Friday, December 24, 2010
Fri 12/24/10 Christmas Eve
L.A. Weather Update: Christmas Rains
If you've seen the news you've seen all the rain that's been falling in California. My apartment patio flooded a bit from all the rain so I was on clean-up duty Wednesday. Thankfully, my neighbor did most of the work as a Christmas gift for me. The rain stopped soon after and the sun finally came out on Thursday. People are already hurrying to the malls to get their shopping done now that it's dry out. I'm heading out today (Christmas Eve) too, to see the sights and to window shop at the Americana mall in Glendale. If I'm lucky I might see a Nativity scene somewhere or share the Christmas story/good news with someone.
Later, I'll be at Ecclesia church for a Christmas Eve candle-light service with the Christmas story read from the 4 gospels, carolling at 7pm. And if I'm lucky, the little drummer boy might even drum for us (he's too cute). I plan to be busy visiting various friends and neighbors all day on Christmas Day, weather permitting, so this will be the last post for a bit. So bless you all and Have A Merry Christmas!!!!
Sunday, December 5, 2010
Today was the second Sunday and the 8th day of Advent and I spent a wonderful day at Ecclesia. First, we listened to an inspiring Bible message from Pastor Joseph about 1 Corinthians Chap 1-4 plus wonderful praise and worship from the praise band. There was also strong prayer from the prayer team in the wings as we partook of the Lord's Supper, including us gently sopping the communion bread in wine just as Jesus did. There isn't a time that I take communion that I am not thankful and humbled by Our Lord and Saviour and His sacrifice for us.
After service, we all headed out to the lobby for Ecclesia's Alternative Christmas Market. The alternative market is a way of supporting Christian missionaries and needy charities around the world as they do their outreach. The church was already decked out for Christmas but now the lobby filled with throngs of would-be shoppers and a band of carolers moved about singing Christmas favorites. There was lots of items for sale including jewelry, bags, scarfs and Christmas ornaments. There was Christmas goodies of all varieties for sale, too. I supported the Wild Hope Artisan Project and thereby supported the Masai women by buying their unique Christmas themed hand-beaded trinkets and jewelry including a beaded Christmas tree made of glass beads for one sister-in law. (Ooops I spoiled the surprise)!
I made another small donation in honor of my two sisters to Corridor of Hope saving young women from prostitution and poverty and leading them to Christ. I then bought some traditional Masai hand-beaded jewelry also made by the tribes women including a traditional necklace for another sister-in law. Then I sat down at the Kenya table with an eager band of twenty-somethings and made cards to send to various mission children in the Kibera slums of Kenya for Ghetto Light Youth Ministry. We made lots of lovely cards for the kids, all of whom have strong Bible names like Samson and Ruth, etc. I took home a bunch more cards to design at home, too so I'll be busy all this week.
I walked around some more first stopping to look at the items on the table at iSanctuary, which prevents human trafficking and sexploitation of young girls in Mumbai, India. I then donated a small amount to Heifer International towards livestock and training in the third world then I grabbed a quick bite to eat from the PATH (People Assisting The Homeless)table where our donationd go to feeding the homeless at their shelter.
It's A Wonderful Life
Then I grabbed some Christmas cookies and snuck back into church hall/theater for the showing of Frank Capra'sIt's a Wonderful Life. The movie was being shown on a new and bigger projection screen than the one the church had before. Apparently it was upgraded by the landlord for the church for free just in time for Christmas and the showing of this wonderful film. God is Amazing!
I snuggled in my seat as Brian introduced the movie and gave a little background on the history of the film. It's A Wonderful Life was not a money maker when it was released but it grew on people over time and it has now become a Christmas classic. Though it's unlikely that anyone over 25 had not seen it, Ecclesia especially wanted to show it to explore the faith-based concepts it promoted in the 1940's and to reflect on them in the present day.
