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“Set your


on fire

and seek

only those

who fan

your flames.”


Reflections on this quote:

What does setting your life on fire mean to you right now?

What would have to change in order for you to do this?

Who would you choose to fan these flames?

What feeling emerge for you as you read this quote?

Where is God in this process for you?

 A Turquoise Gown, Mice and Jesus?

When I am driving around in December I have one Christmas CD I usually listen to because it is so beautiful. It’s called Our Heart’s Joy, by the all male choir, Chanticleer. The Ave Maria they sing by Franz Biebl brings tears to my eyes; their acappella harmony has a divine quality to it. One of my other favorite songs on that CD is a fast paced spiritual called “What Month was Jesus Born in?” Half of the choir asks “Was it January?” The others sing “No, no.” The first group sings, “February?” “No, no.” “March April May?” “No, no, no.” They move all through the months until they arrive at December. Last month of the year. That’s the month. The rhythm and words of this song stay with me the rest of the day once I’ve heard it.

As I’ve reflected on what have been the most significant moments for me this Christmas, this song popped back into my head. The reason is that most of the things that should have been or are usually significant weren’t and my heart was singing “no, no, no” to those things that were just not important this year. My own rendition of this song would go something like this:

What gives Christmas meaning? What whispers in my ear?
Is it tinsel, toffee? No, no.
Gifts, good coffee? No, no.
Cards, music, sleigh? No, no, no.

Well then, where does meaning come through?
The sad, the tiny, the true.

I had several rich times with dear friends this Christmas. I cherish that. Yet, the deepest meaning of Christmas came to me in some sad, tiny and true ways. The sadness for me was that one of my close friends entered hospice care on Nov 30th. She was a strong, vibrant woman and a wise soul. Just a few days before Christmas, when she was beginning to withdraw into her transition time, she requested that her family get her a turquoise gown and earrings to match. This request made me chuckle. It was so authentic. My friend was true to herself right up to her death and it gave me hope that I would be able to be myself in my death too, with as much peace in the process as she had. So I grieve, a holy grief. I will miss her greatly but one of my best stories about her will be the turquoise gown and earrings. She brought a poignant joy in the middle of grief.

A very different yet vibrant memory was a tiny incident that made me laugh and, at the same time, warmed my whole body with new meaning. It happened at an outdoor parade called Holidazzle. Yes, we have outdoor parades four nights a week for a month over the holidays in snow country. Crazy as it sounds, thousands of people show up. And regular people; adults, teens and lots of children, dress up as fairy tale and Mother Goose characters to march in the parade. So, I was standing at the curb and along came the three blind furry mice, although in this case there was a dozen, of all shapes and sizes, each one holding onto the tail of the mouse in front of them. They pranced down the street in time to the music of a nearby float. All of a sudden one of the little mice in the middle of the pack saw his grandmother standing on the curb waving to him. He broke rank, pulling all the mice behind him to the curb, while he hugged his grandmother. Then he ran back trying frantically to grab onto the tail of the mouse who had charged on ahead. I still smile when I think of it. Would that we all could break rank more often to hug someone we love.

Yet another highlight of Christmas was the surprise contact I had with a homeless man one morning at my local coffee shop. I’ve known him for about three years and I usually greet him and ask how he’s doing. He is a proud man, not wanting to be pitied. When I was chatting with him recently, he said he needed a wife. I asked why. He said he was thinking about finding permanent housing and he couldn’t fill out the forms. I thought for a few seconds and said, “Well, I won’t be able to be your wife but I can help you fill out those forms.” I felt as if he was telling me he trusted me to be his friend and it moved me deeply.

A sweet and divine moment was my intimate connection with Jesus in the early pre-dawn light in front of my Peruvian nativity set. The manger. The lowly. The candle light. Emmanuel: God with us. The Presence beside me, soothing me and calling me to a place of healing grace in the world, a calling to be a spiritual mid-wife to people yearning for transformation. A brief moment of divine intimacy.

