significant times in our married life, we have enjoyed her hospitality.
No less so, this time. There was a full course Thanksgiving
meal waiting for us when we arrived so late.
On this morning, we accompanied her as she took
Cinder on her morning walk. We could hardly keep up.
Her secret? She says its her daily 5:30 am swim,
exercise at the gym, gardening and a lot of fast dog walking.
No time for aches and pains to catch up.

And who could this delightful delirious person be?
None other than Amy Adsit! Madeline's grand daughter,
who waited before returning to college, just to see us!

Who could possibly resist this personality?

Not even First Cousin Once Removed - Peter!

She's the youngest of 3 daughers for Libby and Bill.
Thank you, folks, for this spontaneous visit
and overnight! We loved your southern hospitality
made so real. Hope your Thanksgiving
in Savannah was great.

Just north and a little west, we found Dave and Jean Hermanson
in the beautiful retirement village of "Tellico" near Laudin, Tennessee.
Dave is another car enthusiast and collector with whom
Peter has corresponded for years. We've visited
them in their past homes in California and Maine.
Not hard to understand this move.
To Dave and Jean .. thanks for another special reunion!

Howard Meyers is a cousin through the 'Bates' family
(Louise Moffat's maternal grandparents) and a Lutheran minister.
Years of adolescent visits to Pen Lake have endeared him to all,
and continue to be remembered by him with nostalgia.
Peter is pictured here with Howard and wife Barb
outside their home in Cooksville, TN
after returning from southern fare at the "Dippsie Doodle".
(like 'hush puppies' and deep fried cat fish)

Howard is engaged in a cancer battle with which we all have too much familiarity.
We ask your advent prayers for Howard and Barb
that the power and love of the Christ Spirit
may be incarnate for them in profound ways this Christmas.

And where would we meet Garth?
At the Nashville Country Music Hall of Fame.
There were many other famous artists there, including ...

And all his fans.

A gentleman from Parkminster United Church
was admiring this country & western
star's customized '62 Pontiac convertible.

As he recounts it, he was thinking at the time ...
"Peter Moffat should be here to see this."

Looking up, he saw another man enjoying the car.
It was Peter Moffat.

That was to be the first of three spontaneous encounters
over the next two days with Wayne and Shirley Ankeman
with whom we had spent a farewell dinner back
in Waterloo in August.
This picture is from the second meeting that night
at the Grand 'Ol Oprey at the Ryman Theater.
Truly the Spirit is friendly.

The 3rd encounter at the huge Gaylord Hotel and Convention Centre.

Much later, new friends in Charleston, South Carolina,
Sandy and Richard .. who work for 'Festiva', a vacation program.
Sandy is from Mexico and helped Elizabeth call Guillermo
in Spain on his 9th birthday.

If any one is still reading .. you've now caught up to us in Florida,
a place where you can only see this kind of thing on village streets.

See this man? This is Elizabeth's brother, Bill.
After a bite to eat, he will lead us to his home.

Yes, this is the place they have lived for two years,
after moving from Michigan. It is south of Ocala and is
a Del Webb development much like "Sun City" in Arizona
where Dudie and Dryden once lived.

Here is Sue in a place she loves - her garden. She has
become very involved in this tropical version and in
the local garden club. A frost recently killed
off her blooms. She was sad we couldn't see them
in all their radiance.
We are happily standing in the shade,
which hides the many imperfections.

It takes two good women to keep Bill from
rolling out of all pictures.

But a good meal can overcome the pain of another one.
Here we are being treated to lunch at the club house.

And here we are really getting into Florida.

Sue and Bill allowed us to establish a base camp with them,
running errands, doing laundry, and completely cleaning
and decorating the RV. We also had time
to have fun and accompolish many things.
Thank you, dear hearts! We'll be back in January!

Presently, we are in Orlando with wireless and the
chance to catch up on all our blogging.
On December 17th Tim Moffat flies into Tampa
for 16 days of shared adventure.
We will spend Christmas together in Key West.

But there's more to come before we do our 'internet' Christmas card.
In the meantime, all good wishes ..

Good Night! zzzzzzzzzzzz

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Life's a Beach (updated)

Behold! .. Ocean City on the horizon...

We are approaching that spit of sand east of Maryland that has long protected her shores
from the assault of hurricanes, and has been home to Dotsy for 30+ years.

Like Brigadoon, we must enter across a bridge.

Here the piers and wharves stretch out long arms to receive gifts from the sea...

And yearning waves lap endlessly toward the land...

Human creatures are drawn to the brink of this meeting
to search for signs of their own unity with something bigger.. deeper.

Sunsets remind us of the passing of days, each one so holy.

And we in all our silliness are yet awed.

You are welcome in this place, even though the people are gone ...

And the board walk is empty ...

Winter, a time of peace from the high halcyon summer days
of beach umbrellas and hawkers' wares, the aroma of burgers from the Alaska Stand,
blinking arcades and boardwalk trollies...

And committed year 'round residents emerge again
and happily reclaim their home.

Dotsy hosted us at the Butcher's Ocean City Condo
on the sunny bayside.

It was a good place from which to launch our
5 day adventure (Nov. 5-10)

An evening reunion with long time friend, Dennis Roarty.

Time was. Time is. Time shall yet be.

We greet you from this place
where it would be easy to stay for the winter ...

but there are many adventures yet ahead.

We salute you, Dotsy, with praise! Thanks for such a great time.

And now ... on to Virginia, the cradle of the American story.