I absolutely love this movie and must have watched it over 200 times and will probably watch it 200 more times in my lifetime if I'm so blessed. James (Jimmy) Stewart is at his best as the lovable, George Bailey, an earnest and hardworking manager of a local small Building and Loans. George defers all his life's dreams in order to keep the B & L afloat and to help his family, friends and neighbors to accomplish their dreams like attending college, traveling the world, attaining financial security, buying a new house etc. This movie is poignant, funny and believable, especially the chemistry between Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed (as his high school sweetheart then wife, Mary Bailey).
It's A Wonderful Life is based on a short story aptly named, The Greatest Gift, by Phillip Van Doren Stern and it has a lot of parallels with A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Both are timeless stories but IAWL definitely has more of a religious tone with lots of praying to God, angels to the rescue, redemptive themes, discussions about suicide plus good George Bailey versus evil Mr. Potter (played splendidly by Lionel Barrymore).
I missed some of the post-film group discussion but here were my thoughts: Mr. Potter is a sneaky thief and liar just like the devil and Potter's field is referenced here just like in the Bible. There is lots of reference to God, morals and prayer in this movie. For example, George talks/prays to God at least 3 times and Mr. and Mrs. Martini's pray at least twice and make the sign of the cross. The kids pray as well especially in the scene when Georges storms out of the house and his daughter asks her mother, Mary if she should pray for him and Mary says, "yes... all of you should pray".
The movie climaxes with George Bailey being angry at God and questions his own existence i.e. that he would be better off dead and contemplates suicide. Then comical angel, Clearance, comes to his "rescue" (lol). Clearance takes George through a series of scenarios that prove that George is indeed loved and needed in the lives of those he'll be leaving behind if he does kill himself.
Spoiler alert: The movie's resolution occurs later when George realizes he wants to live and prays for God to help him return to his family. As he runs back to the arms of his loving family and friends, our hearts are with him too. The icing on the cake was old Clearance getting his wings and that notable saying "teacher says 'whenever a bell rings an angel gets his wings'".
I read somewhere that there was an alternative ending to IAWL that was felt to be too religious. I don't know how that script may have read but I think the film is just right as it is and a "must see" for everyone on every Christmas.
Later, I had an amazing hour of fellowshiping with a new friend in the church's basement. We shared testimonies of God's amazing abilities and we prayed strong healing prayers for each other. We even danced around a bit and sang Christmas carols and then (surprise, surprise) I got my first Christmas gift of the season from my newly found friend in Christ. Yeah, keep them coming!
Update: There was more caroling on Sunday 12/12 during the Sunday service.
Sunday 11/28/10 I spent the first day of Advent in church(of course)praising and worshiping the Lord. Pastor Joseph had a lovely take on the scriptures (as usual) and the band was on point. The entire church was decked out for Christmas and the first Advent candle was lit and stood in the center of the church. There was even a little drummer boy playing on stage(priceless)! Shop! I headed to CVS to start my thrifty Christmas shopping. The store was decked out in all the usual materialistic merchandising and for a while I was dazed by all the blinking lights and glitzy chauchkies. I really only wanted to pick up candy canes to decorate my tree with but I searched and searched but I couldn't find the traditional red and white striped mint variety. Instead there was a striped green, red and white mint flavored one, fruity flavored ones and even one tasting like cherry coke. I got the first one then walked along Hollywood Blvd. as they were setting up for their annual Christmas parade.
Annual Hollywood Christmas Parade:
I've been in L.A. 3.5 years and had not heard of this parade until last year (that's keeping up with things, eh?) but it looked like fun online so I was debating whether to stay 4 more hours for it or head to old Towne Pasadena for their event. I hadn't made up my mind when I walked by a young guy (mid 20's) wearing the official Christmas parade volunteer t-shirt. He was hard at work setting up a viewing station along the sidewalk so he didn't see me watching him. He looked to be an enthusiastic and diligent volunteer but so handsome that a line of women were gravitating towards him under the pretense of learning more about the parade. I watched as he politely answered their questions then immediately got back to his task, oblivious to their eye fluttering and swooning.