These four experiences were all deeply spiritual for me, even though they were not part of the usual Christmas expectation of family, friends, gifts, or religious services. Yet I felt, in all of them, that God was breaking through the noise and clutter of my world to bring me a word of love and peace—even in the sadness of death and homelessness. Perhaps the reason these gifts of God’s love came through is precisely because these experiences were different from my expectations of Christmas. All were beyond my control. So powerful. Yet at times I am so afraid about the power of Christmas to throw me a curve, that I over plan and don’t give space or time for these little miracles.

At the core of Christmas is the truth that God is breaking through all the barriers we put up in order to bring us the reality of peace, hope, joy and love. Listen. Watch. Be alert. Here comes another miracle of divine humor and love.

© Janet O. Hagberg, 2009. All rights reserved.

Reflections on this essay
What do you usually look forward to at Christmas?

What surprise did you experience this holiday season?

How did it affect you or change your focus?

Did you do anything out of the ordinary this year? What? Why?

How did God break through for you or what was most meaningful this Christmas?

I’m taking a one week departure from our theme of God’s consuming love to post an essay about Christmas. Although come to think of it, Christmas is one of the best examples of God’s consuming love! I post this essay especially in honor of the Hollidazzle parade which is ending its loooong run in Minneapolis this year.

I wish you a holy, surprising and healing Christmas week. What will be born in you this week? I wonder. Remember that even if you are in pain or with people who are wonderful or people who are hard, or you are alone, God is there and is always loving you more than you can even imagine. Let that sink in deeply.


The Burning Bush

Exodus 3: 1-12 (NRSV)
Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law …
and he led his flock beyond the wilderness and came to Horeb…
There an angel of the Lord appeared to him

in a flame of fire out of a bush;
he looked, and the bush was blazing yet it was not consumed…
God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!”

And he said, “Here I am.

And he said; “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground…I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

Then the Lord said, “I have observed the misery

of my people who are in Egypt;
I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters.
Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them
from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey…”

© Janet O. Hagberg, 2007

Reflections on this icon

When has God appeared to you in an unusual way?

How did you respond?

When have you stood on what felt like holy ground? Where?

How is God being “fire” in your life now?

What is the call from God in the midst of your experience?

Sacred Fire

God gently holds our feet

to the sacred fire

in  unconditional love

As a result

we are able to experience

God’s promise

that joy will emerges

from pain well attended.

Janet O. Hagberg

Reflections on this entry

Where in your life is God holding your feet to the sacred fire?

How do you experience God’s unconditional love in that?

What joy are you embracing in your life now?

How has your pain become a gift?

Dorothy Dances

This is no child that dances. This is flame.
Here fire at last has found its natural frame.

What else is that which burns and flies
From those enkindled eyes…
What is that inner blaze
Which plays
About that lighted face…
This thing is fire set free —
Fire possesses her, or rather she
Controls its mastery.
With every gesture, every rhythmic stride,
Beat after beat,
It follows, purring at her side,
Or licks the shadows of her flashing feet.
Around her everywhere
It coils its thread of yellow hair;
Through every vein its bright blood creeps,
And its red hands
Caress her as she stands
Or lift her boldly when she leaps.
Then, as the surge of radiance grows stronger
These two are two no longer
And they merge
Into a disembodied ecstasy;
To express some half-forgotten hunger,
Some half-forbidden urge.

What mystery

Has been at work until it blent
One child and that fierce element?
Give it no name.
It is enough that flesh has danced with flame.

Louis Untermeyer


Reflections on this poem

When have you felt an deep inner longing for a creative activity?

What sets your soul ablaze?

How have you felt embraced by something or someone beyond you?

How are you “dancing” with the Holy flame?


The Red Sea Band, my art exhibit of contemporary quilted icons, opens today at Robbinsdale United Church of Christ 4200 Lake Road 55422 and goes through Jan 6th.

Party is next Friday 7:00 PM

I’d love to see you there. Goodies will be awaiting you.


Elizabeth on Harp

Elizabeth on Harp

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