I myself asked him a few questions about the Christmas parade(which he answered politely) then I asked permission to take a few pics of him for my blog as he set up("but no face shots", I insisted). Dude was so upbeat about volunteering for Christmas that it was contagious and he continued setting up methodically, fully absorbed in his task. As I took my pics I noticed 2 men behind us wearing sort of military short-sleeved uniforms watching him and nodding with satisfaction almost as if supervising his work and his interactions. Then I looked up from the doorway of a building behind them and I realize that the building they were standing under was one of the many scientology buildings along Hollywood Blvd. To confirm my fears, I turned to volunteer guy and asked, "so, what made you want to serve for Christmas in the Christmas Parade anyway? He nods towards the building behind us and said ,"I'm a scientologist--We do it every year".
Be wiser than a serpent:
As you can imagine our conversation skree-e-e-eeched immediately to a halt and I back peddled my way out of there before the cult of crazy and confusion had me jumping on couches. Unfortunately scientologist do a good job of the ole bait and switch cause I can yell you none of the girls who spoke to fair, handsome and helpful volunteer dude even realized that he was a non-Christian or worse.
Keep Christ in Christmas! It reminded me of my first Christmas in L.A. There was a large Christmas tree set up on Hollywood Blvd with beautiful ornaments, blinking lights, Santa's workshop with fake snow, elves etc. I was missing the east coast style of Christmas and this just fit the bill for me so I gleefully hustled towards this welcomed sight. As I was about to walk inside the gate, I realized a banner over head spewing some crap from L. Ron Hubbard and I nearly fell out. See I had been in a constant battle with scientologist along Hollywood Blvd. about their street recruitment practices (i.e them constantly trying to touch or grab me as I walked by or them offering to "test or audit" me)and here I was walking into their lair. Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me. Fool me 3 times? Never gonna happen. The take away message?
Matthew 10:16 Be wiser than a serpent.
The website Bible-knowledge.com has a nice article on this and a nice list, too. http://www.bible-knowledge.com/wise-as-serpents/
Home Sweet Home:
While I was caught up in that scary memory, throngs of people were lining up along the parade route and the jostling for the best viewing spot. I had not made up my mind about staying yet but, as the recent interaction had left a bad taste in my mouth, my enthusiasm for the parade had certainly dimmed. I had other concerns, too. They had already closed off entire streets to traffic and the traffic re-route schedule was crazy. Worse, the temperature dropped another 10 degrees and an icy wind started to blow. Instantly, my mind was made up. I hopped on the metro and decided to skip Hollywood AND Pasadena and head straight home altogether. It was a good choice, too because I got some nice interior shots of the Red Line metro station at Vine.
My commute was fraught with delays but I finally made it home about 1 hour later. I then spent a lovely afternoon reading parts of the Christmas story from the Bible. Then I decorated my tree, listened to Christmas carols and drank hot cocoa stirred to perfection with a candy cane swizzle. About a week later, I was flipping through the channels and caught the broadcast of the Hollywood Christmas Parade just as the scientology float entry made its way down the red-carpeted boulevard. Needless to say, I quickly turned the channel.
Update: Area Holiday Events Here's what I've been up to-
Wed 12/8 Hanukkah began and I had my first ever go at making potato latkes. They came out rather nice, I must say.
Thur 12/10 Due to water main repairs, the Griffith Park Christmas Lights are set up at the near by Mulholland Fountain.
Sat 12/11/10 Sunshine Kids Christmas Party at Raleigh Studios(see separate post)
Sun 12/12/10 Second week of Advent The week began at Ecclesia Church with a day full of Christ, the best kind of shopping at the Alternative Christmas Market and happy carolers(see separate post).
1Thur 2/16 Beverly Center Christmas Chronicles of Narnia: Ice Palace is a hit with all! They had "snow" and Santa! I even got to get a picture of the old bearded guy before security got to me-lol.
The Farmer's Market looked quite festive from the outside but had no time to go inside. I had to leave the Grove for another day too ... hopefully I'll get to them before New Years.